The next issue of Suspense and Decision will be Issue # 14 Anticipated Publication Date: September 2016



Friday, May 16, 2014

6:48 PM

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Greetings PBMers!  Grimfinger has opened up this blog to allow a couple of new people to post when the mood strikes them, so yours truly is having a go.

I have a position in an Alamaze game that seems desperately precarious and triumphant at the same time.  Perhaps that's the nature of that game?  No, more likely it's because my real-life job has leeched away my time and energy for PBM matters.  Each turn is a last-minute scramble to check with allies and submit before the noon deadline.  I can't give away any details on my position just yet, but I will say that the game design is so tight that I can draft a decent set of orders -- enough to get me 80% of what I need to do -- in 30 minutes.  It's a 30-minute panic of window-shuffling, but in a good way.

I also still have my position in Cluster Wars.  I actually *missed* last turn.  This is not good, but not catastrophic, because I haven't entered any kind of military situation yet.  I am still turtling in my home system, so my economic engine is cranking away.  THAT game takes at least an hour to draft up orders, and really could use a good 2-3 hours if you really want to play it right.  And for those perfectionists out there, I imagine preparing a solid turn of a well-developed position with lots and lots of ships and colonies could take 6-8 hours.  That's a lot of bang for your buck, especially with it being free.

This reminds me of the revelation an old chum of mine had once.  He was not really a "gamer" at heart, more of a dabbler.  But one day he saw Master of Orion 2 in the discount bin at his local computer store and bought it for $4.  That being one of the best entry-level 4X space-empire games ever made, it sucked him right in.  He was completely stunned by the value proposition.  For $4 he had many scores of hours of entertainment.  If he had known beforehand how much he would have liked the game, he would have gladly paid $40 (as many of us did, back in the day.)

So it goes with some PBM games.  A particularly good design, or game experience, or in-game chemistry with other players, can become so immersive that the turn fee becomes perfunctory.  The cost-proposition for a player becomes more a matter of time than money.  There are a huge number of computer games/apps available for next to nothing that I won't play, only because I don't have time, or the inclination to clutter up my hard-drive.

Boutique game moderators -- let these be your goals:  elegant design, engaging game experience (each turn!), and a player community that fosters great in-game chemistry.  Succeed, and your loyalists will fork it over.

(Disclaimer: I have never run a commercial PBM game in my life...)

1 comments:

  1. Nice to see the blog growing.

    While I don't know Ixnay's exact meaning with being able to do an Alamaze turn in 30 minutes, but not a Cluster Wars one within 6 hours, I am hoping at least in part is the suggestion that an Alamaze turn, while titillating in the decision making process, is made relatively straight-forward in what is required of the player. I have seen games (Legends comes to mind), where a turn might take 6 hours to complete due to the forms required and the system of play, but very little is actually happening in the turn.

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