Strong multiplayer gameplay is a determining factor for the success of any free-to-play-games. This success is due to two obvious reasons. However, to create a truly social multiplayer gameplay on a mobile device is not easy.
This already difficult design task is further complicated by the known limitations of mobile platforms. Small screen, short session and unstable connection. Because of these problems still appear truly successful and fully synchronized multi-user games on mobile platforms, except for a few key examples. Hearthstone, 8-ball Pool and World of Tanks.
Even playing Hearthstone game, most successfully adapted to mobile devices, I should be extremely focused, and besides, I cant exit the game at any time. Several times I have run into trouble, getting stuck in Hearthstone just when my attention was demanded by real life. I am convinced that the development of video games will go (though not too quickly) to a fully synchronous multiplayer, and talented developers will learn to create its benefits (such as social gameplay and repeatable content) for systems that are more adapted to the mobile limitations.
This article will discuss three key methods that are used today the developers to create multiplayer games for mobile devices. Many free-to-play-games create a sense of simultaneous games, in fact its not providing. Instead of a real opponent, the player interacts with the bot. The developers of these games believe that players are not able to feel the difference between a live player and a bot.
But it can be done, albeit with difficulty. As an example, the game Contest of Champions from Kabam. Although the game creates a sense of multiplayer, actually each player fights with the bot. So the developers got rid of the problems associated with synchronization of fighting with intermittent Internet connection.
In the game CSR Racing is something similar. You compete on the track or with the phantom is a real player or a bot. The gameplay is designed so that the player can not influence the speed of his partner.
So the difference between a live person and not a bot too noticeable. Of course, this pales in comparison with the capabilities of simultaneous multiplayer. The developers of Real Racing 3 tried to fix it. They use a saved recording of the race of another player, and you are actually competing with his phantom.
During the race you can crash into the car of an opponent or push him off the track, however, he miraculously returns to the place where at this time the race was his prototype. And yet you have come a little closer to synchronous game. In General, this approach allows you to simulate the simplest interaction between players, solves the problem of unstable compounds and even draws the player (if the session does not last long). However, in this game there is no sense that youre playing with a live player.
. The second approach used by some of the mobile games. It was first used in browser games and fantasy sports games in the late 90s and early 2000-ies (examples of such games can serve as Travian and Hat-Trick). In simultaneous multiplayer, players are kindly asked to prepare their strategy, and then a pair of such strategies are played simultaneously.
Thus, the players make their choice before will come their turn to play, and to interact and compete with each other, they dont need to be online at the same time. Game from Top Eleven Nordeus is one of the few who use the system. Her matches are held at a fixed time. Each player determines in advance the tactics, strategy and the balance of his team, and then waiting for the start of his match.
The game starts regardless of the active players or not. This approach is good in that it provides a natural involvement in the gameplay. However using this method can lead to many problems.
In such a system is very difficult to ensure monetization and not to turn free-to-play game into a pay to win. Each day all players make the same amount of action. If those who pay, will be to perform more actions, or get some other advantage, will feel their opponents. It is very important is the correct selection of pairs of players.
Design sessions in the game is fairly limited. Once you have decided on the strategy, you actually have nothing to do until the next match. Designers difficult to determine the schedule of matches. If the games are too frequent, the players start to get nervous, but if too rare — bored. The problem of this system is its excessive regulation and lack of flexibility (especially for those players that missed turn or want to play more often).
The most popular way to start a multiplayer game on a mobile device based on asynchronous multiplayer. Games such as Words with Friends or Draw Something are completely asynchronous multiplayer. All players play in turn, and then wait until the game finishes their friends.
Although it is inherently inclusive process, most of the games that adhere to this asynchronous style, failed in entering the mobile market. In addition, the design session limits monetization mainly because of the difficulties in pairing off (read our article about the destruction of energy and building social mechanics). However, asynchrony does not necessarily have to be built that way. These games can be asymmetric and asynchronous.
Asymmetric asynchronous games divide the players between the gameplay of two types —active and passive, each of them needs to be more inclusive. Active players are involved in one type of gameplay (attacking gameplay), and inactive players in a different kind of gameplay (defensive gameplay). It is this mechanic implemented in Clash of Clans, Rage of Bahamut in games of Theives.
The key to the success of such games are well balanced engaging gameplay of both types. Because the players are really hard to break. On the one hand, they are being forced into a defensive game to protect their resources from the encroachment of rivals, on the other — should be involved in the attacking game to accrue these resources and ensure their progress. Until recently, asymmetric games for mobile devices supported style Clash of Clans (attack vs. defense).
Sometimes attempts were made to escape from this formula, for example, in Zombination, where the player can choose to focus on what he. On the attack (zombie) or on defense (people). But the system has huge potential for the emergence of other games, such as the use of the formula “passive vs. active” to new genres and new gameplay. While the best example Ive seen is the King of Thieves.
There are several types of multiplayer games for mobile devices. The difficulty is to reconcile the advantages of synchronous multiplayer limitations of mobile devices. There are three ways to build multiplayer for mobile devices.
Each of these ways allows you to create a strong design sessions, work with the constraints of mobile devices and give the player a sense of presence in a living community. Each method has its drawbacks and its unique capabilities.