I Hate to Wait


 
I admit to a certain fondness for first person shooters. I got hooked on Half-Life, but it was the Halo series that really put me over the edge. I particularly enjoy multiplayer fragfests. Most session-based games these days follow a model where you search for a particular session and either join an existing one or start your own. Either way, players are left waiting for the game to start when the session fills up with a certain number of players.
 
Players hate to wait, so it’s always a good idea to reduce or eliminate wait times. The wait times for sessions can be described fairly simply:
WaitTime = GameModes * SessionTime * Players/Session / PlayersOnline
Wait times rise when:
  • there are many game modes (deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.)
  • the average session time is long
  • the average number of players per session is high
  • there are fewer players in the overall pool of available players
Wait times decrease when:
  • there are fewer game modes
  • the average session time is short
  • the average number of players per session is low
  • there are many players in the overall pool of available players

Games that group players by skill (Halo 2 and Halo 3 are examples) add another factor. The more skill groups you have, the longer the wait times.

These factors are mostly in your control as a game designer and developer. If you want to reduce wait times there are multiple knobs to tweak. If you add a new multiplayer game mode, be aware that it will impact session wait times. Keeping sessions short is a great way to minimize waits. There are other ways, too. For instance, allow players to do something while they’re waiting: chat, practice their skills, or watch something interesting. Of course, the most important thing you can do is ensure your game is great, because that will improve the overall pool of available players :).

 

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