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Keeping Time - How Time Limits Can Speed Up Games

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07 Apr 2023 00:00 #338926 by oliverkinne
Quick and Dirty
Let's start by looking at games...

I enjoy games with quite a wide range of playing times. I like long games that take a couple of hours or more to play, up to a certain point at least. Anything above three hours is probably going to be too long for me. I also love quick games that take 15 minutes to half an hour, but I'm definitely not a fan of real-time games. In this article, I want to look at how timekeeping affects the gameplay experience.

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07 Apr 2023 11:19 #338927 by Shellhead
I think that other design decisions have a significant impact on play time. For example, analysis paralysis is often the result of an excessive amount of open information in the game. I tend to dislike games with a fixed quantity of turns, because of the tendency to slow down play in the final turn or two. And also because it tends to detract from theme and setting by including a fixed and arbitrary constraint.

Likewise, I tend to dislike short filler games because the subject matter tends to be shallow and there is no sense of immersion in the theme or setting. I would rather spend 15 or 20 minutes more hanging out and talking with my gamer friends than playing a meaningless filler game.

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07 Apr 2023 19:19 #338931 by SuperflyPete
I’ve made quite a few games at this point and almost all of them have some timing mechanism, be it a round tracker or a hard turn limit.

Open ended games can be horrific.

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08 Apr 2023 09:27 #338937 by Shellhead
I agree that open-ended games can be problematic and timing mechanisms can be good. I just don't usually like games where there is a fixed quantity of turns and everybody can plan for exactly when the game ends. I like timing mechanisms that are respondent to the game state or even a bit unpredictable.
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11 Apr 2023 01:46 #338956 by SuperflyPete
So. I’ve thought about this very thing for a very long time: ultimately almost all games are a race in one way or another. The limiting factor as to how long it lasts can be the resources (game ends when last macguffin or card is pulled from pile), the last man standing via conquest or attrition (which ultimately is a race as well, with the leader setting the lap pace), etc

The thing about a set amount of turns is that it is like a set amount of laps: you know how much fuel you need and how many pit stops you’ll need, but ultimately, the excitement is in the corners and passes. Yes, a single layer of strategy is taken away when you do this, but it is still a level playing field and more interesting strategies can emerge. Also, it allows you to integrate less palatable ideas (player elimination) because a player won’t die early and sit on his hands for 3 hours.

Just my 2c: I’d rather have a game that is guaranteed to be about an hour or an hour and a half that I’ll get to the table, and randomness isn’t harmed much by simply limiting duration.
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