The clock is ticking! – On the importance of player’s time.
Time… It is the most important resource in your life. Ok, so let’s get straight to the point instead of wasting it for my phylosophical discoveries and …’ing you to death, emo style, thinking it makes my writing more poetic.
So… Ok, I have to admit it is the most important resource and it rules them all. You need time to build up your economy and to produce anything. But what the most important factor is the player’s time. It is a non-storable resource, with extremely high demand. In a complex game (economical or not), everything screams to get some of your attention. Your cities in Civilization V, beautiful views in Skyrim, or your empty clip in Call of Duty: MW3.
Let’s start with FPS games. Why would you reload your gun in a middle of a fight, when you can finish your enemy off with a quickly drawn sidearms? In Zombie Panic: Source for example, I am known of using 4 or 5 pistols, changing them instead of reloading. It’s much quicker this way, and in the long run I can shoot faster, and with more accuracy, than using an AK-47. Instead of reloading in the heat of zombie-defense, I can do that in safety later. Plus I can run faster, as pistols are much lighter and you can find ammo easily. This is an example of choosing time over (theoretically) superior firepower.
On the other hand, sometimes you want to delay things. For example in case of countdown survival maps, you want to survive as long as possible. You might also be waiting for back up. Don’t charge foolishly, better hide, fire a couple of shots to delay your enemies, but do not engage them. You are not going to win by dying fast – but as soon as backup comes, you might be able to save the day!
Getting back to more complex cases, let’s think of production. It might be better to destroy your existing factory, and build a new one closer to your suppliers or consumers to make deliveries easier. Remember, that every second your transport spends “in the field” means it is exposed to danger! A good example is Civilization V, where you might consider a couple of military-unit production centres to deliver your troops to the conflict zone quicker. Your logistics is crucial here! Another great examples of that are games like Warcraft, Starcraft or Settlers 7, where shortening the distance travelled by your goods is crucial. I’ll cover it in an article on logistics and process optimization later on in the series.
What about your time?
You guys can give me lots of similar examples (and please do – comments are there for a reason), so I’ll stop here. Let’s go to less obvious aspects: your own time and attention.
When you start a game, you probably think that this time your micro-management will be careful and well-executed. But every time, as your economy grows, and you have more and more things to manage, you get lazy and neglect some aspects of management. Since your time is limited, and you can do only one thing at a time (skip that one if you are female), you won’t be able to control the whole economy – especially in Real-Time Strategy games. Moreover, repetitive clicking simply gets boring after some time – and that’s quite natural.
Take a loot at what repetitive clicking does to you:
Save me from those clicks!
What you need to do, is automate, if the game allows it. In Civilization IV for example, you can automate your small cities, and control the important ones yourself. Otherwise, you will be falling in the trap of boring micromanagement very soon. Remember, that your time and attention is much more important, than at least 30 out of 50 cities in the game (remember the Pareto, or 80-20 rule?). Plus, you are supposed to have fun, so do not allow micro-management take that away from you!
What to do, if you can’t automate?
Well, in that case think of what your priorities are, and what are the main contributors to those. Again, Pareto rule is crucial here – most of contribution usually comes from a select few sources. Focus on them, and inspect those less important only when you have time to spare. Running a couple of small cities ineffectively will probably go unnoticed – while in case of your capital it might seriously cripple your economy.
Many games offer missions with some time limits. First of all, if you have a choice, try not to accept too many at a time. But if you already have, or had no choice, again: think of your priorities. And the priority here is not necessarily the most profitable mission. Sometimes it prohibits you from fulfilling two different missions, that may not seem as profitable-per-mission, but together will yield higher returns.
Finally, think of your alternatives. Maybe not doing that mission will be even more profitable? A good example here is Mount&Blade’s “Bring me X knights” missions. Instead of losing valuable knights (or wasting a lot of time) trying to train them, you canimprove your relations with the lord concerned otherwise, for example by following him for a while and helping him out in a battle.
“Premium” accounts vs time
Another aspect that is related to player’s time are all the “premium” accounts in F2P (Free to Play) games out there. Since I’ve already covered that topic in “On the universality of resources”, I’ll only wrap it up here:
Think, how much your time is worth (your earnings are a decent estimate), and how much time the premium saves you. Is getting there cumbersome, or fun in itself? Think of the value of your gaming time itself and do the maths, taking these three factors into account. Also think, if the game is worth playing, or simply addictive? Most of the MMO’s out there are built to be addictive, it’s simple psychology.
Think of your priorities and focus on them. These might be related to developing your economy, fighting against a rival empire, or fending off zombies. Decide on what is important to you, which issues may be automated or neglected to some extent without dire results, and develop a razor sharp focus on your priorities. This applies to games as well as your real life, like most of the aspects I am discussing in the series. Games are simply simulations of how we perceive life, or our imagination which is by definition based on our real-life experiences in some way.
To wrap it up: this clip sums up the importance of time very well:
That’s it for today. Stay tuned for the next article: “Keeping money = losing money – Why inflation in gaming economics is measured in googols?”
Adam “Fanatyk” Wojciechowski