Once one team has gained control over a substantial amount of land (think age of empires) the 'round' is over -- that teams wins. How to do a round-based MMO and not lose retention? -- Gripp (see first post in thread)
This is what I call Conditional Turn Gameplay:
If some condition is true ("Team A Captured 95% of Territory"), one team is declared the Winner, and the other is declared the Loser (for that round).
The server then ... does what? That's where the programming happens, naturally it's worth plenty of thought. But let's postpone that practical question, and first explore philosophical questions:
What we mean by "turn"? What do these "rounds" really signify? In the broadest possible sense, what kind of rules or principles apply to all turn-based games? And, how can we use these principles to our advantage as game designers -- in particular, how can we retain players who lose rounds?
Before the round is over, a losing team may hope:
More players will join our cause! Current players will play more, fight harder! The enemy team will fall on hard times, their leaders will get days jobs and give up gaming! The game designers will take pity and intervene in our favor! A lucky systems crash will save us!
But the round itself irrevocably declares:
Team B: Losers.
This means losing game points, losing prestige, losing acquired skills and experience, losing weapons and ammo and other possessions, losing alliances and trade routes and other group benefits, losing castles and cities and roads, losing the world you worked so hard to build and getting sent back to Square One, and so on.
Losing hurts. We want it to hurt, in some hurts-but-good way. What makes the hurt tolerable is good sportsmanship: the winners, in particular, must behave like good winners.
Consider a friendly game of softball: the winners congratulate the losers on a good game, high-fives and smiles all around, let's go have a beer. Of course this translates in different ways -- high-fives in a friendly game, victory taunt in a deathmatch -- but I submit that the general principle of good winners and good losers holds true for all games.
The question for game designers becomes: what game systems can we implement which encourage good winners and good losers? In particular, how to we make Losers feel the genuine sting of Defeat, and yet retain players?
Trophies for the defeated: gravestones, memorial arches, Hall of Fame for the fallen heroes. Customized in memory of Team B. A consolation prize, in the legitimate manner of honors for defeated warriors.
a. Make the winning team pay for the loser's memorial. We're asking the Losers to be good sports, by acknowledging the sting of Defeat yet choosing to stay in the game. Let's ask the winners to be good sports as well. If your game has a money-based system, deduct a hefty chunk of the winner's purse, and use it to build up these virtual Trophies for the defeated. Don't just display some numbers: build it up in the world.
a.1. Implement the memorial as a quest that the winning team must fulfill ... a scenario-swap, where the new map or storyline puts the losing team in a dominant position, and the winning team in an tougher position than before.
- Vengeage-based gaming: grudge match, old scores to settle. Specifically play up the idea of "getting even" for a particular round, or string of rounds.
Technique that prevents a team from winning *too* many rounds in a row.
a. Spawn a "Magical Consolation Prize" for the losing team -- maybe a big monument as discussed above, maybe a player-carriable object. A team that has one such object gets little benefit, but the effect is cumulative and exponential, so a team that loses several rounds in a row will acquire several of these magic thingies.
a.1. Example, magic earthquake: one magic thingie makes your hair stand on end; two magic thingies, the earth trembles; three magic thingies, your team can split the earth beneath one enemy city of your choice ....
Hope that gives inspiration to somebody out there.
Here's a link to my game design blog, the Handy Vandal's Almanac: