Whose Side Is Time On, Anyway?

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner


I’m still making games that take a long time. I’m up to the game that takes one century to complete. Obviously, I’m well and truly out in the woods of “nobody will play this”, which is weird and which I’ve called weird before. But it’s a pleasing weirdness, and the idea, of course, is to make it an interesting weirdness. It leads to a number of considerations that I’ve been enjoying.

Consider the base truth that a game can have a timer set to go off in a century at which point it ends. This is no problem for your computer. It’s no problem for anyone except the player to contemplate spending that amount of time running/playing the game. It’s extremely human to not be able to play the game, to not have the patience or the life-span to do so.

Consider the complicating factor that to run a game for a hundred years may require some pretty serious investment in, well, keeping the game running at all. What if there’s a power outage? What if the computer’s hard-drive dies? What if the computer crashes for some reason? To a certain extent, finishing a hundred-year game (or even some of the lesser time periods) is as much a preventative effort as anything else.

Consider the fairness of the ending. Although we can relatively safely assume nobody will reach the end of the game, ought it not have a “proper” ending nonetheless? Mustn’t some words appear on the screen, 100 years later, that indicate the game acknowledges it’s over? Extending on this, isn’t it only fair that the game is playable 50 years in? That there’s still something relevant happening? Even if it’s a kind of intentional stasis?

Consider the wily player. If you make a game that last for 100 years, there will probably be a player who decompiles the SWF in an effort to find out what happens at the end. Do you owe it to that person, effectively a time-traveller, to make sure the code reflects a fair and orderly treatment of the century it takes? If, say, the 100 year game was a slot machine you play on, would it be important to include “fair” and realistic winning conditions, as opposed to just a random win amount no matter the outcome on the machine?

Consider this and consider that. The considerations are considerable.

28 November 2013
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