Fritz goes AWOL

What do I do with games when a player goes missing?

This is a question that I have been asking myself lately. I hope that I have created a site that encourages people to join and stick around. But I realise that not everybody does. For some they soon discover that the game is not their cup of tea, or enthusiasm wanes over time, or something shinier is discovered somewhere else. For whatever reason people will stop coming to the site and they do not always finish all their games before they leave.

Currently when the player of an active plane stops submitting turns the game cannot proceed. One or more other players are then left with a game that never finishes and unfinished games clog players’ game lists. Its just not tidy.

First I have to define ‘unresponsive player’. A player is unresponsive when:

  • they have games waiting on their submitting a move; and
  • they have not logged on in 14 days.

The 14 days is just an initial guess, it could possibly stand to be shorter. It would also be polite to send a ‘we miss you’ email to them before any other action is taken.

There are many ways to deal with unresponsive players. Here are the ones I can think of:

End the game

When a player in a game becomes unresponsive then any games they were involved in end immediately at the current turn. This is the least satisfactory answer for the other players in the game. It also leads to questions about what to do with the game results – is the game treated as a finished game like any other? Or are these stalemated games excluded from players win/loss and score stats?

Retire the user

When a player in a game becomes unresponsive then all active planes they are flying immediately retire no matter where they are on the board. This is more satisfying answer than the one above. It still might result in the ending of the game if the retiring plane is the last of its faction in the game. But if it is not then the game can continue with the still active players.

For two player games this option is effectively the same as ending the game outright.

Submit an automatic move

When a player in a game becomes unresponsive then all active planes they are flying immediately receive a system assigned maneuver. The system will then keep assigning maneuvers until the game ends or the player returns.

The advantage here is that the game continues with its full compliment of planes. The downside is that the system will be making simple and predictable moves, as I have no plans to write an AI. The question then becomes if it is better to introduce a system controlled plane to continue the game, or just write off the plane and possibly the game?

Make the plane available for another player

When a player in a game becomes unresponsive then all active planes they are flying are immediately offered up to be taken over by other players. This would be something like the open invite system, but the offered spot would be in a game already underway. Players already in the game would probably be restricted  from taking the plane.

The advantage here is that once a new player comes in the game can continue, with a human guiding the plane. A possible downside is that some games might not have been left in a position that makes them attractive enough to be picked up by anyone.

One thought I have had is that only the active planes of unresponsive players are offered for pickup. Incoming users will not have to inherit planes that have already retired or been shot down – their ownership will stay with the unresponsive player.

Right now I am leaning towards this last option, even though it requires more work I my part. I would have to work out which planes were available for pickup and whole new sub-system for allowing new players into a half finished game.

What are your thoughts? What is the fairest thing to do for players left in a game when one of their opponents goes AWOL? Do you have a preference for any of the options presented above? Are there options I have not thought of? Leave a comment or drop me a line.