I’ve discovered the most terrifying thing in the universe: the man who very politely, but incredibly loudly, tells you “It’s your turn now!” on the iPhone version of Carcassonne. It’s terrifying because hearing someone’s voice when you’re not expecting to — such as, say, when you’re trying to get to sleep — is a frightening thing. Quite why a murderer or rapist would say “It’s your turn now!” is… no, hang on, that sort of works, doesn’t it? Shit.
But anyway. The terrifyingness of Carcassonne is not what I wanted to talk about — at least not directly, anyway. I wanted to take a moment to talk about asynchronous games, how awesome they are and where they can go from here.
The iPhone (and, presumably, Android) is home to a wide range of excellent asynchronous-play games, allowing people to play at their own pace at a time to suit them. The upside to this is that people even in wildly disparate time zones can play games against each other. The downside is that it’s easy to forget what games you’re playing, particularly if your push notifications decide not to work properly.
But that downside isn’t sufficient to dampen the awesomeness that is the ability to play Carcassonne with someone across the other side of the world. The “…with Friends” series (Chess, Words and Hanging) are all excellent examples of How To Do It Correctly, too, providing a simple, intuitive interface to games that most people know how to play. The quirky and entertaining Disc Drivin’, too, offers a fun experience, even if whoever goes first has a clear advantage over everyone else. (That’s my excuse, anyway.)
Certain social games are taking steps to incorporate asynchronous features, too. Dragon Age Legends, for example, allows players to recruit their friends’ characters — complete with equipment and abilities — into their party for combat. This allows people to play with their friends without their friends actually being there — defeating the object of a multiplayer game, you might think, but actually making the best of the fact that it’s pretty rare for you and all your friends to be online at the same time.
Consider this taken to the next level, though. Why haven’t we seen an asynchronous MMORPG yet, where players can party up with AI-controlled characters based on their friends’ equipment and ability lists? It works in Dragon Age Legends, though admittedly that’s a very simple turn-based game. But most MMORPGs have AI built in for enemy and ally characters anyway, so why shouldn’t there be a way for players to “play” even when they’re not actively logged in to the game? I think that’d be kind of cool, actually — and it would certainly get around my biggest bugbear with MMORPGs, which is the fact that a good 90% of my friends live in a completely different and mostly incompatible timezone to me.
On a related note, then, if you live in Europe and want to play Champions Online, Spiral Knights or anything else you’d care to suggest (preferably of the free to play variety) do please get in touch!