If you plan to make a real time multiplayer game, there are a few important things you have to bear in mind when you design it. A common misconception developers make is that the most important stuff to plan are programming, graphic simulation, and other technical stuff. I don’t want to underestimate the importance of coding, I’d be foolish to do so. They matter a lot but, they are the mean not the goal.
The most important decisions you’ll have to make when designing for online multiplayer are closely tied to the game experience you want to offer players. So I’d like to talk about three essential aspects you definitely should consider if you want to design a great game experience.
- Lag fairness
- Reaction speed
- Game needs
Multiplayer Networking Essentials
#1 Lag fairness
When you’re playing with other people across the internet you expect the game to be fair to all the players. You don’t expect to be penalized because you don’t own a state-of-the-art computer or mobile device. And it shouldn’t be that way.
The feeling of fairness in a game is affected by the design of the peer to peer (client to client) communications. When developers don’t contemplate in their multiplayer game design that players may have radically different ping times —for example 200ms to 700ms— the player with the lowest ping will be obviously advantaged over the rest of players with higher pings. Which isn’t particularly fair, if you ask me.
#2 Reaction speed
It is important that despite there will be hardware disparity from which the users will play your game, they aren’t penalized by the reaction speed of their devices.
Even though you have the simulation be coordinated with all the devices, or even when there is a global clock shared by all players, the game interface still has to react fast to the user input to deliver nice feedback.
#3 Game needs
Every game has different needs. Some stuff you can’t renounce to because it makes the bread and butter of the game. That’s why it’s important to understand how the design of the multiplayer networking affects latency in the game, and it, at the same time affects the game experience and whether it covers the expectations players have from that particular multiplayer game.