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sealed with a kiss

experimenting with running a play-by-mail game · By droqen


A topic by droqen created Mar 23, 2016 Views: 232 Replies: 10
Viewing posts 1 to 9

how often a player sends a letter, takes action, and receives a letter, are all things that need to be figured out!

would you be unhappy with waiting two weeks between turns? what about a month?

People are kind of busy, and sitting down to write a letter is something that takes way more active choice and perceived work than doing... well, anything online. Once every week might be too often (or maybe not? Maybe it's perfect, and lets people play a lot - depends on how fun and interesting it is), and a month is probably too seldom - I think I'd forget about the game in between "turns", even. Once every two weeks sounds nice, but I suppose the frequency kind of has to be iterated on depending on how people play, how into it people are, and those kinds of things.

Then there's the problem of mail arrival times. A letter from me to Canada takes 4-5 days, and I imagine it can take even longer from other parts of the world. That's kinda got to be in the equation for letter frequency and game design.


Yeah. At first I thought once a month was a no-brainer because it gives you ample time to respond safely... but... a month is quite a long time. Maybe it's okay if the letters get out of phase, so that you're receiving a letter before I've even received your response to the one previous...? Maybe.

I guess that depends on how the game works. You're the one with the plans there! It doesn't have to be black-and-white, either - once again, depending on game design, some letters could be completely dependent on having a prior reply, while some might not.


Maybe allowing for some crossed wires isn't a bad idea! Players can send letters whenever they like, but I only send reports at fixed intervals...

Perhaps it's also worth considering how fixed these intervals should be, then. Is it fixed from the players' perspective, where they get to feel "Oh, today's Sealed day!" once every X weeks, or is it only planned from your point of view where it's a surprise when the next letter comes?


Even if the schedule is fairly regular, there will probably be some variance as a natural result of something as chaotic as the postal system, no? It's definitely fun to think about certain events triggering special reports though... surprise letters! A break from the schedule!

Last year I participated in a fairly elaborate puzzle ARG, where players competed but half convened and discussed over reddit and IRC. I was ridiculously excited during pretty much all of that - had a sense of discovery, suspense, and wonder for the entire three or four days it was on. Put a lot of work and thought into it, too, so it stuck with me and was a really impactful experience.

I'm starting to get the same feeling here! Secrets, surprises, discoveries... so excited!

Uh, I was writing this post to relate it like... surprise letters / breaks in schedule -> EXCITEMENT WHOA, but I think it kind of mostly came of as me gushing. You get it, though.

given the speed of international mail 2 weeks between turns seems optimistic.

that's not a problem tho, depends how you script it. some mail could be 'automated reports' which get sent regardless of player response, or there could be a batch of mail sent in short succession.

of course the international postal system has the power to change the order of everything anyway :-)

International mail for letters is fairly fast, though, isn't it? 4-5 days from Sweden, 6-7 from the UK - I'd assume Europe is pretty much all in that range. Asia is probably worse off, but can't be entirely terrible.

so say ~7 days for a message from server to player. even if player responds immediately that's another ~7 days back.

in this scenario the server is waiting for a response before sending the next message, presumably because the player action will affect the next message.

for messages that aren't affected by player action sure, you could send them out a faster rate.