Figured I'd give you a little list that I usually post to devs working on an async implementation. It will probably be far too late in the process to do much good, but perhaps you can use it for further reference and polish, should Neuroshima Hex's async implementation receive a reception similar to that of Caylus:
For a polished and appealing implementation of asynchronous gaming, these features or options will all contribute greatly:
- A well-developed chat system. Ensure that new chat messages:
For a very successful chat implementation, see Carcassonne.
- Show up across the screen once we enter the game in question, but also send their own push notifications.
- Furthermore, in addition to displaying new chat messages on top of the actual gaming area, also provide a chat log (accessed via a chat bubble icon or similar) were we can read the chat history. This is also probably where we will be sending new chat messages.
- Informative push notifications. Preferably, the name of opponents should be included in the push notification, plus other information that will aid us in separating different on-going games from each other. (“It is your turn in the game with BigDaddy'sCreations” will do, but “It is your turn n in the fast-paced game on a large map with BigDaddy'sCreations, Steve, and Hodapp” is much more informative.) For async games that result in really long and complex matches (Starbase Orion, the most sophisticated async game for iOS, is currently the only such game), custom naming of matches might be preferable.
- In-game notifications of new turns in other Neuroshima Hex matches, plus a quick way to jump to these matches. UniWar does this best, with a button that sends the player to the next match with an available turn, and a badge that displays the number of available turns on top of the next match button.
- Allow the players to remain in-game and play the game as a real-time multiplayer game. Luckily, most async games do this by default, but some very few forces the player out of the game upon submitting the turn. Even sending the player to the next active async match in the same game can be annoying, and is better accomplished with the feature mentioned in the point above.
- Upon entering or RE-entering an unsubmitted turn, display a replay of the events of the last turn. It is practical, but also important for immersion and flow. As SharpCarlos wrote, "without it, each turn is like a dry little puzzle, cut off from the flow of the match".
- Allow us to enter the match directly from the push notification. Most async games do this, but Starbase Orion did not, in the beginning, and it became tiresome to go through the login and retrieve active games process each time.
- A custom and characteristic notification sound. (Not possible at the moment if you rely on Apple’s own async APIs)
- Options for turn timer expiration, to prevent players from withholding their turns for weeks, together with warnings of impending turn expiration sent via push notifications.
- Don't use Apple's new async APIs. Seriously, don't They are EXTREMELY basic, with limitations such as no custom notification sound, you can only submit chat messages as you end the turn (GC just piggy-backs a chat message on the end of the game's turn data), and no easy way to use informative text strings for push notifications. A durned shame, I was hoping Apple's new GC additions would do much good for async gaming.
For added persistence, illusion of achievement, sense of progress, longevity (what nearly all async games currently lack, the biggest, glaring flaw in the async catalogue):
- Further progression and persistence. This is the aspect that the VAST majority of async games overlook. In the long run, async games tend to become a long blur of endless strings of matches, and this often leads to a sense of exhaustion, and a lack of purpose. Here is how to sex us up with purpose and context :
- Ideally, all async games would include some sort of semi-MMO/MMO-inspired campaign mode, where all matches won led either to some sort of progression (unit/army/character development, whatever is suitable for that particular game), territorial gain (for war and conquer games. Something as simple as a world map that displays ownership of territories based on matches won, a visual representation of player stats, plus some nice titles and achievements, would be enough to offer incentive for many players. An extended meta-game where matches won and territorial gain led to further in-game advantages would be something wholly unique, and really appealing), or at least, for those games that seek to retain a balanced multiplayer experience with no persistent advantages, visual upgrades (new unit appearances, colors, badges, titles, medals, etc, whatever is suitable for that particular game). The perfect fusion would probably be one online multiplayer campaign mode with persistence and context, and one competitive, balanced, no persistent advantages mode, for the best of both worlds.
- If not, ELO/other suitable ratings, extended stats and a complete match history at least offer players a way to track their progress, and look back upon their accomplishments. UniWar does this partially well, with ELO ratings and detailed player stats, which tie in to the game’s community features (being able to send messages, view player profiles, etc), and while Neuroshima Hex is a bit different in nature, most of these mechanics could be used here as well.
Together, all the added progression mentioned in the last bullet points adds up to longevity and an active community, which in turn leads to far greater chances for monetization (= more dough for devs