8 Tips for building your online party game

  1. As much as possible, eliminate waiting for someone to take a turn
    • Downtime is the enemy
    • Party games want to support 5+ players; so the common board game structure of "one person takes their turn, everyone else waits" scales very badly
    • Examples: Restructuring Incrypt, Pairwise
  2. Use timers to keep the game moving along
    • Analysis paralysis is no fun for people
    • Again, downtime is the enemy
    • (Maybe tie in to mod controls)
  3. Fast feedback in-game
    • Basic UI principle: when players interact with something, it should be obviously interacted
    • Ties into "juice"
    • Example: Buttons should show "submitted"
    • Example: Telling people when the word they're typing is invalid (even before submission)
  4. Provide a shared board
    • In an online setting, players have much less context of what each other is doing or looking at
    • Example: Showing who has submitted and who has not yet in the UI
  5. Design to allow players to join and leave in-game
    • Party games are often played as an "appetizer" or "dessert" to a longer game night
    • So players might be trickling in or trying to leave.

    • Short rounds (back to fast feedback) are the easiest way to make this happen
    • Don't require a ton of context or score tracking
    • Example: Good: Just One; Codenames. Bad: Incrypt
  6. Optimize the new player experience
    • There's much less patience for learning a party game; no reading through a thick manual or spending 30 minutes explaining how to play
    • Example: reducing all the friction to join a room
    • Identify what the player should be paying attention to
    • Example: Using white background when player has to input a decision
  7. Make player choices matter
    • Party games should be uniquely driven by each player
      • Example: One Word, anyone can affect the words by picking a bad one
    • Everyone should have the opportunity to lob in a joke
  8. It's all about the story
    • What will people remember from the gameplay experience? Usually not who won, but what they joked and laughed about
    • Example: Company game when someone random joined, and we played with a rando Sam, and then tried to recruit them in the end through a clue

Other tips

  • Reversible actions — allowing people to undo and redo
  • Mod controls — progressing the game if it's stuck or not fun