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A situation during the game when a player is not engaged in play.


This term is useful when making a game — one of many aims in game development is to minimize downtime.

Typical downtime comes in different forms:

  1. setup - there's most often something to do before the game, but never make it longer than necessary. This is usually the least painful type of downtime, as it is not disruptive.
  2. administration - don't break the engagement of players by making them do too many boring things during the game, examples may include moving pawns, counting, or even rolling the dice, but obviously each of these issues is situational and you can also achieve to make everything exciting.
  3. opponent's turn - that's when some downtime happens most often, but you can minimize it by letting the player plan out the next turn in advance. Make sure that the situation in the next turn is at least to some extent predictable. Common trick in card games for that is to make players draw at the end of their turn not at the beginning. This way they have it easier to think about future actions (which is less of a downtime). Also when drawing at the start of your turn, you get a new card to analyze which prolongs the turn and causes more downtime for the opponents.

For music games the situation is yet more tricky as you can talk about gaming downtime and also musical downtime when players don't engage meaningfully with music-making for some time. These might interact in quite complex ways.

Downtime as a penalty

It is possible to use downtime as part of design. The common method for that is a player elimination mechanic, where the losing player drops out of the game and needs to wait for it to end to play again. It doesn't have much drawbacks in mediated situations when a player may in some cases join the next game with other players right away. But for games "around the table" the severity of this penalty is hard too control and consider avoiding it especially with many players.

In music games and interesting option is "a penalty" of a 10 second pause which can still motivate players and additionally diverts the music (example applied on Jeffrey Agrell's Dueling Bumblebees).

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