Game Size versus Game Quality


dark saturday
is a Community Contributor Alumnus
A topic I would like to raise to potential/experienced hosts is their player list size.

Designing the game around numbers is crucial. You must find a balance of villagers to mafia to neutrals (or multifaction) that offers each team about the same chance to win.

However how many people are in a game can vary, as there are lower limits but no real upper limits on how many villagers and mafians you can put in.

Now, the problem here is, SHOULD you?

I feel like hosts can get it into their heads their game is 'better' the bigger it is. The more people playing, the higher quality of a game you will get. Regardless of if they have 'read' the current Circus climate and seen if we are having an activity spike (such as after an Official) or a slump (during the school year, no real big events), hosts will shoot for the highest amount of players they can get.

This notion is faulty for several reasons:

1. You deplete your sub pool. If all of your prospective subs have joined the game in the first place, should someone who had been active suddenly have a circumstance that renders them unable to play need a sub, you will not have anyone to choose. Examples of this can be found in several games wherein hosts have to sub dead members of a team back on or outright state they have no further subs.

2. You include idlers. Some people (cough) are serial idlers who may or may not have any intention of actually participating. People who join a game out of addiction (Quagsires), obligation, or whatever their reason, because it has a big number of people needed, without intending to actually try for their team, are lowering the quality of the game, particularly for their teammates. There is a difference between not being a wallposter and malignant idling.

3. You get people who don't really have time to play seriously. An example of this is Chaos Mafia. Sam and I didn't sign up because we were going to be visiting and thus unable to put in any effort towards our team. Walrein promised us a twin role if we joined that wound up being on two different factions, COMPLETELY negating our desire to participate. The effort required to win together by being the last 2 people alive when we already knew we wouldn't have the time to play on the SAME team made the game an absolute waste to invest in. This kind of underhanded behavior to get +1/2 for your playerlist will only harm the quality of your game, whether an April Fools joke or not.

4. You decrease quality for people who will be invested. Needing 8 people for a mafia team and 2 of those joined reluctantly because you kept posting "need 6 more players!!" and have no time to participate puts more work on the active players. Those guys are either free fodder for a lynch when they fail to claim OR require the active players to write fakes for them, in addition to their own, and strategize on their own.

5. You can obligate badged/experienced users to play and devalue non-CM badges/pros. Again, if you keep posting/PM you need X more players, at some point those who have been around the block or are badged in CM will feel obligated to play. An example of this is Viva Pathfinder, a game I didn't sign up for at first because I KNEW I would have absolutely no time for it. It did not hit its intended player quota so I joined and was made a powerful wolf, when I had asked to either be a freelancer or the same team (meaning recruiter) with Sam. I idled the entire game and did absolutely nothing because I genuinely had no time to play, as a wolf. Pathfinder was a game I wish I had had time to invest into, but really shouldn't have joined, or felt I needed to, knowing I would be unable to do anything. There are a lot of great newbies and non-badged users in CM who will be active and invested in your game, even if a few of the badges are too busy to participate! Don't keep signups open for needlessly long because the mods haven't joined yet.

6. The game drags on. Paper Mario, a game with 30 players I believe, is on cycle 10 and there are 10 people alive. 1/3 of the game hasn't died on a cycle that very few games expand to. The Popcorn NOC could have an absolutely insane runtime with 20 players if every shot takes the maximum amount of time and it comes down to a final 3. Asking people to commit 2 months to your mafia game is a bit pushy, especially if you keep extending deadlines (because surprise, you have idlers not sending actions!). It can often be unreasonable to expect people to be able to invest for that long, or at least it gets stressful for those trying hard. Also, you'll need subs, because stuff may crop up 5 weeks down the road and the player thought the game would be over in 3.

7. You force low prio signups to play when they said low prio for a reason. If people are signing up saying "I can play if you NEED but put others in before me" they are saying that because they want your game to get off the ground, but they do not actually have time to give to it. Don't expand your playerlist to include them. Trim it down if you have 26/26, but 3 of those are "last resort" signups. They will be able to sub in later, which they have essentially said they would prefer to do.

8. You can get a shoddier assortment of roles. Whether you need 5 vanillas (a boring role especially in OCs) or you want to try too many experimental things that just don't work out, or would have been better with only half of them, if you make a player list of 36, you need 36 roles. And it can be hard to design 36 fun, interactive roles that are engaging, don't promote idling, and are balanced with each other.

9. The more actions, the more prone to errors and delays updates will be. Metagame Mafia had extremely lengthy update times to process over 60 players' actions and results and had NUMEROUS errors in said results. The quantity of these errors made some mafia players actually seem cleaner, due to also claiming an error. It is a lot more work for yourself and you have a lot more places to mess up results, priority, did that hook hit a safeguard, and so forth, the more actions and players you put in the game. Overloading things is not always the best idea, especially if you are a newer host who maybe hasn't found a spreadsheet layout or actions processing method that works best for you yet.

Something hosts can do to minimize player fatigue is simply not extend deadlines, even if there are a lot of missing actions. Those players can suffer the consequences of their actions instead of dragging a game out an extra day every night cycle for everyone else, until they learn to send their gd PM.

Your game can be great fun if it has less than 20 players. It does not need 40 and to be labeled a Big to be enjoyable. You do not need to have a sub pool of 0 to have a good game.

Sometimes long/big games can be really exciting and players get super invested. So there is definitely room for slower and larger games. However, you should keep in mind if one is STILL going on when you will be posting your signups. A lot of players don't like to commit to 2 slugfests at the same time. A shorter, quicker paced, small game may be within their effort wheelhouse at the time, or just be appreciated by those who died long ago in the long game.

If you are eager to design a game, whether your first or tenth, take a moment to check out recent games' playerlists, how many subs were needed, and how active those games were. If you sense a downward trend in activity, maybe shoot for an 18 player game instead of 25. If you get 22 signups, awesome, you have 4 eager subs! Instead of 3 begrudging players likely to have no time to play to get you to 25, and then no subs.

If you do want someone in particular to play or are struggling to meet a player quota that is hard to alter, DO NOT try and convince someone to join under false pretenses. You are only hampering the quality of your game if you get me to join, I say I have little time/don't make me a neutral, and you make me a wolf (as Sam did once in MP2). That role will not be played well, if the player doesn't have time to play it, and thought they were getting a nice stable village role they can mindlessly sheep with. Sometimes players only have the time to be a sheep in some game. Don't make them a critical role, knowing this. Or trick them into joining.

tl;dr don't feel forced to have the biggest playerlist possible and seek as many signups as you can get. This will usually just decrease the quality of your game and player enjoyment, plus remove necessary subs.


tag walls, punch fascists
is a Community Contributor Alumnus
worth noting the only reason i wanted you guys in chaos was for the memes

but yeah i agree w/ pretty much all of that

I feel like update time is an understated downside of games of this size. Me and Sam have been the hosts of two of the longest-to-update games in Smogon history: Metroid Prime 2 (because there were 30 people with like five actions apiece) and Metagame (which, as Yeti said, just had a downright absurd amount of players). Wayne Bradiest ran into a similar issue, and though I didn't host it I noted a similar snag with Pathfinder.

Here's the rub, guys. To effectively run a game of Metagame's size, you need to constantly be evaluating actions. You can't adopt the Walrein method of not even putting them in the sheet until deadline hits (lolme) - if you're proactive with this shit, you can start getting updates out on time. The issue, of course, is that (in larger games especially) you run the risk of new/changed actions fucking EVERYTHING up. It's 5 minutes to deadline and you've got everything figured out - except, wait, the martyr just targeted the BG that was protecting the vigilante, so now you've gotta rework everything and rewrite the entire update...

The point is, there's no real way around the problem. If your games are big, your updates WILL take forever. That's going to be tough on you, it's going to be tough on your cohost, and it's going to be tough on your players. Don't leave the players out to dry.

Reading the temperature of the forum is another excellent and often-underestimated point, btw. RWBY was only a good game because of the time at which I hosted it - it was a 15-man multifaction that BARELY filled, all because it was in April. If you're hosting a game in April and it doesn't have a big ol' OFFICIAL tag on it, it's not getting players. I had to stretch super hard to find people to fill Chaos (I had to drag Empoof and Borath over from MU, for christ's sake), and even then I wound up cutting like 8 roles. Same goes for late November-early December. Most of our players are in high school or college; finals are a thing, and most people (the ones that aren't already too far gone (again, lolme)) aren't going to neglect finals to play a game of mafia on the internet.

Small games can still be good. I feel like people had a good time playing RWBY, even if it was super swingy and a bit RNG-influenced. Dead Mafia was a lot of fun. askaninjask's So Many Cards had a lot of unique mechanics despite a relatively small game size. We meme about it now, but some of Acklow's early small games were really cool. Not every game needs to be the next FE2 or whatever.

Oh, and NOC hosts: let's start trying to shorten these things up. 72 hour days, hard maximum, and I struggle to think of a scenario in which more than 24 hours for a night would be needed (other than like holidays or something). Popcorn is getting ridiculous, and it's far from the only offender. NOCs are better small anyways IMO - easier to keep track of who you're reading.

I think part of the issue is that there's this whole dick-measuring contest culture that seems to always be happening, consciously or otherwise, between game hosts. Everybody's always trying to make the next "great" game, trying to one-up each other to "prove" themselves as the best host or some shit. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else. If you make a bunch of mafia games on a Pokemon website, your ego eventually starts getting way bigger than it really needs to, and you lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day you're just hosting forum games for people to enjoy.

There's no shame in hosting small games. Hell, I think smaller games should be the STANDARD rather than the exception for NOC at least. I love a well-made and well-run Big game as much as the next person, but those are a unicorn, especially when people's standards for what makes a game "good" or "balanced" keep rising while full roles OC mafia remains a nigh-impossible game to actually perfectly balance.

I went into this post not intending to write a wall at all and then it just sort of Happened. Whoops. The SparkNotes is, Big games can work, but they require an incredibly intense commitment to both balance and hosting, and in many cases don't offer anything that a well-crafted smaller game wouldn't also be able to accomplish.


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btw don't use popcorn as an example. it's pretty much always an eh setup due to the nechanics. also, any more than 17p for a noc makes it very hard to keep track of what's going on.
Still yet to host a game specifically because i'm having doubts about it being "good enough", and i'm very wishy-washy about certain rules and mechanics, trying to make it "better" until the entire game just seems sterile and uninteresting to me, and i decide not to host it

Also, my time in Firebot hosting my Roll to Dodge games.. the main reason for ending them was being unable to keep up with the sheer number of difficult to process actions i ended up with, an already complex action rolling a 7, causing me to have to design an entire global event around it and... ugh it was a mess @_@. In a place like Firebot, a playerlimit would be highly frowned upon, and for Circus, my style of hosting Roll to Dodge is way too pc++ to be allowed, which is why i did it in Firebot to begin with.

My games i prefer sticking to a range of 12-16 players for, usually the maximum 16 there for Survivor/Big Brother type games, since that seems to be the standard. The problem that then arises is timing. Probablt during/after an official i can get players, since at that time 16 should be nothing
I'm gonna just hop on the "smaller games please" train. I feel that we're recovering our activity levels, but we're shooting too high too soon - we don't have the playerbase to support such huge games.

Texas Cloverleaf

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wrt NOC deadlines imo 5d/2n cycles are ideal to balance activity of players with irl commitment concerns as long as there's a hammer and (the kicker) people actually use the hammer

the one thing i notice as a particular meta difference is people are so much more tentative to use their votes and to create or move wagons, if people were willing to hammer or intend to hammer wagons with plurality in effect noc deadlines would never be an issue


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the reason ms has 2 weeks as the average (somewhere between 10 and 21 days but usually the shorter end of that) is so day length isn't a wincon. the days have virtually never timed out in the time I've played there and most of the time the hammers half way through the day cycle or less. you can say the deadlines too long but with hammer enabled (and it should be) the deadline is when the players are ready to lynch. so, if you think 2 days is enough discussion, you can hammer and end the day and go into the 24h night (48 is standard on ms but 24 is fine since smogon enables day chat and people aren't in 4 nocs at a time) at your convenience. you can call 2 week deadlines ludicrous but as long as there's a hammer the deadline can be a year for all it matters. oh, remember those issues withshortendes days in ocnoc? if hammer was enabled that wouldn't have been a problem.

anyways lol that's not what this thread is about. 17p with 4 scum 13 town or 1 neutral 3 scum 13 town is pretty reasonable. slight variations of team sizes are alright but that's standard. any more than that and it becomes too hard to keep up with the playlerlisy and interactions, especially with how hard isoing is on smogon. 9p or /sometimes/ 8p is as small as a noc should reasonably be. 9-17 has a reasonable range of game sizes thst all work differently.

a large social game like survivor would be alright with more I think. as for oc mafia games, with them being role madness and multifaction balance wise I think bigger games are alright since they're already "bastard" role madness by noc definitions but any more than 30 and it's still kinda hard to keep up with the player base and leads to situations like people forgetting who's in the game and a lack of subs. also, subs are much worse in an oc than a noc. in a noc you can sub in and catch up to everyone. in an oc you have an information deficit. if I were to run ocs id be strict about who signs up because of this.
20 person NOCs and shitty April Fools games where the joke is fuck village are the exception rather than the rule. I thought 30 for paper mario and 40 for pathfinder were more than reasonable for the mechanics they were designed around, and the benefit in making good big games like those can't be ignored.

That said yeah just don't go overkill or don't oversaturate wih too many bigs in a row. If your game works in less, do it in less. I was new when I did Weeb and I knew I couldn't get tons of support so I made a 21 player game that wrapped up in 2 weeks. That was a nice balance for a simple, standard game


tag walls, punch fascists
is a Community Contributor Alumnus
20 person NOCs and shitty April Fools games where the joke is fuck village are the exception rather than the rule. I thought 30 for paper mario and 40 for pathfinder were more than reasonable for the mechanics they were designed around, and the benefit in making good big games like those can't be ignored.

That said yeah just don't go overkill or don't oversaturate wih too many bigs in a row. If your game works in less, do it in less. I was new when I did Weeb and I knew I couldn't get tons of support so I made a 21 player game that wrapped up in 2 weeks. That was a nice balance for a simple, standard game
also, subs are much worse in an oc than a noc. in a noc you can sub in and catch up to everyone. in an oc you have an information deficit. if I were to run ocs id be strict about who signs up because of this.
Maybe in theory but not in practice. This is assuming of course that the sub actually has the time to "catch up" and actually does so. If I subbed into Popcorn right now, I certainly wouldn't have the time nor the desire to read through that thread or any NOC thread of such a length and I imagine the same goes for many smogon players.


dark saturday
is a Community Contributor Alumnus
I'm not saying there's anything intrinsically Wrong with big games, they're bad and they should never be done. The players in TTYD seem invested in the game despite length and enjoying it, which is all a host can ask for, and there are players who love a larger/longer game. I think we should continue to have Bigs and large/slower games.

However they are very difficult to update and balance, so a new(er) host should not feel any pressure to have a bigger playerlist. Designing a game for 18 people if you see there is a Big going on and it struggled to get signups has no shame. You can design your own Big once you get some experience as a host. As long as the people playing your game enjoy it, it's all good. And don't worry, they can enjoy a game that doesn't have 40 people.

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