Even if you have no idea what the terms really mean (and I don't, really) you may still be interested in this thought-provoking article on TechCrunch:
But parallel loops? They use actions that you take which donít really need other playersí input. And yet they all happen in the same kind of timeframe as a multiple loop game. World of Warcraft, CityVille, EVE Online, Realm of the Mad God and Journey all use parallel loops.
...Parallel is just the next phase of single. At its least imposing itís every player playing along her own line, vaguely aware that others exist. At its best, itís players collaborating, competing and creating together on their own schedules. Itís fun because it aligns with who players are and how they play. And itís where we are, and are going, with games.
A lot of that went over my head, partly because I've never played any of the games used as examples.
However, I was quite interested in the bit about the "Three Laws of Parallelism". I think it illustrates why this kind of gaming can never completely replace traditional single player games. Specifically, the third point - persistence. When the world has to remain largely static, it becomes very hard to include a good storyline, because your actions can't have a major effect on the world, and so can't drive the plot forward significantly. Yes, a story of sorts will naturally emerge, but it won't have anything like the same depth as a story scripted by a professional writer, like you see in classic RPGs. It's a lot like comparing the plots of a reality TV show and a Hollywood movie. There may also be sub-quests, but once they're done, it's only the multiplayer element that keeps people playing - so it's really no different than having separate single and multiplayer gameplay modes, as has been common for years.
Incidentally, from the title of this post, I was expecting it to be about something else. I thought it might be about the idea of having people simultaneously playing completely different games, but where both players' actions still affect the other player.
For example, back in the early '90s, Omnitrend came up with the "Interlocking Game System". It consisted of two standalone games - "Rules of Engagement" (a strategic starship simulation) and "Breach" (a squad-level tactical game, similar to the later X-Com series). What made it interesting was that if you owned both games, you could be playing RoE, and then when you boarded an enemy ship, it would switch to Breach so you could control the individual marines in the boarding party.
I think that kind of system has huge potential. Imagine playing a realtime strategy game, where you give all your units their orders, as usual - except that now, each one of those units is some guy playing a first person shooter.
Actually, on thinking about it, I guess in a way, that is kind of the same thing as what the article talks about...
I do like the list they composed; it helps designers determine where along the spectrum their games are found, or how they might determine which features to add to their games.
I'm still at novice-level in making video games, but I am even more intrigued with the notion of parallel gaming from the tabletop game perspective. I'm thinking of concepts as far back as the old play-by-mail empire building games ("Age of Conan" and "Hyborean Wars" come to mind, while there are certainly many others), and even BBS door games - which I've tried to transform into tabletop games in the past. I'm interested in how to develop a tabletop game that sorts out these kinds of mechanics in a more hidden-information format.
The most obvious implementation of some of these concepts would be some sort of empire-building game, where players only interact with one another in terms of economic, cultural, and territorial boundaries, while each country is left to run itself, dealing with their own internal issues.
Perhaps it's simply a matter of the vocabulary used, but it seems like there's a stratospheric level of sophistication involved...All the examples they'd given certainly seem like some of the most cutting-edge MMO and online-based games out there. Having to manage so many variables and calculations makes using a computer pretty much essential for a smooth game experience. But still, I'm wondering if I'm just thinking too hard about it and that the tabletop format can achieve this more easily than I imagine.
I don't think empire building games really lend themselves to being made "parallel", due to problems fulfilling the first and third requirements (drop-in/drop-out & persistence).
For example, if a player has conquered a neutral country, and then temporarily drops out of the game - what happens next? Does that country just vanish until the player returns, or can other players conquer it while the player is away? Neither seems satisfactory. I think it's just an inherent limitation that the player can have ownership of some entity which exists inside and interacts with the world, but can never have ownership of any part of the world itself.
The other issue with making a boardgame parallel, is that they are nearly all turn-based, and therefore "serial" (except perhaps if turns were timed, but that isn't ideal either).
I was thinking some kind of card-based system could be interesting. Let's say the game world is represented by a large deck of cards (something vaguely along the lines of "Magic:The Gathering"). At any given time, 5 of these are laid face up, and this essentially represents the current state of the game world, with those cards influencing what happens when other cards are played.
Each player also enters the game with their own small hand of cards. They can interact with the game world by swapping (subject to certain rules) cards from their own hand with any of the game world cards. Note that players don't take turns playing cards - it's a simple case of "you snooze, you lose" (which stops the game being "serial"). They can also trade cards with other players (see law #2 - "connection leads to progress"). In addition, they can play cards or combinations of cards (to be replaced by the spare game world cards), to earn gold or hurt another player or whatever.
If at any point a player drops out of the game, they simply take their cards and gold with them - but the game world cards remain available for other players to use (see law #3 - "persistence"). They can then just drop right back in any time they like (see law #1 - "drop-in/drop-out").
Here's another idea, since we're all klikers here - make a computer program to interact with your boardgame. The players still get to play with their little miniatures (which let's face it, are *much* cooler than sprites on a computer screen), but the computer handles all the complicated calculations (a bit like one of those chess computers you can get). From a marketing point of view (I seem to remember you published a pirate-based game a while back), it would make it impossible for people to reproduce your game without paying for it, if it required a username & password to use the computer program.
As someone else pointed out in the comments part of that article, a modern MMORPG is really nothing more than an old-skool role playing game, where the GameMaster has been replaced with a computer server.
Going back to chess computers, I wonder if it's possible to make a chess game for an iPad or other tablet, where you have actual physical playing pieces that you can pick up and place on the screen, and which can be detected by the touchscreen (maybe if their bases are made of the same material as is used on styluses?) - so it would sense when the player made a move, and could highlight on the board which piece it wanted to move. And if it could work for chess, why not for other games?
You reminded me of some of the "digital game surface" projects that surfaced not too long ago.
Here's one using an LCD screen (funded by MicroSoft):
There are a few that are based on projectors, like this one:
There are also several gimmicky games that came out in the 70's and 80's that offered some sort of electronic interface, and even the somewhat newer real-time VCR and DVD games. I'm thinking that this might deserve a comeback in the near future, more so than the touchscreen technology stuff.
It's possible, though at this point when even conceiving such a game I'm cringing from the technical aspect and gravitating to the tabletop game design portions of it...But I'm just a coward when it comes to integration of these things. It'll take a true visionary to develop an accessible combination of tabletop and digital: something which I personally believe hasn't been achieved yet. In my experience, it's always the tabletop game aspect that suffers at the expense of technical "experimentation."
Maybe the more recent generations (and yeah, I mean the kids) will be cool with using a touchscreen to play board games, but it'll take some time before I personally buy into it.