Early thoughts from early multi-player matches

During these days I played some matches on the BfW multi-player (MP) server. Before these matches I never played BfW in MP mode, but only in single-player mode. I still consider myself a beginner, although I'm making some progresses with my gaming/strategy skills.

The MP game mode functions in a pretty straightforward way: within the game interface you choose "multiplayer" and you are faced with a window for choosing which server to connect to (official, custom, local...). The "official server" brings you into a lobby room interface which displays all the people connected to the servers and all the games that are currently set up. Moreover, it allows for some actions (such as joining, creating or observing a game, filtering the list of games, simple chat with other people).

MP Lobby roomMulti-player Lobby room for BfW 1.8.5

So, basically what I do is to enter the lobby, filter for games with vacant slots and, according the what map/scenario inspires me the most, I join the game. In this way, I experienced on my skin the phenomenon of leavers (aka quitters), which is a quite renowned topic of discussion in the community of Wesnoth. Out of the 10 matches I tried to play in these days, I managed to complete only 2 of them. All the others were interrupted due to some players leaving the game before one had emerged victorious. Somehow, this is frustrating.

In short, one match can take a long time before a player (or more, in case of team plays) wins the game, from 10 minutes up to few hours. Since BfW is a turn based game, each player really plays a fraction of the gaming time. e.g. If the game involves 4 players, once I complete my turn, it is up to the other 3 players to complete (in sequence) theirs. All in all, I play only 1/4 of the time and for 3/4 I wait and observe other players' moves. Thus, it is annoying when someone quits the game before it ends, since the players put a lot of patience, time and thinking into something that pulls up so abruptly.

Accordingly to what I found on past discussions in the forum, this is a recurrent issue that is brought up. Basically, there are people who seem to be really upset with this phenomenon and ask for the community to find a solution, while other people seem more 'empathic' with the underlying reasons that 'cause' this behaviour, and accept it as a sort of unavoidable phenomenon. Moreover, those ones who know the leavers' issue and want to avoid it, tend to organise games among groups of known players.

In conclusion, keeping a close eye on how the issue of leavers influences both gaming dynamics in MP game and development directions (took and yet to take) to address this issue, it might be an interesting way to start understanding use/design mediation.