I like timers and energy as game mechanics, personally. There’s several Free To Play games that I play and enjoy which use them to great effect. Smash Bandits, Boom Beach and Disco Zoo are a few solid example on mobile platforms. It’s too easy for some to ignore anything that appears to be intrinsic to free to play games just because you disagree with the business model. I think “premium” games can learn a few things from free to play.

There are some games that I love but can rarely play because they are designed for long play sessions. A lot of “just one more turn” games like Civilization fall into this category. I can’t enjoy them games responsibly because they have that hook that pulls you into the game so much that you lose track of time. That hook is part of the appeal, but I need it to let go of me on its own. Watching the clock myself breaks the experience and sometimes doesn’t work.

It’s also true for most of these types of games that there is never a “good” place to stop. There’s always loose ends or half-completed plans dangling and it can be a bit confusing to interrupt those things and come back later. It’s easy to forget about something you were planning to do or lose track of long term goals.

This is where timers and energy may be useful. Each play session can be designed to be a satisfying arc of its own that leaves things in a reasonable state for you to stop thinking about it for a while. I can’t think of any games that really employ this strategy in exactly this fashion, but the DNA was there in old browser-based strategy games like Star Kingdoms (wow I can’t believe that’s still running).

I may explore this idea in the future myself once Fate Tectonics is behind us.