Click-and-Wait is a lesser known term to describe a very popular feature found in nowadays games. The feature originates from traditional browser-games and is ever since popular in almost all F2P games, especially mobile games. The term “click and wait” describes a typical time based process where the player first initiates an action per mouse-click and then waits for a certain period in order for the task to finish.
At first, this kind of system sound silly and obsolete – some players even hate click-and-wait implementations in games – but systems like this are quite important to the flow of the game. Thats because click and wait mechanics interlock with concepts like Session Pacing, Content Stretching and Energy Systems. All of these systems have been developed in order to prevent players from blazing through game content too fast. Furthermore, the delayed reward represented after a timer ticks down, is a incentive to make players come back later. It should be noted that this system makes its sole appearance in multiplayer and/or free-to-play games (understandable as it would not make sense in a single-player-environment, or is at least a very rare sight).
The basic definition of Click-and-Wait is quite simple: The player “clicks” a game object in order to start an action and then “waits” until that action is finished. One of the more common implementations is for example the build system as seen in games like Clash of Clans. As a player you first have to save up the amount of resources required and then, when you are allowed to buy the building, that said building must be built first. This building period delays the reward the player excepts for his spending, due to various reasons (as explained below). But there are less obvious click and wait systems as well: When you take a close look, the energy systems found in most F2P mobile games is nothing else but a clever interpretation of click-and-wait. First you spend energy by performing certain activities (“click”) and after spending your energy resource, it takes a while for it to regenerate again (“wait”).
So, lets look at the reasons for implementing such a system:
First of all, mobile games are played in short time intervals of only a few minutes. Instead of a single, lengthy game session as for example on a desktop PC based game, players log back into their mobile game several times a day. This creates a series of short timed gameplay intervals, distributed across all times of the day. If you (as a game designer) want to support these short timed intervals, a energy system is the right mechanic for that. It allows your players to play the game in short bursts, forces them to rest for a while and makes the players come back again after a certain period of time passed.
Another, important reason is content pacing and content stretching. In a single player RPG (for example Baldurs Gate) it is quite possible for a player to complete the whole game within one (or 2-3) long game session(s). Thats totally OK for a shelf title with a estimate 30 hours of gameplay. A F2P game on the other hand must be seen as a “service” and tries to bind the player for weeks, if not months or years. Utilizing the click-and-wait mechanic, you (the designer) are able to increase the amount of time spent on the game (or off – with regular returns). It also helps to pace the game, as your players simply cannot blaze through the content in one go. This is even more helpful (and important) in a multiplayer environment where you always have the risk of a “runaway leader” syndrome.
Furthermore, packaging the game into small chunks (and enforcing this chunked consume behavior via timers and energy systems) prevents player burnout. This chunked pieces of gameplay can be seen as entries on a to-do-list and give the player the feeling of accomplishment. Additionally, in-game rewards can be added to these entries – players can add a “check” on their mental checklist and know that in a couple of hours a reward is waiting for them as well. All in all, click-and-wait style games give the players of mobile games exactly what they expect: the maximum amount of fun in the minimum amount of time (per gameplay session that is).