Timer Systems in Game Design

Timing has always been a hot topic for discussion when talking about turn-based strategy games like Chess, Go, and trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh. I want to take some to discuss the different types of timer systems used in games today and how we came to derive the timer system that is used today in EDOPro as well as YGO Omega.

  1. Increment System

    This timer system was created and patented by Bobby Fischer, a former World Chess champion. In this system, each player starts with an idle time and they gain back time for each move. So for example, in Chess G/90;inc30 (aka 90+3) means that each player starts with 90 seconds on the clock and gains 30 seconds per move. YGOPro Percy and its successor, EDOPro use G/180;inc3. The issue with this system primarily is that there’s no limit to the amount of time gained. If a player were to do an infinite loop combo with no net change, they can gain infinite time during their turn. This is called a “hostage” loop. An example, is Psy-frame Omega and Necrovalley. Omega can keep activating its effect since it’s not once per turn from the GY. It gets negated by Necrovalley and then it will activate again. This even happened in Duel Links: https://www.reddit.com/r/DuelLinks/comments/9nrgob/competitive_mokuba_holding_duel_hostage/
    Players do this intentionally hoping that their opponent will eventually disconnect (a lot worse than mystic mine).

  2. Bronstein delay

    The second timer system is called Bronstein delay named after the Grandmaster David Bronstein. This system tried to fix the flaw in the increment system, by changing the amount of time gained per move. That is, instead of gaining 30 seconds per move, the time gained would depend on the time spent it took to make the move. For example, my clock starts. I took 5 seconds to make my first move, so I gain back 5 seconds. I took 20 seconds after the first move to make the second move, so I gain 20 seconds. This way, the player isn’t gaining back 30 secs per each move, but only the exact time spent for each move. If they were to take longer than 30 seconds, they’d still only get 30 seconds back for that move. It ensures that the time won’t increase very fast even if the player were to play very fast. This did solve the problem of the increment system, but it is quite hard to keep track of the time spent between moves. In a server, we can track this time, but it also means that the server now has to store time for each player which can affect performance.

  3. Simple delay

    The third timer system is called the Simple Delay. In this system, the timer just stops or pauses when the player makes a move. Let’s say it stops for 10 seconds while the player makes a move. After 10 seconds, the timer again starts to count down again. In this case, the timer can never increase or gain time, but only pauses while the player is making moves. We did try this initially in YGO Omega. However, this still didn’t solve the problem of infinite loops since a player can still just keep making moves and the timer would remain still, creating another hostage situation.

  4. Real life Yu-Gi-Oh

    The fourth timer system we have to discuss is what is actually used in real life yugioh today. In real life, there is no time limit per turn. Rather, there is a time limit per round. Each round is 40 mins. After 40 mins, if a duel has no winner, a set of procedures begin called the End of Match Procedures or EOMP.


    1. The Duel will continue for a total of four (4) turns, two (2) turns for each Duelist, unless a Duelist manages to win the Duel before the four (4) turns have concluded.|

    2. A “turn” is defined as the start of the Draw Phase until the end of the End Phase for a single Duelist.|

    3. Once the four (4) turns are completed, Life Point totals are compared and the Duelist with the highest Life Point total wins the Match.|

      This is very exploitable and encourages intentional slow play. For example, a player can play slowly until the 40 mins are up, and then activate a card effect that gives themselves more LP. Note that the 3 mins during side decking is included in the 40 mins. For this reason, tier 3 events like YCS will use 45 mins round timers instead. Slow play is not something easy to penalize because one has to prove “intention”. A player can genuinely be slow at thinking or reading. Thus, it is up to the judge’s discretion based on the game state and several other factors to determine slow play.

      It is also why at many World Championships, you will see some questionable banned cards like Emergency Provisions and Mystic Wok. Both of these cards increase LP. This is to prevent abuse of the EOMP. It’s so abuseable that if you search on google you will find a petition on change.org with over 3000 people signing it saying to fix it. Pétition · Fix the New Yu-Gi-Oh End of Match Procedure · Change.org Obviously, we don’t want EOMP in an online automatic simulator. In real life, there is no time per turn so players can abuse this but in a simulator, we have a timer system so this is unlikely to happen. We want players to finish the duel so the true winner can be determined not based on a loophole of EOMP.

  5. Duel Links

    In Duel Links, each player starts with 180 secs idle. Initially, the first version of their timer system did not cause players to gain time per move but the timer STOPPED while doing moves. This created the hostage exploit shown above in the reddit post. Since then, Konami added a constant delay regardless of whether the player is moving or not. Then, at the start of your next turn, you get 20 secs added to your turn. For example, if I spent 60 secs idle during my turn, then I have 120 secs left on my clock when I ended my turn. In my next turn, I will have 120+20 = 140 seconds. If you ask any most players or any pro Duel Links player, they will be dissatisfied by the timer system because they will progressively run out of time if they use more than 20 secs per turn. They can even timeout during the opponent’s turn since they did not gain back time until the start of their turn. It’s nice though that Konami did think about implementing an anti-stall for those players that take more time, will get back less time their next turn. Unfortunately, it’s still not good enough.

  6. Master Duel

    Master Duel uses the same idea as Duel Links but higher numbers. You start with 480 secs which continues to decrease. It pauses only during animations. You don’t gain back time for moves. Then at the start of each of your turns, you gain back 60 seconds. This system is good to address stalling but it will suffer from the same issue Duel Links did - the longer the duel is, the less time the players will have gradually. For example, you spend 2 mins during your first turn (8-2= 6 mins left during opponent’s turn). Now you spend 1 min response time during opponent’s turn (6-1 = 5 mins left). It’s your turn again and you gain back 1 min (5+1 = 6 mins). Now you spend another 2 mins during your turn (6 - 2 = 4 mins left during opponent’s turn). Now you spend 1 min response time during opponent’s turn (4-1 = 3 mins left). It’s your turn again and you gain back 1 min (3+1 = 4 mins). Now you spend another 2 mins during your turn (2-2 = 0). I ran out of time in 3 of my turns. For combo decks, this won’t be great.

  7. YGO Omega and YGOPro

    So what does YGO Omega use? We did start with the increment system since that’s what is already being used in ygopro for the last 8 years. Long ago, we used G/180;inc3 (180+3) increment system in YGOPro Percy which got carried over to EDOpro and it’s still used today. Omega tried all these different systems. We started with G/300;inc5 which led to abuse and slowplay. Then we reduced it to G/240;inc5 and then again G/180;inc5 and finally back to where we started, G/180;inc3. We ended up where we started because this is still the best combination. To solve the hostage combo, we put also put a max cap on the amount of gained time. That is a player can gain up to 2x the idle time, or 360 seconds. That means they can keep gaining 3 seconds per move up to 360 seconds. This means in a ideal scenario where a player isn’t intentionally wasting time and needs time to conduct a combo, they can get about 9 mins (1 more minute than Master Duel) during their turn if they need it as long as they are making moves. This gives ample time to do things like infinite loops.

Heyo, AntiMeta, since this is a good topic to discuss it. The Video Game Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Terminal has a unique timer as an Arcade Game. I think it’s a 180 Second Idle Timer + A 10 second wait timer for each chain activation. Meaning that you only have a limited amount of time to respond to cards. For example if I attacked with Harpie Lady, my opponent would only have 10 seconds to respond with mirror force, or the attack would automatically go through. In that retrospective, I understand that a system like this probably might not work. But it’s something I did want to bring up because it intrigued me when I played Duel Terminal.

Yep putting a 10 second response window will lead to a lot of problems. Players like to think and respond accordingly. I even tried halving the time the non-turn player gets to respond (90 seconds instead of 180), but that didn’t work. Lots of players complained.