I've been pondering whether it would be possible to produce a game in the idiom of a web comic, which is to say, three updates a week or more, with one or two authors.
At first glance it looks really, really hard. With a traditional (static) web comic it's pretty easy to put a number on how long it takes to produce each update. An hour to brainstorm the joke, an hour to sketch it out and complete the planning, and maybe a few hours to implement.
With a micro-episodic game, your players are supposed to come back every other day and play a little bit more, right? Is it possible to develop fun/deep gameplay, without driving away your audience? The average web comic audience, after all, only needs about 10 seconds to grok your latest update; value is delivered over a span of weeks, or during long binges as a new reader plows through the archives. Your game needs to stand up to both modes of play.
With a traditional game, value is delivered primarily through the novelty of the gameplay or the puzzle.
Comics tend to be character driven, and a good comic can coast for a while with no plot at all if the audience is invested in the characters. A game would need to capture that level of good-will. People need to want to come back each time to see what happens next.
Assuming you can solve that problem, you immediately hit another problem. In a comic, if a reader doesn't get or like a particular panel, they can skip it. A micro-episodic game would need to be very careful to not throw up any roadblocks for players. If players can get stuck and become frustrated, you have no audience.
In order for the game to be meaningful, there have to be choices. But in order for the micro-episodic format to function, each update has to be applicable to every player, regardless of their previous choices.
Web comics are not very bug-prone. A micro-episodic game certainly sounds very bug-prone. The game design and tech design would need to be very defensive and robust.
So. Like I said it looks really really hard.
Perhaps obviously, I'm looking at things like homestarrunner.com and mspaintadventures.com for comparison and inspiration. Those two sites are very successful at delivering many semi-interactive experiences on a regular schedule. Are there others I'm unaware of? Actually, I'm not sure I want to know. I like to jump into things like this without doing a lot of research first, because research tends to be depressing. ;-)
The game that's taking shape starts off very, very simply. It uses a character that grows as you make choices, in response to your choices, and you grow your character over the entire span of the game. The essential mechanic is navigation, you have to navigate to the next screen. Maybe the front edge of the game is always a "loading" screen which means that you're at latest. Probably you can navigate backwards and reverse (some of?) your choices to explore other options. There's a "reference" save game that anyone can use to jump into the game at the latest point. Maybe it's pulled from the community, maybe not. Or maybe that's not necessary, or maybe only at the start of chapters. We progress from blank screens to mazes to simple choices to character development, and as we go we introduce game mechanics that will stick around for the rest of the game.
* navigation from late in the game back to early screens
* massively multiplayer
* time travel, revisiting old locations
* community driven content generation
* algorithmic/interactive content generation
Sounds fun. And still really really hard.