Hey all, I’ve decided to write up a few things that I feel are important, but generally over-looked within game play. This is sort of a way for me to get some ideas down for myself, but hopefully you guys will be able to pull some ideas from it to improve your own games or even give you ideas for new ones.
Little note; I'm not saying what I’m writing here is a must do, or is vital etc and please, if you disagree or think you can improve on any points I have made post below and I will change this thread, after all a collective is better than a singularity.
I’m going to talk about a broad range of games, from FPS to RPG so just try to adapt it to your own game or idea.
Things I’m going to cover (to begin with):
1. Rewards; why and when.
2. Choice, true choice.
3. Internal conflict.
Rewards; why and when.
So, we all know how reward schemes work, you kill this monster it drops 5 gold, yeah, great, 100 monsters later and I’m bored. This frustrates me within games so much, it destroys vital parts of game play and even later game play, time your rewards! Every time you defeat a monster in an RPG or defeat a player it does not need to give a reward. Making players work for that gold, coin, money, dollar, wonga gives them a sense of achievement rather than no-life grinding. It also encourages your players to advance to other sections of your game rather than grinding one particular section because each monster you kill drops something that will make it easier for you to progress.
My argument isn’t particularly holding much weight at this moment and is really just me having a ramble, so, let’s back this up a little:
Skinners box, don’t know it? Google and youtube are your friend.
The basic concept behind skinner was that you could condition humans to do a particular action if it generated a reward that they wanted, for example lets use skinners actual experiment done with a pigeon;
There is a red button within a box, each time the pigeon presses this button a pellet of food is dropped into the box, very quickly the pigeon associated the button with a positive reward, something it wanted and began consistently pressing it, however, after a time it stopped. This was due to over indulgence, too much off what it wanted spoilt what it wanted so it had no desire for it anymore. Now then, in skinners experiments he found that if he dropped the food at random intervals the pigeon would repeat the task for a much longer time.
How does this relate to game play? Well, perfectly if you think about it.
Take an RPG for example, constantly rewarding a player with money will cause them to become bored, randomly rewarding them will encourage them to continue playing, as your parents probably said to you: If you work for it, you will appreciate it.
So, when you may ask, should I reward players?
Well, there is no easy answer to this, look at your game, balance it, new players need to have these consistent rewards so that they feel they are accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time, however this needs to depreciate without the player realizing, think of an RPG, WoW is a great example with its leveling system. The first handful of levels take about 3-4 hours, tops, the player feels great, they are getting quick, consistent rewards, fuelling them to carry on for that moment, then look at later levels, it can take a good 2-3 months to get to level 80(?? I don’t play WoW!), there’s timing your rewards perfectly, you have captivated new players instantly by allowing them to get to level 10 within a few hours, with them knowing the max level is 80, they feel great, as if they are gaining on the top players, but then it slows, un-noticeably, this is skinners box executed in a very good manner, get the idea?
Choice, true choice:
Choice is something that is thrown around a lot by games recently, some games pull it off fantastically (for example, EVE online) in EVE, every choice you make really can have an impact on the entire universe and there is little to no structure for you to follow, however, other games promote choice but don’t actually give it, (for example WoW).
Let’s look at WoW for a moment, this is an example of how designers may feel they are offering choice, when really they are offering players to make calculations and decisions based upon these calculations.
Want an example? Go google “WoW talent trees”, big aint it? Lots of choices there…yeah. Now google something like “WoW best talent tree fits”, all of a sudden it isn’t choice, there are defined paths to take that gives you the best dps, health, healing, casting etc. This is not choice.
Now then, let’s look at something that does choice fantastically:
Yeah, everybody has played it. Now, just for a moment think about the perk screen each time you level up, real choice, have you ever spent 20+ mins trying to decide which perk to get? Do you want to do more damage or do you want things to explode into more pieces? Choice, real choice, a question like that comes down to what YOU want, it personalizes the game to you just that little bit more, makes you learn a little about yourself, that’s what captivates you, that’s what makes you say, at 2 AM in the morning say “Hmmm, just one more level”.
Written by Tom Mclean
Other interesting articles:
Behavioral Game Design - Thanks Octarine!