Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
boolean

An analysis of addictive gameplay

This topic is 5060 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

If you have not played Motherload yet, I suggest you play it now before reading anymore of this post. It runs of Flash, so you will not need to install anything. The other day Wavinator got me onto a great flash based game called Motherload. Wavinator warned that it was addictive, and he wasn’t wrong. I was playing this damn thing for hours, and I could of played it for more if I didn’t have to go to work. But this got me thinking. How can a game so simple be so addictive? Sure there are a lot of addictive games out there, but this one had the exact same feeling as Diablo, where you just kept thinking ‘just 5 more minutes/just one more payload/just one more trip to town’, and is probably the closest I have found to emulating its addictive gameplay. So why is this game so addictive? What does it have that even Blizzard could not emulate in Diablo2 or Microsoft in Dungeon Siege? Don’t get me wrong, these games are great, but they did not have that pull in them that makes you just want to keep playing to find that item which will make it payday. At the end of the day I did not care if I had the +9124 damage sword of pain in Diablo 2 or DS, I had no real pull to go romping through deserts. I think that, as crazy as it may seem, it could come down to the pure fact that you are travelling in one direction: Down. Both Diablo and Motherload are games where you continuality traverse under the earth, looking for that item. It seems silly that this could have any effect at all, but I will try and explain why I think this has such an effect. I think the first at foremost reason that travelling down is so addictive is because it shows quite simply how far away from home you really are. You can quickly think at any moment ‘wow, I’ve travelled a damn long way’. This gives you a sense of where you have been, and serves as a guide of how big your adventure has been so far. Another reason is that in both of these games, you are told at the start that the further down you go into the ground you go, the better items/resources you will find. This is probably one of the most key points to the addictive gameplay, as from then on it constantly plays on the mind of the player that if they just put in 5 minutes more they WILL be making progress, and it could be then that they find the big item. Essentially, by having a game structure similar to these two games, it cuts out nearly all travel, so every moment you play is not going to waste. Travel was something that Diablo 2 and DS had in abundance in order to create a bigger world. So the combination of knowing that every moment you play is moving the game forward, and that you know where the big items are (down) but you just haven’t found them yet, it makes extremely addictive gameplay. As an example of these points, imagine the gameplay of Motherload has been changed a little. Instead of mining downward, you are actually mining from the inside of the earth outwards, travelling up. Do you think you would still get the same feeling looking downwards and seeing how far you have travelled? Now imagine that you must drive into areas called ‘Resource zones’ where you must complete that zone by mining from one end to the other and collecting as much as you can on the way. Once you have completed that, you can find a new Zone and mine that one (this would work in a similar way to how Diablo2 and DS work by clearing out individual dungeons, which you then fight through, then move onto another and clear that one out). Would the game still feel the same now? <> Although the segment below is pure speculation, I am going to try and do some research to find out if this theory is true <> I think that, at a subconscious level, travelling down into the earth is a fundamental instinct that our brains finds intriguing. We all find caves exciting places to look into, wondering just what is around that corner. As a child I used to always want to travel inside one, thinking that just a little further in would be a skeleton, or treasure (I was a kid! [smile]). I think that when we play games that travel downwards, it is tapping into a part of the brain that makes you feel like you are the first person to ever walk into that part of the cave, and that feeling that YOU are the one who is seeing it is quite positive. It could be said that Diablo and Motherload would not be anywhere near as addictive if they were static maps, as the feeling of discovery would be lost.
Well, I have ranted on long enough. I would be interested to hear what everyone else thinks of this. Do you think that the fundamental prospect of travelling downwards into the earth is something that can be attributed to additive gameplay? Can you think of any games that flat out destroy this theory? Maybe you have your own theories as to why Motherload works so well? Thanks all. I look forward to your thoughts on this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
I've always thought it was the subliminal messaging hidden in the background music. Can't write more though, because I'm playing motherload.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I played motherlode a while back. I was bashing away at it for more than seven hours I think, which is just obscene considering its just a simple free flash game.

When I think back over the addictive classics with 'down' in mind I see some interesting patterns.

Tetris,
Space invaders,
Mario (Warp Pipes) - (Of all the map features, these were the only things to make it into the film I think?)
Tomb Raider!

And other classics.
Tetris is the biggie, its an addictive classic, no doubt. It also features constant downward movement of objects on screen.
I also mention Tomb Raider, because it was when walking into those massive underground halls that got me feeling realy eager to keep playing.

Everything in motherlode is linked to going deeper. Go deeper to get gems, gems mean upgrades which let you go deeper! Plus the fact that once your down there, its so damn far up there's a huge temptation to push on right till time runs out. Then you see a huge pile of gems that you just can't reach in time!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LOL! Glad you got into this game. I actually bought the CD to reward the guys for such great work.

As to theory, I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing: I believe we have a subconscious link with caves and things under the earth. Caves and subterranean journeys represent a kind of claustrophobic adventure space that is simultaneously threatening and foreboding. Look at the number of early text based games like Zork that threw you into vast underground empires, the number of D&D games that put you in ever deepening dungeons that twisted down into the Earth. We wouldn't keep harping on the theme if it weren't so subconsciously vital.


A couple of other really excellent mechanisms which Motherload uses to foster addiction:

Timer Pressure - The Sims showed that you can create "Go Anywhere, Do Anything" gameplay via timers. People think they're doing things like sleeping and eating in The Sims when what they're really doing is strategically managing timers. The fuel tank on the vehicle provides a similar mechanism which forces you to strategically think about where you are and how much money you're spending (if you warp back home or return early or get a new fuel tank). Timer Pressure, btw, must be natural so that it is accepted, as is the case here. I believe it also creates dread / fear of death, a vital subconscious motivator, and gives you an upper limit to break (bigger fuel tank means you're progressing).

Something Nearly For Nothing - A "Get Rich Quick" meme is at the heart of the game. Beyond fuel, all you have to do to "get more" is simply make choices about how far you dig, which direction and how much cargo space you have. The relics and skeletons further enhance this idea.

Noticable Gameplay Improvement With Advancement - The gameplay subtly changes when you get better equipment. The Diamond drill allows you to move much faster, for instance, which in turn makes you feel that you're going to get rich even quicker!

Character Development and Identification - As you invest in your rig you develop and emotional tie to it. This makes you want to take care of it and improve it. You're a lot less inclined to drill into lava or hard land as a result.

Flying - Dreams of flying have been some of the most well regarded and cherished throughout history. Because the rig has helicopter properties, you get not only the powerful subconscious dream of subterranean adventure but freedom from gravity as well.

Level Building - Because you can carve out the level and there is a good reason to do so (reach that ruby patch above that has no overhang) you further feel a connection to the level. I think the creative aspect of level building appeals to many who don't want to just blow everything up.

Story - This small bit creates anticipation. Who is Mr. Natas and why is he so helpful, anyway... and what keeps happening to all those other miners?




I've wondered what the game would be like, btw, if there were active threats moving through the caverns (like the monsters in Dig Dug). It might ruin it, but it would be interesting to be able to drop dynamite in the path of monsters or cause cave ins, but not be able to otherwise affect them directly.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bah, at this point, I wish I had never clicked on that link :/ Now I am hopelessly hooked, and it single-handedly destroyed all my forward momentum with my engine, replacing it with the irresistable urge to go digging [grin] Ah, that little game rules so much, how deep have y'all got? I've been playing the last 3 hours, and I'm down at about 3000 feet right now, but what about you guys?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm routinely hitting 5000', but I keep running into gas pockets right before I decide to return to "town". Bloody irritating things; is there any way to deal with them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yep; get a better hull and radiator. If you have the best of both you can survive about three gas pockets without repairs. Alternatively, you could avoid digging in plain dirt. If you only dig gems and blow up dirt you won't hit any gas pockets.

Once you get enough money you can invest in the instant hull repairs and extra fuel tanks. I never used the explosives very much, though.

I've beaten the game. I don't know how deep it goes; your altimeter goes funky later on. I'm playing it again now; it's harder the second time around.

I think the most motivating upgrade is the fuel tank. The others are nice, but the I upgrade the fuel tank as much as possible.

Wow... that game is addicting. This thread has moved from talking about the game's addictiveness to talking about the game itself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wow that game is addicting , stoped playing it now tho, cos i hit a damn gas pocket !!, (hate dieing in games lol)

but yea,must be something about underground, that makes your more interested, never noticed it untill you stated it and about the whole tombraider thing, (funny how tombraider 1/2 where the only 1s that got me hooked, the rest were nothing amazing tbo, maby it was because of teh setting ??)

also i think it has something to do with player development, notice how alot of MMO's are addicting too, and the similarities motherload has, with upgrades and such

anyways yea.. for those playing motherload... if you go enough money, get all the 50k stuff and buy about 10 of each fuel / heath refills, that should keep you going till you hit a pocket :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't believe I've never encountered this revelation before. It's so prominent in so many games, and sometimes it's obvious that somebody figured out the correlation between depth and addiction, as in the dungeons of Tactics Ogre or Lufia (or was it Lufia II?)

I think that down is better than up, since I would be less impressed by a tower than a dungeon, even if the two were functionally identical, because the tower has a sense of finitude. After all, you can only build a tower so high; a dungeon can go all the way down.

How would it apply horizontally, do you think? When we were discussing ways to bound a world for a free-roaming game, we talked about a "wilderness", where the farther in you got, the deadlier it became, until nobody could possibly hope to survive the crazy monsters and tricky geography and horrible weather or whatever. I think that might work fairly well, but it's tougher to buy the whole "endless progression" idea. It's like that old joke about how far a dog can run into the woods.*

Maybe that could be worthwhile in itself, though. Imagining now a game like Diablo or even Everquest, how would players react to a tiered region? Say there's a totally unsurvivable challenge right in the center of a series of concentric rings. As you move inward, the challenges get tougher, the stakes get higher, and the odds of survival are reduced. A very strong player might get down to the fourth or fifth "ring" out from the center. A team of mighty players could get down to two or three. A squad of demi-gods could survive, if briefly, in the first circle, but if anyone tries to get into the bull's-eye, their doom is assured.

Would a capstone like that hurt the dynamic? What if it was inverted, and applied outward at the edge of a map? Instead of a barrier, just have a few "layers" of crescendoing danger. Say that the wards that keep the zombies out of your town only extend to that point, and as you move past it, you'll encounter larger and larger hordes of the undead, until it's shoulder-to-shoulder flesh-eaters a mile out of town.

If these killing fields were rife with treasure and wealth inproportion to the danger, then expeditions would reward intrepidity handsomely, but hubris would have the opposite effect, since you would leave whatever wealth in equipment you brought will you where you fell.

*Answer: Only halfway. After that, he's running back out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!