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Sandman

The Strength of Player Rankings?

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To what lengths will a player go to get a 'better' in game title? I'm wondering how powerful persistent player rankings can be for determining how much effort players put into the game. How much can we, as game designers, rely on them for encouraging the player to play how we want them to? Players will spend a fortune trying to get the best score in arcade games, months trying to get the highest level character they can etc. It seems to me that rankings can be very powerful. Although this can be applied to almost any genre, to get an idea of the sort of thing I'm talking about, I'll provide some context specific to my own project. I'm designing an RTS game which, among other things, has no resource management as such, but instead has a reinforcements system enabling the player to draw more troops as and when he needs them. Now, obviously there needs to be something to prevent players from just spamming hundreds of units all the time. I've toyed with a few heuristics to decide when and how much the player can reinforce, but none of them seem to be quite what I'm looking for, just resource management by a different name. That got me thinking: rather than restrict the number of units with some complicated clever algorithm, why not let the player restrict them himself? What if, the player got a better 'score' and hence a better ranking for using fewer units? Obviously, some players would probably not give a shit about their score, and would enjoy playing silly games involving every unit they can get. This doesn't really bother me - if that's how they want to play the game, that's fine. The ranking system will also enable more serious players to avoid this type of player if they want to. Hopefully however, a significant number of players will care about their score, despite it's arbitrary and ultimately meaningless nature. These people will strive to maximize it as much as they can, and in order to do so they will become reluctant to summon reinforcements, yet they are never strictly prevented from doing so - in effect, the game is as difficult or as easy as the player wants it to be. There is still some balancing to do. The score gained for winning vs. the score gained for using fewer units needs to be looked at carefully, or you get weird strategies like players walking in with one unit and losing but getting a good score, or players choosing to win at all costs (back to spamming units again) So... Are player rankings strong enough to encourage such behaviour? Do they need some kind of parallel incentive? (i.e higher rankings gives bonuses or new units etc) Or is this simply not going to work?

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So basically the Battletech [Mechwarrior] system of honor? As far as lore goes, commanders within a clan "bid" to have the honor of fighting an engagement, the person who bids the smallest number of resources (mechs, weapons, personal) gets the mission.

In the Battletech world this system serves an important purpose. Kerensky (the founder/messiah figure) designed it to prevent all out warfare between clans. The individual competition for honor within each clan makes them both deploy the smallest force possible, and the highly organized and structured form of "war" means that both sides accept the outcome of this proxy fight in place of an all out conflict that would leave both sides crippled. In addition, it supports the clans goal of genetic selective breeding - those that are more arrogant then intelligent will bid too low in an attempt to win the right to fight.

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I think score is one of the motives that can hold a player in the game for the longest time, at the cheapest cost.

You will eventually get all items.
You will eventually see all of the game.
You will eventually beat the game 1000 times flawlessly.
You will eventually know how to beat all the puzzles.

However, score is something that is made from other players. They will all improve. If you slow down, you will fall back.. so you have to constantly be in the fray! It's just as trying to get more money than others and such stuff..

And since to make new content, a new patch, a new story, a new expansion, all cost money, but of course, making players learn to beat the game doesn't :p

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Quote:
Original post by Michalson
So basically the Battletech [Mechwarrior] system of honor? As far as lore goes, commanders within a clan "bid" to have the honor of fighting an engagement, the person who bids the smallest number of resources (mechs, weapons, personal) gets the mission.


That's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's close, and also something I hadn't considered.

What I had in mind was to allow players to use reinforcements more or less freely, whenever they think they need them - no major restrictions or prerequisites are enforced by the game itself. At the end of the game, however, the two player's use of reinforcements are compared, and used to generate a score. The fewer reinforcements you use compared to your opponent, the better the score at the end.

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Quote:
Original post by Sandman
Obviously, some players would probably not give a shit about their score, and would enjoy playing silly games involving every unit they can get. This doesn't really bother me - if that's how they want to play the game, that's fine. The ranking system will also enable more serious players to avoid this type of player if they want to.


The biggest problem for me, here, would be that when players are just starting the game, they're going to meet this a**hole, and if there are enough like him (you really only need a few), he'll ruin the experience for players like myself who might be interested in greater rank. Since it would take time to distinguish these griefers from normal players, it acts as a powerful disincentive for new players.

Quote:

So... Are player rankings strong enough to encourage such behaviour? Do they need some kind of parallel incentive? (i.e higher rankings gives bonuses or new units etc) Or is this simply not going to work?


I'd consider going full bore on ranking, if you're going to use it-- consider that a lowly private probably doesn't have the ability to call in an airstrike, but a general certainly does. Although the problem here would be that you want the game to be diverse enough so that people will level to the better units, yet that entails cutting out your main selling point: interesting strategies.

What's wrong with limiting volume or frequency of reinforcements by rank? I'd think this would create an incentive to play with those of your level, and if you had multiple profiles you could play at multiple levels.

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