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How to make great games less addictive?

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The short description: I'd like to open up a discussion on the following questions which have been plaguing my mind for ages:
  1. Is there an ethical problem with aiming to make a too addctive game?
  2. If so, how can we as designers make great games without them being too addictive?

The long description: This is more of a philosophical question that I have worried about for a while. It's a general question about game design rather than about a particular game that I am creating, or even tied to a particular genre. But it's something that has bugged me for a while regarding what I should be aiming for in game design. Many times when I read lists of what makes a game great, I see "addictive" listed as a positive attribute. This has always made me uneasy, because addiction is an association that marks a vice. In this case, an addictive game is one that sucks up too much time. I think the appropirate psychological term is flow. I know that I have occasionally fired up an addictive game thinking I'd only play for a half hour, and ended up spending the rest of the day playing. Or worse, up to the early hours of the morning when I had classes or work the next day. As such I feel uncomfortable with deliberately setting out to design an addictive game. It's to a lesser degree than if I were say designing a slot machine, as a "good design" for slots is one that ends up hooking vulnerable people to spend more money they can afford. In the case of an addictive computer game, all the addict is wasting is time, but that still is something I feel uncomfortable about deliberately setting out to achieve with a game design. Although obviously some responsiblity must lie with the player, from an ethical point of view I think as a designer I should consider methods of making games less addictive but still remaining great. The problem, however, is that in my mind there is a significant overlap between the properties that makes a good game and what makes an addictive one. Obviously as game designers we wish to create experiences that capture the imaginations and provide entralling experiences to our players. I think this overlap is the reason why I see "addictive" listed so often as a positive trait associated with good games. However, is it true that this overlap is a necessary evil? Is it possible to make a brilliant game that is not addictive? It might help if I list what I consider to be elements that help create an addictive game (I might add to this list later on):
  • Uninterrupted seamless gameplay (limited loading times, smooth gameplay progression between stages etc.)
  • Multiple game objectives so there is always something in progress
  • Randomised reward elements (example: randomised weapon drops in RPGs)
  • Feedback on development level (only 250 XP required for level up!)
  • Social elements (such as massively multiplayer)
  • Rewards for time invested in the game (again: massively multiplayer)
  • High level of polish (nothing to jar the player out of an immersive state)
Unfornunately I think all those things are desirable attributes for a game to have! So how can we design a game that still has these positive qualities but is less addictive? Probably the weakest one of those attributes is the seamless gameplay. One possibility would be to allow an optional gameplay timer that can save and quit after a set amount of time. Of course, the problem with this method is if the player is at a critical point in time they would be fairly annoyed. Another approach is to have natural points in the game where players feel comfortable switching the game off. I find that I have no problem playing level based games for a fixed amount of time, as the end of a level is an obvious point to evaluate whether I should keep playing the game. However this is harder to achieve in the more freeform games, such as large scale strategy games; the 4X genre is one that I frequently described as addictive. One possibility would be to insert milestones into such games - possibly reward screens that mark time elapsed or set achievements? - that provide the wake-up call. My questions then are firstly the fundamental one: in your opinion am I being over-conscious in worrying about the addictiveness of games, or am I worrying too much? Secondly: is it possible to still make great games that are not as addictive? In particular, can we take a traditionally addictive great game and make it less addictive while still retaining its greatness?

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You know, I wouldn't have even thought of games as being "too addictive" until I read your post. You bring up some intriguing thought provoking points. Never once would I have considered it a matter of ethics by making addictive gameplay. hehe.

Addictive games for me are actually games that don't involve much gameplay time, and yet, ironically, they chew up enormous amount of time. Games like Scorched Earth, or the more familiar Worms type games - ate up an enormous amount of my time while I was at University (when I should have otherwise been working on studying). These games for me provide the "Just One More" level/round/session type of gameplay. While they are intended as coffee break type of gameplay, it ends up providing an alternative to that 5000 word English essay, or as a means of procrastination.

Other games which seem addictive (not to myself personally), but steal away all my friends who *are* addicted, are the MMORPGS. Everquest stole away all my friends, and I was left scratching my head wondering why we couldn't go out anymore! :( To them, these games sucked up enormous amounts of time, and hours seemed to fly by effortlessly in their virtual worlds. I guess the game makers are counting on this form of addictiveness.

As to a resolution? Maybe, popups could come up every so often saying "Have you done your homework yet?" or "Did you remember to sleep in the past week?" or "Remember your friends!".

I will have to think more on this...

I think in terms of gameplay and game design, making a game less addictive is self-defeating, and like making a cheese pizza less cheesy. You aren't gonna get that 5 star review if people aren't going to come back to it often. Replayability is an important factor in game design.

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I might venture out here and suggest that addiction has psychological and physical explainations, not technical explainations.

Some people want to be addicted. How are you going to design around that?

The solution has to do with people, not technology.

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The problem is that anything which is good is going to get addictive, so you can't construct a good game without making it addictive. Consider chocolate for example, it's unhealty to eat much of it, you're more likely to eat more if it tastes good, does that mean we shouldn't make chocolate which taste good? The problem is the same with games, it's "unhealthy" if people use too much time on it and people are likely to use more time if it's a good game. The things you listed as addictive properties are just properties which make sure the "fun-level" keeps fairly constant, this is addictive because the game never gets boring enough for the player to quit.

I don't think you can make a great game which isn't addictive, why would someone not want to play your game if it's that great? A timer would be fairly annoying, since sometimes I want to play for a long period of time (12-hour deathmatch ftw). Also the reward screen would just provide "Feedback on development level", a thing you listed as addictive. I know I always want to "just finish the next part" when I get to a reward screen, or get to the next level when I see I'm close. I think the problem is at the user's side, game developers simply supply products good enough to, in itself, be addictive. I would say it's just an implicit property of all good games.

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Single-Player. It's the multiplayer drive that makes games "more exciting", even though in truth, it's only "More addicting".

That's my opinion anyway. Seriously, how many people turn on their NES and play Excite Bike every day for 3 years straight... no one really... What about Diablo 2. If you create a single player game, you'll end up cheating someway through, and then leaving the game be. If you start a multiplayer account, it will destroy your life for years.

That's what I'd imagine anyway.

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Quote:
Original post by F1N1TY
Single-Player. It's the multiplayer drive that makes games "more exciting", even though in truth, it's only "More addicting".

That's my opinion anyway. Seriously, how many people turn on their NES and play Excite Bike every day for 3 years straight... no one really... What about Diablo 2. If you create a single player game, you'll end up cheating someway through, and then leaving the game be. If you start a multiplayer account, it will destroy your life for years.

That's what I'd imagine anyway.


Not all people find multiplayer more addicting, me being one of them.

@Trapper Zoid: In my opinion, most of the time a game isn't good unless it's addictive. I'd classify it more as a "it's ok." (There are exceptions, for me at least.)

Plus there is the fact that just because the majority doesn't find it addictive doesn't mean that everyone doesn't. I've played games before that I thought were awesome and I'd play for hours, but my friends thought they were total crap.

Quote:
Secondly: is it possible to still make great games that are not as addictive? In particular, can we take a traditionally addictive great game and make it less addictive while still retaining its greatness?

I don't think so. The only way to take away it's addictiveness would be to cut out a key part of what makes it great.

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F1N1TY: You have a good point but, I think that multiplayer games are probably the most likely to be great but not so addictive.

For example GoldenEye for N64 was a great multiplayer game but unfortunatly the fun had to end when your friend went home (true it did have unlockables for the single player to increase time, buts its mainly remembered for multiplayer).

Another (not so good) example is Halo, going through the levels on your own gets pretty boring (and sometimes scarey in levels with the flood), invite a friend round and its great! They leave and it isn't. Although Halo has made up for this by allowing people to access the internet and play games with strangers (I'm can't remember what this is called). Although IMO the Co-Op is more fun than the multiplayer.

In summary I think that Co-Op playing would help - the game is great fun, but when your friend goes home it looses its appeal (but hopefully the friend will think it was great and go out and buy it himself).

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Quote:
Original post by Peter Conn
F1N1TY: You have a good point but, I think that multiplayer games are probably the most likely to be great but not so addictive.

For example GoldenEye for N64 was a great multiplayer game but unfortunatly the fun had to end when your friend went home (true it did have unlockables for the single player to increase time, buts its mainly remembered for multiplayer).

Another (not so good) example is Halo, going through the levels on your own gets pretty boring (and sometimes scarey in levels with the flood), invite a friend round and its great! They leave and it isn't. Although Halo has made up for this by allowing people to access the internet and play games with strangers (I'm can't remember what this is called). Although IMO the Co-Op is more fun than the multiplayer.

In summary I think that Co-Op playing would help - the game is great fun, but when your friend goes home it looses its appeal (but hopefully the friend will think it was great and go out and buy it himself).


Case in point. If you think about cigarettes (which I do often), you'd know that the reason they are addictive is because Nicotine releases a neurotransmitter known as Dopamine into the brain. This chemical affects the "pleasure" center of the brain, making it believe it enjoys nicotine.

In truth, the body rejects it, as it is poison to the heart, but the dopamine makes it seem as if it's good.

I think the ability to make a fun game, without being addictive is contradictive. Because, fun = dopamine (whice the brain enjoys), dopamine = more "need" for the cause of fun. There are rare occurances where you can have a generally fun game, that isn't so addictive (I love Tetris, but can only play it for about 5 minutes before finding something "more fun" to do).

But again, that's all (most likely) due to the "amount" of dopamine that's delivered. (Tetris = 5mg dopamine, Diablo 2 = 4000mg dopamine).

I guess, what I'm trying to say, is: it's all up to your brain. :)

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Thanks for all the replies so far!

I might have to clarify that I consider addiction to be stronger than just enjoyment of a good game. If someone plans to spend an entire evening playing a great game, then that's fine with me. It's more the tendency to play a game more than is healthy such as intending to only play for an hour but ending up playing all day, feeling guilty about playing a game too much, or playing a game beyond the point where it is still fun. It was for examples such as this that I conjured up the idea of an optional lock-out timer; one where the player could specify at the beginning of the game to limit the game to, say, an hour.

In my case, I suspect I have an addictive personality. Take books for example: unless a book is total rubbish I tend to read one cover to cover in a single sitting or I feel unnerved and have to finish that book. That's one reason why I don't read fantasy novels, after a time several years ago when my sister gave me a mediocre novel to read without telling me there were nine more in the series before the plot came to a resolution - that cost me three days [smile].

It's hard to quantify, but I know from my experience there are games that I still classify as good that are nowhere near as addictive as other games. For example, compare Grim Fandango to Diablo 2. Now in my opinion, I would rank Grim Fandango as a better game than Diablo 2 (note: that's my opinion, I understand if yours is different [smile]). However, I never was addictied to Grim Fandango, even when playing in through the first time, whereas I have at times played Diablo 2 even when I wasn't finding the game any fun. There was something about the gameplay that kept me playing. Now I suspect it was the constant progression combined with the lottery of finding items and finished with the overall very high polish level, whereas Grim Fandago (while similarly polished) has a slower pace that lends itself to be able to put down and pick up again at a later stage.

I also know that if I am working on a project, or back when I was studying for exams, there are certain game types that I could play that I would not find addictive. I was able to play single player Warcraft II responsibly while studying. Similarly platformers were also on my play list (my favourite when studying for exams was Monolith's Claw). But something like SimCity or Creatures? No way - I'd lose precious sleep that I needed for thinking clearly by playing those. Note that I consider all of those to be good games (to various degrees), but the level like nature of Warcraft and Claw made them much better study games than the open ended SimCity or Creatures.

Of course, part of the answer to the question I think lies in the definition of what a good game actually is, as well as the definition of fun. It might be true that what some people consider fun can never be made non-addictive, and that good non-addictive games are more satisfying than fun.

However I am a big fan of those open ended epic games like Civilization and SimCity as well as RPGs, but it seems to me that those types of games are the ones that are often the most addictive. I can't help thinking there must be a way to make those types of games equally compelling but without getting players unnecessarily burning the midnight oil in the wee twilight hours of the early morning.

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I don't think you should feel guilty about allowing people to have too much fun. Trust me, I've gone the distance. Worse case scenario, they forget to eat for 24 hours.

Jobs come and go. But a lot of people are unhappy. Making those people happy is a damn good thing to strive for. Even if it does mean you transform a few potential doctors into McDonalds clerks. I'll be a happy clerk rather than a miserable doctor any day of the week.

Quote:
Original post by F1N1TY
If you think about cigarettes (which I do often), you'd know that the reason they are addictive is because Nicotine releases a neurotransmitter known as Dopamine into the brain. This chemical affects the "pleasure" center of the brain, making it believe it enjoys nicotine.

There's something else to it. I actually convinced myself that I wouldn't be able to do some things as well if I stopped smoking. For example, I had it in my head that if I stopped smoking, I wouldn't be as patient, and could no longer sit and work on character animation for eight hours straight. Talk about an evil substance. I did quit. And after I got over the extreme anger stage, there was no effect.

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You could always make the game run in real-time, and make it so that there's only so much you can really do in a day.

Making shops close at 9pm (Or earlier) and everyone going home to sleep can render many games useless, and is a good indication for the player to go and get some sleep themselves.

This way, the player can still get 'happily' addicted (Play it every day), but they can't play it endlessly, which removes one of the primary concerns that you had about game addictions.

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I know what you mean it seems like only a certain games can give you this addiction. I think its games which give you percieved progression no matter how long you play them. I've played games like Galactic civilizations or Advance wars for hours thinking I'm getting somewhere in them tweaking all the parameters not really getting anywhere, but still playing it even when it isnt that much fun because their is always other options something else to do in it to draw your attention.

Its like you never really hit a wall in these sorts of games the difficulty never gets too hard or it seems their is always a way round or through.

I think like you said more clearer and smaller goals for the player to strive for instead of the far distance ones of conquering the world and building a starship.

I'm sure their are certain properties an addictive game has over a non one as well, I've played plenty of games which are fun but do not demand my attention as much as the ones that we think are addictive.

A certain amount of repetativeness for instance, it requires the player to repeat movements or go through similar scenarios over and over again.

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I beliave that fun is not dopamine, but that they are not mutually exclusive. I believe that fun and addiction are two seperate things. sometimes, they come together, and sometimes not. For me, fun is what really engages my mind, makes me think, and solve problems, but without hassle.(when I want thinking and solving problems with hassle, I'll build something, not play games). Addiction rewards some part of the brain with new things as slowly as it possibly can, without turning you away, so as to keep you hooked. Addiction = dopamine. Fun = interestingness.

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Playful Puppy:
You could always make the game run in real-time, and make it so that there's only so much you can really do in a day.

Making shops close at 9pm (Or earlier) and everyone going home to sleep can render many games useless, and is a good indication for the player to go and get some sleep themselves.


This works under some circumstances, but MMORPG players *always* find something to do in off hours. Dungeon-crawling and crafting are good replacements for trips to the market. You'd be surprised what players come up with during off-peak times. It's the virtual world they become addicted to, not the actions within.

Consider Richard Bartle's paper, Players Who Suit MUDs. I personally don't believe that one particular facet of gameplay described in the article makes a game addictive. For example:

- Repetition can be addictive (Pac Man, Tetris). The gameplay doesn't change much, except for the speed at which objects in the game travel. (Also falls into the "obtain the biscuit" category).
- Obtain-the-biscuit can be addictive (Doom, Diablo, Gauntlet, any FF storyline). The game gives you a goal slightly out of reach, or gives you an item slightly out of reach, then has you do everything in your power to achieve the next level/item/whatever.
- Huge worlds for exploration can be addictive (any Ultima game world, EQ, Morrowind). Never knowing what treasures or quests or people or powers you might find.
- Socializing can be addictive (IRC chatrooms, forum boards, MySpace quick-posts). being able to communicate with complete strangers with whom you share a common interest.

When a game is comprised of many different potential sources for addiction, many more players become addicted, for different reasons. What common factor makes any "addictable" game addictive? Difficult to say. Accomplishment? Escapism?

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[IMO]

Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
Is there an ethical problem with aiming to make a too addctive game?


Problem? Probably not. Is it something that should at least have discussion, and likely two camps of thought? probably.

Quote:

So how can we design a game that still has these positive qualities but is less addictive?

Probably the weakest one of those attributes is the seamless gameplay. One possibility would be to allow an optional gameplay timer that can save and quit after a set amount of time. Of course, the problem with this method is if the player is at a critical point in time they would be fairly annoyed.

Another approach is to have natural points in the game where players feel comfortable switching the game off. I find that I have no problem playing level based games for a fixed amount of time, as the end of a level is an obvious point to evaluate whether I should keep playing the game. However this is harder to achieve in the more freeform games, such as large scale strategy games; the 4X genre is one that I frequently described as addictive. One possibility would be to insert milestones into such games - possibly reward screens that mark time elapsed or set achievements? - that provide the wake-up call.


I concur. Games like civilization now have timers to alert you when you've been playing too long. A good start, but I think placing a small [disable-able] "you've been playing for $x hours, continue?" is enough to jar the player into considering stopping. That would be at least reasonable enough (imo) that it's really their choice to play too much.

Quote:

My questions then are firstly the fundamental one: in your opinion am I being over-conscious in worrying about the addictiveness of games, or am I worrying too much?


Probably, but it's not as though most others consider it too little...

Quote:

Secondly: is it possible to still make great games that are not as addictive? In particular, can we take a traditionally addictive great game and make it less addictive while still retaining its greatness?


I personally think so. The key though I think is to make things non-invasive. Disrupting flow is harmful to the game, but if you just have a continue screen or a disable-able setting, then you're not going to effect heavy gamers so much as the 'lost in the game' sort.

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The problem seems to be the rather negative conotation the word addictive has these days...so...use the word captivateing instead, it actualy describes things better.

Say "I find Heidi Klum's beauty addictive" and you sound like a stalker. But say "I find Heidi Klum's beauty captivateing" and well you generaly fit the average male profile.

"I was so captivated by Diablo 2 last night, that I didn't poor myself into bed until the sun came up." Doesn't raise the concern that useing the word "addicted" would. And it far better defines just what power the game has over you...you were enthralled by the game, enchanted by the game mechanics, charmed by its presentation, and took delight in your progression...

The modern negative conotation of the word addictive makes it sound like the game over rules your life. That its like a drug, and you must take your fix at every oppertunity, every day, for the rest of your forseeable existance...Which isn't the case with the vast majority of players...while true they may rush home from work to play, even put aside a number of personnal obligations, its all short term...more acuritely befitting the term captivated, rather then the potential life long and disruptive term addictive.

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I'm not really comfortable with using the term addiction in this context, it carries a lot of baggage that doesn't really apply to games. We don't talk about people being addicted to reading, or playing an instrument, or writing code, but all of those activities can be enthralling and make you loose track of time in similar ways. Still I think there is a valid point here. A game that can give an enjoyable experience where you feel satisfied when you stop, as opposed to still wanting to play or feeling burned out, sounds like a good thing.

Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
Another approach is to have natural points in the game where players feel comfortable switching the game off. I find that I have no problem playing level based games for a fixed amount of time, as the end of a level is an obvious point to evaluate whether I should keep playing the game. However this is harder to achieve in the more freeform games, such as large scale strategy games; the 4X genre is one that I frequently described as addictive. One possibility would be to insert milestones into such games - possibly reward screens that mark time elapsed or set achievements? - that provide the wake-up call.


I think this is the key. You need to provide players with discrete points where they can stop, feeling that they have accomplished something. In a story based game like and RPG or an FPS like Halo, you can build in stopping points. These are like the end of a chapter in a book. Something should be resolved, and you should feel a sense of accomplishment. This gives you the ability to take a break and walk away feeling satisfied. There should also be enough of a cliff-hanger to make you want to come back and continue later.

In more freeform games (Civ 2 could suck up more time for me than any other game), you either need to make the individual games shorter or find ways to break up the game to add stopping points. There need to be sub-objectives to achieve.

Regardless of genre, when you get to a stopping point the game needs to clearly mark it for you. Have a screen or cut-scene pop up congratulating you on your accomplishment. Make the breaks explicit. Call them chapters or episodes or something. Give the player a resolution.

The pacing is probably also important here. Just as a gut feeling, I would say give the player a minor stopping point every 15 min and a major one every hour. Playtest this to find a pacing that works well for your game. Also, players will advance at different rates, so this is a going to be a loose thing anyway. Having the ability to set difficulty in the game will give the players some control. At a minor stopping point the player should have achieved a significant goal (defeated a mini-boss, captured a city, completed a quest, etc.) but still have one or more ongoing tasks they are involved in. At a major break you could try to provide more resolution, but still include a hook to bring them back.

Halo 2 did this pretty well for me. There were small objectives for me to achive in each level, which advanced the story and provided some resolution. And then, each level provided a major break (There were a few exceptions to that).

I think it's also important to provide a strong resolution at the end of the game. This is true even for replayable games, and possibly even MMOs. I have a friend who doesn't play MMOs any more, but for years he has wanted a "MMO with an ending". There are obviously business reasons to make MMOs be more addictive to retain players, but putting something at the end of the treadmill might be nice. Hey look, you beat the game, now here is the next adventure. Even if I stop in response to that, I'm more likely to look favorably on your franchise than if I leave because I'm burnt out on your game. Certainly, a strong resolution is critical for any non-mmo game.

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some things I think help eliminate some addictive qualities

===================
Well, I remember when I had Pokemon Gold, it had an internal clock in it that make it so that during certain times of the real-world week than events would happen.

For example on Wendesday or something there would be a pokemon bug competition that lasted a few minutes but could only be accessed during a certain window of time, like betweeen 5pm and 6m or something. The actual event only took about 10 or so minutes and could only be done once for that window of time. It could be done on like 2 different days of the week though I forget.

[I honestly forgot the exact numbers]

Anyway, it basically ment that I HAD to play it during a certain window of time, but after the event or window of time there wasn't really a need to play the game for that event. It was pretty easy to set it down after I completed the event.

===

Also, I had a Pocket Pikachu for a bit [bought it for about 2 bucks and lost it one day] It was neat because while I walked or shook it, it tallied up points that I could then transfer into my game to get certain items. Like Gold Berries that can heal a decent amount of PP.

So I actually was rewarded in-game for doing things out of game. By not playing pokemon, I could collect points by walking and then return to the game and buy stuff with those points.

=====

Also, in Megaman Legends 2. There is a quiz game that asks Real-World questions and you need to answer them to get an item used to get a certian weapon. Though many of the questions are pretty lame, they did make me look up some stuff for a bit [some were like, when did the US civil war start, or what are famous types of tea... not the best but interesting]. Putting real-world questions in a game and rewarding could help a little bit, if at least to modivate some to do some research.

===





some ideas
==============

One Idea I was thinking of, in MMORPGs allow players to get 'dayjobs' for their character in which the character works when the player isn't playing them.

The character could make money and level up some skills, the Player would be rewarded a bit for not playing the game. Also could help casual players keep competative with the more hardcore ones.

Not only that, but since the player is subscribing then they have a motivation to come back to spend their 'saved up' money. Also, when they are not online they aren't using up bandwidth so it could help the servers.


on another thought:
for games that prefer to be distributed through Bittorent, perhaps find a way to measure how much a player contributes in Bittorent and find a way to reward them ingame. Not sure if one could Torrent while playing an MMORPG, but if not then they could do work on the computer while torrenting in the background or something.


====

Also, if gameplay could be regulated so that there is say a 30 or ten minute cycle of rising action, peack action and then declining action, then an option to save and exit the game. it could motivate people to just go with the 10 to 30 min 'episodes'


Sort of like Harvest moon games, except each 'day' has something interesting going on and its not just "Water crops, milk cows, find time to talks with gils..." day after day. More like,

"Get things set up for monster invasion, deal with first wave, fight second wave, struggle against huge Boss, and then have action decline, NPCs start repairing things and players can exit satisfied."

Have each episode more or less self-contained so players can feel confortable walking away to play another day.

====

Anyway, just random stuff.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
I don't think you should feel guilty about allowing people to have too much fun. Trust me, I've gone the distance. Worse case scenario, they forget to eat for 24 hours.

Jobs come and go. But a lot of people are unhappy. Making those people happy is a damn good thing to strive for. Even if it does mean you transform a few potential doctors into McDonalds clerks. I'll be a happy clerk rather than a miserable doctor any day of the week.

Well, the worst case is that the player dies from overplaying the game (extremely rare, I know, and I'm not sure how much blame you can put on the game in those cases).

I would however feel guilty about transforming potential doctors into McDonalds clerks. I certainly wouldn't be satisfied spending my whole life serving fast food, especially if I knew I should be doing something else. I don't particularly want a game I design to do more harm to society than good.


Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
I find games that crash every so often aren't very addictive. Perhaps you should throw an unhandled exception whenever someone has played for more then one hour. [wink]


Hey, that memory leak's not a bug, it's a feature! [grin]


Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
I concur. Games like civilization now have timers to alert you when you've been playing too long. A good start, but I think placing a small [disable-able] "you've been playing for $x hours, continue?" is enough to jar the player into considering stopping. That would be at least reasonable enough (imo) that it's really their choice to play too much.

Nice - I didn't know that the latest Civilization had that feature. I do think it's a great idea, as long as it is optional and customisable.

I also think having more screens with a button marked "Save and Quit" might help as well. From studying my own behaviour in those types of games, if I get sucked back into playing the game even for a little bit after one of those break screens then I'll more often than not keep on playing. Making saving and quitting a single option without restarting the game should also help.


Quote:
Original post by MSW
The problem seems to be the rather negative conotation the word addictive has these days...so...use the word captivateing instead, it actualy describes things better.

Captivating is a good word - although it does put a positive spin on what essentially means "to make oneself a captive to".

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I would however feel guilty about transforming potential doctors into McDonalds clerks. I certainly wouldn't be satisfied spending my whole life serving fast food, especially if I knew I should be doing something else. I don't particularly want a game I design to do more harm to society than good.

I wonder if there will ever be a court case in the near future where someone sues a game company for having limited their potential. Would be interesting. hehe
"I could have become a doctor, but instead Lemmings forced me into a life of a car parking inspector!"

But think about the future - in the future we will have virtual reality, which for many will be *dangerously* addictive. Much more so than a few hours wasted on Civilisation. I can picture a bleak reality where people will never want to leave their virtual worlds, will need to be drip fed to prevent their bodies from starving to death, and a whole new field of psychology will open up to combat this new form of addictiveness.

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You raise a good point by starting this discussion.

A bigger problem lies in that some companies may deliberately try to make games (namely MMORPGs) to be as addictive as possible. The reason behind that, logic dictates, is that their income is mostly based on the number of concurrent subscriptions, rather than the initial price of creating a new account. They will do everything in their power to make it hard for the player to stop playing at any given time (be it a temporary break, or a full-time account cancellation), but instead persuade him into staying online longer, even when it becomes boring, not fun and unnecessary. Of course, it's all usually masked behind careful considerations for the general appearance of the game, making it seem like every "addictive feature" was a natural choice for the game type to make it a "good game." The reality is, it all could've been easily made the other way to promote healthy amount of playing, had that been their goal.

I really think that's a much larger problem, when games are specifically made with addictive properties as a top priority, rather than other games where such properties are merely an unplanned and non-deliberate side-effect of fun gameplay and high game quality.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I would however feel guilty about transforming potential doctors into McDonalds clerks. I certainly wouldn't be satisfied spending my whole life serving fast food, especially if I knew I should be doing something else. I don't particularly want a game I design to do more harm to society than good.

I totally agree with your decision to add small elements that remind players how long they've spent playing, or to give them frequent chances to discontinue. But I really believe it's up to each individual player, and you shouldn't transform the design of your game to suit one out of thirty players. A save/quit option on every interface screen will not bother anyone. But forcing your hero to take naps every 16 game-time hours might.

If your game is good enough to corrupt three people into losing jobs, then it's good enough to make thousands of people's lives more interesting. I think that kind of math adds up.

I mean compare that to GTA, which several people actually claimed convinced them to kill people. That's something that would bother me. Even though I know the game itself is pretty much innocent, I would still feel pretty crappy if someone was pointing their finger at me to blame for the cause of deaths.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
> I would however feel guilty about transforming
> potential doctors into McDonalds clerks.

Real addicts will find ways around features that prevent them from playing. There are Internet addicts as well as there are Sudoku or cross-words addicts; it has nothing to do with the underlying gameplay or technology. Addicts are affected by a social pathology; your game happened to have triggered it, but it could have been cocaine, gambling, or some other fix.

> A bigger problem lies in that some companies
> may deliberately try to make games (namely
> MMORPGs) to be as addictive as possible.

They could, but I don't think it's the case. The business model here is to offer the best gameplay/$/month. Once someone gets to level 60, you need to justify that monthly subscription until the next expansion pack. Otherwise those customers will just turn off their billings and that's a big revelue loss right there.

> Take books for example: unless a book is
> total rubbish I tend to read one cover to
> cover in a single sitting or I feel unnerved
> and have to finish that book.

Most games have a natural end, much like books. You finally found the treasure. Or you saved the human race. Whatever. They are "addictive" for the 40-odd hours they are meant to be played, then they're gone.

Those games which are found to be longer-term "addictive" don't seem to have that natural ending. MMORPGs are a perfect example here; multiplayer games in general too as they are ment to "extend the gameplay". There is always a score to beat, a status to maintain, elusive epic quest items to find, someone's ass to kick, etc.

Maybe eposodic content can be made to be the best of both worlds. Addictive and finite.

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Addiction is in the player, not the game. To make a player less susceptible to being addicted to a game would be to make it less interesting or less fun. A non-addictive game is a game no one would play.

Maybe I'm wrong but this comes from my experience. I'm severly addicted to games, if I could I'd play them all day every day. When I pry myself away from games and end up watching TV, I'm extremely board. I end up working on the yard or lately building models. I have a need to be doing something at all times and while games do not produce a real life output, they are the best option for constantly doing or building something (my addiction is primarily to MMOs and manufacturing or games with good progressive storylines).

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