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Rewards and Player Behavior (MMO)

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I have a way of thinking about MMO design that I think is helpful. The idea is that an MMO designer essentially decides what the players do when playing the game. The designer does this by creating a reward structure and in turn the players do what makes sense according to that reward structure. So question #1, what do you want the players to be doing? Question #2, how can there be a reward structure that guides them to that behavior? This is all very simple and straight forward but I think that first decision about what you want the players to do is a critical question that must be established first. Then everything else can be built off of it. For me #1 I want players to engage in objective based battle where they try and defend their territory and attack their enemy's territory. I also want other options to be available to them including things like crafting, exploring, and dungeon crawling. #2 I think a reward structure that has a wide variety of reward types would be best. Liquidity would be essential for some portion of the rewards in order to allow players the freedom to choose what they want to do. The rewards would also have to be unique to the activity so that one activity does not become inferior to another because of the reward structure.

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I think you've fallen short of your own goals here. You've established that the designer should

Decide what the players should be doing
Create a reward structure that drives them to do said action

but your own answer to #2 doesn't result in your answer for #1. You claim you want players to engage in these battles between territories, but then throw a blanket "multiple rewards with some liquidity would be best" statement for #2. I feel you're falling into the trap of not wanting to alienate players from your game, i.e. designing for the lowest common denominator, which will just result in a bland game.

I say be more resolute in the type of game and action you are thinking about. If you know that the game should include the battles between territories, point the result of every other action (crafting, exploring, etc) right back at that conflict. For example:

Crafters are conscripted to make arms/seige weapons/tools for said battles for their own team,
Exploring lets players run into and recruit npc allies for the battles,
Dungeon crawling allows players to find rare artifacts/relics that, when held by their own territory, provides a boost to that army in battle.

You're on the right track with your idea, but you've abstracted it out too far from your core gameplay idea. The really good games (genre-negligible) know what they want to be about and never lose that vision. So many MMOs are trying to appeal to too many people (to crank up that first M) and end up with all kinds of shortcomings where a specific gameplay aspect could have been pushed further.

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I should have mentioned, I am being vague on purpose and trying not to bore people with the details. Maybe in another post. ;)

I was talking more about an approach to design as opposed to my design itself. The ideas I did present are simply an example of a starting point, and are meant to establish a philosophy going forward.

There are a lot of people that talk about designing an MMO but it is hard to talk about the design decisions if this core philosophy is not established first. The point I was trying to make was that these two questions are where I think the design process could start.

As for your point about everything going back to the territory control game. My point about liquidity establishes that if a player does these other activities they can choose to use their rewards in the territory control game. My goal is not to force them to, but to use a reward structure that encourages them.

Once this philosophy is established I can add details to ensure it is met, and your idea may be the best option. In general I think people will differ on the details and getting the details is a hard thing to do. That is why I think it is helpful to start in the right place.

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I think other than rewards, the first thing to do is what level of penalty you'd like to have.

In your example, two groups of players are formed more or less like 2 player guilds, then they choose to fight with each other. The outcome is, the winner is rewarded and is happy, but how about the losing side?

The losing side will lose both its territory and its reward, so they have no fun. If they successively lose their fights, what will they do?

The simplest model is, the winning side gets the reward, the losing side quits the game due to lack of rewards. Then the winning side quits the game due to no enemy.

So it's not only about how the effects of rewards are designed, but also the about how the effects of penalties are dealt with.

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Quote:
Original post by Hawkins8
I think other than rewards, the first thing to do is what level of penalty you'd like to have.

In your example, two groups of players are formed more or less like 2 player guilds, then they choose to fight with each other. The outcome is, the winner is rewarded and is happy, but how about the losing side?

The losing side will lose both its territory and its reward, so they have no fun. If they successively lose their fights, what will they do?

The simplest model is, the winning side gets the reward, the losing side quits the game due to lack of rewards. Then the winning side quits the game due to no enemy.

So it's not only about how the effects of rewards are designed, but also the about how the effects of penalties are dealt with.


That is a good point about penalties. They are a tricky thing to deal with.

That said, I would consider them to fall under the category of "reward structure" and their end result of people leaving would be a strong indication that you failed to achieve your answer to #1 because your answer to #2 didn't work.

This is how this structure of looking at the design process in this way is meant to work. As you add details, like a penalty, it is seen through these two basic questions.

An MMO design is so complex that I think it is critical to keep your eye on the ball. IMO the ball in this case is #1, and how you keep your eye on the ball is #2.

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