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Wavinator

Simulating Boredom (Yes, Seriously)

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In games where you can perform an action to raise a skill or stat, what do you think about some mechanism that forces players to rotate their actions for maximum benefit. This one's simple: The more your character does something in a short space of time, the less and less its character building effect (XP or point boost) will be. Would it work to discourage repetitive skill or stat grinding? It seems to me that if you include a way to do something profitable in a game, even if it's boring, players may feel compelled to do it. This might be a way of counter-balancing things so that players just play the damn game rather than min-max. I could see doing this by keeping a list of "most recent actions" and apply what effectively would be a cool down time to each. Your character could be said to benefit the most from doing the things that are most exciting to him or her, and chopping a combat dummy 1000x times or baking a gazillion loaves of bread just aren't.

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Sounds nice, but in reality, players will grind A until xp drops off, then B, then C, then back to A. You're better off finding fun things for them to do (by not letting them gain more skill until a the level is complete or some other condition is met).

After experience Star Wars: Galaxies and UO, players will grind anything and everything, and will find optimal ways to grind your system.

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If the game has lots of content, make the countdowns permanent, so that repeating a task more than the amount you want the players spending there stops producing a benefit for good.

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hehe, i was tricked into this post by its title.

What i have in my game is say the travel between
two plantes takes 5 min, then i give the player the
possibility do something he normally would not do,
but by doing it he got some kind of bonus. So it is
a force and a reward and the same time.

And besides, by knowing this, i hope the player
could plan ahead and save these special tasks and
do them during the travel delay.

P.S. not sure if this is offtopic though.

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The game I've been designing for a few weeks with a friend has a skill system similar to this.

Our game doesn't present the experience to the player, it's kept in the background. Not all skills level the same way, and how much it takes to level a skill depends on other skills and the character stats. On top of that, after not using a skill for a certain period of time, the skill starts diminishing, and skills diminish at different rates depending on which skills you use the most.

A diminished skill is easier to level up to the base level than a normal level up, but it's not instant. In this way, we're hoping players just stick with the style of character they want to have (warrior, mage, rogue, assassin, etc) because stopping to raise other skills will only start diminishing the skills the player uses more often at a faster rate.

However, because of the differing diminishing speeds, a skill not used a lot takes a lot longer to start diminishing. Because of this, we're hoping that non-essential skills will level up through the quest line instead of repetitive actions at the beginning of the game.

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If you are looking to deter skill grinding, you could create a level system that is independent of skill gain and then limit the amount that can be gained per skill each level.

Or you could limit skill gain per level and then tie in several skills to level up. For example, perhaps to gain a level in a "Fighter" class a player would have to gain at least 7 skill points in Weapon Use, Parry, AND Dodge, up to a maximum of 10 skill points in each of those skills per level.

These won't stop the grinding, but they will divide it up in such a way that the player doesn't benefit too much from simply taping down a key overnight.

Another option: if you have a stamina/vitality bar, don't replenish it so quickly. In most games it refills fast to prevent the player from finding himself too exhausted to fight effectively. However, if you include, say, a temporary "adrenaline rush" to vitality when a player first engages in combat that fades after, say, 20-30 seconds, you could both treat out of combat physical activity more realistically by limiting skill use/gain for an exhausted character, but also force players to resolve combat more quickly instead of spend time grinding stats against a single weak opponent.

Optionally, with non-physically oriented skills, you could use a "focus" stat with a bar similar to vitality that drains as he/she uses skills that rely on concentration.

I do think a boredom system is logical from a realism standpoint (most people would get bored jumping rope for five hours for example), but I do agree with above sentiments that if there is benefit to grinding, players will find a way to do it as efficiently as possible.

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I've only glanced at the replies thus far but I have a suggestion. What if skill increases via actions is worked a bit like xbox achievements. By this I mean that each action is a distinct event which gives a predefined reward when done and can not be done again for more points. There can be duplicates of course, but there is a limit that the player is aware of. You could also make the player aware of the most profitable actions to take (which should also be the most challenging) and so the player will become engaged in achieving and growing rather than just grinding.

P.S. I only glanced at the replies because I am about to go play left 4 dead again to try for some achievements I haven't managed yet.

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@JasRonq

I had been thinking of something like this too. Might start a post in Writing for Games, though, just like my other game idea thread this game will probably never see the light of day because I don't have any experience and no way to pull a team together. Still, would appreciate if you and anyone else would share more thoughts once I have the thread up. Nice to know that others are catching on to a similar idea.

P.S. My game idea is not based around achievement experience/skill gain. That is only a small part in what I hope will not seem too complicated. Good day.

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Just sort of popped in my head...

Tactical: Quantum torpedos have been reloaded. Ready to fire on your order, Captain.
Captain: Meh, we've been doing that for 10 minutes now. Prepare to ram their ship.

Using a bordom level to effect a diminishing level of gain from repetitive training sounds like a good idea to me. I think you might not need to discourage grinding to the extent that you think you do. At least, not if time is a factor. I could sit in one location chopping trees for a year making myself the strongest soldier ever only to find that when I've completed training, the war has been over for quite some time. With time being a factor in the gameplay, grinding in effect becomes training. When and how much to train becomes a tactical decision.

Still, if you want to discourage this sort of behavior further, perhaps part of leveling up a skill could involve having a teacher (or maybe a how to manual) of some kind. Require a combination of training and instruction to net any gain. If the instructor's skills are lesser than yours then there is no gain. The search for better instructors becomes its own quest. Perhaps when the player finally finds the master he's been seeking he's refused training for associating with some faction or another.

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You're setting the game system to favor the dps classes (if your into rpg type game) because they can rotate the different skills enough times until the first skill will be available again without the penalty. The ability to rotate skills is a necessary experience for a player to effectively learn the dps class. As in all instances, people have favor over certain classes over others ( dps, healer, tank ), and this post shows favor towards the dps.

Since the trend of MMORPG is towards having lots of dps characters and few tank or healer, your idea will definitely make the tank or healer class even rarer as these classes can quickly reach redundancy if the dps is too powerful.

Players like to be occupied with action, so this rotation of skill will improve the time at which the player will be occupied with playing the game. Essentially, the idea does have positive influence to a game design. But, this mechanics actually encourage the player to grind even further than ever because they can gain much more repetitive skill of a longer chain of action than the shorter chain of repetitive skill. The longer chain of action for the repetitive skill encourage more motion for the player's hand across the keyboard. This mechanic increases the min-maxing of the players because they will rotate the skills they play. The goal of the player is to memorize a chain long enough so that they will reach cool down for their initial skill of the series of techniques. You're only setting up a longer "chain of memories" ( lol, didn't really want to use that phrase because it's a title of a game ) for the player to accomplish the game play.

Summary:
This mechanic encourage repetitive skill and stat grinding. The repetitive skill is a longer "Chain of Memory" ( has nothing to do with Kingdom Hearts )
Players are skill min-max by rotating the skills instead of using one skill.
The effect of cool down timer will allow the player to select series of skills that will ensure that the first skill complete the cool down so they can reuse the skill again for maximum benefit.

Counter:
You are trying to stop repetition, but you have to remember that playing the game itself is a abstract level of repetition. The only way to stop repetition is to somehow make the player stop playing any games i.e. you cannot run away from repetition, you can only extend the length of action so that it is long enough for the player to lose their sense of repetition.
Players will always min-max unless all choices give the same result. If all choices give the same results, then their is not reason to even play the game because you will always get the reward. Thus, you cannot attempt to get rid of the motivation / reasoning behind the element of a game.

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Choices can give different but balanced results though. You can leave qualitative differences to be equal and allow for aesthetic choices or you can have qualitative differences which are perfectly balanced such that the subsequent game play is different but equally difficult. Point being - different results do not have to lead to min-maxing.

Also the repetition within the game as a whole is not all bad. If every task or action in the game was made only once there would be no continuity to the game and no opportunity to apply improvements in a skill. The problem with repetition is that there is a subjective and individual thresh hold at which the action becomes boring or tedious. Because it is not a hard set point though, no matter where you stop the repetition some of your audience will likely be on each side, and too far to either side is bad for the overall enjoyment of the game. Because of that you need to allow the player to enjoy a task for its own sake up until it is no longer enjoyable in and of itself. If it is enjoyable because of an end result without being itself enjoyable then it becomes grinding.

In other words the player needs to enjoy the repetitive action until he no longer wants to continue and then at that point, because of being bored with it, have no reason at all to continue with it.

To: Wavinator
Quote:
In games where you can perform an action to raise a skill or stat, what do you think about some mechanism that forces players to rotate their actions for maximum benefit.

I think this is fundamentally a bad plan as offering a reward for the action will motivate the player to continue with an action past its point of non-enjoyableness. Your rotation idea will only motivate the player to take a break from the action while doing a different action. These actions though may still not be enjoyably to the player due to boredom, even after a break, while the reward for them is still desirable enough to entice the player to continue doing them. You will extend the grind, but it is still a grind.

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Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
I've only glanced at the replies thus far but I have a suggestion. What if skill increases via actions is worked a bit like xbox achievements. By this I mean that each action is a distinct event which gives a predefined reward when done and can not be done again for more points.


I quite like this idea. Each level of a skill has an 'achievement' associated with it. There are quite a few variables you can track, and so you can make these achievements quite varied and challenging, and you can encourage players to use all aspects of a skill.

e.g:
Swordsmanship:
Level 1: Defeat 5 level 1+ enemies, at least 60% of damage on each inflicted using a sword.
Level 2: Block 20 attacks using a sword, achieve level 1.
Level 3: Defeat 5 level 3+ enemies, at least 70% of damage on each inflicted using a sword, achieve level 2.
...
Level 10: Defeat 5 level 10+ enemies, 100% damage inflicted using a sword, zero damage taken, achieve level 9

Tracking all of this could be a bit of a headache, and you'd have to be careful to ensure that there is no possibility for unrealistic jumps. In the example above, it might be possible for a player to achieve level 10 in one massive leap, which may or may not be a problem.

It would also demand a fairly coarse granularity for skills, unless you want to invent and implement about a billion achievements. Unbounded progression may also be difficult, unless you can define a system for generating these achievement milestones.

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Unbounded progression isn't possible as the achievement system is designed against the idea of grinding out a task. It would not be in the spirit of that to get as repetitive and uninteresting as auto-generated achievements would be. On the other hand it is not unreasonable to set a maximum skill level. With a max set you can make enough achievements to be fine grained. They can be set up as one per level as in your example but you can also use a traditional experience model for leveling and attach experience values to the achievements asking for many achievements per level. If it were done that way it would be impossible to jump very far in one level and normally impossible. For instance, while it may be possible to do your level 10 achievement at level one and jump that far, it isn't likely that they will do it before level 7 or so.

This also assumes that the achievements have no structure to them. What if they were laid out as an achievements based leveling tree where you had to fulfill prerequisites to go further and level further. Extrapolating from that maybe different paths through the tree give you different results such as specializations or specific bonus skills.

This would allow the continued long term goal motivation but add in immediate rise-to-the-challenge motivation. That extra motivation along with the new and different challenges would turn the grind of leveling into a much different process.



!!!
A new thought occurs to me as I am proof reading this post. These achievements are basically quests. All you need is an NPC to tell the player to go do these challenges and it goes from achievement to quest. That isn't really strange though considering that achievements are often what we get for quest completion. Because of their being quests though, we could leave the progression tree hidden from the player and use it instead as the map of the quest lines.

I guess this really comes back around to quest based leveling instead of mob grinding based leveling. The only difference being that we now attach a big badge of honour to the quest to make the player feel extra warm.

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I dont think your going to be able to stop players from grinding unless you just take away Xp all together, Now instead of baking a gazallion loaves of bread the player will just get 100 wheat, grind 100 wheat, and then bake 100 loaves and repeat, keeping the bordem level low and maximazing their skills, and eventually still ending up with a gazallion loaves of bread.

I guess if you wanted to stop the boosting of 1 skill this would work, but players will just boost a few related skills over and over again to end up with the same end result with enough time.It would help balance skills a little, but not much.

Also why stop the player from playing the game they would like to play it? Just because its not the way you imagined it does not make it the incorrect way to play.

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The problem, Parker, is that a lot of players feel a compulsion to play the game in a way they don't enjoy because the end result is enjoyable in some way.

You grind to get a prize at the end.

[Edited by - JasRonq on February 28, 2010 4:09:40 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
The problem, Parker, is that a lot of players feel a compulsion to play the game in a way the don't enjoy because the en result is enjoyable in some way.

You grind to get a prize at the end.


I agree with this.

I makes me wonder what the driving factor of repetition is in these types of games in the first place? Is it often the case that there's simply nothing better to do? Or is it the case, as you basically said, that what you really want to do is hidden behind barriers, that you're given crippled gameplay until you reach a certain level?

I've been thinking about whether it makes more sense to design the game so that the lower levels have nearly as much variety as the upper levels, with the difference being in magnitude. It would be harder to reward players with increased variety, but maybe as you level what you have can be combined in more interesting ways. (An example would be a spell system where you've given access to every spell in the game, but at low level. If they could be combined, then maybe as you level you get to combine more and more factors in interesting ways).

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Arrg, I should proof read better before my quotes make me look dumb. :d

And Wavi, I wouldn't say you need to give all the variety up front. You just need to make sure that the process for attaining the new content is actually enjoyable. Since you can't know what the player's personal preferences are you can't be assured of actually doing that. A case of easier said then done to be sure.

I think the best solution though is to offer multiple ways of attaining the same goal. The player then has a choice in how to move toward the goal.

There is something to watch out for though: do not differentiate between the methods in anyway. If you do that you end up with the player taking one choice over the other because of its other effects on the game's progression and will have reinstated the grind. The multiple paths have to have the exact same result to work.

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Make level increase random, and constant.

Track used skills for about 20min, and throw a dice to select witch skill gets
1 point increase. (dice throw result can be weighted by skill usage amounts).
Result: players can grind but skill increase speed is constant.

Alternative, players can`t rice skills without "learning" points, and learning points come from skill use, but there is one real day delay in delivery.
Result: players can grind 1-2h / day, but after there is no point in extra grinding, and player has time to do other things.

Alternative, track skill grinding and give players some bad tokens from it.
Player grinds 4h on mele attack on dummy, give him token of psyko attack for
4h play time. (player randomly attacks any character). Or player grinds
jumping for 6h, time to give player token of random jumping and yelling like
idiot, and for bonus give token of no boots (charachter won`t put any boots on
legs).

Bad tokes are my favorite, becouse they give players more things to do.
(trying to find cure to current psykosis :D)

/Tyrian

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