[Video] Rewarding rather than punishing

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by xdan, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. xdan

    xdan Veteran Veteran

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    So Mark Brown just uploaded this video called "How Game Designers Protect Players From Themselves" and I'd really want to know you thougths on it.



    In short, he speaks about encouraging players to play a certain way by rewarding them for playing the correct way rather than punishing them for playing a different way. What do you think of this?
     
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  2. kovak

    kovak Silverguard Veteran

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    There shouldn't be a punishment unless it's intended by the rules of the game.
    It's like saying that Mario must survive if he falls in an empty pit cuz i don't wanna see the player frustrated.

    This and DLC are the kind of crap that has been screwing up games over the past 10 years.
     
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  3. Poryg

    Poryg Pixie of the Emvee kingdom, Ham of a Hamster Veteran

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    Actually, you don't need to implement any special mechanics to force players to play a certain playstyle.
    Stronghold crusader extreme - controversial for being too difficult compared to stronghold crusader. Why is it difficult? Because it is different. You begin with so much gold that the economy doesn't matter as much. You have special abilities and there are outposts that produce the enemy free units. It forces your playstyle. And well, 12 out of 20 missions can be rushed. Two missions are easy once you destroy all outposts and only four of them are actually difficult. (the remaining two missions aren't difficult even through normay gameplay)
    Galactic civilizations - on masocistic dificulty you have to deal with enemies having ridiculous bonuses, but having streamlined behavior regarding research. So you have to research what they don't, you cannot build ships so that you have money to pay tribute and let them war while you conquer them culturally. Funnily enough, it is impossible in galciv 2 to play for cultural victory, because the factions will just declare war at you.
    Civilizations - Gandhi and his nukes rush during Democracy - forces you to play aggressively too.
    ATB meter based battle systems in RPGs - it is viable to abuse speed builds, in higher difficulties it is usually the only viable build.
    All these things have one thing in common - they force our way to play on higher difficulties, because it becomes the only viable one. So actually, XCom 2 could solve the problem like any normal game - be more lenient towards time limits on lower difficulties... And then higher difficulties would be more strict, forcing the players to play more aggressively. This is absolutely common in many games and nobody gives a word about that... Because it is a feature of upped difficulty.
     
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  4. Basileus

    Basileus Veteran Veteran

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    A lot of what was mentioned in the video is pretty basic stuff, especially if you've taken a psych class or two.

    The video boils down to: players will optimize your game into boring-ness if you leave them be, you have to make them play riskier

    I've said it on these forums before, but yes, players will go with the optimal path to victory even if it isn't fun. Players want to win and progress the game/story. If the best way to win is a boring one, then that is the developer's fault.

    The player only has the abilities you put into the game. At their core, each game should have essential skills/knowledge that they are checking the player for and success should be based on those aspects. A stealth game should test the ability to hide and accomplish goals quietly. Action games should test different ways to take out the waves of enemies. Shooters should test accuracy and ability to avoid getting hit. RPGs can be based either on elaborate social skills systems or combat systems to solve problems.

    Preventing active behaviors like just Rambo-ing through situations is easy - just don't put in the ability to do that. Preventing passive behaviors like taking a slow tactical approach is much harder. I'd say the video is mostly right that reward systems are far better (and better received) than punishment systems. But it's not really as complex as they make it sound.

    Players turn to those "boring" strategies because they are optimal. Just make something else optimal and they will do that instead. And since nobody likes to leave free loot on the table, some nice bonuses for making certain choices is a nice way to tip the scales.
     
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  5. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I love Mark Brown and I think a lot of what he said in the video is right on. One of the huge virtues of good game design is that it can be used to encourage and lead players to have the most possible fun with the "tools" or content in your game. Just loading the right tools in isn't enough; you need to show the player how to have fun with them, and that's easier said than done.

    He's also right that rewards will always be more well received than punishments - framing is a gigantic issue here, and you should always think about how you are framing your mechanics to the player.

    I think that "Scores" or "Grades" are a pretty weak method to encourage your player to take risks (although it's still better than nothing), unless the Grades give you something tangible in-game. A lot of players care more about completing a mission/level far more than they care about achieving an arbitrary score, and these might not be the same players who would really appreciate using diverse tactics.

    I look to League of Legends for a fantastic example of how to encourage your players to get out into the open and fight. In early seasons of League, there was a point in most games where the action would come to a standstill - one team got ahead, the other team would need to retreat near the safety of their "towers" (zones of safety where enemies would be bombarded if they walked in), and no one was quite strong enough yet to "tower dive" (achieve their goals even when taking bombardment from the towers). Nothing exciting would happen. The solution was to add compelling "neutral objectives" (like Rift Herald and Infernal Drake) for teams to compete for away from the safety of their towers, which tend to spawn during what used to be slow times in the game. If the team that's behind absolutely needs safety, they can forfeit these neutral objectives and kill enemy minions near their towers to become stronger. But a better way to come back from behind is to let the team that's ahead start to take the neutral objectives, and try to kill them as they do so (since their resources are somewhat depleted from fighting the Herald). It creates a lot of action, and it perfectly lines up the desire to win with the desire to have fun. Bringing this back to Mark's love for FPS's and the problem of abusing "Cover" - I think a better solution than grenade-throwers would be to have strong power-ups spawn in the open battlefield, luring players out into the open to try and pick them up.

    There are several points that I felt were important to make, but he didn't quite get to them:
    1. Your player doesn't always want diversity. Obviously, if you put all the hard work in to create lots of cool gameplay mechanics, you want your player to appreciate them, but don't assume that they are going to enjoy every single one. If your system gets too close to "forcing" players to diversify their tactics, like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (with its extreme point reductions for stale moves), you take away the player's ability to play using their own style, and you force them to do things that may always feel uncomfortable or simply boring. The balance between "choose your own style" versus "take advantage of the entire toolset" is a very hard one to nail, and I think the right design choice often lies in the type of game and the type of audience you're making the game for.
    2. Soft timers feel far less punishing than hard timers. Mark mentioned Spelunky and its "avoidable" ghost enemy as a system for encouraging players to move on quickly - but he didn't really contrast it against XCOM2's turn timer which completely failed your mission if you take one turn too long. Hard timers like XCOM2's can be appropriate if the point is to create a climax of excitement as you push up against it - but if timers are being used simply to encourage the player to keep moving, soft timers like Spelunky's work far better. In a turn-based RPG, you could, for example, have the party start taking damage every turn after Turn 10 of a special "timed" boss battle, rather than giving the player a Game Over if he doesn't complete it in 10 turns.
    3. When it's okay to lose, people will take more risks. In most FPS's, if you die, you get a game over or you are warped back to a checkpoint, and you have to do a lot of stuff over. Either one is a (reasonably) high punishment - and, importantly, the player feels that he failed because he has to do stuff over. Contrast this against, say, a CCG, where players don't have to retrace their steps if they lose (and are expected to lose sometimes). Players are often happy to take risks and try out wild new strategies in a CCG, because they don't feel like they have failed if it doesn't work out. I'm not suggesting removing the Game Over entirely, but avoiding design that forces your player to redo a lot of stuff is a good idea.
     
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