Posted by : Jameson Durall Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm doing a pass through the game right now to make sure that we have enough cool stuff around to find and it got me thinking about ways to reward the player.  I'm a firm believer that players who take the time to go off the crit path and explore the area should be rewarded.  But, are in-game rewards enough these days?

I'm a big fan of Xbox Live Achievements because they give the player another reason to do things in your game that they may not have done otherwise.  But, the most important thing Achievements do is allow a player to compare themselves with their friends in a public venue.  I can easily pull up my buddy's Achievement list and see if I completed more of a game than he did or simply got a difficult Achievement that he was unable to get.  Even if I can't get online with someone to play competitively, we can use this passive system to play on our own and still compete with each other.  Brilliant.

But, do Achievements diminish the value of in-game rewards that we can offer players?  Does the player get as much satisfaction from running around and collecting in game items if they don't get an Achievement for getting X number all of them?  Do in-game rewards have to become more helpful to the gameplay experience itself in order to feel rewarding enough?

As we Design and develop video games these days, we always have Achievements in our mind and look for ways to ingrain them into the game better.  I've even built gameplay segments purely because I felt there could be a cool achievement to get from completing.  So, I think Achievements have forever changed the way some players feel rewarded.  I guess the main question to ask is what percentage of players feel this way?  Do you?


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5 Responses so far.

  1. I'm actually studying the same topic right now at work. In the field of interaction design, the methods of "Gamification" are invading. Basically, we're applying some of the more successful mechanics of game design to everyday, mundane tasks like signing up your friends and buying digital assets like virtual cows. :)

    To answer your question, I definitely think we're going to have to protect the intrinsic value we add to our products (the type of motivation that creates engagement) from increasingly extrinsic motivators. Businesses are relying more on these mechanics than value added by good design for everything from actual games to mundane mobile apps for corralling your kids.

    I don't throw these mechanics out completely, because I also really like XBL, achievements and challenges, etc.

    What I am worried about are 2 things:
    1) reliance on these mechanics over actual value as motivation to use/play a product/game
    2) consumers ability to personally manage these motivators (imagine if personal finance was as addictive as World of Warcraft... i.e.: poopsocking the mundane)

  2. Jameson says:

    Those are definitely things to worry about and I'm very curious to see what happens with this over the next couple of years.

    Imagine what it would be like if one company became the single provider of "achievements" and all facets of your life contributed to your score...

    Remembering your PIN gets you 10 pts, Ordering a Salad instead of a Burger = 50, Picking up your child on time = 100, etc...

  3. Anonymous says:

    If a game is good enough I will do everything I can to extend the experience. Achievements are nice, but they're just another way to reward players beyond simply beating the game. I've been a sucker for collecting and side quests since long before achievements, and I think a player's willingness to fully explore a game regardless of whether it adds to his or her gamerscore says a lot about the quality of the game.

    -Sarah

  4. Jameson says:

    Sarah, I completely agree with you and think this is true for most people that have been gaming for some time. But, the thing I think of is my son who has only ever known gaming with achievements. Not only is it fairly ingrained in gaming already...but it seems to be getting more so all the time.

  5. Sofy says:

    Some games have too much, some not enough.

    What bugs me nowadays is that the current generation expect too much rewards in games. Due to our current society, they want it all and they want it now.

    I think the reasonable thing to do is to keep a good balance between the amount of rewards and the timing in between them. Which isn't always an easy thing to do.

    I also think that there are plenty of other motivators in a game other than having: 'achievement unlock' popping. To have some 'moments', to have something spectacular happening is also some kind of reward.

    But yes, fact is the current generation is used to achievements and instant rewards, maybe we shouldn't blame them but ourselves.Maybe we should find ways to bring them to acknowledge that there are greater rewards in video game other than achievements?

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