by Sam Witt
May 2, 2001
It's no accident that virtually every online game out there provides a simple way for players to measure their relative success. Levels, skill ratings, even things as simple as character jewelry or income are used by players to mark their place in the pecking order. Despite what I hear all the time, it's a proven fact that a LOT of players like to compete.
So I'm thinking about this the other day, and wondering how much of this competition I want to support in Horizon Station. On the one hand, it's a very motivating thing, and it adds a great deal of 'stickiness' to a game if players can strive to attain in-game titles or other bragging rights. On the other hand, it's very easy for competition to get ugly in these games, and that's not something I'm very keen on.
Having put in more hours than I care to even contemplate playing these games, I've indulged in a good deal of competition myself. At the best of times it pushed me to become a better player, to explore the limits of the system and figure out what I needed to do in order to be, well, competitive.
But the good times weren't the majority. Usually there was aggravation and profanity, and it made me think long and hard about what I was going to do when it was my game. Well, now it's my game, and I'm not sure I have all the answers.
I could remove every type of competition from the game, make it possible for any character to eventually achieve any supported goal without regard for limited resources or the actions of other characters. It'd remove one avenue of player-to-player conflict, and make the game world a more peaceful place.
The closer I get to pulling the plug on most forms of competition, though, the more I realize that I'm opening myself up to some ugly reprisals. I really don't think the urge to compete is going to go away, just because I try to shut it down. People want to be recognized, and they want to have the sense of being 'the best,' or at least having the opportunity to be 'the best' at something in the game.
So I've decided to make sure that there are some blatant areas of competition, ways in which players can test their skills against one another and receive the recognition they crave. Will players be satisfied with expressing their l33t skillz in well-defined areas of the game? We shall see. Until then, tell me what you think.