Series Info...Storms on Cloud 9 #25:

Apt Rewards

by Scott Holliday

For those of you keeping track, this is my first column this year. I still can't believe it when I look at the date of my last column. Itís been more than two months? On the other hand, Iíve had my hands full. Lots of smaller things ≠ but the biggest item is that I got married. For those who are curious, itís the same woman who made the Marrach character out of food in SoC9#3. Weíre both incredibly happy, but none of this has anything to do with the title of this column ≠ although I guess it could.... *grin*

So getting back on track, in the previous column, we looked at challenges that could be offered for MMO play ≠ especially those that would fit the genre of the game. What better way to improve game play and player immersion? I promised that this time around Iíd talk about MMO goal and reward systems.

In many MMOs, if I asked players what their goal was, they might just give me a blank stare. Perhaps I'd get better results if I rephrased the question. "What is your goal for the next time you play?" I imagine this would produce many different answers. Varied goals like: "Advance to level 59", "Beat LeatherPants the Orc-Lord", "Drive out that annoying enemy guild", "Present my newest song flawlessly", and even goals such as "Find that new Rod of Incontinence thatís worth $20 on eBay".

Obviously, I'd get a handful of both normal and abnormal answers. But, I think itís pretty easy to distill these down by categorizing them:

Notice how I worded my categories. I really like the capital letters! It sounds pretty self-serving, doesnít it? However, it probably shouldn't be surprising that the rewards that motivate people in life often work just as well when they are based on imaginary worlds. Perhaps this is why women in video games are often so poorly clothed? Also, notice how all of the categories overlap. Success in any of these areas is helpful for achieving success in the other two. The important word there is "success"; different players will define success differently, however almost any definition will be universally recognizable. Although players often canít win in a MMO, they at least want to reach their definition of success.

So how does one approach this issue from the developer's standpoint? You know that players generally want to fulfill their own definition of success. Since each player is different, they will all have different ways that this is defined. However, by providing one measure of success, you know that players will usually find some satisfaction in the overlap. If you provide a way for players to achieve wealth ≠ they will then link wealth with power and recognition, as well as alliances (and enemies) if such is possible.

However, an important consideration is how the different currencies of success will be valuated. If money grows on trees, recognition based on wealth won't have a strong connection. As result, your players who are interested in achieving wealth will end up frustrated. Why? Because other players don't care. But didn't they want wealth? Yes. They enjoy increasing their wealth, but they also expect to get power, recognition, fame, allies (and enemies), and eventually influence the world using that wealth! If wealth is common and useless, you've made their favorite part of the game pointless endeavor. So the key is to figure out how to connect all your currencies together. Make sure that knowledge IS power, friendship IS influence, wealth IS fame. If all of the different definitions of success can be exchanged freely, youíve improved the odds that each player will be able to find a niche that they enjoy.

[ <— #24: Challenge and Reward | #26: Simple Arithmetic —> ]