Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

6 October, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: Status
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 11:24 PM

This week, let’s think about status. How do you reward people for doing cool things in your game world?

In some games you might see someone in flashy armor. Or, maybe they have glowy bits coming from every orifice and weapon on their body. Or, maybe the have a cape! Woo! These are ways to catch your attention and let you know that person did something cool. Maybe they managed to make enough money. Maybe they did a particularly hard quest. Maybe they got lucky and won a special drop.

So, think about a way to reward the player and allowing him or her to show off their status in the game. Some of my thoughts after the break.

Instead of an idea, let me share a little story.

In EQ2, I finally made enough money to buy a nightmare mount. It is the most expensive mount in the game, and I wanted something flashy to show off my prowess at working the broker. I could have waited a few weeks and gotten the (slightly slower) carpet from a quest, but everyone has a carpet and I wouldn’t stand out. The nightmare shows off the fact that I had a bit of money to burn. (Of course, some people probably think I’m just a twink that got a bunch of plat from a sugar-daddy.) The nightmare also gives some magic resistances that the carpet doesn’t have.

A friend of mine didn’t quite understand my motivation for spending so much money. Well, I think some of it might have been jealousy. ;) When I linked my new acquisition to in guild chat, he chided me for “needing validation.” I explained to him that damn straight I want validation! It shows off my talent. Since I’m in a guild with some fairly serious raiders, showing off my prowess helps demonstrate that I’m not just dead weight, even if I’m still 20 or so levels below max and not quite ready for the raids they go on.

Looking back on it, I found my own behavior interesting. I’m usually not motivated by Achievement, but this is obviously an Achiever’s mindset. I could probably go on for a while talking about motivation here. :) But, I’ll leave the anecdote and turn it over to everyone else.

One thing to consider: is there a way to reward more casual players as well? Most signs of status are intended for the hard-core. Is there a way to give casual players the same recognition? Or, does that go against the basic concept of status items?

So, back to the challenge: what are some good ways to reward players and let them show off a bit of status?







11 Comments »

  1. Badges. I think I said something along these lines in another design challenge. But I think having this idea of something to hold on to is what it boils down to. Recognition of sorts. So to reward casuals I would have a badge system. But to add to the sense of ‘achievement’ I would add epic ‘quest-lines’ that result in one of these badges. The quests would be difficult to complete but each stage would take max an hour and require an element of skill. The badge would be coupled with a reward, a particular ability or item, maybe a mount :D. Inspecting players would show a list of their accomplishments, and they could also link them for fun.

    In my mind the success of an RPG depends on it’s provision of status and a sense of achievement system. (This echoes back to Nick’s PARC talk). So this really is a great design challenge for people to dig into :D. Have fun in Germany :)

    Comment by Jpoku — 7 October, 2006 @ 1:57 AM

  2. I’ll concentrate on a status symbol that has yet to be done (if ever, meh).

    A statue! With suitable dedication. Perhaps placed in an area of high population concentration (e.g. Ironforge or whatever).

    One benefit of this is that you don’t actually have to be around for people to laud your accomplishment. In fact, you could retire as an immortalized hero of the land/galaxy.

    How would you earn it? Risk. Big risk. You don’t get something for nothing.

    In order to vanquish an uber-NPC, you have to put offer your own character as the implicit ‘wager’. If you win, you vanquish the NPC permanently and get a statue made. If you lose, you’re deleted. This is also a great example of solo-able end-game content that doesn’t require forty of your “closest friends”.

    I like it! :)

    Comment by covert.c — 7 October, 2006 @ 2:58 AM

  3. History. Giving players some historical recognition among the NPC world would be cool. A few spectacular characters could be made into monuments, including big statues but also small things, like the local barkeep being so grateful for something that he hangs some relic of the occasion behind his bar (he might ask the player for his helmet or some other possession of the player). There’s probably much that could be done with written records (libraries, commemorative plaques in public buildings or private associations, etc). Then there’s verbal history…NPCs mentioning the player’s name in dialogue (ala CoH, though it could be implemented differently), offering quests in the player’s name, naming something after the player. Or historical recognition could mean that the player is offered a role or item that bears historical significance; perhaps the player is asked to protect something (for which he might be hunted) or perhaps the player is given a title of which few players can boast (like “Protector of Rome”).

    Taxidermy. It’s one thing when you can buy an animal head, like in SWG and maybe EQ2 (i can’t remember), but it’s quite different if taxidermy means the player personally confronted that animal. My guess is that developers would be tempted to design the system so that only some creatures can be harvested in this way, but I would go another route. I’d make the player have to drag the carcass back to town. In this way, it would be easy to drag back small animals; but the bigger the creature, the more people you need and perhaps the longer the journey. So you wouldn’t see a dragon’s head in the home of every high level player. Instead, it would require so many players to transport it for taxidermy that it would likely end up in either a guild hall(a collective status symbol) or in the mansion of some player wealthy enough to hire the services of enough people. If the beast wasn’t on the same landmass as a town with taxidermy service, then the players might even have to transport it by sea. If that system makes it too easy for players to acquire these things, then dragging the carcass back to town could be even more realistic in that wild animals are attracted to its scent and want to steal it from the players. So if the player’s dragging a bull to town, wolves might attack him for possession.

    I’m an exploration-focused gamer, so I’d like to see status rewards for exploration at some point. History can do that. Taxidermy perhaps can do that (bringing back exotic creatures). But something in the line of titles or badges would be nice too.

    Comment by Aaron — 7 October, 2006 @ 8:40 AM

  4. I really like the idea of History, as stated by Aaron. I play SWG, and they include the badge system that Jpoku was talking about. I think it works well for both the casual gamer and hard-core gamer because different badges are harder to get then others; both sets of classes have their own recognition.

    Back on the topic of “History”.. I think huge statues might be a bit much, but I would really enjoy having an item of mine hung up in a bar, store, etc. That would be a real treat to see.

    Sorry for not being able to think of an original idea.. I like to reiterate other’s statements with my viewpoints on the ideas. :) :P

    Comment by Sean — 7 October, 2006 @ 10:43 PM

  5. I love the taxidermy idea; basically along the same lines as my hope for housing trophies.

    My thoughts for in-game status symbols:

    Naming. One of my favorite elements of the D&D mythos is the sometimes unique spell and item names. ‘Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion’, ‘Heward’s Handy Haversack’, ‘Melf’s Acid Arrow’. One entertaining element would be to allow for (eventual) common spells to be looted or researched. Once discovered on a particular server, they could be easily taught to other players. Eventually, such a spell would be learned as a matter of course upon leveling. The fun catch: Spells are named after the character who first loots or researches the spell. So, instead of the boring old ‘Fireball’, it’s ‘Darleen’s Flaming Sphere’; instead of ‘Magic Missles’, it’s ‘Adreth’s Force Bolts’. Obviously, you’d have to do a little bit of checking for jokers with annoying names; ‘Dickburger’s Acid Splash’ is not the kind of legacy you want on a server. Even with that kind of annoyance, it seems like a simple and enjoyable way to offer a slightly different experience from server to server. As long as you make sure that the spell itself is clearly recognizable, there would be no confusion. Fun stuff.

    Along the same lines for crafted items, I’ve always found it frustrating that makers marks are so subtle. Most games I can think of are sure to specify who made what, which is always appreciated. Good crafters on a server are soon recognized and respected. Just the same, perhaps a visual mark of some kind somewhere on the armor or weapon would be a nice touch. Just a small, simple symbol would go a long way to making a crafter’s reputation even greater.

    Comment by Michael — 7 October, 2006 @ 11:35 PM

  6. Badges. I had an ad hoc interview with a ~60 year old woman who was playing a game on Pogo.com that she “didn’t really care for”.

    Why are you playing this game, if you don’t like it.

    She informed me that each week, they have a game you can play, and if you get enough points on that game, in that week, you will get a portion of a way towards a badge. A badge is achievable when players get the award from each mini-game.

    The key is that even casual players can stay on top of things and get the badge.

    This kept her playing Pogo. I also found out that her husband played because he did not want to be shown up by his wife.

    Names/Titles. Similar to badges, titles work even in single player games, and they work particularly well in skills-based games. A specific level of mastery in holy spells might earn player JoeSchmoe the title ‘Monk JoeSchmoe’.

    Comment by Rusty — 8 October, 2006 @ 10:01 PM

  7. I’m with the badges camp. However, if I have badges, I feel like I ought to have a trophy case in which to show them off. And I can’t carry a trophy case around very comfortably in the pocket of my tights, so I’ll need a house in which to display the display case. And to avoid the problem of people arriving at the wrong house when the come to visit my display case I will need my own, unique stand-alone home rather than a single magic-door through which I, and 5,000 neighbors, enter our respective domiciles. And so that nobody could possibly have it better than me, I must implement this all in a single-player online RPG (SPORPG).

    On my own internet, of course.

    Comment by chabuhi — 9 October, 2006 @ 8:29 AM

  8. Achievement is a personal thing, as you mentioned, the achievement that everybody has is no longer an achievment. Focus the reward, if you have fifty statues on the side of the road, none of them will seem very special.
    Everybody wants to save the princess and become the king, but no matter how much instancing you put in the reality of the situation creeps in, everybody wants to do it, but if its to easy then its no longer special.

    History.
    Remove some of the sting of permadeath by getting rewards that can only be achieved by moving on.

    A panoramic mural of saved information which features the characters you played with a lot (the ones you chat, or emote with more feature more prominantly. Have the mural scroll past as you watch the credits, save a copy to the harddrive so you can remember the life of the character thats moved on.
    Would work best with some kind of interface that promoted emoting and interaction.

    Rewards on the next character made to encourage the player to start again. Higher caps, higher ‘meta level’ inheritance. Reward the player for their time.

    It would be nice, if achievement=status, but in an entirely static world, where things respawn in minutes and their deaths are like stars in the sky. It’s just a race to see who can get there first. Trying to make games where everybody can have the same achievements removes the sense of status in shared enviroment games.

    In my experiance, the only player status that people remember is kindness. The player who goes out of their way to help others is immortalized by those others. Any challange put in the game by developers is there to be slain or collected. Kindness is something unusual. A shame most games don’t even allow for charity anymore.

    Comment by Efate Blue — 10 October, 2006 @ 7:10 PM

  9. @Efate :

    Yet, I definitely agree with what you’re saying, and very nicely put by the way.

    Perhaps if the cost of obtaining that statue is high enough, then that could serve to limit the proliferation, as you say, of statues lining the road.

    I’m not sure how you’d quantify kindness, and even if you did then that is something that would easily be “gamed” in the context of what you just wrote about being in a race. I still respect the spirit of what you’re saying though… it would be nice (to be nice). :-)

    Cheers,
    ./covert.c.

    Comment by covert.c. — 12 October, 2006 @ 5:38 AM

  10. Puzzle Pirates lets you make an in-game and out-of-game viewable portrait of your character. They end up in whatever outfit you dressed them in, on whatever background you pick for your portrait (some are limited edition — you can get them if you order them this month but next month there will be new backgrounds and your chance to be painted on the Ghost Ship will be gone forever), and you have an item in your hand. The item in your hand is essentially a badge, as described by the folks above me: if you have a certain level of swordfighting, you can hold a sword. The obscure “badges” give items which a) look cool and b) are prized for their very obscurity: everyone knows its not too difficult to get the own-your-own-ship badge, but the Royal Scepter of Command is a freaking accomplishment.

    Portraits are probably the single coolest feature in Puzzle Pirates, and it makes them a *mint* (in terms of game currency taken out of circulation on the subscription servers, and in terms of microcurrency spent on the delivery fees on the microcurrency servers). People get portraits to “collect them all”, to show themselves posed with their friends (in coordinating outfits, no less — what sort of pirate crew would *clash*?), to commemorate their new “badges”, to show off the rare item they won, etc etc.

    Comment by Patrick McKenzie — 12 October, 2006 @ 6:34 PM

  11. We’ve done a bunch of stuff in terms of rewards for achievements over the years including:
    * Taking out ad space on Mudconnector (the biggest mud portal) to laud the first player to reach level 100.
    * Setting up a commemorative statue for a player who had been leader of one of the biggest guilds for four straight years.
    * Writing players into plots.
    * Including players in official histories of events.
    * Custom items.

    Problem with all of these is that they don’t scale all that well. It’s easy to do it when your games only have a few hundred players playing at once, but even at that size, we had to scale back the including of players in official histories at one point.

    –matt

    Comment by Matt Mihaly — 12 October, 2006 @ 8:14 PM

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