[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Lydia Leong lwl at black-knight.org
Thu Oct 6 03:23:54 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


On Oct 3,  1:06pm, "Martin Gundtoft" wrote:

> We believe that (MUD) games in general encourage people to
> socialize but that there are no strictly "game mechanical" system
> in any game that actually rewards the player directly. Of course
> one could argue that large raids or certain other actions would be
> impossible without a social game mechanic like the chat box, but
> what we are looking for is a more direct way of rewards than such
> a secondary relation.

The "achiever mechanic" on the social side, in multiplayer online
games (whether MUDs or MMOGs), is typically known as "politics". You
will see political play emerge on any game where players must
cooperate with large numbers of other players in order to achieve
goals, particularly when players must reach outside their immediate
tribe to negotiate alliances or at least deliberate neutrality.

However, politics online, as with politics offline, is something of
a subtle art. It's not just about tit-for-tat; it's also about
genuine affinities or natural enmities between people or
groups. Moreover, politics is a long-term game; purely opportunistic
political play isn't likely to get you very far. The political
machinations involved in online games that provide useful
motivations for it turn out to be an engagingly complex emergent
behavior, because people do not typically have buttons that you can
push to receive a pellet.  Direct reward systems are all about
pushbutton pellets.

Trust me: You do not want to encourage players to objectify other
players. It happens enough already thanks to the anonymity of the
screen. Deliberately encouraging this by turning social interaction
into another pellet-grabbing game is going to get you the kind of
behavior that Philip Zimbardo could spend years studying.

Go check out The Sims Online if you need a crystal-clear
demonstration of what happens when you go for the _mechanical
trappings_ of socialization over _actual_ socialization. Conversely,
you can check out politics working as they should on Puzzle Pirates,
a game that has lots of socializer _enablers_, and plenty of fodder
for politicians, but no pushbutton people pellets. (EVE Online has
similarly interesting emergent behaviors.)

It is certainly possible to build games that strongly reward social
interaction, but unless you want to become your very own Lord of the
Flies experiment, you shouldn't turn such interactions into nothing
but a festival of pellet-seeking.

You can build compelling games around social interactions -- but the
activities and rewards are unlikely to lend themselves to
pelletization.


	-- Lydia
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