[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Thu Oct 27 15:33:26 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

"Sasha Hart" <sasha.hart at gmail.com> wrote:

> What about people who would interact (or interact more), but find
> the opportunity cost in terms of game-goods unacceptable?

These are the minmaxers, my mortal enemy. If someone won't do
something because the cost is too high or the reward too low, then
it doesn't matter what they do or how much fun they have doing
it. Social people will find ways to be social, and anti-social
people will find ways to be anti-social. No cost would deter either
behavior. Trust me. I've frequently paid a high, high price for my
lack of social involvement.

I say, make it as easy to do as you can, so those that have to do it
won't complain it's too hard, and those that can't do it won't
complain that it's too invasive - and let the rest of the players
decide for themselves on a merit beyond gameplay cost vs reward.

> But I can see a very useful role for telling players that if they
> do something, which they might not even know increases the chances
> that they will go to some place, or engage in some kind of social
> interaction or roleplay or what-have-you - something, in turn,
> they might not even know they'd like, or have experience doing.

The problem, and this is a problem, is that NOBODY gets the same
thing from socializing. You may rewarding one player but penalizing
another for the exact same activity, and it could even be the same
player in different social circumstances. Hanging out with your
chosen guild is likely to provide a slightly more pleasant social
experience than hanging out with complete strangers (especially if
you are middle aged dealing with teenage boys who speak entirely in

I think that most people know what kind of social circumstances they
feel comfortable in by the time they hit their
mid-twenties. Therefore, it's silly to encourage them to participate
in activities that they already know, better than anything else in
their entire life, they will or won't like. Before that, in the
formative years, it is really a time of boundary pushing - seeing
what kind of activities are enjoyable and what kinds of behavior are
possible in each situation.  They could benefit from such gentle
nudging, but the simple fact is, you don't want to put the 25+ years
guys in with the 12+ guys because they want and need different
things from socialization.

Unless you can figure out a way to separate mature socialization
with immature socialization, forcing anybody to do anything is just
plain bad.

> Excuses for a player to learn a basic skill or learn the way to a
> useful place or explore are not new. Social interaction is just
> another application.

Social interaction is not as controlled as the relatively simple in
comparison gameplay. Once you get Sally, 58 housewife, to group with
Phat L00t-R, 14 year old kid, what then? You've rewarded them for
doing it, but there's nothing there for them to find beneficial
because you've not made any distinction between the different social
needs of the players. Worse yet, Sally may be looking for the
grouping and Phat L00t-R looking for the reward, and the result
would be classic MMORPG socialization (ie Sally moves to a
roleplaying server or quits the game in disgust).

Right now, we don't even remotely have a social model that would
allow us to make such claims, so I fully recommend simply letting
people feel out their own social interactions and reward NONE of it.

> Players will find their own equilibria no matter what you do.

Exactly my point. If you monkey around with that process too much,
you risk having them find their equilibria on another game.

> You may just want to make sure that the social players are not all
> poor in game-goods.

Some people play online solely to socialize. Some play solely for
game mechanics. And some play for both. The ones who only socialize
aren't going to care about the game-goods unless it is preventing
them from further socializing (ie all the high level players hang
out in a different zone that a low level character can't get
to). The ones who socialize and game won't be in any way hindered by
somehow spending part of their time socializing, unless they mark
their judgement against the minmaxers who spend all day exploiting
the mechanics (who would then get upset that they spent 14 hours
doing a raid to get a crappy piece of equipment that anybody can
have by socializing a bit - then they socialize to get it easier and
the whole thing breaks down).

I think SWG had the best approach to this back in the day, but it
was hugely flawed leading to minmaxers taking over the crafting and
entertainment professions to get the goods easier with less trouble.
Needed to grind xp to be a jedi, AFK grind in the cantinas. Now that
SWG is moving towards a more level-orientated game, being an
entertainer or crafter SEVERELY limits you max level (to either 54
instead of 80 or permanent level 1), causing most minmaxers focused
on such things to abandon the other professions (except full
crafters - xp isn't the only thing to minmax). It was a grand
experiment, but it didn't work and I'm willing to believe it can't
work with such a large playerbase.

- Sean
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