[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Sasha Hart sasha.hart at gmail.com
Wed Nov 2 17:38:01 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Sean Howard wrote,

> 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, that's a false dichotomy. The fact that somebody cares about
falling behind their friends in levels, for example, does not mean
that they are fundamentally uninterested in chatting, or even that
they would choose leveling over chatting if they had free rein. It
can still influence their choices. That doesn't at all mean they are
autistic hermits whose only interest is absolute maximization of
efficiency. They occupy the large middle ground.

In a certain respect, these games are a lot like buffets: a major
part of their appeal is that there are many choices, and you can
have as much of each as you want. This is fine for people who just
want to fill up on scrambled eggs, and it is fine for people who
just want to fill up on sausages. Both kinds of people are equally
served. But you can pay $9 and eat several orders of scrambled eggs
anywhere - the specialty of the buffet isn't in one item, it's in
letting people take as much of whatever they want, whenever they
decide they want it. It's in choice.

By compensating for differences in the consequences, and encouraging
people to explore more of what you have for them, you are INCREASING
their effective choice, not decreasing it.

If someone wants to be a autistic hermit on a MUD, and the payoffs
are roughly equivalent for being an autistic hermit or not, then it
is nobody's fault but his if he gets upset that people have
alternative, more social ways of earning xp (like Fedexing for a
crafter rather than a mob, or doing quests set by the guild leader,
or collecting bounties on people with pk flags.) He is not being
forced to do anything. Even if a designer decides to strengthen the
appeal of doing a sort of newbie apprenticeship underneath another
player for a week by making this more xp-efficient than being an
autistic hermit, the autistic hermit is still not being forced.

In any case, it is perfectly normal for minmaxing basement-hermits
to compl= ain.

> Once you get Sally, 58 housewife, to group with Phat L00t-R, 14
> year old kid, what then?

If they find it boring and not worthwhile, what happens then is that
they find something that is less boring to them on their own. (If
there's nothing in your game less boring than grouping with Phat
L00t-R, you have bigger problems than grouping bonuses.)

But I'm not talking about forcing people to do anything, or giving
them incentives specific to doing things they obviously won't like.
I'm talking about increasing people's effective choices with
payoffs, which is possible just as decreasing their effective
choices is possible with payoffs. Rather than making payoff
differences extreme, you bring them closer for the options you want
people to choose between more freely according to their own
preferences. Rather than deciding what people should do and always
rewarding them for it, you can use little bonuses to encourage
people to explore more of what you have available, so that they are
ultimately getting more of whatever it is they want.

But you don't have to. This is just a tool in the toolbox, more
suitable for some tasks than others.
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