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The "Game" in LT

#1
So Flatfinger's talking about Game-fun vs. Simulation-fun in LT in regards to research got me thinking about what Game-fun would mean in a broader sense for a game like LT. And then serendipity hit and I saw 2 GDC talks. I HIGHLY recommend you watch them both as well.

I've included my notes on both talks in the spoilers
Spoiler:      SHOW
Phycology in Games without the Neurotrash

Feedback
. Any feedback on player actions is a sort of reward
. . Tell players when they've accomplished something
. . . Sound/Visual cues
. . . Different and larger Sound/Visual "high five" for combos & special finds
. Use rewards people are already familiar with if possible
. . MONEY!!!
. . Incorporating sound or visual triggers for different actions adds immersion and is rewarding (Slot machines sing when you won a jackpot)

Fixed Ratio Rewards - "Just 1 more Turn"
. Each tick is a reward, but after each reward the brain takes a rest.
. . This can be delayed to extreme degrees by giving many things to do in each tick, but too many and it begins to feel overwhelming (See Civilization and production in many cities, managing all moves)
. . . The more there is to do per tick, the more optional automation is required so the player can focus on what they want to, while knowing things they don't enjoy doing will still be taken care of

Fixed Ratio Interval Rewards
. Set spawn times and world event, cycles & epicycles
. Known time, but only vaguely known location

Variable Interval Rewards
. Event seeking
. Known location, but unknown time
. . Draws people to a small area and hang around, they know a particular event will happen at that location, just not when.

Variable Ratio
. Classic Reward Chasing (Gambling/Slot Machine Behavior)
. . Many uses, Anywhere you want to get players to spend a lot of time doing something

Unexpected Rewards
. Very motivating and rewarding, but impact drops very quickly with repetition
. Should be very uncommon, or even singular

Choice & Control
We love to feel in control and hate feeling out of control or limited
. Unless we have chosen to be limited and under control
. Out of Control and Under Control are NOT the same thing

We need to have some feedback and sense of progression to a clearly defined objective or else it feels like grinding
. Level & Skill Progression bars, Kill counts, reputation changes

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
. Intrinsic - Comes from within
. Extrinsic - Comes from outside
An alternative to I/E is Autonomous vs controlled
. Autonomous - Self determined reward - "Choose your prize"
. Controlled - Not Self determined reward - "Here's your reward"

A Meaningful reward is always more motivating than a symbolic reward
. Getting something useful for your effort is more motivating than getting a trophy/badge

A good reward example, Doing something well is a powerup which allows you to do it even better next time

"Game Feel" is the Ultimate Intrinsic Motivation

Not only should you have big things, but also having lots of little things that make any possible player action, even just standing around doing nothing in particular seem impactful, changing even just the camera angle or lighting up icons in a menu while the cursor hovers over it make the game more immersive
. Any action, no matter how small should do something

Use a ramping up of rhythm to ramp up expectations and emotional intensity

Compare you against yourself
. What are your personal bests, your highest achievements, how have you changed over time, how much have you done since you started
. . Instant Replay capture of significant events
Spoiler:      SHOW
Player motivation

Player motivation starts with appealing to the personality traits of individuals, but becomes more about the game's ability to satisfy universal psychological needs as time goes on.

Player Taste Map
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Most people are in the middle, but the further out from the middle a player is, the more they care about that particular aspect
. No game will ever satisfy all tastes, but some, like minecraft can satisfy many
Minecraft's Taste Map:
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Player motivation changes over time. Players start playing because it appeals to their interests. Players CONTINUE playing because it satisfies their psychological needs for Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness.

In General
Competence - The Desire to get better at something
Autonomy - The ability to see the consequences of your actions and choices
Relatedness - Knowing where you fit in the world

In Games
Competence - Easy to learn, Difficult to master
Autonomy - Meaningful Choice, Customization, Agency
Relatedness - Social Grouping, Status Feedback

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Also, the 4 keys to fun
Spoiler:      SHOW
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Now, lets apply that to Limit Theory.
First is general UI Feedback. Every little thing needs to have some sort of feedback, but the more time and effort the player put into it, the better the reward they expect. Here we're somewhat limited by the player/npc symmetry and the infinite procedural nature of the game. However We can give visual and sound cues for doing different things.
Some Ideas:
. A flash and a ping for every kill, pings come in harmonies, so multiple kills at once sound different and richer
. A sound when being the first to discover something, popping up with a box that allows you to name it. Richer and more complex sounds for discovering a new system than discovering an asteroid field
. A buzz when depleting an asteroid, and a change in that asteroid's color on the UI
. A "Ka-ching" equivalent when doing a transaction, other sounds when accepting contracts, completing builds, etc

Looking at Reward structures, I think many rewards are already built-in or side effects of already present mechanics in the game, but for others, we are again limited by the nature of the game to things that must be player-npc symmetric, optional, and always present while not being identical. The only way I think this could reasonably be done is by having changes or special features in the environment that are open to whoever happens to be there.

For example, Cyclical spawning of transdimensional objects that exist for a short time and then disappear again. The spawn location could be discoverable by the AI, which will hang around, waiting for a while in case it shows up, but if it takes too long, the AI will leave.

For Choice and Control, I think that the Delegation and Contract systems offer plenty to satisfy this, but there's an opportunity for even more.
Contracts for example, From what we've seen, fulfilling a contract will only result in a payment, but what if some NPCs made a sort of barter agreement "I'll give you A, B, or C", objects from their inventory which can have different cash values on the local markets, perhaps 1 above, 1 below, and one at the cash amount they would have otherwise given you, hoping you pick the least valuable one.

In terms of Level & Skill progression, that doesn't really exist, but you could have Contract Completeness indicators, a checklist of things you need to do/kill, how much ore you have left to mine, etc. Or you could make your own Contract, define the levels which represent completeness, and then tell you how close you are to that self-defined goal. And how you accomplish it? maybe just delegate
someone else to complete it for you ;)

Now for the Player taste and motivation. Vanilla LT isn't going to really be for casual "bejeweled" gamers. Nor is it really going to be for Counter Strike gamers. LT is also not going to have a compelling built in story, but will be bursting to the seems with player stories, and perhaps AI NPC's with their own stories. It's probably going to lean a bit more towards exploration than building, but building will still definitely be possible and extensive.

Now, From everything we know about LT, I think that This might be a fairly good picture of what LT is at least trying to be.
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Will it accomplish that? That remains to be seen.

Now LT was initially sold as Freelancer 2.0, but as it's developed, it might now be more the child of Freelancer and Minecraft. And so that once again brings into question, what is the "Game" in LT? Well, let's look at Freelancer and Minecraft.
Freelancer, though I've never personally played it, from what i've gained from members on the forum and it's wikipedia entry, is about taking on the role of a pilot in a single ship, being a fighter pilot in dogfights, a bounty hunter, merchant, pirate, smuggler, and explorer. In the more relevant single player mode, it has a story, travelling along a predetermined path that the player doesn't have a choice in. Freelancer thus has a gameplay topology like this
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It has some degree of freedom, but it ultimately just many ways of getting from A to B to C. The path you take is your choice, but there's really only so many meaningful differences.


Minecraft however, is about exploring an infinite world, and molding it into literally whatever you want, with or without friends. It has some weak combat, for AI at least, but with other people, combat is rich with invention and originality. It is digital, multiplayer, moddable Legos. Minecraft's gameplay topology thus would look like this
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Now, Vanilla LT has taken all the roles possible from Freelancer, and put it in an infinite universe at the expense of a pre-defined story. It promises many generated backstories to entire factions and civilizations, let alone individual NPCs. The depth and richness of those backstories? again remains to be seen. But LT also gives the Player the reigns of power too, or at least the potential to take them. The player can form their own faction, and build their own empire, and mold the universe to their will. It's certainly not as freeform as minecraft, you'll never see pikachu or westeros in vanilla LT, but it's also completely different than what was possible in freelancer. I would argue that LT has a topology that looks somewhat like this
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More like Minecraft than Freelancer, you can just go off and start over somewhere else far far away, where everything you did before becomes but a memory.
More like Freelancer than Minecraft, you can have complex and varied interactions with an intricate AI system.

So, if we begin to see it as the depth and richness of freelancer inside the infinite and malleable world of minecraft, what is gameplay beyond self-defined goals? I would say its a system of feedback and micro-rewards, a system for easily defining one's own goals in a quantitative or qualitative manner, the ability to measure your success in your own metrics, having meaningful choices that affect the world around you, Having as many or as few things to focus on and manage as you like, and encountering the occasional environmental situation or event which you are free to engage with, or not, or even just watch the AI engage with it as a spectator.

So I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, because Architecture development seems to be coming to a close soon and the Game aspects will need to be addressed.
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When you're trying to fill an infinite multiverse, if you're not willing to consider the entire creative output of humanity as a starting point, you're wasting your time.
User: JoshParnell is accountable for this user's actions.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#2
That's what I'd call seriously impressive posting, Hyperion. I'm not known for my crafted contributions here but I'd be surprised if Flat didn't find this worthy piece of writing to be of interest. :thumbup: :clap:

I'm only just out of my bed and the lack of a coffee fix means I will need to revisit your contribution to fully absorb its splendour. :angel:

Edit: Is there a reason why you didn't play Freelancer, Hyperion? Although some of us have tried to convey the joy we had/still have from the game it's hard to convey the feelings in words. If Josh had never played the game I would have doubts concerning his ability to deliver the game I'm looking for.
Last edited by Victor Tombs on Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#3
Just to add more fuel to the fire some more detail, Freelancer has a unique way of faking a living, breathing universe with such elegance and detail that it doesn't crop up most of the time. You'd need to play it a lot for the static world to start being annoying.

Let me go into some depth here.

The world in Freelancer is entirely static. After you've done with the campaign, nothing happens. Your actions don't really matter anymore for any person except yourself. Frontlines are static; no factions rise and fall, no new planets are colonised, no news are being produced, etc. Prices for goods are static as well; no matter how many alien artefacts you'll carry from Crete to Manhattan the price won't dip down.

Of course, most of the time you don't really notice it as the sheer sense of wonder and beauty and satisfying gameplay and remaining progression from Level 6 ships to Level 10 ships occupies your attention. Then you usually start trading and exploring, and becoming friends with all the factions, then you become restless and try hacking the configs to open the jump gates to the systems you've visited in the campaign :D

Minecraft is a dynamic world, of course, but since it's so Goddamn huge and other creatures don't affect it much (I think they don't even spawn outside your immediate vicinity), it is basically static, so you go through all the same stages, except that it's building and exploration that occupies your time.

LT seems to be aiming to reside in a league of its own: the universe is supposed to be fully dynamic, and gameplay is supposed to be fully emergent, so the universe can change to the point of being nothing like when you've started playing. That means that what we are really balancing is how much the universe cares about the player. In Freelancer, it just goes on rails for eternity for player's enjoyment. In Minecraft, player is the centre of the universe, and nothing worthwhile happens if it's not connected to the player in some way or the other.

In LT we might get this effect of the universe not caring for the player at all. It will live its own life, and if you are shy/incompetent/unwilling to try/fearful/whatever, it'll just ignore you and your efforts to change it, and change itself at its own pace, up to the point of you loosing the track of what's happening. This might make it significantly less fun for some people (casuals *sigh*).

I think that the world generation should allow for 'islands of stability' - factions/states that are 'too big to fail' and are anchoring the universe somewhat, and lawless zones between them and far out of their influence. That doesn't mean that those states can't fail, it'd just be hard and require a long-term planning effort from the player, or some blatantly catastrophic circumstances produced by the emergent gameplay.
Survivor of the Josh Parnell Blackout of 2015.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#4
LT seems to be aiming to reside in a league of its own: the universe is supposed to be fully dynamic, and gameplay is supposed to be fully emergent, so the universe can change to the point of being nothing like when you've started playing. That means that what we are really balancing is how much the universe cares about the player. In Freelancer, it just goes on rails for eternity for player's enjoyment. In Minecraft, player is the centre of the universe, and nothing worthwhile happens if it's not connected to the player in some way or the other.
Good point outlander, that is a very fundamental difference between them, the player isn't special and isn't supposed to be special. it's supposed to feel like an MMO, where every NPC seems just as important to the world as you are, or just as meaningless. We might also want to look at some MMOs for comparison. EVE being the obvious choice, but I don't know enough about it to really comment on how it makes its world fun.

Given the numerous data points for each NPC and the player, I'm sure there can be some handicaps put in, that say make NPC's have a higher than neutral opinion of you at the start, give you an economic advantage in trading, raise your rep faster and lower it slower than other npcs, make your weapons stronger, enemies less likely to attack, and so on. While the large appeal, for me at least, is that it doesn't care about me and will live it's own life, I can see why some people wouldn't like that. We've been trained by pretty much every game in the last 30 years that we're the hero, the chosen one. Plenty of gamers would expect that here too. But I think making the uncaring universe is the hard part, and tweaking it to favor the player would be pretty easy.
This might make it significantly less fun for some people (casuals *sigh*).
In the Player Motivation talk, the speaker suggested that it's actually fine to ignore casuals, to a degree. That you have to know who your target demographic is, and make it good for them... if people outside that demographic don't like it, great! they weren't supposed to like it, it wasn't for them.
That while the majority of people are casuals, who are good with the basics, they're also the ones with the least enthusiasm, while the people who make up the smallest demographics will be the strongest advocates and converts, singing the game's praises for decades if the game satisfies their needs very well, and that designers need to decide whether they want to risk losing casuals or converts.

IMHO, frak the casuals. LT should not sacrifice anything just to have a mass market appeal. That as it stands, LT is casting a sufficiently wide net of appeal already, and casuals can wait for easy-mode mods.

However, I think you might have something with the islands of stability. I still hold that on the largest scales, every variation is just a wave on an endless ocean, but the idea of regions where large factions can more easily maintain control of huge hegemonies, but also balanced out by the vast wild west, or the steppes where occasionally great hordes may come surging out of... That would be really cool!



Also, Victor. I hadnt heard of it until i joined these forums. And i decided i wouldn't influence my expectations with it, and I'll wait for LT to take my freelancing space pilot virginity :shifty: ;)
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When you're trying to fill an infinite multiverse, if you're not willing to consider the entire creative output of humanity as a starting point, you're wasting your time.
User: JoshParnell is accountable for this user's actions.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#5
I liked what you had to say, outlander, it's obvious to me that you understand the appeal of Freelancer. :)

As to the references to "casual" players, I tend to broadly agree with what's been said but Freelancer would/did appeal to those who are not hardcore space sim enthusiasts. It wasn't hard to get into it as it had a good "hold your hand" in- game tutorial for those who were averse to reading manuals and the fact that it had an interesting/intriguing story tended to draw you in and keep you playing. It received a lot of flak from the hardcore joystick jockeys at the time of release as they considered it to be too much like an arcade game. I've seen the same complaints from some of the same type about what's happened to Star Citizen.
Hyperion wrote: Also, Victor. I hadnt heard of it until i joined these forums. And i decided i wouldn't influence my expectations with it, and I'll wait for LT to take my freelancing space pilot virginity
There is some merit in your approach, Hyperion. I've been constantly concerned about the changes Josh has made in Limit Theory and what effect the differences will have on the fun factor of the game. I'm not an empire builder so there are aspects of the game I will be ignoring but I've been assured that Freelancer is still there.
outlander4 wrote: I think that the world generation should allow for 'islands of stability' - factions/states that are 'too big to fail' and are anchoring the universe somewhat, and lawless zones between them and far out of their influence.
I would be more than happy with that, outlander. Part of the joy of Freelancer was the stability of certain sectors. Even Josh has stated that Kusari space was his favourite.

Edit: I should add that I've never played Minecraft as it didn't appeal to me. :angel:
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#6
Hyperion wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:07 am
Good point outlander, that is a very fundamental difference between them, the player isn't special and isn't supposed to be special. it's supposed to feel like an MMO, where every NPC seems just as important to the world as you are, or just as meaningless. We might also want to look at some MMOs for comparison. EVE being the obvious choice, but I don't know enough about it to really comment on how it makes its world fun.
Most MMOs are filled with silly bots to slaughter for XP and quest givers who might as well be replaced by a post box with letters instructing you what to do. LT is going to surpass that I think :D
Given the numerous data points for each NPC and the player, I'm sure there can be some handicaps put in
Maybe just an initial, non-permanent boost to help you out at first. Like meeting a person or a faction who are kind to you for no good reason, but turn on you when you over-stay your welcome, making you flee to another sector entirely? Would be a nice tutorial-type experience, and very Freelancer-like (where an entire state turns on you, complete with its police, navy, and intelligence agencies).
IMHO, frak the casuals. LT should not sacrifice anything just to have a mass market appeal. That as it stands, LT is casting a sufficiently wide net of appeal already, and casuals can wait for easy-mode mods.
I agree that there should be no dumbing down the game for the sake of clowns who have trouble managing anything more complex than Angry Birds. However, when the universe doesn't stimulate your reward centres in some way or the other, the game becomes a chore, and most people (especially those with limited time) don't find it enjoying. So there should be something to off-set the fact that the universe is cruel and uncaring - great visuals certainly help, as well as the amount of interesting planets and asteroids to visit, and (if at all possible in LT) interesting faction/station/planet backstories to read.
However, I think you might have something with the islands of stability. I still hold that on the largest scales, every variation is just a wave on an endless ocean, but the idea of regions where large factions can more easily maintain control of huge hegemonies, but also balanced out by the vast wild west, or the steppes where occasionally great hordes may come surging out of... That would be really cool!
That's how Freelancer did it - there are four great states (Liberty - the US, obviously, Rheindland - Germany, Kusari - Japan, and Bretonia - the UK). They are stable and safe, and if you keep close to the bases and trade lines nothing would ever happen to you. If you go out into the asteroid/ice/debris fields you may find all sorts of nasties, usually pirates and terrorists. There are also pirate-controlled territories that are also remarkably stable and safe if you happen to be friendly with the pirates :) The systems connecting those places are the Wild West - lots of trade and mining, tons of pirate factions, very few outposts of civilisation to hide in and repair. And I think such a formula works really well for free-form space exploration games, as you can get your bearings and grow your confidence in the core systems and then head out in search of fortune and glory. So basically, the way MMOs do it, especially MMORPGs.

I'd say having a 'state' faction - the Police, the Navy, the Security Services - and having miners/traders/manufacturers pay them for protection (taxes, basically) would be a rather natural development as the need to specialise would force certain factions to choose between, say, better weapons and better and bigger transport ships. Such a system (with many factions protected by a 'state' faction) would be relatively stable, but would still unravel in the face of a huge invasion force, or one of the state factions taking power and eliminating the other. Such things shouldn't be common, though; having a civil war or a coup d'etat every other day is mildly annoying to say the least.

Such meta-factions would be able to extend up to a point where supply lines become strained, and move veeeeryy slowly from there. A border will be formed, and a couple of jumps away from it all sorts of crazy stuff would be allowed to happen - pirate lords, corporations taking over the entire systems, new states being born and brutally destroyed, and many other people and factions just trying to make a living outside the grip of the state-factions and associated payments. If the craziness starts spilling into the 'civilised' space, an expedition gets formed to pacify the place. And of course, all sorts of inter-state proxy wars should go there. And if you move further away from the core systems, the amount of activity diminishes, and at some point you'll reach the frontier of explored space, and move into the uncharted systems beyond.

That's how I see it, basically :D

Here we have this very vague point of the game world being limitless - this is impossible in practical terms. I also dislike the 'too many stars to visit in your lifetime' approach - I deal with that every day IRL, thank you very much, give me a smaller world please :ghost: Personally, I'd favour clusters of 200-400 star systems, or better just a slider on how many systems I want to be generated.
Victor Tombs wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:51 am
As to the references to "casual" players, I tend to broadly agree with what's been said but Freelancer would/did appeal to those who are not hardcore space sim enthusiasts. It wasn't hard to get into it as it had a good "hold your hand" in- game tutorial for those who were averse to reading manuals and the fact that it had an interesting/intriguing story tended to draw you in and keep you playing. It received a lot of flak from the hardcore joystick jockeys at the time of release as they considered it to be too much like an arcade game. I've seen the same complaints from some of the same type about what's happened to Star Citizen.
Aye, I remember it all. I wasn't much a joystick man myself these days, and I still see no point in all the bashing. Hard-core games are hard to make appealing, and for hard-core players there's Orbiter, and if it's not hardcore enough for them, then actually training to be a cosmonaut might help :ghost:
Survivor of the Josh Parnell Blackout of 2015.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#7
Hyperion wrote:IMHO, frak the casuals. LT should not sacrifice anything just to have a mass market appeal. That as it stands, LT is casting a sufficiently wide net of appeal already, and casuals can wait for easy-mode mods.
I disgree only as far as LT need to earn money. The kickstarter can not approach to cover the cost, let alone to reward, 5 years of work, musical assets and now a team of 3 developers.
Mass market would be just right to earn the few hundred ks (at least) needed to come out on the sunny side of zero and hopefully more to provide some capital to either finish studies or start on Marrowjosh, or whatever the next project was.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#8
Two things:
1. I want the player to be treated exactly the same as a NPC. The only exception being during the tutorial where the player is learning all the aspects of LT.
2. LT needs to focus on the crowd that Kickstarted it. Everyone else is icing on the cake.

Limit Theory is described as "An infinite universe of limitless opportunity" where the player has the freedom to go anywhere and be anything. So long as LT continues to follow these foundational ideas I believe the game will succeed.
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#9
This is an excellent thread, and timely given Adam's recent comment that Josh is trying to shift gears from architecture to gameplay content. This is the central question of designing a game: what's the intended player experience?

As Victor suggested, yeah, this is pretty much catnip for me. :) I'm not where I can say much at the moment, but I'll be back later with some Deeper Thoughts.

For now:

1. I agree that understanding gamer motivations is crucial to knowing how to design enjoyable games.
2. If someone has somehow escaped my spam, I wrote my own article for Gamasutra on this subject.
3. Based on my research, I dispute two claims:
a. "Most gamers are in the middle." No, most people have preferences; this is a multi-modal distribution.
b. "Player motivations change over time." I have seen no evidence of this; core preferences are stable.
4. Along with Simulation (Dynamics) and Game (Mechanics), there's Narrative (Aesthetics/Relationships) and Sensation (Kinesthetics). (As I show in my article, I think these and the "Four Keys" and the Bartle Types and several other models are deep analogs of each other.)
5. Freelancer mostly satisfied Game/Sensation (dogfighting) with some light Narrative (story) and Simulation (economics) dressing.
6. It did a good job satisfying and balancing these; the rest was polish, polish, polish.
7. Moral: Know what motivates your likely players, know what features satisfy those motivations, and deliver those features in a balanced and polished package.

Next novel: who I think wants to play LT and why, and thus what features LT could have that span all four major play preferences, with an emphasis on the preferences of likely players of LT.

Good topic. :D
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Re: The "Game" in LT

#10
Victor Tombs wrote:s to the references to "casual" players, I tend to broadly agree with what's been said but Freelancer would/did appeal to those who are not hardcore space sim enthusiasts. It wasn't hard to get into it as it had a good "hold your hand" in- game tutorial for those who were averse to reading manuals and the fact that it had an interesting/intriguing story tended to draw you in and keep you playing.
I agree with the sentiment that there needs to be a tutorial space, I suggested an option for Dojos, pocket universes where there can be pre-defined scenarios, as well as player defined scenarios. An optionally accessed tutorial area that can also be returned to at any time for some fun which has no consequences for the broader game, and can also even be used to create an in-game way to give and justify NPC training and getting better.

If not Dojos, I think a "Starting Safe Zone" and a "Safe Zones" options in the menu would be fine, giving the player that option for creating several large factions which just love the player for no particular reason, and are unusually stable. Players could just opt out of this for a more neutral and balanced experience. I see no problem with this if it's what would make the game easier to learn with. The key is being Easy to Learn, Hard to Master. And heck, it might be fun to start in a safe zone only to one day come back with a huge fleet you built up and conquer them :twisted:
outlander4 wrote:Most MMOs are filled with silly bots to slaughter for XP and quest givers who might as well be replaced by a post box with letters instructing you what to do. LT is going to surpass that I think :D
If it doesn't, I'm gonna have to fly down to Louisiana and smack Josh upside the head :ghost: :angel:
outlander4 wrote:So there should be something to off-set the fact that the universe is cruel and uncaring
Uncaring, yes. Cruel? why would it be cruel? You're only a bad guy if you go around pissing people off... and pirates, well they're pirates, what makes them different than literally any other mob in any other game? You go off into the wilds unarmed, you're just asking for trouble and it's your own damn fault if you get killed.
outlander4 wrote:Here we have this very vague point of the game world being limitless - this is impossible in practical terms. I also dislike the 'too many stars to visit in your lifetime' approach - I deal with that every day IRL, thank you very much, give me a smaller world please :ghost: Personally, I'd favour clusters of 200-400 star systems, or better just a slider on how many systems I want to be generated.
Yup, a slider from 1 to infinite systems would be perfectly fine with me :D
CSE wrote:I disagree only as far as LT need to earn money...Mass market would be just right to earn the few hundred ks
I wouldn't call Dark Souls 3 a game with mass market "casual" appeal, but It's sold about 700,000 copies to date, at $60 each, that's $42 million.
I wouldn't call Factorio a game with too much "casual" appeal, but it's sold ~200,000 copies. at $20 each, that's $4 million.
Elite Dangerous has minor casual appeal as there's the possibility for just exploring, but it's also no angry birds, it's sold 1.6 million copies, at $30 each, that's $48 million
Now granted, LT is neither Factorio, nor Dark Souls by any means, I just use those as examples to show that mass market appeal isn't necessary to rake in gobs of money, plenty enough to start a company. If it's a good game, lots of people will buy it.
LT is however similar to Elite Dangerous, and from everything I've seen on E: D, It's also WAAAAYY better and shows WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYY more potential given the modability. And the sales of E: D can also tell you roughly how many people LT would appeal to, what the size of the target demographic is. If LT can pull off the appeal of E: D, and I think it will, Josh and Procedural Reality will be swimming in money.
My whole point with this is that LT will already have some level of casual appeal, and should not sacrifice anything just to have more.
BFett wrote:LT needs to focus on the crowd that Kickstarted it. Everyone else is icing on the cake.
Yup.
Flatfingers wrote:As Victor suggested, yeah, this is pretty much catnip for me.
Bwuahahahaha, my plan went exactly according to plan! :geek: I literally wrote this with you in mind <3
Flatfingers wrote: 3. Based on my research, I dispute two claims:
a. "Most gamers are in the middle." No, most people have preferences; this is a multi-modal distribution.
b. "Player motivations change over time." I have seen no evidence of this; core preferences are stable.
I think you might have misunderstood. The "Most gamers are in the middle" just means that in a population with a bell curve of tastes from one extreme to another, the majority of people have no especially strong leaning towards one end of the spectrum or the other in at least one particular Taste area. That you might not really care that much about building or whether a game is calm or thrilling, but you absolutely love fantasy and any fantasy game will appeal to you. If you can build in it? That's fine, but it's not a strong selling point for you and you can take it or leave it. While another gamer might not care if it's fantasy or realistic, so long as they can have exciting multiplayer PvP, that's all that matters.

And "Player motivations change over time" doesn't mean that someone who loves building will stop caring about building. It means that they'll only continue playing it for 100 to 1000+ hours if it not only hits their enjoyment in building things, but ALSO continues to satisfy their desire to get better, to see their choices are meaningful and have consequences, and/or that they can fit their play in a broader social world. The Player's core preference is indeed stable, it's just insufficient that it appeals to their preference if it isn't also more broadly satisfying.
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Post

Re: The "Game" in LT

#11
Hyperion wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:16 pm
Flatfingers wrote:As Victor suggested, yeah, this is pretty much catnip for me.
Bwuahahahaha, my plan went exactly according to plan! :geek: I literally wrote this with you in mind <3
I am such an easy mark, apparently. :D
Flatfingers wrote: 3. Based on my research, I dispute two claims:
a. "Most gamers are in the middle." No, most people have preferences; this is a multi-modal distribution.
b. "Player motivations change over time." I have seen no evidence of this; core preferences are stable.
Hyperion wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:16 pm
I think you might have misunderstood. The "Most gamers are in the middle" just means that in a population with a bell curve of tastes from one extreme to another, the majority of people have no especially strong leaning towards one end of the spectrum or the other in at least one particular Taste area. That you might not really care that much about building or whether a game is calm or thrilling, but you absolutely love fantasy and any fantasy game will appeal to you. If you can build in it? That's fine, but it's not a strong selling point for you and you can take it or leave it. While another gamer might not care if it's fantasy or realistic, so long as they can have exciting multiplayer PvP, that's all that matters.
It's always possible I may misunderstand. I don't think that's the case here, though. I read both quoted pieces in their entirety, and I think my interpretations of each are well-founded.

Consider "taste maps" as subsets of general motivations of play. "Most people are in the middle" of a map that has Multiplayer/Solo and Calm/Thrilled axes seems pretty unambiguous: as the sample includes more people, there emerges a "typical gamer" whose interests have migrated into the gloopy center of the graph -- preferring games with a few players, and games that aren't boring but also aren't very stimulating. Ditto for the other taste maps.

That's what I'm saying I think is not correct. Not only for the Big Chart of player motivations, but for these and other subsets as well, the distribution as you add more people doesn't go to one giant lump in the center; it develops four nodes at the intersections of both axes. And that's because preferences do exist in individuals. They aren't just statistical aberrations that disappear once you add enough people. Preferring multiplayer play over solo play, or solo play over multiplayer, is not a personal preference that goes away as you look at more gamers -- these preferences persist as you look at more people. So the Multiplayer/Solo axis has one hump around the middle of the Multiplayer half, and another hump around the middle of the Solo half; likewise for the Calm/Thrilled axis, and all other other axes proposed in "taste map" theory.

This is why it's a mistake to imagine some stereotypical Gamer who sort of likes everything to some middling amount, and to design gameplay around that belief. That this is easier than addressing simultaneous multiple preferences -- or choosing particular preferences of play to target with design features -- doesn't make it correct.

And even if such an undifferentiated Gamer did exist, developing any or every game for such a bland mish-mash of "meh" preferences would not be worth doing.
Hyperion wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:16 pm
And "Player motivations change over time" doesn't mean that someone who loves building will stop caring about building. It means that they'll only continue playing it for 100 to 1000+ hours if it not only hits their enjoyment in building things, but ALSO continues to satisfy their desire to get better, to see their choices are meaningful and have consequences, and/or that they can fit their play in a broader social world. The Player's core preference is indeed stable, it's just insufficient that it appeals to their preference if it isn't also more broadly satisfying.
My beef with this is that I think its use of the word "motivations" blurs a really important distinction.

To get a little technical, most of the writing and thinking I've seen in psychology of personality distinguishes between motivation, meaning an innate way of looking at the world, and behavior, which is action taken in the world as expressions of internal motivation.

This distinction sometimes gets mushy because (for the most part) we can only see behaviors. Behaviors are visible. We can do metrics on those. Motivations, however, live somewhere in a person's head. They can't be directly observed. So when a researcher studies gamers, what they're often studying is actually behavior -- what someone chooses to do in a game. Only after collecting behavioral data does the speculation begin on how clusters of behaviors suggest the existence of an identifiable motivation: a fundamental internal desire that guides (but does not dictate) a person's external behavioral choices.

The other kind of study is more specifically about motivation. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Big Five surveys are examples of these efforts to perceive internal psychological preferences directly. They skip observation of behaviors in favor of just asking: "Hey, what do you like?" and then looking for patterns in that self-reported data regarding internal motivations.

Unfortunately, there's very little research of which I'm aware that connects these general patterns of personality to gameplay preferences, or to gameplay behaviors, or to features in games that are particularly enjoyable to specific play preferences. That's why I wrote my Gamasutra article -- to try to show what I think are the connections among these different ways of understanding the interface between gamer and game.

So, in this case of whether "player motivations change over time," I came to the conclusion that they don't because preferences of play are game-context versions of general personality -- temperament resulting from brain chemistry. And these, barring trauma, appear not to change for the vast majority of people.

Thus, sure, someone who's playing a game and has maxed out some skill will turn to some other content in that game, or stop playing entirely. But that is a change in behavior, not motivation. Behavior is guided by both internal motivation and external stimuli, such as gameplay features. If I burn through all the exploration content in a game, and then start doing more combat, it does not mean that my innate psychological motivation has changed over time and I now like the sensational thrill of combat more than the intellectual thrill of discovery -- it's just a change in external behavior in reaction to a change in what gameplay remains available.

And so it goes for gamers in general.

One other note on this: not only do I think the idea that player motivations change over time is not supported by factual reality, I also think it's a perniciously bad idea. That is because researchers in today's world seem to find it nearly impossible to claim to see a pattern of motivational change and not then take a mighty leap to making a value judgment that later motivations are better -- more "developed," more "evolved," whatever -- than their predecessors.

I think that's a horrible idea. What it does is improperly stigmatize play preferences that are just as valid, and not "underdeveloped" in any way, as the others. I don't much care for speedruns... but who am I to assert that this kind of play that appeals to the preference for intense sensations and skillful kinesthetics is somehow less evolved, less worthy of game developer support, than simulationist system-dynamics content that appeals to my play preference for creative surprises? Do we really want to say that the people who get a kick out of speedruns aren't as much of a gamer as others because their play preference is said to be earlier in some supposed progress chart?

"Player motivations change over time" is a claim that is so potentially destructive to making fun games that it should not be taken as truth by anyone, ever, until and unless strong, replicatable evidence supporting it is provided.



OK, that's a response to disagreement with a couple of my own claims. (Which, BTW, I don't object to disagreement on, since it's not like I've dumped peer-reviewed studies on anyone. All I can say is that I've been deeply interested in this intersection between personality and game design for something like 20 years now. That's not an argument from authority intended to force anyone to accept what I say as gospel truth -- even if I thought it was, I know this crowd :D . It's just a comment that I really have spent a lot of time thinking about this particular subject, and when I take the unusual-for-me step of making a flat assertion about some aspect of it, I hope it'll be understood that such an assertion is not a snap claim but something I've researched and thought carefully about for a long time. That said, if you think I'm nuts, fire away.)

So here's another general game design assertion: the more motivations you try to satisfy, the more content you must provide, the harder it becomes to satisfyingly balance all that content, and the more time will be required to try to do so.

What does that mean for LT? It means that, if I were the kind of person who gives unasked-for advice ;) , I'd suggest that it would be a mistake to try to provide significant content in all four key areas: exciting twitch action, rules-based progressive accumulation, rationally coherent system-interaction dynamics, and an emotionally engaging story about interesting people.

Happily, Josh seems well aware of this at some level. It appears that LT, relative to Freelancer, will emphasize similar amounts of action play (dogfighting space combat); offer a somewhat increased accumulation game (mining, production, RTS fleet operations, faction management); provide a significantly enhanced amount of simulationist fun (procedurally-generated universe, emergent economics, research, scouting/exploration); but deliver a substantially reduced amount of narrativist fun (prebuilt Epic Story). That's still a massive amount of stuff for one person (or even three) to create and balance. But the understanding that it's just too hard to amp up dynamics fun versus Freelancer without something (developer-written narrative fun) having to be cut seems to be a realization Josh had. That is a Good Thing.

Interestingly (well, to me, anyway), there is currently a game of some popularity that also emphasizes action-fun and exploratory-fun over competitive-fun and story-fun. You may have heard of it: Minecraft. In Survival Mode, Minecraft is a remarkably pure combination of exploration (What's over that ridge? What happens if I combine a stick and a piece of flint?) and risky (and therefore exciting) action (AAAAH! Where'd that creeper come from?! Oh noes I done fell into the lava!) Although later iterations added trading with NPCs and Story Mode, the game design that made Notch wealthy beyond belief focused almost exclusively on discovery and excitement. That seemed to work out pretty well.

So it seems LT might also do fine by emphasizing action and exploration, especially if it offers a fair amount of rules-based, accumulationist min/maxing play as well. LT's not a MMORPG that needs to cater simultaneously to all kinds of player motivations... but it does share with MMORPGs the feature of being non-ending. So having content that's fun for a third playstyle preference is, I think, a very wise design decision.

And I still haven't started talking yet about specific forms of content that LT might offer that are consciously tailored to maximize the enjoyment of Gamists, Simulationists, and Kinestheticists. :lol:
Post

Re: The "Game" in LT

#12
Flatfingers wrote:I am such an easy mark, apparently. :D
Ohhh, I wouldn't say that , Flat, but after reading your posts for so many years it's not that difficult to work out what subjects will excite you. ;) And as far as the topic is concerned it's of prime importance to me. Interesting as the development of Limit Theory is I signed up for the game. :angel:
Post

Re: The "Game" in LT

#13
Flatfingers wrote:I am such an easy mark, apparently. :D
After as many brainstorm sessions I've had the immense pleasure of having with you over these past few years, I'd hope to have developed the capacity to know what appeals to you :)
Flatfingers wrote:researchers in today's world seem to find it nearly impossible to claim to see a pattern of motivational change and not then take a mighty leap to making a value judgment that later motivations are better -- more "developed," more "evolved," whatever -- than their predecessors.

I think that's a horrible idea.
I absolutely and fully agree. You've moved me towards being on the fence of the idea that motivations change over time, but i'm not convinced it's quite as destructive as you suggest just because some researchers make subjective value judgements as to which forms of play are better than others. any notion of a "progress chart" in playstyles is utter and eternal bullshit.

In regards to the tastemaps, I think like most things that claim to be descriptions about the broad motivations of people, it should always be taken with at least a grain of salt. Just like character archetypes aren't really accurate descriptions of real people as they actually are, they're useful simulacrums, the tastemaps are useful targets to aim for in developing a game. Obviously people are complicated, there are of course people who love Counter Strike and Minecraft equally, despite them being very different games. But when you say "I want my game to appeal to people who like to explore a world of fantasy" it's not excluding anything else, it's just saying that people along those axes are your priority and target audience, and that other people may like it for other reasons, if they don't, oh well, your measurement of success is how much people who love to explore fantasy world's liked it.

As to your argument that players group not in the center, but on nodes halfway between the center and the extreme? I'm willing to accept that, it does seem to make sense, but i'm not sure how that particular model helps the development of a game, and more specifically LT.

I agree with most of what you said, especially that it's a mistake to try and provide extensive content for all 4 key areas of content. I would personally suggest that primary attention be given to the coherent system-interaction simulationist dynamics and the exciting twitch action of combat. Mainly for the reasons that twitch combat was a promised feature in the KS, and the simulationist dynamics offer a background to which rule-based and narrative-based content can be added on. Part of the power of LT is it's moddability, and We will certainly see mods which add way more content in these areas than Josh & Co could ever hope to achieve in anything resembling a reasonable timeframe.

At least for the moment, I'm satisfied with the agreement we have on the philosophical underpinnings of LT's domains of fun, and where to prioritize their limited time (As though they haven't already figured this out themselves :ghost: ) I'd really like to get into the meatier stuff. You said you have thoughts on specifics? Gimme gimme gimme :D
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Post

Re: The "Game" in LT

#14
That's the kindest response I could have received. Thank you for giving my notions a fair hearing.

Some minor clean-up, and then on to more filling fare.

On whether motivations change over time, I really didn't do that argument justice. I think the motivations/behavior distinction stands up well, but it's still possible that motivations also change over time even if behaviors do as well. So I didn't fully make that case.

1/2: Richard Bartle does think that (multiplayer) motivations change over time, and in specific ways. He goes into the details in his superb book, Designing Virtual Worlds. I'll let you research his perspective without biasing you with my interpretation of it. I'll just say this is really one of the only areas on which I disagree with anything he thinks, and that's only after some very cautious thought because he's the one who's invented much of our understanding of how people play together.

2/2: The reason I think motivations generally (I'll explain that caveat in a second) don't change is because to me that concept refers to innate patterns of comprehending the world: temperaments, in a word. These fundamental patterns of preference are innate, and form in-utero, because what they actually are is a saturation level for each of several key neurochemicals:

  • Dopamine: sensation-seeking, action, excitement, manipulation, risky behavior, tactical improvisation
  • Serotonin: security-seeking, orderliness, competition, material possessions, authority-following, logistical management
  • Testosterone: knowledge-seeking, mathematical skills, task-oriented, social difficulty, strategic planning
  • Oxytocin/Estrogen: identity-seeking, people-oriented, nurturing, relationship awareness, unrealistic, diplomatic engagement

It's because each of us, very early in life (in the womb, apparently), develops a saturation level for one or perhaps two of these four brain chemical receptors that we gain a particular set of needs -- the "X-seeking" description above. This is also why (to finally get around to my point) this innate temperament (i.e., "motivation") tends not to change for most people. If your brain is wired such that its saturation level for dopamine is higher (harder to satisfy) than other neurochemicals, then the motivation that is strongest in you is likely to be expressed as a constant need for action, for excitement, for moving around and doing things and manipulating things or people. And it's because this wiring generally remains stable that your core motivation, and thus your expressed behaviors, will tend not to change. This neurochemistry is the practical evidence I discovered, and is what supports the view I came to hold based on reading and long observation that core motivation doesn't change; there's no "growth" from one innate worldview to another over time.

There are two exceptions to this. One is trauma. A severe incident can shock a person so profoundly, and for so long, that their brain chemistry actually does change. I saw a small but powerful instance of this in my own father. He was extroverted and gregarious until his best friend died young and unexpectedly; after that my dad become withdrawn and has been introverted the rest of his life. So this can happen... but unless you believe (which I don't) that most people endure some kind of traumatic, life-changing event, then the experience of most people will be that they retain their innate temperament most of their lives.

The other exception comes with aging. It's been observed that many people tend to experience a personality shift once they hit a certain age. For women, this can begin around the time of menopause; the hormonal production that often makes oxytocin/estrogen their primary saturation neurochemical lets up a bit, allowing them to access more ways of interacting with the world than through caring for others. (This is, of course, a generalization, but we're talking about biologically female humans as a large group, not individuals who may have any kind of temperament.) Something similar, if less pronounced, happens for men later on. So although this makes it tolerable to say that "people's core motivation changes over time," it's sort of a special case. Also, considering that older folks probably aren't big gamers, this shift in temperament in the elderly is not highly applicable to our original subject of playstyle motivations. (Yes, I'm aware we may have at least one exception to that general rule among our membership here. :D )

Now, to that "multi-modal" thing: my thinking is that this actually does help with designing games, because it means there are specific interests to which particular gameplay features can be connected. That's a lot easier than trying to satisfy a sort of mushy, "yeah, I kind of like everything" medium interest level.

An example is Calm/Excited. If putting enough gamers together meant they started to have one peak preference for content that was sort of interesting, but not too relaxed, and not too sensational, every game would just do that. Instead, as you add more gamers I argue that you start to see two peaks: one around the "pretty relaxed" mark, and one around the "rather excited" position along the Calm/Excited axis.

And what that means is that you can design games to have features that are visibly peaceful, and the gamers who cluster near the Calm endpoint -- who most certainly do exist -- will be particularly interested in and satisfied by that game (assuming its content is properly balanced and polished). This is, in fact, exactly the case for "walking simulators," where the gamers who are wired to enjoy discovering new sights will enjoy these games like tourists, traveling from one enjoyable vista to another. Gamers who don't share this preference for calm play will think this is nuts, but that's their own internal motivation talking -- one that fails to appreciate that "different" doesn't mean "wrong." The gamers who cluster around the Excited end of the spectrum, who get jazzed by intense, fast-paced events that demand immediate reactions can be satisfied by games that offer this kind of content... and the "tourist" gamers likewise think this kind of "roller-coaster ride" game design is without much value, and they're wrong, too.

And so it is for all the other taste map things that might be created. Games whose developers understand the multi-modal nodes of play interests, and know what features are good at satisfying those distinct interests, have a better chance of being satisfying -- i.e., "fun" -- for each subset of gamers than games whose developers just sort of throw features together to see what sticks.

Note that word "subset": it does mean that trying to be "all things to all gamers" is really, really hard to do well. The only path to this that seems to work is to organize game content modes by space and/or time. In other words, you can't just throw all your Calm and Exciting content at the player at once in the same location. It'll just be confusing. Instead, you design the game so that content satisfying one playstyle is highlighted in a certain location, and content for other playstyles can be found in some other location. You can also change content over time -- maybe the player starts out doing exciting tactical play in a single-person dogfighting ship; then as they progress enough they gain access to more logistics-oriented RTS-style fleet management play; then after additional time and activity they become able to enjoy content supporting strategic planning gameplay. (Sound familiar? ;) )

Aaaaaaaaaaaand once again it's really late and I need to hit the sack before I go to work tomorrow. If I can stay focused, I'll try tomorrow to throw out some ideas in the neighborhood of "what specific features would work for LT to promote the kinds of gameplay its likely players want?"

But hey, nobody has to wait on me for that. :D

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