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on: August 29, 2010, 08:21:05 AM


Because I thought it was an interesting challenge:

Quote
The Challenge

Design a system for an MMO to incentivize limited play.

Assignment Details

There's been a fair amount of controversy over the past several years about players spending too much time in MMOs; some governments have even levied restrictions against games in the genre.

On the other hand, there is, perhaps, an even bigger crisis. Most MMO games are full of hand-crafted content. If players blow through your content too quickly, they'll become bored and leave the game. Creating game content up to contemporary standards is a painstaking and expensive process, so this is a crucial issue.

Your task is to design a system for an MMO which encourages players to limit their playtime in a game (or, perhaps, limit their progression but not their total playtime) -- but without making the player feel like they are being penalized.

Recently, Square Enix announced its system for upcoming Final Fantasy XIV which is supposed to serve this purpose -- to fan outrage. Here's a relevant link.

World of Warcraft had a similar, if simpler system in its Beta, which docked experience from players after a certain point -- and these players hated it, until it was swapped out for an essentially identical system, but one which characterized points earned early on as an up-front experience bonus.

Particularly in MMOs and other online games, there's a psychological element to game design. Be aware of it.

My initial thoughts are a bit derivative - give the bonus XP up front, use a schedule of diminishing returns, apply it across numerous systems so that there can be a range of 'optimal' xp paths when you hit the end of the bonus XP period with any one system - but I'll think about it further.

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Reply #1 on: August 29, 2010, 09:41:48 AM

Don't use a monthly subscription model.  Then players don't feel like they aren't getting their money's worth if they aren't playing every day.   awesome, for real

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Malakili
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Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 10:57:53 AM

Don't use a monthly subscription model.  Then players don't feel like they aren't getting their money's worth if they aren't playing every day.   awesome, for real

I've never understood this but I've actually heard it a lot of places.  I get the paper every day, but I don't have time to read all of it, or sometimes any of it, on a given day.  I don't stress out over this, and incidentally, my subscription to the paper is actually more expensive per month than a normal MMO subscription.  The only point of decision for me involving money is at the point of subscribing/resubscribing.  After that the money's spent as far as I'm concerned, so theres no sense making myself nuts about it.

Anyway, want people to play less - remove progression.  World War 2 Online has the smallest bit of progression, and I've never felt pressured to play that, and often will just participate in a battle here or there, during any given campaign.  The endless dinggrats treadmill/hamster wheel makes people keep playing obsessively because they get constant positive reinforcement.

Players might not like this though, and it also means that payment models might need rethinking as there are plenty of good multiplayer games already that have no fee.  I
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Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 05:48:49 PM

Animal Crossing.

Base the entire game around a set of daily tasks, but make sure they only productively occupy 45-90 minutes or so. You can hang around outside that period (crafting and selling in town, manning the auction house, sport PvP, chatting with friends), and you can complete your daily quests and tasks in various orders and with whomever you like, but after you're done you're done. You can hang around and play the auction house, chat, craft, decorate your apartment.. whatever. There's just no additional exploring available.

Failing to play for a day grants you some other sideways (non level/content devouring) advantage. Especially if you plan ahead. Gain money or specialized skills or crafting materials offline or whatever, like EVE, or act as a bonus resource to your friends... like in a hojillion Facebook games. The personal advantages for playing your hour are always better, though.

Also offer bonus quests on the weekends for the extra time many players have available then. Special clothes. Unique instances, PvP, or questing zones.
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Reply #4 on: August 29, 2010, 08:23:55 PM

Forest Fights. You only get 15. Then you're done for the day. ^^

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Reply #5 on: August 31, 2010, 05:33:40 AM

Eh? Facebook is built on limited play. Energy mechanic. Each action costs X. There. Done.
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Reply #6 on: August 31, 2010, 06:18:07 AM

Is this game for the masses or for the hardcore?  It it's for the masses then clearly schild is correct because a metric fuckton of people play the facebook games.  Not exactly what I'd call fun, but fun is largely in the eye of the beholder.

If we're going for more of hardcore crowd, who are already obsessive/compulsive, then here's my submission.

Game structure and business model are in all ways similar to any existing MMO.  We add "mojo" to every subscriber account.  Mojo influences the RNG.  Mojo is spent both actively and passively. 

Example of actively spending mojo - getting the mojo reward from a quest line. 

Examples of passively spending mojo -
  • you're playing the game (small mojo drain while playing)
  • you're close to death but the enemy forces currently fighting you are also close to death, mojo is spent to influence dice rolls for you and against the enemies to help you win.
  • Mojo is spent on named mobs to give you loot more appropriate for your character.

Not playing builds your mojo. 

Mojo is tiered "postive", "neutral" and "negative".

  • While mojo is "positive" it influences the RNG positively and regenerates (while not playing) at the fastest rate when you aren't playing.  This should allow you a couple of hour-long sessions a day and still keep your mojo in the positive (my guess is that we're looking for people to take breaks in their gaming)
  • When mojo goes "neutral" it is no longer actively spendable, but will still be spent to save your life.  It will still be spent on loot rolls, but it will not positively effect loot rolls.  When mojo is neutral, it takes longer to reach the mojo cap.
  • When mojo goes "negative" it still gets spent, but it negatively effects the RNG.  You're pretty much fucked when playing in the negative.
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Reply #7 on: August 31, 2010, 05:10:36 PM

I like the idea of having separate advancement streams, like gold and XP.

Like, say, when you're playing the game, you don't earn XP, you only earn gold.  And when you log off, your character goes to the library or something to study, thereby earning XP.  The player is encouraged to log out occasionally because if he can level up, he can earn money faster (higher level challenges = more money), but also encouraged to play regularly to earn gold so his his character can be properly equipped.  Maybe also include a mechanic whereby you can spend money to accelerate training to avoid players just logging out until they're level ten million.
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Reply #8 on: August 31, 2010, 07:03:35 PM

Eh? Facebook is built on limited play. Energy mechanic. Each action costs X. There. Done.

Truth.  Urban Dead and Nexus War are both fine examples of "worldy" MMOs with similar mechanics.

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Reply #9 on: September 04, 2010, 10:22:02 PM

Incentive to play less is not the same being unable to play more.

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Reply #10 on: September 06, 2010, 04:12:01 PM

Make it subless and design the game wherein the ultimate goal is to achieve a level of automation not even requiring you to login.
i.e. logging in costs action, but as you progress and get better, menial time-consuming tasks become more efficient and more automated. 

These action points would accumulate like spare cell phone minutes allowing the frugal gamer to devote more time to meaningful pursuits when needed - like 6 hr. 40-man raids, etc.
Allow these points to be auctioned just like everything else, for a small fee.  The fee will equate (under the table) to your normal monthly sub. for the average user, only the average user will be less aware they're actually paying a monthly sub.

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Reply #11 on: September 08, 2010, 01:38:03 AM

Incentive to play less is not the same being unable to play more.

Energy mechanic.  Each action costs X to initiate. N players can participate in any action, so long as they are willing to coordinate socially.


Not just proven in countless web based games, prior to facebook, but also in WoW with their seasonal 5-man quests.  Each player can start the quest/event once per day, but any player can participate in any number of attempts if they can keep finding someone to invite them to their group before starting the event.  Players will go once, five times, or N times depending on their motivation.  Accumulate an energy bank so you don't have to log in every day and you are there as a whole game mechanic and not just a periodic sideshow. 
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Reply #12 on: September 08, 2010, 06:18:39 PM

A mechanic that limits play or provides incentive to play less already exists, and as Schild pointed out early on, already exists and thrives in facebook type multiplayer environments.  I contend, however, that these work in large part due to the "free" nature of such games.  In a traditional subscription-based MMO, a large percentage of the playerbase will balk at such restrictions.  I know I personally prefer MMO's due to the low cost/hour in entertainment value.  Limiting my time and yet charging a subscription lowers this value considerably. Creating a game which limits play time shouldn't be hard.  Making one people want to pay for seems impossible.

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Reply #13 on: September 08, 2010, 06:39:11 PM

The entire market population is not driven by minimizing investment in order to maximize time spent engaged in the activity.

I'd suggest it is the market segment interested in maximizing enjoyment while minimizing time commitment is the segment that will buy you your second porsche after you get tired of your first.  The minimizer (time for money) market segment is by definition a bad place to seek revenue, unless you can convince them you are selling them a way to save more money.

I laugh at your paltry subscription fee: less than the cost of lunch for a month of gametime, hah!  You provide an enjoyable experience and minimize the advantages of Random_Chip_With_Keyboard who has 30 hours a week to burn and you can have a great deal more of my money than $15.99 a month. 
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Reply #14 on: September 09, 2010, 01:22:51 PM

An appropriate system to do this is entirely reliant on the reason you WANT to do this. Is it for the health of your players? To limit people rushing through content? To reduce strain on infrastructure? To limit disparity in player abilities? etc.

As mentioned there are lots of methods to do this. Which one is best is entirely based on why a designer wants to do this.

Speaking of marketing, we're out of milk.
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Reply #15 on: September 09, 2010, 02:00:13 PM

As mentioned there are lots of methods to do this. Which one is best is entirely based on why a designer wants to do this.
Quote from: Original Post
Assignment Details
...players spending too much time in MMOs.

...MMO games are full of hand-crafted content. If players blow through your content too quickly, they'll become bored and leave the game. Creating game content up to contemporary standards is a painstaking and expensive process, so this is a crucial issue.

A little bit of column A, but mostly column B: Money. Game companies want to have the maximum number of paying customers for the minimum investment in content. If we assume that, despite this, they're still going to make an MMO, what's the best way to limit the speed with which players consume their expensive, hand-crafted world.
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Reply #16 on: September 09, 2010, 05:44:41 PM

Creating a game which limits play time shouldn't be hard.  Making one people want to pay for seems impossible.

Facebook-type games make shitloads of money.  They just don't do it via monthly subscription models.

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Reply #17 on: September 10, 2010, 03:25:10 PM

True, but that's a different beast.  They're not paying to play, they're paying for perks (mostly) which is a significant difference for a lot of people for some reason.  And then there's money made from ads and shit.  *shrug*

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Reply #18 on: September 10, 2010, 03:29:03 PM

$100k of Facebook ad money buys just as many whores as $100k of subscription money.

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Reply #19 on: September 10, 2010, 05:02:47 PM

I see your point, but I'll fail to see the relevance until I play WoW with facebook ads rimmed along the borders of my screen.

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Reply #20 on: September 30, 2010, 02:43:02 PM

I see your point, but I'll fail to see the relevance until I play WoW with facebook ads rimmed along the borders of my screen.


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Reply #21 on: September 30, 2010, 06:12:50 PM

Blizzard has already banned ads and nag screens, so that is not really an argument.
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Reply #22 on: September 30, 2010, 10:37:46 PM

Quote
The Challenge
Design a system for an MMO to incentivize limited play.

Make real life more fun, rewarding and fulfilling for more people.

"Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism" - Rosa Luxemburg, 1915.
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Reply #23 on: October 03, 2010, 11:02:22 PM

Um, just make it turn-based with turns happening every so often? There's a whole big slew of indie browser-based TBS-ish MMOGs, some of them fairly large.
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Reply #24 on: October 04, 2010, 10:54:48 PM

Make it underwater based and you only have a daily allotment of X minutes of air.

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Reply #25 on: October 08, 2010, 06:44:52 AM

I think you guys have it totally backwards with the facebook style approach. Everyone I know that plays these "energy limited" style facebook games approach them with the attitude that they *must* login every day, as they only get so much time to do what they need to do. Unless you are going to actually boot people out after they do their daily tasks, you are just going to encourage them to log in every single day and once they are done their "turns" they are already at the PC, so they will just hang about looking for something to do.

When UO had a power hour, it made me feel obligated to log in every day to make sure I took advantage of it.

Some one above mentioned removing progression or advancement - awesome, you've just turned your MMO in to an Online Shooter. Like it or not, people consider progression an intrinsic part of RPG style games.

The better approach in my opinion, is to remove those elements that make the player feel they are losing something if they don't log in. SWG started feeling like a part time job to me after a while, because if I didn't log in every day to update my harvesters/factories, I was going to lose ground to everyone else. You need to find a way to make players feel less like they are in a race with everyone else.

Also, eleminate the massive power slope that results in level 30s not being able to play together with level 40s. Use a curve, higher you go, the less overall differential. Still make it obvious that you have advanced, just do it in more cosmetic ways, rather than pure combat prowess. Only game I ever saw get it close to right on that was AC.


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Reply #26 on: October 15, 2010, 12:30:34 PM

If you want them to login, give a bonus each day when someone logs in. E.g. - A two hour long exp bonus of 1.5. This also helps to keep them logged in for 2 hours, and log off easier after the 2 hours, as the play time gets less beneficial.
If you want them to logout, there's two ways. First, reverse my previous statement. The longer they stay logged in, the less gold/exp they gain for each kill/quest etc. The other way would be a simple limit on certain things. Like X amount of miles they're able to walk, or X amount of fights they can start. Hell, you can even limit the maximum accumulated damage they do each day.

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Reply #27 on: October 24, 2010, 07:47:42 PM

If you want them to login, give a bonus each day when someone logs in. E.g. - A two hour long exp bonus of 1.5. This also helps to keep them logged in for 2 hours, and log off easier after the 2 hours, as the play time gets less beneficial.
If you want them to logout, there's two ways. First, reverse my previous statement. The longer they stay logged in, the less gold/exp they gain for each kill/quest etc. The other way would be a simple limit on certain things. Like X amount of miles they're able to walk, or X amount of fights they can start. Hell, you can even limit the maximum accumulated damage they do each day.

Or you could just give them the xp bonus and have them realize that the game is grindy as fuck once the xp bonus expires naturally without penalizing them. The sane people will just play that 1 hour or 30 minutes of double xp and log off. The not so rational will pay you for more xp potions.
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Reply #28 on: October 27, 2010, 06:02:05 PM

EVE's approach to character development - assume everyone is running the maximum grind in the background and only force them to log on to do shit they actually want to do works pretty well.

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Reply #29 on: October 27, 2010, 08:30:36 PM

EVE's approach to character development - assume everyone is running the maximum grind in the background and only force them to log on to do shit they actually want to do works pretty well.

It would work better if the grind had an "end" so that older characters weren't permanently advantaged.

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Reply #30 on: October 28, 2010, 06:27:44 AM

EVE's approach never seemed to me like your character was progressing, rather it seemed like the game was cock-blocking the player into remaining sub'd for a set period of time before they were allowed to put on the big boy pants.  I know they are functionally identically, it just feels like a cock-block the way EVE did it.

Diablo 1/2 (for me) was the ultimate, "play an hour or two then do something else".  Add some group-focused dungeons, add some character abilities that have group focus, do not add the holy trinity, allow for reduced damage to PCs via positioning and cc.  Leave everything else the same about the game.

The first hour played gives an increased chance for good loot.
The second hour played gives a "normal" chance for good loot.
After that the loot chances fall off pretty rapidly.
Not playing a character restores their chance for loot pretty quickly.  Let's say 12 hours during the week, 4 hours during the weekend.

Implement player housing to give the players something else to focus on.  Implement crafting to build the items that decorate/adorn the player houses and make that the primary means of doing so.
Implement dual character paper dolls, one drives appearance, one drives combat.  Give players an option to only see the combat gear while in combat (rather not see someone fighting in their rainbow garb?  click this check-box)

Still want to play after two hours?  Work on your house, outfit or roll an alt.
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Reply #31 on: October 28, 2010, 07:51:13 AM

EVE's approach to character development - assume everyone is running the maximum grind in the background and only force them to log on to do shit they actually want to do works pretty well.

It would work better if the grind had an "end" so that older characters weren't permanently advantaged.

The diminishing returns are pretty drastic though.  I never got why people are so upset by this mechanic in the first place. I with eldaec on this one.  EVE's advancement system just let me play when and how I wanted to with no feeling of obligation to grind.  
EVE's approach never seemed to me like your character was progressing, rather it seemed like the game was cock-blocking the player into remaining sub'd for a set period of time before they were allowed to put on the big boy pants.  I know they are functionally identically, it just feels like a cock-block the way EVE did it.

Diablo 1/2 (for me) was the ultimate, "play an hour or two then do s

This is just a mentality problem.  Its so common to think that the "real game" only comes once you've hit some arbitrary level that it seems like people going to EVE often feel like they have no choice but to just wait.  People need to get over that and just ...play...

All of this is just to say, I think EVE is a great model for character advancement.  I think your Diablo + loot modification example doesn't meet the criteria of "doesn't make the player feel like they are being penalized."  I'd certainly quit a game that gave me less loot chance the more I played.    Mostly because of my schedule though.  I generally have very little time to play at all during the week, and then a large chunk of time of maybe 5-6 hours on a saturday or sunday where I can play solidly.  Your system would suck for me.
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Reply #32 on: October 28, 2010, 08:26:26 AM

[...] Mostly because of my schedule though.  I generally have very little time to play at all during the week, and then a large chunk of time of maybe 5-6 hours on a saturday or sunday where I can play solidly.  Your system would suck for me.

Then you aren't the target of the challenge.

Quote
The Challenge

Design a system for an MMO to incentivize limited play.

Assignment Details

There's been a fair amount of controversy over the past several years about players spending too much time in MMOs; some governments have even levied restrictions against games in the genre.

You have self-limited play and you aren't the target.  The target is to create a system to encourage the catass to catass less.

Not to say that you point about it feeling punative isn't valid.  I think a decent change to the model that I suggested would be to simply boost loot chance for the first hour, after that you had a "normal" chance.  Very similar to Wow.
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Reply #33 on: October 28, 2010, 08:53:26 AM

[...]
This is just a mentality problem.  Its so common to think that the "real game" only comes once you've hit some arbitrary level that it seems like people going to EVE often feel like they have no choice but to just wait.  People need to get over that and just ...play...

All of this is just to say, I think EVE is a great model for character advancement.  [...]

It's crappy metaphor time!

Saying that not liking a character progression scheme is "just a mentality problem" is like saying, "people who'd rather play fantasy-themed games need to get over it an play my sci-fi game because it's just a mentality problem".  

What it misses is what Nebu said (in his now-missing post):  some folks LIKE that their characters advance based upon their in-game actions.  I'm one of those folks.  It IS a mindset problem, but isn't one that you can just wave away with a, "get over it" attitude because neither you nor I will play a game that we don't find appealing.

Edit: fixed my crappy sentence
« Last Edit: October 28, 2010, 09:15:53 AM by Typhon »
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Reply #34 on: October 28, 2010, 09:05:07 AM

What it misses is what Nebu said (in his now-missing post):  some folks LIKE that their characters advance based upon their in-game actions.  I'm one of those folks.  It IS a mindset problem, but isn't one that you can just wave away with a, "get over it" attitude because neither you nor I just will play a game because it doesn't appeal to me.

I deleted my post because it didn't seem to add to the content of the thread.  Apparently I was mistaken. 

The short version was that many, including myself, would prefer an active progression scheme rather than a passive one (a la EvE).  Along those lines I'd also like to see a progression scheme that rewards both risk and efficiency.  The greater the risks I take as a player, the better my rewards and advancement ought to be.  Of course, this is a difficult scheme to balance and implement.

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