Real Rewards for Real Achievements
It seems like game designers have been struggling with reward systems a great deal over the last several years. The standard solution is to patch some achievements onto the game (often after the fact), give them some clever names, and hope that this inspires players to keep playing your game just a little longer. However, we believe that well-designed achievements are mapped to things the player does naturally in the game, while poorly designed ones involve gratuitous repetition of activities in-game long after the player has tired of the intrinsic joy of play. They are also often leveraged as ways to lead players into content they might otherwise ignore, rather than implement actual organic ways to lead the players to said content.
Of course, the pride a player can feel in having a row of shiny badges isn’t something to be dismissed out of hand, especially if those badges are mapped to meaningful activities in the game. Furthermore, in a multiplayer game, badges can certify real capabilities that other players can recognize as indicators of skill. However, in approaching the design of TUG, we feel that even well-designed badges of this sort simply aren’t enough.
First of all, achievements in TUG won’t just involve killing some arbitrary number of a certain creature, crafting a specific type of item, or moving an otherwise meaningless amount of resources from one location to another. As the game progresses through alpha and beta, we’re going to carefully observe a variety of player behaviors and figure out which ones are the most significant for tracking. In addition, we’ll be paying attention to what you say on the forums, since we know that these conversations can often point towards some of the most meaningful emergent player activities in a game.
In TUG, the consequences of achievements are going to extend beyond just having a badge or some other sort of image on your player profile. If you spend time crafting and reach benchmarks that we’ve determined are meaningful ones, you’ll have that visible form of certification on your page, but you may also have increased capabilities on the crafting forums because your authority is based on practice. Helping people in game may translate to social cache on the site because you’ve shown yourself to be a good samaritan who promotes the kinds of interactions we all want in our online spaces.
We’re also considering rewards that flow back in the opposite direction. If you use basic in-game research tools to help us garner better player-based data, you might be granted more powerful data collection abilities in game. If you show mastery of a specific segment of lore, you may be provided an opportunity to do things in-game connected to that part of the mythos that other players can’t do.
Game balance will, of course, always be a primary concern, and we’re never going to provide players with capabilities that leave the game broken. That said, experimentation is the name of the game. Alpha and beta are always the times when you tune the game and make it work as well as possible, generally by breaking it and forging it anew multiple times along the way. With a truly novel system like this one, we’ll probably be fixing things for a long time, even post-beta and into launch. Ultimately, our goal is to craft an achievement system that provides meaningful rewards for real play. Hopefully, you’ll agree with us that it’s a goal worth pursuing.
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