Prototype evaluation and Skinnerian loops

edited in General
This discussion was created from comments split from: <a href="/discussion/344/b-nandrew-stuff">B: Nandrew Stuff</a>.


  • I have a sort of criticism. Not exactly directed at "Nandrew Stuff" but more broadly at Nandrew's recent stuff. This is possibly a very tired suggestion. Or maybe one that is entirely missing the point. It's probably mostly an affirmation of common knowledge in the form of a rambling soliloquy by Black Ships.

    Desktop Dungeons, when it first appeared on the 7th January 2010, arrived with a brilliant twist on Roguelikes that made it a challenging strategic puzzle game AND as well as that it came with a meta-game that unlocked more content for successful plays.

    I feel that as good and as soaked-in-meaningful-decisions as the DD gameplay is, that the meta-game was equally astounding. Of course that meta-game was inspired by Roguelikes that came before DD, but it was, if anything, more effective in a contained game environment (as apposed to the endless sprawl of a game like Stone Soup).

    Making a really really meaningful decision before the start of the game is an incredibly good hook. Long after the game, while washing dishes or in conversation with loved ones, it allows the player to consider how things may have turned out differently if they had specified different parameters. I know this is whyI still return to DOTA long after declaring it "An exercise in genital torture" because perhaps if I had chosen that guy who summons tree-dudes then maybe I would suck less hard next time (a pondering which inevitably ends in me testing this theory and being equally frustrated by the results).

    But beyond DD's ability to give players the chance to spend all of their time at work, or while snuggling with significant others, resimulating DD encounters in their minds based on varying starting conditions, DD also offers powerful, addiction inducing, Skinnerian loops.

    I have become convinced that offering new content for the completion of tasks (as apposed to the content being tied to narrative progress) is the most compelling tool Indie game designers have. I am using "compelling" here in the addictive sense. I have no other way to account for why players continued to play Broforce well after they had finished all the levels and were then repeating them, by themselves, for the second, third or fourth time. In Broforce for the first 15 to 30 minutes players are unlocking new bros (this follows a similar pattern to Super Crate Box) and I believe this has a lasting effect; as a result players conflate patterns of behaviour (i.e. shooting stuff in Broforce) with receiving new exciting things (and as a fortuitous twist the new things in Broforce really are very desirable).

    On top of this, staggering content in this way also serves to teach the player gradually about the system, avoiding painful upfront tutorials if done right. Plus, looking forward to new content is ALSO compelling, though I've begun to believe that while this is a more overt compulsion it's kind of a case of: Give a man a fish vs a fishing rod that compels them to catch fish constantly. Except in this case it's about causing them to willingly sacrifice their spare time to your game.

    Over the years the thing that has baffled me about all this is that players will always say they are enjoying themselves. Even while they are jumping across the map again in Oblivion trying to increase their agility skill they will claim to be having a good time. I feel the danger here is that players will eventually feel that the time investment isn't worth the rewards. Everyone leaves Diablo 3 feeling tired and bored of it, for instance, no-one leaves Diablo 3 on a high note after an epic victory, it's always mid-way in a quest when the player realizes that it just isn't worth it.

    But DD isn't like that. DD always has a solid victory in stall for you to end off your career (or a catastrophic defeat, either way it will be dramatic). I'd hope that we'll achieve the same with Broforce. The fact is that DD, and Broforce I hope, are actually pretty fun without the compulsion.

    Now, I bring this all up for a reason. I suspect all of us, Nandrew especially, when we create a prototype (be it a puzzle roguelike or a Need-for-speed demake or a JRPG brawler etc) are hoping for a similar response to what Desktop Dungeons received. Some of us were there to observe the DD surge and have a pattern in our heads of what a successful response should look like. But as brilliant as the puzzle system in DD was, as cool as the Roguelike flavour is, and as wonderful as progressing from level 1 each game and eventually defeating a boss is, in my mind, those weren't the things that made it such that people couldn't stop playing and for them to build that critical momentum.

    (At the same time compulsion without flavour or interesting challenge would be a non-starter, I'm certainly not suggesting that).

    What I'm trying to say is that it is possibly very difficult to evaluate a prototype's potential when it is missing Skinnerian loops. We can evaluate how enjoyable the system is to learn and overcome. We can judge how many strategic options it produces, how much freedom of expression or how much pleasing feedback it has, but if we're expecting players to return again and again and remain excited we shouldn't expect that unless we've included elements that could cause that behaviour.

    It is of course true that games can be compelling without Skinnerian loops, but I feel that some games do need them to properly display the game's potential and any test of the game without those loops might be turning up only partially useful results.

    So I suppose what this is is an appeal to consider including elements of meta-game player-progress in our early prototypes. This is of course TOTALLY the wrong competition to do this in. But I'd argue Canabalt could not be released today and be nearly as successful as it was: it'd have to compete with Jetpack Joyride and others who offer a similar experience PLUS meta-game compulsion (though obviously that'd be chicken before the egg, but that's not the point).

    While a game that feels new is always a great goal (and I'd expect that everyone reading this is aiming at that), even a dramatically new feeling game can benefit greatly, at relatively low development expense, from staggering its complexity and rewarding players with content (if the game structure allows for it, which I'd expect is true for every game that doesn't rely deeply on immersion).

    Thanked by 3Karuji Fengol damousey
  • Is the Skinnerian loop a function of content? I ask this in tandem with: can you induce this Skinnerian loop without content? Because then we/you are wandering solidly into the content/mechanic discussion, and starting a game with content is going to be difficult in any case.
  • An interesting essay -- I'd almost afford it a thread of its own, since this may be missed if it's squirreled away here).

    It has always somewhat annoyed me that stupid-dumb-old Skinnerian stuff makes games popular, including the thick-as-bricks hooks that the DD alpha had in its metagame. But yeah, it does work and it really does need to be considered. I've had my mind changed about games several times (most recently? Infectonator) because the unlock hook kept me in juuuuuust long enough to understand that the game actually was pretty cool.

    So I suppose if such mechanics act as the gatekeeper to an interesting system and don't poison a game experience toooo much (grinding, usually), I'm happy to have them there.

    Something that should be noted, however, is that DD didn't come into existence with an unlock hierarchy. There were one or two versions of the game where you just had your class / race selection and went for it with pretty much no metagame. Such a consideration, I feel, is too advanced for a first draft of *anything*, though I think that bringing it in as soon as possible after the first response is definitely a good idea (I wanted different unlockable empire types on Minciv, and the next version of Radventure is going to have some unlockable content).

    Of course, I'd still be up for the function of staggering complexity (this is something that my recent offerings have struggled with), but even that brings the question: how much time, in an early prototype, should be reasonably spent on something that feels as "polished" as a difficulty curve or even tutorials?

    That said, DD's success has cast a long, grim shadow over my soul and I do find myself falling into a pattern of comparing it to my other games. Regularly torn between deliberately emulating it and deliberately departing from it, which makes my games rather weird (but hopefully decent enough).

    Also, awsdjfkgashjdgfasf I keep having these moments where I click "post comment" only to realise it doesn't actually happen, then leave the page with a draft still derping in place.
  • Thanks for reading the essay (smiley face).

    @Tuism Skinnerian loops happen in a lot of places in games. If you are not familiar with the it's worth looking up on Gamasutra etc (@Dislekcia at some point threw the term into the middle of a conversation and to appear smart I had to look it up). Basically any place where a player's actions are reinforced by positive feedback repetitively is a Skinnerian loop. But, as my argument goes, content unlocking is more powerful than one might assume, and it is harder to use in an abusive grindy way (so I made a lot of mention of it in my essay).

    @Nandrew I never start with the meta-game progress (it'd be impractical obviously to start an idea there, except in rare cases like ). But I do now think it's a not a bad idea to get it in as early as possible.

    But the main point I was trying to raise is that the pattern DD followed, I believe, was affected by its very early inclusion of Skinnerian loops, and this makes evaluation of contained problem type games kind of difficult now (this was that point that was actually relevant to the thread).

    For myself, I've been thinking about Skinnerian loops a lot in Broforce. The games that most people identify that it draws from (like Contra, or Metalslug) had progress defined by narrative, but while Broforce does draw from those sources I feel that Megaman is a far better blueprint. (Plus, obviously, Broforce is most indebted to Spelunky, Super Crate Box and Infinite Swat anyway.)

    Also: I do intend putting meta-game progress (with content unlocks) in very early into prototypes in future, when possible/sensible, as soon as I have enough gameplay to lock something at the start. I feel that getting players giving any game of mine more than a cursory playthrough (because they physically can't help themselves) is going to make their feedback more than valuable enough to offset the development cost (if I'm actually successful at making something compelling).

  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky have you seen the Extra credits video on skinner box techniques? Are skinner box techniques the same as skinnerian loops?
  • AAAAAaAAAaaAaaAAAAAAAAH fuck you @BlackShipsFilltheSky you just broke my brain, but like totally in a good way.

    @Stray_Train I would say yes, but allow me to expand. Skinner box is a sort of behavioral psychology, actually Skinner <i>founded</i> behavioral psychology. Skinnerian loops refers specifically to the application of the Skinner box to game design. So the OP deals a lot more with the application of behaviorism to games than the EC episode does since EC is basically telling people to avoid the use of Skinner techniques: they actually try and point people to relying on the aesthetics of the MDA framework.

    @Nandrew would you be happy if I told you that Skinnerian loops take no part of my love of DD? I actually really love DD for the mental challenge: the fact that I can sit staring at a boss, or enemy, and do the math to see the most effective way to beat it. DD is highly intrinsically rewarding, and requires the player to be self motivating. I'm going to take out that enemy that is three levels higher because I haven't done that yet, or I'm actually going to reach level 10 (I have still yet to reach level 10 in the beta).

    While that is my love of DD there is a certain level of compulsion to the game. I play until a beat a dungeon, and because DD is hard that can take a while: but it makes the reward that much sweeter. Actually thinking right now I kind of wish there was the peggle ode to joy when you win a level. Though the compulsion to play might be Skinnerian, but given that it my internal motivations, and I seem to stop after the singular hard fought victory I kind of question how much of a Skinnerian effect there is. (My favorite dungeon config if a human priest or monk without a god —codenamed Dawkins— so I can get to playing the game how I like without much effort in the meta)

    @BlackShipsFillT Ok I already said that the the OP was great. Also I totally understand why SCB is way more like crack than Broforce (in single player at least.) Since SCB explicitly states my progression, and give me a number to beat while not giving me a scoreboard to show me how much I suck. On the otherhand multiplayer broforce is too much fun when you are a dick.

    Me: Poke friend to rez me.
    Friend: Rezes me.
    Me: Gets broguiver, hangs back and lets friend clear enemies.
    Friend: Clears enemies, completely by himself, and kills boss, still by himself.
    Me: Jumps on to the chopper leaving friend to die.

    The above is a completely true story. I did it a number of times and he still chose to rez me every time.
  • @BlackShipsFillTheSky, if I'm understanding what your saying correctly, then my recent Shmup is a great example. The game is supposed to include lots of Skinnerian loop type things, but instead of focussing on it for the prototypes I messed around with player controls and enemy behaviours. Which are in a sense part of the Skinnerian loop because it's always fun to see a new type of enemy, but the problem is that my focus wasn't based around the loop but rather trying to make the enemy fun in isolation(if that makes sense).

    The feedback I got on the prototype was really good, but in hindsight I couldn't really test what I wanted to because I didn't implement the content in the correct way to reward tasks with new content.

    As far as why people play broforce over and over, for me it's the excitment of doing the levels in a different wat once you unlock a new bro. I tend to group the bros in my head while playing according to their guns. For instance BroNorris = "the miner", when I play him I usually just dig everything out and don't actually fight. BroDredd = "The jumper"(until recently), Rambro,Willis = "gunners". So depending which bro I control I tend to play the levels very differently, and as a result I see different parts of the level or apporoach the same parts differently which keeps the experience fresh all the time.
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    @Stray_Train Yeah, Extra credits covers Skinnerian loops. Only he views them as explicitly negative. I agree with @Karuji's evaluation of the episode.

    (Though personally I'd go a bit further and suggest that while Extra Credits is a useful as far as learning semantics, theory and game criticism, I've never found his values to be useful in guiding my work. Extra Credits seems focused on post-game discussion and very light on actually making games, and that particular episode I'd argue is actually terrifically harmful in its naivety/idealism).

    I do agree though that Skinnerian loops can be purely abusive. e.g. gambling, farmville etc. @Nandrew pointed to this as well.

    Also, Extra Credits mentions Skinner's finding that making the rewards somewhat randomly spaced (like loot drops in Diablo) is excellent for achieving compulsion. I suspect obscuring the player's proximity to the next reward would have a similar effect (e.g. Super Crate Box has explicit unlock values, but doesn't have a closeness to next unlock constantly on screen, which makes getting closer to the next upgrade somewhat unknown and maybe a bit more compelling? Maybe?).

    Though I feel DD manages to have powerful Skinnerian loops without being abusive. Which in itself is an astounding achievement.

    Also, @Karuji Yeah! Nice spotting of the lack of foreshadowing the next bro unlock in Broforce. I realized this as well when I started thinking about Skinnerian loops. Foreshadowing unlocks is something lacking in Broforce right now that SCB has (and SCB's implementation of the foreshadowing is so simple and effective).

    Also, @Karuji I love how people can do, and do do, ridiculous things like screwing over their friends in Broforce. But, now knowing your tendencies, I might be somewhat apprehensive when next I play it with you (smiley face).

    Also, @Karuji About you playing DD as much as you have/do. The thing about the Skinnerian effect that DD may be having on you is that you wouldn't know about it if it is working. The effect on the player of a good Skinnerian loop is simply that playing more of the game will seem more appealing. That said, of course a game of DD (and I hope Broforce) has other value, I'm not trying to diminish that.

  • I think when it comes to Skinnerian loop there is a fine line between abusing it to enforce behaviour and using it to encourage behaviour. The one is part of the reward for playing the game and the other is evil.
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    My position is this: Unless your game is fundamentally ground-breaking you're in competition against games that do use Skinnerian loops to their advantage. Being principled and making games which are fun but players "enjoy" less is an unsustainable position. And, compelling games don't have to be any less fun.
  • @Rigormortis

    Regarding your SHMUP. I don't think there's anything wrong with focusing on behaviours and controls, those are fundamentals to making a fun game. I think getting the meta-game progress is important as well, if not just as important in the type of game you were trying to make. (I think it calls itself "Diablo Shooter" in the title screen).

    I've messed up on getting Skinnerian loops right plenty of times. It's as much a function of practice as the rest of game development. In the OP I think I argue for trying to include Skinnerian loops in prototypes, I believe it's an important skill to learn, more and more game jam games have explicit meta-game progress (many many Ludum Dare games) and I do worry that doesn't push very hard for learning Skinnerian techniques.

    So the fact that you are prototyping these ideas is pretty awesome.
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    @BlackShipsFilltheSky, I'm not against Skinnerian loops(if I gave that impression). Hmmmm, I guess what I am trying to say is that there are games that basically only offers Skinnerian loops as a reason to continue playing. There is nothing inherently fun in the gameplay, it's the Skinnerian loop that hooks you and keeps you playing. But as soon as the loops run out it's not fun anymore. Which begs the question, was it actually fun to begin with?

    When I think of Skinnerian loops and how to implement them, I usually try and think of a way where once all the content has been unlocked the player will want to do most of the game over because he has finnaly reached a point where he has everything just like he wants it and he wants to push this setup to the limits, and then maybe change the setup and try again. Which I think is the same thing you talked about with the DD meta Game?

    Edit: You posted just before me. It wasn't wrong to try the movements and stuff, it's just not that important(at this point) to what I was trying to achieve with the prototype. That is how I feel about it now anyways. And I actually "named" it diablo shooter following some comments made by @Tuism :P
  • @Rigormortis I guess I'm just saying there is no danger in using Skinnerian techniques if your goal is to make a fun game. And that I feel that Farmville (and other purely compelling games) is overshadowing any debate about actually making fun AND compelling games (and the fact that Farmville needs to enter into this conversation at all isn't constructive).

    Which isn't to say I'm disagreeing with you at all. I'm just trying to keep the conversation on track instead of degrading to fear-of-farmville scare stories.
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky, I have honestly never even seen farmville gameplay so I can't say anything about it. But yeah, I can see that the conversation is getting side tracked from the OP. That being that we should put in more Skinner stuff in our prototypes right? :D I'm trying to do something for the current comp that also has a skinner type leveling thang going. Hopefully I can get it up by tonight then we can see how it ties in with what your are saying here...maybe?
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    @Rigormortis Nice! I'm keen to check it out!

    I really do like the idea specifically of content unlocks, which I was praising in the OP a lot. Content Unlocks seem to me to be an elegant solution to a lot of design problems right now (e.g. intrinsic tutorials, creating compulsion, allowing for building anticipation, incremental exploration, staggering the game's mastery, etc).
  • I really love this discussion but I have nothing more to contribute. Rock on @BlackShipsFilltheSky and @Rigormortis!
  • I think it might be useful to differentiate between a skinnerian loop and metagame content unlocks (it seems the two terms have become intermixed in this discussion). Please correct me if I'm wrong, as I understand a skinnerian loop is any kind of feedback structure that conditions a person to perform a certain set of actions with a reward. An effective skinnerian loop usually has a certain set of characteristics: a tangible reward, the reward is closely tied to performing the action (picking up a crate in SCB unlocks, killing a monster in Diablo drops loot), but the reward is unpredictable (you don't know which weapon/piece of loot you will receive for performing the action). Having the reward closely tied to the action makes learning which action to perform easier, having random rewards increases the reward factor. For example, if you could kill any monster in diablo and receive a suitably powerful piece of loot, loot would lose all value, or you would only want to kill a new monster once you got tired of your weapon. The random rewards reinforce the "but the next skeleton i kill could drop a +20 pendulum of pwnage and my set would be complete!" feeling which really adds to the compulsion factor.

    The point I'm trying to get to here is that any game has some form of skinnerian loop in it. Initially rewards came in the form of score, but this is not effective as the reward is not tangible enough and the reward is too predictable: Jump on a goomba, get 100 points. Very few people seem to care about their score when playing Mario, and will rather try and complete levels: you haven't seen the next level yet, so you are unsure of what reward you will receive, and the new area to explore is a tangible reward.

    The thing with prototypes is that, most of the loops are spanned out only on micro scale: shoot a guy, he explodes into gibs (a satisfying, if predictable, sensory reward). These micro loops are enough to make the game compelling in the short term, but to make a really good game, you need to encourage longer term engagement, and a good way to do this is to give rewards on meta-accomplishments. XBox and steam achievements are an attempt at this, but IMO fall flat due to not having a tangible reward. Imagine how compelling getting XBox achievements would be if, for each one you got, you unlocked a new stage, character, ability etc.

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    Or perhaps in simpler terms: Additional content/power is the carrot for the player, displaying metagame unlocks is the dangling of said carrot, and Skinnerian loops are about driving the player a little nuts because they're not sure when they'll actually get the carrot. :)
  • @raithza I agree that there is a certain intermixing of Skinnerian Loops, and meta content. Though to hit the first one off the bat xbox achievements are tangible, just not in the game itself. XBL Score is a meta game or gamifying games. If you play through a game to unlock all the achievements to gain the points then you have effectively been conditioned to do so. TF2 had achievements that yielded, tangible, in game rewards. Also during the christmas sale last year there were tangible result for game achievements.

    I think a problem with this kind of evaluation is that when you boil things down to the game loops it can become rather uncertain where things are. Some thing fall under the MDA framework, so of it fall under lenses, and some of it is Skinnerian, but that there is still the cross section. As @BlackShipsFilltheSky pointed out even though I don't feel the effect of a Skinnerian loop in DD does not mean that it is not a present underlying thing. So even if I am not consciously aware that the 100 points from the goomba is motivating me subconsciously it might be.

    With regards to meta achievements as motivation, and the following is completely personal, but achievements have recently pissed me the fuck off. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution: when I saved Malik I didn't need the game to tell me well done because I knew I was fucking awesome in that moment. Since ye know I had to load from save 25 times to do it (I was going for the doing it without killing anyone ok). The diminished my intrinsic reward from completing it. Chris Hecker did and excellent talk at GDC2010 about achievements.

    Further on the issue of achievements. What you are talking about is exactly what the EC episode was about, or so I feel since I feel BSFtS would contest this interpretation. But the use of a skinnerian loop by itself won't make a game feel for-fulling, but applying the thought of the aesthetics of MDA to a game allows for you to continue playing and not going WTF am I doing with my life.

    @BlackShipsFilltheSky (or in short BSFtS) to start slightly off topic. I really enjoy EC, but I have come to realize that their audience is not game developers, but game fans, who are interested in what goes on behind their games. Hence why it is light on the actual meat of developments.

    More back on topic now. While I agree that as designers we must be aware of skinnerian loops and their uses I feel the reason that EC was so highly against them is due to the fact that they can have an overwhelmingly negative impact. They are extremely powerful, and so with great power comes great responsibility. Given the time that the episode was made and the huge rise of social gaming I believe that it was perceived as more of a threat than it actually is, but I still believe that Skinnerian loops can be far to easy to abuse.

    I think the best example that I can give is to contrast the feeling of people who played Diablo2 and Diablo3. In general the people who comment on Diablo3 felt like they have wasted time since the game was just a giant skinner box where better loot = better progression. This is opposed to Diablo 2 where the player had to make informed choices, and deal with the consequences of their actions. As much as the devs argued that people could just Google and min max the skills the end result seems to be more hollow as opposed.

    To talk about SCB, since you have again made me realize how amazing it is. The fact the the boxes for the next unlock is obfuscated from the player during play is actually amazing since it allows the player to focus solely on obtaining a higher score during the time of play. So while the player is getting rewarded for extended play by the skinnerian loop which is also the aesthetic of exploration. The focus of the play itself is still inherently moment to moment.

    I think one definite advantage the both DD and SCB have over Broforce is that the entire game is contained in a single screen. This results in a much more focused play as it requires less attention, and makes the game feel more concise. I know you will reference the fact that the Broforce exploration grown from Spelunky. But the nature of older roguelikes lent aid to this.

    I know this is what you posed in your initial post that people once they have discovered everything still seem to play even though they have discovered everything, which you attribute to skinnerian conditioning. I would put forth the idea that there is actually three very strong aesthetics that continue in Broforce after you have discovered and completed the game.

    Sensation: Blowing shit up in Broforce is KEWL COOOOL. I think @dislekcia pointed out before that you have a certain mastery of particles and juiciness. That is really what kept me playing BassCannon for about 3 hours straight (it's how long it felt) despite my dislike of dubstep.

    Challenge: While I initially would scum for a hero I found easier to play. It is often the case that one might try to complete a level with only a single character and no deaths. Although you still have to scum for the character. But there are a variety of challenges in Broforce like this. And with the recent balance tweaks it is only getting better.

    Abnegation: The simplicity of Broforce makes it great to just chill out and watch shit blow up.

    @BSFtS the first time I dicked my mate out of the helicopter it was kind of unintentional. He freed me, but I messed up a jump and fell behind. So by the time I caught up the helicopter was there. I jumped on and he did not. After that it became a competition to see who could win. I would argue that Broforce is a perfect example of a co-op competition game. I know @aodendaal has been struggling with this in his card game. So there is no need to worry, unless I get broguiver, I'm just kinda terrible with him.
  • @Karuji I'm certainly not suggesting that Broforce doesn't have a lot of pure fun value that can last well after the first playthrough. It's designed that way intentionally.

    Just that, by my calculations, that still wouldn't fully account for how much repeat play has actually occurred. (And by my calculations, these repeat plays would not be as prevalent if we had just had all the bros unlocked at the start).
  • I really don't have much to add to this discussion other than
    1) Walls of texts! You guys make for interesting reading...
    and 2) Regarding broforce I agree with @Karuji a lot more than @Rigormortis because I'd say I've probably played my fair share of Broforce and I always play alone, with no freeing of extra bros, and I (almost) always go the exact same way about it. Challenge and abnegation...but probably mostly just the sensation bit, shooting 1 guy and watching 3 screens worth of terrorists blow up is fun :P
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    I'd sorta just like to point out that the term Skinnerian Loop to me has to have an element of random reward. That's the part that drives compulsion: not knowing if you'll get a reward or not next time you perform the same action. Skinner studied that with rats, food pellets and levers. We mess with it with players, loot and monster kills, for instance. If you always know an enemy kill is going to drop a neat thing, you only ever need to do that once.

    So I would argue that DD doesn't have any Skinnerian mechanics in its meta-game: You get your reward for completing a dungeon every time; You always get that item reward from completing a quest; You always get that character class from upgrading that building; etc. DD does have a very important Skinnerian element though, except it's part of the moment to moment gameplay instead: Every time you uncover a block.

    Super Crate Box has this epic Skinnerian Loop when you pick up a crate. You never know which gun you're going to get, but you fucking know you have to pick up those crates to get score! Sometimes you get the grenade launcher and life is brillig, other times you FUCKING DISC LAUNCHER ARGH!

    On the OP topic: I think that initially a prototype is about refining and experimenting with gameplay. Then, once you have a better handle on how people mesh with your gameplay (and it's totally possible that people simply don't, in which case you'll just try a new prototype), you should test out how to structure that gameplay in terms of progression. So I kinda feel like gameplay progression and goal-setting is super important in terms of taking a prototype to the Next Level™, but you can't do that without solid gameplay that can have different flavors first.

    TLDR: Prototype to test gameplay first. Then prototype to test goals and progression.

    -edit- Well that's what I get for taking ages to type up a response, people said pretty much everything I wanted to say, except for the identifying of the random events in DD and SCB, and the goal/progression timing
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    @BlackShipsFilltheSky, you make an interesting point about the bros being unlocked from the start. I would like to say that I would have played ust as much, but I'm afraid I can't say either way. How long did you estimate would people be playing the game? And how did you calculate an estimation even? (wide eyed surprised face)

    @D3zmodos....oh I see, that's how it is, is it? Disagreeing with me....that's so, so....clever. :P I think I try to play it like a puzzle game that's why I tend to use the different bros in extreme ways.
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    @BlackShipsFilltheSky I think the strength of Broforce's engagement actually lies with when a player dies. Essentially, you reward the player for dying by giving them a different and perhaps new character. This is about as tangible as a reward can be: it directly changes how a player plays the game. The randomness of which character it might be, also enhances the reward a player feels.

    This thread so far has been dealing with only extrinsic rewards mostly, but @Karuji did touch on intrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards ,such as loot drops in Diablo 3, are linked to extrinsic motivation. This is often only effective in motivating players in the short term as it leads to grinding, feelings of empy achievement and finally quitting the game (games designed around loot drops suffer this problem a lot). Extrinsic rewards and motivation are the type of behaviorism Extra Credits and also Gamasutra are concerned about abusing in games.

    However, intrinsic rewards and motivation are often what keep players engaged in the long run.The self-determination theory is aimed at achieving intrinsic motivation in players. It is made up of achieving feelings of competence, relatedness and autonomy. I think Broforce and many other successful games achieve these three elements.

    Games inherently have feelings of competence through completing levels and feeling generally better at games (this where Broforce achieves competence currently). However, this is further manifested in content unlocks and RPG leveling - any visual representation of progression achieves this essentially.

    Relatedness is achieved by people engaging in the same task, talking to one another about the experience. This is achieved by Broforce through co-op and larger games through multiplayer.

    Autonomy is also an inherent part of games: voluntarily involving oneself in a game is an element of defining play and games. Moreover, agency in how to achieve in-game goals also assists in this regard, both in a larger sense of classes and the smaller sense of various routes to achieve goal such as in Dues Ex. Broforce achieves this through the multiple characters, although players don't directly choose these, I still believe it allows enough variance to constitute autonomy.

    Achieving these elements leads to intrinsic motivation and thus long-term engagement and enjoyment. That's probably why your calculations about play alone accounting for repeat play, don't add up: because it's also related to intrinsic motivations.

    Sorry for the longish message, psychology of games is a interesting topic for me.
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • Oh and @dislekcia, Skinnerian loops don't inherently require random rewards. The pigeons in the study knew when they would be rewarded, but they still engaged in the system. He also studied various schedules of rewarding the pigeons, and he did find randomness increased the pleasure of a reward, but it wasn't required.
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    @dislekcia I knew I forgot to put the random factor into it somewhere since a large part of skinners experiments was that he could make birds believe that turning around in a circle three times would cause food to drop. Also I didn't know he did things with rats.

    @BSFtS from our many interesting discussions I am well aware of your design prowess so I hope that I didn't infer that you might have not considered the pure fun. But I would be interested in seeing the math (I assume there will be explosions).

    Edit: Gah @Bensonance posted while I was typing. Need more words.
  • @Bensonance with regards to Broforce we are largely focusing on the discussion of how people are playing it further in single player than @BSFtS expected. The reason is that any game given a social experience has a much greater capacity for play. I can only play so may permutations of choices in Deus Ex, but there are an almost infinite amount of permutations to Dota matches. I personally believe that fellowship is the most powerful aesthetic that a game can use.

    With competence there is a limit. Even if you progress to the extreme of defeating a level using only a single life, and every level with every character there is a finite amount play possible since the player will gain mastery and eventually completely the game in such a manner.

    Also is there somewhere you could point me where you read about autonomy and agency, from what I have read you are using them in a severely different context. From what I'm gathering here you are using autonomy as the player's will to invest in the magic circle. And agency in the context of the ability to choose a mechanical progression.
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    Derp. I'm probably going into the dopamine studies with rats, not Skinner's original experiments, because those are more interesting to me: The core takeaway being that random reward schedules created much more lever pushing in rats than repeatable reward schedules did. The interesting part is that random rewards activate a completely different set of pathways in the brain, reinforcing dopamine release simply for the act of pushing the lever; Compared to the negative effect on dopamine release upon receiving the reward that comes with regular reward schedules.

    Bottom line for me is that random rewards that are unknown make the act of revealing the unknown the point of actual brain-juice reward. Which is what makes that sort of game experience compelling... That's why I hold that the exploration in DD is the Skinnerian element, not the fixed and predictable metagame. The thing that makes DD less exploitative is that we ask you to figure out what to do next with the random things revealed as you discover them and then the act of revealing is overloaded as a primary part of how you choose to proceed and solve the emerging puzzle, unearthing more of it naturally as you go.
  • An off topic, on topic video.

  • @Karuji Yes I understand, I was merely attributing this to intrinsic motivation. The social exchange or relatedness can expand to outside the game itself, to a forum, for example. I posit that the larger the community an individual can engage with on the task, the higher the level of relatedness and thus, the more motivated they become. This begins to leak into theoretical psychology, however.

    I agree with your point on competence: there is definitely a level. For me this is often just the end of a game's narrative or last level. Which is the point where players often stop playing single player games. However, this is unimportant because intrinsic motivation -in single player games at least- must largely only extend to motivating players to complete the game. Simply, the intrinsic motivation a player has is completely unique: this might extend only to the end of the game, but also perhaps to completing every achievement.

    I used agency incorrectly there, my mistake. I meant to use autonomy to refer to both those contexts.

    @dislekcia Agh, there is some interesting, albeit complex, psychology I could go into in response, but basically your observation about why DD isn't exploitative, falls in line with psychology theory. Dealing with the random events is what is rewarding and this is because the reward itself isn't random (I assume this from your post).
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    @Besonance Thanks for the AWESOME analysis of Broforce. It's really awesome hearing it from someone else's perspective in their words. Also, the things you said were quite nice as well. Most of the things you mention are things we're actively trying to make even more prevalent in Broforce.

    @Karuji & @Besonance I'm not trying to overlook the other positive aspects of Broforce. Obviously we have made a lot of decisions asides from unlocking content in order to enable systemic mastery and bro-operation and promote playfulness (the things @Besonance mentioned, and hopefully we'll improve these further without to many compromises in the final version). And a lot of things have fortuitously fallen into place. But I am isolating the unlock mechanic and giving it special attention (and a lot of what you might feel is undue emphasis) in this thread.

    With regards to the accuracy of "my calculations", which are really "feelings" if I were to be honest, the game didn't start with unlocking of new bros, it took quite a while to get there in fact. In its Ludum Dare state it had a smallish selection of bros and 4 levels, and it got little or no replaying that I am aware of (but some nice comments). There was a noticeable point where players were willing to play repeatedly, and it did come after there was unlocking (though a number of other things also changed of course).

    Though it's obviously a hard thing to judge and weigh various influences of various mechanics on the player psych. I do maintain that I have become convinced that the bro unlocking (in both Super Crate Box and Broforce) has a counter-intuitively long lasting effect on the game. Which is what I was trying to draw attention to in the OP. Not that "The unlocking is the core dynamic of Broforce" but that "I believe the unlocking has a subtly greater effect than I'd previously believed".

    [edit] Ack, to many replies before mine! @Karuji beat me to it.
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    @Dislekcia Regardless of whether it be Skinnerian or not (and I'll agree I am using the term too loosely) my intention was to highlight the weight of the meta-game in evaluating prototypes and to argue for content unlocks as a powerful psychological tool (more powerful in my opinion than any other reward, and a device that can cause the start of a new game, or victory itself, to acquire greater long-term meaning for the player).

    I mean to say that I believe the content unlocks in DD affect the players' perception of the game even after everything has been unlocked, and at the very least the unlocks sustain player interest for long enough for other elements to produce compulsion.

    And that due to the lack of this meta-game in Nandrew's recent prototypes the results may have been less exciting than is really fair to these prototypes (as inevitably they are being compared to the pattern DD took).
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    @Bensonance Would the subject matter of Broforce, the fact that we're borrowing from established culture, fall under "Relatedness"?

    (I don't usually use those set of psychological terms when speaking about design, I tend to talk from the developer side and the artist side rather than from the player side... I mean, I'd probably prefer to use the term "Resonance" if I thought anyone would understand that better).

    (Sorry, this is definitely a deviation)
  • @Bensonance: Mind you, that's just a pap diagnosis made without first consulting your entire medical history...

  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky: Oh, I agree with that, I just wanted to point out that while a lot of prototypes are definitely missing that kind of progression when they're first posted, I feel that's not really a bad thing.

    Mostly because I'm not convinced that you can get enough solid gameplay mechanics feedback from players if you focus on goals/progression too soon in a game. Hence why I suggest prototyping for gameplay first, to give you a core to build a progression system around. And yes, you should totally prototype progression - that's also something that happened a lot with DD ;)
  • @BlackShipsFillTheSky The aesthetic of Broforce does play a role in its relatedness, but not directly. Having content which features prominently in popular culture means more individuals will have experienced it and thus will have more discussions about the content/game. Simply: popular culture references = more discussion = higher/more frequent relatedness.

    @dislekcia You must have been waiting this whole thread to pull that out :D.

    With regards to the overall subject of this thread, should we really focus on consciously and actively trying to implement Skinnerian loops? My perspective on design, in general I suppose, is that it is more of an intuitive application of said psychology. I feel this way because at some point I always feel there is a gap between these psychological principles and the fun of the game. I mean, if game design was more application of psychology and less intuitive design, wouldn't it be easier? I fear that I might have overlooked a post or two that answered this question, so sorry about that.
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    I totally agree that you cannot begin with meta-game.

    My experience with meta-game is this:

    I spent a fair amount of time making prototypes, at Game.Dev forums and by myself. I made games for a living for several games after that (and somewhat overlapping that). Several of the prototype games did have progress, some were several months in the making. I did try quite a few game progress ideas, some more successful than others. All of the for-hire games had some kind of progress/meta-game.

    But when I decided to do an RPG (in collaboration with Tasty Poison Games), something I thought I'd be good at, easily the weakest element of the game was the meta-game/player progression. Pocket RPG actually sold really well, mostly on the strengths of the art and feel of the gameplay, which were things I'd practiced pretty hard. But I was wholly under-prepared for designing a good meta-game. The considerable thought I'd put into it simply wasn't enough.

    So I do feel it's something worth practicing and not leaving as an afterthought. I know that's not what you're saying @Dislekcia. Obviously you take meta-game very seriously and are very interested in it and have experience implementing it. Also obviously the current competition running is explicitly not about meta-game but about refining the core gameplay.

    So I'm not saying prototypes when first posted should include meta-game progress, I'm more saying I wish more games at MakeGamesSa got as far as implementing meta-games before running out of steam (because designing meta-games is something we need to be good at). When we work on our first big game should not be the time we have to learn to implement a decent meta-game (as it was for me).

  • BlackShipsFilltheSky said:
    because designing meta-games is something we need to be good at
    So much of this. And on that note, are you planning something of the sort for Bro Force? I am having diffictuly seeing how one would do that, but maybe you have found a way? Please share :)

    @Dislekcia, do you think it's possible to make the progression part of the gameplay? Personaly I always found that progressing through the game was as much a part of the game as the actual clicking and hitting stuff(speaking from a mostly RPG experience). It probably depends on what your defenition of gameplay is, but I don't think that I would have played RPG's like Diablo or Baldur's gate if it were not for the progression part. Or another good example is something like a JRPG, most of the time the gameplay is pretty bad. But the progression in the story/plot makes it worthwile.
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    @Rigormortis We'll be implementing a simplified version of part of the meta-game we have in mind for Broforce in a separate prototype. As Daniel Cook points out in that article I linked, often the hardest thing about meta-game implementation is testing it (because the meta-game operates on a much larger time scale). So it's very easy to fall into the trap of only really testing the game's progression at the end of the project, by which stage it might be too late to fix it.

    I don't believe I have experience enough to cook up a good meta-game for Broforce out of our heads or our design doc, and the meta-game we have in mind relies on features that won't be implemented for a while, so we'll try out some of the ideas separately in a smaller project that takes place over less time so that we have some information to work with when it comes to the real deal.
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    @Bensonance any designer (not just game dev) draws inspiration and learning from a variety of fields and it's not necessary to be a master in any of them to develop a game to be creative

    What's happened is we've got a word for "that thing in a game that makes players come back to continue playing it" just like the word for "that smell you get after rain"; and the word allows us to share a common idea, teach it to others and recognize it. By no means does the word mean you fail if you don't implement it at every opportunity or full comprehend it. It just allows you to join the conversation
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky: Agreed, I'd love to see more games with rewarding progression here :)

    @Bensonance: Nah, I was just reminded of the line by us talking about psychology. I think the main idea as a designer is to be as well read about surprisingly disparate things as possible, if there's something fascinating lurking in a concept, chances are you can expose that fascination to people via a game somehow. Personally I think that awareness of cognitive science (psychology to me isn't quite as stable, I really don't care if people tell me I'm more Jungian than Freudian, I'm not making games about penises anyway) is useful when it comes to refining stuff that intuition throws together. Then again, I often intuit which random knowledge to use when analysing specific gameplay, so I'm probably talking out of my arse ;) Identifying Skinnerian Loops in your gameplay lets you address them, either you want to strengthen them and their impact on the player, or you want to weaken them so they're not a net negative impact. You can't do either if you're not aware of them in the first place.

    @Rigormortis: I think exactly how closely they're tied together comes down to your specific gameplay. What you're really doing with a meta-game is providing longer-term goals for the player to frame their perception of time vs reward in the game. This references the idea of multiple goals in your players' minds at the same time: A 3 second goal, a 30 second goal, a 3 minute goal, 10 minute goal, 30 minute goal, 1 hour goal, etc. Of course, that's just a rule of thumb, but if you analyse your game according to that framework and notice that your players aren't naturally creating 30 minute or hour goals, then you probably need to figure out some form of meta-game to foster those.

    Regarding prototyping FOR meta-game and progression design, it's actually a really time-consuming thing. In DD the progression first emerged from @Nandrew's head based on the perceived difficulty of the different classes and some of the balance changes he was messing with at the time. With the Unity rebuild of the game, we introduced a lot of extra meta-game content and player-directed stuff there, which meant that testing it became really bloody hard.

    Having a huge group of players actively going through everything whenever we did something new was great, but we didn't start tracking what they were doing right away. Tracking player choices when designing this sort of thing is super helpful! You can see exactly where players get stuck or where certain decisions are just no-brainers. Earlier tracking in DD would have made our lives easier... We also implemented a bunch of cheat keys that would let us progress through the actual gameplay at lightning speed, making the meta-game open up to us much faster. It still takes a lot of time massaging the game into the right quest- or unlock-state to test specific things though.

    TL-DR: Meta-game prototyping requires large amounts of gameplay time investment. Both from you and your testers. I think that's another reason that you can only really get to it once you've got really juicy gameplay: Before that point it's very difficult to get people to invest their time in the game. So the sweet spot to start meta-game stuff is right when players tell you they're having fun with a prototype, but they stop playing it after an hour or so anyway.
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    I'd love to see Fling-Fu with some meta-game, or other prototypes here receive a meta-game (like Min-Civ etc). Partly because in some cases I think the developer would benefit greatly from the experience (asthere are a lot of ways to mess a meta-game up, and I've tried several of them).

    But also, I do think a game with some staggered progress and long-term goals on top of juicy gameplay can command greater play times. This equates to better feedback, more passionate players (because investing time in a game affects one's perception of value I think, and in theory they'll be "enjoying" themselves more) and therefore a much greater likelihood of it breaking out into news sites like

    I think beyond getting experience in meta-game development there are a bunch of other potential benefits/experiences that could be denied by lack of a meta-game (assuming the gameplay is juicy enough, which in the case of Fling-Fu I'd expect it is).

  • The coolest part of experimenting with meta-game elements is when they fold back into your main gameplay and add new wrinkles to the design space that you didn't see before. I can't tell you how many times that's happened with DD ;)
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    @Rigormortis I'm sure this isn't what you're thinking. But management games are kind of all the RPG progression without any of the combat control.

    If you are trying to prototype the character progress in an RPG it might be possible to create a kind of "Hero Manager" where you train and upgrade and customize a hero (or a party of heroes) but the combat and even the dialogue (if you get in that deep) would be automatic (and simple). I'd be surprised if this sort of thing doesn't exist already (and isn't kind of popular on mobile), but it might be an idea worth looking into if you want to level up your RPG metagame/progress design skills.

    (Plus you might be able to enter such a thing into Competition B...?)

    @Dislekcia I'm going have to be super careful with Broforce. I'm really fond of designing in exploits, and there is a certain kind of player who is going to be made unhappy by too little balance. The other thing I'm worried about is by implementing a more overt metagame certain parts of Broforce become value-less to the player... e.g. a player decides that grinding is their goal and so the fun ridiculous parts that don't help that goal become a waste of time to them.
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    @BlackShipsFilltheSky: The best meta-game fit that I can think of for Broforce has to do with maps: How well you do in the starting maps and maybe which paths you take, unlocks different map sets later on that you then fight through. Basically, think of it like movies with the maps being the specific acts - there are a bunch of movies that start in the jungle, but maybe if the atom bomb truck gets away in the third jungle map, you go to a city to defend that instead of heading to the villain's ice-caves hideout.

    I'm betting players would have a lot of fun mapping out the different map progressions, especially if you made super-obvious "Plot Points!" pop up and get crossed off as the players completed them ;) Basically, don't fuck with the bros, mess with where the bros are and why instead.
  • Trivia: the word "skinnerian" has been used 54 times in this thread
  • @Stray_Train considering it is the thread title it's hardly surprising.

    Also does anyone know the term for a non-random Skinnerian loop since we have been talking about then quite a bit but without actually knowing what to call them.
  • @Karuji: Concrete reward schedule?
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    @Karuji I'd suggest it depends on what you're discussing.

    If you are discussing the mechanics of the game for the purposes of implementing them then "Concrete Reward Schedule", "Gameplay Loop with rewards", "Achievement Based Rewards", "Staggered Unlockables", "Progress" etc is fine... I imagine. Although there may be some actual well established term in game design theory (Maybe Dislekcia is speaking from a position of knowing this?). Weirdly I'm not certain what the catchall term is.

    But if you are discussing how to train your player to feel compelled to play more (through a single behaviour-reward relationship that repeats) then I'd understand you if you used the term "Skinnerian Loop". I feel that better conveys the psychological implications. But it would follow that a really good Skinnerian loop should include elements of randomness (as Skinner discovered).

    DISCLAIMER: I do not speak with authority. The term "Skinnerian Loop" for all I know was coined by Dislekcia himself over here:

    I don't believe I've ever read a comprehensive article on it. It seems to me that most people who contribute to sites like Gamasutra write about Skinnerian techniques as being repulsive. e.g. (they all seem to me to be railing against the idea that the ultimate game should be a Skinner Box, which I doubt anyone actually believes except for game studio shareholders stuck in 2010)

    [Edit] Though this guy seems to offer a better, less specific term to "Skinnerian Loop" which is "Compulsion Loop". (I'm suddenly a big fan of Pete Collier)

    [Edit Edit] Although it does, at least on the surface look like Pete Collier disagrees with what @Bensonance was saying with this:
    Bensonance said:
    This thread so far has been dealing with only extrinsic rewards mostly, but @Karuji did touch on intrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards ,such as loot drops in Diablo 3, are linked to extrinsic motivation. This is often only effective in motivating players in the short term as it leads to grinding, feelings of empy achievement and finally quitting the game (games designed around loot drops suffer this problem a lot). Extrinsic rewards and motivation are the type of behaviorism Extra Credits and also Gamasutra are concerned about abusing in games.

    However, intrinsic rewards and motivation are often what keep players engaged in the long run.
    Where Pete Collier suggests that offering what @Bensonance terms extrinsic rewards is what allows players to progress from short term engagement to long term engagement (he doesn't suggest that short term engagement isn't necessary throughout the entirety of the game, but he does imply that short term engagement alone is unsustainable, which was kind of the point of the OP).

    Whereas @Besonance suggests that extrinsic rewards only offer short term engagement, which seems to me to be the reverse of what behavioral psychology suggests (I mean here Skinnerian psychology). I'm referring to @Bensonance writing this:
    Bensonance said:
    Extrinsic rewards ,such as loot drops in Diablo 3, are linked to extrinsic motivation. This is often only effective in motivating players in the short term as it leads to grinding, feelings of empy achievement and finally quitting the game (games designed around loot drops suffer this problem a lot).
    I mention this, because if I'm totally missing the point I need to know. I don't disagree about the power of intrinsic motivators, I've spent a lot more time trying to design games around those than things like "Compulsion Loops" which I'm pretty new to. But I'm inclined to agree with Pete Collier's assessment because his suggestions closely describe how I go about trying to achieve and retain player engagement.

    (i.e. I believe in starting with intrinsic motivators as the substance of the game and then layer on longer term goals to give additional meaning to the intrinsic objectives, hopefully allowing players to feel their time is being put towards something other than short-term gratification. The surprisingly powerful effect I believed I witnessed of these longer-term goals was what the OP was about. I feel Pete Collier has some insights into doing this in a way that sustains engagement and doesn't disorientate or create a feeling of hollowness.)

    Another Disclaimer, because I am probably misunderstanding again. The notion of an entirely intrinsically motivating game seems fantastic in theory, and some games are moving that way and even achieving it, but it is impossible for Broforce (and DD) given the constraints on our development (like budget and the type of game we're developing). Extrinsic rewards are only necessary because we cannot design a system so complicated it produces intrinsic rewards enough to motivate players for as long as we need due to market expectations and our personal goals.

    Another Another Disclaimer: I know "intrinsic" doesn't mean short-term. But if a loot drop is an extrinsic motivator (like @Bensonance mentions) then almost all of Broforce's possible long term motivators (like unlocking bros) fall under "extrinsic".

    I mean, I know that everyone secretly desires to kill goats. But I'm not sure how long I would spend killing goats in DD if I wasn't going to be rewarded for it with some cool new character (with interesting new ways to kill goats) to play with. Probably quite a while, but not as long as I might if I was anticipating becoming a wholly unexplored gnome barbarian goat killer next. DD's goat killing simulation is very complicated with a lot to master and explore, but, as it stands, I feel the DD character unlocking system kills more goats than anything else in DD.

    And I can't imagine anyone suggesting that Super Crate Box would achieve the same amount of play if all the weapons and levels had been unlocked from the start. And I'm making the argument that even long after the player has unlocked everything there will be a lingering Skinnerian effect (which can be attributed to the extrinsic rewards that the game contains).

    Unless I'm misunderstanding? Can the continued play (after the unlocks) be attributed to the acquired meaning of the points (crates). Is SCB still benefiting from feelings of mastery for hundreds plays after completion? Have personal goals now taken hold? How much competition happened between players? Does the compulsion to play more linger for these players or are they just killing time in a more interesting way? Do all these factors convincingly add up to the amount of play the game achieved (or is some Skinnerian effect amplifying the results)?
  • @BlackShipsFilltheSky, I tried something along the lines of the Hero Manager thing you mentiond for the comp. It's floating around here somewhere. It's not good enough at the moment, but hopefully I will get some more work done on it soon.

    The last post you made asked a lot of difficult questions. But I first want to clarify something that I'm not sure everyone in the thread is on the same page about. My defenition of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards boils down to the following question : "Can the reward be used in game?" Following this logic any weapon drop or new bro or things that you can use in game are intrinsic rewards. But things like achievements or extra unlockable lore on NPC's(that don't infulence gameplay) are extrinsic rewards.

    I listened to a lecture about extrinsic rewards a while back(which I can't find again >:(). The guy presenting that lecture pointed me to the video I posted earlier in the thread. But basically what he said was that their is a tendancy for players to become demotivated after a while when the game focusses on extrinsic rewards. He didn't claim it as factual though it was more like an observational opinion he made but did raise some very good points.

    So to address your questions(to a degree at least), I think that gradually unlocking things in a game is a powerful tool, but I also think that we are looking at the wrong thing as the reward. To me it seems that whenever I unlock a new thing in a game it's not the thing that I am interested's how the thing can change what I do in the game. When unlocking BroGuyver for the first time I was like....kk so I can throw dynamite....not too shabby, but it was like unlocking 7 new bros at once when I found out I could stick dynamite to the bottom of bridges and things like that. I thing that the compulsion lasts after all the "things" have been unlocked because the players are looking for new ways to use all the things that they have. I don't think it's neccesarily a situation where you conditioned them to play long after they have seen the all the content. I don't know if I'm making sense any more.
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