Inside Video Games: Incentivizing Behavior Part 1

DestinyNow that we’ve talked about the lack of fun in many big name titles and the subsequent genres and games they inspire, we can talk about incentivizing behavior. Many of the biggest games in circulation are massive with respect to player base, and quite logically their success depends on the players continuing to play and buy new content and releases. I would like to look at two big titles that are historically and presently known for controversy within their community’s behavior. I had to break this subject into two posts because each title deserves a fair amount of treatment in order to make my point. First up…

Destiny

Destiny is probably one of the most anticipated, talked about, complained about, and written about video games in history. Rather than retread old ground about lack of content and repackaged DLC, I want to talk about how Bungie incentivizes the wrong behavior and has created some of their larger and more problematic community trends.

First, the “Loot Cave”. The leveling system in Destiny is somewhat unique in that once you reach level 20 you must find armor and grind for materials to increase your level. The “Loot Cave” arose as an easy solution to not finding any good loot: find a high concentration of enemies, regardless of their level, and kill them over and over. Players seemed to ignore the internal economies that allowed them to earn in-game currency, Vanguard Marks, and buy the higher level gear they needed. I believe the reason for this is that Destiny set player expectations with the first 20 levels and did very little to course correct those expectations once a player reached level 20. It is also a lot more exciting to loot for gear rather than purchase it like a pair of shoes at Khols. So rather than playing missions and bounties with their friends, many players began playing by themselves, looking for the best spot to kill the most enemies.

The second major issue with Destiny has been what is commonly referred to as “cheesing”. There are currently two raids in the game, and both require a well-organized six person team for a chance at some of the best gear in the game. Both raids have had glitches and exploits that allowed players to beat the final bosses easily or skip challenging sections altogether. Many people felt justified in exploiting the “cheese” because in addition to being incredibly difficult and taking a significant amount of time, the raids can literally give you nothing in return. So the player base was largely motivated to “cheese” or glitch the raids because they felt mistreated and robbed by the game. Many have defended the game by saying, “It’s an RNG (random number generator) loot system. Get used to it!” The glaring problem with this defense is that almost all other games with an RNG loot system have trading between players to bring balance for those who get extra items and those who get nothing. Destiny removed trading (that was originally promised by developers), leaving their loot system incredibly unbalanced and frustrating. Much of the focus from Bungie seems to be quantitative rather than qualitative. In other words, they are focused on getting players to play more rather than enjoy more (remember the first blog about a lack of fun?). They continue to boast about how many players and hours are pumped into their game each week, and this betrays their motivation to a degree. I made the point recently to a friend that if you saw I had played Destiny for 2 hours and another game like Borderlands for only 1 hour you might wrongfully conclude that I enjoy Destiny more. The truth is, I am playing Destiny for a longer period of time out of necessity, not out of desire. This is why player behavior has been so focused on shortcuts and exploits. Like shoving all of your toys into the closet when told to clean your room, some of us feel the game has become a chore that we try to finish as quickly, however cheaply, as possible. The problem for Bungie, as I see it, is that this quantitative focus will ironically undo itself, causing more and more players to stop playing. So the issue here is not that Bungie has created a bad game, but rather, they have designed a game that motivates the opposite or wrong type of behavior than the game originally intended resulting in a diminished experience and perceived value.

Tune in for my next entry on the topic of incentivizing behavior when we look at PVP shooters.

Agree, disagree, or have your own ideas? Share in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Inside Video Games: Incentivizing Behavior Part 1

  1. Pingback: What’s gone wrong with video games? | Say No To Rage

  2. Pingback: Inside Video Games: Incentivizing Behavior Part 2 | Say No To Rage

  3. Pingback: Outside Video Games: Agile vs Waterfall Development | Say No To Rage

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