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Carrots and sticks: Where do they belong in MMO's?

Hawkaya399Hawkaya399 Member RarePosts: 620
What made me create the thread is this:
http://community.crowfall.com/index.php?/topic/1357-bring-the-groove-back/#entry38218

It's a small post on the crowfall forums from a game designer about the socializer class(es) in SWG and how they dealt with problems which crept up, like opposition to it and so on. The result was to use more carrots than sticks, to enable the socializers to still play their class(es) and the others to still mostly enjoy the experience.

What are carrots and sticks anyway? They're things which make us do things. We desire a carrot and we'll do something to try to get the carrot. Sticks are more unfriendly and will hurt us if we fail to do something. Broadly, carrots and sticks make us play games. They're not necessarily intentionally built into the game. Games are predominantly problems and we want to solve problems. That comes easy. We also want to immerse in them sometimes and forget real life. Carrots and sticks seem to slip into the game before anyone realizes they're there and the fallout is hence unavoidable.

We do things in games, typically to overcome something. MMO's are games too. Some examples from Everquest:
1) You're don't have any more room in your inventory, so you must either delete things or leave and find a trader to sell them
2) You have no food and your hp is not regaining and the only other person with you doesn't have enough food to last, so you have to go bakc to town or otherwise find somebody or something which has food
3) You die and you respawn at your bind point. You're naked and weak. You have to get your corpse back.
4) The camp up at the elites in Blackburrow is open. It's better than what you have, so you take it.
5) Someone asks if you want to join a group in Lguk? Obviously, yes! It's just right.
6) You can't continue your epic because you don't have faction with XYZ. You have to gain faction.
7) Someone in your group has a very nice item they're wearing. You're /drooling.
8) A named spawns unexpectedly. It's a very tough fight. It drops a nice item worthy of /rand.

* Some carrots and sticks in there. And maybe some other things.

SHOULD there be carrots or sticks? Maybe only have carrots, since sticks hurt? Still, I can't imagine liking a game where I never get hurt. I frown on the easy hand holding stuff in most MMO's and game--for that matter. Carrots are nothing without sticks to give them relative value.

What else is in a game that makes us play it, other than carrots/sticks and wanting to solve problems and immerse in the game (to escape from RL for a while)? Can anyone think of something which would eradicate the need for carrots and sticks?

Is it all just a big blunder? ...These carrots and sticks?

Lastly, I think this belongs as much to the Pantheon forum as anything else. Brad is famous for making MMO's which have downtime and group dependancy and other things. There's a lot of stick in his past MMO's.  Chances are high these issues will crop up again and again. It's worthy of discussion.

Comments

  • ThaneThane Member EpicPosts: 3,534
    i liked my carrot on a stick!
    made my mount go faster :pleased: 

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  • NildenNilden Member EpicPosts: 3,581
    Ok let's drop the analogy and talk about what it is.

    Time investment, be it just only time, or possible skill and effort, knowledge and in general how good you are at the game. That is the stick.

    Then we have rewards. Carrots are rewards.

    You can't do away with this unless you want a game without investment of time, skill and effort, for rewards.

    I dunno maybe you want a game without gold or items.

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  • laxielaxie Member RarePosts: 1,118
    Every player needs some incentive to play. The sense of achievement, awe of exploration, forming relationships - these "carrots" may be anything.

    Good "sticks" are often carrots in disguise. A challenge that you may overcome. Good games will have these sticks by design - the difficult component is thought through and keeps the player excited. Poor games will have "sticks" as a byproduct of bad game design - there is only one dungeon, so the player is made to repeat it 100 times.

    You make a good point. Often times the whole game is more about forcing the player to stay, rather than make the experience the best possible. This is especially true for free to play mobile titles. It's a very precise formula, giving you the smallest number of carrots to bring in the highest amount of revenue.

    I personally think it is an ethical issue at that point. If the whole experience is designed to target and trap the a person, even if they are enjoying it, is it fine? Is it alright to deliver the least amount of content possible you can get away with? It is definitely good business.

    I've always admired people who make games as a passion. Who think about sticks and carrots as a method of entertainment, not a method of bringing in revenue. These may not be mutually exclusive. I personally place a lot of importance on people's motives though.
  • HrimnirHrimnir Member RarePosts: 2,415
    edited May 2016

    I don't know why but this made me think about the "skinner box" meme that popped up here a year or two back.  Where someone happened to stumble on a Wikipedia article and start forwarding it to their friends.  Then people started jumping on message boards throwing the term around to do some intelligence signaling.  Thank god that died.

    Getting on topic.  The idea that something like a gear treadmill, or any kind of cause/effect reward system is bad, is just flawed.  Humans evolved this way for a reason.  The key is to be cognizant of it, so that you don't allow yourself to be enslaved by it.  Some personal examples.  I don't keep candy or cookies and things like that in the house because I have a demonstrated inability not to eat them.  Some people are that way with MMO's.  Everyone has their thing that essentially becomes their addiction "issue".  However, as long as you are able to not jump down the rabbit hole with it, it's fine to enjoy it for what it is.  If you like cookies and you don't eat them to the detriment of your health, than it's perfectly ok to enjoy a cookie.  It's not bad because it activates pleasure in you.

    Same thing with MMOs, if getting phat lewtz or another level, or discovering that weird spot in the world gives you pleasure and enjoyment, that's fine as long as it doesn't consume your life to the detriment of it.  I'll give another personal example.  I like to buy stuff, electronics, etc. I don't bash myself for the sense of joy I get at having new stuff.  However, again, you have to make sure you're not pushing that button too much.

    Anyways, I'm rambling.

    TL:DR carrots aren't bad inherently.

    "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

    - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Sid_ViciousSid_Vicious Member RarePosts: 2,174
    Well this game has no PVP so that is sad.. they aren't even going to have a PVP server? Even Vanguard did that.. I wish that they would consider it.

    I guess I will only mention PVE carrots...

    There should be group PVE from the beginning, non of this solo PVE until you catch up with your friends, etc. that plagues most PVE games..

    I'd like to see as many games with the game as possible.. for example.. crafting and diplomacy in vanguard was very fun! They could do way better if they wanted to.

    Gear that means something and I'd like there to be legendary items that are only one of a kind.. maybe you had to change your faction to get a piece of awesomeness that becomes a part of you.

    Meh PVE game is really not for me but maybe by some miracle they would release pvp server : P

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  • Sid_ViciousSid_Vicious Member RarePosts: 2,174
    group harvesting can be fun too

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  • waynejr2waynejr2 Member EpicPosts: 7,768
    Hrimnir said:

    I don't know why but this made me think about the "skinner box" meme that popped up here a year or two back.  Where someone happened to stumble on a Wikipedia article and start forwarding it to their friends.  Then people started jumping on message boards throwing the term around to do some intelligence signaling.  Thank god that died.

    Getting on topic.  The idea that something like a gear treadmill, or any kind of cause/effect reward system is bad, is just flawed.  Humans evolved this way for a reason.  The key is to be cognizant of it, so that you don't allow yourself to be enslaved by it.  Some personal examples.  I don't keep candy or cookies and things like that in the house because I have a demonstrated inability not to eat them.  Some people are that way with MMO's.  Everyone has their thing that essentially becomes their addiction "issue".  However, as long as you are able to not jump down the rabbit hole with it, it's fine to enjoy it for what it is.  If you like cookies and you don't eat them to the detriment of your health, than it's perfectly ok to enjoy a cookie.  It's not bad because it activates pleasure in you.

    Same thing with MMOs, if getting phat lewtz or another level, or discovering that weird spot in the world gives you pleasure and enjoyment, that's fine as long as it doesn't consume your life to the detriment of it.  I'll give another personal example.  I like to buy stuff, electronics, etc. I don't bash myself for the sense of joy I get at having new stuff.  However, again, you have to make sure you're not pushing that button too much.

    Anyways, I'm rambling.

    TL:DR carrots aren't bad inherently.


    That is something that has happened on the Internet for decades.  Someone finds a new term and think they have this great insight.  It just shows how messed up people are.

    On the other hand, for whatever reason, having fun in a game doesn't get called out as skinner box very often.
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  • delete5230delete5230 Member EpicPosts: 7,012

    Chain quest suck.  Do part one on one side of the map before you can do part two on the other side.

    Then when you have a group, half had not done part one, so now the entire group can't do it :(


    This problem was first noticeable in LOTRO with the " book chain quest ".  This guy assembled a group to do the entire chain of mini dungeons in a row.  Everyone was  willing, but two dropped out shortly  anyway. 

    Have you ever spammed chat looking for a group to do pt.4 of something?......Imposable !

  • DullahanDullahan Member EpicPosts: 4,536
    Technically, epics in EQ were chain quests, and they are one of the most beloved aspects of the game. In fact, almost every notable quest in any game had multiple parts, and I wouldn't expect Pantheon to be any different.

    However, mindless chain task quest won't be a thing in Pantheon.


  • kjempffkjempff Member RarePosts: 1,759
    edited May 2016
    If you get rid of sticks in a game, then the game become unrewarding regardless of the carrots - This is because the actual reward in a game is the feeling of accomlishment, and you can't feel accomlished if you didn't "beat" the obsticles.

    But it is a little more than that in a mmorpg where this feeling of accomplishment can be multiplied by uhm "flashback" effect, which is by having and also showing carrots (items, titles, levels, etc)... For examle every time you see that sword of awesomeness, you get a rememerance reward. Also, everytime you use this new sword you are reminded of the reward, and even more so when you use it to beat that thing/place/obsticle you hadn't been able to before. This of course will not give the effect if the carrot(ex: item) is not rare or does not require effort to get.

    Carrot and sticks go hand in hand and should balance well. A hardcore game should have rough sticks and giant carrots with ways to continously feel accomplished. A casual game should have its carrots and sticks balanced to their audience, but neither can exist without. When a game changes the carrot/stick formula it effectively moves target audiences, even small changes can disrupt the balance and especially with mmorpgs it is a dangerous move to alienate your players..
    This is why mmorpgs always start out "just right", and all attempts to change the carrot/stick balance are considered game breakers by the core players; after 10 years of change, these changes will have upset most of its original player base. Eq, wow, swg are obvious examples.

    Wanted to add: The type of sticks are also very important, they should fit the game and also not cross the line between being a challenge and a nuesance; what that line is depends on player types, some will accept perma death, some will like gated content, everyone has an amount of acceptable timezinks or grind or rng.
    Success lies in the details of the sticks, how these work on a very specific and detailed base, and the combination of these with reference to the target audience.

    Everthing is in the details.
    Post edited by kjempff on
  • HrimnirHrimnir Member RarePosts: 2,415

    Just to tie in to what Kjempff said, and give another example.  If you were to for example build your own house, i.e. you bought all the lumber, nails, blah blah, and spent 8 or 9 months putting it together with you and your friends.  You would feel a much greater sense of accomplishment than if you bought the very same house.  It is because it took hard work and effort to get.

    Your brain doesn't know the difference between you working your ass off to buy a rolex, and enjoying it, or you working your ass off to get a sword of badassery +3.  Either way all your brain knows is you put in effort, and you got a reward.  You have to decide what value you place on that reward.  Some people view it as pixels and think its absurd to spend that much time getting something that doesn't physically exist.  Other's view it as worth while.

    I try not to judge people and how they spend their leisure time.  Someone who let's say spends 2 months reading through War and Peace vs spending 2 months raiding in an MMO is 6 of one half a dozen of the other to me.  Leisure is leisure.

    Yes, there can be some argument made that people who say play basketball or go mountain biking and stuff like that are getting exercise and thus it's a "superior" form of leisure, but outside of that, whether you're reading a book, watching a couple episodes of a tv show, etc etc, it really doesn't matter.

    "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

    - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • HrimnirHrimnir Member RarePosts: 2,415

    "On the other hand, for whatever reason, having fun in a game doesn't get called out as skinner box very often."

    The problem is, everyone's definition of "Fun" is different.  So, a person who doesn't mind running a dungeon 6 or 7 times to get a sword he wants is still having fun, maybe because he enjoys bringing friends through the dungeon, or perfecting his skill and how fast he can run the dungeon, or whatever.  Whereas you have other people that think anything more than running a dungeon once, MAYBE twice to get a reward is a "grind" and a "skinner box", etc.

    "The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

    - Friedrich Nietzsche

  • svannsvann Member RarePosts: 2,230
    edited May 2016
    Hrimnir said:

     Whereas you have other people that think anything more than running a dungeon once, MAYBE twice to get a reward is a "grind" and a "skinner box", etc.

    There has never been an mmorpg that has had enough content to keep someone playing if that person would only run a dungeon "once or maybe twice".  Therefore they are not the target audience and do not count.  There is just no way that the game could be expected to satisfy them.
    Post edited by svann on
  • AmatheAmathe Member LegendaryPosts: 7,630
    Hrimnir said:

    everyone's definition of "Fun" is different.  

    This is true.

    And further to that point, one definition of fun is to differentiate something done purely for pleasure from something that is being taken seriously. E.g., you are shooting baskets in the backyard and someone criticizes your hook shot. "Dude, I'm just doing this for fun."

    That is a sense of fun that may not be in widespread use in Pantheon. Because most members of the target audience, myself included, think that the game is more fun if it is sufficiently challenging to be taken seriously by the players. They would not see any tension between "fun" and "serious," or between "fun" and "hard." 

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  • Hawkaya399Hawkaya399 Member RarePosts: 620
    edited May 2016
    Hrimnir said:

    "On the other hand, for whatever reason, having fun in a game doesn't get called out as skinner box very often."

    The problem is, everyone's definition of "Fun" is different.  So, a person who doesn't mind running a dungeon 6 or 7 times to get a sword he wants is still having fun, maybe because he enjoys bringing friends through the dungeon, or perfecting his skill and how fast he can run the dungeon, or whatever.  Whereas you have other people that think anything more than running a dungeon once, MAYBE twice to get a reward is a "grind" and a "skinner box", etc.

    I played many dungeons and zones over and over in Everquest. One of the joys was just to learn it and all its secrets. Surprisingly, it takes a long time to learn a zone well. This made me conclude some time ago you can't completely remove repetition from a game because that's how we learn!!! Nobody learns everything the first time, at least I don't. I can understand maybe we all learn at different rates, so we experience repetition at different amounts. So a person who learns quickly will be bored a long while before the slower ones.

    But I do agree players can like different things. So one person will experience something as boredom or even grind while another won't. The trouble is it's hard to pin down sometimes what exactly is fun about it. I think the inclination of game designers is to cut out the narrowly focused things and only shoot for things everybody finds fun. But still I think it's hard to find something which pleases everyone equally. The end result is they end up pleasing many but not all. This in turn gives indie game makers an opportunity.

    On the topic of repeating zones again and again I'd like to also bring up something else which often happened with me. I became attached to places. A place became like an old friend. So I'd tend to go back to it and smell the aromas and walk the familiar paths. Honestly, many times I'd learn something I never knew before. But frankly I accepted a lot of repetition merely on the basis I emotionally "connected" to that place.

    What I appreciate most is when the world designers add lots of meat to the zones, so that even years afterward you're still finding new things, even if they're really small and don't pertain to the gameplay.
  • AeolynAeolyn Member UncommonPosts: 350
    edited May 2016
    Hrimnir said:

    "On the other hand, for whatever reason, having fun in a game doesn't get called out as skinner box very often."

    The problem is, everyone's definition of "Fun" is different.  So, a person who doesn't mind running a dungeon 6 or 7 times to get a sword he wants is still having fun, maybe because he enjoys bringing friends through the dungeon, or perfecting his skill and how fast he can run the dungeon, or whatever.  Whereas you have other people that think anything more than running a dungeon once, MAYBE twice to get a reward is a "grind" and a "skinner box", etc.

    A dungeon or activity that needs to be repeated for a chance to get a single big reward, needs carrots to stay motivated.  Especially higher levels that may be needed to assist lower levels that are having difficulty either getting a cohesive group together or with the content itself.  Plus not everyone is a natural born twitch artist/fighter so although a player may be great at commerce/crafting/exploration/etc and are contributing to the game's community in that way, they may just suck at fighting due to lesser gaming equipment, bad reflexes, poor eyesight, or whatever.  Heck, as much fun as I used to have messing around in GW2, what killed it for me was my inability to do all the twitch jumping stuff that became a necessary skill for even the simplest of achievements in the game.
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