Game Development Reference
the whole point of racing. Games can do this because it's easy to detect
racing times accurately, and there are few other motivations in a racing
game that a timer might destroy.
In other games, reward alignment is difficult or impossible. In SimCity ,
how do we reward players making a city that looks like their hometown?
In a cooperative game, how do we reward players for making a new friend?
What points, badges, or prizes do we give players for inventing a unique
water trap in Dwarf Fortress ? The problem with these player motivations is
that the game can't detect when they have been achieved. And if we can't
detect it, we can't reward it. That's why it's impossible to align a reward
system with creative, exploratory, social game systems like this. In these
kinds of games, the only solution is to not use reward systems, because any
such system would likely destroy more motivation than it created.
But most games fall in between these two extremes. They have a place
for rewards, but it's hard to design a reward system that exactly mirrors
the player's intrinsic desires. In these cases, rewards design becomes a
matter of craft.
The goal of rewards design is to construct a system that can detect and
appropriately reward everything the player already wants to do. Since
every game is different, every game needs a unique, crafted reward
For example, the skateboarding game Skate 3 uses a points system to
reward players for doing tricks. This isn't as simple as assigning each trick
a score. Skate 3 lets players string tricks into extremely complex sequences
of jumps, flips, and grinds. This elegant design permits an uncountable
variety of different combinations. The challenge is in generating scores for
these moves that match how impressive they look to a human.
Skate 3 's designers met this challenge head-on. They crafted a scoring
system that notices every turn, flip, grind, and jump, and counts every mil-
lisecond of air time and every centimeter of grind distance. Using a series
of multipliers to account for the length of a trick line, it accurately judges
the impressiveness of any trick sequence.
Since it's so well balanced and fine-grained, the actions it rewards
are nearly exactly the same as the actions a player would want to do if the
reward system were absent. And it works beautifully. Skate 3 is a joy to play,
and high trick scores are desirable and enjoyable to pursue.
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