A game by Heather Logas and her friends

Dev Diary #26 — Rewards

I miss you guys…>sniff<

So I started contracting again this past week. While the gig itself has been fine, the lack of time to do anything else reminded me just how hard it is to make time for creative work when you have a job and a kid. I can't say it enough -- I am so, so grateful of the support that let me just work on the game for two months. Even though the amount of time I get to spend now on BYCYE is so small it hurts, the game has enough momentum now that I am positive it will be completed. Eventually.

I continue to work on the game every day. Some days this means I script for 5 - 10 minutes. It sucks, but its important to keep the momentum going.

Something I've been thinking a lot about is rewards. Specifically, rewards for exploration. I know that if I I am playing a console role playing game (for example) and I search out some crazy location because I expect that the game developer will reward me with treasure, I feel awesome if there is treasure actually there. On the other hand, I feel robbed if there is no loot.

But this isn't that kind of game. Still, I am aware of a conscious desire to put little rewards in the game when someone follows a side-quest or encounter all the way to the end. So far this has taken the form of inventory items, but there haven't really been any places to USE these items yet. The game doesn't really have inventory puzzles in it. It isn't that kind of game either.

So what kind of game is it then, and what sorts of rewards would feel actually rewarding to the player that will enjoy this kind of game? And make sense in the gameworld? And don’t take a whole lot of extra effort to track throughout the game?

That’s another whole ball of fish. As any adventure game designer can tell you, if I give the player a stick, the player is going to see “obvious” applications of that stick EVERYWHERE in the game and be very frustrated when the game system doesn’t support those applications. So giving people inventory items is actually kind of dangerous to this game, as the exact thing I am trying to do is provide an engrossing suspension of disbelief experience. The only thing you need to immediately break immersion and suspension of disbelief is having a stick and not being able to use it in a situation when a stick seems needed.

The other things games use as rewards also don’t make a ton of sense — experience points (nope), money (no economy), upgrades (to what?), vanity items (you never see your character).

Text adventure games (and some early graphic adventure games) gave abstract points based on your puzzle solving ability and (I guess) exploration of the game. Abstract points are so…abstract. But they do point to a more modern reward system — achievements.

Achievements might be a valid way to go, but I can’t help but wonder: is it necessary to have any sort of rewards at all? In a story-based game, where the point of the game is the story itself, shouldn’t exploration of the game world have intrinsic value to the player? If the player doesn’t like the game, achievements aren’t going to make them like it any better. But if it is a player’s “kind” of game, shouldn’t they just want to play it without any rewards stringing them along? Could giving achievements actually HURT the game experience? Because players will be more interested in gaming the system to get the achievements than playing the game as a character they are representing?

Hmmmmmmmmm…………Well while I mull that one over….

In other news, we have a new site that you should all take a look at! Our new buddy Robert set it up for us. You can point your browsers to http://www.bycye.com and see the new community site. (Except at this precise second it seems to be down, but we’ll get that fixed). Explore the neat features and see how you like it.

Please begin to use the forums on the new site. The existing forums are going to be mothballed with the EXCEPTION of the collaborator’s forum. There is too much good stuff there already and I can’t password protect any of the parts of the new site, so the existing forums will still be used for talking about side quests.

Got it? Got it. Good. Good night!

One Response Subscribe to comments

  1. Jason

    Well, you could have the items unlock additional non-essential dialog. Like if someone gave you a brimmed hat as a reward, a character later on might compliment you on your hat and ask you where you got it from. Some other item might allow you to play a mini card game or something. A key might allow you to open a hidden drawer with some personal letters, which rewards the player with more exploration.

    It still runs the risk of the player trying to use the item for random things. I’m not sure how interactive your system is with regards to items; whether you can choose to use an item any time, or only if it makes sense in the context of a current decision (only if the game suggests using the item as a choice.) You could explicitly mark the item as a special reward item with no bearing on the plot so players don’t have to worry about missing something they need.

    I don’t think achievements make sense here; the journey really should be the reward. Of course, some players are completionist and want to see every hidden easter egg and bits of details. In which case, they could always play the game again — which is pretty much required if you want to see the other ways a multi-path choose your own adventure is going to end. Telltale has the “did you try?” forum thread (and now webpage) for each game encouraging you to go back and pick up the extra jokes and fun stuff you might have missed the first time around.

    Apr 10, 2010 @ 8:38 am