In this article, Koster summarizes a lot of what I've personally advocated in this forum for II (and many more things I have NOT) over the past several years.
It also exposes a lot of what we're doing wrong, and even more of what we've done RIGHT. So far.
IMO, we don't need some of the more highly-competitive stuff, esp. in regards to clans. Races for more DK's are fine and all, and I'd like to see more in the way of ways to compare clans (average DK rank per clan would be awesome), but the wording in the article made everything seem highly competitive and not very good-natured.
Who is Raph Koster and why should I care about a list of bullet points without arguments or explanation?
Here's an interview of indie-game Braid-creator Jonathan Blow. http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/02/15/jonathan-blow-interview-social-game-designers-goal-is-to-degrade-the-players-quality-of-life He claimed all 'social games' like FarmVille are evil, because you are exploiting your existing friends, rather than making new ones.
Improbable Island is curing cancer and you make friends. Two-Nil for CMJ.
Here's an article on cracked.com on why video games are addictive. http://www.cracked.com/article_18461_5-creepy-ways-video-games-are-trying-to-get-you-addicted.html A lot of it also applies to text-based games like Improbable Island.
I'll agree on one or two points on that list that stood out though,
The Island doesn't have much of either.
What do players do co-operatively? Buildings dwellings, roleplay. Neither is really a gameplay aspect. Onslaught is too toned down to be considered co-op.
What do players do competitively? Charts? This is more player vs system vs player.
Titans fall in the middle. Titans are one of the most interesting game aspects to me. They can be battled happily in union to rsecue the island, or competitively for the most req/glory.
I've mentioned this before, but I think a competitive system where you can fight against others using a trinket like scrapbots, bought with Req, marbles, cigs or cobblestones would fit in well with the friendly nature of the Island. Why PvP when you can be a gentlemen and let something else fight for you?
There is a schism in the playerbase. On one side, we have power players that seem to solo a lot and really just love racking up DKs or go for higher ranks. On the other side we have the roleplayers, that spend their time drinking tea. There are some notable exceptions to this, of course. One group would probably enjoy the collaborative copacetic cooperative community construction, from a roleplay perspective, the other would shrug and tear off into the jungles. Compare Kittymorphs and Midgets, which incidentally, seem to represent both groups reasonably well.
Let's go back to the onslaught/titan aspect. In it's original form, onslaught requires a large group of semi-active players, that fight jungle monsters and build walls. Titans are there as pinatas full of req for powerplayers. The rewards aren't fair, are they? If the Kittymorphs do their thing they get lower req payouts and a safe outpost. If the Midgets do their thing, they get bags of req.
A quick google search on Raph will yield plenty for you to care about.
He's been among the most progressive thinkers/writers/speakers on games and social games over the past decade.
And contrary to rumor, they don't hand out lecterns at TED willy-nilly.
But hey, just because I admire him, and have followed his writings for years doesn't mean anyone else has to.
Incidentally, Maniak, the schism you refer to between powerplayers and social players was pointed out in other games by Raph some years back.
Also, if you don't like bulletpoints without explanation, here's a link to his 190 slides, that accompanied his talk @ TED 2011.
PDF format, unfortunately.
Personally, I thought Islanders would appreciate brevity.
I went through the slides. To nitpick, they accompany his talk at Game Developers Conference, not TED.
If you have a link of him speaking at TED, I'd like to see it. A quick google search didn't find that. Nor any evidence he ever spoke at that.
Too bad, because he does make a few good points. These 190 slides (hows that for brevity?) only seem to tell half the story.
My mistake: It was at GDC. I was reading some TED stuff side-by-side, and it misaligned a neuron or two.
Thanks for setting me straight.
More ontopic and less nitpicky, which parts would you consider done wrong or right by II?
Whithout reading this 40 points, I have to agree with Maniak that the island does not need more competition IMO.
The relative non-competition makes it so extra special for me. There's no pressure, except the one I put on myself, and I can run around in frilly pink panties for as long as I want or even beat the drive naked if I desire to do so. Way better than the usual perpetual run for better and newer gear and stats and whatever.
If I want to rp, I can rp, if I feel like fighting, I can go and fight, and if I want to build a dwelling I can do so, too. The Island is already a great place to be and lots of fun, and lots of opportunity to meet new people.
Apart from some minor things coming up now and then, I can't see the immediate need for big gameplay-influencing changes.
Well, since you asked:
I won't say "wrong." I'll say "here's a great opportunity!"
a) More UGC. Simply telling folks to go off and learn to code in Labs is not an alternative for robust user-generated content. This applies to shops, items, item creation, and more besides.
What's wanting, I suppose, are mods to make sure that things created in game are themely, non-abusive, etc.
We have an opportunity to radically increase the number of "mods" -- not necessarily board-mods or whathaveyou -- but tools to empower the community to self-police UGC. We have an opportunity to scale. We lack tools.
b) Gambling: What we have is not particularly interesting. It's like playing pachinko, but without the ball bearings.
c) More methods for gifting and rituals.
I could go on about this point, so I will:
Remember back in the day? When you could gift noobs with stuff? Like, nice stuff?
Since then, we've kind of gone fundamentalist about transfers between DKs. Other than dickishness, it's like the ONE BIG RULE.
I question this.
Because when I first started, folks hooked me up, and I hooked others up, and it felt welcoming. It made those first few DKs easier, and fun.
Now, was it abused by powerplayers? Sure.
But did it make the game more welcoming to new players? And thereby increase the diversity of folks playing the game?
I think it did.
I think we've gotten to a place in the game's evolution where things that are fundamental LAWS of II need a second, third, and fourth look.
d) More opportunities for collaboration: I think we have Dwelling collaboration about right, but it could always expand.
e) More opportunities for commerce. Making stuff, exchanging stuff, selling stuff. This unfortunately & frequently goes back to the whole "must be naked, poor, and alone after each DK" roadblock. Every time we get close to something close to folks exchanging stuff, we immediately assume there will be an unfair advantage for more advanced players, and the local economy will get ruined. This has probably stymied more good development than it has fostered.
I could go on with a longer list, but this hits the big beats.
As for what we've gotten right:
a) a tight community with more literate folks than griefers.
b) good collaboration tools for Dwellings & clans.
c) a sense of place that has remained cohesive despite years and many changes.
Again, I could go on with a longer list, but these are my top three.
Candidly, I'm much more interested in what everyone else thinks rather than listening to myself advocate positions I've put forth & defended in months and years past.
One more thing: Lest anyone think that I'm seeking unfair advantages by questioning the DK = naked & poor rule, I'm not.
I candidly could not care less about DKing.
It is, for me, the least interesting part of the game.
I'm much more interested in building stuff, exploring game parameters and creations, and collaborating with fellow players.
So: yeah, that's out of the way.
I'm going to chime in here and mention Charles Stross's Halting State (a book which contains the line, "Nobody ever imagined a band of Orcs would steal a database table..." Yes, you do need to read this book.)
The date is 2018. An executive of a firm that runs central banks for MMORPGs with a total of 20 million players is explaining how virtual economies work, to a police officer. He says, "Rather than running on money, games run on fun. If the players aren't having fun, they'll leave, and then what'll we eat? We plug into Maslow's hierarchy of needs at a different level from a traditional economic system, but a lot of the principles are the same."
Games run on fun.
That whole chapter is something every game designer should ponder. Here's another quote from a little further on:
"Inflation happens when money and loot flow into the game. But to keep customers happy you have to keep rewarding them. Playing the game is inflationary. [...] You can't tax them or make the money decay, because that would be No Fun, and if the game stops being Fun, why play? [...]
"My job -- well, I commission in-game campaigns to track customer satisfaction, establish hedonic goalposts, and set targets so our programmers and quants know which way to drive things to maximize fiscal stability. It's like being chancellor of the exchequer, except you can substitute 'fun' for 'profits' -- up to a point, until interdomain currency conversion and hedge funds come into the picture."
When you look at it from that angle, a lot of interesting perspectives emerge. For instance, the Island's major anti-inflationary measure is the LotGD DK. (There is no simple linear relationship between req and fun. The more req you have, the less fun you will get out of a reward in req. This is why req inflation can't be allowed to spin out of control: it reduces the total level of fun players are having.) Perhaps, in a wholly re-thought Season Three, the DK strip-down might not even be necessary, but for that, you'd need req sinks that are not only big enough, but fun enough that people will be happy about putting their money into them.
Edit: Let me just add here that I love the phrase 'hedonic goalposts'!
A: We have a ton of user generated content. Maybe not so much in the actual mechanics of the game, but Dwellings? Player-written monsters you can actually fight? I still think that's pretty nifty.
And then there's the roleplay. That's all user generated content. That's a lot of user generated content.
Not to mention that Dan's here on the forum, answering questions and getting feedback from his players. There's more than one way to have player input/content.
B: The pubs aren't all out yet. Who knows what Dan has up his sleeve? (I personally enjoy Find the Brain; I keep hoping I'll find mine).
C: I'm with Maniak. The mechanics of this game aren't very challenging to begin with (Bastard rank is a choice). A game that is too easy is as disengaging as a game that is too hard. Starting off with the best equipment isn't going to make the game much fun. Plus, it makes the rest of the firest tier of weapons practically obsolete, and there's no thrill of reward for finally earning your chainsaw.
If you really want to, there are items that can really help new players out that can be given through the current gifting system. And characters give gifts back and forth all the time (which reminds me - I owe Ebenezer a backgammon set.) Those gifts are just as meaningful as a "real" item, without having to worry about cluttered inventories.
The best gift you can give new players, to keep them engaged and make them feel welcome? Your time. Say hello. Answer their questions. Include them in a scene. Point them towards sources of information. Duck into Location Four from time to time.
The number one reason I started helping rookies is because veterans helped me when I was new, and I wanted to give back. That's gifting.
D. I'd love more co-operative play. Titans were a step in the right direction, at least in regards to that (Titans with a chat box, for "tactics" or battle cries or what have you would be even better - maybe break up some of the "and now I press a button a hundred times.")
There's a couple types of co-operative play. There's the kind where you know exactly who you're working with: you and a buddy (or several buddies) go out and build a dwelling, or fight monsters together (or groups of monsters, which would be cool), or roleplay a scene. Then there's bigger cooperative play. You and the rest of the Island do something. Maybe you're building up the walls of an outpost. Maybe you're donating your extra req at the end of a DK to a building fund, so that we can get a new shop/pub/train station/feature I can't even imagine.
E. Economics makes my head hurt, so: stable economy good, reliable access to items good (possible req sink involving R&D for reverse engineering teleporters, since they only drop from crates?), incentive to donate (better than "the island economy needs a boost, let me earn more donator points I don't know what to do with") good.
As I see it, the island can be an incredibly social game. Not everyone plays it that way. Not everyone wants to play it that way. But it does have an incredibly strong community, with people who are interested in interacting with the world, creating content for it (mostly through RP and Dwellings), and talking about the game in threads like this.
That doesn't make it a "social game" like the ones Mr. Koster is talking about. It doesn't need to fit some definition, and it doesn't need to adhere to the methods of a genre which is pretty (in the words of Jonathan Blow) evil. It just needs to be - as Sessine said - fun. Games should be fun. That's really all that matters.
And here I thought I was just posting an interesting link.
@Sessine: Hedonic goalposts for the win. Love it. Will read that book.
Re: A | More UGC Please:
You write: "The labs themselves seem to be rather dead entirely (though this is a thread of its own)..."
To which I say first [if this is in fact the case] to all the folks who are trying to DO stuff in Labs, let me say, good on you, I worship your dedication, and would never say anything against you. Maniak continues that getting good UGC is hard, because content is unevenly written/drafted/conceived of/composed & executed. I agree. I suggest that hard does not equal impossible, or not worth doing.
Re: B | More Gambling Please:
You write "you are completely wrong. To say there isn't enough gambling is unfair." And then you go on to cite existing games in Raven Inn, the lotto, the one-armed bandit, etc.
To which I say, if you'll do yourself the favor of visiting a place like Las Vegas, or perhaps my house, where I'm shocked (!) to say that gambling sometimes goes on, then you'll have the opportunity to acquaint yourself with (hopefully) something a little more sophisticated than a gambling game that one plays alone. Like the pachinko game I cited, in hopes that it would capture my point adequately. It did not, evidently, so let me wax specific.
In poker, say, there is a multitude of players, a multitude of plays, and a multitude of wagers. That's the kind of gambling interaction I'm talking about. Rather than insert the coin, and see the result. Or play roshambo with an hideous freak of nature. This gets back to our larger point of agreement, which was collaboration, or more specifically, the ability of a number of players (or teams!) to wager on outcomes of various kinds.
At present, II has no gambling that is not a solo act. Unless you're aware of something I'm not, in which case, I would love to hear about it.
So, in short, you're right: there is plenty of gambling on the Island. It's just not very interesting to me because it's entirely solitary.
Re: C | More Gift Giving
It does not need to be elaborate, and of COURSE, we can always RP anything we choose. Your assertion that altruism made the game too easy to start is, of course, your opinion. From my perspective, it allowed me not to lose interest. Which brings us back to Koster's point that gifting is not cheating. It's glue. It creates a social fabric. I think he's right.
You go on to assert that it made things too easy, and offer other suggestions for how to welcome new players, and also assert that gifting drove them off. Given that II doesn't do exit surveys for retiring players, I'm not sure how you can know that for a fact. I suggest that many things are true at once, and while some found it too easy, others found it just fine, and perhaps the absence of it has led to higher churn rates in II membership.
The point is, these questions are worth asking, and finding real answers to. You and I opining on different usecases is just the beginning of making a testable hypothesis.
Re: D | More collab/cooperation on group projects.
I'm open to new ideas here too.
But more importantly, the creation of tools that allow MANY such things to be tried easily between groups of friends, or clans, or even a hunting party.
Re: E | It's still the economy
I was talking about commerce, and allowing characters to make objects, and exchange them with others. You went immediately to the One Shot economy and rightly point out that demand will always outstrip supply, and then suggest a reliable generator of 1STs would be desirable.
I should probably amplify my point, because the 1ST debate has been going on since about 10 days after eBoy popped into existence, and I don't want that well-documented example to act as a chokepoint for this discussion.
Let's break this down.
What I'm proposing (and have proposed, at length, and elsewhere in this forum) is the following:
a) Allow player-manufactured objects.
1) Allow between DK persistence of objects.
2) Allow exchange of objects.
3) Allow pricing of objects
4) Allow objects to be "seen" or displayed to other players.
b) Allow player-manufactured objects to have in-game use.
Not all of these properties need apply to all objects.
Here's a few usecases:
1) Let's say I want to make a necklace for a friend. It has a description. It shows up in my inventory. It has no particular use. I can give it as a gift to a person. Or in case a3, I can post it for sale. We used to call this "fluff" back in some ancient text game I once played shortly before the invention of the vacuum tube.
2) Let's amplify this to another usecase: I want to make clan badges for clan members. I can make them. They show up in my inventory. I can send them to a fellow clan member. Once donned, it shows up in their description. The cool thing about this object is that while others can SAY they have the clan badge (because they can write whatever they damned well please in their bios), only the clanmembers I've given badges to can display them. It's official. And for a new clan member, just a little bit cool.
3) In this hypothetical, let's say I want to make 1STs for the masses. To do so, I have to go do a ton of shit in-game. Perhaps like in the old days of collecting scrap in CC404. Or something totally new and different and infinitely more exciting. The point is, I can make some of these, and sell them for cash @ eBoys, or gift to people I'm quite fond of, or just throw caution to the winds and start sending them to noobz so they can tour the Island outposts in style and get excited.
4) I want to make a custom mount for myself! (do a search on me, and the word chassis within this forum) After a lengthy, arduous process of harvesting bits of critters, or cutting down mountains (with the flat of my hand), or whatever series of flaming hoops is deemed necessary, I can create a chassis for a mount, and then spend req & cigs on outfitting it with various garbage, like panniers full of delicious nougat, a targeting reticule, afterburners, power windows, and a water pipe. Or your accessory list here. Some would have in-game effects: Nougat, as we all know, increases the range of the vehicle. Power windows reduce stamina costs. Water pipes cut down on risk of cancer.
After this jeremiad is over, i would of course have a v. nice mount, which I would name Pablo the Zombie Donkey. Kidding! I would give it a much cooler name. And not THE anything.
In any case, not all of these item-making ideas would necessarily EVER impact the local economy. Unless it had in-game use and became exchangeable. The point is, objects assist in making characters unique; exchanging unique objects is a powerful gifting device; building them is a fascinating meta-game; and having in-game effects a worthy payoff for what would likely be -- at times -- grindy.
Anyway, that's more than I particularly wanted to write on this topic today.
Now I'm off to go order that interesting book Sessine suggested.
In the interest of clarity:
a) I was not suggesting we clone poker in II.
b) I was suggesting that poker (as a strawman example) is more collaborative and involves more people than what we have.
As an aside, I found your comment re: "what we have fits the tech level of the island" a little odd because, after all, what's lower tech than cards (which by the way WE HAVE, thanks to Sessine et. al. w/respect to the train system) other than, perhaps dice, or perhaps mankala?
In keeping with that five-suited deck, perhaps a game could be evolved around that?
In any event, I was asked to be more specific, and was challenged on the gambling point, but am now finding that in suggesting types of games, I may have inadvertently funneled the discussion into the merits of SPECIFIC games.
So, to be clear, I am not suggesting any specific approach to gambling other than raise the number of people that can participate in a given game.
I am advocating a toolset that would support a variety of such games.
W/respect to exit interviews, it sounds like from the data you have access to that "game was too easy" ranked fairly low.
Or maybe I misread that while exhaling milk through my nose at the image of dinosaurs trying to type with their vestigial forelegs.
Just imagine how much worse it is for us who have to make our way through life afflicted with pteronodonitis.
Regarding exit interviews: yes, we actually do these. Expiring players are asked to reply to the expiration E-mail if there's a particular reason they quit, and yeah, the game being too easy was a big part of Pilot and S1 days. Our retention rate is much better now.
Teleporters have gone down in price because I moved the Extended Play meter to outside of the coin slot, where you can see it without clicking.
There's a new PvP gambling / strategy game in the works that should be pretty awesome. It's gonna be a bastard to balance, so don't expect it tomorrow.
You've given me an idea for roleplay items... let's call 'em "Mementos."
Mementos are items that you carry around in a new Inventory slot (backpack, bandolier, lodge bag, card wallet, memento... case?) that's visible to other players via your Bio.
Mementos don't have images, or weight, or any in-game effects, but are created by other players in exchange for some resource (Stamina, Req, Cigs, Cobblestones?).
Mementos survive DK's.
Mementos can be given via the standard gifting system.
So basically we take the existing roleplay-only items that our players have conceived, and make them part of the Item system - a thing that you can carry around and see in your Inventory. It might make them feel a little more "real." (as real as anything can feel within the confines of the game world, but you get my meaning I'm sure)
@CMJ Re: Mementos.
Wow. You've nailed it.
I don't mean wow, it's about time.
I do mean wow, you've fully distilled the idea, knocked off the sharp edges and dangly bits, and dipped it in liquid awesome.
The light! It blinds me!
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