Sunday, December 9, 2007

Persistence vs. Perception +

In my earlier Persistence vs. Perception essay, I discussed the simple distinction between gameplay that ignores failure, which allows players to achieve ultimate victory through sheer persistence (often referred to as "grinding"), and gameplay that penalizes failure, which encourages players to perceive the features of a problem in order to develop an efficient solution.

After some further thought, I believe these two approaches to problem-solving actually fit neatly into the four-fold meta-model of playstyles. The "Persistence" style of problem-solving seems to be favored by Guardian/Achievers (and built into the core design of most MMORPGs), while the "Perception" problem-solving form looks like something an Rational/Explorer would tend to prefer. So what about Manipulators and Socializers?

I believe my meta-model of playstyles can be extended with an emphasis on problem-solving to appear as follows:

Keirsey TemperamentBartle TypeGNS TheoryProblem-Solving Style
ArtisanKiller [Manipulator][Experientialist]Power

(Note: The "Manipulator" and "Experientialist" terms are my own creations, and are not part the original models.)

In the light of this struction, let's now reconsider the Persistence vs. Perception choices for gameplay design.

Someone who enjoys systems that appear to be designed so that everything fits together for a reason, and which need to be understood in order to exercise effective control over them -- in other words, gamers who enjoy simulation content -- are going to want to win by dint of superior Perception. They're not going to think much of systems that allow people to win through Persistence; they're going to call that grinding and not mean the term as a compliment.

That lack of respect and tolerance of other ways of seeing the world runs the other direction as well. Any gameplay suggestions that don't involve combat and/or looting are met with the weary retort, "but what would there be to do?" or, even less charitably, "but that's just a simulation, not a game."

Persuasion and Power as problem-solving styles get the same kind of response. That may be understandable... but is it good game design?

I think not. I like the idea of designing a game so that all of these styles get content, and all the content works together to help people with different styles cooperate for maximum gameplay enjoyment. To me, that sounds like a good way to maximize a game's appeal.

Take the question of losing "prestige" for certain kinds of in-game actions taken by one's character, for example. Some people would hate that. Others would prefer a game with consequences. But why think about prestige as though there can be only one approach to providing it that will equally satisfy every gamer? Why not let a gamer's preferred gameplay style determine (through consistently applied game rules) how they gain or lose prestige?

In general, why believe that every gamer likes the same reward and is motivated to avoid the same penalty?

Rewarding persistence is appropriate for some gamers. Other gamers are more motivated by other kinds of rewards.

So why not design a game accordingly?

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