Gamification - Where to Place your Allegiance
Is gamification something you should consider as a company? When considering this question, the question of ‘why’ is prone to pop up rather immediately, possibly followed closely by a ‘how’.
The first question can be answered with tossing around a couple of buzzwords we are all familiar with, promising user retention, activation, participation and so on; stuff we all like to have. The second question takes a bit more consideration.
Imagine a wide field stretching out towards the horizon with the occasional grassy hilltop, a few winding passes, couple of trees, some streams here and there. You get the picture. On this field there are two camps, both laying siege to a single imposing castle. Within this castle lie many promises of gold, success and glory; stuff we all like to have. The problem, however, is how to get to through the outer walls and into the inner bowels of the keep where the most precious of promises are kept.
Each camp has its own way in doing so.
In one camp we have initiatives who take on a standardized approach. They bring their trebuchets and other gear along from other sieges to use them again and again. They provide pre-determined solutions molded into a single package, adjusted and attuned over time. This package oftentimes holds features like the widely familiar badges, achievements and leaderboards. All that needs to be done is implement the package, set the parameters of the features and job’s done, besides the consequent monitoring after which you might want to adjust those parameters slightly. Perhaps get a trebuchet or two extra. However, such a brute force approach might not be the most appropriate method to get to those intrepid inner bowels.
In the other camp we find initiatives who create, wield and shape their wargear accordingly to the specific properties of the keep. They create a battleplan to get to the innermost workings, holding the most valuable objects of desire. This is a fit-for-purpose approach. There is not a single pre-constructed package offered. Instead, through deliberate and extensive considerations a tailored solution is provided. This is an approach which takes into account the entirety of the problem, every nook and cranny, and creates a solution which fits best into the context of the whole experience. However, delicacy takes time. While the other camp might already be working on taking down the outer walls, this camp could very well still be planning on a way of entry.
There is a big divide within the field of applied gamification. This divide is made of two camps that each wield their own type of solution to problems. Where would you place your allegiance? Which camp would you trust in delivering the best, most appropriate results?
A stone’s story
A short story I picked up somewhere.
Every stone carries a story. If you listen closely and carefully enough it might tell you its tale. This one, this smooth bright white stone with gentle grey veins, laying on the bed aside this stream among its fellow stones, tells a story of a boy and a girl.
Far upstream they were sitting in silence, under the shade of a protective oak. The only sounds that broke the silence were the bristling of the oak and the occasional stone breaking the surface of the water as the boy idly tossed them in the stream, as if casting them away from himself.
As the boy and the girl sat there the boy noticed that the girl did not have any stones to toss herself. So he gave her one, a rough bright white stone with gentle grey veins. She cast the stone in the stream, breaking the surface. In return she gave herself to the boy, and he casted her away from himself as he would with a stone, unmindful of any falling she might feel as she broke the surface.
As it was thrown once, it knew the feeling of motion. And it became difficult to be like a stone, fixed, motionless. So over the many years, when it could, it took the offer of the water to move. And when it did, the stone thought of the boy.
Immersion - Competitive Gaming
Date: 8 July 2011
Keywords: immersion, competitive gaming, involvement, digital game experience model, Starcraft
While heading towards the next town for a couple of new quests you wander through a lush, beautiful forest. Generous amounts of lighting and bloom effects are tossed around as rays of light break through the clouds. You unconsciously nudge the joystick on the controller you are holding a little bit forwards, so you can continue your journey, slowly though, as you are enjoying the graphical feast displayed before your eyes. Oh, but wait! What is that? A group of villains approach you from the other side of the road. You quickly press the B-button to draw your sword and push the joystick fervently in the direction of the brigands. ‘Charge!’, you say to yourself. After twenty seconds of mashing the A-button guts are spilled on the forest floor and blood is mingling with the grass and dirt (- you imagine). After you collected the loot of the slain marauders you continue your journey, slowly, once again immersed in the rich world.
But no, this is not how this story goes. This is neither a story placed in idyllic scenery, nor a story where your imagination is fueled by a bounty of visual prowess. This is a story of the competitive gamer. The gamer that sets the graphics to the lowest setting to more accurately differentiate between objects on the screen. The gamer who wishes to have a screen-filling user interface just so that he can have perfect control. It is about the gamer who masters a single strategy over the course of an entire week. And actually, it is not a story at all. It is real blood, sweat and tears to overcome the greatest digital obstacles and attempt to be the best at what you do: playing games competitively (alright, perhaps not so much real blood).
Immersion - MMORPGs
Date: 13 April 2011
Keywords: immersion, MMORPGs, incorporation, alignment, spaces
I was venturing through the plains of Dragonwake, a green province of the Old World. As I passed canyons and rivers on my mount, which I named Spike in honor of fellow of Dark Elf Malus Darkblade, I glared at castles of great esteem which lay, only momentarily of course, in control of the High Elves: our nemeses. That night I was hunting for a particular High Elf, since after all I had a personal score to settle with that self-proclaimed highbrow as he denied me my own and my guild’s assured victory on the battlefield at the border to Caledor.
The scene illustrated above is derived from a personal experience within the virtual world of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (2008), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or MMORPG for short. The virtual reality mediated by the game fueled my imagination and without giving it another thought I was becoming immersed. I was not experiencing this space in solitude however. I was experiencing it with my brother, friends and many others. It was an alluring world created to draw in thousands and thousands of players. It was a world inhabited with monsters to kill, dungeons to explore, villages to burn (or save, if you wish) and fellow players to share these challenges and experiences with. We were, in varying degrees, immersed in a shared virtual space.
On Game Journalism - A Precarious Balancing Act
Date: 14 June 2011
Keywords: game journalism, NDA, embargo, audience, game industry, eyeballs
Featured on Gamasutra
Can we jump?!
At last! Square Enix is doing it! Final Fantasy Online XIV Online is getting a reboot! Was the interface fixed? Did they find a solution for the copy-pasting of the environment? Do they actually give an explanation of what levequests are now? And the question of all questions: can we jump?!
Final Fantasy XIV Online Reboot has hit closed beta. As a renowned games journalist for IGN you have been granted a single key to unlock the grand doors to a new and, hopefully, much improved version of the lush lands of Eorzea.
You install the beta-client, click through the necessary wall-of-texts called NDAs, agreed, yes, agreed, log-in, done, create character, go!
The first thing you do: hit spacebar. Nothing. You try again. Still nothing. Is the key binding different? No. Wait, there is still no jump?!
The second thing you do: tweet that Square Enix is made up of a bunch of, forgive the French, ass-hats for not implementing jump, again.
After a minute or two your bewilderment is broken off by the sound of the phone purring on the table beside you. You reach over and answer, still slightly stricken, "hello?".
You > Technology
We all like technology, and we all like thinking about its future possibilities. Imagining what wondrous applications of cutting edge tech we will have tomorrow is something that I’m guilty of as well, regularly. As these days we are bombarded with news of upcoming devices there is hardly any escaping the dreams of a great technological tomorrow. Enticing conceptual models, specs of the next upcoming iDevice, alluring ideas of a new console generation; it is virtually endless. However, in our dreaming of tomorrow we often forget one important factor: us, ourselves, people, the human actor.
Our imagination is easily piqued with the expected enrichment of our lives through the newest of the new. But if and how will our daily rituals actually be enriched? That is an important question, one that easily drifts off into the background. If we want to gain an insight in how these changes could occur we need to think about how our daily rituals are affected. We need to think less prominently about the seemingly limitless possibilities technology could offer us, and more about the implications it has or could have on our actual behavior.
This does not mean that we should denote the value and enjoyment in thinking about a technological utopia, nor is it to promote a near dystopic realism, as we don’t care to be responsible in our fantasies. It is more akin to thinking in the ways of realistic utopism, meaning you take into account the human actor and give a little less attention to the next iDevice itself.
This might seem like an account against determinism, but that is not the point here that I wish to make. Similar to how I don’t want to denote utopic thinking, I also don’t really care to poke at determinism here. It is more about taking on a different perspective in your dreams of the future, like putting on a different set of glasses through which you look at tomorrow. It is a perspective in which you look at yourself in the first place and how you could possibly interact with tomorrow’s technology.
Guild Wars 2 - Level scaling
One of the interesting features that Guild Wars 2 houses is the level scaling.
Firstly, this means that when you are level 20 and join in on a dynamic event which is for level 10 players, you will get downscaled to level 14-15. You will still have all your skills and the likes, but your statistics are tuned down to said level. And you still enjoy a slight advantage over your foes.
Secondly, I believe it is also possible that you can also be scaled up when you are playing with a friend and in a group. Let’s say this friend is level 30 and you are level 5. You can choose to go into a level 30 zone together and get bumped up to the appropriate level as the level 5. This also works reversely, meaning the level 30 player can get bumped down to around level 5 while in a group. The same applies to dungeons and the set level range that applies to that dungeon. You get either bumped up or down to match that level range.
This feature really changes the landscape within the world, as zones are no longer hard locked for certain level ranges, but can be dynamically approached by players of all ranges, while still being offered an interesting and meaningful playing experience. It means that you can always play with friends without being as obstructed by a difference in level as in other MMO’s. It also means that high level players can’t crash your dynamic event by one-shotting everything.
How do you think this will affect your playing experience within GW2? Will you enjoy the fact that you have more freedom in choosing where to go and wreak havoc, or would enjoy something a bit more structured and familiar as in current MMO’s?
I do have to say that I’m not entirely sure how this system works and I made a few assumptions, so your insights will be very much appreciated! Drop them below in the comment section!
Guild Wars 2 - Holy trinity
Tank, healer and damage. That’s what makes up the holy trinity. Guild Wars 2 says no, we don’t want that, we want something different. However, is it actually different?
Different classes or professions have different strength and weaknesses, and this is augmented with the different weapons that you can use. Certain weapons might make your character more beefy, allowing better tanking compared to the character that’s running around with a big ol’ 2-hander. Or they might enable certain supporting and healing spells, making your character more efficient at protecting your allies. This indicates that you can indeed take up a role as afforded in the holy trinity: you can focus on a certain aspect and be more suitable for that role than others, who might have different preferences.
However, what I think is interesting is switching between roles on the fly. This is possible due to the fact that you can easily switch between weapon sets. If you see your group is in trouble you will be able to change your weapon set with the press of a button, during the actual fight, and change your specialization to what is needed for that specific moment. In that sense it is more of a dynamic holy trinity, instead of a set-in-stone holy trinity.
But still, it seems like you will want someone in the face of the boss or mob, taking his attention, and someone dealing solid damage, as well as someone making sure everybody doesn’t fall over and die. With that, you’d probably prefer that the one taking the boss’ attention wears some hefty armor as well, which gives the role a couple of profession restrictions.
Is it different? Yes, it is. It is definitely more dynamic. However, take note that you can still take up a role as specified within the holy trinity. You want to focus on damage? You can, but be prepared for the moment that you are required to drop a few heals.
All in all, I think this system can make for some pretty interesting group dynamics!
What’s your uptake on the system?
Taking a break: Thesis
I’ll be taking a break from here to write my MA thesis for New Media & Digital Culture. Once it’s finished, around April 2012 (hopefully), I shall be back.
Where to find me!
Here is a bunch of sites where I’m at: