The second of the series of posts about the new objectives of game designers: today, game designers have to consider revenue issues and business models since the beginning of their creative processes.
The lead designer of Settlers Online, Teut Weidemann, maintains that the first step for a game designer is to identify what makes a mechanic funny: it must be able to attract users.
But, at the same time, it is necessary to consider the monetization power of that mechanic, since monetizing has become a crucial and essential part of game design.
The technique adopted by Weidemann is interesting, but it is also cynical. It is based on the exploration – or rather, on the monetization – of human weaknesses, that he called The Seven Deadly Sins. Not only because of his name, it has caused a lot of reactions within the community of developers; however, in our opinion, it is a correct logic.
Players love competition, and even more, they love to boast and to show how good they are and the goals they have achieved. Competing and cooperating at the same time is a very powerful dynamic which gets players to try to improve, also considering the progress of the others. This dynamic leads to the next sin….
To exist, this dynamic needs that players would be able to see the achievements and progress of their friends/competitors. In China it is popular to steal objects from other players, and if this goes on, there will be a further evolution toward…
The goal here is to get players to consume more, e.g. creating and selling directly objects which are immediately available. According to Weidemann, this dynamic is a time-saver – e.g. in the games where it is necessary to construct building, giving an immediate upgrade permits to save both time and resources to invest.
This sin is measured by immediate gratification. Instead of waiting, the player can unlock what he wants at once.
If a player wants to dominate his enemy, in a ludic context based on competition, they will want to get rapidly the best items, e.g. more efficient units, but not only these: selling statistics and reports about the battles fought by other players allows the user to study the enemy. What there is at stake here is the affirmation of the self.
This sin is linked to gluttony too, but, because of this sin, instead of consuming, the player want to accumulate more and more; e.g. the need of achievements is directly connected to the well-being of the users, who are satisfied with their own continuous virtual gain.
Because of this sin, players want to avoid the job. Therefore, game designers can promote the selling of automatic processes, which are directly taken off the hands of the players, to avoid players to do something. If everything can be achieved in a few clicks, sloth can be enjoyed.
See Teut Weidemann’s original thought on Gamasutra: To Succeed In Free-To-Play, ‘Exploit Human Weaknesses’.