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October 23, 2014, 01:22:51 AM
TIGSource ForumsPlayerGeneralWhat Minecraft and Farmville have in common
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Glaiel-Gamer
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« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2010, 11:10:24 AM »

I just wrote an article about Farmville-like game mechanics in Minecraft: http://www.indiepubgames.com/news/et-tu-minecraft

There's an interesting discussion going on at the minecraft reddit, too: http://www.reddit.com/r/Minecraft/comments/ef3g6/what_minecraft_and_farmville_have_in_common/

I'd argue that game creators should try to minimize grinding and VRRS mechanics in their games. So, for instance, maybe Notch could put in a high-level item that would make mining near-instantaneous. Thoughts?

By your logic, mario and halo are the same game because both involve jumping on platforms and killing enemies.

Oh, the fact that in one you can also drive vehicles and kill by shooting with guns, and in the other you kill by jumping and shooting (!!!) fireballs and have to save a princess isn't important. If we had to consider all aspects of a game, we couldn't make dumb comparisons like this.
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« Reply #21 on: December 03, 2010, 11:11:30 AM »

Goddamnit Gilbert, stop shattering my preconceptions about Farmville. What am I supposed to use as an example of "everything that's wrong with gaming these days" in discussions now?  Cry

Mafia war bro, mafia war Wink
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2010, 12:17:38 PM »

lol slot machines usually just get too boring, but mincraft nicely implemented the rand(0,1000) method I believe.
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« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2010, 01:20:24 PM »

I guess what I can't wrap my head around is the fear and ethical hand-wringing that surrounds these techniques. So many people talk about the ethical questions as if everyone is aware of them; I might be horribly out of touch with current design thinking, or perhaps I'm just plain evil, but I'm not aware of what these ethical questions actually are. They make good business sense, but I don't think that fact makes them inherently evil from a player experience point of view.

I don't know if it's "current design thinking", but I've read a couple of articles that led me to write mine. Here's one of the arguments that got me thinking: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_255/7594-The-Player-and-the-Pusher-Man

Also, in http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2010/3/10/gdc-2010-the-day-before-day-1.html, Sirlin describes hearing about a masterfully built slot machine mechanic in a game, which gets people to put tons of money into the game and spend entire days trying to get the best items. He wrote:
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This egregious, unethical practice is the kind of thing he should have prevented as extremely dangerous. If you are "playing to win" in business, yeah you'd do that. But doing so is damaging to the lives of our own customers. I waited until the end where you get to ask questions because I wanted to ask his take on that. I mean personally, I'm embarrassed to be part of an industry that so blatantly manipulates people like rats in a skinner box, and isn't he embarrassed about that too?

Also a quote that led me to think this was the common feeling, from http://www.third-helix.com/blog/?p=885:
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The Zynga guy (whose name I’ve completely forgotten) opened with a blatant shot against the indie community, asserting that games like FarmVille are “just as indie”, and that indies should jump into the social games space and put their money where their mouth is. Apparently Zynga guy has no fucking idea what the indie community is all about, i.e. precisely the opposite of commercialized Skinnerian time- and money-sinks driven by business and user metrics instead of love of the art.


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Whilst a system that gives rewards for repeatedly clicking on stuff might seem at first glance like some horrible dystopian brain control, the truth is the "click on a thing and get a reward, over and over again" is a mainstay of a lot of popular game genres which nobody seems to question in the same way they've questioned the Farmvilles of the world. RPGs, FPS games, 3rd person shooters, Sim- games, Godgames, puzzle games, casual games - all of these, at their core, are about rewarding you for clicking on stuff. Other genres might have different basic mechanics (moving, jumping, shooting, steering, etc) but all of them basically ask you to string simple repetitive actions together for a mixture of short, medium and long-term rewards.

The argument is that there's more going on in a player's head in most other games. The path to getting the reward isn't that simple. Usually there's some level of strategy or resource management involved. If it's so easy that this challenge becomes trivial, then the game turns into grind. I had thought that grind was universally acknowledged as a waste of time that everyone would rather avoid, before a bunch of reddit comments argued in defense of it, but I'd still say it ought to be avoided. In Farmville, the only way you can lose is for your crops to wither, so the only task assigned to the player is to show up within some fairly large time window and click. So the argument is that the reward in hardcore games comes (or ought to come) from an internal sense of achievement for learning and mastering a system, whereas the reward in Farmville is entirely extrinsic.

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Is reported player enjoyment all that matters? Fuck yes! We're game designers, providers of entertainment... If we're not producing fun for people then we're doing it wrong. (Or we're making artgames, which are cool too, but for the vast majority of games the focus is still on providing an enjoyable experience). Whatever the incomprehensible part of the human psychology is that gives people an itch that they can only scratch by clicking on a thing and getting a reward, a lot of people have it and a lot of people get genuine pleasure out of doing it.

And I really disagree. See heroin, gambling, con games, etc. for examples of things that people readily enjoy (at least temporarily), but which are ethically problematic (if not always obviously wrong). Obviously games aren't so bad as those, but we can draw parallels between them, and that's enough to start getting me concerned. Thought experiment: what if we could invent a game that was enjoyable at first, but which would make them feel horrible if they stopped consistently putting in time and money? It makes great business sense. Players willingly come to it and willingly keep playing. I bet you they'd call it enjoyable. But I'd argue it's unethical.

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For what it's worth, I think it's pretty cool that you went into writing that article with a set of preconceptions that have stirred a debate in which there are people defending Farmville who possibly wouldn't have done otherwise. You, perhaps unintentionally, framed some design techniques which are often held to be "bad" in terms of a game which is so popular partly due to its use of them that you made people reassess the usefulness and validity of those techniques. Talking about stuff and thinking about stuff like this is good.

Thanks, though I suspect you're being charitable here.   Wink  I was, in part, trying to be provocative, but I think I bit off more than I could chew in one article.
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« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2010, 01:28:13 PM »

One, you assume players are playing Alpha, just like how you play Alpha. Classic mode requires no mining, lets you customize the world any time you want, and is free. It still has a significant playerbase.

I did contrast Survival versus Creative mode in the article. But I focused on the former since I thought that most people thought like this. Why, I wonder, does time investment impress us, if anyone could do it? It just seems like a waste, when you think about it like that.

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Two, Minecraft has a number of different goals, depending on the player. For example, I don't seek out resources. Rather, I spend my time exploring a cavern, and when I'm done, I wander around until I find something else I feel like exploring (another cavern, a huge forest, whatever). To me, the enjoyment of Minecraft is in finding the things that the engine generates on the fly, rather than building some superstructure. Some people build things, others explore, other fight monsters. It's a game with player-defined goals, as there is no developer-defined goals except "live."

"If we say that Minecraft’s fun comes from mining, building, exploring, and fighting, three out of four parts are immune to my critique." So yeah, if you focus on the exploring or fighting, you minimize the grind, and that's totally legitimate. Other people play differently, and I'm mostly trying to analyze the other styles.

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Also, seriously, what is with people latching on to the term Skinner box in regards to games lately? It's really starting to annoy me. Yeah, games have a vague resemblance to an experiment performed on rats. All games, from card to board to video, operate on a few basic principles. The fact that the Skinner box vaguely shares one of those principles (and I can't emphasize vaguely enough) does not mean every goddamn game is a psychology experiment.

I think the concern is that games are starting to use Skinnerian techniques more, and the resemblance is becoming less and less vague. I don't hold a lot of respect for a slot machine, and I'd hope to encourage other game designers to stay away from shallow design, even if it makes more money.
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« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2010, 01:37:47 PM »

You could say the same about reading a book. Word after word after word... none of them providing a challenge... taking up a huge chunk of time. Aren't we beyond such nonsense? Or painting. Why waste time with stroke after painstaking stroke if you can just take a photo? What a time-sink!

Painting produces something substantively different from a photo. Let's say you want a realistic image of something (say, for record-keeping or something). Should you take a photo or painstakingly paint it, stroke by stroke? Painting, here, would be a waste of time. It's valuable elsewhere for its artistic potential. And even then, I'd say that if we had some hypothetical way of producing a painting directly from the artist's mind while circumventing the need to actually paint it, that would be a good thing. Spending time isn't valuable. It's the expression we want. So no, painting's not a grind.

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What is frustrating about MMO grinding is that it's typically repeating exactly the same activity for with the only effect being that a couple of counters go up - or worse, repeating the same activity so that a counter doesn't go down (or your crops wither, or whatever). Nothing actually changes except a couple of numbers associated to your character. I would say that is semantically quite different from a game where your activity is slowly sculpting a persistent change to your environment.

People grind in MMOs and in Farmville and in Minecraft for the same reasons: to unlock the ability to do something later (raid, buy, build). Unless your mine is a creative expression for you (like my friend who's carving out the mines of Moria, but unlike myself who just wants more iron), I'd say it's just another type of grinding. And I argue that we ought to minimize the grind, since it's a waste of the player's time.

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I agree insofar as to admit that Farmville is not intrinsically an awful game when compared to Minecraft. However it is damaged by the fact that so much of the Farmville mechanics are intrinsically tied in to revenue generation and viral marketing. With Minecraft, you get an honest product - spend your $10, and play the game how you like it. How many do you think would play Farmville under the same conditions?

Yeah, Minecraft has the advantage there.
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« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2010, 01:48:13 PM »



In every game people like their home made epic castle

Those pictures are probably the most compelling defense of Farmville that I've ever read.

That said, I think a lot of the stuff I wrote about still applies. So, let's say that the true joy in Farmville and in Minecraft is the creative expression of building (not the whole truth, but let's run with that for a second). Why, then, do we agree to put so much mindless time into these games to get there? What about this time investment makes our creations feel more valuable, and why? Farmville seems pretty weak as a resource-management game, at least in my own experience of playing it. So is there any intrinsic reward to the farming part, or would we do that even if there were no decorations to unlock?
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« Reply #27 on: December 03, 2010, 01:50:03 PM »

By your logic, mario and halo are the same game because both involve jumping on platforms and killing enemies.

Oh, the fact that in one you can also drive vehicles and kill by shooting with guns, and in the other you kill by jumping and shooting (!!!) fireballs and have to save a princess isn't important. If we had to consider all aspects of a game, we couldn't make dumb comparisons like this.

Who said they're the same game? The thread title is what they have "in common". So, yeah, Mario and Halo have platforming and killing enemies in common. I don't know if you can say anything interesting about that, but I think the similarities that I try to show in Minecraft and Farmville are at least a little compelling.
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« Reply #28 on: December 03, 2010, 02:34:02 PM »

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Why, then, do we agree to put so much mindless time into these games to get there?

But that can be said for any entertainment and any hobby. What you called mindless time is the entire point, what's fun is the journey. Or every game would have sell with the "button to win". If you have a game where you had such a button, would the game be fun? If you could go straight to the end of the movie would it be interesting? Most game or movie is just artificial padding for building the emotional experience. Most story can be sum up into only 3 sentences, most game can cut the fat to leave only a few elements. With this logic what's the fun in a enemy with 3 hits over 1? It is the same strategy for the 3, once you figure the first it is just a matter of time to get all 3, right?

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What about this time investment makes our creations feel more valuable, and why?

From my experience, both as a person and a designer, non creative people get more creative if they have some friction, it give low level goal to direct them and build confidence, as they master the rules, as they overcomes the limitation, they dare more adventurous construction. It's all about the sense of accomplishment, not necessary mastery, the feeling that what have been done is because of you. And to mark ownership of the effort we do things in a personal way, a creative way. Creative person don't need that much as creation is the enjoyment in itself, but that's not everybody.

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Farmville seems pretty weak as a resource-management game, at least in my own experience of playing it.

Remember that the audience is merely compose from people who do not play and have no prior game exposition. Surely Farmville is not Victoria 2 but still operate on the basic underlaying design, of course less confusing. Remember that Farmville is design as an amusing distraction to fill down time. Gamer are train to time sinking design where you can barely lift your ass without screwing the session. I had played game from 8 to 24 hours straight without eating, those design is not healthy nor ethical compare to "do as you please" design from social game. Farmville is the new sudoku or the new cross word, you can't really compare it to traditional game, it let you process the data at your own pace. That does not make them bad, just as different sim city was from pac man.

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So is there any intrinsic reward to the farming part, or would we do that even if there were no decorations to unlock?

Farming and gardening is pretty obvious and popular hobby, it fall under the "caring" motivation. Farmville is not exciting, it's relaxing. Gamer tend to seek tension and stressful type of hobby but not all entertainment are base under the idea of conflict. Farmville is such a design, it's about relaxing, relieving the tension and keep everything under control. We are not the target.

The only real criticizes we can accuse farmville to do is the shadowy friend spamming incitations. But that's something of the past, facebook inc just shut that.



If you want to criticize a game for being pure evil latch onto Mafia war. There is absolutely no skill nor planning involve. First the game is a total rip off of mob war with shiny button, no creativity involve.

Consider the basic gameplay loop :

Click to do job, get XP and money, a job is just a description with a name and a DO button, there is no failure just click!

You can use money to get items, but item have no other impact but unlock new job (new click)

When you have enough XP you get a new level which is new jobs (new click)

The game have a limit on the number of click you can do with stamina, that is the friction. This where most of the monetization came, obviously stamina replenish over time but you can speed it up by buying stamina point to do more click!

They have implement a system into job to slow down the content burn. Each job have a progress bar, it's an incentive to click more and do absolutely nothing but fill itself. Once the bar is complete you may have a rare item or an XP/money boost, and then the bar reset itself so you can start over.

To make you came back you can buy building, they generate money over time but at smaller flow that you can earn by cliking. Once stamina is empty, it keeps you coming back with a reward, the most time you spend away, the more money awaits you, so if you drop the game, you have an incentive to came back and play again.

The game have some competitive element, you can attack your friend, who ever have the most friend and highest level wins ...

Absolutely everything is wrong, total EVIL. No redeeming quality. Pure grind.


« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 02:39:13 PM by GILBERT Timmy » Logged


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« Reply #29 on: December 03, 2010, 03:19:14 PM »

You can quote multiple people in the same post, FYI.

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I think the concern is that games are starting to use Skinnerian techniques more, and the resemblance is becoming less and less vague. I don't hold a lot of respect for a slot machine, and I'd hope to encourage other game designers to stay away from shallow design, even if it makes more money.

My concern is that people are just now learning about "Skinnerian techniques" and think they can play the intellectual by slinging it around everywhere. The plain fact is that games aren't using it more (well, except maybe Farmville or Mafia Wars), and it's not more prominent of a feature, people are just learning what it is and think they can look smart by using the term. Games have always been this way. They will always be this way. Every game, from Poker to Chess to Halo to Minecraft, operates on the principles of a "game." And all games, since the dawn of time, have similarities to Skinner's experiment. OUR WHOLE LIVES ARE SIMILAR TO SKINNER'S EXPERIMENT.

I just get so frustrated with this pseudo-intellectualist garbage. I like that you portray Farmville in a starkly different light, I just wish it wasn't with a term that every moron that has had a Psych 101 class likes to use.
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« Reply #30 on: December 03, 2010, 03:50:01 PM »

Let's be frank "Skinnerian techniques" is the fancy term to say REWARD!
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« Reply #31 on: December 03, 2010, 05:12:11 PM »

For what it's worth, I think GILBERT Timmy is debating the points far more eloquently than I'm able to, but I've dived in already so I might as well continue Shrug

I disagree with trying to split this into two distinct categories. The social aspect and the business model are orthogonal, and there's nothing inherently wrong with either. The problem is when you tone down elements that are fun, replace them with elements that are compulsive, and then essentially put paywalls between the player and their next reward.

I think this is the crux of the anti-Farmville sentiment. The problem with this argument is that "fun" is incredibly subjective. The thought process behind the anti-Farmville camp seems to go something like this:

I don't find the game fun. Therefore it isn't fun. Therefore no-one can find the game fun. So what's keeping the millions of players playing it? ZOMG MIND CONTROL!

It's nonsense. The players clearly do enjoy playing these games, otherwise they wouldn't play. They certainly wouldn't pay. They experience a sense of progress, a feeling of creativity - they enjoy it. The games are perhaps too simplistic for the tastes of you and I, but that doesn't mean they're devoid of fun. If they were devoid of fun, people wouldn't play them.

Characterising the microtransactions in those games as paywalls is pretty unfair and fallacious as well. Admittedly I haven't played Farmville, so I could be wrong about that game, but of all the social games I've seen (including other -Ville games), there's little (perhaps no) content that can't be attained by not paying a penny and just being more patient. The vast majority of players of freemium games never pay a penny to play - they just log in when it's convenient, do what they do, log out again, and eventually get the stuff they want. The people that pay are just the ones who want a way to shorcut the process. I don't see how there's anything wrong in that. It's not a paywall, it's a completely optional shortcut.

The "energy" (or whatever other depletable, slowly-recharging resource a game might use) generally serves to actually limit the length of any given session playing one of these games. Hard-wired into their design is a mechanic that ensures they'll be played in short bursts, in a schedule that suits the lifestyles of the players. How many "proper" games have that? Hell, Blizzard might have stopped some of their more obsessive players from fucking dying if they had the same mechanic.

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The problem is that Farmville provides mechanisms to encourage you to harass your friends in order to make your own gains in the game.

And that's why I wanted to make a distinction between the "social" aspects of these games and the monetary aspects. I find the friend-spamming uncomfortable too, and there's a lot of room for improvement there. That said, again, it's unfair to characterise the spamming as only being beneficial to you. If you spam someone who is already playing the game, and they respond by clicking on the button to magically gift you the Strawberries Of Power (or whatever the hell it is you need to progress), they get ingame bonuses too. The benefit is mutual, and it doesn't cost anyone anything. Spamming people who aren't already playing the game? Yeah, that's pretty crappy.

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Does Farmville tell you up front which features require real world money? Does it mention that certain things are only possible if you recruit friends? Does it tell you that you will be essentially taunted by being shown things that other players had to pay money to achieve?

No, Farmville doesn't tell you that stuff in advance, and it should. But again, I don't know of anything which you MUST pay for to attain, and even if you do, I think you must be an incredibly sensitive soul if you feel "taunted" by seeing someone owning a piece of virtual property that you don't. I don't hear of anyone being upset that other people's XBox avatars have clothing or accessories that they don't. I happen to have a set of that overpriced Horse Armour in Oblivion - who would be upset if I posted a screenshot?

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There is also a strong thread among gamers which states that you shouldn't be able to introduce external resources to improve your standing within the game, as a point of fairness.

Sure, I understand that point of view. But nobody is making the gamers that hold that opinion play these games. Nobody is making anybody play these games.

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Different types of players that allow some players to get privileges and benefits over the others is something else. Imagine how chess tournaments would be if you were allowed to pay to have pawns upgraded to bishops.

As GILBERT Timmy pointed out, none of these games (at least none I know of, and certainly not Farmville) are competitive. They're co-operative. If your chessboard is full of bishops, that's fine with me - I'm not playing against you. If you can lend me a copy of one of your bishops for a bit, and in return I'll clone a couple of my pawns for you in case you need them, everyone wins.
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« Reply #32 on: December 03, 2010, 05:25:16 PM »

I don't find the game fun. Therefore it isn't fun. Therefore no-one can find the game fun. So what's keeping the millions of players playing it? ZOMG MIND CONTROL!

It's nonsense. The players clearly do enjoy playing these games, otherwise they wouldn't play.

I'm going to stop you right there.

Edmund and I made a little game as an experiment back when the whole farmville thing was gaining attention (also shit like WoW which uses similar psychological tactics to keep people paying their monthly fee).

We boiled those games down to their core. Click to get stuff. More clicks = more stuff. Stuff is pointless (you can arrange it in your room how you like). It takes slightly over 10000 clicks to unlock everything. We tracked the percentage of people who played who beat the game. It was just under 10%.

Now, read the reviews. Look at the pitiful score (2.61/5.00) on newgrounds. Look how many reviews are along the lines of "This game sucks and isn't fun. I gave up after 6000 clicks" then score it a 0 or a 1.

We basically suckered people into playing a pointless game, and they SAID THEMSELVES it wasn't fun, yet something still enticed them to click a button SIX THOUSAND times in a row.

This right here is EXPERIMENTAL PROOF that people can play a game for a long time without actually finding it fun. This is why people hate farmville so much. Its psychological tricks meant to keep you playing, get more people playing, and get you paying. The game design is based around maximizing profit rather than maximizing fun.
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« Reply #33 on: December 03, 2010, 05:49:57 PM »

But yet that would mean that people would rage quit and give low score? It isn't happening with social game so far, people are glad to share their achievement and give high score.

How about Gears of war? I played the game 6 hours despite finding it boring and uneventful. It only prove that without major defect, people are willing to give chance to a product. This relate to the kano model.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kano_model

What it says is that satisfaction does not correlate with satisfaction. Another way to say it, is that boring product (which bring neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction) have better chance to stay than a product that have clear defect (or that a product without defect does not make an exciting product). Generally I bring this model to highlight difference between retro game (high defect rate combine with high excitement rate) with today's game (low defect but low excitement rate, but that's changing now excitement goes up again).

Basically your little game was a safe product, not exciting but not infuriating, exactly the medium score you get at the end, there is a lot of 1 and 0 but there is also a string of 10 Wink It's funny to see people praising the game and giving to make it better!
« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 05:57:53 PM by GILBERT Timmy » Logged


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« Reply #34 on: December 03, 2010, 05:58:30 PM »

Haha, that game is hilarious Cheesy

As satire, it's brilliant. As an experiment, it's flawed. I think if you'd added a bit where people could buy 250 clicks for a dollar, it would have been interesting to see how much money you made. I'm willing to bet it wouldn't have been much, because as you say, the game is so stripped down there's no real incentive to play, and given the choice between paying real money to progress or just quitting, people would quit.

If a microtransation-based version of AVGM actually made you a pile of money, I'd concede that it's an evil psychological trick. My argument here is that Farmville is not as stripped-down and simplified as people would like to characterise it as being, and that there is actual genuine gameplay and enjoyment in there, albeit in a simpler form than we're used to.

That's not to say there isn't evil out there. I read through EMcNeill's links, and ZT Online (described in this Escapist article: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_255/7594-The-Player-and-the-Pusher-Man.2 ) sounds like a genuinely nasty piece of work.
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« Reply #35 on: December 03, 2010, 06:21:47 PM »

If a microtransation-based version of AVGM actually made you a pile of money, I'd concede that it's an evil psychological trick. My argument here is that Farmville is not as stripped-down and simplified as people would like to characterise it as being, and that there is actual genuine gameplay and enjoyment in there, albeit in a simpler form than we're used to.

In order for it to make you money like that I'd have to tie it in with facebook and have it pump numbers to peoples statuses and "challenge their friends to do better". People can pay money to unlock stuff faster.

Though I think Cow Clicker already did that
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« Reply #36 on: December 03, 2010, 06:24:32 PM »

http://progresswars.com/

Even more strip down to basic Wink

But your experiment are flaw because this does not work like farmville at all, it's more like regular game really.

The main hooks is the mystery and the narrative, not the number nor the progression, we want to see what's happen next, we want to see if it came to a closure, it looks like there is an hidden story to decipher, like the death of a looser. Not quite facebook game really nor like game with extrinsic reward (meaningless points). PLus what? 10 ending? This intrigue and keep us playing.

Actually the design is good with very clear feedback and constant stimulation, we got a good feel at where we are from the end and it spark the imagination. This is strip down engagement mechanic not compulsion mechanics.

However I stop to 3274 click as it seems I had a good grasp of what was going on and 10 000 is way to far FOR ME Wink I may go see a walkthrough on youtube Tongue


Also this
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1738/rethinking_carrots_a_new_method_.php?print=1
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« Reply #37 on: December 03, 2010, 06:32:32 PM »

PLus what? 10 ending? This intrigue and keep us playing.


theres only 1 ending, that was also a psychological trick
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« Reply #38 on: December 03, 2010, 06:36:32 PM »

YOU LIAR!
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ILLOGICAL, random guy on internet, do not trust (lelebĉcülo dum borobürükiss)
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DILF SANTA


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« Reply #39 on: December 03, 2010, 09:05:05 PM »

someone link to cow clicker KTHX
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