The Game Design Canvas: Long Term Incentive

The Power of Long-Term Incentives in Gaming

Why do some games capture our attention for hours on end, while others fall short? The key lies in understanding long-term incentives in gaming. We’ll explore this concept, using examples from popular games of the 90s and 00s, such as Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and World of Warcraft, and discuss how incorporating these incentives can transform a simple activity into a full gaming experience.

The Core Experience: Drawing Players In

People are initially drawn to games for the fun and enjoyment they offer. This could include the thrill of the chase, the challenge, the opportunity to interact with others, or the chance to improve one’s skills. These enticing elements are what we call the Core Experience.

Base Mechanics: Learning the Game

Once players are engaged, they start to interact with the game and learn its base mechanics. For example, in Super Mario Bros., players learn to jump and run through the levels, while in Pac-Man, they navigate a maze while avoiding ghosts.

Punishment and Reward Systems: Guiding Player Behavior

As players become more familiar with the game, they start to understand its punishment and reward systems. They learn what actions lead to success and which ones result in failure. This helps to reinforce the game’s mechanics and draws players deeper into the experience.

Long-Term Incentives: Keeping Players Hooked

But what keeps players engaged after they’ve mastered the game’s mechanics? The answer lies in long-term incentives. These are goals that drive players to continue playing, even if they’re not consciously aware of them. For example, in Super Mario Bros., players are motivated to reach the next level, while in Pac-Man, the goal is to achieve the highest score possible.

Examples of Long-Term Incentives

There are several types of long-term incentives commonly found in games:

  1. Complete all levels: Players are driven to complete each stage and move on to the next. This was particularly popular in early computer games and is still prevalent today. In the 90s, games like Doom and Crash Bandicoot followed this format.
  2. Collect everything: Some players feel compelled to find every hidden item or complete every side quest. Games like Banjo-Kazooie (1998) and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) are well-known for their collectibles.
  3. Gain information: In games like Metal Gear Solid (1998), players are motivated to uncover the story or explore the unknown.
  4. Improve one’s skill: Competitive games, such as Street Fighter and Halo, encourage players to refine their skills and advance through the ranks.

Balancing Long-Term Incentives and Gameplay

While long-term incentives can greatly extend gameplay, developers must be cautious not to rely on them too heavily. The ideal gaming experience strikes a balance between engaging gameplay mechanics and compelling long-term incentives.

For example, in World of Warcraft, players may engage in “grinding” to achieve a long-term goal, such as acquiring new gear or leveling up their character. While this can keep players invested in the game, it can also lead to boredom and frustration.
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We will focus on the highly acclaimed action-adventure game, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild“, examining how it expertly incorporates the game design mechanics discussed earlier in the article.

As both a player and a professional game designer, it is crucial to understand how these mechanics contribute to the game’s overall appeal and success.

  1. Base Mechanics: Breath of the Wild introduces a variety of base mechanics that players must master, such as combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. The combat system is intricate and varied, with players having access to a range of weapons, shields, and abilities. The game encourages players to experiment with different strategies, rewarding those who approach combat intelligently and adapt to their enemies’ strengths and weaknesses.

Exploration is at the heart of Breath of the Wild, with players traversing a vast open world filled with diverse landscapes, hidden treasures, and countless secrets. The game’s climbing and gliding mechanics allow players to navigate the terrain with relative freedom, adding a sense of wonder and discovery to the experience. Moreover, Breath of the Wild’s puzzle-solving elements are often integrated into the game’s Shrines and Divine Beasts, requiring players to use their wits and creativity to advance.

  1. Punishment and Reward Systems: Breath of the Wild features a well-balanced punishment and reward system that keeps players engaged and motivated. When players die in combat, they are returned to their last save point, encouraging them to learn from their mistakes and approach the challenge more strategically. The game’s breakable weapons system also acts as a form of punishment, forcing players to think carefully about their equipment choices and manage their resources wisely.

On the other hand, the game is filled with rewards to keep players motivated. Defeating powerful enemies or solving intricate puzzles often leads to valuable items or hidden treasures. Furthermore, exploration is constantly rewarded with breathtaking vistas, new discoveries, and helpful resources, reinforcing the sense of wonder and achievement.

  1. Long-term Incentives: Breath of the Wild offers players numerous long-term incentives that keep them invested in the game. The primary goal is to save the kingdom of Hyrule from the evil Calamity Ganon, providing a clear, overarching objective. However, the game also offers numerous side quests, collectibles, and upgrades that players can pursue at their own pace.

As players progress through the game, they can acquire better weapons, armor, and abilities, allowing them to tackle more challenging content. The game’s expansive world ensures that there is always something new to discover, keeping players engaged and eager to explore every corner of Hyrule.

From the perspective of a professional game designer, Breath of the Wild showcases how a well-designed game can seamlessly integrate base mechanics, punishment and reward systems, and long-term incentives to create an unforgettable gaming experience. By carefully balancing challenge and reward, and providing players with a rich and diverse world to explore, Breath of the Wild has become a beloved classic that stands as a testament to the power of thoughtful game design.
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In conclusion, crafting a captivating and enjoyable gaming experience hinges on the delicate balance between base mechanics, punishment and reward systems, and long-term incentives. By implementing these elements thoughtfully, developers can create games that players find both challenging and rewarding, keeping them engaged for hours on end.

At Fan Studio, we pride ourselves on our extensive experience in developing games that incorporate these essential mechanics. Our talented team of designers and developers work tirelessly to ensure that each game we create resonates with players, providing them with immersive and memorable experiences. We understand the importance of balancing short-term enjoyment with long-term goals, and we continually strive to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the gaming industry.

Through our dedication to innovative game development and our keen understanding of player motivations, Fan Studio remains at the forefront of creating unforgettable gaming experiences. We’re passionate about bringing new and exciting worlds to life, and we look forward to continuing our journey of exploration and growth in the ever-evolving landscape of game design.

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