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Games designed around addiction, not gameplay


dumpster
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38 minutes ago, Mr Cochese said:

Wasn’t the original clicker invented as a pisstake of “levelling up” based gameplay loops, where you’re supposed to feel accomplished for doing the same thing over and over because there are fireworks when you open the next box?

 

Ah, Cow Clicker. More innocent times.

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5 hours ago, Mr Cochese said:

Wasn’t the original clicker invented as a pisstake of “levelling up” based gameplay loops, where you’re supposed to feel accomplished for doing the same thing over and over because there are fireworks when you open the next box?

 

That reminds me of a Flash game called Achievement Unlocked that awarded you Achievements for almost every action that can possibly be taken:

 

https://armorgames.com/play/2893/achievement-unlocked

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13 hours ago, RubberJohnny said:

I have, it's one of those threads that's about quarantining this as a problem of mobile (as in dumpsters last post) and away from regular gaming, even though it's been one of console gamings most popular genres since Diablo.

 

Diablo 3 is a grind game. 

 

Watch the numbers and kills go up. More cash. Get better loot. Repeat.

 

WOW with it's random drops all over the place, notably in raids.

They really drive people to work together in teams. Imagine that! A horribly experience of grinding that teaches teamwork and builds friendships. All because of a random drop.

 

Awful. WOW and Diablo should never have existed.

 

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19 hours ago, RubberJohnny said:

I have, it's one of those threads that's about quarantining this as a problem of mobile (as in dumpsters last post) and away from regular gaming, even though it's been one of console gamings most popular genres since Diablo.

 

This post really hit home for me. Plenty of people, sitting in their comfy Skinner boxes yelling insults at the people sat on the other side of the road, in their Skinner boxes. Mobile or not, the only difference is that the far extremes of it are more likely to appear on mobile where development costs and risks are lower. However, the central core is arguably more prevalent and impactful in console/pc based gaming and has been there for decades. If you are looking out at mobile gaming and feeling shocked, please stop there. Don't be like me and start looking in to the gaming that you love and consider to be immune from this.

 

For example, EDF 2017. A game which I herald as a classic, and one which I am now close to finishing on inferno. Heralded as a classic arcade action game, and one which I love. It is just another Skinner box albeit with fluid gameplay, hundreds of enemies on screen and some incredible boss battles.

 

The progression is pure Skinner box. Do the same levels, at least 5 times over, each enemy gives a chance to drop loot at random, weapons, health or armour. Certain weapons only drop at certain difficulty but there is no guarantee ( I've been waiting for a better sniper rifle for about 20 hours now, despite every level I play being high enough for it to drop) completing the game requires between 3000-8000 armour, at a drop rate of about 5 - 10 per level average = 300 to 1500 levels. Difficulty increase is just more health and damage from the enemies.

 

Honestly, don't look at this too deeply as it has the potential to ruin your favourite hobby.

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18 hours ago, Wiper said:

Ah, Cow Clicker. More innocent times.

 

Progress Quest probably predated that by a few years

 

EDIT: VV All I posted was an observation that these tactics are common in gaming, it's not a statement that there's no gameplay or people can't enjoy the gameplay, but them doing so also doesn't make these things ineffective or acknowledging them bad. It's like that "no one thinks they're affected by advertising" thing.

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I think a few people are misunderstanding the premise of this thread (perhaps on purpose?) The OP isn't about some mobile versus console snobbery, it's apparently discovering for the first time that the idle/clicker genre exists. These are on all sorts of platforms, Cookie Clicker, Universal Paperclip, Clicker Heroes, Egg Inc, Adventure Capitalist and so on. There's loads of difference between these games - that really are just pushing a button for bigger numbers - and even something like Jetpack Joyride, Skyforce or similar (let alone a Diablo or whatever the older mobile copy of that is - Dungeon Hunter?)

 

I'm often quite surprised dumpster notices things that have been around for ages, but pretending as RJ does within 10 posts that there's no difference is mental. Sure, some of these games lean more heavily into false progression than they might need to. It's not the same as an Egg Inc. And not to say that the only people "playing" Egg Inc are broken patsies, either.

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Anyway I believe it was Stuart Campell who got me into Slitherlink for the DS, and the guy is a bastard since I never completed it - _ -

 

Also, Advance Wars for me - and I figured out later that most of the compulsive aspects of it like the sound and timing of the cursor are probably from longbow archery (it sounds like a stressed out bow string being adjusted). In addition, I kinda just like the eternal optimism of Andy I think? He reminds me of an old family dog maybe.

 

 

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  • 3 years later...

 Back again 2 years later and just read the EDF post above, and others making similar points.  I think the difference here is that EDF doesn't have in game purchases to get you what you need.  Edf has hundreds of weapons and when you earn one it's fun to play again to try it out.  But it isn't deliberately dangling that in front of you saying you can buy it for cash. Also the game doesn't reach a brick wall if you choose not to buy any dlc.  

 

I'm on with Clicker Heroes on Xbox at the moment and it's very clear what's going on (now I've played it for a few weeks).  I paid £7.99 for a auto clicker.  This was paid for in gems, the in game currency. An auto clicker cost me 50 gems.  The game progress sped up and I could see the active difference the purchase made until the enemy got too tough again.  The best thing I could do now is to buy another clicker, but the second one is 150 gems.  I imagine a third one would be 300. What I'm seeing here is a game deliberately designed to be a massive time sink, NOT because it's fun, but because it's deliberately been created to hit those triggers in your brain.  It may be a fine line between a movie, book or game that's doing the same thing because it's really good, but this makes it a difficult point to put across.   

 

I went on holiday in November and was really pissed off to lose my Microsoft Rewards 17 week streak.  My brain shouldn't work like that, I should be happy I'm on holiday.  

 

Games can be addictive, they're exciting and fun.  My mother says I shouldn't play a game because they are addictive, but doesn't see any comparison with that book she's reading - it's so good, she tells me, that she can't put it down!  

 

Everyone designing a product wants to draw the user in.  An author wants to make a page turner, a TV show producer wants you to eagerly await the next episode.  But these clickers seem insidious, with their bright colours, jaunty music, free downloads and quick access.  They seem to trigger me into continually looking at them, even though o know that I really should buy that extra autoclicker and it's only 150 gems. It won't make a difference in a day or two because I'll need another.  It's like running in a race where you can pay £5 to jump a mile ahead ; you do get a visible advantage until you realise the race has no finish line.  

 

My issue here remains that there are two ways you can make the customer keep returning to the product.  One way is to make it a good product.  The other is to study the psychology of human behaviour and create something that deliberately ticks every box to extract as much revenue as possible.  Whether that's McDonalds creating their new burger in a lab of food scientists, tweaking every individual amount of salt, sugar and fat to make a perfect, yet unhealthy and nutritionless meal, or a games designer making money, it's a dangerous world to live in when everything around you is scientifically created to grab your attention and make an indelible mark on your brain.

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44 minutes ago, dumpster said:

 Back again 2 years later and just read the EDF post above, and others making similar points.  I think the difference here is that EDF doesn't have in game purchases to get you what you need.  Edf has hundreds of weapons and when you earn one it's fun to play again to try it out.  But it isn't deliberately dangling that in front of you saying you can buy it for cash. Also the game doesn't reach a brick wall if you choose not to buy any dlc.  

 

I still think that the wool is being pulled over your eyes if you think that skinner boxes only apply if money is involved. Skinner boxes don't care if money is involved or not and neither do our brains.

 

For most people, skinner boxes are more damaging to our mental health than they are to our wallets but money tends to get the most attention because it is tangible and measurable. In the same way that psychological abuse can be far more destructive to an individual than physical abuse, but physical abuse is generally acted on more effectively because it is measurable and tangible. Sorry to get dark but schools are a good example. If someone attacks someone else in a one off physical attack or one off steals money, schools will act far more decisively than if a student has undergone years of psychological abuse, purely because it is tangible. Which stories get more media coverage? a child who spends £1000 on their mother's credit card on loot boxes or the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people out there today who have screwed up their education, friendships, marriages etc. because of non-monetary skinner boxes in games?

 

Saying that, I think gaming has improved on this front with a lot of games now choosing to give information and certainty about the outcome of choices. Good game design doesn't need to over-use skinner boxes and and is possible with little to no implementation at all. It might be the games that I choose to play but I have experienced far less deliberate variable reward in games in the last year or so.

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On 07/01/2019 at 14:08, Gorf King said:

All those games - and all loot games - are 'not designed around gameplay'? Nonsense. Some loot games have exceptional gameplay, some don't. 

 

I'll also go back to this post from Gorf King, I don't think it makes much difference honestly. I mean the most popular loot game is Diablo, which has just always been kind of a crap series with nothing going for it than "look at all this loot!" Particularly in the mid-00s there were loads of crap low-budget loot games like Hellgate or Space Siege, but you'll still get loads of people saying how great they were and how they loved them (even before the nostalgia pandemic) because y'know - it did the brain stimulation reward thing well.

 

It's basically what led me to write that genre off, I used to joke that it was pointless doing a review for loot games because all the stuff you'd write about the UI or AI or graphics or level design didn't matter, the only bit people really cared about was "does this do the brain stimulation bit? Yes/No"

 

Obviously since Diablo 3 there's been a bit of a resurgence, loot games are higher budget and mainstream in a way they kind of weren't, but does this make them any different really? Like is that stuff in Destiny the core of the appeal or is it just that you got hooked on the loot skinner box because it came in a form you enjoyed - a shooter by Bungie, rather than the somewhat lame top down clicker form of Diablo? Basically everyone said with the original Destiny that no one would play a game with that limited content for the thousands of hours they did without the loot component, and I think that's true, although obviously I can only comment from the outside and I can't trust the view of someone on the inside for the same reason a gambling addict or gacha whale will always deny he has a problem, so we probably won't agree.

 

On 08/01/2019 at 10:17, Uncle Mike said:

I'm often quite surprised dumpster notices things that have been around for ages, but pretending as RJ does within 10 posts that there's no difference is mental. Sure, some of these games lean more heavily into false progression than they might need to. It's not the same as an Egg Inc. And not to say that the only people "playing" Egg Inc are broken patsies, either.

 

For the record I think clickers are really dumb and gamers lost the ability to gatekeep what "a real game" is the moment they started playing and enjoying them, but it's daft to pretend they're not just a boiled down version of classic gamer stuff when that was literally their origin (Progress Quest was from 2002 and was made by an MMO developer as a parody).

 

Quote

Critics have commented that, despite the automatic progress, Progress Quest was an enjoyable experience.[3][4] Reviewer Nick Hide compared this with other MMORPGs in which players persevere through dull tasks, just to level up or obtain a new item, owing to an emotional attachment with the character.[3]

 

That would fit perfectly with my point above that they get good reviews because "did the brain stimulation thing", it's literally just bars that fill up and numbers that go up with no intervention for the player, but is a good game, apparently.

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I’ve dabbled with clicker/idle games but never really to the point of addiction or spending money on them - they’re just something I leave running in the background. As for loot games; sure, I play Destiny but the loot collection is only worth pursuing because things like the co-operation, the mission design and the tactical options (which buffs to use, what elemental damage is covered, which ability cooldowns need improving) create a satisfying experience by themselves. If the fundamental shooter gameplay was crap, no amount of shiny exotics could keep me interested.

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Weirdly I completely misunderstood the words "Skinner Box" thinking it must be a reference to Todd from Neighbours who seems very prominent in this thread. The ongoing battle between the two of them over Ghosts and Goblins really freaks me out that I can remember Skinner's name.

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7 hours ago, dumpster said:

I'm on with Clicker Heroes on Xbox at the moment and it's very clear what's going on (now I've played it for a few weeks).  I paid £7.99 for a auto clicker.  This was paid for in gems, the in game currency. An auto clicker cost me 50 gems.  The game progress sped up and I could see the active difference the purchase made until the enemy got too tough again.  The best thing I could do now is to buy another clicker, but the second one is 150 gems.  I imagine a third one would be 300. What I'm seeing here is a game deliberately designed to be a massive time sink, NOT because it's fun, but because it's deliberately been created to hit those triggers in your brain.  It may be a fine line between a movie, book or game that's doing the same thing because it's really good, but this makes it a difficult point to put across.   

 

The Steam version of Clicker Heroes was the first idle game I really got into (having skipped Cookie Clicker).

 

I never spent any real world money on it. I got put off it after I returned to it after leaving it a while and found that various updates had rebalanced the prices and benefits of the god idol/statue things (Ancients?) that I'd already bought.

 

Since then the idle games I've played are:

 

Universal Paperclips - At least this one tells a story!

 

Antimatter Dimensions and Exponential Idle - Yeah, these two are purely about watching big numbers go up. ("Infinite" and "Eternity" are verbs now.) But at least I can tell myself that they exercise the brain a bit if you treat them as puzzle games where the aim is to try and find the most efficient way of getting that big number to go up as fast as possible.

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On 07/01/2019 at 16:04, therearerules said:

Reminds me of Tiny Towers, my first and last foray into freemium iOS games. Horribly exploitative things.

 

edit - here’s the (barely literate) thread I made, 6 years ago now! 

 

It was wrong then and it’s just as wrong now. 
 

“There’s something I play and enjoy but lord I know I must not!”

 

Its like weird evangelist pastors getting super worked up about things everybody enjoys doing and they enjoy doing and do. 
 

Especially picking on Tiny Tower, what an excellent little mobile game that was.

 

”It expects me to pay!” Heavens. Discourse from ‘gamers’ around mobile titles was horrific then and isn’t much better now. 
 

Now there is a discussion to be had about the different and careful layers of psychological pressure that titles lace into their meta, especially when they are massively aimed at kids. But this wasn’t it.

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Oh lord I have sinned and partaken of the devils draught, I must confess my sin for the cursed alcohol has passed my lips, your lips oh lord and made me impure and corrupted my thoughts. 
 

No Father Rogers, how about you enjoy a drink without worrying about trying to work out what’s allowed according to complex straight jacket of artificial rules you try to force on everyone else. 
 

And genuine apologies for bowling in all argumentative and confrontational. My primary intention is not winding people up. Life is strange when you love the gym but can’t stand typical gym people, you love games but gamers, fucking mainly hell no, and so on. This idea that ‘core gamers’ are some sort of gatekeepers to the sacred realm is farcical, and I am strongly against it.

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Weird to quote a 3 year old post quoting a 6 year old post, but still disagree. Having to pay for gems (or equivalent) to speed things up after the first hit is free is shite- just charge a one off like those iOS games I can't remember the name of (one was managing a games design company, isometric pixel art games)-could easily have been free massive wait times for games design unless you spend gems, but that would have been shite.

 

Or charge for cosmetics, much better model.

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On 08/01/2019 at 04:45, Guest said:

 

Diablo 3 is a grind game. 

 

Watch the numbers and kills go up. More cash. Get better loot. Repeat.

 

WOW with it's random drops all over the place, notably in raids.

They really drive people to work together in teams. Imagine that! A horribly experience of grinding that teaches teamwork and builds friendships. All because of a random drop.

 

Awful. WOW and Diablo should never have existed.

 

 

Disagree. High-level Diablo is pretty much bullet hell. If D3 is having you mindlessly grind you need to up the difficulty in order to speed XP/drops along so that you get to that destination sooner rather than later/never. Once you get to an endgame state you can pass down extremely game-breaking strong weaponry to a fresh level 1 character, which enable you to quite effortlessly ramp up to the maximum difficulty and rapidly boost them to the highest level over the course of a single afternoon - which is a grind yes, but this is a particular grind that never gets boring for some reason. It's a bit like the infinite rocket launcher on Resi, but probably more because you're unlocking skills and runes faster than you can try the last ones out, as the set gear bonuses from all the armour that's now rapidly dropping is pointing you towards a particular build which quickly transforms you into a totally unrecognisable powerhouse, albeit one which can die from a single tick of damage-over-time from a poisonous gas cloud.

 

WoW has some great locales, nice dungeons, and ultimately some genuinely well-designed raid bosses. Of course, there is a farming requirement in there (one night per week farming ingredients for raid consumables... :facepalm: ) but that's just the PvE side of things. PvP is where I spent most of my time and that's some of the best game play I've ever experienced. I still sometimes send myself to sleep or spend showers replaying 3v3 match-ups in my head a whole fifteen years later. Zero grind to that, unless you count grinding your ELO rankings - but then that could also apply to Chess.

 

Obviously 99.9% of players will never experience either game at this level, so I understand where these opinions come from. On the surface it's just grind, grind, grind... I played both games for seriously unhealthy amounts of time and the only time I remember any grind at all was when it was entirely self-imposed for stupid OCD reasons.

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Diablo 3 is an interesting example of a game pulled back from the brink because the original PC build appeared to be an exploitative skinner box that was changed quite dramatically in light of the console release.

 

I stopped playing Loop Hero recently because I felt like I was addicted to it's gameplay loop (sorry) but I wasn't enjoying it a few hours in.

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Oh yeah, I was playing D3 at launch. I even bought a laptop for it specifically. I ended up quitting at the endgame because it was literally impossible to progress unless you were either a Mage or a Demon Hunter who was making loads of cash from the Real Money Auction House. It was both an insult and a disaster.

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