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July 16, 2005


zachary j gamedesigner

When I go just swinging around in SM2, I will often divert to grab secret or skyscraper tokens. So that becomes the little thing that makes it rewarding.


At what point is a reward extrinsic? A teacher giving you a certificate is clearly extrinsic. But what about the treasure chest inside a dungeon? Or the big sound that plays when you complete a sick Tony Hawk combo? I guess a better question is...when is it an extrinsic reward rather than just plain good feedback?


I'll be quick to say that without a doubt, I would gladly play the THPS games with no scoring system. The only reason I played the career mode was to unlock more levels to free skate in.

And I have that option once I open them, so they're great games. (Didn't care as much for THUG; can't wait for THAW.) Spider-Man 2's free swinging was the relatable "game-defining experience" for SP2.

When you guys nail down that random event stuff I'm sure the best part of the game will be "being Spider-Man" moreso than playing the story. (If that's good or bad is your opinion, but I think that's where the game's strong suit lies.)


I don't know that congratulatory rewards are in fact the most rewarding. I think that each player has his or her own preferred type of rewards. Some players play for their own internal rewards (I feel good because I beat this level), others for the social recognition (why I think MMOs are so popular), and some players play to collect stuff -- be it in-game materials (levels, weapons, coins), or actual money (again the MMO factor).

As game designers we have to keep this in mind, and try to not design games that we personally find super rewarding to us and only us.

But that's just my $0.02.


A reward becomes extrinsic when the player is thinking "I'm grinding through this in order to get that reward", rather than "wheeeee"


I haven't played SM2, so maybe you already do this, but it seems to me that if web-slinging is so fun then you shouldn't really reward it, but instead make it more of a necessary part of playing the game. Basically it's focusing on the strengths of your game. You should make sure that web-slinging is the best way to achieve most tasks in the game since it's the most fun part of the game. Instead of focusing on, say, beating up bad guys with the fighting system, you'd focus on moving around the city with some fighting thrown in. You could even have some missions where the goal is just to web-sling around - like races, or a "style-race" where your goal is to do cool moves and combos so you get good photos of yourself in the newspaper.

Of course, that's the Grand Theft Auto model of gameplay. In GTA, the most fun (imho) is driving around in the cities. As such, the game makes you drive around a lot even if driving isn't generally the explicit goal of a mission. Beyond the occasional "Insane stunt" bonus, there's actually very little reward for driving in GTA: it doesn't give you special bonuses, unlock special features or anything like that. You drive in GTA because it's the most efficient method of moving around and it just so happens that it's very fun to do.

If web-slinging is intrisically fun then you don't need to reward the player for doing it: the fun is its own reward. Most people like progressing in the game though, so you need to make sure that web-slinging is necessary all the time to progress in the game.

Sacred cows make great steaks -- Fresh ideas on game development: http://www.pagtech.com


random distribution of positive reinforcement. thats possibly the difference between grinding and solely dishing out a pre-set extrinsic reward to a player. grinding involves random gifts which could potentially be awesome, and also has an extrinsic reward. So its got a double whammy.

Mr. Mechanical

I'd say the reason people spent more time swinging around was because the act of swinging was rewarding in and of itself. I mean, you guys really nailed how it feels to be Spiderman, swooping and swooshing throughout the cityscape. Everything else after that is only tertiary, in my opinion.

Games aren't all goals and rewards. Most people play because they find some sort of escapism in them. Like pretending to be Spiderman, or Tony Hawk. Scoring systems have been there since the beginning, yes, but only to make people feel like they weren't just wasting time. The way I see it, goal oriented score systems and such are a nice diversion from the play aspect of a game but they should never be the main focus. Unless you're giving the player a very defined role to play, that is, or a game built around scores like shooters.

In Spiderman 2 you helped an average joe like me pretend he's a super hero. It was never about playing through the story, or unlocking all the special combat moves. It was the swinging, because when you think Spiderman you think webslinging. Reward Carrots are an insult to my intelligence, frankly. Why bother with coming up with rewards when you could simply be focusing on making something that's enjoyable to play? The way I see it developers should focus on nailing the fun, free play aspect of a game first and build from there. Work from concepts of simple ideas and expand outward. Reward systems shouldn't feel seperate from the main game, I don't think. Once they start feeling seperate then you're effectively dealing with two different games. You guys nailed the fun part so well that I could care less about the rest of the game, just give me more reason to swing around.

Points and powerups and such are meaningless, once they've exhausted themselves of the novelty of having them. It's the play that people go back to, again unless you're dealing with a game specifically built around scores like shooters. So it seems we have two divergent paths, the game that doesn't need the scores because the act of play is so enthralling, and the game that does need scores. Spiderman 2 feels kind of stuck in the middle here, because it's free play is so seperate from it's reward carrots. However a game like Spiderman shouldn't be score driven, because people don't want anything getting in the way of them pretending to be Spiderman.

I'm kind of rambling here so I'll wrap up. I guess it all comes down to the illusion. Are you trying to give someone the option to BE Spiderman, or are you trying to give them the option to win at a game ABOUT Spiderman? Though I'm not a game designer so what do I know, right?

Obi Busta Nobi

Mr. Mechanical... you may not be a game designer, but I would argue you know quite a bit intuitivly and sometimes that where the real fun is. Your last statement really nails it down for me and I would answer that I would want to BE Spider-Man rather than win at a game ABOUT Spider-man.

Will SM 3 continue in that vein?


Yes, the web swinging in Spider-Man 2 was mostly its own reward. It's the single greatest strength of the game, so it needs to be the focus like PaG said.

The biggest reward is to just make swinging all the more fun. Make the sights around town something the player wants to visit and see, with lots of variety between locales to encourage exploration. The exploration tokens were definitely a good reason to swing around. Solving the random mission problem and mixing things up depending on your location in the city would also encourage/reward more swinging, as you'd get to play a variety of missions depending on where you go.

The challenges were a step in the right direction, but they were too restricting. Here was this great system where the player could swing around and be completely spontaneous with their swinging, but the challenge markers pretty much doomed you to running each race the same way over and over until you finally found a way to beat it (or in my case, NEVER beat the insane challenges). Perhaps if all of the races had been more open, it would have been more rewarding. And for the level of difficultly of the challenges, there really should have been some sort of reward beyond hero points. My suggestion is make that the swing speed upgrade system. Every 10 challenges you beat, you get an upgrade.


This is back in the day when Quake 3 came out, I remember seeing the initial cinematic and the affect it had on me. Then I remember the moment where I finally finished the final level and all I got was a paltry Xaero coming out and bowing to me. I almost expected a grand finale and somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I was disappointed. Thats when I had asked the quetion "Is that all I get?"

Progressive games especially in the UT brand name have tried to give you elaborate trophy cutscenes to make you feel "good". Here I am using the term to indicate temporary gratification...but they also show you that there are spots empty and playing further would help you get more of those and allows you to play. Of course playing multiplayer with other human players is HUGE factor for these games

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