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Dead by Daylight's Engagement Cycle

by Jack Pritz on 06/15/20 11:17:00 am   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

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Dead by Daylight just marked it's fourth anniversary by adding yet another big IP, Silent Hill, to its impressive roster of continuous content.  Four years is a long time in the video game sphere.  New games come out every day, and all of them are vying for players.  For any game to boast four years of engagement they must be doing something special.  Dead by Daylight has even more stacked up against it than other games because it is an asymmetric multiplayer game.  Four survivors try to escape a single killer.  The two sides at conflict are both controlled by players, and therefore a player can choose to have two vastly different experiences depending on their role.  Asymmetric multiplayer games were in vogue for a spell.  Evolve, Depth, and Friday the 13th came and went, but Dead by Daylight has some sort of staying power that those games did not.  After diving into the game recently, what stands out to me is what I'm referring to as Dead by Daylight's "Engagement Cycle."  I'm not talking about core gameplay loops, the art, or the excellent IP.  Instead, in this article I will discuss the rewards and progression system that keep players hungry to enter their next match.


Pre-match

Before we get into the specifics of Dead by Daylight, let's talk a bit about Things Players Like to Do.

  1. Players like to accrue resources.
  2. Players like to develop skill, and see the game tell them they're getting better.
  3. Players like to achieve small goals in service of developing skill.
  4. Players like to form a battle plan.
  5. Players like to express themselves and look cool.

Hopefully these points are not controversial.  With these motivations in mind, let's look at the pre-match screen in Dead by Daylight.

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As you can see, players are given a lot of items to explore and understand!  Are you a bit overwhelmed?  I know I was when I started playing.  With a bit of clicking and reading descriptions, everything falls into place.

In the upper right corner of the screen we have Currency and Pride Numbers.  There are 3 of each, which means there is always a number ticking up.  These feed the desire to feel growth in resource and skill.

Elsewhere on the screen we have Daily Rituals and "The Rift."  These mechanisms provide small goals for a player to strive for either in an individual match or across many matches.  They also provide motivation for a battle plan for the next match by encouraging different styles of play.

Speaking of forming a battle plan, there are a few mechanisms to enable different playstyles.  First, players need to select a character.  They can simply change through characters using the arrows on the upper right of the screen, or they can look through a more detailed character roster in the upper left of the screen.  Each character has a distinct set of character perks, and as such each character lends themselves more easily to a specific style of play.  On the left bar of the screen players can pull up their loadout, which specifies what resources they bring into a match.  Character perks, items, item add-ons, and offerings subtly or drastically change their character's abilities during a match.  Some of these resources stick around, while others are consumed when you use them. 

We also have an option to customize the current character.  This is a purely cosmetic menu that allows players to express themselves through their character avatar.

The Blood Web also appears on this screen.  The Blood Web gives the player an opportunity to spend the Bloodpoint currency to gain resources.  We'll talk in more detail about the Blood Web in the last section of this article.

When a new player is starting out, they might spend a small or large amount of time on these screens exploring their options.  If they're spending a small amount of time - hooray!  They're excited to play a match!  If they're spending a large amount of time on these menus - hooray!  That's still engagement!  Eventually, they'll pluck up the courage to start a match.

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Post-match

So you have just finished a match of Dead by Daylight.  What do you see?  Quite a lot!  After a match, a player has 4, 5, or even 6 pages of information!  First, let's see what all of these categories are.  Then we will look at how they all feed back into the next match.

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The first page indicates how many Bloodpoints you earned during the match.  Here the player is rewarded for completing gameplay objectives. Whether you are playing as a survivor or a killer, Bloodpoints can be earned in four categories that signify different aspects of play. In addition to indicating your skill and achievement during a match, Bloodpoints are a currency.  Note the big button that indicates you can spend Bloodpoints.  You spend Bloodpoints in the Blood Web, which allows you to unlock character perks, items, item add-ons, and more.  We'll come back to the Blood Web later.

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The second page indicates how your survivor or killer rank has changed as a result of the match.  Again the player is rewarded for skilled play. If you do well in the four bloodpoint categories, you can earn one or two "pips" towards rank progression.  As I am at level 11, the UI indicates that I need 5 pips to progress to the next level.  If you do poorly during a match, you can lose a pip as I did here.  In many multiplayer games I have played, rank is The Big Number.  Folks obsess over their rank, as it proves skill.  The better you play, the better your rank.  The better your rank, the better your opponents will be.  In Dead by Daylight rank is not The Big Number.  It's just one of many numbers.

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If you brought in an item and left without it, you will see a page indicating that the item was lost.  If you find an item during a match and escape with it, you will see a page indicating that you found it.  These two optional pages communicate to the player that their current loadout and possible future loadout has changed, and perhaps they should take a moment to think about that.

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The second to last page indicates experience and player level.  Here the player is rewarded simply for playing the game.  One experience point is gained for each second of the match.  In this match, for example, I lived for 5 minutes and 35 seconds.  This maths out to 335 seconds and 335 experience points.  As I hit level 25, I earned a 235 Iridescent Shards.  Shards are the second currency we have encountered, with Bloodpoints being the first back on page one.  How's it going?  Still keeping up with it all?  Luckily, we have only one page to go...

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...and this last page is the scoreboard.  Here you can see how you stack up against everyone else during the match.  Obviously, I didn't do too well - which is why I lost a rank pip.  You can see which survivors escaped or perished, what rank everyone is, and what everyone's loadout was (perks, items, add-ons, and offerings they brought into the match).  You can mouse-over to read descriptions of loadout details in order to better understand how the match went. In doing so, you might discover a perk that you want to get for yourself, or learn about how another player was able to play the way they did.  This all feeds back into your plan for the next match.

The Engagement Cycle

Phew.  That was a lot of information!  The first time I saw all of it I enjoyed the nice animations and seeing numbers tick up.  Then it was on to the next match. Now that I'm more experienced I see that all of it means something, and all of it feeds into something I can do to play better next game.  So, let's see where all of these currencies and numbers go!

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Dead by Daylight Engagement Cycle. Ovals indicate currencies. Diamonds indicate "pride" numbers.

Er...wow.  That's quite a chart.  Let's keep it simple to start.  You play a match.  Yay fun!  Afterwards you get some rewards, which expand out into all sorts of other rewards.  Most of these feed back into your goals for the next match, and the engagement cycle is complete.  Article done?  Not quite yet.  Let's look back to the pre-match screen.

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We talked about all of these items earlier except for the Blood Web.  In Dead by Daylight, the most common and versatile resource is Bloodpoints, which are earned directly from playing a match.  Bloodpoints can be spent in the Blood Web, which we will look at now!

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The Blood Web is a randomly generated web of resources.  The player can start selecting items to buy from the middle of the web and work their way through buy chains to get desired items.  After a Blood Web level is complete, the current character's level is increased by one.  The higher the character level, the better resources you can buy in the blood web. Resources are all granted for each character individually.

At higher levels the game's eldritch/cosmic horror antagonist, The Entity, starts gobbling up Blood Web resources of its own.  This conflict creates a mini-game that engages a player as they are waiting for the next match.

Blood Web rewards all feed into the character loadout, which feeds back into engagement to prepare for the next match.  What else can a player do to prepare for the next match?  Perhaps they completed a Daily Ritual or "Rift" challenge, so they can choose another.  Perhaps they want to try playing as a new character.  Perhaps they want to spend the secondary currency, Iridescent Shards, on new characters or perks to vary their options for the next match.  The pre-match screen has options to keep players engaged between matches, and to encourage new ways to play the next one.

Here the cyclical nature of rewards shows itself.  Every reward earned in a match feeds back into preparation for the next match.  This engagement cycle turns match rewards into resources for the future.  The rewards pull the player into the next match.  Reaching for the next resource, trying to achieve the next small goal, or a good ol' fashioned desire to up your rank numbers keep players engaged.  This is Dead by Daylight's secret sauce.  This is the reason why Dead by Daylight has a healthy player count four years after release.

Is there a multiplayer game you have played recently?  How does its engagement cycle compare to Dead by Daylight's cycle?  Are there similar or different mechanisms?  I would love to hear about it in the comments!

This article was originally posted on my website.  For more from me, check out my other articles at http://jackpritz.com/blog.html or here on Gamasutra


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