If most social games add an item or change the value of an item, it still only sort of impacts, fundamentally, one person at a time. You could potentially screw up, or improve, the world dramatically.
NW: Yeah, we added planetary interaction, and you could suddenly get starbase fuel from planets instead of getting starbase fuel from highsec, and all of a sudden the money that was being spent on starbase fuel is not being spent, and you see the people in these big alliances that were spending money suddenly have more money, and now the game is just changed.
So, monitoring that and saying, "Okay, is this money that they're now accumulating, is it good? Do we need to find something else for them to spend money on? How should we deal with that?" And also just trying to be cognizant of the changes we're making and how they might affect the economy.
So, that's something we're going to be constantly in touch with the research team and just saying, "Okay, here's what we're going to do. What do you guys think that would change?"
How do you aggregate the data internally for your design team? Do you put it in a wiki? Do you send reports?
NW: We have a wiki, an internal wiki, obviously. But we've got OLAP cubes. That's where all the data is stored. You go into Excel, you configure the server, and then you can pull the data back in. It's a pretty slick sort of new system. It's in pivot tables, and then you just drag sections... and then it makes the data. So, yeah, it's pretty cool.
That's the thing about game design. It's an art and a science, and it is an inspiration, and it's also based on fact and technology and other things. It's where everything comes together. Game design is sort of the nexus point...
...of where all the interactions occur, so you need something that's readable to people who then take it and turn it into a creative impulse.
NW: Yeah. So, a lot of people outside of the design department say, "Well, you should really use metrics!" It's like, "Well, we can read all the metrics in the world, but if we don't have a vision where we want to take it and a goal, it doesn't matter if a thousand people use this ship compared to that. Do we nerf that ship -- or did we want it to be that way?"
Yeah, it is definitely a bit of an art at the same time. Yeah, it's the same with EyojG. He tells us things that are happening in the economy, not necessarily if it's good or bad, just this is what's happening. It's like, "Okay, well, if you do this, money supply will increase. Beware of that."
I've talked about this a little bit with several games people, and I feel like so far they don't exactly have an answer. Yes, you can get metrics about what behaviors are being exhibited, like you said -- like a preponderance of people are selecting this one ship. But, like you said, that doesn't necessarily imply anything about what the reason behind it, nor what the effect is.
NW: Yeah. And I think to some extent, social gaming, it feels to me like big evil companies just putting people in a Skinner Box, and it's an aberrant conditioning sort of thing. And they're just sort of like, "Click this stuff, and then get the desire to pay us money!" And we're not trying to be quite that evil. We're trying to make people enjoy themselves, I think, and feel like they're this space captain badass dude, not just making people pay us for virtual chickens or, you know, that Cow Clicker game.
Well, Cow Clicker is a satire.
NW: Yeah, yeah. I know. But the thing is... I saw this talk at GDC Online, and he [Ian Bogost] was like saying how it was a satire, and yet here's people that are actually doing it. They were paying money. And I don't know if they liked the satire so much they wanted to pay for it, but it's weird that people could just -- even though, it was satire -- still get caught up in the loop.
Sure. I played it for a while.
NW: Yeah. The other thing, and this is mostly just because at GDCO there were a couple good talks about intrinsic motivators, that's one thing I've been really looking at lately.
I'm glad that people are looking at it. As soon as it came up as a focus point about how far we've been going toward extrinsic motivation, it became a concern.
NW: Yeah. Scott Rigby, I've seen him speak a couple times. He has a lot of interesting stuff to say about it.
Some of the really interesting stuff he says is like, it's not fun that keeps people around, and it's not their level of engagement. So you can see how engaged people are, but like six months later they might not still be playing. It's how much you're meeting these intrinsic needs that keeps people around. So, looking at that kind of stuff...
And there was another one that was like economic game design stuff. And he was saying, you know, we can use the stuff that we know about economics for evil, or we can use it for good. One of his examples was that people experience loss at like 2.5 times more than the experience gain, so if I would give you 100 of something and take 50 away, or if I would give you 50 or give you two 25s, you don't experience those the same even though economically it's 50 on all of them.
You can use these techniques to make people have a better time. You can make them enjoy themselves more. And that's the kind of stuff that I'm really interested in. How can we have people enjoy themselves more? Not, how we can trick them into buying fake hats?