Sunday, January 10, 2010

Flea Tinning

I recently patched up runes of magic and had a quick play. Given so many shiny things in the game, coming back after a break is a bit of a treat since you forget all the little things (and they had a few new things, like attacking santas!). Though I quickly start to remember (this happend on a return to wow once, as well).

But the thing is, they patched in one click gathering. Previously you had to click on a node again and again, every five seconds, to get stuff out. Now you click once and it keeps gathering till the nodes empty.

And the weird thing was, I was kind of excited about it!? Like it's an improvement? I was going around using it and kind of going 'yeah!'

And that's BS.

I mean, if it had been there from the begining, I wouldn't have found it exciting. It'd just be standard.

And this is what I call 'flea tinning'. Ever heard of how if you put a flea in a tin with the lid on, it'll learn to jump only as high as the lid...for the rest of it's life? Here it's similar for the player, but after having learnt to jump only so high, breaking out of that previous pattern is 'exciting'. Even though it was an entirely arbitrary limitation and if it hadn't been there to begin with, there would have been no excitement.

It's something to think about in terms of mmorpgs and whats 'exciting' about new patches or buffs to classes. Is it really exciting, or did they just get you used to a constraint then remove the constraint?


  1. It seems to me that such is a huge component of the psychology in any game designed to be a long-term addiction. You could even look at a leveling system as an artificial constraint. Content gating by level certainly is. One way to set up a drip feed of goodies to keep people playing is to keep the bulk of the goodness from them at the start.

    It's not just an MMO thing, but the subscription business model profits most from the drip feed/constraint model.

  2. Hi Tesh, thanks for your comment!

    You know, now I think about it I think I've even been sucked into that in how I design.

    To me, coming from a background of games that are hard, the goodies are supposed to come second - they are just a reward for facing challenge. They are not supposed to be the whole point of playing.

    And you right on the leveling system especially - I hadn't realised it's all reward for...nothing, really. It's not set against one big challenge. Sure there's alot of little challenges, but in the bigger picture you just slowly but surely accumulate XP and get rewards for...the sake of getting rewards.

    Anyway, I didn't intend to write games this way.