Game Design Analysis of Diablo II through Level II Octalysis

Diablo II game design Game Design Analysis of Diablo II through Level II Octalysis

(Below is an unedited manuscript snippet of my upcoming book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it becomes available. This post may be removed after a certain period of time). 

A Quick Analysis Diablo II through the 4 Phases

Now that we have a basic understanding of the 4 Experiences Phases, lets see how a game like Diablo II uses the 8 Core Drives within the 4 Phases.

Discovery Phase

Since Diablo is a well-known franchise by Blizzard Entertainment (among many), the Discovery Phase, or why people would want to try out the new game, is fairly straightforward.

One of the key reasons for any sequel to be played is Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. If you have committed yourself to many hours of the previous game, you feel like its part of your own and you naturally want to acquire and collect the rest of it. This is similar to naturally wanting to watch new Star Wars movies to complete the story, even though you hear from everyone that it is a huge disappointment.

Another reason is Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. When the new Diablo game comes out, even if you wanted to keep your old resolve of not playing Diablo anymore, old gaming buddies will likely get it and push you into playing with them. This of course attaches to Loss & Avoidance (Core Drive 8) when you feel like you are no longer spending time with friends because they have their gaming parties that does not include you.

There’s also a bit of Scarcity & Impatience (Core Drive 6) for those that waited over 10 years to play the next game, as well as Unpredictability & Curiosity (Core Drive 7) for those that want to know how the new game is better or for people who keep hearing about the game.

Onboarding Phase

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4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#4): The Endgame

Endgame Design 4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#4): The Endgame

Endgame: The Final Phase for Experience Design

The Endgame is the 4th and final experience phase of Octalysis Gamification. The Endgame is all about how you retain your veterans and obtain more longevity in your experience.

This is the phase where users have done everything there is to do at least once (according to their perception), and they are figuring out why should they stick around and continue to play the game (especially when there are newer more exciting alternatives out there).

Many have said that, in World of Warcraft, the real game starts when your character has reached the max level. This is not intuitive for non-gamers, because the basic assumption is that once you reach the max level, there is nowhere to go. In the case of well designed games, that actually is the beginning of a multi-year journey.

Unfortunately, not many companies design for the Endgame, which I believe is a huge mistake. Your veterans are usually your best monetization vehicles, your best community moderators, and also your best evangelists.

The problem is that they have been there as long as they can remember, so why should they still continue to stay on board? Have you designed anything that specifically keeps them engaged and motivated?

The game-term Endgame

Often times there is a misunderstanding towards the term “Endgame.”

Some people think that this means the game is about to end, and ask, “What about games that are meant to last forever such as infinite games?”

In reality, in the gaming world the term Endgame is not where the game ends. The Endgame is where a user has reached the highest level and is transitioning from the basic day-to-day scaffolding mechanics to a new set of mechanics that only advanced level players can infinitely do.

The Endgame is about endless fun

In Plants Vs Zombies, once you finish all the levels twice, the Endgame is about custom challenges that you can unlock and conquer. In the Diablo series, it’s “Diablo Runs” where players band together to defeat the final boss multiple times a day in order to get enough loot to perfect their gear. In FarmVille, it might be using all your gold and plants to create masterful artwork and take a screenshot before they all wither out.

Gamers would sometimes complain in many games that the game developers need to do more work because there’s really nothing to do in the Endgame, which means they have done everything but long for more. Some games may have the general journey (Scaffolding) of striving towards the max level, and the endgame lies in player versus player battles, or Group Quests of Max Level Players taking on extremely difficult challenges.

Differences to other Models

My terminology is also different from other gamification professionals’ last phase of a player’s journey. Kevin Werbach and Amy Jo Kim call the final phase of the journey “Mastery,” as the player has now achieved the highest level of play.

While I think the phrase Mastery is accurate, I believe that the term “Mastery” creates a feeling that it is actually the end of the journey – you have achieved mastery and are looking for something else to master now. With “Endgame,” it is still a “game” you play and try to master. It suggests that the journey keeps going.

So let’s examine how the endgame can be more engaging based on the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis

Core Drive 1: Epic meaning and Calling in the Endgame

During the end game it becomes much more difficult to install more Epic Meaning and Calling into the process. Continue reading

5 Psychology Books That Contextualize Gamification Design

Image of brain 5 psychology books 5 Psychology Books That Contextualize Gamification Design

The obvious and ultimate point of creating games is to satisfy players. But to do this successfully requires a complex process to develop a game that adequately anticipates and meets its target audience’s motivations. As you’ve seen reflected in previous posts, people are not always driven by logic alone, which makes this development process all the more difficult.

What we might assume to be true about human motivation and thought processes may require further examination and analysis.

While the Octalysis framework focuses on the core drives of players, these principles are expanded upon by other fields. These include behavioral science, human cognition, and other areas that focus on how and why we make decisions or naturally think the way we do. A holistic understanding of cognitive behavior will deepen your understanding of motivation, drives and how to shape experiences for desired responses.

Without further adieu, here are five insightful psychology books that will expand your perspective on the workings of human cognition.

Considering this information within the context of game design will further your ability to create truly winning experiences for players.

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Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: The Gamification Fallacy

Points Badges and Leaderboard Image of Boy Scout Merit Badges Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: The Gamification Fallacy

(Below is an unedited manuscript snippet of my upcoming book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it becomes available. This post may be removed after a certain period of time).

A Story about Social Media

The landscape of gamification development must be understood in historical context to see why gamification mechanics themselves don’t ultimately lead to good design.

Let’s take a look at social media.

Due to the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, the versatile term “social media” overtook “social networking” in 2007 and became a new buzzword.

Social media Google trend Points, Badges, and Leaderboards: The Gamification Fallacy

Many forward thinking tech enthusiasts and startups fully embraced this new disruptive paradigm and its wide applications in content publishing, communications, and information sharing. Corporations whose business models truly embraced “innovation” began to cautiously explore this new arena outside of simply tossing the term around in meetings.

When enough interest and excitement in an industry hits critical mass, there will always be people and agencies that self-proclaim as experts to capitalize on the buzzing trend. It almost doesn’t matter what the new buzzword is – SEO, SaaS, Cloud- the subjects are so new that while no one can truly be an expert, everyone is in the running to be considered one.

And so, these “experts” saw the growth in “social media” platforms and services as heralding the dawn of a new era in technology, business, and culture. They made sure to demonstrate the importance of its influence through models proving the virality of user-shared brand content and by collecting and promoting case studies showing how companies became huge successes due to their social media savviness. The pitch is very inspiring and logical.

Unfortunately, being an “expert” only went that far- when companies actually hired these social media experts to run their marketing campaigns, they found that all they could do was create Twitter profiles and Facebook fan pages (I’ve even seen services that charge $600 just to create these accounts). Not much substance to truly grasp the utilities of this new trend.

Everyone is now a publisher and many would argue that this is a good thing. However there is an important distinction to be made: the real question isn’t how often we publish, it’s what to publish? That was still a mystery in the early days of the social media evolution. For content, the “experts” would ask the company to send them updates “worthy” for posting and every once in a while they might even provide some customer support using the company’s Twitter accounts or share pictures on their Facebook fan page. But overall, the industry felt disillusioned by this new fad, as the miracle they were expecting in ROI wasn’t being realized.

What most people didn’t recognize then was that social media is much deeper than simply possessing and posting on profile accounts. That’s just the outer shell of its influence and impact. We now know today that great social media campaigns focus on how to create value for the audience by sharing information that is insightful and engaging; has a personal voice; engages and sincerely interacts with each potential customer; and much, much more.

In essence, the beauty of social media was in how you designed and implemented a campaign, not in the bells and whistles you’ve used. It was the informal and formal dialogue you had with your community that ultimately taps into the platform’s unique possibilities.

Knowledge of good social media principles doesn’t necessarily mean someone can execute them correctly. Take for example popularity. Everyone knows how to be “popular” – be outgoing, funny, confident, and compassionate, etc. – but when you look around your community or network, you find that there are still only a few people who are truly “popular”. Helping a brand become popular is exactly what true social media experts would be doing if both principles and execution were aligned.

Fortunately, because social media does have the power to make a company radically successful (and there are still dozens of successful social media case studies coming out on a monthly basis) the trend stuck around. In 2014, most companies now subscribe to the belief of, “If your company doesn’t have a social strategy, it will become irrelevant.”

What does this have to do with gamification?

The early days of social media mirrors the gamification industry today.

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How Games Compel You to Pay them Obsessively

Game Monetization How Games Compel You to Pay them Obsessively (Below is an unedited manuscript snippet of my upcoming book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it becomes available. This post may be removed after a certain period of time).

Dangling and Anchor Juxtaposition: Monetization in Social Games

Many social games on the market also use Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience (one of the Black Hat Core Drives) to monetize heavily. Often times it’s a combination of Anchore Juxtaposition (Game Technique #69) and Dangling (Game Technique #44).

For instance, when you go on a game like Farmville, you initially may think, “This game is somewhat intriguing, but I would never pay real money for a stupid game like this.”

Then, Farmville implements Dangling and regularly shows you a mansion that you want, but can’t have. The first few times, you just dismiss it, as you inherently know it wouldn’t be resource-efficient to get it.

But eventually, you start to develop some desire of the mansion that’s constantly dangling there. Just from a tad of curiosity, you do a little research and see that the game requires 20 more hours of play before you can afford to get the mansion through game currency.

Wow, that’s a lot of farming! But then, you see that you could just spend $5.00 and get that very mansion immediately.

$5 to save 20 hours of my time? That’s a no-brainer!

Now the user is no longer paying $5 to buy some pixels on her screen. She is spending $5 to save her time, which becomes a phenomenal deal. You see how game design can mess around with peoples’ value systems?

The very strange phenomenon here, is that most of these games can be played for free; however, people are spending money so they could play less of the game. That’s the odd nature of Scarcity & Impatience.

Scarce but not Screwed

An important factor to consider when using Dangling is the pathway to obtaining the reward.  You have to allow the user to know that it’s very challenging to get the reward, but not impossible.

If it is perceived as impossible, then people turn on their Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance modes and go into self-denial. “It’s probably for losers anyway.”

For example, if you see an exclusive organization dangled in front of you, but then you see the prerequisite to join is that you have to be a Prince or Princess through royal blood, you might not even look at what the organization does, but may just think, “Who cares about a bunch of stuck up, spoiled brats?”

There is no motivation, and in fact, it activates Core Drive 8 as an Anti-Core Drive – the drive to NOT participate.

However, if the sign said, “Only Princes/Princess OR people who have previously ran a marathon can join.” Now you are motivated, and might even ponder in your head the work required to run a marathon.

As long as there is a realistic chance, the Scarcity and exclusivity itself is enough to engage your mind. The interesting thing is, you still haven’t even figured out what the organization actually does! Without any information on the function-focused, the human-focused motivation of Scarcity is motivating you towards running a marathon.

The Powers of Anchor Juxtaposition

This leads to a game technique I call Anchor Juxtaposition, where you place two options side by side: one that costs money, and the other that requires a great amount of effort towards the Desired Actions that benefit the system.

For example, a site could say, “You have two options to get this reward: 1. Pay us $20 right now, or 2. Commit a ridiculous amount of Desired Actions such as “Invite your friends,” “Upload photos,” “stay on the site for 30 days in a row.”

When that happens, you will see many users irrationally engaging in the Desired Actions, because they feel like doing the Desired Actions is like earning money. You’ll see users slaving away for dozens or even hundreds of hours, just so they could save the $20. At one point, many of them would realize that it’s a lot of time and work, and at that point, the $20 purchase option becomes more appealing and they end up purchasing that. Now your users have done both: paid you money, and committed a great deal of Desired Actions. It is worth reminding here again that rewards can be physical, emotional, or intellectual.

Rewards don’t have to be a financial reward, nor does it need to be a badge (people hardly pay for those). In fact, based on Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback principles, the most effective rewards are often times Boosters that allow the user to go back into the ecosystem and play more effectively, which becomes a streamlined activity loop. With Anchor Juxtaposition, you must have two options for the user. If you simply put a price on the reward and say, “Pay now, or go away.” Many users will go back to the CD8 Denial mode and think, “I’m never gonna pay those greedy bastards a single dollar!” and leave.

However, if you just put on your site, “Hey! Please do all these Desired Actions, such as invite your friends and complete your profile!” users often don’t feel any motivation to do those activities because they clearly recognize it as being beneficial for the system, but not for themselves (“Yes, but what do I get from it?”).

Only when you put those two options together (hence Juxtaposition), do people become more open to both options, and often times commit to doing both consecutively. But does this work in the real world, outside of games? You bet.

Dropbox is a File Hosting Service company based in San Francisco that has obtained extraordinary popularity and success.

When you first sign-up to Dropbox, it tells you that you could either 1. Pay to get a lot of storage space, or 2. Invite your friends to get more space. At the beginning, most people started inviting their friends (as well as complete a small list of Desired Actions). Dropbox gamification How Games Compel You to Pay them Obsessively Eventually, many of those users who are committing the Desired Actions decide that inviting/harassing their friends is a lot of work, but they still need a lot of space, and they end up paying. Again, because of the Anchor Juxtaposition, users commit both the Desired Action, and pay for the full product, just like I did.

Dropbox’s viral design, along with a great seamless product, accelerated the company to reportedly raise over $300 Million with a valuation that is around $10 Billion and revenues above $200 Million in 2013. Not too shabby for a company that didn’t exist seven years prior.

The Value of Rare Pixels

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