在《Kingdoms of Camelot》（游戏邦注：以及其他题材类似于《Travian》的游戏）中，它的大型竞争机制设计主要考虑了超级公会之间的决斗这种情况。因为这种机制，玩家群体中难免会有领袖脱颖而出，而其他玩家则沦为默默无闻的小角色，失去了当初作为“基层人员”而为集体做贡献的那种热情。
Designing for Small-Group Play in Social Games
Many social games encourage (or coerce) players to invite as many friends as possible to join them, yet provide few meaningful ways for these friends to play the game together. The occasional wall post or notification asking friends for the latest “widget” to complete a quest is such a small gesture towards community and cooperation. Social games hold a unique promise towards collaborative play — but will we see innovation in this aspect of game design?
Small Groups within Larger Groups
Although I rag on the mechanic of ‘collecting widgets’, it does provide a window into an interesting aspect of small group behavior – the active players cooperate with each other, creating a small group of collaborators amongst the larger group of not-as-active players. Over time, players figure out which of their friends can be depended on to help complete quests and which can’t. It can almost feel like a ‘team sport’ at that point.
The Like Button
Among my game-playing friends, some have evolved the habit of “Liking” wall posts when they send a requested quest item. Also when people place the original post, they’ll add a comment clarifying how many of the ‘widget’ they still need. It’s an interesting method of advertising for help, and also for the helper to let folks know that they have helped out. I know it’s not very biblical, as we should perform our good deeds in private, not shout them from the street corners, but this behavior can lead players to create a new Friend connections with a Friend-of-a-Friend, because you know that this new person is active in the same social games.
Some pundits rail against this style of social interaction, calling it “evil” because players treat their friends as ‘resources’ to be exploited, and because of the psychological hooks of expected reciprocity; the idea that any gift is not truly free, because of the implied social expectation of returning the favor.
Yes, I can see why games take advantage of this social pressure and why there’s a perceived ‘dark side’ to this sense of mutual dependence — but I’d prefer to focus on the bright side of these connections. Playing a game with other human beings is, by its nature, going to be a little messier and unpredictable compared to playing by yourself — but it’s also what makes it a richer experience than solo play. Knowing that you’re helping your friends get further in the game, and knowing that they’re helping you — there’s a shared sense of responsibility for that success and enjoyment.
If anything, I think Social Games don’t currently go far enough with having friends influence each other’s games. So how do you create a sense of intimacy in a ‘massively social’ game?
Games should look and feel different because your friends are helping you, and even better if they are different because specific friends are helping you. I think of how CityVille allows your friends to build business Franchises in your city, including the funny names that they give the businesses. I really liked that ability for my friends to put their ‘stamp’ on my play space, and liked being able to place my franchises in their city.
One of my favorite examples is from a non-Facebook Game called GoalLine Blitz. It’s a football game, with fantasy-football-like qualities, but all of the individual players are controlled by human beings. In an overtly competitive, team-based environment like this, your success or failure really does rely on the contributions of the other humans on your team. This creates an extremely strong sense of dependence and reciprocity, but also a powerful feeling of shared experience.
In some games it’s easy to fade into the background while still, technically, belonging to the larger group. Ideally, the design of your game minimizes the impact of this or creates strict boundaries that prevent it from happening or perpetuating.
In games like Kingdoms of Camelot (and all the other games based on Travian, which is probably based on something else…), the massively competitive design builds in a need for very large guilds to form in order to fight the other very large guilds. Invariably, leaders will emerge in such a structure (formally or informally) and other members of these groups will fade into the shadows without contributing meaningfully to the ongoing drama the way that the primary movers-and-shakers are doing.
To me, though, this 80-20 distribution of effort is missing the opportunity for true cooperation. There must be some human limit as to how big a group can be and still have each member feel a sense of belonging and feel like their participation, or lack thereof, is needed and noticed by the rest of the group.
Note to self: hit Wikipedia and Google and see if there’s a psych study out there that gives insight into this magic number. Designing a game that specifically works within the boundaries if this number could encourage investment and daily-active-usage… although it might fit better in a niche game rather than the more ‘mass market’ games like Zynga’s portfolio.
I read a lot about core game developers getting into social gaming and insisting that ‘the future’ of social or Facebook games is integrating real-time play or fancy 3d technologies like Unity. I think this is missing one of the best parts of social network gaming — asynchronous play with friends. NOT having to play at the same exact ‘real’ time as your friends, but being able to play with them nonetheless — that is pretty magical.
Really old school gamers played roleplaying games by mail, and later added in ‘play by post’ with bulletin board systems, and still today play by email. Early fantasy baseball players played over the physical mail, and even though that industry exploded with the introduction of the internet and server hosted play, it’s still inherently asynchronous. Heck, even the watercooler effect of watching a TV show the night before and then discussing it at work the next day is a form of asynchronous ‘play’ surrounding a shared entertainment experience.
There’s a beauty and a leisurely style to asynchronous play that should be embraced, not discarded like an inadequate side effect of the lack of some new technology. It is sufficient, complete and interesting all on its own.（source:plotluckgames）