Friday, July 16, 2010

New title and layout

As the few of you who come here may have noticed I have changed the layout of my site a bit. Pretty nice, right?

Also I decided to change the title of my site. "Carrot v Stick" obviously is not something coined by me, but it is always a key aspect of design I come back to on a very regular basis. The definition is obvious and simple, because as a designer you are creating a world and inviting a player to explore that world. When the player, inevitably, does things in this world which you never intended for them to do you are ostensibly left with two choices: punishing the player for doing something you don't want them to do, or rewarding them into doing what you want the player to do. Punishment and reward.

I am a big believer in positive reinforcement in all facets of life, and it is such a part of me that it finds its way into my design with little resistance. But I feel a common misstep among many designers, and would-be designers, is to immediately go for the stick. It is the easy answer If the player is doing something undesirable then the first thing to do is punish them. Of course this may be the ideal answer when the player is outright capable of breaking the logic of the game.

I think a great example of well implemented Carrot is the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2. I could only imagine how play sessions went during development, but if it is anything like the flow of "anger" from the mouths of scrubs playing the game then surely there were major balance decisions to be made.

A common complaint is the power of the grenade launcher, or noob toob. Now the developers can either nerf the launcher; make it less accurate, less powerful, slower reload time, (all examples of "stick.") Or take the carrot route and introduce items like the riot shield and blast shield. When combined, explosions do little or no damage. But now you have a turtle running around the stage invulnerable to many attacks, so now what do you do? Slow their speed down more, have the shield break over time, don't let them carry a second weapon? Or follow the path of the carrot again and introduce the Semtex grenade, which sticks to whatever it is thrown on. The shield is a larger, slower moving target, and is a guaranteed kill when stuck to the riot shield (though my wife swears wearing the blast shield in tandem will save you, but I never had such luck), and is a really quick way to accomplish the challenge of sticking semtex to 25 players.

That is the only good example I can think of, but I know the moment I come across it in another game I am going to make hop on here and write about it immediately. In the meantime I am looking forward to analyzing my own approach at design and hunting down the carrots and sticks in any games I play from now on.

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