Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Creating the Emotional Connection in MMOs in Guild Wars 2

What makes a game compelling and emotionally involving? The answer may vary with each player, but are there some core game-design principles that will make the majority of players “bond” with a title?
We threw those questions to Guild Wars 2 loremasters Ree Soesbee and Jeff Grubb. Here’s what they had to say:
Jeff: The question of emotional connection in a game is a tough one to answer, I think. How do we keep people from saying, like in Alice in Wonderland, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards” and dismissing the game entirely? How do we engage the players and make them care?
Ree: I think one of the first things any game has to do is to encourage the player to connect with their avatar in the game. In order to get the player to invest in the game world and think of the NPCs as compelling characters, the player has to think their own character is interesting and worth spending time with.
Jeff: Yeah, it really does start with the player’s avatar, with their character in the game. You have to like yourself in order to like the greater world. And one of the challenges I see for creators in an MMORPG is that you want the character to be as accessible as possible to a variety of players, without making them bland and forgettable.
People are equally repelled by viewpoint characters that have no substance and by those whose entire development is mapped out step by step—you aren’t playing a character so much as following a well-trod road of others.
Ree: There has to be some middle ground between the two.
Jeff: And I think we find that middle ground with your initial character creation in GuildWars 2 We give you choices beyond just race and profession, and we make those choices meaningful for your experience in the game. If you’re an Ash Legion charr, your experience will have a different feel than if you’re Iron Legion. If you’re an asura from the College of Synergetics, you get different life experiences than if you’re from the College of Dynamics.
Ree: Of course, after the biography, there’s still a lot of work to do—to keep the player invested, and to continue to remind them of the choices they made for their character, while not subdividing the game too much.
Character creation is a big part of fostering a connection between player and character, but it can’t do all the heavy lifting. The more choices a player can make during the game, the more that avatar becomes theirs.
Dynamism, from internal storyline choices to the direction of a world event, gives the player attachment. Knowing that “such a thing” happened because they chose that option is like an investment in the character, and the game. It means you were important to the world, and the world recognized your decisions.
Jeff: There are some basic design assumptions we make—we think your character is at heart a good person and a hero. Your first immersion into the game, regardless of race, is a situation where you can act heroically and bring yourself to the attention of a more powerful hero who becomes a mentor to you in those early levels. You have some darkness in your past, but your general character arc is positive. You’re kind of a big deal to the people around you, so you have an initial investment in your larger world.
This article is taken from http://www.arena.net/blog/the-emotional-connection

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