That ole ball and chain, game!
Recently, I’ve been talking to a few of my fellow gamers about which game mechanics they think are effective in pulling them back into the game. To my surprise, they somehow all mentioned the progression system.
For a long time, I have thought that the progression system is a cheap trick to lead the player into devoting more time in a game. A grind that one must go through in order to experience the enjoyable parts . This mainly comes from my experiences with some MMO’s that are all about grinding on loots and skills in order to explore other game content. A trap the keeps player in the game which ruins the game experience as a whole. It can be very frustrating and I’ve since been very skeptical about progression systems.
There are still many games that implement a progression system where the player is rewarded in a predetermined and unchangeable fashion. It could be exciting at first, for a player to know that a certain reward is coming their way if they had spent enough time in the game but, the unchanging nature of these systems will soon become dull for the player. It could also feel like a chore that the player must finish before experiencing other exciting parts of the game.
However, modern games have evolved and completely change the face of progression systems. It is now a powerful tool to keep the player engaged, even when they are not physically playing the game.
A good example of this would be a talent/skill tree system that currently exists in many games. It offers a component in the game that allows the player to strategically plan out their in-game decision. It also provides a way for the player to reset these investments and try out something new with little to no cost. Whether it’s pushing the limit on their attack power or packing more defensive capacity, these type of progression system rewards players who had strategically thought through the problem with satisfying experience and keeping them engaged, thus adding a long-term layer to the game itself.
Those of us who played a game with a addictive and rewarding progression system know how much time we have spent thinking, planing and theory-crafting in-game decisions and just can’t wait to turn on the game and test it out. I know I have, usually on Monday mornings. :)