Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carrots, Sticks, and How To Move Horses

When I first signed up for S2, they asked me to write a paper on things I wanted to see. At the top of my list was an in-game currency for players to earn and exchange for skins and other in-game cosmetic items. Today, this system is in-place and working very much the way I imagined it would.

Then when HoN 2.0 was first announced, and players heard about the prospect of earning coins, vivid irrational images of money flashed before their eyes and outrage was generated. As someone who specializes in gaging community reactions this shouldn't have come to any surprise to me, but honestly, at that point I was knee deep in HoN 2.0 anticipation that I would be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat disappointed at the initial community reaction. Even the most rational and constructive communities had initial backlashes, labeling the store as "gimmicks for money".

As someone who plays a lot of PC games, it's no surprise that micro-transactions are becoming more frequent in games- but this article isn't about the fact that the shop has been a financial success- I don't get paid to make money, I get paid to interact with and improve the community. When I first wrote my article about giving players a currency based system, the very last thing on my mind was a way to profit from a currency system- I knew it was going to happen but it didn't interest me as a player.

An aspect of in-game currency that people love to underestimate is it's ability for developers to have leverage on players. As somebody who is beginning to study Economics, I love the concept of incentives. Incentives are exactly what they sound like- a reason for a person to do something. Before HoN 2.0 came out, S2 had no incentives to haggle with- besides maybe a few forum icons.

What you see here is the beginning of something beautiful- a way for S2 to give players incentives to do things. Yes, one of the things S2 can do with this is to incite you to give them your money- and yes, that has obviously happened, but again, that isn't why we're here. The ability to create incentives for players in HoN is a unique opportunity to get the community to do virtually anything- to play more, to play better, to behave nicer.

Arguably counter-productive

While community based initiatives have good intentions to better the community, their rate of return is horrendously bad. With goblin coins, behavior can be directly affected and changed for the better.

A lot of people attribute the increase of players post HoN 2.0 to the new and improved Matchmaking system. While the new Matchmaking system is indeed fantastic, an aspect that people often don't take into account are coin bonuses. It's absolutely no coincidence that there are coins bonuses for consecutive games or for first games of the day- these bonuses are set in place to give players an incentive to begin playing and to keep playing.

So, while players love to oversimplify goblin coins as a quick way for S2 to turn a buck, the truth is that goblin coins are much more than that. Giving players something to work forward to, giving them incentives to change their behavior and to contribute information (in the forms of surveys, guides and videos), goblin coins are going to be the driving force behind a lot of things you will hopefully see soon.

Bringing Sexy Back

Hello guys,

It's been a long time since I last wrote anything here, mostly because once I got hired by S2Games I thought this Blog would essentially become obsoloete (after all, why complain about things on a blog when I can complain directly to the developers now?), but after some thought, and long months of making videos and longer posts on Reddit, I feel as though my input could be helpful.

So, with this prospect, I intend to begin writing articles into this Blog again. As a disclaimer, the opinions posted on this Blog are that of me, not of S2Games. As a concequence, you may often find propositions here for features and ideas that may never see the light of day, and opinions which might not even be shared else at S2Games.

With that, I hope you enjoy my rambling as I know I will.

Markus 'Nigma' Steiner