Archive for May, 2012

design language: ultimatum game


The Ultimatum Game: 2 players – 1 proposes a split or deal, if the 2nd player accepts it then the deal goes through, if the 2nd refuses the deal is off and both parties gain nothing.

“The Ultimatum Game has been pointed to as a way of showing that humans are economically irrational. Why do people reject an offer of 25% of the total pot? If the pot is $100 then they are choosing between getting $25 or nothing at all. So why do they choose nothing at all?

The answer seems to be that people generally find offers below 30% to be insulting. It’s insulting that the other person should suggest such a derisory sum, even when it’s free money. So they prefer to have nothing and punish the other person’s greed. And remember the other person is losing $75 in this case whereas I’m only losing $25.”

“"Cutting off the nose to spite the face" is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: "Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face" is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger.

In isolation this mechanic is of limited play value. If there is an opportunity to build up a picture of a player’s personality, then the Ultimatum Game could be more interesting. E.g. in games of ongoing negotiation and diplomacy.


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design language: press your luck

A simple escalating risk and reward mechanic designed to draw you in, challenge you to know when to stop or lose all in a final ‘step too far’.

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ideas are cheap

Ideas are cheap, doing it is hard

“Simple ideas like this will naturally occur to many people. A small percentage of those will have the ability to execute on them. A small percentage of those will then actually do so. And an even smaller group will combine it with an otherwise interesting product, thus making it into something.”

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design language: appointment mechanic


A game feature, carefully designed to bring the player back to the game on a regular or agreed cadence over and over.

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attention attention attention

Follow the rule of threes. Have three main points. But no more than three main points; no more than three topics; no more than three examples per topic. Group thoughts in threes; words in threes; actions in threes.”

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adopting TV’s characteristics

“Where TV and video games diverge dramatically is in the way they work as a medium. TV has three core features – it’s scheduled, it’s broadcast and it’s passive. Video games do none of these things.”

Appointment mechanics bring an element of schedule to social games, which in turn creates greater engagement. This parallel’s some of the benefits of TV’s more rigid schedule. DVR’s and on demand delivery start to erode TV’s fixed schedule, and perhaps reduce the benefits of simultaneous revelation and social opportunities.

“In much the same way, we can tweet about TV and everyone else who is watching the same thing at the same time can GET INVOLVED IN THE CONVERSATION. This is social proof, and social proof on a grand scale. This, again, is behavioral economics.”

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no time to play

There has never been more things competing for our attention than there are today. The time investment required is a boon and a bane to video games.

Jenova Chen says, "A lot of adults stop playing games because they think the game takes too long. People are afraid of getting into MMOs just because how much time it takes. But people are not afraid of walking into a theater, walking into a movie theater, walking into a concert, walking into a soccer match. They are not afraid to sit down and play a board game together."

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