Designing Conflict and Competition
Many games offer campaign stories or quest lines to immerse the player and help them to feel connected to the game world, but the result is that every player experiences the game in nearly the same way. The really good stories, the ones that players share with their friends and tell over and over again, are the ones that the players spontaneously create for themselves. Sometimes these are the result of cooperation by the players to overcome challenges, but just as often it is a result of conflict and/or competition.
Competition occurs in game environments that offer performance-based rewards or control of non-infinite resources to the players. Conflict arises from competition when players disagree on the allotment of such rewards and resources. How competition and conflict manifest in a game depends heavily on how the studio designs their game. Offering up faction-wide bonuses or special titles are both great ways of encouraging players to complete with one another. PvP servers can empower players to resolve or deepen their conflicts with more than just their words.
When we were designing Trials of Ascension: Exile, we wanted to create a game where the players were naturally inclined to compete with one another and points of conflict would occur organically. It is one thing to say that the races all hate one another and provide stories to support it, but it is an entirely different matter to convince the players that extinction of their enemies is in their best interest and not a kumbaya-circle around a campfire. So we brainstormed ways to encourage conflict between the humans, raknar, and dragons.
The first way we employed was to encourage PvP through different means. We made it so that character bodies provided resources to others, including food. This means that dragons and raknar can eat each other and the humans, while humans can harvest crafting materials and meat from dragons and raknar. We even hope to include crafting recipes that specifically require raknar or dragon components in the future. Players can also loot the inventory of other characters if they knock them unconscious or kill them out right.
But food is plentiful in ToA: Exile if you know where to look for it, and by itself was only a weak encouragement for PvP. We took a closer look at the mechanics of each race to see how we could tie them in with the needs of the other races. For example, Raknar thrive in the cave environment with their wall-walking ability and night-vision, so we added better mineral resources inside the caves to encourage dragons and humans to willingly enter their domain. Since dragons need nuggets for both their racial abilities and to molt to their next growth stage, finding ways to tie this rare resource in with the other two races would give a reason for them to fight one another for the nuggets. And finally, with limited lives and the destructive potential of the dragons, we encourage the players to eliminate the dragon threat early in their life cycle.
How did other games encourage you to fight with the other factions? Share your experiences with us in the forums at http://trialsofascension.com/forum/threads/designing-conflict-and-competition.10543/.