Sunday, August 30, 2009

Incentive Schemes

Being the uber-nerdy creature that I am, I ask many questions about WoW that are similar to many of the approaches an investigator might take when faced with a new experiment. What are the demographics of the game overall? What about per faction? What about per race or per class? Do more Republicans play Alliance or Horde? Do more mothers play healing classes? How many hours does the average person play, and what do they do during that time? How many play in order to rule the economy, simply role-play, PvP, or push raid content? And if they do all four, what is the greatest factor that keeps them playing? How much do game visuals factor into player happiness? The players that claim to have no interest in the lore or realism of the game, would they react positively, negatively, or not at all to a decrease in game animation and skins quality?

I'm sure all of this information and more exists somewhere (deep in Blizzard's vault, no doubt), and like true monopolizers of information, they use it to their advantage and profit, hence the homogenization of the game over the years. But beyond the money-making strategies, there is also a wealth of data regarding socioeconomic concepts, namely incentives. (There is also a dash of disease dynamic research as well.) What keeps players doing what they do? What is the greatest drive for raiders to down that boss? Glory? Fortune? Satisfaction in a job well done? And what can be done to keep raiders motivated after 100, 150, 200 wipes?

I've dabbled in incentives before, as have all raid leaders. A common theme I've found is the promise of either some well-known Vent voice or a non-existent Vent voice to sing as a reward for getting the act together and downing the boss. I've also witnessed a lot of "I will buy you all something" incentive schemes. However, the problem with these tactics is that they are essentially empty. No one will buy 24 other people scattered across the country ice cream. I've heard many offers of song, but only once have they come through (and it was, indeed, hilarious). The "I'll post a picture of something" tactic has positive results, but I'd like to see more data to many any conclusions. Those are all positive incentives - the raiders get something extra if they do well. But what about negative incentives? Does the fear of losing something extra if they do poorly inspire them to do better?

Tonight will be our fourth night of serious work on Firefighter. On Tuesday (the night I was out due to latency), the raid hit the enrage again with a kill only lost due to lack of DPS (and no, I do not delude myself). On Wednesday, we went back and were terrible - we actually called the raid early because of pure frustration. There was no doubt there were many stupid mistakes (myself included: Hmm can I sneak between those two mines? Nope!), so the officers are inacting a negative incentive for raiders: For every death due to avoidable mistake - mines, spinning up, standing in fire, etc. - you must pay a fee of 500g, 1000g, 2000g.

Will this work? The officers claim it did when they were working towards the Immortal in the final weeks before 3.1. This is a step-below a certain /gkick in price, but still, how much does the average raider cherish his cache of make-believe money? I have about 9000g scattered among my toons, and while I already get angry at myself for stupid mistakes, then promptly correct them next attempt, the thought of loosing some of my gold towards this endevor does inspire me to keep focused. I'm also sure my focus will be doubled when the first person messes up and forced to pay the fine. But will it work all night, and for every range of bankroll?

I guess we'll see.


Anonymous said...

Working on the Immortal, we used a sort of combined negative/positive incentive.

Specifically, the first person to die, if it was in their control (i.e. they didn't die while being the only person frost tombed on K'T, or while webbed on Maexxna), owed everyone else in the raid a flask.

If you died after that first death, your flask was forfeit, and screwup number 1's bill went down (this was to keep people sharp so we could keep practicing working on 'immortal' kills for later fights, even when the week is shot).

It worked pretty well. :D

Pike said...

Wow, I'd be kicked out of that guild so fast... 2000g is an upper limit of what I tend to carry, on any toon, ever (and many have less unless they are saving for something very specific, such as swift flight)

Rilgon Arcsinh said...

Guild leader: "You know what, if we down Steelbreaker this pull, I'll give you all 500g out of my pocket"

Fucker died the next pull. /flex

(Doesn't hurt that our GL has a six-figure gold value)

Rilgon Arcsinh said...

And honestly, no offense, but if I were told by a guild that I would be expected to sacrifice gold for any sort of progression (i.e. if you fuck up, you owe us X value), I'd probably gquit on the spot. I barely do good enough to maintain a positive balance sheet after flasks/ammo, so no, that's not even remotely fair.

Negathle said...

@Rilgon Guild provides flasks, ammo, mammoth treats, pots, and fish feasts (if you want better food, you have to provide), so nobody really has an excuse to be broken if they do any sort of dailies/farm.