Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Carrot and Stick

                The idea of a Carrot and Stick mechanic is a simple incentive process. Should you be baited with a reward you may be willing to do something you may have no done before. With this mechanic the conflict between monotony and reward can easily be subdued. The satisfaction of gain no matter how meager the reward in relation to the task can be blinding. At what point are Carrot and Stick mechanics conducive to fun an interesting game play, and at what point is it detrimental. 

                In any of your ‘Theme-Park’ MMOs the leveling process is entirely Carrot and Stick. Achieving the next level brings you the next skill, the next zone, the next instance, in some cases even the ever wanted mount. From the instant you enter the world you are charged with advancing the tiers/levels of the game in your attempt to reach God status. Upon approaching ‘end-game’ the incentive for you to continue playing does not lose its steam, in fact, many argue that is where the real game begins. Now you are faced with raids of ‘epic’ proportion, or even the task of picking flowers to receive that oh so reverent title of Master Gardner.

                There are major problems that arise from these mechanics, mainly which is the separation of the ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ crowd. Carrot and Stick mechanics reward time spent in game which in many MMO’s results in a - those who have and those who don’t in regards to gear. When gear becomes an issue progression becomes and issue for your ‘casual’ player. They are left behind and are simply not able to experience the content they pay for. However, there are two sides of this argument; how is subscription retention effected when you do not put out adequate content for the proclaimed ‘hardcore’ crowd.

                Amongst all the negatives of these mechanics there are most certainly positives. The same tier separation of gear that is capable of destroying the balance of power between the ‘casual’ and the ‘hardcore’ also creates a competitive environment amongst raiders. Creates a linear progression system that makes ease of use and allows for new comers to quickly learn. It keeps you looking for the next best thing which further encourages exploration. Simply put, the desired product of the Carrot and Stick mechanic is realized at the end when you have a feeling, sometimes fleeting at best, but nevertheless the feeling of accomplishment.

                In MMOs the Carrot and Stick mechanic has been long entrenched in game play development. It has become the backbone, the driving force, behind the ‘entertainment’ of an MMO. The reason I challenge as to whether we are being entertained or not is for the multitude of downfalls to this Carrot and Stick system. Are the rewards honestly rewards, is there true enjoyment behind doing the repetition?

To close I again petition you to answer a few question:

                Do you notice the Carrot and Stick mechanic at work in the MMO that you frequent?
                Do you enjoy this mechanic?
                Is it over-used?
                Are there better alternatives?


  1. I can't think of a single MMO that C&S is not used. I do enjoy this mechanic on a certain level.

    Over-used in making it obvious.

    I don't know of another alternative, i will try and think of one?

    DJ Monster

  2. nice blog keep up the good work brother i always appreciate views back

  3. Running a Minecraft Server, the C&S isn't anything new to me.
    But it's pretty interesting timing of me finding this blog, we're currently trying to balance the economy on the new map.

    Good stuff, following! :D

  4. Loving the idea of this blog. Very insightful.

  5. all successful mmo's have some C&S mechanism

  6. I always notice this mechanic, if the gameplay is entertaining enough I don't really mind.

  7. Great blog. Im just getting started. Im definitely gonna follow.

  8. I got bored playing Runescape a few years ago because the carrot wasn't big enough for the stick when you got to high levels.

  9. Didn't know this theory, interesting.

  10. i play wow since 2 years now, but with cata i stoped playing because i dont want to spend so much time to get stupid achivments

  11. yeah Ive noticed this in a lot of games ive played

  12. What makes a GOOD game good is the feeling of achievement you get when you complete something. I've played some games that I lose interest in because they dont get me to to WANT to finish things.

    C&S can be helpful if used properly.

    Interesting! Following and supporting!

  13. Carrot and stick is a tried and tested method, the only MMORPG that comes to mind that didn't take this approach was Guild Wars.

    In guild wars you would achieve the best armour at level 20, which was all doable in a day. Whilst entertaining for a while, it had no replay value whatsoever.

    Great blog, interesting post, followed.

  14. hahah nice post! thats what i have been using too. carrot and stick! its a well nice method!