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Over Christmas, I started to play Battlefield 1, a game that I was especially looking forward to given my love of the series. I’ve not had as much time to play video games as I would have liked over the last 12 months, so I’ve been making the most of this opportunity. I may even review it for my old and neglected games review site http://yetanotherreviewsite.co.uk!
Anyway, back on topic. I’ve always loved the series because of how good the multiplayer experience is. Back when Battlefield 1942 first came out it broke the mould by not even bothering with a single player game, a brave and clever move as it turned out. It also put a much tighter focus on teamwork with its “Conquest” mode. This saw teams holding key strategic points on the map for as long as possible. Achieving this required good balance of character classes and a level of teamwork beyond just rushing off and killing things.
RAMP up the Battlefield
Playing Battlefield 1 has reminded me how important the motivations I speak about in RAMP really are, but how they can be a little counter-intuitive at first glance.
Relatedness and Purpose
For instance, it becomes quickly apparent that teamwork is not initially facilitated by social connectedness/relatedness or communication, as you might expect. Rather it is created through the purpose provided by a common set of goals. This is especially true of playing on a public server with strangers!
The majority of players on each team want the same basic overarching goal – to win. To achieve this, they have capture control points. This is easier to achieve if you work together. To make this help you along, when the game starts you can join a squad. Each squad has a leader who can assign tasks. You don’t have to do them, but doing so can lead not only to better chances of winning but more experience points.
This creates a nice granular sense of purpose. First, there is the epic goal of beating the other team. Next, there is the more immediately achievable goal of capturing the next control point. After there are less obvious goals, like keeping your team alive and other players on your side.
Another key to success is choosing complementary character classes. This is not essential but can make a significant difference. You can’t rely on just being on the assault all the time, people need healing and vehicles need repairing. Again, there is nothing forced, but it improves the chances of winning and the rewards that accompany winning. I’ll get back to rewards in a moment, though.
Of course, the addition of voice communication, text communication and the ability to play with friends all add to the experience and increase the social feel of the game. I spent many hours playing Battlefield online with friends from Gamerdads over the years.
Another more obvious motivation is mastery. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. As with most games, Battlefield pushes you to constantly improve. As you play you gain experience points. These are awarded for various actions in the game. Killing enemy players, rescuing teammates, capturing conquest flags, spotting the enemy for others, healing people etc. As you gain experience points, your rank increases. This is a very nice example of continuous contextual performance feedback (CCPF as I will now call it). This helps you to understand how you are improving as well as what your key strengths are and can be easily seen at the main game screen. There are badges, but they are harder to earn – making them all the more valuable and desirable over time.
To help you find a constant challenge, without pushing you too far beyond your current capabilities (think of Flow), the server you are added to when you start a game is chosen with your current rank in mind. The algorithm tries to balance the teams based on rank so that there is a mix of players. Some a higher rank than you, some the same level as you and other maybe a little lower than you. This means that you are not just dying constantly, but neither are you likely to go totally unchallenged in a game.
That’s Mastery and Purpose, both in terms of meaning and altruism (helping teammates, driving vehicles etc) fulfilled and even a little bit of Relatedness. But what of Autonomy? Well, each map is open, so you can roam wherever you like. You don’t have to do anything that I have spoken about if you don’t want to. There are always those who will play the game as a lone wolf, sniping from a distance or just charging into a fight and creating chaos. There no set path to follow and no set penalties for not following orders. There is some social pressure to at least work towards the same goals as the team and of course the potential desire to win, but that’s about it. You really are a free agent.
Rewards – not always Evil!
It’s not all about pure intrinsic motivation, though, Battlefield 1 makes good use of rewards as well. The more you play, the more experience points you get, the more currency you get and the more unlockable options become available. Whilst you start the game with a very good array of weapons, there are plenty that may suit your play style better or that may give you an advantage over other players. All you have to do is earn the right to unlock them!
What I have always found interesting about this sort of system is that it seems a bit back to front when you think about it. The better you get, the better the weapons you can have. They become more accurate, more powerful, faster etc. Now, surely, these would make it much easier for new players to win games? But that’s the point. If new players could just come straight into the game with an elite weapon, they would never have to earn anything or learn the ropes. Giving new players too high an advantage from the outset will make them less appreciative of skill development and challenge.
Everything you unlock in Battlefield 1 makes you feel good because you worked hard to earn it. You also have the freedom to choose what you do and don’t unlock. So you may have got to the correct rank or completed specific tasks that allow you to open certain weapons, but you don’t have to buy them. This adds to the feeling that you are playing the game how you want to play it.
There is much more here, random rewards, side missions and customisation to name a few, but what I have outlined are the things that have had me most engaged over the last few days.
Again, this all hammers home the message that you need to cater for intrinsic motivations in your systems as well as the more obvious extrinsic ones. It also reinforces that rewards need to be earned not just given away. Battlefield neatly caters for all of the User Types in the Hexad, even the disruptor to an extent!
Make your New Years resolution for 2017 to play more games and to get a better understanding of what makes them so enjoyable!
Also published on Medium.