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Hypnos' Blog

Culture Crew

Today I thought I'd write about an interesting pattern I see in Puzzle Pirates that from my experience is not present in Three Rings's other game, Bang! Howdy.

I'm not sure if this has been blogged about to death (and with better prose) on other game type blogs, so if it has, please leave me a link in the comments so that I can learn. :)

The pattern I see I call Cultural Knowledge.

For example, when we first opened the oceans Cobalt and Viridian, and started advertising on miniclip, I saw an explosion of petitions from people who had been successfully scammed by (frankly) really shoddy scams.  "Hey, give me your account information. Let's trade accounts. I have lots of hidden money that you can't see, and you don't have as much, so I'll give you my account.  Obviously there's nothing in this for me, I'm just a magic altruist who happened to pick you out of the thousand people online to give my tons of money to!" and so on, wherein account holders would be trustingly giving out account information to total strangers.

The thing was, after some time went on, the petitions about those scams got fewer and fewer, and instead the complaints about attempted scammers got more frequent.  People weren't falling for the scams now, they were reporting the people that were trying them and successfully getting them kicked out of the game.

We were still advertising on the same sites, and we still had lots of new people coming into the game, and what's more, the number of people attempting to dupe players hadn't changed, but somehow the general knowledge of the playerbase, and thus the average player, had grown to include not to give your account information out, and that people trying to "giv 200 dubs freE" were up to no good.

I've seen the same pattern repeated with a number of new features that have come out.  The tons of petitions that we got for months after the release of bazaars and stalls regarding basic stall management or about how to give stalls to other people are gone.  We obviously still get petitions about both of these issues, but nowhere near the volume that we used to get.

While some of it is no doubt the work of things added to the game such as tips on the news board, tutorial links in the bazaar news and so on, I think that aspects of the game become "common" knowledge, and that the playerbase assimilates and updates this knowledge as the game changes.  We have a community of older players on each one of our servers now, and they not only create an identity for the oceans that gives each server a unique "feel", but also create a culture of certain wisdoms, knowledge, and "the way things are done."

The reason I think I haven't seen evidence of this same pattern in Bang! Howdy is because that game is not a socially driven game, as Puzzle Pirates is.   Bang does not have the same network of dedicated longtime players exchanging information and teaching newcomers.

There are bonuses and disadvantages to both systems, of course.  When we make changes to Puzzle Pirates, the ramifications on the experienced player base have to be considered carefully.  For example, if we were to rip apart the way pillage currently works and totally dispose of the status quo, we would risk losing our experienced players.  With a more casual and faster cycling playerbase, one can make large changes more easily, as, on a whole, people tend to be less emotionally invested in the way things currently are.

Overall, this has given me a little more understanding and patience when regarding organizations and governments that seem slow to implement what I personally view as necessary fixes or changes.  It's given me more faith in culture and the ability of the human race to collectively become wiser and learn over time.

Lastly, it's given me another viewpoint to bring to another book I've started, Everything Bad Is Good For You, which is a book that presents the argument that popular culture is increasing in depth and is actually forcing us to think in increasingly complex ways, rather than bringing humanity down in a spiral of escapism and mindless entertainment.  It starts off with a chapter on video/computer games, about which perceptions may be changing.  People have sent me some articles recently about things like video games treating chronic pain that might indicate this is so.  Hooray, a future for my profession!

Comments:

Posted by Zife/Charlie Maddox (bang)

I think another issue is that Bang! isn't policed as much as YPP... With *one* dev, and *no* full time moderators (1 part-time...) bannings don't happen on the dot, people get away with more, and the forums are barely policed. Along with that Bang! started with the Miniclip community. Y!PP had Penny Arcade, (Bang did too but not to the same extent) and hundreds of established dedicated players running the show before Miniclip. Bang's community IS miniclip because there was a dedicated player base of dozens when they started advertising...

But given that Y!PP does have a *wonderful*, educated community that I gained a whole new appreciation for after playing with the Bang! community...

January 31, 2008 at 12:29 AM PST | permalink

Posted by ReallyVirtual

As a retired midnight "elite" pirate, I have to disagree when you say...
"For example, if we were to rip apart the way pillage currently works and totally dispose of the status quo, we would risk losing our experienced players."
I quit the game precisely because of this inertia, and I know a LOT of other senior players who go bored and quit in around the same time-period. It may be no coincidence that a majority were good bnavers, for whom the game stopped being a game and started to become a job/pattern to follow.
I think when the "Sea Battle" rating was taken out, a lot of people were upset - a majority of them were the Sublime/Able type (with a Legendary in Sea Battle ofcourse). I was hanging around until the AI was changed last year (or was it the year before that?) - I remember people whining about the hard AI, though it didn't feel much different to me. Now the Atlantis hunts are becoming a pattern (I've been on less that 10 when I log on to Hunter though). It might be just me, but if were to promise me a major change every quarter or so, I would definitely resubscribe. The change I liked the most after becoming a 'casual' pirate again was removing the cc13 limit. So a major redo is definitely a risk, but it is probably well worth taking.

January 31, 2008 at 01:13 PM PST | permalink

Posted by Hypnos

While I agree that a number of longtime players can get bored with the gameplay of a game and want drastic change, I still believe that changing core elements of gameplay is going to alienate a silent majority. I haven't seen any cases of online games changing things in the game drastically that were met with widespread applause and success in the playerbase. That Star Wars Game and RuneScape come to mind.

February 06, 2008 at 02:06 PM PST | permalink

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