Think about the people you’ve met while playing Diablo 2 on battle.net. Some have become friends, people you hang around with to talk and go killing. Some are fanatical about killing things as quickly and brutally as possible. Some thoroughly enjoy exploring every single nook and cranny of the game. And some are PKs. These are four independent player types, all of which should be taken in to consideration by your game.
Let’s take a step back, and look at these individually for a moment.
The first group is your friends. These are people you enjoy hanging out with. You sit and chat with them, you discuss whatever’s going on in the world or your respective lives, and you generally enjoy each other’s company from across the world. Let’s call these friends Socializers. Just between you and me, some game developers think this is the most important aspect of online games.
The second group is people who are really in to hitting monsters with things. They enjoy nothing more than slaughtering the masses and reaping the rewards, and approach the game’s quests with great vigor. They like achieving goals, so let’s call them Achievers.
The third group is people who like knowing exactly what the map looks like. They want to make sure they don’t miss anything, because they enjoy the environment of the game. They’ve probably spent a substantial amount of time at the Arreat Summit, watching the perspective of the mountain against the villages below. Let’s call them Explorers.
Finally, the fourth group is the people you’ve come to loathe and despise, the dreaded player-killers. As Dr. Richard Bartle put it, “Players use the tools provided by the game to cause distress to (or, in rare circumstances, to help) other players. Where permitted, this usually involves acquiring some weapon and applying it enthusiastically to the persona of another player in the game world.” Let’s call these people Killers.
So we have our four player types identified and codified: Socializers, Achievers, Killers and Explorers. These are known as the Bartle Player Types, as identified in 1995 by the afore-mentioned Dr. Richard Bartle, co-creater of the first MUD (Multi User Dungeon) in 1978, simply called MUD1. The quote I used was from an article he wrote in 1995 titled “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds.” For an understanding of these player types beyond what I can provide in a short column installment, I highly recommend reading his article.
The distribution of these player types over the general population are actually known and available online. Several years ago, Erwin Andreasen created a 30 question survey to help players measure their own play styles, and see how much of their time was spent in each way. I’m an Explorer.
As of 3:56pm EST on January 7, when I took the test, here are the results from the survey:
The site also breaks players down to combinations of 2 and 3 of the types, but that would make this a very long list. As you’ll notice, distribution is almost perfectly balanced between them, with variations of only about 4%.
This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to only appeal to one or two of these player types: on the contrary, EverQuest appeals almost entirely to Achievers, and everyone knows how popular it is. Just because a game only appeals to a quarter of the population doesn’t change the fact there are still 2 billion people who it does appeal to. On the other hand, the more people your game appeals to, the better the odds of it doing well.
There are an unlimited number of ways to appeal to each player type. As long as there are smart people, those smart people will come up with new and ingenious ways to do things, including game design. Just for fun, let’s look at how everyone’s favourite game, Diablo 2, handles the four player types:
Socializers: No matter where you are in the game or on battle.net, you can talk with people. There is a message window within the game, from which you can talk to anyone you know the name of. You can have friend lists, see who’s online, and hang out in chat rooms when you’re not actively killing things.
Achievers: Let’s see, how does Diablo 2 handle giving players things to accomplish…. Oh yeah, there’s that whole “Quest Window” thingie. As of now there are 27 quests in the game, some of which even have rewards worth earning. They also have three different difficulty levels, with different titles for each gender, in two types of playstyle (normal vs. hardcore). That’s a lot of things to do.
Killers: Ever been PKed? The hostile option lets players kill each other quite nicely. Enough said.
Explorers: Diablo 2 has quite a large world, even if most people haven’t explored more than 5% of it. If you actually set out to kill every monster on the map, you’re going to be playing for at least a full day. The environment’s also varied enough that you get to see many different types of terrain. If you want to see the entire map, you have quite a task ahead of you, which is the point
As you can see, Diablo 2 is a game that does its best to appeal to as many people as possible. There are features that appeal to all sorts of different people, which helps account for its massive popularity over the last 5 years. This isn’t quite the point I was trying to make, but hopefully it helps me make it.
When you think about it, 5 years is quite a long time. Most computer games are back on your bookshelf never to be played again after only a few months. Why do games like Diablo 2, EverQuest and Half-Life persist like this? Check back next time.
Disclaimer: Behind the Veil was written by Chris Marks and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.