GameDev Protips: How To Properly Reward Your Players

Why do we play the games that we do? Obviously they make us feel good when we play them. In order to keep the attention of your audience you have to make sure that the players feel good when they play. Most often, this is done through a reward system, where players get something for performing well. In many games today that is through unlocking new equipment or cosmetics. These rewards help players understand what they have to do in order to succeed, and as a result, keep playing to get even more rewards.

Rewards shouldn’t be vague, as this might not entice players enough. The gameplay should be fun, and the players should know exactly what they’re working towards. As an example, think of the Call of Duty golden guns. Nobody would bother completing the tasks required to get them if the reward was vague, but since they explicitly say “Reward: Golden AK-47,” players are motivated into completing the challenges. The players will enjoy the fast-paced gameplay and they’ll change up their playstyle to accommodate for their objectives, thus extending the lifespan of the game.

Obviously, making players feel good is good for business, but there is actually a point in which you’re rewarding the player too much. If you give the player everything right away they won’t have anything to look forward to and they’ll stop playing. On a similar note, if your rewards are too infrequent, the same thing can occur out of the player’s spite for “grindy” gameplay. There’s a sweet spot for these rewards, but it differs on a game-by-game basis, and developers alone usually cannot find it. This sweet spot can be found through a developer’s experience or the feedback of a testing group, but as a general rule, just make sure that there’s a steady flow of rewards coming in so that you can keep the attention of your playerbase, optimally on a habitual level.

Important Takeaways: Players aren’t going to play a game that doesn’t reward them in any way for their actions. You have to implement a balanced reward system to ensure that your game isn’t a one-time play. The rewards should be explicit and the gameplay required to get them should be fun itself. When the players don’t know what they’re working towards, they may just stop playing, but if they see some cool equipment coming up in their unlockables list, it’ll motivate them to keep playing.

Make sure that the rewards given out in a steady stream; too fast and the player will be out of content quickly and will stop playing quickly as a result, but too slow and the game becomes a grind that won’t maintain the players’ attentions. It can be tough to find the sweet spot of reward rate when you’re an inexperienced game developer, but any testing groups you may have should be able to help you. The steady flow of rewards is one of the most important factors in a game’s longevity, so make sure it’s done right.