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If we had Full-Body Immersion MMORPGs, how would morale-boosting and morale-lowering skills work for players? By that, I mean, how would the game forcibly make players more or less confident, even if their out-of-game personality would not fit their avatar's confidence level?

Like a coward playing that game, and is always cowardly in combat, flinchy, a weak hitter, defeatist, etc... But that's just because he isn't using his knowledge and physical ability to its full potential...

Then, on application of a Bravery Spell, he uses his full potential as a confident person.


Actual Question

If it is possible, what game mechanics can I employ to tailor a player's confidence level? While sticking to these criteria:

  1. Having the smallest amount of additional technology other than a VR headset like a SAO Amusphere

  2. You only can control external stimuli (no drugging)

  3. No forcibly taking control of his character in any way, no nudges... But, you could move the monsters?

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    $\begingroup$ What is "full-body immersion" with only a VR headset suppose to look like? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jul 17 '15 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Making a player react a certain way seems really sad. The variation in reaction makes each game unique, which a mmorpg should be, its not a straight story. Some of the answers gives examples of limiting the abilities of a player, which is probably the best answer. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Jul 17 '15 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ Visibly turn all monsters into marshmallows. Instant confidence boost. $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald Jul 17 '15 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ How does confidence work in existing screen-based MMORPGs? $\endgroup$ – user253751 Jul 18 '15 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ You have to have some form of neural hijacking in full-dive type setups; you don't want people flailing around, walking out of the room, jumping... whatever. That's the point of the VR. (It also makes it really easy to kill somebody, depending on the exact level of control this gives you...) $\endgroup$ – Clockwork-Muse Jul 18 '15 at 14:06
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In games I know that have morale effects, the bonus/penalty is just a numerical modifier to an existing number. I see no reason why this would change for virtual reality.

Suppose a player receives a +30% boost to their jumping ability. While so affected, apply a 1.3 force multiplier when the player performs the jumping action. So instead of jumping 1 in-game meter, the player jumps 1.3 in-game meters.

Suppose a player receives a -25% penalty to their attacking ability. While so affected, apply a 0.75 speed multiplier when the player performs the attack action. This slows the character down and gives opponents a better opportunity to evade.

These examples only apply to in-game, forced events, such as a wizard casting a spell on the player or the supernatural aura of a fearsome monster. To physically (psychologically?) make the player more confident, you would need to supply some form of in-game cues, such as a noticeable limp in a monster's gait or a clear opening in a warrior's defense. The inverse would apply for less confidence: the monster has already demonstrated feats far beyond the player's (character's) skills or the warrior is surrounded by corpses and shows no signs of fatigue or harm.

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    $\begingroup$ Funnily enough, if my in-game character started getting sluggish in a fight, I would probably lose confidence in it, and therefore in my own abilities. This might be a great feedback loop. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jul 17 '15 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, I play more cautiously when I know my opponent has a hard numeric advantage. The key is being aware of the difference in powers - if I'm not made aware of my weakness, I'm far less likely to worry about it until it's too late. So UI elements which clearly indicate the difference between my own power and those around me would be crucial to guiding my confidence. $\endgroup$ – talrnu Jul 17 '15 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ I think this even works for something such as a medieval battle mmo. Taking heavily from "Total War" gameplay, you could be in a line of swordsmen with shields. Suddenly, you see all the troops nearby hit with "fear", making them all lose a ton of stats. Usually this only happens when something terrible is about to happen or they are in a very bad situation. Since it is a major pain to die in this MMO, and its tactically better to retreat and regroup without the modifier, you start to retreat. But nobody else does. You suddenly realize you were the only one with the spell cast on you. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jul 17 '15 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ After you realize this is when you see the hole you left in the line break open and all your friends die. In-game anyway. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jul 17 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ PVP comes down to timing (and your ping of course). This is the only answer here with the word speed in it; if they can do what I do, but faster, guess how I feel (and vise versa). $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jul 18 '15 at 18:26
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Music, Vision Filtering, Conditioning

How about a combination of music, color filtering and conditioning? During the tutorial to the game, you could have the user practice different things they'll need to do in the game. Then, when they fail, or during parts where they're likely to fail, play the 'not confident' music. This will make people associate that music with parts where they're likely to mess up. You could also tint their vision to be subtly blurry with a color tint to strengthen the effect.

Then, when you want to make them feel like they will mess up, you tint their vision and play the music.

As far as them feeling more confident, you could also have parts of the tutorial that seem really difficult, but are actually easy (or the game makes them hard at first, and then easier). When the user accomplishes this seemingly hard task, they'll feel like they're pretty great at the game. Then you'd play your 'confidence' music and tint their vision to be super clear and use a slightly brighter color palette so they feel more confident.

I think this all works best if the user doesn't understand what you're trying to do.

In a lot of games they'll tint the screen red and play heartbeat sounds to let you know you're about to die. I usually feel urgency/adrenaline when this happens to me (and I'm really into the game). I think the same could work for confidence. Movies use music and color palettes to set people's mood throughout the movie.

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  • $\begingroup$ Music wouldn't work with me, since I ignore it. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ Your conscience mind ignores it... But does your subconscience? Dramatic music starts $\endgroup$ – Martin_xs6 Jul 17 '15 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah.. Sometimes it is annoying. Sometimes it's great though. Ever play the original Halo? When the 'get pumped there's lots of bad guys coming' music came on, it was awesome! $\endgroup$ – Martin_xs6 Jul 17 '15 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Musical cues in L4D are key to your team's survival. Get ready. Here they come! $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jul 18 '15 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Instead of real Music which the player can hear consciously you could experiment with very low tones which are bearly audible. They can influence the subconscious and induce fear. The Gear could apply these sounds via vibration directly to the Skull of the player... $\endgroup$ – Falco Jul 19 '15 at 11:48
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Confidence is tied to performance, so controlling a player's performance will give you control over their confidence. When a player feels their performance decreasing, they tend to naturally become more cautious.

You can control their performance by limiting their senses. Shorter view distance, blurred vision, sluggish controls, muffled sound effects, and inaccurate readings on meters and other UI elements all reduce performance naturally. Some restraint is necessary here, as too much impairment makes a game frustrating and can drive players away. But a little bit can be quite impactful.

You can also control performance by adjusting rewards and losses: greater rewards increase bravery, while greater losses increase caution. For example, when a player's character normally regenerates lost health, the loss of that regeneration will make the player more cautious. Similarly, if the player gains the ability to regain lost health by attacking enemies, then the player will become braver and enter battle more often in order to regain lost health.

Confidence in performance relies on the player's ability to assess their performance and compare it to the challenges presented by their environment. If a player is very powerful, but doesn't know it, and is confronted by an enemy which looks menacing but is actually weak, the player will be cautious until they realize through trial and error that their power is greater. The inverse is also possible: a deceptively weak-looking enemy could be more powerful than the player, overinflating player confidence leading them to attack it head-on. You can bypass the need for trial and error by providing UI elements to indicate differences in power, e.g. marking enemies which are too powerful with a red skull, or automatically targeting the weakest enemy for the next attack.

Confidence is also closely correlated with a player's sense of isolation and loneliness: a player in a group is more confident than one who is all alone in enemy territory. Your game doesn't need to be multiplayer either - the player's allies could be AI-controlled and the effect would be the same.

Player confidence also depends on their understanding of their surroundings. Therefore if you want to reduce confidence, you can simply overwhelm the player with information, e.g. by generating more enemies or changing the shape of the terrain. The more things change, the more the player needs to keep track of, and the easier it is for them to become overwhelmed and feel the need to retreat to a more controllable position.

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    $\begingroup$ Your second paragraph reminds me of FPS games like Battlefield that have a suppression system: basically, if you're being shot at, your screen blurs and you can't shoot straight. In my experience, it doesn't scare me, but it does keep me from fighting back effectively, and usually I end up running away or hiding. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jul 17 '15 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Definitely, when you're really dug into a good BF firefight the suppression makes for an intense, visceral experience. I imagine VR would magnify that significantly. $\endgroup$ – talrnu Jul 17 '15 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Fallout 3 does this (unintentionally, see fix game lag shooting? -GameFAQs. I thought it was based on your charisma somehow (game needs a cojones stat), but that's something else for followers and their aptitudes. Turns out, it's just bad programing making you feel inadequate and scared. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jul 18 '15 at 17:38
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Depending on bravery level, the computer could implement more monsters. Not real mosters, but illusions.

At full bravery level, you know exactly which monster is real and needs to be attacked and defended against and which is fake and can be ignored. You are confident in your abilities.

At full cowardice, the room is full of monsters and you don't know which ones are real, which means you have to be defensive and treat every single one as a real threat.

If illusions do not fit the world, you could use other information, maybe their threat level, or which weapons they have. The point is that enough information makes people confident, while too little information makes them doubt their actions.

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    $\begingroup$ This is reminiscent of Don't Starve, with the exception that the illusions you experience at Full Insanity ARE a real threat to your character. In Don't Starve Together, other players simply don't see the illusions or see them very faintly, and they can neither target nor be targeted by them. $\endgroup$ – Ayelis Jul 17 '15 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think adding fake monsters would work, but adding the threat of more monsters might. Some flickers on the edges of the screen, muffled sounds, perhaps your motion tracker stops working. That way, you'll look scared rather than delusional. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jul 17 '15 at 20:05
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Audio.

While incidental music and conditional heartbeat tones can be a good indicator to the player, it can also serve to prepare the player for a section, potentially bolstering their confidence during sections where they should not be confident.

To make a character less confident, the audio track should be similar to the normal audio track, but more randomized audio during situations where confidence would come into play, with slightly more discordant/offbeat tones being played than normal, and hits or stabs at random intervals where it might cause the player to slip up or fail a task that requires concentration.

For more relaxed or confident sections, you can play soothing music or nature sounds. You could also look into the effects of audio types that have been used in for Brainwave Entrainment. You could modulate the music or audio track to employ low frequency or low volume Binaural beats, Monaural beats, or Isochronic tones, which have been implied to have various effects on the listener's state of mind.

It would also be useful if not completely necessary to utilize Neurofeedback in the VR tech in order to monitor the user's state of mind, and adjust the audio accordingly for the intended effect.

Conversely, in order to make a character more confident, Incidental music and nature sounds would be great, but I feel it is not enough. A character may still run away from anything that would appear to be too threatening.

So while I disagree with altering the player's vision or statistics in ways that essentially break the game or make it seem unreliable (and thus unplayable), there's nothing telling me that you can't outright LIE to the player. Make hostile creatures seem more docile to a player whose confidence is boosted. Make their models smaller, perhaps. Make them appear to have fewer hit points or be already wounded (which would translate to other players as the confident player performing more critical strikes, or missing less often than normal).

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The typical MMORPG involves assigning numeric bonuses to activities, such as swinging a sword or casting a spell. If you are in a VR world where one cannot simply assume the numbers are sufficient, then the story gets more complicated.

I would consider a MMORPG with some concept of a guardian angel that helps you. Perhaps they help you as a level 1 character, so you can more rapidly adjust to the game, but vanish over time. This guardian angel would help you make your desires happen. If they believe you wanted to jump over a ravine, but ever so slightly missed, they might tweak the gravity constants locally to accomplish the goal. A confidence boosting ability would bring back this assistance. If players were made aware that this effect was taking place, the players themselves would naturally become more confident as well.

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Back in the dark ages, when such games were played with paper and dice, I often encountered situations where a player was acting "out of character". A timid player might have a hard time running a courageous character, or vice-versa.

Correcting such situations really only requires informing the player of what they are doing wrong. I usually kept a pack of index cards with helpful advice like "You are being to timid". Passing such a card, face down, to a player at an appropriate moment would make the aware of the issue and almost always, they would immediately adjust their actions.

I don't think you need to trick or game your players into playing their roles. You just need to let them know.

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  • $\begingroup$ From my experience, players tend to create characters whose attitudes and mentalities directly coincide with their own, so I find it interesting you've seen timid players running courageous characters. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Being a psych major at the time, I would encourage my friends to embrace characters which were out of their comfort zone. This was decades before role-playing became publicly known as an accepted therapeutic technique. I can't claim any miracles, but I would argue that it had a positive affect overall. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 17 '15 at 19:37
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I don't think there is any way to guarantee that the player will be more confident. Thus, I see two ways of approaching this:

  1. Accept that you cannot force confidence on someone and simply put systems in place that encourage confidence. This means that players lacking confidence may often have a more difficult time in the game (just as they might in real life).
  2. Ignore the literal meaning of improving a character's morale/confidence in terms of emotion, and instead cut through to the base-level change to the character those types of spells/effects produce in other games.

On point #1, assuming all enemies are given some sort of danger ranking/threat level, that stat would just need to be treated as a perceived threat level rather than an absolute one. This level would be inversely related to the player's confidence. An interesting side effect of this is that overconfidence becomes a real risk. If a player is too confident, the perceived threat level may be so low that they don't take a threat seriously enough and get themselves into trouble.

Other answers have hinted at other ways to encourage players to be more confident such as causing the monster to appear injured or displaying additional monsters that are merely illusions, etc. If the game being played in single player only, those could work, but if there is any interaction with other players (especially cooperative), various issues come up with players seeing monsters too differently or the confidence of other players ruining a separate players fight (imagine if you were doing just fine against a very injured monster, and someone with extremely low confidence enters the room; suddenly, that nearly-dead monster is at peak condition and 5 feet taller—not good). Edit: From discussion in comments, simply allowing two players to see the same monster in different states would probably be fine, as long as you don't allow those states to be too wildly different (e.g., one player seeing a monster as an amputee while another sees 8 arms brandishing large weapons). Also, potential collusion between players to get around confidence deficiencies could be mitigated by allowing overconfidence to be an issue, since that should lower the value of that type of meta-gaming cooperation.

Concerning point #2, I'd postulate that in most games morale/confidence boosts to characters simply translate to increased attack (as in Final Fantasy) or health/defensive stats (like in Everquest). Thus, rather than trying to physiologically produce actual confidence or bravery in a character, you could just up their stats and trust that that would likely inspire actual confidence as well, since it would make their fights easier.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little curious, since you referenced my answer. Why would one player's confidence level impact the appearance of a monster? The monster's appearance is used to influence confidence, not the other way around. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre If someone casts Make This Guy A Lot Braver on the player and monster appearance is being used as a way of influencing confidence, then the application of the spell will necessitate a change in the monster. It's kind of a weird cyclic thing where the spell on the player forces the monster to change in hopes of making the spell actually work for the player. $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 17 '15 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ We could always add a layer of complexity and have the monster's appearance differ slightly from player to player. This may actually be interesting, as it could play into standard information bias. A "smart" game could develop a profile of a player and use player-specific visual cues to influence morale. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre That would (as with anything) come with it's own issues. Extreme example: super confident Player A sees Monster 1 as not even having arms to fight with, but super cowardly Player B sees arms on Monster 1. This makes coordination between PA and PB in a fight difficult. However, you could just make sure to manage differences in a way where ridiculous things like that don't come up, I'm sure. So you've got a good point there. $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 17 '15 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Also collaborating players could work around confidence deficiencies by just telling someone else what's going on, but if you make overconfidence a potential problem the value of that collusion goes down and likely solves that issue. $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 17 '15 at 15:59
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Some ideas come to mind, mostly involving visual distortions. For example, lack of confidence could introduce more jitter or sway into the player's view (especially while moving), make walkways seem narrower, make monsters seem bigger/scarier (glowing eyes, vague shadowy wisps, bigger teeth, more surprising/vicious attack animations), and so forth, while added confidence would have the opposite effects. Anyone with anxiety disorder would also "appreciate" the effect of introducing tunnel vision and a subtle dimming of the environment, as well as making the player's vision momentarily blurrier.

You could also subtly introduce the sound of the PC's heartbeat and breath, and ramp up its intensity and perhaps even rate. I remember that having a profound effect on me in a horrible reality/game show in the early 2000s, and it became pretty clear that's exactly what the game producers were going for.

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