Golden Expectations

As part of the educational game project my team was working on we were required to build a reward system. This system took the form of a trophy room which would display trophies that players had earned. After playtesting though we found we had created an expectation for treasure which we were not fulfilling. The following is a gameplay video where our players would collect treasure chests at the end of each level.

So in order to fulfill this expectation we created additional art assets which we would use to fill up our empty room. We faced a dilemma in this regard. We did not want to force players to see treasure added to the room at the end of every level. This would be far too disruptive to the game experience. So how does one fulfill the expectation of reward without forcibly having the player see the reward appear?

Well one thing helped us in this regard. We already designed fixed reward intervals through the trophy system which forced players to go to the trophy room and observe the new trophy being added to the trophy room.

Fixed Visitation

In our experience we had periods of fixed visitation where the player would be guaranteed to be seeing the Trophy Room. Looking at the experience more methodically we were giving trophy’s at the following intervals (we had thirty levels).

One and thirty were absolutely necessary since they began and ended the experience. The others were decided based on difficulty curve which was designed in previous weeks. Again we asked ourselves the question. How does one fulfill the expectation of reward without forcibly having the player see the reward appear?

Treasure Intervals

The answer we came up with was surprise. What we would do is add treasure to the room based on the progress of the player, and that treasure would be added in intervals between the fixed trophy intervals. This we hoped would:

  1. Create a surprise if the player visited before a fixed trophy interval
  2. Show a sense of treasure progress as it builds through the experience
  3. Complement the trophy award

We realized something else important as well. That the first trophy reward needed to be given a complementing treasure reward. Why? In the hopes to create, and fulfill our players Golden Expectations!

Now with an idea our awesome programmer Carl programmed it all up choosing fairly equal intervals of two between each trophy reward.

The result was distributed rewards throughout the experience with what we hoped would be an element of surprise. On top of that we made the decision to hand out the six trophies we had randomly, we did this due to the likelihood of the game being played in a group setting and we though that multiple people getting different rewards would add excitement and surprise.


Ideally we could have three empty chests, to start with, but given the limited time we had we made the Trophy room entirely empty.

  • Create reward expectations when you can
  • Fulfill the expectations that you create!
  • Incorporate elements of surprise!

1 thought on “Golden Expectations

  1. I really like how you used surprise as a reward criteria. Rewards that are surprising often fall under the variable ratio schedule, and players feel good because of the sudden rush of endorphins that are released when they are unexpectedly rewarded. However, the suprise element you mentioned seems to be surpising only at the start. Since the rewards are given at an interval, more intuitive players can pick up the reward pattern and the element of surpise is no longer present. Once that happens, the reward system falls under the fixed ratio schedules, and their “feel good” factor is not as much as a variable ratio reward. It would be interesting to see how random rewards being awarded when the player opens the treasure would fare as this would create a completely random (and hence surprising) reward experience.

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