Themepark – Content Design for Engagement

I have a few friends that are massive Disney fans.  They are not 8 years old but in their 30s and 40s.  They take annual trips to Disney World/Land or take a cruise.  Fascinated by it all really.  My question to them some time ago was why?  Why are you taking the same ride again and again?  Haven’t you seen it all?  And the answer is simple.  There’s just so much to consume, and of such high quality, that you can do something completely different every day.

I took my first cruise last year, Celebrity Cruises.  It’s one of those lines where you pay a bit more, there are next to no kids and the service is superb.  There are tons of things to do on the ship and since each is high quality, you can don’t feel you’re wasting time doing it another go during the week.

MMO themeparks need to meet that standard to succeed today.  You need variety, quantity and quality.  The last one is certainly subjective but the first two are pretty darn easy to compare between games.

I realize with WoW that the Raiding game and Dungeon game are not so much my cup of tea.  Sure, LFR is something to do and likely the cap of my possible time investment in a single session’s attention span.  Dungeons are a means to an end, outside of the first couple runs.  Eh.  So I need to set myself alternate goals, and this is something that is complex in many themeparks.

Outside of non-consequential PvP, other themeparks give you a few options.  GW2 has the living story, map completion and some customization.  RIFT has housing, pets, AA, a crazy achievements bucket and some solo instances.  SWTOR has housing, conquests and the legacy system.  WoW has pet battles, collections (mounts/pets/toys), transmog, Farmville (and Farmville 2.0 in WoD), solo instances, achievements, timeless isle (and similar in WoD) and monthly-ish events.

I’ll give a more specific example or examples really.  I have 4 level 90s and 2 that I could easily get to 90 in a week.  Plus the boost I’m looking at for getting WoD (eventually).  So I have them set around old raid instances right now, to get the Raiding with Leashes achievement.  This requires 12 pets that drop from old-world raids – MC, BWL, AQ and Naxx.  My Hunter is trying to capture Spirit Beasts and rare pets.  My Monk is capping out factions outside of dungeons.  I’m also hunting additional mounts and pets in the wild, so I have someone “camped” at Huolon to get a shot at the dropped mount.  I haven’t even bothered with Transmog, at least not a couple weeks before an expansion.

Side note, I was collecting pets and mounts before it was cool.  At the end of LK, I had a crazy amount of them – and when they went across the account rather than player, I was incredibly happy.

I did something very similar in RIFT 1.0.  I went through each zone and closed all the achievements I could outside of rare hunting.  That was a heck of an achievement in itself.  Then macros and runs to find the rares for some neat pets.  Then a lot of costume hunting.  It was a ton of fun.

It was fun because even though I was repeating some content, multiple times, the goal was outside of that content.  I wasn’t doing a dungeon so I could do another dungeon or raid.  I was doing a dungeon so I could run a pet battle, or get a cool mount, or neat suit.  This “crossing of content streams” gets people more deeply invested, or at least gives them a better understanding of all the game’s components.

Now, I am not so much a completionist as I am one who likes smart, small goals that compound.  I won’t spend 100 hours to get 1 item and 1%.  I will spend 100 hours to get 100 things and that same 1%.  Shadow of Mordor is a good example – I just looked at the map and closed off all the events, 90% of which aren’t related to the main game.  Batman is an even better example.  I closed all the events there except the Riddler clues since they required additional effort that I didn’t find fun.

Lots of small, bite-sized events that are fun, I’m in.  I’ll do a ton of them.  Long, drawn out events that lose progress (so you restart), I’ll keep those for my real world job.

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