Why You Should Design for the Four/Six Player Types

Discuss mechanics and game feel for paper or electronic game design.
User avatar
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2016 11:45 am
Location: Ontario
Area of Focus: Design, Business
Occupation: Game Developer

Why You Should Design for the Four/Six Player Types

Postby ThomasH » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:19 pm

I prototyped a series of new features on my game. I was really happy with it. I then passed it on to a team member (programmer) to try out. He played it and liked it. Great! We’re good to go.

Then I made the mistake of sending it to the artist.

See, caught up in the gaiety of the moment I thought “This is the best, now everyone who tries it is going to love it!” But when the artist popped it open and played it for the first time (with me watching through screen share) it totally fell flat.

“I don’t like it.”

I was disheartened. Not only because someone didn’t like something I made, but because I couldn’t understand why the programmer and I liked it so much and why the artist did not.

And if you think I’m going to say something about right brain left brain, you are wrong. It has everything to do with player motivation.
Back in the MUD days (well, I suppose MUDs are still being played so that could include today but I don’t mean it that way) a guy named Bartle was the first guy to really study player motivations and create his now famous taxonomy of Killers, Achievers, Socializers, Explorers:

And this really took off because no one had organized players as effectively and succinctly before.

So by knowing my Bartle types well, I was able to ask the artist a few questions about his play preferences. Turns out he scores very high on EXPLORER. More so than me or the programmer.

So I brainstormed with him a bit what he, as an EXPLORER, would like to see. He told me. And about 80 hours of work later I had a new prototype with exactly those features in it. And what did he think?

He thought it was way better.

Now there are two key lessons coming out of this:
First, don’t just test “with random people”. If I had got 5 ACHIEVERS and 0 EXPLORERS to test my prototype I would not have uncovered this glaring problem: I was alienating a quarter of the market.

Second, when doing your design work (ie: brainstorming features) test the ideas right away against the player types. This will tell you the quality of the feature. A feature that appeals to 3 or 4 player types is much more valuable than one that only appeals to one. Now you know how to allocate resources to said feature.

BTW, I’m not implying you don’t create a 1 player type feature, only to make conscious choice to invest that way rather than accidentally investing that way. Many games have features JUST for one type of player, and that is why it appeals to so many kinds of players: there is something for everyone.

But the story gets better. After I and the programmer played the new prototype WE liked it better. We didn’t need the additional features, but we appreciated them when they were there. So this is valuable to recognize as well: features designed for Socializers can actually make the game better for Killers or Achievers too. How handy is that!

Now you would expect the story to end here, and maybe it should. But think of this last part as “New Post+” content:
It turns out that Bartle’s 4 player types is not that great of a Taxonomy of player motivation. One reason is it had a highly skewed narrow data set. It’s useful, just flawed. You can read more here:


So this analyst/psychologist guy Nick Yee set out to create a better system at Quantic Foundry. With 200,000+ gamer profiles and a more systematic approach, they have been able to identify there are actually 12 gamer profile traits which they pair into 6 core motivations. A handy summary slideshow is available here:

If you like to listen rather than read, you can learn more about all this through the interview on Psychology of Games podcast.

So, if like me you want your game to sell beyond the 3 F’s (Friends, Family, and Fools), you’ll want to design for as broad an audience as possible. One way is to dig into and utilize the 4/6 player motivations in your design and production pipeline.


User avatar
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu May 12, 2016 5:27 am
Location: Texas
Area of Focus: Design, General
Occupation: Mortgage Field Inspector

Re: Why You Should Design for the Four/Six Player Types

Postby BrianH » Fri May 13, 2016 8:04 pm

Those are cool things to think about, and would likely be useful as I'm designing.

I feel that even the 6/12 categories aren't complete, or at least not when you read the descriptions. For example, I am motivated by interesting, unique, and clever games that lead me into new experiences or offer a new way of thinking about or interacting with something. So Papers Please, The Swapper, and Her Story were all interesting to me. That most sounds like Discovery, I think, but it is under the heading of Creativity, and the description seems to deal more with tinkering with systems, taking things apart, trying to make things work, that sort of thing. Like, I imagine Kerble Space Program probably fits in that description nicely. But that's not the same kind of thing I was talking about. And when I took the test for this, I scored pretty low on Discovery anyway. I scored highest on Immersion, which makes sense, since I'm often very narrative-driven, and love to explore worlds, so I guess it may relate to that, but I'm not sure.

I also really like puzzle games, but I DON'T usually like strategy games, and those pretty much get lumped into the same category of "strategy", so I ultimately didn't score very high there.

Anyway, I like the concept, I just think it could still be refined.

Return to “Design Channel”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest