Risk vs. reward in Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Risk vs. reward in Crypt of the Necrodancer.

Goals and win conditions are a popular topic in game design circles, but a lesser explored area of discussion is loss conditions. Trevor Murray goes into fine detail examining the relationship between the goal and the loss condition, how that plays out in several real-world examples, and advocates for a game system wherein player actions can often take them closer to winning and losing by way a specific loss condition, and how when coupled with a timer, this can result in desirable risk-reward balancing on the player’s part.

You can check out the full article here:


Interesting and practical talk by Soren Johnson (Civilization 4, Offworld Trading Company) about the nuts and bolts design decisions that went into Offworld Trading Company. Topics covered include:

-The consequences of converging resource buy/sell price to the same value
-Buying your own shares, buying other players, and combating snowballing advantage/complexity
-A “Game available” system for small multiplayer communitiies
-Allowing players to play singleplayer while queuing
-Eliminating players early early to mitigate kingmaking
-Initial bid to establish stating locations
-Requiring tournament players to stream to build a community
-The value of Discord as a community building tool
-Splitting a traditional RTS game along Macro and Micro lines because they simply contain so much
Micro: MOBAs   Macro: Offworld Trading Company

You can watch the full talk here:

SwiftSpear recently wrote an article stating:

I claim that a designer who puts effort into making sure their game is a better Skinner box is, almost objectively, just making a better game.

In the article, he goes on to make the distinction between “operant conditioning” with ANY reward and operant conditioning with inherently valueless rewards, coming to the conclusion that it is the nature of the rewards and not the conditioning itself that is important. You can read the article here: https://bennycr.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/evil-evil-skinner-boxes/

Keith Burgun subsequently wrote a response defending the usage of the term “Skinner Box” as an indicator of manipulative reward systems. You can read it here: http://keithburgun.net/why-skinner-box-is-a-useful-distinction/

Despite all our rage, we still respond favorably to operant conditioning.
Despite all our rage, we still respond favorably to operant conditioning.