Apologies for a post which is little more than a link to, and quotes from, a Youtube Video, but this one struck me pretty hard.
Game Makers Toolkit talks about the nature of rewards in games, particularly the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, and in doing so seems to describe almost exactly a pattern of play that I have both experienced and intuitively tried to mimic and re-create in my own stuff.
Its very, very OSR relevant. Honestly I think this video should probably be in the 'Links to Wisdom' alongside the various Primers.
"... beyond that the quests were a complete and utter disaster. Players focused exclusively on those quests and thought of everything else as a really noisy distraction. They optimised their play in really boring ways in order to finish the quest at hand, they avoided doing anything risky, because it meant they might fail and then they became completely demotivated the second the quests ran out."
"In structuring the game as a series of explicit tasks to be completed, we taught the player to depend upon those tasks to create meaning in the game"
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation;
"If a game is about experimentation, exploration or player-guided discovery - explicit goals can limit players creativity and imagination, even after the goals run out.
"A goal you set yourself is way more powerful than a goal someone else sets for you. .. So if a game is about improving yourself, a personal or social goal can be a stronger motivator than a set threshold.
We should remember that goals are a checklist that can be completed. Some players will exclusively rely on the game to give them purpose and direction.
Intrinsic motivation is shown to be far stronger - and it lasts longer too. People can enjoy a hobby for a lifetime. Extrinsic motivation will only last as long as the rewards are there."
The over-justification effect;
"There's a huge body of evidence that says when extrinsic motivation is attached to a task that we already find intrinsically motivating, we suddenly become way less interested in the task.
And other studies also show rewards can also make people less creative, worse at problem solving, more prone to cheating, and may lose motivation entirely once the rewards stop - even though previously they were happy to do it for its own sake."
"... there are certainly games that lean more towards intrinsic motivation. Like games that focus on exploration, creativity, expression and growth. There are games where you set your own goals and expect no rewards in return, and so when more extrinsically motivating systems - like explicit goals, progression meters and achievements are added too these games, our motivation can take a hit. We become blinkered to creative solutions. We're less motivated to improve ourselves. We put an arbitrary threshold on how much we can attain, and developers now need to create a constant drip feed of new goals and rewards, or risk losing us entirely."
".. because I think its clear that some people just aren't very good or interested in motivating themselves
For every minecraft super fan who generates their own fun, there's someone else who is simply lost and without direction."
"In a thread about the open-ended whodunnit Her Story, one user said; "It's up to you decide when you are satisfied with the information you have found."
To which the threads author replied, "how do I decide when I am satisfied?"
That post keeps me up at night."
What Goals and Rewards to Use;
"With goals its better to use large, overarching goals that players can complete however they want, rather than restrictive step-by-step instructions.
Make goals optional, like Hitmans challenges, or hidden, like Outer Wilds achievements.
There is one type of reward that has been shown to not trigger the overjustification effect.
Rewards can have a motivational effect in intrinsic situations provided that they're unexpected, reasonably low value and feel tied to the actual performance of the action."