Games where players have to use Resources without immediate results give players the opportunity to make Investments. This requires players to make difficult decisions based upon uncertain futures, and some games, especially strategy games, contain many different layers of Investments to create complex gameplay experiences. Games from other genres often also contain Investments, but these Investments are usually not as directly perceivable.
Example: Tetris has an incentive mechanism for taking risks in form of Investments in order to reap greater rewards as the simultaneous removal of several rows brings in more points than removing them one by one. Players, in effect, make Investments by creating situations where, for example, the four block stick would fit and remove four rows at the same time.
Example: the research ladders in the Civilization series bind valuable Resources for a long time without direct rewards. The progress in research, however, will give a significant advantage in military power later in the game. A lower layer of Investments is the building of the combat and settlement units. They take time and Resources to build and they are not necessarily useful right away.
Example: Developing the character's skills and attributes in roleplaying games is a direct form of Investments. Raising the skills and attributes is costly and there are no direct rewards or benefits from the game system point of view for doing so. These skills and attributes, however, are often useful in the long run.
Investments require that players voluntarily let a form of Consumers destroy Resources in order to gain the Rewards later in the game. However, the Investments must have some form of Perceivable Consequences for players in order for them to be willing to invest Resources or time into the Investments. There are three main design choices when designing Investments: choosing the Resources that can be used in the Investments, deciding on the relationship between the kinds of Rewards given and the different kinds of Resources used, and determining the relationships between different amounts of Investments and how this affects Rewards. Budgeted Action Points are always a form of Investment as they are the players basic Resources for performing actions in the game.
The simplest case of Investments is when the Resources and the Rewards are of the same kind, such as putting money in a bank account to get a certain interest rate back or Betting on the outcome of an action. The Resources and Rewards in these cases are usually fungible currencies of some kind within the economy of the game system. The next category is to use chains of Producer-Consumers with Converters to create a "ladder" of refinements of Resources from basic Resources to Construction of Units and new Producers and Converters. Treadmilling, having to perform repetitive actions in order to get basic Resources such as experience points and new items, exist in many MMORPGs and belongs to this category. In this case, the raw Resource is basically the players' time. In Self-Facilitated Games, the Investment of time, as well as other Extra-Game Consequences into maintaining game sessions, can have Social Status as the primary, possibly intended, Reward. The last category of direct Investments is to use the more basic Resources to obtain New Abilities, Privileged Abilities, and Skill improvements for the Units and Characters under the players' control. In the case of Multiplayer Games, the improvement of individual players' abilities takes the role of improvement of Units and forms the basis for Team Development.
The game system Rewards can be roughly classified into Arithmetic Rewards for Investments and Geometric Rewards for Investment regardless of the type of Reward compared to the Investment. Randomness of the exact specification of the Rewards lessens the Predictable Consequences of Investments, while Rewards whose usefulness or value are in Paper-Rock-Scissors relationships with Investments of other players increase both the risk and potential reward of the Investment. Diminishing Returns together with either of the previous types can be used to encourage more Varied Gameplay and to maintain Player Balance. All these affect players' Risk/Reward choices to do Investments.
The Rewards associated with the Investments can be different from the Resources used in the Investment itself. For example, investing experience points in raising weapon Skills in a fantasy-oriented roleplaying game is associated with the game system Reward of performing better in combat. This kind of Character Development is, of course, also associated with non-game system Rewards of achievement and recognition.
Games can allow players to make Investments through Extra-Game Actions to achieve Game Mastery or make artistic use of in-game actions that they have Creative Control over. Further, Social Organizations and Self-Facilitated Games require or encourage players to make Investments that have Extra-Game Consequences in the form of invested time and effort.
Investments are a form of Resource Management, and usually a Committed Goal, as Resources are typically bound in the Investments. Bringing Investments of any form into game designs promotes Stimulated Planning, as the player has to plan ahead the use of Resources and weight this with the possible later Rewards. This is the case even in the Tetris example: the player has to plan how to use the blocks to get more points by removing several rows at the same time. In this case, as in most Investments, there are also risks involved, and the players have to decisions by assessing the involved Risk/Reward relations.
Investments are a direct form of Extended Actions with Delayed Effects: there is a time delay between the action of investing the Resources and having the effect of that action. The difference between Investments and other forms of Delayed Effect is that the Resources used in the Investment are tied up between the action and the effect. The main incentives for the players to make Investments are, of course, the possible Rewards associated with the outcome of the Investment. This kind of longer term planning is a common feature in everyday life, and games just make these decision points more explicit.
Instantiates: Social Statuses, Predictable Consequences, Stimulated Planning, Resource Management, Budgeted Action Points, Rewards, Delayed Effects, Social Organizations, Committed Goals, Team Development
Instantiated by: Extended Actions, Predictable Consequences, Self-Facilitated Games, Consumers, Units, Construction, Score, Betting, New Abilities, Privileged Abilities, Characters, Game Mastery, Creative Control, Extra-Game Actions
Potentially conflicting with:
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