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I'm new here so forgive me if I have some lingo wrong.

I am designing an app for hockey players that trains them in stickhandling skills. The app tracks time you watch videos/do the exercises.

We want to have the players progress through levels (34 levels), so we can celebrate their progress and give them something to chase after. The truth is the more they drill, the better they actually become, so it really benefits them.

My problem is I don't know how to really design the levels. You train by running through a playlist, let's say that's a standard 4 minutes of training (Somewhat high intensity, too). My thought was doing the first playlist gets you the first level, and it's pretty easy through the first 5. Then it gets tougher each 5 levels until the last 4-5 are really difficult.

Is there some kind of formula for this to design it so the levels make sense vs. just guessing? We want them to train and progress through the levels, not being too hard or too easy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no "best" answer to this. The details of the design will depend on your game, and the types of players you expect to get. You might be better off chatting with people in the chat room about it, though you unfortunately need 10 rep to chat there. Hang around the site, get some rep and join the fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Almo Nov 5 '15 at 13:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not quite substantive enough to be an answer, but a lot of developers find good results from using a sawtooth difficulty pattern, where difficulty ramps up over each set of 5-10 levels until the last level in the set is much harder than the preceding ones (like a boss encounter). Then the first level of the next set eases off before gradually climbing again. This emphasizes the rush players get when they beat the end-of-set milestone challenge, and often they'll power through the next few levels on that unstoppable feeling, rather than feeling ground down by an ever-increasing difficulty. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Nov 5 '15 at 16:31
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"Levelups" are a form of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is used as a reward to motivate the player to perform a certain behavior, in your case to watch more videos and do more exercises.

It's important for positive reinforcement to be applied soon after the player performs the desired behavior the first time. That means the first levelup should happen very early to show the player "You are doing the right thing - continue doing it!". Maybe even after the first positive action the player performed (first video watched / first exercise performed).

It is then important that you keep giving the player reinforcements so they continue the behavior. However, when you repeat the same form of reinforcement too often, the player will get used to it and you will have diminishing returns. That means you need to gradually reduce the frequency of positive reinforcement. But it is important to never remove them completely: The moment where another reward event seems unattainable (with justifiable effort), the player will quit.

Finding the right balance is more of an art than a science. You will have to do rigorous playtesting to find it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good summary, thanks - and thanks everyone for the answers. \$\endgroup\$ – MajorTom Nov 6 '15 at 14:34
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Jesse Schell's "Art of Game Design" has a good section on this subject. He uses this graph to illustrate the problem:

Art of Game Design, Chapter 10

The idea is that you need to keep a player's skills in balance with the challenges you give them. If the challenge is too low vs player skill, the player may get bored and stop playing your game. If it's too high, they may become frustrated/anxious and stop playing your game. To further complicate things, this is a moving target, since the player should be getting more skilled as they play your game.

A few of Schell's proposed solutions to this problem:

  • Let skilled players get through the easy stuff quickly. Maybe you could have a way to "test out" of early challenges. Or have a "skip" button.
  • Create "layers" of challenge - you could rank players A-F based on how well they do. Novices can either get a C and continue, or keep practicing until they get an A.
  • Have difficulty levels: easy/medium/hard.

There are lots of ways to tackle the problem. Definitely something you'll want to test for in play testing sessions.

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I recommend that if your overall goal is to get them to watch a large percentage of the videos, structure the videos themselves like pick-able items. Give each video a challenge rating, but don't force a linear progression, so that they can pick and choose for themselves which challenge to watch, and they can skip around as their interest changes. Then just attach some gamified badges & points to watching videos through to the end.

The point being, you want to avoid at all costs making the process be a grind, so the more choice you allow for them to mix & match as their interests allow, the more they'll keep up their interest level on their own.

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