How do you motivate players to be content with randomly selected roles that are often complex to play and differ drastically in playstyle (AND to stick around till the end of game)?

Some background: Town of Salem is a more diversified and polished version of the popular "party games" such as Mafia and Werewolf. There are about 30 roles with offensive/defensive/supportive/investigative specializations, assigned to players at random. Most of all, many roles have unconventional abilities that provide incentives for any player to stay engaged during each stage of a game session (i.e. early-game/initiative, mid-game, and end-game)

For example: Medium can chat with dead players. The catch is that the names of such dead players ("out of play") are anonymous to Medium. In this sense, it provides a greater flexibility in player contribution overall with a strong emphasis on mid and late-game . Players are motivated to keep deducing and cooperating until the game is declared over (as opposed to sitting back once they are out of play) knowing that their intel can affect the outcome via Medium regardless of how early they were killed off.

I am also interested to see examples from multiplayer games in the same genre.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While this is definitely an interesting topic, your question is unfortunately much too vague and open-ended for the stackexchange format. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Sep 28 '14 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp do you have any suggestion? I assumed the majority is familiar with the whole concept of Mafia/Werewolf games. The question can be really boiled down to "how to promoting interaction between dead vs alive players while keeping the game balanced." \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28 '14 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the title to match what you said the question boils down to. The content of the question asks a bunch of other stuff too though. What's this about "motivating players to be content with randomly selected roles" and how is it related to the question? What does "balanced" mean? Could you give some exaples of how such a game might become unbalanced? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anko
    Sep 28 '14 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ (a) What happens if the Medium is dead? (b) Communication is a poor way to throttle online interplay in a world with TeamSpeak/Mumble/etc. (c) Party games need to strive to keep players in the game (no perma-death) or just be short (Mario Party minigames) or provide some other means for "dead" characters to play and win (Bang! High Noon ghost town rules). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28 '14 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ "How do I maintain game balance while promoting interaction between dead and alive players?" Requires an in depth knowledge of the game mechanics and is too specific and should be closed imo. @Crosscounter can you clarify? Additionally the answers seem to be answering the original question not the clarification. I think the question should be edited to focus on motivation and retention part. The balance part that has developed though discussion in the comments dilutes the original question and makes the answers seem off topic. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '14 at 16:44

Answering by just focusing on the question and not the other information.


I think the key to solving any problem is identifying what's causing the problem. If you're trying to find out how to motivate players more, then it may be critical to gather player feedback on what motivates and what doesn't motivate.

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone here can really identify those problems for you because we are not your players and likely not your target audience.


Just speaking on motivation for anything regardless of your game specifically, there are a number of tactics you could take. One of my favorites is simply showing players firsthand how fun the game could be played in someone elses hands. Game publishers have been doing this for years through live demos, videos and more.

I think this may even be especially important in your case because players are playing randomly select roles that is foreign to them. Being foreign is bad in some game design (IMHO), then making it familiar could be a huge boost in motivation. Show them what they can do and they will likely start doing it more.

Complex Systems

Complex systems are really hard to make work and sell to the end user. This is because they are complex, which could lead to frustration, which could lead to players quitting the game. I know you are specifically not asking a question on complex systems, but this is likely a good reason on why players are not sticking around either.

However, that's a question that only your players could answer too. If true, ways to resolve complexity is similar to motivation. You have to bridge the gap between not knowing and knowing through various tactics such as video tutorials, in-game tutorials, web based resources such as game guides and the infamous game wiki.

Sticky Players

At the end of the day, there is no magic formula for making players sticky. If there was, we all have it and all be rich I think. Improving player retention is very much like everything else I've mentioned, only the players can help make it better. That's because they are the ones leaving the game and not sticking around. Finding out why is critical to improving that stickiness and there is no way for us to really answer that without actually experiencing the game as they did.

Hope that helps.


The main problem is see is the fact that only 2 roles have any method of influencing your death characters. I think you should strive to more interesting death character roles. Why not assign various roles to various ghosts to give them options? You could have a type of ghost with the power to see what other characters roles are, another that is able to discover the (living) identity of another ghost. A third one(poltergeist) might be able to prevent a living character from acting one every day. Having a number of these special roles means that the death characters can still interact with the game beyond just the medium.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate the feedback. However, the fundamental goal of so-called party games (with heavy emphasis on communication/deductions/deception) is to stay alive while framing others to be dead; being dead should not be an exploitable option. Finding the fine line can be difficult but simply adding more Medium-like roles may condone players to abandon the original theme. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28 '14 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you decide that the only goal of the game is to stay alive then that means those who are death have no goal left to achieve and are therefore no longer interested. We play to achieve a goal so what you need to do is decide what goal the death players have? Are they there to mess with the living? Are they there to help their former group? Are they trying to find a way to no longer be death (could require help from the living)? From your comment it sounds like you have no goal in mind for the dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thijser
    Sep 28 '14 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps achievements for winning the game from the dead may help balance this. I feel that playtesting is key to finding the right balance of the Medium-like roles and experimenting with preset game settings (e.g. providing a mode with pre-selected, multiple Mediums) Thanks for the insight. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28 '14 at 20:35

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