Rewarding the player throughout progression is imperative for the player to feel a sense of accomplishment. When a player overcomes a challenge and receives a reward, the player is more likely to continue playing to complete the next objective. Small and plentiful rewards that lead to larger rewards later in progression can be very satisfying for a player, compared to game design that only rewards the player in milestone moments. This design also encourages the player to perceive their progress as a step-by-step process instead of being discouraged by the overall objective that may be hours of gameplay away. A great example of rewarding player progression can be found in The Talos Principle.
The Talos Principle Edit
The Talos Principle, a 1st-person role-playing game that emphasizes solving puzzles to progress the story, rewards the player for their progress in small ways. A variety of items are locked and can only be unlocked by collecting puzzle fragments, which are rewarded when the player completes a variety of level puzzles. When the player solves a level puzzle, they are recognized for this achievement by being rewarded with a glowing puzzle fragment, which can be combined with numerous other fragments to unlock an item. The game design could have just rewarded the player for completing the level puzzles, but by adding puzzle fragments to collect, the player's progression is regularly emphasized, giving the player a potential boost in morale and the motivation to continue on to the next level.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Edit
The rewards in Ocarina of Time are usually given after the player has defeated a boss or mini-boss. These rewards tend to be keys or items that allow the player to progress to the next level or dungeon, either by introducing a new game mechanic or improving on an existing one, as shown by the Longshot screenshot provided. The genius behind this design is that even though the player's character doesn't level up in the traditional RPG sense, by acquiring more diverse and powerful items throughout the game, the player still feels like they are progressing.
Kingdom Hearts Edit
Throughout Kingdom Hearts, every time you beat a boss, mini boss, or close a world, you are rewarded with some kind of item or ability that you can’t find anywhere else. All of these things are useful, many of them are very fun to have and use, and nearly all of them open new areas in each of the worlds where you can collect even more items. For example, the High Jump ability, which isn’t unlocked until about halfway through the game, opens many new high up areas in different worlds that before you could have only dreamt of getting to. Similarly, the glide ability creates so many new paths and opportunities you might wonder how you ever played without it. I also consider seeing an enemy explode into bunches of bouncy balls of money, health, and magic power to be a pretty good reward for defeating even the easiest and most common of enemies.
FEZ, a platformer puzzle game, rewards the player in a similar way as the Talos Principle. After completing a level, the player will be rewarded by a small fragment of a cube which the player can track on how many fragments left to accomplish the cube. This is creating an incentive for the player to continue to play to finish the cube. Each fragment is a reward for reaching a small milestone, and each cube is a big milestone for the player to target on. After assembling a big cube, the player will also get rewarded by a small animation, which adds expectations and motivations for the player while playing the game.