Tool predicts player behaviour in online role-playing games

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new method that can accurately predict the behaviour of players in online role-playing games.

The tool could be used by the game industry to develop new game content, or to help steer players to the parts of a game best suited to their gaming style.

’We are able to predict what a player in a game will do based on his or her previous behaviour with up to 80 per cent accuracy,’ said Brent Harrison, a PhD student at NC State. The research team developed the data-driven predictive method by analysing the behaviour of 14,000 players in the massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft.

’This work could obviously be used for World of Warcraft or other MMORPGs, but it also applies to any setting where users are making a series of decisions,’ said Dr David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State. ’That could be other gaming formats, or even online retailing.’

The researchers developed the method by evaluating the task-based ’achievement’ badges that players in World of Warcraft earn. These achievements are awarded whenever a player accomplishes a specific goal or series of goals.

Specifically, the researchers collected data on 14,000 players and the order in which they earned their achievement badges. The researchers then identified the degree to which each individual achievement was correlated to every other achievement. The researchers used that data to identify groups of achievements — called cliques — that were closely related.

Those cliques could then be used to predict future behaviour. For example, if a clique consists of seven achievements and a player had earned four of them, the researchers found that they would probably earn the other three. However, many of the cliques that the researchers identified consist of 80 or more different achievements.

One interesting element of the findings is that the achievements that are highly correlated — or part of the same clique — do not necessarily have any obvious connection. For example, an achievement dealing with a character’s prowess in unarmed combat is highly correlated to the achievement badge associated with world travel — even though there is no clear link between the two badges to the outside observer.