Token Based Economy

Problem: We want to reward player behaviors but don't want them to become satiated with whatever reward it is we're offering them. Or we want to break large rewards into smaller chunks, to reward many small behaviors rather than single large ones.

Solution: Reward them with 'tokens' that they can then redeem for their choice of reward. A kind of PositiveReinforcement.

You can give a rat a token which it can later redeem for food, and the rat will come to identify that token with food. (The rat will hide the token in its nest as if it were food, for example.) You can give autistic children tokens that they can redeem for a wide variety of possible reinforcers, and although some of them may not respond to a specific reinforcer, most of them will respond to the token. The rupee in Zelda works the same way. Zelda already has a rich economy of stuff you can find, things you can carry\x97hearts, bombs, arrows\x97and things that increase the amount you can carry\x97heart container pieces, bomb bags, quivers. This allows the designers to fill the game with small rewards for behavior; they encourage exploration by providing these reinforcements in every nook and cranny. But finding a heart when you're looking for arrows or vice-versa is no reinforcement (you are satiated with respect to that reinforcer) which is where the rupee, the token in this token based economy, comes in. It can be redeemed for hearts, bombs, arrows, fairies, weapons, shields, and the like.

Note: tokens should be redeemable for generic rewards. Tokens are the encouragement to do nonessential subquests and explorations. For missions/scenarios/levels that the player must complete, you must have specific unique rewards (even if they're as simple as unlocking more of the game.)

Examples: Almost all fantasy RPG's where you get money which you can redeem for stuff.