March 24, 2009

Replay it again, Sam ! (part 2)

Welcome to the second part of this post ! The first part was about replaying a game in a short window of time. The following reasons are better suited when some time has already passed…

Or “Hey, remember when..?”

Replaying a game after some months, or years have passed, means that you liked something about the game. Was it the design? The characters? The world? Whatever. But something compels you to come back again, to something you already mainly know.

But… How long will you play? Most people I have asked answered that they will only dip their foot in the pool, so to speak, and rarely go frolicking for a long time. One evening, maybe a weekend, rarely more. I even know some people who keep save games located just before a particular event they liked and will only play through that event.
In the end, you just want a quick trip down Memory lane, but you do not need to go through all its mazes: you already know them, after all…


Here, you come back with a clear challenge in mind, self imposed. In the first part, I had announced that this would be “Perfection”, but perfection is only one of many challenges you can set yourself.
I remember playing Max Payne 2 again with a friend, but only some levels (the dream sequences, mainly), trying to do them as fast as possible, looking for that extra second to spare…
I remember seeing a walkthrough explaining how to go through Chrono Trigger while retaining Chrono at level 1…
“Can I do it?”
Big question. But people like to try, to brag, or just to know that yes, they can.

The duration has no impact: you have a goal, you want to reach it.


So, what did we learn?
First, let me state that this article wasn’t just about me: I asked some friends and people for their input (that’s how “Perfection” became ”Challenges”; thanks for that, E-Link! ), which mainly confirmed what I thought.

1°) Many people will play immediately through a game again if it unlocked content (playable or not), and if the length of the new playthrough isn’t too long.
2°) Many people will play immediately through the same game again when they can retain their data, to see how strong their character is. BUT most will stop a long time before the end.
3°) Replaying in higher difficulty appeals to some gamers, but not all. Less so if it’s the exact same game, and only the enemy’s strength varies.
4°) Players are adept at creating their own challenges when a game offers none anymore
5°) Sometimes, players like to come back to something they know, just to see if it’s still the same…

Food for thought, and discussion, I hope ;)

March 18, 2009

Replay It again, Sam ! (part 1)

Recently, I started to think about replayability, mainly because I have a game idea that needs you to live the same day again and again. But why do people replay games? And what games do they replay?

I have identified 3 types:
- Unlocking content
- Play in Higher difficulty
- Nostalgia
- Perfection

Unlocking Content

Many developers entice you to finish their game at least once in order to unlock some additional content. It can be higher levels of difficulty (I will tackle this later), more content to play in/with, replaying the game while keeping your data from the previous game, or bonus content.

More content to play in/with (Dynasty Warriors, Smash Bros)
Here, each playthrough grants you additional characters, weapons, areas, what have you, with which to play again
It worked for me in Smash Bros Brawl and Dynasty Warriors 5. It did not in DW4
It worked in the first 2 because they could be played in their entirety in 20 minutes to 3 hours. And, I did not play through the exact same content from one character to the next.
While in DW4, it was the same scenario for each character of a same kingdom, and it took more than 10 hours to finish

So, I don’t mind replaying something identical to unlock something if it does not last more than a few minutes (it can also keep me glued for hours because “I’ll just do one more). If it lasts more than half an hour, then it must be at least slightly different from one go to the next.

Replaying your game while keeping data from the previous (Some Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Lufia)
Also known as “New Game +”.
Here, you killed the final boss. But why not play the adventure again retaining all your godlike powers?
It did not work for me for either of these games. I need a challenge to keep being excited, and there was clearly none (although trying to kill Lavos at different moments in the game was quite interesting.
Most of the time (And I’m not the only one I know) I’ll try the new game + for a couple of hours, and then the game will go in the shelves…

So, I do mind brrezing through a game without any challenge. I won’t mind it if it opens interesting new avenues of Gameplay.

Bonus content (God of War, Samurai Warriors)
Here, we are talking about elements around the game itself: scenes cut from the final game, concept arts, designers’ anecdotes.

Whatever they be, I make it a point to look at them all. I’m impressed by what can be done in a game, and will always be a sucker for behind-the-scene kind of data.
As for art, well, I like it, so what’s more to say?
Would I replay a game for that?
Once again, it depends on the length. 2 to 3 hours for each replay seems to be my limit.

Play in Higher difficulty

Starting fresh (God of War, Kingdom Hearts, Duke Nukem 3D, Alone in the Dark)
Here, you play through the same game from the get go. But the enemies are stronger, you do not have the same amount of ammo, not so much health, etc.
I rarely play games where I start fresh at a higher difficulty. I’ve already lived the story once, and don’t want to do it again so soon. Truth to tell, if the initial difficulty I’ve selected is too low, I’ll start again at a higher one. And most of the time, I won’t be able to play it at a higher difficulty. Not good enough, you see?

Keeping your previous data with you (Diablo, Titan Quest)
Ah, the infamous Hardcore Level…
You keep the character you previously played with all his enhancements, but the enemies are stronger too (and so is the loot).

Titan Quest is the only game I did this. And Diablo would have been too, had I been able to play it at the time. Why? Because the story isn’t really important the second time. You play for the phat lewt, and to improve your character still more. That said, I’m not sure I would go through the 3rd difficulty Level…

Different content (TimeSplitters 2)
An interesting approach I only saw in that game: the higher the difficulty, the longer and more difficult the levels. There are more things to do, more ground to cover, more enemies, of course…

As a consequence, I’ve played it in normal, and then hard, when I discovered this feature… But in the end, the story stats the same…

This is starting to become a bit long winded, so we'll cut it in 2, shall we?