In a global economic recession, where the majority of games still cost $60 apiece, many people are constantly looking to get the most bang for their buck. Here at Gamer Limit, we stress the importance of the longevity of games by including a separate score for it in our reviews, but games don’t necessarily have to be long to get high marks in this area.
One way developers can design their games to have more longevity is by making them more replayable, but unfortunately a lot of titles don’t fall into this category. Developers would rather artificially make a game longer, or tack on multiplayer, than actually work to give a game replayability. Well, it’s time for people to stand up and demand more from their games. It’s time for a replay revolution.
Revolutions don’t happen over night though, and, in the same vein, the entire topic of the replayability of games can’t simply be covered in one article. Instead, I’ll be rolling out a series of articles over the next couple weeks entitled “Replay Revolution”. They’ll examine how the industry makes it difficult to replay games and what titles already exist that are worth replaying. To start off though, I want to dive right in and discuss what developers can do to make their games more replayable.
The most obvious way, and probably the most difficult, is by giving the player a completely different experience every time he or she starts over. Bioware probably excels at this the most, as Dragon Age: Origins is one of the most replayable games ever created. Not only does every class offer a completely different play-style, but the addition of origin stories shapes the entire beginning, middle, and end of the player’s adventure.
Dragon Age: Origins also makes each play-through unique by providing plenty of opportunities for the player to make important decisions that affect the entire story. Even a choice that seems trivial and insignificant can have huge ramifications on the end game. The combination of all these elements makes it almost impossible for a person to replay the game and have the same experience twice.
While including a class structure and a branching path story is one way to make a game more replayable, including a deep loot system is another method to increase longevity. Giving a person the opportunity to find millions of weapons, trinkets, and pieces of armor creates an insatiable hunger that keeps them coming back for more. Role-playing games like Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft have been proving this for years, but more recently Borderlands has shown that even FPSs can successfully integrate this type of loot system.
Unfortunately, not all games are designed in a way that allows them to include branching stories or loot systems. Many titles succeed by having a set-in-stone story, and a specific list of weapons and armor available to the player. These developers need to look for other ways to improve the replayability of their games, and one method is by including multiple difficulty settings that actually challenge the player in different ways.
Typically, when you see different modes of difficulty, the only things that change are the amount of hit points enemies have, and the amount of damage they deal. This type of artificial difficulty does little to drive players to replay a game. Instead, developers need to figure out other ways to make games more difficult that actually lend to changing the game experience.
One way would be to create a system in which the artificial intelligence of the enemies actually change with different difficulty levels. For example, in a first person shooter, have enemies stand in the open and shoot at you on easy mode, but on hard, have them actually jump behind cover and work in teams to hunt you down. In RPGs, have mobs spam the same attacks and group together on easy, but have them surround you and modify their attacks to counter yours on hard mode. There are games that do this successfully, but they are few and far between.
Another way to get players to replay different difficulty settings is by including special abilities or new levels that they didn’t get to experience in the first play-through. The Resident Evil series has always excelled at providing new weapons, player skins, and abilities – like unlimited ammo – on repeated play-throughs. Other games, like the Ninja Gaiden series, have even included new boss battles for those brave enough to attempt the dangerous waters of their higher difficulty settings.
In recent years, some developers have used the more controversial method of achievements and trophies to get people to replay their games. There are lots of gamers out there, like myself, that are addicted to collecting every last achievement point they can, and they’ll do anything to get them all. Games like Mass Effect and Dead Space prey on these players’ desires by making it impossible to get all their achievements unless they are played through multiple times. Achievements and trophies can, and should, be used to make games more replayable, but not like this.
Instead, developers need to come up with unique achievements that actually require a person to play through a game a second time in a completely different way. I’m talking about the kind of achievements that shake the foundation of a game to its very core. A great example of this is the “Test of Faith” achievement from Mirror’s Edge, which challenges a player to complete the game without shooting a single gun. Attempting this not only makes the game more difficult, but it requires the player to approach each level in a completely different way, making them feel fresh and new.
When it really comes down to it, games don’t need any type of special loot systems, harder difficulty settings, or unique achievements to make them more replayable. They simply need to be full of entertaining gameplay and memorable moments to keep people coming back to them. I’m sure if you ask the average gamer, they’ll tell you they’ve played Super Mario Bros. 3 at least ten times. Why? Because it’s extremely fun to play. The same goes for other entertaining titles like The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, and countless other classics that have caught the hearts of millions.
Lots of people have seen classic movies like Star Wars and The Matrix at least twenty times, because they’re both full of memorable moments. If games can include these types of memorable moments, they will keep people coming back for more. Great examples of games like this include Final Fantasy 7, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Bioshock. There are plenty of gamers who have played all three of these titles multiple times because they include some of the most incredible and moving moments in gaming. If more developers can strive to deliver games with these types of experiences, maybe they can drive people to replay them.
Too many people spend their hard-earned money on games that only deliver a single eight to ten hour experience. These gamers deserve more for their money, and developers need to work harder to create games that actually warrant being replayed. I’ve listed a multitude of different ways to do that in this article, but the ugly truth is that things won’t change until people stop buying crappy games, and start demanding better ones that should be replayed. So, put down your controller, stand up, and pump your fists in the air, because it’s time for a replay revolution.