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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  1. So really it’s about being “old school” Nintendo, right? I mean, I can’t count how many times I’ve played any of the Mario games and my mom has probably played the Donkey/Diddy Kong games ten times over. Or maybe it’s just different when you’re a kid… Either way, nice write up! :-)

  2. Nice post man. There’s never anything wrong with making a game more replayable, and you’re right: it’s difficult to make a game that’s truly interesting on repeated playthroughs, but Bioware’s pretty darn good about it.

  3. I think my most replayed game is Devil May Cry 3 (10+ times at least).

    Great piece!

  4. Amen to replayability

  5. @ Chris

    Amen to Capcom. I like what they did with Resident Evil 1 & 2. You play as one character and then go back and play as the other. While the experiences are similar, it’s cool seeing the game from two different player’s perspectives. Not to mention, in resident evil 2, once you beat the game with both characters, you’d unlock the 4th survivor mission, (Hunk and Tofu) which was a lot of fun in of itself.

    • avatar Profredy

      As one of the fat people ctltsanony frustrated that public health campaigns, government and corporate messages are all about’ me without consulting me, I applaud the work of Samantha in this area. Thanks for this interview: it was great to hear Samantha given space to talk beyond 30 second grabs and respond to some thoughtful questions. Whatever one’s stance on weight and health, fat stigma is clearly not okay and it is obviously not healthy or helpful. We need to keep working against it and it’s always great to see the promotion of some common sense and compassion in this area. Thanks Body Image Revolution for giving some airtime to a positive kind of Fat Talk’.[]

  6. I agree with a lot of Shawn’s points. Entertainment value is a catalyst for replayability and developers can program incentives. However, it is ultimately up to the gamer to decide whether he wants to put the game back into his system, or play another one.

    I have played my fair share of games over and over:
    Earthbound
    Grandia
    Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
    Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

    But, these games all share a common interest…they are some of my favorite games of all time. Chris’s comment rings true here. That dude LOVES action games, hence he has played – what is considered one of the greatest ones of all time – over and over.

    The big push now is going to be for a strong single player component that will have replay value based on it’s relationship with the gamer. Developers can deliver incentives with achievements and difficulty levels, but that targets a small percentage of gamers. Real replay value is coming to fruition in the multiplayer market. Uncharted 2 did it, Demon’s Souls did it, and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed 3 is – rumored – to be doing it.

    Great Article.

  7. @Curtis

    The Resident Evil games are a great example of awesome replay value. You have multiple different ways to play the game, with different characters, all on top of different campaign scenarios.

  8. I think I’ve played FFIV about 15 times now. Even as I write this, I realize how ridiculous that sounds, considering there really is no replay value, other than setting your own makeshift goals.

    But in terms of games that usually bring me back for more and offer actual replayability, Capcom and BioWare usually get me for at least a second playthrough on most of their games.

    • avatar Prabhas

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    • avatar Rasa

      I agree with dagger. It dosnt mttaer to me how a team moves the ball on offense, or what their run to pass ratio is. Run oriented offenses have done well in recent history (2004 steelers, 2008 panthers, 2008 titans). Pass oriented offenses have had success recently too (2007 pats, 2007 packers, 2006 saints, eagles of the early 2000s, the 1999 and 2000 rams). Like he said, the steelers best players right now are their TEs, WRs, pass catching running back and their QB. Why not throw the ball more than we run it? The offensive line is terrible and have not consistantly shown they can run block, FWP is banged up, moore is just as effective catching passes as he is running the ballwhy not use the short pass as a substitute for the running game? The rules in todays NFL are so slanted towards the offense and the passing game that sometimes i think that, if a team has the right players, they should pass the ball 40-45 times a game.

  9. Good article. I was actually about to post a blog entry about this very topic this afternoon until I realized that it had already been done. The same thing actually happened to me with the last limitcast, but oh well. Guess we’re all kind of on the same page here.

    I feel like there has been a divergence away from games that are in fact, replayable simply because we have entered a time where a larger demographic of ‘gamer’ is in the market place. This means that a similar number of developers are forced to work on projects that are meant to satisfy a large and finicky audience. This has pushed developers to produce content for multiple tastes through the diversified (PS3 and 360 vs Wii) console market. This is really the first generation of consoles that clearly set up visible line in the sand for (lack of better terms) the hardcore and casual gamer. In my opinion this is really what’s caused a lack of replayable content in many of the next gen titles. Casual gamers don’t have a lot of time to play games (or don’t take a lot of time) and therefore they require much less content to be content with a purchase. I feel like this has not only hurt a game’s replay value, but a game’s actual time/content as well. Most of us here are in our 20′s it seems, and have jobs, families, school, etc going on, and probably don’t really have time to spend 8 hours a day playing through an 80 hour game. Companies know this and have assumed that they can produce products that a requires less of a time commitment to complete, and thus, feel justified to some extent with a purchase.

    I still play old school games because they are fun. Mario is fun, Sonic is fun, etc (which was a point in the original discussion above). The fun factor has also seemed to take a back seat to graphics and narrative (which is not exactly a bad thing 100% of the time). As the casual gaming community continues to grow, I fear that companies are going to continue down the road of a quick gaming fix for casual gamers and less on the “hardcore” (sorry, again).

    Also, good old school games were fairly few and far between. Blockbuster titles are a once a month thing these days. This simply adds to the lack of replayability simply because gamers are looking forward to the newest thing and they, in turn, quickly tire of what they have. Advertising and hype are a huge sales driver, and we are bombarded with it everyday. Our options are driving us away from any type of sustained replay.

    I hope at least some of this makes sense. I’m working off of caffeine only at this point in my day.

  10. I think there is a difference between a game with actual replayability and some games that use achievements to add fake replayability (its like fake difficult only its to do with replays).

    unlocking difficulties and then having achievements linked to completing it on that difficulty. Star ocean is guilty of this as i believe it has 2 difficulties that require unlocking and an achiievement for completeing it on all of them.

    grind achievements/awards. prototype is majorly guilty of this adding in the ‘kill 53,000+’ achievement to get on the dead rising/left 4 dead train. I played through the game on normal and killed 8,000 – i am not playing through prototype 7 times for 20gs

    specific event achievements with no chapter selection option – darksiders seems to be guilty of this as 2 or 3 achievements (such as kill 150 enemies riding the angelic beast) reference single points in the game you don’t replay.

    make your game worth replaying don’t try and use my completionist nature agianst me

  11. It’s so true about Bioware’s ability to make me replay games. KOTOR is probably my most replayed game ever.

    But I agree with you that acheivements like “Test of Faith” are the kinds of achievements needed to drive replayability. When you are forced to approach the gameplay from a brand new angle the game remains engaging.

    An example of a game that accomplished that for me without having achievments was Psi-Ops on the PS2 (one of my favorite games ever). The way the levels were laid out and the variety of powers at your command meant that you could approach the game completely differently each playthrough if you wanted.

    Great post!

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