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Replay value : how to add to the experience?

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This thread is to give ideas on how to improve the replayability of videogames. For my example, we will take into consideration the game we are working on has a strong focus on the online part with player interactions, instanced areas & dungeons (PVE-PVP), but also a solo experience with a story. Think something along the lines of Diablo II mixed with Phantasy Star Online. Here are the things I already thought about. I'd like you to help me find other means to have a greater replay value, and these ideas may also apply to other genres. (A) Random Maps or pre-set map variations : this is a very important part of the sucess of games like Diablo that went really wrong in Titan Quest (clone) because they did not include it. Random maps means the player never knows what's going to happen when he teleports/enter a new zone, but at the same time the monster types and drops remain unchanged so it's random and at the same time static if I may say so. (B) Special Maps : this is one thing I thought would be cool. Let's say you enter the snow jungle area and, at one point, the ground falls and your party is in a cave. This could be triggered once in X times, but I dunno how would work the loading as mobs, props and such would be different from the normal map. I called these "Revelations" in my notes ; some can be triggered randomly like this one (maybe the more you play the map?) and others can be triggered manually , by example finding the (rare, drops in the zone) card to activate a lift in a fixed place of the map then you access a new part of it. (C) Play as a different character/class : this is a good way to explore the game with a new playstyle. By example, if you stormed the zones as a fighter, doing so as a healer will ask for some changes. (D) Loot system : this is an easy one, drops should be important (again, for my example), allowing even lowbies (low level players) to gain not so good items that are rare and have a certain trade value while the experimented players get better by defeating powerful monster and accomplishing greater tasks. (E) Special monsters (F) Events (Halloween, Christmas, etc.) ??? Feel free to help, and don't limit yourself to my example.

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Largely, replayability comes in two forms: do the same thing in a different way, and do things that aren't strictly required.

The latter is something you see a lot in JRPGs - there'll be a trading quest, umpteen million sidequests, a secret superboss, an entire 100-floor dungeon, all totally optional. All "postgame content" falls into this category. The problem you have here really is that this content isn't really adding replayability - it's all still new content that must be created from scratch.

The former is more common in MMOs and single-player games. These include, but are in no way limited to, things like different classes, random content, speedruns, player-set limitations (e.g. no using ranged weapons, or no wearing armor), sequence breaking, and so on.

I'd personally further break this category down into pushing the player's expertise to new heights, and requiring the player to acquire a different set of skills. For example, playing as a warrior on a given quest requires one strategy, and a different one as an archer. Thus, you get replayability by changing classes. However, if you could also require more skill as a warrior if you challenged that quest at lower levels (or with worse equipment, and so on), then you get another form of replayability. Depending on how deep the gameplay of your game is, this is more or less feasible.

What you describe above is in part procedural content generation, but it's also in part random generation of fixed content. I'd personally be a bit leery of that - it's fine in limited quantities, but the problem tends to be that players will end up doing the same thing over and over again in the hopes of generating that bit of fixed content (and woe betide them if the rare secret temple has only a chance of dropping the fixed uber-artifact they want!). Basically, you don't really want to put a lock on part of the game content that can only be unlocked by doing something a random number of times. Random items are different, because odds are you'll find something that can do what you want; if you don't get the unique Leo's Firestaff of Burninating, at least you got a randomly-generated Archmagi's Staff of Fireballs or something similar.

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I suggest taking a detailed look at Roguelikes; Diablo and Diablo II could both be considered commercialized versions of the genre. However, the depth of the Diablos compared to your standard Roguelike (particularly one like NetHack) is like comparing a puddle with the Mariana trench. And this genre *really* needs replayability, as permadeath is pretty standard. I've easily logged hundreds of hours playing this type of game. Fortunately, they're nearly all free.

One of the things that keeps me playing Roguelikes are the vast number of situations the player can be presented with; you will virtually never be in the same one twice. This is further enhanced by the complex interactions that can occur between objects and creatures. Don't have a silver weapon to fight that werewolf? Then punch it with that silver ring in your inventory. Or zap it with a wand of polymorphing to change it to something you can defeat. You need stronger armor to survive later levels? Drink from a pool and hope for a wish. Can't find the stairs down to the next level? Use your shovel to dig through the floor and jump down. Is there a trap on that door you can't disable? Then dig around it. And these are really only the tip of the iceberg.

Another reason I keep playing Roguelikes are the many different types of characters you can create. Diablo II touches on this. Even though there are 'only' seven different classes, there are many subclasses that can be developed through each classes' skill set. Currently, I've been playing a Roguelike called Incursion, which is pretty faithful to the current D&D ruleset. Not only are there 9 races and 10 classes (plus about 10 more prestige classes), but there are about 50 skills and probably over 200 feats, as well as numerous other special abilities you can be randomly granted. There really isn't any shortage of different characters you can create.

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It does not matter how much we try, one truth about games is still true. As stated in "The art of computer game design" by Chris Crawford computer games are finite state machines. Solutions mentioned by Derickdong are really teasing but they require system to be aware of context in which you use item or ability of your character in game. It's, theoretically, still a finite state machine, but in practice you are opening huge can of worms by giving players so much freedom. If you are able of designing and implementing that kind of system you will be insanely rich person.

I'm not a big fan of random maps. Especially if you are thinking about putting your players in position when they have to go through "dungeon" many times. I think it will be frustrating. If collecting items require many passes of dungeon it becomes grind and grind is good when it's easy. Multiple passes of dungeon still require destroying those same opponents, so there is nothing really new if you make your map random. In this situations players want to go to place/opponent that has chance of dropping certain item in fairly easy way. Defeating final encounter should be hard but way to it should be simple. Players will be annoyed if they have to search through dungeon each time they try to acquire "the item". Grind has become the easy tool for developers to make their games longer, but it's a dirty tool. It's a lot better if you enable your players to acquire "item" through different means. As example: You can get the "item" from certain opponent, you can get it by completing advanced tasks/quests, you can steal it from somewhere etc.

Different classes are good idea. Even better if you can play each class in few different ways. The good example would be ranger class from D&D. You can play it as ranged unit or double wielding swordsman. It means that you will be able to play through game several times using only one class.

Different method of adding replayability is evaluating state of completion of one task. Player can just fast forward through dungeon and at the end you tell him that he completed 50% of it. If he defeats all the monsters in all the dungeon it's 75% completion. If he found and completed all the hidden subquests and solved all the puzzles it's 100%. Reward can vary by state of completion and other things like time.

As stated by Shakedown some form of achievements is a good idea. Looks like players like to take part in activities that give them no significant reward other than bragging rights.

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Quote:
Original post by Koori
It does not matter how much we try, one truth about games is still true. As stated in "The art of computer game design" by Chris Crawford computer games are finite state machines. Solutions mentioned by Derickdong are really teasing but they require system to be aware of context in which you use item or ability of your character in game. It's, theoretically, still a finite state machine, but in practice you are opening huge can of worms by giving players so much freedom. If you are able of designing and implementing that kind of system you will be insanely rich person.

I'm not a big fan of random maps. Especially if you are thinking about putting your players in position when they have to go through "dungeon" many times. I think it will be frustrating. If collecting items require many passes of dungeon it becomes grind and grind is good when it's easy. Multiple passes of dungeon still require destroying those same opponents, so there is nothing really new if you make your map random. In this situations players want to go to place/opponent that has chance of dropping certain item in fairly easy way. Defeating final encounter should be hard but way to it should be simple. Players will be annoyed if they have to search through dungeon each time they try to acquire "the item". Grind has become the easy tool for developers to make their games longer, but it's a dirty tool. It's a lot better if you enable your players to acquire "item" through different means. As example: You can get the "item" from certain opponent, you can get it by completing advanced tasks/quests, you can steal it from somewhere etc.

Different classes are good idea. Even better if you can play each class in few different ways. The good example would be ranger class from D&D. You can play it as ranged unit or double wielding swordsman. It means that you will be able to play through game several times using only one class.

Different method of adding replayability is evaluating state of completion of one task. Player can just fast forward through dungeon and at the end you tell him that he completed 50% of it. If he defeats all the monsters in all the dungeon it's 75% completion. If he found and completed all the hidden subquests and solved all the puzzles it's 100%. Reward can vary by state of completion and other things like time.

As stated by Shakedown some form of achievements is a good idea. Looks like players like to take part in activities that give them no significant reward other than bragging rights.


As far as achievements are concerned, I once wrote in my notes there could be some kind of "Badges" or "Medals" system. You gain them by accomplishing specific tasks like you would do to gain GamerPoints with the Xbox 360 games. I actually like the idea of giving a bigger reward if the dungeon / area depending on how the area/dungeon has been cleared. It would allow both players who like to take their time and speed runners to enjoy them in a different way.

I can understand to a certain extend why you do not like random maps, but in my opinion they add much to the experience. I'd tend to create variations though, as complete randomness in 3D would be really complex in terms or programming by example. Maybe have some key objects in the map, like a fountain and there is always one NPC / unique monster which spawns there for a reason (or just because he likes the fountain).

Getting the items by "stealing" or "accomplishing hard/advanced tasks" is not out of the process. But I wouldn't understand a game if it gives you a quest to gain the best weapon in the game as a task which requires to find the three parts of a legendary sword, kept by three guardians (example). What I mean is, you can and you should help players by giving them items "the easy way" without having to grind/farm, but on the other hand these items shouldn't be too powerful or there will be a problem with other players I think.

Roguelikes are cool and all, but the only reason they can manage to give you so many contextual options and situations is because they sacrifice graphics. Even in GTA or Oblivion, which are known for their freedom, I rarely saw so many options like the poster described "Don't have a silver weapon to fight that werewolf? Then punch it with that silver ring in your inventory. Or zap it with a wand of polymorphing to change it to something you can defeat. You need stronger armor to survive later levels? Drink from a pool and hope for a wish. Can't find the stairs down to the next level? Use your shovel to dig through the floor and jump down. Is there a trap on that door you can't disable? Then dig around it. And these are really only the tip of the iceberg.". I guess I would have to sacrifice the 3D in order to create something so complex.

Thanks for the tips.

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Quote:
Original post by Koori
It does not matter how much we try, one truth about games is still true. As stated in "The art of computer game design" by Chris Crawford computer games are finite state machines. Solutions mentioned by Derickdong are really teasing but they require system to be aware of context in which you use item or ability of your character in game. It's, theoretically, still a finite state machine, but in practice you are opening huge can of worms by giving players so much freedom. If you are able of designing and implementing that kind of system you will be insanely rich person.


I never said it was easy, but its still possible. All the situations I mentioned are ones I have been presented with at one time or another (mostly in NetHack and ADOM, two of the major Roguelikes), and were resolved in the manner I stated.

I believe one of the main reasons these sort of interactions are so difficult is that video games simply concentrate so much on graphics. For instance, the act of knocking an opponent prone requires numerous new animations for each model. Allowing the player to punch a hole through any wall or floor requires all walls and floors to be set up to be destructible, and to look as though a hole has been created through them. Not to mention it can completely screw up any scripted events.

Another idea for increasing replayability is mutually exclusive options. Provide the player with some situation where they must make a decision, and then be forced to live with the consequences. Going back and changing their mind, or allowing them to follow the path down all available options, simply wouldn't be possible. This sort of branching can be difficult and a lot of work to pull off properly, but is an incentive for the player to play again, in order to see the results of making a different choice.

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Original post by derickdong
Another idea for increasing replayability is mutually exclusive options. Provide the player with some situation where they must make a decision, and then be forced to live with the consequences. Going back and changing their mind, or allowing them to follow the path down all available options, simply wouldn't be possible. This sort of branching can be difficult and a lot of work to pull off properly, but is an incentive for the player to play again, in order to see the results of making a different choice.


That's really good idea. Apart from difficulties with branching options available for players character you need to insure that it's interesting to replay the game to see the other branch. There are two paths here. You can either branch everywhere making slight changes to the gameworld/character or focus on couple of key points in game and insure that those few points are really important. The second approach is probably better for persistent games because it adds to character development. First approach is better for single player games with storyline focused on players character because it's easier to make big changes that affect whole world when you don’t have to worry about other players.
In games in which saving is possible players usually save before branch to see the other ending. In mmo-like games the branches are permanent. It has certain drawbacks. I think that it's not wise to allow player to "break" their character and many players will consider their character "broken" if they made a choice that is irreversible and then they learned that they could do better.

Oh... and we are back to finite state machine...

Quote:
Original post by Kudgel
Getting the items by "stealing" or "accomplishing hard/advanced tasks" is not out of the process. But I wouldn't understand a game if it gives you a quest to gain the best weapon in the game as a task which requires to find the three parts of a legendary sword, kept by three guardians (example). What I mean is, you can and you should help players by giving them items "the easy way" without having to grind/farm, but on the other hand these items shouldn't be too powerful or there will be a problem with other players I think.


I think that it's wiser to not give out the best items in the game by just killing some guy. Players tend to come up with a simple solution to even hardest encounters. Complicated task which takes skill and time seems more appropriate in this situation. Take a look at World of Warcraft. Some weapons are dropped from monsters, some are dropped from insanely hard bosses. But to acquire the best items in game (like legendary weapons) you need to complete really long line of tasks which require you to gather resources, kill many bosses and sacrifice lamb.

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How about the Fight Club device? The player experiences something near the end of the game that changes the perspective of everything they experienced before they got there.

It doesn't need to rely on story elements or character interaction, but that would certainly be the easiest way to pull it off.

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Things that add replayability to a game:

Different characters/perspectives to play the game through with.

Different difficulty levels to play the game through on with different rewards for each level of difficulty.

Alternate endings (can be tied to either of the above and some of the following)

Achievements/Badges

% of game completed indicator.

Mini games and side-quests (FFVII with its chocobo stuff was one of the best in this area).

Tons of items and unique item sets to collect (Diablo II was hands-down the best here).

Multiplayer/Online

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