Sign in to follow this  
Zennith

Skippable Content

Recommended Posts

The mere presence of skippable content affects the gaming experience. It presents the player with a choice: to skip, or not to skip. It may be a trivial choice, requiring little consideration. Once the decision is made, the player acts and never thinks twice. Sometimes it is an agonizing choice that is considered and reconsidered during gameplay. "Maybe I shouldn't have skipped that." Or, "I can still go on that sidequest. Maybe I will." Choosing which content to skip may be a form of gameplay, as in an RTS. While your eyes are focused on one part of the game, the rest is flying by. Do you look in on your troops? Read a scout's report? Check your supplies? Sometimes it's just a nuisance. Perhaps the skip-or-not question distracts from the main purpose of the game. Perhaps after skipping something the player regrets that he or she may have missed something significant. Side-quests, branching storylines, skippable cutscenes and changing factors in an RTS are all examples of skippable content. When does deciding whether or not to skip something enhance gaming experience? When does it hurt it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm a huge fan of open-ended branching events and optional content. I love games to death when they provide "insane" options that few players will even attempt. It's not good for business to develop games that way, but that just makes me love them more. Games that try hard to make everyone happy are tame and unexciting.

Some people complain that players, each paying the same amount for a specific game, are being ripped off by not being able to experience every spec of dirt in that game. I can sympathize with that logic, but I don't agree with it. I can't speak for every player out there, but I've never personally felt ripped off because I didn't get to experience something, regardless of the reason. If you don't have the motivation to reach something, you don't need to reach it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Zennith
The mere presence of skippable content affects the gaming experience. It presents the player with a choice: to skip, or not to skip. It may be a trivial choice, requiring little consideration. Once the decision is made, the player acts and never thinks twice. Sometimes it is an agonizing choice that is considered and reconsidered during gameplay. "Maybe I shouldn't have skipped that." Or, "I can still go on that sidequest. Maybe I will."

That is an interesting take on what are considered common methods used to extend the life or replay value of a game. When you distribute all of a game's content across multiple replay sessions just for the sake of replayability, will it dillute each experience? That is a very good question, and I think this depends on how you designed the game.

I think it is a matter of how much of the same game you will have to repeat versus how much of the new content you will experience or how much the gameworld is affected by taking a different branch. If your branches offer only little variation or effects on the world, then I don't think there will be great motivation to explore those branches on a second replay, which might also make your current playthrough suffer somewhat as the player will realize or be be told by the game that he is having an "incomplete" playthrough. Subsequent plays after that would only be repetitive with those minor insignificant variations, which could definitely create frustration ("What!? I got through all that just to get this!?") unless if the core gameplay mechanics were varied enough to make up for those replays, such as being able to play around with enemy AI. However, if your branches have wide differences in content or if your decisions affect the gameworld massively, then the player's experience with each of those branches would definitely be a lot better, as he would feel he is getting more out of the game and more out of each branch provided by the game.

I think this is a problem more present in RPGs and in story-driven games that have multiple branching storylines or multiple endings than in other kinds of games, though.

[Edited by - Tangireon on September 18, 2008 6:47:45 AM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks for the replies. It's true that games aimed at pleasing everyone are unexciting. The design philosophy that something should be skippable because somebody might not like it is what got me thinking in the first place. Skippable content for that reason is just making the player partly responsible for designing the game. They have to judge whether or not this content will improve the game. They don't know what that content holds until they've experienced it. They don't know how it affects the rest of the game. But even if they did, they would be making a design decision.

If it were a play decision it would be different. What's the difference? Design decisions ask "what will improve the game." Play decisions ask "what do I want to do?"

Story driven games have unique considerations in regards to skippable content. The content must either be the node of a branch or insignificant to the story. The more stuff that is insignificant story-wise, the more the story is diluted.

And, of course, the content itself must be, well, skippable. If it's crucial to the game then it aint. So making the final boss battle skippable would probably not be feasible.

Tangireon, you bring up an interesting point about replay value (I refuse to use the word "replayable." Any game that does not self-destruct upon completion is replayable [smile]). A different story is a strong motivating factor and different gameplay will make up for a mostly static story. But I'd go a step further, and ensure a different gameplay experience (in the form of unpredictability) for each play session. Unpredictability that the player can react to would keep the player engaged. Tetris uses random blocks. Combat games have opponents (virtual or human) that behave differently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If its a case of something being skippable, but what isnt skippable has to be done regardless, It doesnt bother me at the time, but just kind of strikes me as weird. If the game at a later point in any way punishes me for skipping that thing, then its insanely frustrating, moreso if you're given a chance to save between the skip and the punishment.

Now if its merely a choice between something, a branch as noted, Im fine with it. If a game is good enough and has enough branchs Ill almost always play it through at least once more to try other branchs.

In typeing that 2nd chunk I though of an exception to my first chunk. Cut scenes. I dont care how important to the story a scene is, if its not going to contain important info on what to do, let me skip it. I dont care if its only 15 seconds long, it takes me alot less to hit a button, let me skip it.

Some scenes are really nice looking, but Im not a little kid anymore, sometimes Im playing a game inbetween things, and want to get as much game in as possible...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Making cutscenes non-skippable for me pretty much takes any replayability and throws it in the bin. Watching the same cutscene for the 3rd, maybe even second time (depending on length, etc.) ain't really happening most of the time. There's no reason for it.

The player is playing the game, so why not let them decide how to play it?

Obviously in other situations, this doesn't really apply - letting them just skip the game(play) itself would likely be counter productive. This leads on to the question of what that actually is, which will vary from game to game. In a puzzle game...well, replayability is fairly difficult there, but it might be an idea to let people bypass puzzles if they are stuck on them, and let them return to them later.

Side-quests are by definition skippable; if you must complete them, they are main-quests. If you're taking a side-quest and making it a main-quest, then it's likely going to look like a filler one, and it'll seem very lame. Some players will search out and complete all side-quests, others will do some, and some won't do any (or maybe will on future playthroughs); shoving in a load of filler side-quests into the main quest line won't really please anyone, and will likely annoy everyone instead.

Branching storylines are different...they don't involve skipped stuff normally, but rather replaced stuff. Instead of A, you get B. This improves replayability, but at the cost of reduced game length and/or exponential workload.

Just make sure you can't accidentally skip stuff. And a journal telling you what has been said is generally a good idea, to mitigate mistakes when they happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I want to mention something interesting.

Consider a hallway that splits into two. You have no idea where each one leads.

If you take one, you won't know what happens if you took the other, and vice versa.

This usually pisses me off. I'm curious as to what happens in the other hallway, yet I'm not given the opportunity to explore, as once I go past a certain point in hallway A, I can't return to the branch.

This can be taken either literally or otherwise... But it's something to consider.

While I love open-ended games, I like the ones where hallways A and B are clear as to where they lead. Perhaps they merge in some distance, or perhaps you are given an over-view map and know where they go. Or it can be made obvious, if the design of the building is clear and it's symmetric, for example. Better yet, you can see path B when you take path A and vice versa, if it's not a cave but rather a open building with glass windows.

A good example of where optional content is beneficial: Imagine a complex building, that you're supposed to infiltrate and get to an important room. It has many ways of entering, some more obvious than others, but its general shape is visible from the outside and quite clear. Here, any additional entrances will give you more choice, but will not harm you or make you regret taking one over the other - they all lead to the same place, just via different routes.

A bad example: you're playing a pretty linear FPS, where you usually have only one direct path to follow. Suddenly you are at a road-split and have two different paths to take. You take one of them and end up somewhere completely else (fall through the ground, end up in an alien cave for example). Now you're left wondering what would've happened had you taken the other path. Maybe you'd end up in a completely different place had you taken it. Not good in my book.

My 2 cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Only essential parts of the game should be unskippable, IMHO. That includes choice. If the player has to choose which content to experience then choosing should be important.

I’d like to make a distinction that I should have made in the first post: situations where you have to skip something compared to situations where you can. Examples are branching storylines vs. skippable cutscenes. You choose one branch at the expense of another, but lose nothing but cutscenes if you skip those.

These posts have got me thinking about how optional content affects exploration. Of all the things to explore in a game (the world, the story, the system, etc) how does skippable stuff affect the experience? Personally, I see exploration becoming a chore if you have to see everything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by shurcool
Consider a hallway that splits into two. You have no idea where each one leads.

If you take one, you won't know what happens if you took the other, and vice versa.

This usually pisses me off.

I hate unmarked forking paths in linear-type games. The player usually knows that one of the paths will be short, and lead to a key, character, item, or bonus, and that the other path will lead to the rest of the game.

I often find myself half-way down one of them, then decide that it's too long to be the short one, so I head back. Then I realize that I wasn't wrong the first time, and have to travel all the way back again. It's even worse when there are three or more paths.

If you're going to implement this sort of level design, at least provide some clues as to where the paths will lead. Most importantly, a clue to indicate which one is the primary path.

Sorry, not exactly on topic. Just never had the chance to complain about this before [smile]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this