The Pursuit of the Perfect Recipe for Replay Value

When I read a book, I ensure that I don’t miss a word. Everything that is written is consumed, and I am able to grasp the story in the way that it was meant to be told, walking away with a new and possibly even useful perspective in how I perceive the world and how I can live in it more soundly. While a finished book holds a major importance to me in the general sense, I typically do not find it necessary to “give it another go.” I have retained the knowledge that was preserved within, and I am ready to begin with the next one. Movies are similar in this regard in that there are (usually) no special scenes tucked away that you may have missed. As long as you are watching from start to finish, you are getting the full experience.

If you go to your local park, you might just find a couple of old men playing a game of chess or cards; a game that they have probably been playing since their youth – one that they may have played more times than they can count. It is easy to see how multiplayer games have a great advantage in longevity, as various opponents offer a never ending supply of experiences within a game, and it is single player games that require major effort on the creators’ part to create an engaging experience from start to finish; one that will not only give the player the ultimate pleasure and experience, but will continually draw them back in.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three ways to increase the replay value in single player games to match that found in multiplayer.

Exploration

exploration
What if you were to play a game which scattered little secrets – secrets which were by no means required – that only the most curious and engrossed players would find? What if the game rewarded its players and provided a feeling which made it quite difficult for the player not to constantly pursue future moments? It can be very memorable to blow up a hole in the floor to reveal a room with an upgrade, only to discover that in that very secret room is yet another hole which leads to yet another secret room with yet another upgrade. Even after various playthroughs of certain games, I am always left wondering where the remaining heart pieces or missile upgrades could possibly be. It is this uncertainty that causes me to strive for that likely unobtainable perfection (besides cheating).

Learning Curve

learning curve

It’s your first time playing a new game. It has one of those new-fangled gameplay mechanics. Upon reflection of completion, you realized that it was by no means pretty, and you died more than you would probably like to admit. It was a fantastic ride, but now it’s time to gloss it to a shine. You put that silly shield away and hold your weapon with two hands because you finally realize just how useful dodging can be. Now the Taurus Demon barely even scratched you, you ran up the stairs and killed the dogs before fighting Capra Demon, and you even killed Ornstein first. Your second play time halved your first, and you feel as though you are essentially a speedrunner now. What you once completed in 40 hours, you can now do in 20. It is evident that an improvement has occurred from within; you have gained a new skill set, and you have changed as a result.

Pacing

pacing

I love riding my bike, but what if someone told me that the only way that I could ride was to consistently hold a speed of 28 MPH over the course of 3 hours? I would have no choice but to refuse. The same could be said if I was forced to ride at a steady pace of 3 MPH over that same time frame. But if I was given a very intricate and almost organic set of speeds and grades that would likely never have me questioning the speed that I am at to begin with, it would make for a very comfortable and dare I say interesting experience. It is human nature to become bored through repetition, and it helps to make the gaming experience as smooth and comfortable as possible by removing any repetitious tendencies from within. Boss battles are engrossing experiences, but unless the player has a decent amount of “lesser foes” to compare him to, that giant monster simply will not be as impressive as otherwise. Crawling through a tunnel system might not seem like the most engrossing experience on its own, but an action which brings the tempo to such a low will make the imminent experience that much more impactful.

With any luck, single player games can continue to embrace the importance of replay value rather than becoming a commodification. While it is important for the consumer to continue to buy games in order to keep the industry afloat, it is also a dangerous disposition that the quality of the product should suffer in an effort to appease with the ever evolving business model.