The Question of Replay Value

Metal Gear SolidOne of the things that’s become a bigger part of game design over the last generation or so has been the idea of replay value. With game prices getting higher and used sales taking over more of the market, developers are faced with the problem of giving gamers more game for their money. This takes the form of multiplayer modes, branching narratives and any other number of things.

Over on Gamasutra, Adam Bishop recently posted a blog about The Myth of Replay Value, saying that this is an issue where the video game industry is missing the point. He goes on to cite how these added bits to games don’t really enhance replay value at all, but what really does is just making a good, rich experience. His main citation is Metal Gear Solid, a game that is completely linear with no variation, but still compels gamers to play through more than once.

Honestly, I only partially agree with this point of view. While I think it’s true that people aren’t going to replay through games that they didn’t love, there’s something to be said for offering extra incentives for players to jump back in time and time again. I think there’s got to be a mix of something there, because a great experience that’s only 10 hours long still isn’t my cup of tea, especially when the price tag is $60.

So what do you guys think of the question of replay value? How important is it to you? When buying a game do you care more about the experience or the replay value? Go!

Source – Gamasutra

Written by

I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “The Question of Replay Value”

  1. it depends what kind of games you like. I for one LOVE conspiracy theories so I love going back to games like Deus Ex and even Portal. If you’re a gameplay person, you might like playing games that are all about combos over and over again, or hand-eye coordination testing stuff.

    I would love to play MGS again actually, just need to get my hands on a playstation. But story is what pulls me back every time. Mafia + Deus Ex springs to mind for me, and Super Mario World + Mario Kart on SNES for gameplay!

  2. It’s the main thing I think about when I buy a game. If I am not pretty sure I will replay a game, I don’t buy it.

    he is right to a point, but a game can be great and you might not want to replay it. Multiplayer helps a lot. I don’t count different difficulty levels as being an incentive. Mainly, it just has to have something that I will want to revisit, like Rapture in Bioshock or a great story like Mass Effect.

  3. I think he raises interesting points about what replay value really is. Still, I’m all for developers adding multiple routes and customizable skills and whatnot, and I also love games that are crafted specifically for one kind of well-executed experience. It’s why I enjoy games with freedom and customization just as much as I enjoy games with short but excellent story modes. Developers will just need to define what exactly they’re aiming for and realize that games with more branching are not better than specifically-crafted games and vice-versa. It’s all in the execution.
    Every kind of game can have high replay value, but it definitely requires some amount of customization. An amazing story is great and probably is worth several playthroughs and that’s great, but the games that will be played for years to come will definitely allow the player to change things up and make their own decisions. It varies in how in-depth those decisions are, but I’m sure there’s some proportion of game complexity versus player customizable interaction.
    A couple games come to mind as good examples of replay value: Pokemon, Counter-Strike, Fallout, and Oregon Trail. Before we get in-depth with each example, these games/series all share the fact that the player can customize his own character. In Counter-Strike and Fallout, the player can determine their own stats / equipment and make their own strategies, and their own morals and story decisions in Fallout. In Pokemon and Oregon Trail, the player determines their party. In Pokemon, this team building lasts throughout the whole game, but you always have the Pokemon that you’ve had for a long time and they form the backbone of your dream team. In Oregon Trail, you select your occupation and the settings at which you travel in terms of speed, rations, and other activities. Now let’s see more of the detail.
    In Counter-Strike, the gameplay is relatively simple. Two teams face off to complete an objective in maps that are not dynamic. As long as the players are familiar with the maps, they can anticipate movement flow, lines of sight, and ranges at which certain weapons are effective. Counter-Strike is about mastering the flow and ranges of the map as well as perfecting one’s reflexes and accuracy. Instead of numbers in an RPG, the player is mastering techniques and tactics.
    In Fallout, the player has a lot more freedom than Counter-Strike. The player can improve their many skills, armament themselves from a vast array of weapons and armor, choose magic-like Perks, and traverse a massive world and interact with the NPC’s in that world. The player’s customization and decisions is what most heavily influences the world, compared to Counter-Strike having the player master their skills manually (instead of plugging in numbers, the player has to master the trick of quickly aiming and being able to comprehend the environment) and simply fighting in a small, specialized deathmatch arena. Fallout is a much bigger game it allows for more player customization so that they can react with this larger world in multiple ways.
    In Pokemon, the progression of the game is rather linear. Sure, exploration is accommodated for, but the events of the game usher the player down a path from gym to gym. What keeps the game interesting and replayable is the fact that the player spends the entire journey amassing and training their team. While in Oregon Trail, the party’s strength is determined at the beginning (their profession), the strength and strategy of Pokemon can shift as more creatures are added to the party and the enemies that the player faces change. Pokemon has many more variables than Oregon Trail, and with so many Pokemon to choose from when compiling one’s party, the variables are always changing and the player is always in control, meaning the player can have a new experience with every permutation of their six-creature team. The gyms and the general path that the player follows merely serves as a way for the player to always have a purpose, just like how Fallout has a main storyline mission campaign that the player follows throughout the game.
    In Oregon Trail, the mechanics are quite simple. You have a team of up to five people and you select a profession which essentially determines the difficulty level. Once you begin your odyssey, you can set your pace, rations, and trade, hunt, and rest depending on your tactics and strategy. Moving faster makes you more vulnerable, but you can also get it all over with quickly. Moving slow means you are generally safer, but sometimes ill fortune strikes anyway. Oregon Trail is fun not just because of the nostalgia factor but because it allows the player to create a simple team and complete a simple journey, and once in a while, it’s a nice simple challenge.
    The final aspect that all of these games have that really adds some unique spice to the replayability is the fact that many of the events depend on sheer randomness. In Counter-Strike, your enemies’ skill is never really certain if you’re matchmaking. In Fallout (at least the original two), random encounters can turn a trek across the desert into a hellish death march. I suppose Fallout doesn’t have that much randomness, but the amount of customization definitely compensates for that, and combat does have a lot of dice-rolling. In Pokemon, the frequency of Pokemon appearing in wild grass always varies, and many attacks in combat rely on luck-o’-the-draw. In Oregon Trail, random events – from weather to disease to abandoned wagon discoveries – can make your travel difficult, easy, or impossible. On top of randomness are hidden variables. Perhaps if I put examples, it would defeat the purpose, but it’s those subtle and perhaps unreasonable variables that add some flavor to world, like holding Down + B to catch a Pokemon more securely. It’s probably just silliness, but it gives the players something to explore and experiment with. Even if it’s unintentional, it definitely adds to the replay value and also the culture of the game. The reason we’re still talking about, nostalgia-gasming, and playing these old games is because they’re still fun because there’s a culture that’s been created of exploring and mastering these games.
    Replay value is not just playing a game a second time, it’s playing the game over and over and over and talking to your friends about crazy new experiences and trying to see what exactly makes the game so immersive for years to come.

  4. Replay value is a big thing IMO. I Feel like games should want you to replay them, and you should.

    New Super Mario Wii – This game HAD replay value, and always will. My girlfriend and I ahve 100% this game TWICE, including getting 99 lives on the second go around. TRUE replay value. Reach, it has replay value in its use of challenges, game modes, and difficulties. I know Ill play through it again. It IS important with games, especially if multiplayer is non existant or poor.

    If I can, I want to point out two HORRID examples of “replay value” —– Super Mario Galaxy (1 &2)

    Let me tell you what is NOT replay value. IN order to 100% the game, get all the extras and extra levels….making me play the game AGAIN as Luigi or getting a whole new set of Green stars is NOT replay value. Sorry, changing Mario’s skin to Luigi is NOT REPLAY VALUE 🙁 (in the defense of the green stars in 2, t hey are in trickier and different places so it is at least SORT of new. But I can say that the SMG series has this warped view of replay value. They think going through the game twice with little change is ‘fun and exciting’. Maybe it was just me, but I kind of thought it was poo 🙁

Comments are closed.