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Article - 'A Guide to Replayability' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Look at some things that make games replayable, and then learn what to add into your own game to boost the replayability factor.

Body

A Guide to Replayability
By: Mateui

Let’s play it again!

You probably know the feeling. You just starting playing a game, and you quickly become hooked. After many hours and probably long days, the game is finally finished. You sigh. What’s there to do now? You’ve already beaten all your other games.. so there’s only one option now.

Should you replay the game you just finished?

If you answered yes to that question in the past, you can be sure that the game has captured your attention, and is worth your time. If you’ve answered no, then likely the game doesn’t have much to offer the second time around.

This article will focus on replayability and how to boost up the replayability factor in your game, to keep players playing the second or third time around.

Game Additions:

The more a game has inside, the more likely someone will play it a second time. Adding certain things into your RPG will not only make your game more replayable, but more fun.

The following is a list and explanation of certain things that can be added to boost replayability:

Mini-Games:
If all your game includes is a serious story, then interest may be lost in the eyes of the player. Everyone needs a fun diversion once in a while, even though it may not fit into the story, a mini-game can be added almost anywhere, provided you have the ideas for it.

A mini-game will keep the player playing it over and over again, provided that the game is fun, and rewards are reaped from doing so. That said, it is a good idea to give out prizes when the player beats certain levels, or accomplishes something in the mini-game. Start offering common items, and work it up to a few very rare items. This will provide motivation to the player.

A good tactic for mini-games is to place them all in one place somewhere in the game. Have them separately for sure, but having one localized mini-game area will make it easier for the player to keep on playing. Once he gets bored with one game, he can easily play another. (Final Fantasy VII used this tactic, in the Gold Saucer.)

Side Quests:
A quest is something that must be accomplished to receive something, perhaps an item. A side quest is a quest that is not required to beat the game, but allows players to extend their playing time, and reap rewards that otherwise would not be acquired had they just done the regular quests.

A side quest is easily implemented. Most of the time, a side quest is completed when the player finds certain special objects, retrieves something, delivers something, etc.. When it is completed, a reward is given out to the player. (Example: Help a boy find his lost cat. Reward: A special flute.)

Hidden Areas:
Adding hidden areas into your game will allow the enthusiastic player to first find the area(s), and then collect items there for certain quests, play newer mini-games, etc. Think of it as a bonus that some players will find, if they search hard enough.

Item Collection:
Certain games require the player to collect special items throughout the whole world. Finding them all will unlock something special, such as a rare item, character, or a different ending. Since these items can be hidden anywhere, the player will have to search hard for all of them. (And will be enticed by the reward.)


Game Choices:

The replayability factor is also governed by what choices you can make in the game. The less linear a game is, the more replayable it should be, give or take some exceptions.

Character Selection:
Choosing which character to start out the game with, or even to acquire in the later game will boost the replayability factor. The more characters there are to choose, the higher the factor will be.

Example: In a game, you get to a point where you have to decide which character to recruit into the party:
- A Healer. With healing based abilities. Weak Hp, High Mp
- A Fighter. With sword attacking abilities. High Hp, High Attack, Low Mp, Low Speed.

Choosing one of these characters will change how the player will have to play the game. In this case, choosing the healer will force the player to play more defensively, while choosing the fighter, more offensively. By allowing character selection, you cater to the wants and needs of the player. (And the second time around, they may want to choose the other character to see how that would play out).

The Fork in the Road:
By offering major story related decisions in your game, you make the game less linear, and more replayable.

For instance, at one point in the game, you have to make a big decision. Either free the fairy from the evil pirates, or collect the last shining star before it disappears. You can only choose one choice, because taking one will cause the other choice to be obliterated. (Choose the star, fairy gets killed. Choose the fairy, you can no longer collect the star.)

The more the big choice relates to the story and affects it, the more replayable your game will become.

Game Modes:
An easy way to get the player to replay your game is to allow him to choose different game modes in the opening menu.

For instance, this is how one game mode menu may look like:

- Story Mode (Regular play)
- Battle Mode (Practice battling, and training)
- Mini-Game Mode (Play all the mini-games for practice)

Another option to include may be “game difficulty.” You may allow the player to choose to play the game under easy, normal, or hard. First time players will choose normal or easy, while more veteran players will choose hard for an added challenge.


Conclusion:

Well, that’s all of the tactics that I could think of. I’m sure that if you thought hard enough, you may be able to find more. Use these by all means.

It’s nice if someone plays your game from the beginning to the end, but having them replay it is even better.


- Mat