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Article - 'Replayability' by Dark Black

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Mar 2, 2004

Blurb

What it is and how to implement it.

Body

Replayability is a very important aspect of any game - and often a very overlooked one. Sure, a game may be great and all, but if it is as short as hell and offers the same ride EVERY time you play it, then you ain’t likely to remember it long. You can go for 2 different approaches to making a game, either the short one with lots of replayability (e.g. Breath of Fire V) or the game with little to no replayability but which is very long, therefore not needing much replayability (e.g. Final Fantasy VIII). While personally I'd prefer the long/no replayability option in a game, you probably don't want to spend THAT much time making a game (I've yet to see a RM2k game last as long as a commercial RPG - even a short, crap commercial RPG). Therefore instilling replayability in your game is probably your best option. And it's really REALLY easy, too!

What is replayability? This seems obvious - its the factor by which you can judge the merit of playing a game over again. But this isn't very helpful, is it? What you need is to define what TYPE of replayability you want! There are 3 basic types:-

1)Short, little changes. Think Final Fantasy 10, when there will be little changes in dialogue and scenes depending upon whom you talk to first/the most. This probably won't get people playing your game over again, but it is a little nice touch, as it makes everybody’s game slightly unique. I'd suggest if you do go for this you don't be stingy. Don't make the difference unimportant, and make lots of differences! A difference that just leads to a different item isn't going to interest anybody, but a difference which changes the storyline, even just slightly, will make them want to replay to see how things could've turned out if they had called that one guy a real friend instead of a jerk.

2)This is the huge, colossal changes that MASSIVELY affect the game. Such things as in Knights of the old Republic, in which you would get to choose between good and evil, either leading to rather drastically different endings. These are probably left best alone, given that they take a long time and mean that after a certain point in your game you will be practically making 2 different games. Besides, RM2k isn't really meant to make games in that style, more games that concentrate on one storyline (like early Final Fantasies, etc).

3)The best kind - changes which affect how the story unfolds but which DON'T result in the general change of things. A good example of this would be a family you have the chance to save early in the game, which if you choose to save (possibly through a side-quest or mini-game) you will meet them later in the game. They may possibly affect the story in some way, or offer you a side-quest that would otherwise be unavailable. These should NOT be a choice of personality (e.g. choosing which character you like more, which affects the story later on), but should be a choice of doing or not. If you do something you get something else later on, don't and you miss out on a (potentially) involving piece of the game. Don't make it obvious that saving this family will affect the game later on - this way they will (hopefully) miss the opportunity, complete the game and later hear (maybe from a friend or on a message board) about an excellent side quest that you can unlock from saving that family. Think about it - do you read a FAQ before you play the latest Final Fantasy (or whatever...)? No, didn't think so. But if you like the game, after you complete it, you probably would go rummaging through an FAQ looking for something you missed. Then you play through the game again to experience said missed thing. Voila - replayability!

How do you do replayability then? Like this:-

- Variables. This is really an easy one, just give the character a choice (through dialogue or whatever) and record the response to different variables. For instance, give the player a choice between being a jerk and being kind. For every kind act they do add a point to the kind variable, and the same goes for the jerk variable. Then, at whatever point in the game you want your 'replayability moment' just count which is higher - jerk or kind. Whichever is highest, change the storyline accordingly. Really easy to do and can be changed to any number of things - did the player talk to/heal/give items to character A the most or Character B? Did the player help group A or B more? Does the player think A or B? The choices are endless! Be creative!

- To help or not to help, that is the plot line. Did your character do something or not do something? Maybe this could open up side-quests and such later on. Your game should be PACKED with these! Any side-quests or mini-games you've already done, just make it so they can only be attempted by doing a certain task earlier in the game!

- For the completionist - just make items, etc, only accessible at a certain point in the game/by doing something/etc... This won't appeal to most gamers (I doubt they'd care about getting a particular sword or getting all the elixirs or whatever) but if they like a game most people may attempt this - it works for square! Try being interesting though - make some items that you have to collect or something (think FF8/9 card collection) that you can get prizes when you get enough of.

- And finally, mini-games! This is pretty self-explanatory, think the Chocobo breeding from FF7. Make a mini-game which the character probably won't be bothered to complete first time through, but which they may come back to later.

And there you have it! Hopefully your game will be a little more interesting after implementing some of these things. Remember - replayability can easily double or even treble the length of you game, while doing a fraction of the effort you originally put in!