A Game's Replay Value is Like Chocolate Sauce

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A Game's Replay Value is Like Chocolate Sauce

Making players go through a game more than once to "finish" it is a poor way to promote replay value.

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I think the game I personally found had the most replay value in recent years was Portal, even though you finished the game, and it was short, there can be a thousand other ways to finish it, or there was a subtle undertone to the storytelling which could have been missed on the first play though.. It took me at least 5 runs to truly appreciate the game and what it provided, and I still occasionally pop back to it when I've forgotten enough to give it another run through. This is the type of chocolate sauce I'm a fan of!

Agreed. There isn't anything wrong with promoting replay of your game, but not by withholding content.

A game that that did it right is Diablo 2. The story wasn't that great, and once you've played it through, there's not much reason to keep playing again, except for the gameplay. There are so many combinations of skills, and more importantly, gear, that you can, and often do, play through the game over and over again, and never have it play out the same way.

Yeah, you should also invite your girlfriend over for cake...

OT It's true, I've played Resi 4, or Sonic 3, or Resistance 3, over and over because it's such a complete and delicious experience on it's own. Most games with binary choice systems and such I never get more than a third through my second playthrough. Partially because it feels like grinding for the content I never got, rather thand elving in for a taste of the delicious and fulfilling experience I got the first time round...

Achievements, outside of the usual "game progress" or "do something an arbitrarily large number of times" types, are often another easy way to add chocolate sauce to a delicious sundae.

On the topic of gratification as replay value, I just realized how much I would love to replay Farcry 3 if only I started with all of my tataus and the wingsuit, but just thinking of being whiny Jason with his trusty starter handgun make me really not in the mood. Hell, this week alone I picked up the game and cleared every Wanted mission just to see if I could get some of the endgame base conquest thrill back. It was a pretty great experience, though most wanted missions are on top of hills so not much flying squirrel action was available. So at the end of the day Farcry marked me in the exact opposite way as The Cave marked Yahtzee. I wanted more and the game was being held over my head just far enough for me to not reach it.

This is also a prime example of how nobody needs options to replay something. I never redid any Mass Effects and god knows if you stretched all of that game's conversation options in some sort of straight sonar line that line would be longer than all the air time ever allocated to Two and a Half Men. Take this as an idea. If Farcry gave you the option to replay the entire game except instead of sounding like wimp Jason Brody, you'd sound like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, would you do it?

While I agree with the basic point, that splitting up content is not the same thing as true "replay value", I wouldn't go as far as to say that splitting up content is a "design flaw".

If there are multiple genres that are traditionally established by their custom of presenting content in separate playthrough, and people are actively expecting that, I wouldn't call that a flaw, it' more like a quirk of the medium.

sid:
Take this as an idea. If Farcry gave you the option to replay the entire game except instead of sounding like wimp Jason Brody, you'd sound like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, would you do it?

Of course not! I'd just play with that voice set from the beginning.

Falterfire:

sid:
Take this as an idea. If Farcry gave you the option to replay the entire game except instead of sounding like wimp Jason Brody, you'd sound like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, would you do it?

Of course not! I'd just play with that voice set from the beginning.

Clint Eastwood was more of a metaphor for kicking incredible amounts of ass. Think escaping from being kidnapped with your brother at the start except with your arms replaced with automatic rocket launchers. Whoooole different story.

EDIT: wait I completely misunderstood you. Oh well, might as well emphasize my point.

This really made me think of The Walking Dead, with its choices and different characters that can live or die and Lee that can be a complete dick if you so choose... but that game never made me feel like it was hiding content to make me replay the game. In fact, perhaps a bit bafflingly, the game almost seems like it doesn't want me to replay it. The first playthrough focuses on the finality of your decisions, while


But no matter what choices you make, it never feels like it's trying to trick you into playing again so you can make the other ones. Maybe you will, and maybe you won't, but the choices were clearly designed not just so the player could feel involved in the story for the sake of making the game more interactive, but like they're actually a part of the story, giving the player in-universe emotional ties which not only can't be recaptured in a second run, but actively and undo them from the first run.

No wonder the game got nominated for so many awards.

P.S. Thanks

How did he manage to talk about breasts and chocolate sauce for so long without combining them!?

Ugh. Chocolate sauce sucks and anybody who thinks otherwise is a dirty proto-hippie communistic heretical mutant chaos dwarfgobling hobo of the lowest caliber.
But replay value is nice to have. Yes.
I'm so subtle.

Breast massages are much like cult films. If you sit there and study how to make the perfect cult film, it'll suck because it comes across as incredibly forced. Breast massages are the same; it needs to feel organic, not something tacked on to hide the fact that the main event is actually pretty thin.

Um. That went to a weird place. The point is that attempting to force replay value is now primarily a tool to extend the life of a game; as opposed to, say, just making a longer game - a task which requires a greater effort than a lot of developers can be arsed with.

well that...certainly made the article especially engaging

I do appreciate when a game values itself with "replay if you want to keep having more fun" instead of..."just cuz" I guess lol...

I feel like the new Devil May Cry did replay value both right and wrong. Right, because it lets you take all your unlocked skills and weapons into new, more challenging difficulty levels where you can really show off, but wrong because you have to play the game at least once to get to get to the real challenge.

Also wrong because most of the costumes are DLC and there aren't even that many.

I'm replaying Deus Ex: Human Revolution to get different outcomes to the side missions (and the achievements that go with them). That's a good example of chocolate sauce, right?
And this article got me thinking of massaging boobs with chocolate sauce. Anyone else hear that saxophone music?

Hmm I wonder how a game like Yoshi's Story or Starfox 64 fits in with this?
Meaning the game is shorter than the number of levels available, so you have to play through it multiple times to see all the levels. I've always felt that style of game progression works really well. With the binary morality system you have to play through the same content all over again but I guess the reason it works with YS/SF64 is because you get all new content when you play through the second/third/whatever time.
That and the fact that you can beat the game on the bare minimum and feel satisfied, but if you're left wanting more, or you want more of a challenge, that extra content is available if you want.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has great replay value, especially on harder modes with stuff from the Second Wave installed. It gets really gritty when you're trying to save the world and all you've got active are a single squad of Rookies.

The thing that I love so much about RPG's is going through them again with a different party or a different play style. If I'm playing Pokemon, I may try and play using really obscure monsters that I haven't used before. If I'm playing Skyrim, I may go from being a mage to a thief, or a warrior that focuses on enchantments, or whatever. The play options are the chocolate sauce here. You are doing the same tasks as before, but by changing your play-style or party, you have to try and complete them in a different way.

So I hear Yahtzee likes chocolate sauce. Tastes like anus with king prawns, though. :X

So how chocolate sauce is something like diablo 2 then?
According to your logic, playing through it as a barbarian is no real breast massage because you're not only denied the content of playing all the other classes, you also lock yourself out of all the other possible hundreds of skill builds and item combinations.
This is a poor way to promote replay value then, right?
Right?

This got me to thinking about Fallout 3, which I never got around to finishing, and how there are a number of places in it where you could make different decisions, and how even from the get-go you have to decide on a character build that supposedly shapes the direction the game goes, but you know what? I probably won't ever get around to replaying it. Most of it is still going to be just doing the same things over again; heck, finishing the game from the point I left off is going to involve doing a lot of the same things over again, which is probably why I never finished it. Granted, I've probably spent almost as much time in the game by this point as I'd spent in all of my replays of BioShock combined*, since I tried to get so much out of it. Accepting every quest I was offered, taking the long way from place to place in the chance I would stumble across something interesting along the way, that sort of thing. Plus I had the DLC that raises the level cap, so I've been enjoying a lot more perks than a lot of players get to in one playthrough.

But in a way, I guess that works. Some people will choose to actually role-play, planning to try out a different character build after they've "finished" the game; others will just try to suck as much varied experiences as they can out of a single playthrough and then move on to other things.

*Speaking of, I'm amazed how many times I've played through this game, considering it supposedly offers the same sort of replay value through choices and upgrade paths but in practice I've not bothered to change up my play style much. I just really enjoy getting to revisit the setting over and over again, which was the main reason I got BioShock 2 (which I also have played through multiple times). So replay value is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

Doom is one of those games that are brimming with chocolate sauce. I've really lost count how many times I've finished it since my godfather introduced me to it in the mid 90's.

Also, I tend to prefer chocolate sauce games over the ones lacking chocolate sauce. It does sound wierd after a while.

To me replay value is the most important thing in a game. But it's hard to know just what will and will not make peopl want to reply your games. The key word here is "want".

There are games that were made without reply value being on the agenda yet get played over and over all the time. Like the first doom for example. I've lost count the amount of times I've replayed Doom.

There are other games that try really hard to entice you to reply them but just don't seem to keep you interested enough to want to go through it again. In my case that would be Saints Row 2.

For me one game in particular that has lots of reply value was GoldenEye64 One of the things you could do in the game was unlock cheats to use on missions you've already finished. It was fun to go back and see how much you could mess things up. Or just give all the NPC's rocket launchers and see how long you can stay alive for. Good fun it was for me.

Trying to think of games I replayed a lot.

The helicopter Strike series. Love a good helicopter game and what I loved about the Strike series was they set objectives in each map. Usually you had to follow the order but not always, and as it was kind of Far Cry open world maps for each level you could tackle each one how ever you liked. The same game each time but with just enough wiggle room for variation to make it different each time.

Mass Effect 2. Not so much 1 or 3. Ok the paragon/renegade gave some reason but that's not what got me replaying it. It was more to try out the different classes. You'd play the same battles over but vastly different each time when playing as a a biotic adept in one playthrough and then a soldier next time. And despite all the YOUR CHOICES MAKE A DIFFERENCE crap which wasn't that true, it was interesting to take different romance options.

Alpha Protocol. I know, the game was broken but I've yet to see a game that had so much hidden content and variation in story with each playthrough. For example, if you play your cards right you can woo the hapless girl and keep her alive, the next time, you berate her, she hits you over the head with a statue, legs it and gets killed. Each playthrough made perfet sense and had perfect continuity. There was no artificial forcing of choice or outcome, and whole plotlines appeared or disappeared based on subtle choices and how you actually played some of the levels (i.e. kill/don't kill certain people, or who you choose to support you). I blame fallout new vegas for distracting obsidian from what could potentionally have been another Mass Effect blockbuster.

Games I replayed, Half-Life, Deus Ex, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, Max Payne 2 and Castlevania Symphony of the Night. No wonder they are my favourite games, the best games have replay value simply because their great, well 2 out 5 of those games do have alot of additional dialogue choices but I didn't deviate to much from what I normally say so Yahtzee's got a point there. No need to artificially pad the game by making the first playthrough unfinished in that you need the other endings forcing another playthrough... ect.

m2pt5:
Achievements, outside of the usual "game progress" or "do something an arbitrarily large number of times" types, are often another easy way to add chocolate sauce to a delicious sundae.

Actually, done wrong they are a deterrent. I found this with Braid. Having an achievement that tells me to beat the game in 45 minutes, which basically requires perfection, was foolish.

If the achievement would have said "Post a time in time trial mode" people would have gone through it for the achievement, had a time posted, and then thought that they could do better. BAM! They're going to play again.

Contra for NES had the best replay value built in. Here is 30 lives. You can clear it now. And so you keep playing because its fun to go through. Then you start to see how many lives you have left when beating it until you eventually don't use the Konami Code.

To me a game is worth replaying if itīs fun to play. If iīm enganged the first time around, why wouldnīt i be the next? I donīt play games to get achievements or to see new stuff, i play because itīs fun and engaging. If i never want to touch the game again, it probably wasnīt any good in the first place.

Mythmaker:
Agreed. There isn't anything wrong with promoting replay of your game, but not by withholding content.

A game that that did it right is Diablo 2. The story wasn't that great, and once you've played it through, there's not much reason to keep playing again, except for the gameplay. There are so many combinations of skills, and more importantly, gear, that you can, and often do, play through the game over and over again, and never have it play out the same way.

I think so too. I think skill trees are an excellent source of replay value. Even without skill trees, a game can be effective if it provides a variety of ways to beat it. I recently finished Deus Ex HR using purely stealth and hacking. Now, I'm planning to go through by mowing down everything in my path. I guess it's okay to withhold stuff from the first playthrough, as long as it's something that you'll really enjoy experiencing when you replay it. The more the second playthrough feels like a fresh experience, the better.

m2pt5:
Achievements, outside of the usual "game progress" or "do something an arbitrarily large number of times" types, are often another easy way to add chocolate sauce to a delicious sundae.

And this is why I hate Achievements.

If the game is good I will play it again. If the game is not good, I will not play it again, whether it has achievements or not. But if a game is good and has Achievements, it's like 'oh, you had fun eh? Well now play this way'. It actively detracts from my enjoyment. And no, I cannot ignore the achievements, I see them very time I boot up the game from the Steam window.

Good/Bad endings don't bother me a ton. I'm generally personally motivated to one end of the spectrum based on the content, and as mentioned above if the game isn't good I won't replay it just to see an alternate ending. 999 is a fine example of this in my book.

Getting flat out cheats as rewards is okay, but I really disliked how some of the Resident Evil's (3) had something like an upgraded version of the handgun for beating it in a super hard manner. Great, so now that I'm really skilled at the game you give me something to make it easier. That's like... negative logic. It should be like the Devil May Cry (1) Easy Mode prompt. 'Hey you're doing really badly, want a stronger handgun?'

Executive Summary: Yahtzee has rediscovered the old-school definition of replay-value as a quality of a game that manifests from the game providing an experiential state that one immerses oneself into repeatedly for the pure pleasure of being in that state, not from forced repetition for the completion of achievements, tasks, or goals.

And now the wall-of-text:

Sounds to me like Yahtzee has rediscovered the old-school definition of replay-value and has rejected the new-school definition of replay-value. As an old-schooler myself, the understanding that I have of replay-value is that quality of the game that entices you to play the game again, possibly multiple times, purely for the sheer pleasurable enjoyment of experiencing the game again. However, these days, replay-value seems to be defined by the number of chores the game gives you to force you to repeatedly play the game again for the sake of completing the chores--i.e. achievement grinding, loot grinding, character configuration grinding, branching quests grinding, scenario grinding (see a pattern, yet?), ending grinding, etc. grinding. The failure of the new-school games in creating true replay-value is that they are not designed as experiences but rather as a compilation of "stuff to do". They're not actual works of holistic, experiential gaming; they're just busy-centers, like the Child's Busy-Center you buy for infants. They're a bunch of events, quests, toDos, and goings-on that aren't always properly engineered to seamlessly blend together into a self-consistent, coherent and holistic experience for the gamer, and this, in my opinion, is the critical separation of the old-school view from the new-school view of replay-value.

But, why has this new-school definition of replay-value come about? My guess is that it developed because, back in the day, people wanted a more quantifiable definition of replay-value so they can more precisely score it in reviews and engineer it during development. The problem with the old-school definition of replay-value is not only that it was subjective, it's nebulous as well. It's an emergent quality that is generated from the holistic nature of the game; unfortunately, such emergent qualities can be extremely difficult to engineer at the game development stage. It can be difficult to review old-school replay-value because it doesn't show up till some time much later after the initial play-through; this can be in conflict with current journalistic gaming publication cycles because the quality may not be easily discernible until long after an initial review is written and published (requiring a later amendment to the review or a re-review). Being able to quantify replay-value by the number of things to do or a strictly engineered number of replays through game necessary to attain completion would mitigate the problem in both cases. Unfortunately, for the gamer, the holistic experiential nature of the game may be lost in the process. The game reduces merely to completion of chores.

Video games are interactive. They can affect you and you can affect them. The technical game is just a series of tactical movements and decisions made in the course of the game to achieve an optimal or desired outcome. However, video games, because of their highly interactive nature, are able to go well beyond being technical games into being actual alternative experiences, and this, I feel, is where the real differentiation of old-school and new-school replay-value is visible. The old-school definition of replay-value is most likely attainable in those games which are explicitly design as self-consistent, coherent, holistic experiences that touch the gamer deeply and spiritually in a manner that, unfortunately, can not be easily predicted. The new-school definition of replay-value can be attained in just about any game that requires a certain level of repeat-play grinding in order to achieve particular outcomes, but this kind of gaming is not always experiential, nor is it always actually fun. To be fair, an experiential game is also not always fun, but because it has the greater potential to have a more profound effect on the gamer, at a spiritual level, it is more likely to be the kind of game that the gamer wants to play again simply to immerse himself again in that experience.

I believe this is why Final Fantasy VII is still such a revered game, even today. For many, myself included, it wasn't just a game; it was an experience (which is why I played the game, to completion, seven times; no doubt, others have played it more times to completion). Ico is another perfect example--a game that only achieved legendary status long after the game was no longer available and long after the rather foot-note-like reviews of it had been published; the game is extremely linear, but the experiential nature of the game is such to entice the play to play it multiple times purely for the enjoyment of playing it.

Yahtzee's signification of replay-value with the term "chocolate sauce" is probably a good description of what the old-school replay-value definition is really trying to convey. Replay-value is like eating a favorite food; you do it again to achieve nothing more than that blissful, pleasurable state of satisfaction you so enjoy that only comes from eating that particular food. Old-school replay-value is exactly like that. It's a flavor that just gives you a profound sense of pleasure and satisfaction, and you return to it only to achieve, again, the immersion into that state.

ADDENDUM: I also want to add World of Warcraft in its earlier incarnations, original vanilla up to about mid-Burning Crusade, as also being in the same class of experiential games that enticed repeat play for the pure pleasure of playing (this is why some many put so many hours into the game back in those days). Compare this to the later incarnations, especially during Firelands, where WoW became more just a collection of things-to-do.

The game that had the greatest replay value of all for me was Baldur's Gate II, which leveraged both kinds of breast massage. Incidental on account of it being a great game, and derived from content denial on account of PChar strongholds and whether or not you skipped the boat out of Spellhold, as well as who you romanced.

sageoftruth:

I think so too. I think skill trees are an excellent source of replay value. Even without skill trees, a game can be effective if it provides a variety of ways to beat it. I recently finished Deus Ex HR using purely stealth and hacking. Now, I'm planning to go through by mowing down everything in my path. I guess it's okay to withhold stuff from the first playthrough, as long as it's something that you'll really enjoy experiencing when you replay it. The more the second playthrough feels like a fresh experience, the better.

The key, at least in Diablo, is that content is never withheld. Experiences are, since you can't play as all 7 classes simultaneously, but the story is never sectioned off. The only thing you can "miss" is optional character dialogue, and most of it is pretty useless anyway. But because every time you play through, the experience is so very different, it rarely gets stale.

It's not the only system that works to encourage replay, but it's a really good one.

loa:
So how chocolate sauce is something like diablo 2 then?
According to your logic, playing through it as a barbarian is no real breast massage because you're not only denied the content of playing all the other classes, you also lock yourself out of all the other possible hundreds of skill builds and item combinations.
This is a poor way to promote replay value then, right?
Right?

The choice isn't manipulative, though. Drops are random, and the story is always the same, so you never miss anything playing through one character instead of another. However, the game gives you the option to tackle the game in any way you want. You're not being denied content if the only reason you don't have it is because you chose one thing over another.

TheUnbeholden:
Games I replayed, Half-Life, Deus Ex, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, Max Payne 2 and Castlevania Symphony of the Night. No wonder they are my favourite games, the best games have replay value simply because their great, well 2 out 5 of those games do have alot of additional dialogue choices but I didn't deviate to much from what I normally say so Yahtzee's got a point there. No need to artificially pad the game by making the first playthrough unfinished in that you need the other endings forcing another playthrough... ect.

I like VtM:B because of the freedom it offers. I would also say that it has one of the best "Ending Tron" implementations ever (see also: NOT Deus Ex: Human Revolution).

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