Expansion Packs: Why There Will Never Be Enough

Expansion Packs: Why There Will Never Be Enough

Developers have to work hard just to keep you running on the hedonic treadmill.

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Surprised there was no mention of the Skinner Box, and how people could get numb to the extra content because as each level increases, the number of button presses for the next reward increases... which I guess in a way is kinda self-defeating, since the method they've used to keep people playing the game may be numbing their excitement to the new content.. Meanwhile people are still playing StarCraft, which hasn't received more than slight balance tweak patches for years and years now... there might be a lesson in there somewhere!

As Augustine would say, this is why games whose primary motivation is avarice are a bad idea. Games whose motivation is joy, or knowledge, or success, have a vital core that resists becoming jaded.

Robyrt:
As Augustine would say, this is why games whose primary motivation is avarice are a bad idea. Games whose motivation is joy, or knowledge, or success, have a vital core that resists becoming jaded.

That's a good point.

If you judge happiness by the desire to return to the game, PC games blow almost any console game out of the water. For example, people (and not specific cases, but the average players) will pour dozens or hundreds of hours into Total War or Civilization because there is so much diversity in the scenarios that you can have a bunch of little peaks of happiness inside one package, as they explore different strategies and factions. Meanwhile, most console games tend to have a single player that you go through once and then discard, only keeping people on the treadmill if they have multiplayer. You don't need an endless stream of expansion packs, you just need to allow happiness to be continually generated from the different combinations already in the game.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Robyrt:
As Augustine would say, this is why games whose primary motivation is avarice are a bad idea. Games whose motivation is joy, or knowledge, or success, have a vital core that resists becoming jaded.

That's a good point.

If you judge happiness by the desire to return to the game, PC games blow almost any console game out of the water. For example, people (and not specific cases, but the average players) will pour dozens or hundreds of hours into Total War or Civilization because there is so much diversity in the scenarios that you can have a bunch of little peaks of happiness inside one package, as they explore different strategies and factions. Meanwhile, most console games tend to have a single player that you go through once and then discard, only keeping people on the treadmill if they have multiplayer. You don't need an endless stream of expansion packs, you just need to allow happiness to be continually generated from the different combinations already in the game.

Rather than PC vs console, I believe what you are talking about is depth vs breadth. A content focused game loses replayability once all content has been viewed(except for notalgia runs). A depth focused game retains replayability due to complexity of its system or through emergent play found in the interaction of its system and actors. That's why there are people that will pour hundreds of hours into strategy games, sims, and sandboxes. And yes, more of those games(particularly the first two) are found on PC than on console. Which is not to say that depth can't exist in console games. The better fighting games are a great example of games that rely on complex systems to retain a fanbase.

Now, as you said, this only matters if the desire to return to the same title is the measure of a game. As much as I enjoy deep games(4X and space sims being among my favorite genres), I am primarily a narrative-junkie. I'll suffer through some bland or even frustrating gameplay if the story is good enough(I present for your consideration evidence B, Planescape: Torment). And that means that unless said narrative games also have a great system, I'll usually only play a game once except for the aforementioned nostalgia runs.

This is why I can never get into MMOs. They satisfy none of my needs in a game. Their need to retain customers over a long period of time ensures that the narrative will never be up to my standards. SWTOR gave it a good try, but the required side quest treadmill kind of ruined it by putting too much space between the interesting parts. By the same token, the sheer number of people interacting through internet connections at once means that it is unlikely that the system itself will be deep enough to keep me finding new things to do. The fact that most MMOs still worship at the alter of WoW for game design doesn't help.

 

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