When it comes to games, as in many other areas of my life, I have this intense need to cross every t and dot every i. This means that if I am able to – sometimes my eye – hand coordination lets me down – I will do everything in a game. I will even play it on the highest difficulty levels if I can. 1
This means that – according to companies like Immyrsive (yes, they spell it that way)2 – I am not an average gamer. What I start (and enjoy), I finish. Sometimes more than once.
You know all those feathers, herbs, codex entries, tiny pickups, mugs, murals, and mosaics? I will find them. All those side missions and tiny quests? I will do them. There’s not an ounce of wasted content where I’m concerned.
The drawback of being a near compulsive completionist, though, is that it is – on occasion – excruciatingly boring to be a vacuum cleaner. If you are a game designer, reading this, here are a few things to think about, speaking as a dev myself.
If you put a collectible in a mission, allow me to revisit the mission space.
An example I myself did know about and should have remembered, since I worked on the game, was a collectable in Mad Max, only accessible during a critical path mission.3
If I forget to pick up a think like that, I will replay the mission. Provided, of course, that I knew about it and remembered it before I invested several hours of gameplay that I then have to scrap, because – oops – I missed this one tiny thing. You can imagine how annoying that is if you missed the tiny thing at the start of the game.
Give me more than one way to access collectables if they do get inaccessible after completing a mission, crit path or no.
Mass Effect 3 does this decently through providing Shepard with a spectre shop, where stuff you missed on missions are available.
My strategy – before I more or less memorised the game – was to save before the mission, complete it, and then go to the store to see if I missed anything. If I had, yup, you guessed it, I would replay the mission. Keep in mind this was on occasion on insanity. That’s how compulsive this is for me.
Don’t hide it, please?!
I don’t know if this is common knowledge among devs, but players actually don’t pay much attention when playing. Don’t put collectibles in hard to access4 and obscure places that require me to scour the map.
Make no mistake. I will scour the map. I just won’t have fun doing it. Which brings me to…
This should be fun!
As a developer, if you use shortcuts to access your items or content, you won’t know if picking up all that stuff is fun or not. Now, I’m aware that our time (as devs) is limited when it comes to how much of it we can spend on actually playing the content, but that’s why we have experts to do it for us. UX designers to help with the overall experience, QV (or QA) to help with bugs – and believe it or not, they can also help with the fun aspect. And last but not least – UX research. They will try things out on actual players and get actual data that you can actually use to make your stuff more fun.
As someone who’s both a developer and a player, I sometimes think that we’re a bit too desperate in our chase for content and game time. Staggering and disappointing as it may seem, most players won’t finish a game. Not even the crit path. Only 10 – 20% of players actually do. Part of this is time.
I play to complete, so I get it. I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and spent about 120 hours in that game and that was ONE playthrough. Spending that much time with one game means that I will inevitably miss other experiences. Conversely, The Order 1886 took me 12 hours to play, but I found both games to be equally enjoyable.
I do not, and will never pretend to represent all gamers, but I do think there’s something to be said about more compact and concentrated experiences with less filler material. I love Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, make no mistake, but alas I think there’s room for games like The Order 1886 or, why not, Journey, Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 2, etc, that won’t require you to put in more than 20 – 30 hours. Or even just 10 hours.
I think our gauge has gotten stuck on quantity and not quality. As a completionist who will definitely play the crap out of your game, I actually prefer quality any day.
- That’s where the eye – hand coordination comes in. I am at times unable to live up to the demands of the game. I dislike games that require that I play like an 18-year old on vast amounts of caffeine. To my mind, having these kinds of achievements is ableism and gatekeeping. Finding other ways to reward a player than just twitch gameplay is something I heartily recommend.
- I’m always a bit sceptical of companies that do user research on specific target audiences, especially since they usually do research on only specific target audiences, which excludes so many gamers. Like women.
- Critical path is basically the name devs use for missions that you absolutely have to do in order to finish the game.
- This is actually an accessibility issue as well. People with various impairments such as motor skills and reduced visual acuity may be physically unable to see or reach hidden items.