Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Replayability values

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I felt that no one was representing my view of things in the gaming world. I'd read all kinds of comments and opinions on gaming sites and forums , but I practically never felt that I agreed with any of them. This was even worse when it came to game reviews. I felt that game journalists often put too much focus on things which were not as important, and generally that people were missing the truly great things about PC gaming and gaming in general.
I felt that starting my own blog where I could be free to express my opinions and not be afraid of a flame war was the best choice.

Why am I mentioning this now? Because I've again stumbled across an avalanche of opinions which I find so misguided that it's impossible for me to ignore them.
What I'm referring to is people's complaints regarding Portal 2's lack of replayability options. You see, if a game doesn't have randomly generated levels or a competitive multiplayer mode it's not replayable enough, and therefore not as worth our money.

Now I know that games are a unique medium, but in this case I don't see why this is any different than a book or DVD. When you buy a DVD or a book, that's what you get - there is no re-read or re-watch value. You buy it to own it and be able to watch or read it as often as you like. Why are games different in this respect? Why does a game have to include things especially made to make us replay it? It's ridiculous.

The problem with this opinion of putting so much emphasis on replayability is that designers end up giving this more focus when they ought to be using their resources on improving the core game experience. Thus we get games such as the new Aliens vs. Predator, which had a mediocre plot in single player and even worse multiplayer. If they'd canned the multiplayer and put the extra time on crafting a worthy single player experience I'd probably give the game another go.

And that's my real point here - multiplayer games have never drawn me back as much as well-crafted single player games. I'm not saying that games don't need multiplayer - but not for the sake of this replayability nonsense. As a result of this hokum, Valve have recently stated that Portal 2 would probably be their last game which had an isolated single player experience. Hopefully, this doesn't mean they will never make single player games again, but that they'll always include some multiplayer element. In the worst case this could mean we'll start getting less than stellar games from Valve, as too much of their focus will be divided, or in the not-quite-as-bad case it will take them longer to release games. Either way, this stupid insistence on replayability in its most shallow form has brought us to this state.

I don't really believe that the masters of the medium, such as Valve, will be hurt by this. They know how to make good games and know what part of the community they should listen to. What worries me are the up and coming developers. People whose first game could be one great idea put together beautifully, or a bunch of good ideas strung together poorly just in fear of failing to please the ravenous crowds. A bad first game could also become their last.

It's a shame many people with short attention spans just don't get this. I have no problem replaying games because I appreciate them. I don't need crappy gimmicks such as a tack-on multiplayer or randomly generated (but virtually identical) levels. I've replayed The Longest Journey, Max Payne an the Monkey Island series, for example, more often than any game which offered "replayability value!" I've replayed Portal 2 about three times since its release. Why? Because these games are good. They're genuinely great experiences and that's their replayability value right there.

No comments:

Post a Comment