Chr0noid / Member

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Chr0noid Blog

The Ignominious Death of Single Player Replay Value

I'll be the first one to admit it.  The cheats/secrets section on GameFAQs is my favorite part of the website.  Let me rephrase that.  It used to be my favorite.    Nothing brought more joy to me as a youthful game enthusiast than to log onto GameFAQs, click over to the game I was currently playing and discover all the goodies it had to offer.  Back then, it sometimes wasn't enough to just play through the game as thoroughly as possible.  Many things would inevitably be missed along the journey.  Better still was the thrill of realizing how much the game truly had to offer once you had beaten it for the first time.   Was there a secret ending?  Or maybe an unlockable for successful completion in a given amount of time?   I can only describe the sensation as opening a wrapped present on a birthday.  Or a box of chocolates, if that cliche is your cup of tea.  

Each game I bought was an experience, with its own universe packed onto one disc (or in some cases, two or three discs).  I reveled in new costumes acquired, got drunk off of euphoria in unlocking debug menus and became as giddy as a Japanese school girl after inputting a cheat for big head mode.  It is a feeling I can nary describe to someone who didn't grow up with a controller in his or her hand.  The cheats and secrets sections in GameFAQs used to be a treasure trove of easter eggs, cheats, tweaks, hacks, skins, modes, and anything else one could think of.   To put it another way the video games I speak had substance.  Like biting into a juicy cut of beef without so much as a single shred of fat.  Much to my dismay however, those days have unfortunately come to an end.  I don't know what exactly happened.  I cannot pinpoint when it all changed.  Perhaps it didn't start at one single point but instead shifted gradually, over time.  There is no mistaking it at this juncture however; something has been lost with the advent of the seventh generation of video games.  What do I speak of you ask?  Replay value.

Replay value is described as being the aspect or quality of a video game which gives the gamer an incentive for continuous play after after completing said game.  I have long suspected that replay value has been one of the few underlooked and undervalued trait of a truly remarkable game.  Boy, do I hate being right, especially in this day and age.  What constitutes as replay vale now is something I still question with each passing year.  No one seems to care that more modern video game titles have little to no replay value.  Every thing is, to put it bluntly, completed for its own sake now.  Did you finally beat that final boss on hard difficulty without using any continues?  Congratulations, here are 50 Achievement points!  ....Wait what?  Don't I get a new game plus?  No?  How about a cheat for infinite ammo?  Nada?  Okay, then surely there's a mission select at least right?  NOT EVEN THAT?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I ask this of you dear readers.  Where has all the replay value gone to?  What happened to the days when I could purchase a game for $60 and continue to play it for weeks (maybe even months) afterward?  Today there has been nothing but an influx of "one and done" video game experiences.  Gone are the incentives for playing a game through multiple times.  Gone are the goodies you can unlock to mess around with in post game.  I click on the cheats/secrets section now and all I see is the same. damn. thing: a list of Trophies/Achievements!  Why SBAllen doesn't just rename the section to better reflect this is beyond me, because I see no cheats any longer and I certainly do not see hide nor hair of secrets any longer either.  Sad to say, it seems that Achievements and Trophies have all but killed the replay value star. At this point I'd be grateful for self-indulgent concept art which some developers seem to love putting in as extras these days.  And I hate it when concept art is used for such purposes. 

Publishers keep groaning at the thought of their games sitting on the shelves in the used section at GameStops around the country.  I have a solution!  Instead of complaining about the second hand game market, make sure the games you publish or develop have better LONGEVITY.  Keep the player playing until he is bloated on gaming goodness.  So much for that "problem." And if you are going to develop a game that instead of focuses on a linear one-time cinematic experience, don't sell the game for a whopping $60!  Who wants to spend that much money on a game they only play through a single time?  I sure don't, let me tell you. 

High End is a Dead End. The Industry's Bizarre Obsession with Graphics

Asking why is a fundamental part of my being.  I certainly found it a healthy habit to form in my teenage years.  To me, there is no greater foundation for progress and change than that one simple word.  Many a mistake has been made from never questioning.   Today I ask of you dear readers something which has been bothering me for quite some time.  Why should anyone care about graphics?   Or rather, why should anyone still want graphical improvement at this juncture?

There is something to be said about the distinct difference between change and forced change.  With each new generation of consoles improvements have been made across the gambitMany are hopeful and believe the future of gaming is a bright one.  The possibilities are endless and the potential has such a glare that one can't help but put on sunglasses.  Or so it seems.   I beg to differ.  Do people even want to invest in a new console at this point?  Sometimes I wonder.   There are those in the industry who believe the lack of any new hardware on the market is stagnating gaming.  Preposterous!  The mere idea that hardware could be limiting ingenuity or creativity is staggeringly insane.  But what of time?  It certainly has been many, many years since the PS3 and Xbox 360 were introduced.  Surely by now it's been long enough?   To that I would like to quote a line from The Fifth Element: "Time is of no importance.  Only life is important."

With all the latest buzz surrounding Durango and the PlayStation 4, I'm sitting here in my chair wondering why everyone is so eager to stamp out the still blossoming life of this generation in favor of the next?  It is of my conviction that this generation has not been fully utilized!  As long as there are men and women who are willing to use their noggins to continually produce better games, hardware should hardly be of any consequence!  What has graphical enhancement done for anyone this generation?  I can count on both hands the number of established series which have bitten the proverbial dust in this generation alone!  Want confirmation?  Look no further than Square-Enix and its gloriously foul handling of Final Fantasy. 

To be sure, graphics were a huge part of games such as Final Fantasy 7. But then how has it come to this ladies and gentlemen?  We have gone from gems like Final Fantasy IX to what is arguably unmitigated rubbish (FFXIII) in a matter of years.   Gone are the days of exploring towns such as Nibelheim and Midgar.  Now we're stuck running down long-winding corridors for the first 20 hours of the game.  Yoichi Wada himself has even made a statement alluding to Square-Enix's inability to develop games that would simply cost too much.  They have also admitted a Final Fantasy 7 remake would not be feasible due to it costing too much to produce a single town or city.  Instead of focusing on making Final Fantasy XIII rife with content and depth Square Enix put all their resources into the presentation and graphics.  And it shows.  Oh lord does it show.   

Indeed, by focusing all our attention on performance and specs, we are doing ourselves and the industry a huge disservice.  I can still remember EGM's official review of Tenchu 2.  They lambasted its graphical presentation and went on to quote a letter they had receieved concerning complaints about the game.  "The graphics made me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork!"  What a travesty.  Instead of actually citing the game's many strengths they blasted it for having poor character models.   Let me tell you right now that I loved that game.  To this day Tenchu 2 remains in my top ten most memorable gaming experiences of all time.  But according to journalists the game wasn't worth it all because the graphics weren't up to snuff. 

How are developers going to keep up with the ever-growing rise of production cost without continuing to dilute the game or interactive experience at its core?  Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it?