Remember when that 100% completion figure on the stats screen was all but impossible? You would spend all summer collecting every item, beating every level and even then you’d be lucky if the game bothered to acknowledge your achievement with as much as a ‘well done’.
While achievements and trophies have at least introduced incentive to maximise all that a game might offer, the revelation this week, that developers never expect more than about 10% of people playing their game to see the single-player end credits, has ushered in all new ploys and tactics to keep the player coming back, despite this decrease in completionists. So, what are they?
This is the big one, and this generation has seen plenty of tacked-on multiplayer modes designed to expand a game’s stock experience. Even the mighty solo-player franchises of gaming, the likes of BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, Dead Space and Uncharted have all gone down the path adding in a multiplayer component — and with varying degrees of success.
Where BioShock 2′s attempt at taking the world of Rapture online was mainly met by disinterested shrugs by players and critics alike, Uncharted 2′s effort at least provided for some added entertainment — Uncharted 2 taking everything that was great about the single player’s gun play, leaping and climbing on to the multiplayer stage.
Then, on the complete reverse of the tacked on experience, comes Call of Duty, perhaps the biggest multiplayer franchise ever and a series regularly accused of having a tacked-on single player component. It seems developers and publishers just can’t please everybody.
Achievements and trophies have kept us playing at games that we might otherwise have never even considered playing — certainly not for any particular length of time. Not only do these otherwise meaningless rewards mean we get to show off in front of our gamer friends, but they also leads us to discover aspects of our collection that we wouldn’t have bothered to learn otherwise.
For the sake of 10g, I am willing to explore larger areas, kill using guns I hate and speak to NPCs who annoy the hell out of me. For 100g I’d wine and dine one of the developers. Imagine what 1000g would get you. Hunting down the Riddler’s secrets on Batman: Arkham Asylum for example wouldn’t have seemed as necessary without that gleaming trophy-shaped pat on the back at the end of it.
Maybe we’re just addicts?
A lot of western RPGs let you play as a generic character onto which you can imprint your personality, your likes and dislikes. They also let you completely ignore the main story and explore at your own pace — Fallout 3 for example springing immediately to mind.
Unlike collectable hunting and side missions of the past, you don’t feel the need to do anything for any particular purpose, you just explore at your own pace and deal with the quests and objectives as you come across them.
Ultimately you do it because, in your mind, that character is you. The story doesn’t end because — as long as you’re a rugged, more badass version of yourself — your imagination is going to set the goals for you.
This may seem mad but we have finished games we’ve hated because there is DLC that sounds vaguely interesting being released for them. It’s inexplicable (and no doubt we’ve just gone down in the reader’s opinion of us), but DLC is a great way of extending a game.
This has gone way too far in the opposite direction though, publishers taking the step of reminding us from within the game we’ve paid good money for that DLC is available. If I speak with an NPC and he makes a great speech about a monster which only our supped-up hero character can take on, then the game shouldn’t load up the Playstation Store and ask us for our credit card details.
It’s enough to make you turn the game off and stamp on it!