Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Addicting games are addicting

For today's class, I'd like to explore how some games succeed in one of their main goals: pulling you in and never letting you go.  Let's face it, during the days of the original Mario and Zelda, there was little reason to replay the game once you had beaten it.  You finished the main "story", found all the cool little side quests and hidden items, and had basically completed the game 100%.  Yet there was always that pull, that odd sense of, "I really want to play more 'insert game here'".  I'm going to go through some examples of "addicting" games, how some of them fail to accomplish doing so, and generally ponder at how the hell these games pull this off.

Probably the main reason I decided to blog about this subject is because I've been playing a lot of League of Legends recently.  Basically, if you don't know what League of Legends (LoL for short) is, take a peek at the below video.

The main objective of the game is pretty simple.  Destroy the enemy's base before they destroy yours.  Each player chooses a "champion" to play as, each with their own style of gameplay, and push lanes filled with AI enemies (creeps/minions).  Players play against each other, and can build different items for their champion giving them boosted attack, mana, armor, etc...  Now, with the game having such a simple objective and relatively simple gameplay, I wonder why I spend so much time playing it.  So let's take a look at this.  First off, it's a competitive multiplayer game.  As much as I wish there was more of a focus on single player games these days, I can't deny that having multiplayer brings a lot of replay value to any game.  I mean, when I get back from class, do I want to sit down and grind for levels in an RPG?  Hell no.  I want to take my daily rage out on some poor noob in Idaho who made the sorry mistake of getting matched up against me (No offense to Idahoans...wait, that's a word?).  Another reason is that there's so much freedom and unpredictability in LoL.  I can enter a game expecting to dominate the enemy team in twenty minutes and wind up having an epic hour long battle instead.  I can also choose from several different champions based on how I feel like playing. So if I want to run into the middle of the enemy team and tank damage while my team unleashes their fury, I can.  Or if I'd prefer to stealth around the map and backdoor the enemy's base right when they think they've defeated us, I can.  So that's another key element to replay value:  Allowing the player to choose how they want to play and keep the predictability low enough so that it's a fresh experience every time.

So obviously, where some games succeed, some fail.  I'm going to take Fable II as an example here.  While Fable II was a good game, there was just no reason to play it again when I finished it.  Once you complete the relatively short campaign and experience most of what the game has to offer (Sidequests, profiteering, getting married) there's not much else you can do.  There was also less and less of a drawback feeling to the game every time I played it.  As the story grew on, I had decreasing motivation to keep playing, and when it was beaten, I had no desire to go back and play through the game a second time.  This has less to do with the quality of the game, but more of the content.  If you take Mass Effect as a second example, there are many different classes to choose from, as well as a New Game+ feature that helped give the game more life.

So what I'm really wondering is how some games can be so simple in basic concept, yet stay so addicting.  Even with the older games such as the original Zelda, people kept replaying the game over and over again.  Now, granted, back then there wasn't much multiplayer and a lower amount of games you could play, but they still had the ability to pull people in for seconds, thirds, on so on.  Perhaps games today should return to their roots and take a look at how they accomplished keeping gamers interested in their games.  Not only would this cut down on the "stale" games, but it would help support something I really enjoy, which is DLC.  Games that bring out constant DLC can keep their original game and 'update' it with new content and expansions.  This is a great way to experiment with different ideas, and can also give devs hints at what worked and didn't work for their possible sequels.  All in all, I'd like to see more games today focus on replay value, as that really makes or breaks the selling point in many games.

This has nothing to do with my post, but I saw this image last night on Kotaku, and I really wanted to find an excuse to post it somewhere.  Space Giraffe ftw!