Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
A Game's Replay Value is Like Chocolate Sauce

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 12 Feb 2013 12:00
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Chocolate sauce is something that every good game has automatically. Hang on, "chocolate sauce" is starting to sound weird, now, too. I'm going to call it "breast massages" from now on. If you have entirely finished a game and are satisfied then you'll be left with that feeling, and on a cozy Sunday afternoon some months later you might think "Oh, I don't feel like leaving my comfort zone so I think I'll have that breast massage I liked so much again". If you use content denial to try to force breast massages upon someone then you'll likely provoke resentment. Wait, this sounds even weirder. Let's go back to "chocolate sauce".

But I'm not saying you shouldn't try to put chocolate sauce on your game, I'm just making the point that chocolate sauce is an addition to a thing that's already good, not a huge part of the thing. Harder difficulty modes are the classic example of easy chocolate sauce: it's the same game you liked the first time around, but with the extra challenge. Or go the other way on my three-leg game theory and add gratification instead of challenge. The standard New Game Plus, for example, where you get to take cathartic revenge on the early enemies with end-level gear. After I'd played through Resident Evil 4 on the harder difficulty a few times it was very healing to go through the game just one time with the infinite rocket launcher.

You can't really do that in adventure games, though, so what Monkey Island and most other LucasArts adventure games did was have huge amounts of optional dialogue. There were countless moments in cutscenes when you could pick one and only one conversation option from a possible four, and each one provokes a different gag response before the cutscene continues the same way as always. I suppose this is content denial, strictly speaking, but it's such an insignificantly small amount that merely exists as an alternative to existing content, and no-one could resent the game for it. It makes a second playthrough a little more interesting without adding so much that a second playthrough feels essential for the full experience.

What I'm saying is, don't worry too much about chocolate sauce because a truly good game makes its own chocolate sauce. But if you do think in those terms, chocolate sauce is best applied lightly. Don't feel like you have to sacrifice anything for future playthroughs. You might as well stuff the first playthrough with all the content you've got and the player shouldn't feel like they've missed anything important if they decide to leave it at that. Chocolate sauce is lovely but it needs to be on top of something solid. And indeed breast massages are lovely but they shouldn't be the only reason you called your girlfriend over.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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