Electron Dance
2Apr/13Off

Counterweight 3: Why Replay?

wheel of reincarnation

In this episode of Counterweight, Eric Brasure and Joel "HM" Goodwin discuss the act of replaying a game. What games encourage replays? What do multiple endings mean? Are some games better off without a replay?

Spoiler Warning: The ending for Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor is discussed

Contents

02:30 "How many times do people now play Proteus?"

04:20 "I don't know that I would really play Dishonored with the intention of getting better at Dishonored."

05:00 "The anomaly that stands out to me at the moment is Leave Home which says you've got five minutes to play, do your best."

08:00 "And now of course in the day of YouTube, we can just watch all the endings on YouTube."

09:20 "I feel like that's a distancing effect, when I replay a game and I'm going for a specific ending."

11:50 "That's almost a commentary on replaying games as a narrative mechanic..."

14:50 "I don't think that there's much desire on my part to replay The Walking Dead."

17:50 "I'm wondering if replays are often destroying games."

19:40 "All you have is a hazy memory of certain things that you may or may not have done in the game a decade ago - and that makes it almost a new experience."

21:20 "I want to have some sort of institutional memory with videogames - and I think that's a problem, that we don't have that."

24:40 "Are we going to come out and say this stuff is a bit rubbish?"

30:20 "It does let the player fail and it lets the player fail in fundamental ways... the player could have to restart the game."

37:30 "I'm getting much more interested in games as systems."

39:50 "I find roguelikes to be really interesting... because they are explicitly designed for you to fail and to fail hard - lots of times."

44:10 "It's not about the ending it's about your journey of becoming better at the game."

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References

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  1. I’m always surprised to hear that people replay my Lands of Dream games, but quite a few of them do. Perhaps one reason is that they largely lack traditional mechanics, so the experience is more akin to re-reading a good book. Or rather, the mechanics and the content are pretty much the same thing, so if you’re there for the images and the words, there’s not much getting in your way.

    Perhaps another element is that, because of the vastness and interconnectivity of the content combined with a lack of direct explanations, the “mechanics” never quite become visible. If I ever get my novel published, you’ll notice a similar effect: I work very hard on making sure that the audience never knows everything, so that there is always a feeling of the world extending beyond our reach.

    When people describe why they replayed one of my games, they usually mention that they wanted to go back to the Lands of Dream and hang out with these characters again. So the sense of place – also in a social sense – is a big part of it. That’s certainly also what motivates me to make these games.

    Come to think of it, there are several games that I want to go back to because of the sense of place. Gothic I and II, for example. I also love the gameplay, but what really draws me back is the desire to be in that place again. (And what often stops me is that I know the structure too well.)

  2. I think there are some games that really only blossom on a replay. Alpha Protocol for example is such a game. Partially I feel the bad reviews on the title were because people didn’t try it a second time.

    Typing this before listening to the podcast, because I am bad and I sometimes just gotta say something.

  3. I’ll admit when we were taking on this topic, I realised during the podcast that it was impossible to cover everything.

    @Jonas: Hmm, it should’ve been obvious to me, of course, that if people re-read their favourite books then it’s likely they would replay their favourite interactive fiction or point-and-click. This is the kind of thing Eric was pointing out around 21 mins into the podcast although we weren’t chatting about IF at the time. I enjoyed a replay of Planetfall 20 years after my original playthrough and it was nice to experience its charm again.

    There’s also that aspect, as you mention, of the story outside the story: that there’s more here that you can tease out on repeated visits. We don’t do that as much these days, simply because there are so many games and they are so much cheaper.

    @Amanda: Your bad, we cover EXACTLY this issue with ALPHA PROTOCOL in the podcast. (Okay, no we don’t.) Alpha Protocol comes across like the kind of AAA title that expects to be played once by most people – it’s not some procedurally-generated puzzler, for example – if it only shines on replay, wouldn’t that be a problem?

  4. @Amanda: I tried to play Alpha Protocol again, but the controls are so bad on the PC (especially that goddamn fucking hacking minigame holy shit I want to punch it in the face what a pile of fucking shit that shit is) that I couldn’t bring myself to get much past the first area.

    I guess I should feel bad that I can’t muscle my way through it, but when a game is actively frustrating my attempts to play it (and isn’t intentional) then I’m going to go play SimCity or something, because man, life is too short, man.

    I guess I hate Alpha Protocol.

  5. Long comment and self-referencing ahead, all about replay value in adventure games:

    Blackwell series: Adventure games usually lack “replay value,” since any person with a decent memory is an “expert” on the game immediately after finishing it, and continues to be one until the solutions fade away. Wadget Eye adventures are no exception, but I liked to replay all four Blackwell games just to hear the developer commentary. The same with Gemini Rue. It was nice to hear Dave Gilbert talk about not knowing how people would react to Blackwell Legacy when I already played Blackwell Deception and know how far the series has come.

    LucasArts adventures: I’m replaying many of these mainly out of nostalgia. The interesting variant I can add is that I first played them a few years back, when I didn’t understand a word of English. Thus, all my memories of them are of the Spanish translations of them, and now I can play the originals. The voices my memory cherishes are now gone, replaced with strange US actors I don’t recognize. There are puns that never made it to the localized versions. The monkey wrench puzzle in LeChuck’s Revenge makes sense now, sort of. Curse of Monkey Island has a pirate song at the beginning of Chapter 3, and the rhymed insults sound a little less convoluted. Manny Calavera actually speaks Spanish from time to time.

    Úrquel, the black dragon: When I made this game I wanted it to have multiple-paths. Eventually I said fuck it, too hard to make, only multiple endings. The structure is somehow interesting: there are three very obvious good-or-evil choices throughout the game. For the most part they don’t affect the story in any meaningful way. Generally speaking, you can’t take these back without replaying the whole thing. They decide in the end if you side with the hero or with the dragon. No matter whom you favor, you have a last minute choice on whether you actually fight for your side or you chicken out. This one you can totally undo to see the other ending. Thus there are four endings, depending on whether you side with one or the other, and whether you win or lose the battle.

    I don’t know how well people received that, but at least it won Electron Dance’s Only Twine That Didn’t Bore Me to Death Award.

    The Cave: This is actually a pretty awesome game to address the subject in adventure games. You begin the game by choosing three out of “seven” characters (they’re eight people but the Twins are technically only one playable character). The game has six sections, or macro-puzzles: three general ones and other three based on each of your characters. When you play it a second time with a different team, the game feels fairly new, even though there are three sections that remain the same. And even if you try to always choose a different team, there are seven characters, so you have to replay two characters in order to play all seven of them at least once.

  6. @Eric: OMG you need to chill.

    @David: I’m playing Gemini Rue right now! It was about time, I thought.

    I enjoyed Úrquel because of its interesting trick. It took me a while to figure out but when I did, the effect was comedic, particularly during the latter parts of the game. I hadn’t realised there was a reason to replay.

    I think one of the reasons that Twine games don’t grab me is the power the player has on consequences. It’s like Braid on drugs – I can quickly explore all the choices and derail my immersion with structural analysis rather than just letting the story flow over me. Plus, when I notice multiple options all pointing to the same outcome, which seems to be some sort of Twine staple, that really annoys me.

    I rarely replay substantial games these days because it doubles the time I spend on a game for little writing gain. Dishonored was a serious investment over the past few months and I have no desire to dedicate myself again to a single game for so long. I don’t know how far I’m through Gemini Rue but I’m not sure I will want to play through the whole thing again for the commentary (or maybe I will, who knows).

    Interesting to hear how revisiting the LucasArts adventures in English makes for a different experience.


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