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Same old story: video games and replayability

Last month I asked readers how they felt about character-switching in video games. Do you enjoy being able to see a digital world through the eyes of multiple protagonists? After playing The Little Acre and changing characters every 05:10 minutes on average, I was reminded of exactly why I don’t enjoy the mechanic during adventures.

This month I’ve got another question for you: do you immediately replay releases you’ve just completed to make different choices or see other endings? The reason I ask is because of an article I came across on the gamesindustry.biz website recently with the headline: In the past, YouTubers were very problematic… Suddenly they became our allies. This was about a discussion between Quantic Dream founder David Cage and Hazelight Studios founder Josef Fares at the Gamelab conference in July 2019.

They talked about the impact of platforms such as Twitch and YouTube on games which hang on a strong narrative. A number of developers have stated in the past that too many people will simply watch a release online rather than experience it for themselves; once they know how the story turns out, they no longer feel the need to play. I can’t deny I’ve never done this. There have been a few titles where I’m not so sure about the gameplay but have been interested in the plot, and so I’ve found a video (my version of watching a film).

The struggle to create a narrative game people want to play rather than watch was tackled in different ways by Hazelight Studios and Quantic Dream. The former took a linear story path in A Way Out, but its unique cooperative gameplay had an appeal which caused players to want to try it for themselves This was the case for myself and my other-half: we’d watched a chapter on Twitch before agreeing we should purchase the title. The ending may not have been what we wanted but it was an enjoyable experience overall.

Quantic Dream went in a different direction and created a narrative that couldn’t be easily captured in video form. Their solution was to focus on the situations players faced in Detroit: Become Human and provide choices where the audience was split at least 70/30 in their decision. It meant that although YouTubers and streamers could show one version of the title’s outcomes, they were unable to show them all; so viewers wanted to find out for themselves what would happen if other choices had been made.

Speaking of branches, players are given access to a ‘flowchart’ in Detroit which not only shows the decisions they made but the paths not taken too. This was a change from their previous releases where those alternative paths had remained hidden. Cage said: “Maybe that was not a good decision. Maybe hiding everything from the player is not a good thing. Detroit was a better compromise, because it was about showing part of what you missed, and that played a major role in the success of the game.”

EGX, expo, event, video games, Kim, Detroit: Become Human

He attributes this and the branches throughout his project as the reason why around 78% of players finished it, rather than the 25% to 30% that’s usual for most video games. He also said: “It’s the story. People want to know what’s going to happen next, and a story can achieve this for you. What’s interesting on Detroit is that we managed to make people replay, so they could see all of the different branches – which is quite rare in a narrative game. We achieved this because we showed all of the branches and the variations of the story.”

But if you discount those that can be completed in under an hour, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever replayed a game immediately after finishing it. The version of the narrative I’ve just witnessed is my story and I’m happy with that; I’ve never felt the need to go back and change it, even if I got the ‘bad’ ending. I might reload the last save-point if it’s right near the end and won’t take too much time or effort to see the alternate outcome, but it doesn’t feel right to use my free hours to restart a story when there are so many new ones to jump into.

Saying that though, I haven’t yet gotten around to playing Detroit so it’s always possible the branching flowchart could change my mind. I had the opportunity to try a demo at EGX in September 2017, purchased it soon after its release in May 2018 and installed the game on my PlayStation, but it’s still waiting there for me. Perhaps this is a good excuse to schedule another stream: let’s get something organised for this month, and see live on air whether I’m tempted by the prospect of entering into another playthrough.

In the meantime, over to you: do you immediately replay video games? If so, what elements of a title encourage you to do this? Let us know in the comments below, or in your own post if you’re inspired to write.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

40 thoughts on “Same old story: video games and replayability Leave a comment

  1. I generally don’t restart immediately but Detroit was the exception to my rule. The flowchart genuinely astonished me… I was frequently choosing paths in the minority 😅 One of the most harrowing sections of the entire game was only played by 20-ish percent of players. I couldn’t believe so many people had missed it! When I got to the end I also saw I missed out on entire set pieces with Marcus and Connor, one of which sounded pretty epic! Alas, in order to unlock them I think I’d have to go back to about halfway through the game (there’s a protest that has a significant on the rest of the game). I never had the time/patience to replay it all so I gave up 😅

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    • I’ve got the day off work today, so I’m looking forward to starting Detroit this afternoon! It’ll be interesting to see whether I enjoy it enough to replay to see other branches… or if I head over to YouTube like Dan. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now I must add, I haven’t resorted to YouTube very often, I much prefer to experience story in games myself. If it’s behind tens of hours of careful choices though? Ain’t nobody got time for that! I went through Fallout 4 again and hit the main campaign siding with the Brotherhood only. Took me thirty hours or something but it was worth it, a much cleaner experience than trying to keep everyone happy simultaneously as I had done in my first play through, trying to get the “perfect” ending.

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  2. Before I replay a game I wait at least a year. Not because I decide to do so, but I get bored super quickly with same stuff (so an instant replay is out of the question), and I have about 800 games left to play (that number does not go down, I buy too many games…), so I forget about them. And it takes quite some time, usually, before I remember them again and feel like playing them again.

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    • So many games, so little time! This is the main reason why I don’t find myself replaying too many of them; there are so many in my library that I’d much rather start a new one. I usually only find myself doing a replay if a new instalment in a series is coming out and I want a recap, or I want to show a game I’ve enjoyed to someone else.

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      • That sums it up pretty nicely! It can be a bit annoying with longer series (replaying all Assassin’s Creed games takes quite some time). For my reviews, I also replay the games that I want to share, just to get a better feeling for them.

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          • That’s exactly me! I also “can’t” start with the second game in a series. That makes series where the first one is exclusive to consoles a pain in the behind to start…

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            • YES! This is the reason why I’ve never played any of the Fallout games myself. I haven’t yet been able to get the first one working on my PC and I just can’t start with any of the others!

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              • Oh, maybe I can help you there. I believe you mean the weird colour glitches right from the start at the game?
                There is a unofficial patch over at “No mutants allowed” that should fix all problems and add a few extras.

                If you don’t want to install that package, try running it as an admin, an XP compatibility mode, with 256 colours, and in a 640×480 resolution. That fixed it for me, although it does not fix the bugs (Bethesda ftw!). So save often, and in multiple files!

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                • Ah… that second solution might help. The game just wouldn’t display and I suspected it had something to do with a resolution incompatibility. I’ll give it a go! 🙂

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  3. It depends on the game and its length. A really long game I might replay at a later date, when I have that “Oh, that game is great, I should play it again!” moment. Shorter games, provided they’re not annoying to get through, I might replay sooner. If it’s about endings, I just save the game before the end and then reload. If the game doesn’t allow me to do that, I’ll go to YouTube to watch the other endings because I don’t like the idea of going through an entire game all over again for just ONE cutscene.

    Have only played Farenheit, and overall it put me off the David Cage games. I’ve also seen enough playthroughs of the other titles to know they’re not my kind of games. Similar to the Telltale Games, there might be dozens of branching paths, but there’s not enough meat in the mechanics to bring me back. Simply walking around and waiting for the next “BIG DECISION PROMPT, HURRY!” moment gets old and tiresome very quickly

    Won’t lie, some games in the style attract me more than others. Until Dawn, perhaps for its 80s slasher film feel, I found more interesting to watch (have not actually played it, but I think I saw you going through it on Twitch)

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    • They’re definitely not to everyone’s tastes but I really enjoy the Quantic Dream releases. I think that’s because they’re my version of watching a film. I get bored sitting in front of a movie passively so a game like Fahrenheit, while not having any ‘real’ gameplay, at least gives me some influence over the direction of the story.

      (Obviously it might be just an illusion of choice but that’s a whole other subject!)

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  4. I don’t often jump right back into a game once I beat it. Sometimes I’ll return to complete the extra content (like I just did with Celeste), but sometimes I go back and replay the whole game along with that extra content I missed (Like I did with Hollow Knight). I typically opt to replay games that either have a quality story, a satisfying aesthetic that makes me feel happy, or just those that are a fun time playing.

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    • I think ‘fun’ is a really important aspect that sometimes we forget! I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can easily find myself getting caught up in the idea I should complete 100% of a game – and sometimes I need to take a step back, and remind myself that it doesn’t matter as long as I’ve enjoyed what I did play. 🙂

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      • That’s very true! I definitely get swept up in that 100% mentality sometimes when I shouldn’t. I do enjoy it despite the struggle in some cases, but other games really aren’t worth the extra headache.

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        • For the past month I’ve been trying to catch a particular rare fish in ESO just so I can get an achievement. 800 fish later, I think it might be time to finally give up. 😂

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          • But it could be that very next fish… 😉 Nah, I understand completely! It can be hard to step away from a challenge when you’ve spent so much time gunning for it!! Speaking of ESO, I really should purchase it again…I had such a blast!

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  5. Mass Effect was the only game I ever immediately replayed several times. Beyond that, as much as I probably *could* spend the rest of my days with, say, BioWare’s output 😜, there are other things to do/play, so I tend to now space out any replays. And while I have used guides and YouTube to help me reach certain outcomes in games with branching paths, I much prefer flying by the seat of my pants and letting things play out as organically as they can. These days, the biggest challenge I welcome in games (with branching paths) is trying to reach a desired outcome all on my own.

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    • Oh now this is a good subject for a future post… the pressure to reach a ‘good’ ending. I’m adding this one onto my list, thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

      I do like it when video games make use of choices that you don’t even *realise* are choices at the time. I remember one (I won’t say the name for sake of spoilers) where you had to steal a tool from a workman and an NPC made a comment about remembering to return it. It didn’t register at the time that it was something I should do – and it really didn’t end well for that workman as a result, plus added an extra obstacle for my team’s cause as a result.

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  6. Because of the way I tend to play games these days — with a mind to writing about them in detail — I tend to play them “to death” as much as possible once I’ve started. That means replaying to do alternative paths, seeking out secret content, unlocking extras and, if it’s not too much of a hassle, trying for a Platinum trophy where applicable. I like to be thorough so I can write about the things I cover from a position of authority and deep knowledge!

    This only really became a thing for me when I was writing about stuff in detail. Prior to that I always made a point of finishing the things I started at least as far as seeing the credits roll — since… probably the PS1 era was when I settled into that — but I didn’t necessarily do all the extras. I’ve still never even seen Hunk and Tofu in Resident Evil 2, for example.

    Gaming is my main hobby, so I make time for it. And I like to enjoy things in depth rather than spreading myself too thin across lots of different things. So I tend to focus on no more than one or two things at a time — and typically no more than one narrative-centric thing at once.

    I will also never, EVER watch a stream or YouTube series of a narrative-centric game I want to play at some point, even if I have no intention of playing it right now. I might watch one after the fact, particularly if the game tends to elicit interesting reactions — Doki Doki Literature Club is a good example — but never, EVER to see things I could see just by playing the game a bit more. It’s a matter of pride!

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    • I’m almost the same when it comes to YouTube! I might start watching a video of a new release if it’s something I’m unsure about, but if it appeals within a few minutes I’ll switch it off. My main reason for playing games is that I love a good story so it seems pointless to spoil that before I’ve even installed it. I will however go back to the video once I’ve completed the title – if there’s an alternative ending I want to see, but there’s a lot of hours of gameplay to actually get to it.

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  7. The Youtube/streamer effect for Detroit goes both ways. I’ve enjoyed watching different streamers’ take on the game, and their choices and reactions, and I find the variability makes more streams of the same game watchable, instead of the same old once you’ve seen a streamer go through it once.

    Ironically, I haven’t found the time to complete Detroit for myself, though as a fan of this style of game, I picked it up very early on and though I’m convinced I’ll find my own unique patch through the game that won’t be exactly like all the streams I’ve watched. It just took many hours that I didn’t have to get through chapter by chapter. (Whereas those hours watching streams were done in conjunction with other gaming that took higher priority.)

    There’s one style of branching narrative game I’m happy to repeat and replay immediately. Text-based ones. I was recently trying out two of them from Choice of Games – Heroes of Myth and Choice of the Cat. I played through each going for my first impulse choices, and then immediately went back for a replay to see the results of some other completely different but still intriguing choices. Why?

    One big reason is the speed of a repeat playthrough. Text means you can skip through quickly the bits that are the same in any narrative, while lingering on the different consequences.

    The second is that these styles of games often make all choices equally valid and with differing consequences. The choices are shown to you in multiple choice, so you often know you missed three other different responses. There are also achievements with cryptic hints on what to do or see in the story in order to get them, which both hints at content you missed and creates a minigame to score all the achievements.

    The games often also let you roleplay or simulate different archetypes or personalities. For example, one could be a standoff-ish, calm, dominant type of cat, or an active, fun-loving, affectionate cat, or a feral, frightened of their shadow, only motivated by food sort of cat. Each character archetype would approach and react to the game’s situations in different ways.

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    • Very good point: time is a huge factor when it comes to replayability for me. If a game is only an hour or two and I know I can reload to a mid-point, or skip the bits I’ve already seen, then I’ll attempt to reach that alternative ending myself. But if it requires more time than that – time which could be spent playing something new – then I’m more likely to check out the other ending on YouTube.

      The Choice of Games’ titles frequently appear in my Steam suggestions and some of the stories do interest me, but I’ve yet to pick one up… I’ve almost bought Choice of Robots several times but then gone for something else. Would you recommend them? 🤔

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      • I’ve not actually had the chance to try Choice of Robots yet, but from what I’ve read, it’s had very good reviews. I enjoyed A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight a great deal, as it blended Sherlock Holmes tropes with steampunk. Choice of the Deathless and its sequel introduced me to Max Gladstone’s quirky setting of modern lawyer/corporation/business meets necromancer fantasy magic and gods, and successfully made me a fan of his novel series. A lot of this is personal though – Creatures Such As We had also great reviews, but I didn’t really enjoy the story or the writing, though I found the meta-aspect mildly amusing – fortunately that was free from some bundle or another. I did not think the setting of Tally Ho interested me, until I gave the first bits a trial run. After that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I eventually caved in.

        My best suggestion would be to give Choice of Games titles that interest you a try – they offer the first couple chapters free, if you check their website or their mobile apps. That should give a taster of if you enjoy the setting and the particular author’s style of writing… the only caveat is that you might end up tempted into buying more games that you bargained for. 🙂

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        • Ooh ok, I didn’t know there were demos of sorts! I’ll check out their website on my commute home this evening – thanks so much for the tip. 😀

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  8. I will immediately replay a game if I’m going after a PlayStation Platinum trophy that requires multiple playthroughs, haha. I recently did 5 consecutive run throughs of Mass Effect 1, and I’m on my second consecutive ME2 now. Who needs new games? 😅

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