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What is Replayabiliy?

It doesn’t sound like a word, does it? well that’s because officially, it’s not. Yet now more than ever, its importance can not be overstated. Replayability like every other modern word is born out of popular expression, like ‘google’ it, or ‘bling’. Replayability is not obscure at all in its definition, because you can understand it at face value. How much ability does it have to be replayable. Be that a diverse story with choices and branching endings, gameplay that just doesn’t get old, a modding community, or multiplayer that keeps it alive. Replayability adds the much important aspect to games that keeps a player playing, and the company behind it relevant.

Replayability is often overlooked in favor of a unique ideas or an interesting story (especially by indie developers), but at the end of day if that idea or story doesn’t add replayability, it only gets you on the map. And like boomtowns, they often vanish into obscurity once the resource dries up (in this case interest) and the long development time between two games kills their company. How many indie developers do you know who have stormed the front with their one game and then vanished? How many AAA developers thought this game would be the bread and butter but found out that their goods didn’t sell well on the market.

With longer and more expensive development times, it’s become essential to ensure a continuous income, either by DLC (which means continued development time), or by replayability. Replayability is unique in that it continues to draw in customers well beyond development. Look at games like Europa Universalis IV, Minecraft, Dota 2, or Skyrim. Well past their initial release, they still have a good sized player base and their developers still make money off that game.
- Europa Universalis IV is replayable by itself in that it is always a unique story of history driven by the player and it’s still developed by Paradox in the form of patches and DLC, but also has a big modding community that keep interest in the game high.
- Minecraft is the ideal Sandbox: Player driven, moddable, and multiplayer and continues to drawn in new players.
- DOTA 2 gets its replayability almost solely due to the competitive nature of that game in multiplayer which can also earn you money.
- Finally, Skryim still draws in players and revenue however minute it may be because of it’s open world, player-driven adventure, with lots of support for a modding community.
The companies behind these games have become household names in their respective genres due to how much you can replay their games.

Then look at games like Super Meat Boy, Fez, or even Bioshock. These are all games that you could play again because the story, or gameplay is great, but would more than likely have to wait a few months to a few years before you pick it up again because you know how it’ll play out. They are often forgotten about until there is some reason to bring them up be it nostalgia or general gaming discussions. These games don’t continue to draw in customers actively due to the small community that surrounds it. They are not talked about well their release dates because not very many people are still playing it.

I’m not saying we should cut out all unique ideas or story driven games, but I think games like these should be treated as such. Games based on a story shouldn’t have things like gun DLC or skin DLC, because that’s not what the game is based on. Instead they should have expanded stories, or short sub-stories as DLC. Games based on stories shouldn’t have multiplayer as an afterthought to add replayability because it’ll be rushed and clunky and will be a valid point in many people's minds not to buy the game, even though there is a very good game outside of the multiplayer. If you want multiplayer, make sure it’s well thought out and developed with the game, not after the game. Also, don’t make the multiplayer completely negate any reason to make choices in the single player. Companies that base their game solely on stories shouldn’t worry themselves about replayability. Outside of a branching story with choices that adds some degree of replayability. A story game is like a book, you don’t re-read it for a new story, you re-read it because it’s a good story.

If you want to make your story game open world to add replayability, don’t limit that open world because the story prohibits it. ESPECIALLY with invisible walls in places where you will eventually go, or “I can’t go there because they are too well fortified” whops game over, I didn’t listen to the white text. Let the player learn it on their own or even attempt the challenge of being overwhelmed. I don’t mind invisible walls along the borders of a huge area that isn’t ever part of the game, because honestly there are limits, and cheesy impassable mountains or rivers don’t make as much sense either, rivers have bridges and boats, and mountains have paths.

Replayability can’t really ‘just be added’, it needs to be thought out, and implemented.

I personally prefer replayable games because I feel it adds more bang for my buck. It’s nice not having to download the next single player game with huge file sizes just to enjoy it for 30-100 hours. Which is just over 1 ½ hours per dollar at best. Before you mention theaters, I don’t generally go to the theater unless it’s something I really look forward to, which is about once every 3-4 years. It’s pretty much the same with story games. Every few years I’ll pick one up, enjoy it and then go back to my favorite games.

Look at the Witcher 3 for example. Absolutely amazing game with a great story, great characters, and a beautiful world. It took me 64 hours according to GOG to beat it on Death March and I haven’t returned to it yet. I’ve been thinking about it, but it hasn’t felt like the right time to re-immerse myself into the world again. I payed about 70~ dollars for it(Canadian, with the first expansion). That’s just under an hour per dollar. In contrast I paid 70~ dollars for Fallout 4 and the season pass with a discount and I’ve racked up 400 hours. That’s over 5 hours per dollar. EUIV is harder to calculate so all I did was add the price of all dlc I own off sale (even though most of them were bought on sale) plus the game which comes to about 226 dollars. Though I suspect that number to be closer to 130-140. I have just over 2400 hours total. That’s still over 10 hours per dollar spent on the game. Movies are about 8 dollars. No including concession costs. Movies on average are about 130~ minutes, and that works out to just over 16 minutes per dollar spent.

So to me It seems more reasonable to play a replayable game than one based on story, but like I said I definitely love the occasional story.
The only reason I felt like writing this is due to the new wave of story games that are being released that are taking flak due to their ‘walking simulator’ nature. I personally have not played one of these, because I don’t think a game so heavily based on a story that it doesn’t include anything you might attribute to being a game is worth getting. Games need to have some form of replayability and interactivity to be considered a game. These ‘walking simulators’ have absolutely no replayability and almost no interactivity besides the whole walking around and hitting e to continue the story. You could possibly figure out which side of the fence I am on with these kinds of games. I think games based so heavily on a story to the point where you’re just hitting e to continue, that you should just use the game’s engine to make a short movie and then release it as a mini movie. It almost feels like a scam to release it as a game when all the things you attribute to being a game are absent.

To sum it up, replayability is a very important aspect of gaming. Not only for the player, but also the developers. Games have historically been replayable, they need to be. Look at chess, or almost any card game. They are replayable just due to the competitive nature of it, but they ARE replayable. Replayability is often attributed to how interactive the game is. What can I do with the game? How does the game react to me doing this? Can I do this? If I do this, will it allow me to win? All these things you might ask yourself while playing the game. Games which have next to no interactivity are not games in my eyes. They are more like staggered movies which pause so you can look around at the set.