What Now?

The next step
The next step

You did it. You spent many hours, and probably a few curse words, getting to the end of the journey. But what now? I’ve found that I ask myself that a lot at the end of some of the best games I’ve played. One gets so involved in the universe of a title that being removed at the end feels like that first move away from home. Therefore, the idea of replayability is an alluring trip back into what you already know. Months ago, I wrote an article about aspects I consider important in a game, with the ability to be rewarded by playing again a strong element. I think that if a developer offers incentives for returning to a game, then that doubles the value of that game.

The most prominent kind of replayable element is downloadable content, or DLC. Players play their favorite games, then they get to see a new chapter, a continuation of the story, or something new altogether a few months after release. From a business perspective, DLC is a smart idea. Announcing DLC for a title before that title is even released ensures added value into the game. Also, the developer ensures additional income for a product already sold. Some consider this greedy, but I believe in the basic principle of business: maximize income while minimizing cost. If I can build something, sell it, then make more money after the  initial transaction, I certainly will, and I think that’s what many developers are realizing is a good idea. Another perk is that DLC gives developers time to create more ideas or add more wiggle room for their current ideas. Finally, it builds a sort of anticipation after the credits roll. If you know something is coming after the end, there is a possibility you’ll want to see it like a sequel to a blockbuster movie. DLC is the obvious choice for replayability these days.

However, the basic issue still remains: Should gamers have to pay for more to the game? Why don’t the developers include everything in one

The things Snake can do in two hours
The things Snake can do in two hours

big bundle? Well, that’s an interesting discussion. I’ve already laid out the business perks of doing DLC. But I can also admit that having that immediate gratification of instantly being able to start over for more rewards is enticing as well. Take Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, for instance. Beating the main game unlocks side missions that add just enough diversity in the gameplay to make them just as interesting as the main story. Personally, I think that this was a very smart move on director Hideo Kojima’s part, considering that the main mission is two hours long on a slow playthrough. Adding more for the player to do helps distract the gamer from remembering that they just paid $30 for a two hour test game. Good business sense and focus on the players.

Other games do this same thing. One of the popular things to do, especially with games that use a leveling up mechanic, is to start the story over with what you’ve earned the previous time. Batman: Arkham City was a good example of this. The developer, Rocksteady, allows the player to start the game over, in a harder setting but with all the tools that Batman earned the previous time. This lets a gamer try new ideas and prove to themselves that they are Batman.

Be the Batman.
Be the Batman.

One of the last things to mention about replayability reasons is actually one of the most simplest ones: the experience. Some games are just so good that you have to play them again. And again. And again. This is exhibited by my third playthrough of the whole Mass Effect series. In my experience, if it touches you in your emotions, you should pick up the controller again. The action of playing a game again is the cheapest satisfaction of replayability available. It certainly is something I’ve done plenty of times.

With the economy still somewhat on the mend, gamers need strong, convincing reasons why they should buy, and keep, a game. This has been my course of action for a while: a short game with a short shelf life deserves nothing more than a Redbox rental. I do my research and figure out the most cost-efficient way to play it. I see replayability as important, even more so than other elements of a game. If you feel the same, let me know what kind of games were your favorite to play again.

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Is The Future Made Yet?

Technology is an ever-changing commodity, and the video game industry always proves to be at the forefront of this change. Over thirty years ago, gaming consisted of countable bits on a screen and a little entertainment. Now, we play AAA titles that reach past our hand-eye coordination and touch our minds and soul. I’m a strong believer in the influential power of strong storytelling, but we cannot discount the hardware and gaming mechanics that go into a gameplay experience. And with the recent innovations into virtual reality headsets and gaming, an observer of trends in gaming has to wonder just where all this is going. Are we on the cusp of a gaming revolution shown in older ’90s movies such as The Lawnmower Man and Hackers?

Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts

Let’s start with what we already know. For the most part, first-person titles such as Call of Duty and Left for Dead are more interactive than third-person games. It’s that point of view that allows the player to see the world as they would see it. Of course, this is not to say that third-person games are not interactive as well. Look at The Last of Us, nominated by so many magazines and companies as Game of the Year. These kinds of games are just as good. However, gamers seem to enjoy the FP games because of the connection they can make with their character. Not seeing who you’re playing as for most of the game can help immerse you in the environment around you, at least in my experience. Even if the playable character has a face and form, the psychology of the situation shows that the player sees their own self in that character. Think of it like a long episode of Quantum Leap, if you’re old enough to know what that show is. If you’re not, feel free to stop reading and do a little research. I won’t mind.

 

The game doesn’t even have to be a shooter to be completely immersive, though that sometimes seems to be the go-to game for people looking for a good time in gaming. My example for this would be Outlast, truly one of the scariest games I have ever played. In case you’re unfamiliar

Something very creepy to look at.
Something very creepy to look at.

with it, Outlast is a horror FP title in which you’re a journalist investigating a shady mental asylum, armed with nothing but your video Something very creepy tocamera and a decent amount of cardio fitness. Couple this incredibly frightening run from the evil guys action with a gaming headset to put the disturbing sounds right in your ear, and you’ve got yourself a hell that you’re trying to complete just to escape from. No amount of pre-gaming conversation could prepare me for what I experienced in that game, and I loved every minute of it. I think Outlast is a testament to just how far the gaming interactivity has come for us.

Now, let’s look at the immediate future: VR gaming headsets. One of the big wave-makers in the industry is the Oculus Rift. According to their website, the Rift is allowing for a full 3D headset experience, completely removing the TV from the equation. Though the Rift is not on the market yet, the promise of future games using this is a little

OR
Oculus Rift

exciting, if you can get past the initial awkwardness of wearing a giant box on your head.

Of course, the Rift is not the only headset being promised on the market. Being a huge Sony fan, I was interested in hearing about their line of VR headset, dubbed Project Morpheus. Playstation’s blog speaks on this headset, boasting a 90 degree field of view at any given time along with1080p resolution and stereoscopic sound. Now, don’t get too excited. You can’t walk around your living room with the headset and expect to save the world. You’ll still need a controller and a Playstation Camera to interact with this world. But, the implications are pretty promising, not to mention the future happiness of FPS competitive gamers who struggle sometimes to find the right TV to aid in their killing conquests.

Morpheus
The Morpheus

Now, one has to consider some of the consequences to this. First of all, what is the cost? Will these headsets be affordable toys for the masses or luxuries for those with plenty of time and money on their hands? I’m inclined to believe that they’ll start off somewhat pricey and come down as time and technology grow. That’s usually the trend with these things. Another implication is eyesight degradation. Mom and Dad always say don’t sit too close to the TV. Will headsets have the same effect on the eyes? You can go either way on this one. You are experiencing a first person view of things just like you do every single day. However, you’re experiencing it through a synthetic screen, which is not natural for people to look through. So, a bit of caution may be in order for this new wave of gaming.

Finally, let’s think outside the gaming box. These headsets are great, but if you’re imaginative, you can find more uses for this tech. Astronauts and the military already using virtual simulators for combat and flight practice, that’s already known. What other ways can this be used? Maybe nursing schools and hospitals can train students to administer aid while removing some of the fear of mistakes. Computer techs can play with the insides of their devices before working on them for real. What if real estate agents and homebuyers could coordinate to create a dream home that a person can “walk” through before actually buying or building the place? This may sound a bit extreme, but VR can definitely be useful in the real world. Think about that in a few years when you see how things turn out.

If you’re trying to stay up to date with gaming news and devices, then obviously you’ll want to invest in a VR headset. These things can definitely open up a new world of interactive possibilities. It’s really going to be a matter of choice as to which device to pick, just like in picking a console. Personally, I’m not really in a hurry to pick a headset up. I’d like to let the market mature a bit before choosing to do that. I am optimistic though. The world is an evolving place, and the VR business is looking up. Or down. Or all around.