It is often seen as kind of a grail in game design. Everyone seems to be looking for a way to make their game infinitely replayable. A game that can be replayed many times, a game that can be played many more hours, is clearly more valuable right?
If, with a 5 hour game, I can play it 5 times through. That makes it 25 hours of fun right? Rather than just 5 if I could only play it once. Well. Yes. Sort of.
But is that necessarily better. Should you chase replayability, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit into your core design?
My personal opinion is: Well, no not really.
Now, I’m not saying replayability is bad, but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all of game design. I love games like Skyrim, where each play can be so massively different that I’ll see completely different things.
That is a great feeling, and we should definitely have these types of designs out there. And maybe that is what your game needs to be.
But there are other games on the other end of the spectrum. Take for instance Metal Gear Solid. The game is around 12 hours long. While you can play it again, and I certainly have over the years, there isn’t really any mechanics to really make you want to. I just play it again to do the exact same things, in the exact same order, with the exact same character.
But it is STILL a good game. It is a fantastic single playthrough experience. And sometimes, that is just what you need.
Let’s be honest. We all have a near literal uncountable number of games we could be playing at any time. If you are like me, you have at least 100 games in your Steam account that you got on sale you still haven’t touched and the number of free games available online is practically infinite.
This isn’t like the early 90s when I bought a Sega Genesis game (yes, I’m aware, for an RPG fan I picked the wrong system), and it had to last me for a month, cause I wasn’t getting another game for at LEAST that long. We all have so many games to pick from at all times, that single playthrough experiences are really more valuable now than they have ever been.
So if replayability mechanics, things like branching storylines, strong character individualization, etc., don’t fit in your game… don’t worry. Just make sure that your game delivers a solid gameplay experience for the first play. It isn’t like most people are ever going to actually play most games more than once anyway.