Yesterday on Twitter, I shared my thoughts on Permanently Missable Rewards in games (which I will refer to as a Missable from this point forward). And boy did you guys respond. Some of you agreed, some of you disagreed, and some of you had some interesting ideas on “3rd options”. With so much discussion, I felt we should talk about this subject a bit more at length.
One of the things that frustrates me in Video Game, and RPG Design in general are Permanently Missable Rewards. What do you think of missables? Have you considered how things could be missable in your game? How could you adjust the game to make things not missable? #indiedev pic.twitter.com/2Hvx0LSir8
— RPG Maker Web (@RPGmakerweb) July 15, 2019
First, for the people who don’t know, what IS a Missable? For me, a Missable has to contain several factors:
- There is a point in the game where you can no longer obtain the item.
- It is not needed to further the plot, so you can pass that point without it.
- There is no item that you can obtain that does all the things that item does, but is unquestionably better.
The third one especially is a point where I feel it’s ok to have a Missable. If you can get an iron sword that is +15 to attack with no other abilities later in the game, it doesn’t matter that you can’t get a copper sword with +10 to attack anymore.
So, for the people who don’t see the big deal, I’m going to elaborate on WHY I think this is bad design: It doesn’t let the player play the way they want to play.
Some players like to explore and do every single thing in an area before moving to the next area. Some do a little here, and a little there, then move on when they get bored of sidequests. And then some just blaze through the story and want to do all the side stuff later.
None of these are “wrong ways to play” but missables punish anyone who doesn’t play like the first person. And even for people who ARE like the first person, it can cause stress. What if I did miss something? Now I have no way back. Guess I should just play this game with a guide open.
And if there is one thing I truly think that games need to learn, is to design themselves in ways that people don’t need to play with a guide.
Several people came up with fun ways to get around an area being closed off:
Personal favourite, allow the missables to be found at a latter date.
Example: a temple you explore collapses and you miss a powerful sword. If you later come to the ruins of the temple, you can find said sword among the rubble.
— Edgar Marques (@EdgarMarques97) July 15, 2019
This one I liked quite a lot. Moving the items to a new place like the rubble of a ruined temple lets you put unique items in areas that you can’t return to, without letting them return to that location. This kind of thinking, alternate ways to get rewards, is not used a lot in games, but when it is, I find it really interesting.
Some people came up with legitimately good reasons to have missable content, such as this user:
I'm fine with missable rewards under one condition: They're missable because you had to choose between multiple equally good rewards.
The old Wizardry series for example had some fun bits like the City of Sky in 7 where you could pick ONE powerful item.
— Kuari Thunderclaw (@KuarThunderclw) July 15, 2019
This is a really solid point. choices are a very different situation, and actually something I strongly encourage in gameplay.
The reason I think that mutually exclusive choice Missables are OK is that:
- You know you are making a choice.
- No one else playing the game is getting both. There is no “completionist” method.
You make the decision of what you want, and you move on.
And some people think they are just fine:
As a player, I hate being a completionist. The dev usually puts me to the condition I feel like I'm obliged to do. So if I miss a content, I'd just let it go. I do it many times, so missable content was never been my problem.
— Theo (@theolized) July 15, 2019
And you know what, that is a-ok. Players can feel any way they want about games. And this advice, to not use Missables in your game, is just advice. Now, I think its a very good piece of advice for making a game with wide appeal, but that doesn’t have to be your game.
There is nothing wrong with making a game for a specific audience. Specialized games are some of my favorites. So follow your heart on your design, but always be open to the ideas of others. You never know when something they say will give you a whole new perception on design!