Or Sometimes It Doesn’t

Yesterday we discussed the tendency of a new option to expand to all potential uses. Facebook was a digital whiteboard but now you use it to share family pictures and invite people to events. I want to discuss the failure to expand in two ways.

“The gimmick” is when it does not proliferate. They tried it once, it failed to spread, and it became quietly ignored outside its home. The blade itself is lost in the back of a drawer. In MMO-land, this is usually update- or expansion-specific, the neat new idea that never went anywhere. Will LotRO have mounted combat outside Rohan? You go through a zone and need to learn a new mechanic, but you will never need that mechanic again. Sometimes that is intentional, to give each zone its own gimmick.

“The forced feature” is when it proliferates but reluctantly and only by including it whether it makes sense or not. Developers may not have a use for it, but management said that it goes in everything. The Wiimote comes to mind: it may not make any sense for the game to involve wiggling the controller, but the Wii was sold around its innovative controller, and the games must justify it. Maybe every dungeon must have a physics puzzle or use the conversation mechanic or include a trap or have a secret door with a bonus treasure behind it. You learn to recognize when you have reached The Obligatory X Scene

These two go together really nicely. In the new expansion set, every single thing must incorporate the forced feature, and then it will not be seen again until someone uses the gimmick five years later in one boss fight as an intentional callback.

: Zubon

If you have better terms than “gimmick” and “forced feature,” comments are open.

2 thoughts on “Or Sometimes It Doesn’t

  1. Telwyn

    So could we describe “Dungeon Finder” as a forced feature? Some players leapt straight on it of course but most I know didn’t use it at all until the seasonal bosses (like the Headless Horseman) were converted to only be accessible through it. Then they ramped up the rewards to try and bribe tanks / healers to go into the system. Then comes “Raid Finder” and the evolution to step on the gearing ladder is complete.

  2. darkeye

    I’m firmly in the camp of hating seeing features introduced and then forgotten about, it’s a failure in strong, consistent and overarching design, and more about flinging in lots of features and seeing which sticks, it does contribute to a sense of ennui for me. Rift is a good example of where it works. They include features and are quite successful in building on them, or modifying them until they stick. It helps that they are an agile and responsive developer. They went with a traditional hub questing system originally, but they being breaking away from it ever since, to a model where players move through a zone with one story quest, optional ‘carnage’ quests (kill X mobs) that are auto-bestowed, interactive objects and drops that give quests. They kept the sourcewell and instant adventure mechanic fully incorporated in the new expansion. They gave rifts a facelift with (great)hunt rifts, attempting to make them more interesting encounters and a reputation grind to give a sense of progression. It gives a good impression of the developer when things come together successfully.

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