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