But…but…that soda can was so clearly the key to that whole scene! I could have sworn!

This is a nice way to express the issue from a developer’s standpoint. I love the point that you have to try to either steer/engage the player to the point that they don’t want to play with the soda can, or else accommodate their playing with it in some believable way. Because we may take advantage of the option to stop and poke around the food table, but how to explain everything else in the game world pausing and waiting patiently for us to pick a sandwich, instead of continuing with the explosion or whatever?

I also like the picture of an agent approaching actors: “Do you have $60? Great–I have a role that would be so completely perfect for you!”I think it’s definitely true that “something for everyone” can be a tough strategy to do really well with.

It implicitly says to every potential buyer, not only “there’s something you, specifically will like!” which is useful for purchasing decisions, but also “there’s something a lot of people who are not you will like,” which is of much less practical value. Because who knows what those weirdos who aren’t me like in a game?

On the other hand, you do want to appeal to a broad range of players, I imagine not only because of money, but because if you work on a game for years you just actually want people to play it. Because that’s kind of why you were working on it all this time.

And it’s easy to say in retrospect “[some particular aspect] is pointless to the story and just there for trophy hunters and wastes time when I want to move on”…but figuring out what’s going to come across that way and what’s going to be a fun little interlude must be to some extent a guessing game.

Who knows what people are going to like? Especially those weirdos who aren’t me?

I mean, I kind of liked scanning planets in the Mass Effects. It could be a sort of meditative break in the action, something you could do for a few minutes if you really didn’t have time to get into a fight or an extended story sequence. I’m sure there are people who totally hated that. I know lots of people hated driving the Mako around in ME1, but I didn’t mind it.

There were a lot of “Da Vinci’s Machine” missions in one of the AC2s–Brotherhood, I think–and man, those were frustrating and obnoxious to me. I have rarely been so angry at a game as during some of those. But someone else probably thought they were great.

I think we tend to be completeists and to feel as if we’re somehow falling short by not doing everything there is to be done (even though we obviously don’t do everything there is to be done, because we have important lives to live and other games to get to) but I wonder if maybe a trend is towards a more buffet-style gaming in some contexts.

Like, I enjoy these aspects of this huge “something for everyone” game, but not these ones, so I play the ones I like and ignore the rest completely…without feeling just faintly guilty about it.

You can obviously do this to a large extent with mini games (like Nine Men’s Morris or whatever they played in AC4) and with things like trophies and accomplishments, which you don’t even have to be aware of in order to finish a game.

It can kind of clutter a game if you’re always running across things you don’t care about, but I suppose in a sense it could be fair to argue that since it’s not obligatory, we shouldn’t complain about the GPS caches or whatever. Just don’t pick it up if you don’t want to.

I think Butch’s concern, even more than clutter, is when you HAVE to do something you hate in order to progress in the game, like “I hate Nine Men’s Morris, why are you making me play 10 rounds in order to talk to this character?” (Not that this actually happened.)

I think there’s a fine line there…we play games because we like to be challenged, and part of being challenged is having to do things that you aren’t quite as comfortable with, so I’m willing to allow that a certain amount of “you have to TRY this weird thing that relates to extra content before you move forward, even if you never do it again” is justified. Because it’s an introduction to something that’s available, and sometimes you wind up actually liking the thing.

Those instances are in kind of a tough position, though, because if it’s a thing you hate, and it’s mandatory, and it’s really hard, it can slow you down and make you kind of hate the whole game. (Damn you, damn killer robot in Remember Me, grumble grumble…) But if it’s too easy than it feels like a silly chore you have to check off.

Maybe someday there’ll be one of those huge games with settings so you can actually turn off the things you don’t care about. Like the difficulty settings, only for extra content stuff.

“Don’t show me the tavern games.”
“I never want to see ‘tower defense.'”
“I would like every single possible ship-related quest and item.”
“I love locating artifacts.”

Of course we’d still have to feel we were missing out on something, but it could make for a more streamlined experience if we really just don’t care about something, to have it not even come up as an option.