What makes us want to continue playing a game?
Why do I keep playing through the same quests in Skyrim?
Why do I keep playing the same multiplayer games over and over?
Why do I keep lining up this never ending stream of blocks?
The answer is game play loops.
But what is a gameplay loop? And why do chao gardens break the rules of game play loops?
Let’s get into it.
Tetris has one of the simplest game play loops possible. Random shapes fall down from the top of the screen. You eliminate them by lining them up which gives you points. Over time it speeds up.
Broken down to its core, the game gives you something, you react. Your reaction affects the next thing the game gives you.
Look at pretty much any game and you’ll see this happen. In fact, most games have game play loops within game play loops. Let’s take a look at Skyrim. Most quests in Skyrim follow a simple format. Get quest, do quest, report on quest, get more quests. It’s simple, but it has so many more loops worked into it. For instance, combat.
Fight weak enemies at the start of the quest. Explore. Fight stronger enemies. Explore. Fight the strongest enemy. Time for a new quest.
But those enemies have loot and that means another loop. Collect loot, sell loot, repeat. And occasionally buy things I guess. But who does that?
Some of the loot has building purposes, like enchantments, potions, and armor. Collect, upgrade, repeat.
And all of these things give experience, which leads to better loot, stronger enemies, and new quests. Which all support the main experience of the game.
So that is why I am still playing this game… Hmm.
But it doesn’t need to be that complicated.
Most multiplayer games have a match loop.
Rainbow 6 Siege has you pick an operator. Setup for defenders or search for attackers. Shooty shoot ’til the end of round. Switch sides until one team wins enough rounds to win. Useless experience points and slightly useful currency is given for new operators or skins. And then you repeat.
Simple. Because the main draw for the game isn’t adding small numbers to your weapons damage or to your health. It’s in playing the game and unlocking cool stuff.
This is a successful game play loop because it’s able to draw upon a very important element of game play. Fun. I mean, if being head shot by someone through a wall is your idea of fun.
Or someone sneaking up behind you and shooting you in the back. Or someone stabbing you. Lots of fun.
But then there’s one game that broke all the rules.
When I was young I was having problems learning to read because I found reading boring. My parents asked if I would read comics? The answer was of course, yes. And with a little bit of words spread out between pictures I became an avid reader of books and comics alike. What was that comic book? Sonic the Hedgehog.
The Sonic comics had a pretty good story line for kids. And both of the Sonic: Adventure games’ stories were directly connected to the comic. However in the first Sonic game, the story was already included in the comic. So why would I bother with the game.
In hindsight, this was for the best.
But for Sonic Adventure 2 the comic showed the first mission of the game, in a comic style, then stopped. I had to play the game to get the rest of the story. So, I bought a GameCube just to play the game. The comic art style looked way better than the actual game in the end.
Good job marketers. Well played.
To fully understand the Chao Garden, you have to understand the first experience someone will have in the game. Throughout the level there will be these fuses and small animals to collect. They were explained by these flying robots, but I don’t think anyone ever listened to them. I know I didn’t. Along the way you probably smashed one of these special blue crates and got a blue key just out of curiosity. Then you finished the level, got a score and waited for the next level.
Instead of the story continuing though, you get sent to this strange hub world with one door. When you enter in all of the animals and fuses come pouring out of you. This whole situation is weird. There’s no timer. No robo chao to tell you what to do. Just an oasis.
Eventually you discover the chao eggs. And through patience or force, they hatch. You discover that they level up and change appearances by what you feed them. So you feed them all up and then you leave to go and get more and raise your little ones.
It’s a nice break from the high speed game play of the rest of the game and rewards you for your work. However, this is where they break the game play loop rules. Chao gardens aren’t the main point of the game. You can’t play it without the main game. But you can play the rest of the game without Chao Gardens. Just ignore the boxes. You’ll never go there. But things like fuses and rings can only be used for the Chao Garden, making it feel like it’s a part of the main game.
To be honest, the mini game is actually more rewarding than the main game.
And Although there are a few upgrades available for the game’s characters, it never really feels like growth. Instead, it feels like you are getting access to skills you should have had at the beginning of the game. Like every Ubisoft game since Far Cry 3.
But the Chao’s grow and change, getting stronger and taking on bigger and bigger challenges. You can unlock new gardens by making a hero or a villain Chao. And you can start whole new playthroughs when the Chao dies and is reincarnated.
Something, I never experienced, because of my nephew releasing all of my chaos into the wild! Yeah, I still haven’t forgotten, Josh.
Well, the game is still in an early stage and we don’t have the budget for an entire mini game of phoenix cat gardens (Not yet at least… Hmm).
So it only has the core pillar of picking a class, picking a spawn, and fighting until victory or death. More will come with time as the quests and upgrades are made. And, hopefully it will be a game that people won’t mind getting caught in the loop.
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