Hocking Defines Replayability As Depth-to-Content Ratio

Former Creative Director at LucasArts and Ubisoft Montreal Clint Hocking believes replay value in a game stems from richly interconnected, well-balanced systems rather than sheer quantity of content.

In an article written for Edge, Hocking explained:

“In a theoretical sense, I think the best predictor of replayability is the depth-to-exhaustibility ratio. By ‘depth’, I mean specifically the degree of rich interconnection between well-balanced systems. And by ‘exhaustibility’, I mean the degree to which a game relies on static content to deliver a message. The inherent claim of this simple ratio is that more systemic depth and less static content corresponds to greater replayability.

“By this measure, we can look at classic games such as chess or go and predict that since they are entirely richly interconnected, well-balanced systems with virtually no content, they should exhibit almost infinite replayability. And they do. By contrast, a game such as Dragon’s Lair – virtually all content and no systems – should exhibit almost no replayability. And once you’ve exhausted the content and had your kiss from Princess Daphne, replaying is almost pointless.”

Talk of multiplayer tends to sully any replay value debate, but Hocking’s definition perfectly ties multiplayer into the discussion by explaining its allure — player interaction adds another cog to the game’s systems. If the game is already deep, then multiplayer enhances it greatly. On the other hand, games that lean more heavily on being content-rich than deep tend to have multiplayer components that feel tacked-on.

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1 Comment on Hocking Defines Replayability As Depth-to-Content Ratio

CatmanStu

On August 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I completely agree. This is the reason Arkham City although a solid and thoroughly enjoyable game, fell short of the brilliance of Arkham Asylum. In AA every situation and mechanic felt essential to the development and progression of the plot leaving you feeling like you were controlling Batman through one of his adventures. In AC the size of the game area, coupled with the bloated rogues gallery, left the experience feeling stretched thin with too many gimmicks as padding (time trials, hidden trophies, Jokers balloons) rather than concentrating on delivering a tightly crafted Batman experience.