February 14th, 2009
As I’ve mentioned a few times since I got back, I got myself a Playstation Network ID and have been putting it to good use. I’m not too fond of online play fullstop and to be honest the Playstation 3 online space seems a little scattered anyways. So instead of owning n00bs online I’ve been savouring the downloadable delights on the Playstation Store which has in turn brought up a new dilemma; Trophies, or rather how to approach them.
Several of the PSN games I bought have trophy support and pretty much anything I’ll continue to buy either online or off will have the feature. It should be known that I am a perfectionist with games. Pretty much most of the games I own I finish to near as 100% completion as possible, playing both normal and hard difficulties respectively. Trophies in this case represent a significant burden to my perfectionist reputation, one that I’m not too sure on how to shoulder.
I tried to ignore the whole idea for a few days but after the idea popped back into my head when reading an article about it over at the You Are Lose! blog, I decided that I needed to figure it out. Korey’s commentaries put everything into much clearer view so I eventually settled on only gunning for trophies that work within my means. That is, fun without sacrificing enjoyment or copious amounts of time.
At the same that all of this was going on I was thinking about the rewards system featured in Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and how I like it so much in contrast to trophies ^_^ . Dark Mirror’s reward system works in a similar way to many in-game reward systems but it’s much more fleshed out.
Within each level several pieces of hidden evidence are tucked away. Finding all of the evidence in a given episode (series of levels) unlocks your typical fare of bonus content accessible from the main menu. On obtaining some pieces of evidence you are rewarded with a brief cut scene that ponders various plot points stringing from the main story. These cut scenes work to reinforce what is happening behind the scenes of the main plot and develop the further you progress in the game. This mechanic does an effective job at re-plugging the narrative back into the core gameplay while at the same time being dynamic and completely optional to the player.
The majority of the evidence is hidden in typical easter egg fashion, but some of the more significant pieces require a little more effort. Key documents are hidden behind doors which require first finding a card key, locker key or other to open. Once you’ve found that key it can be continuously re-used in later levels to access additional weaponary, routes and so forth. Basically your curiosity is rewarded in multiple ways and acts as a positive reinforcer to encourage continual investigation.
To reward actual skill the game has a badge system which draws upon your playing statistics. The more you excel in X field, the more your badge percentage in that field increases. Once you reach 100% you can move onto the next badge rank in that field. Completing each badge unlocks new weaponary which can be used again in the Mission Mode (play individual levels seperately) and multiplayer. Both story mode and mission mode statistics add to the badge’s percentages. Assuming that the average player completes the story mode first, the work they have already done is rewarded with extra weaponary which comes in handy for when they later move onto the mission mode.
There are five fields of badges split into three categories, so it acomodates varying play styles well. Gabe also gives you a speech for each badge you are awarded which is a nice personal touch. Getting the protagonist to complement the player directly is quite an effective way to thank the player for the investment they have put into the game.
The rewards themselves are quite generous including additional missions, videos, narrative pieces and weaponary. Unlike some games where some of the best content is locked away form the start, Dark Mirror is quite gracious with how it doses out it’s bounty of extras. The game is already significantly fleshed out, so the rewards feel like actual rewards instead of content constrained from the beginning. The extra missions particularly are quite generous.
In contrast to some trophies (as pointed out in Korey’s article) the requirements are also within reason. As suggested a few times already the rewards plug back into the game’s narrative and gameplay which is a nice touch too.
On editing this I can’t help but point out the lack of analysis (few sentences) between the bulk of feature listing. >_<