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I've heard the term "replay value" thrown around a lot in many game reviews and some publications.

As implied from the question, what does it mean? What actually defines it? Is it how long it takes to play the game? The number of assets in the game? How engaging the game is? How good looking the game is?

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Steve Yegge on Borderlands replayability despite the game's design: steve-yegge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/… See also procedural generation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_generation –  Phil H Mar 22 '13 at 14:37

5 Answers 5

up vote 51 down vote accepted

Replay value is simply a generic term for "What could motivate people to play the game again after playing through it once?"

Neither the time to play through or the graphics have anything to do with that.

Examples for factors that add to replay value:

  • Branching story where players might play again to experience the other branches.
  • Extensive character customization that might get players to try to play through using a different play style, e.g. stealth vs brute force.
  • Randomization where players experience only some parts of all that the game might have to offer so they play again to maybe experience the other parts. This can also be randomized item drops in diablo-like games.
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Dam you merlin! people like you make people like me (who want to give lazy un-efforted answers) actually have to try! Curses! (good answer btw lol) –  Ender Mar 22 '13 at 9:10
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There is a "new" trending factor that teams up with replay-value, and it's the achievement completion: I've experienced this on the Xbox community especially, where a lot of people consider the game 100% complete only after you completed all the achievements too. They add new challenges to the base game, as well as a good replay value. There is also the increasing difficulty level to be considered (eg: Borderlands-series, Mass Effect-series, Diablo-series) –  Samuele Mattiuzzo Mar 22 '13 at 12:00
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Often when a game has been completed once, it can be replayed with more available options: a harder difficulty settings, or you keep your inventory/stats/settings from the ending of the game... quite fun running around with lvl-20 weapons in a lvl-01 zone. –  Konerak Mar 22 '13 at 13:39
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You're discussing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The "Achievements" system encourages you to do something you may not necessarily enjoy to obtain a reward that you do value. Intrinsic motivation means that you do it just because you enjoy doing it. There is an Extra Credits episode dedicated to this distinction: penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/intrinsic-or-extrinsic –  Zoot Mar 22 '13 at 14:16
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I like this answer, but I think it's missing something. I've seen games that have little to none of the qualities you've mentioned that have high replay value. Great games can be entertaining and fun to play for a second, third, and more times even when you know what is coming. Games where you solve puzzles tend to fail in this area, because the puzzles are no longer fun once you've solved them. –  Amish Programmer Mar 23 '13 at 17:24

Replay value is a game's ability to be re-played. Either after death, or more importantly after victory. It generally specifically refers to how often you will pick the game up off the shelf to play it AGAIN after you've beaten it the first time. Some games, such as the Metal Gear genre, Borderlands genre, the Resident Evil genre, and many others, were actually DESIGNED to be played multiple times, and have content that reflects this. Beating the game (the first time) is just the beginning.

This can be accomplished in a myriad of ways, as everyone has something that speaks to them specifically. But many games have attempted to work replayability into their core game mechanics using methods such as:

  • Keeping some or all of your levels and\or inventory and continuing again from the beginning with or without the enemies and tasks rescaled to your level.

  • Starting the game again with a new playable character

  • Starting the game again from a new perspective, giving you insights into previously unknown parts of the story

  • Starting the game again as normal, but with a harder difficulty

  • Starting the game again with the games levels mirrored to be backwards

  • Multiple acheivememts to be obtained for 100% completion, some of which cannot all be gathered in one, or even several playthroughs.

  • Unlocking a new game mode upon completion

  • Including a online or local multiplayer experience so once the original campaign is finished there is still other people to slay play with.

  • Having multiple game modes other than just multiplayer or singleplayer in the first place so there is more to do from the beginning.

  • Giving the player cosmetic additions upon completions.

And many others...

Some games have great replayability without any of these qualities as well. Some games are just THAT good. There is so much content, and the story was so good, and the characters so iconic, that you just want to play it again and again, much like reading a good book or watching a good movie. The most famous game never intended to be replayed to such an extent but still was good enough to garner this form of reputation that comes to mind is Final Fantasy 7.

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+1 'beating the game is just the beginning' –  Colin D Mar 22 '13 at 12:38
    
Classic Steve Yegge rant on Borderlands, as a case study: steve-yegge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/… –  Phil H Mar 22 '13 at 14:38
    
Two other good examples of good replay value games are the elder scrolls and the stanly parable. –  Oreo Oct 11 at 22:09

This is a partial answer that adds on to the 2 great answers provided by both dbemerlin & Ender.

One thing that can really add to replay value is a multiplayer mode (in addition to single player. I am specifically leaving out multiplyer-only games as they are a beast of their own). Each time you pick it up and play with your friends it will be a new experience.

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It's probably worth mentioning a few things that tend to detract from replay value, too:

  • Annoying controls / user interface
  • Poor camera positioning, especially for 3rd person games where the player has to negotiate lots of enclosed spaces
  • Long, unskippable cutscenes or unavoidable stretches of highly monotonous gameplay
  • Lack of ways to increase the difficulty of the game on subsequent runs
  • Lack of a sensible scoring/stats system
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The two first point don't affect replayability any more than they affect the playability of the game in general, so I wouldn't include them here. –  hammar Mar 23 '13 at 13:49
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If you don't like a game enough to play it, your chances of replaying it are also pretty low, I'd say. –  user3490 Mar 24 '13 at 19:08

What makes a game replayable, is going deeper into the world, I'll use Portal 2 as an example, you can wander around, and find hidden areas, and uncover more of the story if you play it again. I don't really know how to elaborate on this to be honest, but if you're trying to build in replayability, you need to add funny little hints

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