From Pokémon to Red Dead Redemption, games love to give us things to collect. And as gamers, we love to collect them. But which games do it well? And which do it badly?
Over on the Press Pause To Reflect blog, Daniel Bullard Bates has put together a list of four ways in-game collectibles become "a valuable part of the game experience."
1. They should be relevant to the narrative
2. They should serve some purpose other than achievement points
3. They should be fun to collect
4. It should be something worth collecting
Bullard-Bates cites Alan Wake as possessing collectibles that are both good and bad. The manuscript pages you find, often in out of the way places, are directly linked to the story and flesh out the experience by describing events both in the past and those you've yet to encounter. Its coffee thermoses, however, add nothing to the experience.
Crackdown's agility orbs are enjoyable to chase down, ie. it's fun to leap around the world, and carry a purpose, ie. making it even more fun to leap around the world.
Assassin's Creed II's feathers and treasure chests are fun to find because the simple act of navigating the world is fun. But neither provide a substantial reward for doing so, thus trivialising the effort required to hunt them all down.
Far Cry 2 littered diamond cases across its sprawling maps. Some were easy to spot out in the open, while others were incredibly tricky to locate and often involved some quite risky manoeuvres involving cliffs and precarious tree branches. Each diamond discovery told its own story of a crashed plane, an ambush, a double-cross, or even just a simple accident, fleshing out the world and the game's themes in subtle fashion.
Rockstar has a history of placing collectibles in its Grand Theft Auto games. In GTA III, you could find hidden packages all over the city: for every ten you found, you'd be rewarding with a new weapon permanently spawned outside your safehouse. It wasn't necessarily fun finding all the packages, but the reward was cool enough to make it worthwhile.
In GTA IV, however, the packages were replaced with pigeons. Liberty City housed 200 of the vermin for you to track down and shoot. Trouble was, there wasn't a reward for doing so, outside of an achievement.
For me, one of the best recent examples of well-designed in-game collectibles was in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Riddler Challenges were exceptional, forcing you to pay attention to the environment if you were to successfully follow each clue.
Do you agree with the above list? What are some of your favourite in-game collectibles? Do you even enjoy collecting things in games?
Collect Everything [Press Pause To Reflect]