All Games Should Unlock Every Level Right Away

All Games Should Unlock Every Level Right Away

Super Mario 4D Universe — or whatever the next one will be called — should come with every single level in the Mushroom Constitutional Monarchy unlocked. The next Grand Theft Auto should make all of its missions immediately playable in the very first minute. Uncharted 4 should let me jump into the middle of Nathan Drake’s adventures as soon as I slip the disc into my PlayStation.

I don’t want this because I am bad at video games or intend to skip to the end so I can post the video on YouTube. I’m a diligent, obedient player, one who patiently and thoroughly explores the games that I play. But the Call of Duty people were right this week. Locking up video game levels is archaic.

Does your Kindle force you to read every word before you can turn to see the next page of Moby Dick? Does your Blu Ray player insist that you watch every frame of The Fellowship of the Ring before it deigns to permit you to see the bonus material on the disc? Does it wall off the scene selection menu until you’ve “conquered” an initial viewing? Does iTunes require you to hear each track of Exile on Main Street in order on first listen, or can you skip ahead?

The Irish comedian Dara O’Briain has a bit on this:

Literature, music, television, and movies do not impose content restrictions on their readers, listeners, and viewers because they are not worried about the consequences. A novelist or filmmaker assumes that most people will engage with the text or the movie in order, as the creator intended. And if they don’t? Well, who cares? It’s their loss.

Many players — including some of my Kotaku colleagues — bristle at this logic. Let me try putting it this way: Walling off parts of a game until a player has completed other portions of it is a form of digital rights management. And you hate DRM, don’t you?

You should be able to play a game however you like. If the only way for a game to persuade you to go through it the way it was meant to be played is a combination of psychological trickery and force feeding, I would suggest that this is a failing of the game.

Besides, a little skimming never hurt anybody. Michael Kinsley, one of the great magazine editors of this and any other age (and a former boss of mine), all but admitted to skipping parts of Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate when he defended “turning every page” as equivalent to reading while serving as a National Book Awards judge. Readers leaf through books. TV viewers get up to grab a drink out of the fridge without pausing the DVR. Others fast-forward.

Sometimes people do these things for boorish reasons. Other times, they do them because they’re rightly bored, or they’re re-reading or re-appraising something. Maybe they’re — gasp! — doing research or writing criticism. I began Grand Theft Auto III, more than a decade ago, on an Xbox whose optical drive died midway through my playthrough. I never finished. Had I begun again on a new machine — or were I to begin the PC edition on Steam right now — I would have to repeat tens of hours of play. No medium that is respectful of its audience, or confident in its craft, would impose such a constraint.

If, in 1985, I had received a Nintendo Entertainment System that included an unlocked copy of Super Mario Bros. for Christmas, would I have immediately begun the game in World 8-4? Of course not. And if I had, I’m not sure that it would have mattered, other than to teach me that I wasn’t ready to go there.

Some of the surprise and delight of exploring a game would be lost, I concede, if you knew you could see the same thing by opening a menu in the title screen. Still, games that are spatial and skill-based — meaning, nearly all of them — will always be able to wall off certain areas or regions by making them especially challenging or remote. More important, in the age of YouTube, that stuff is always a thumbprint or a mouse-click away. You don’t even have to get up from your couch to see it. People who want to ruin games for themselves without earning it already can.

Games have been moving this way for a long time, because the benefits are clear and the consequences are close to nonexistent. Rock Band 4 comes with all of the songs on the disc unlocked. Fighting games, which used to require you to play through a game in order to unlock specific characters, now tend to give them to you at the start. In Grand Theft Auto V, you can replay all of the missions you’ve completed by opening a menu, instead of having to replay scores of hours of the game, in order, to get to the moment you want to see again. It would be trivial to make that possible at the start of the game in Grand Theft Auto VI.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, or perfect. Developers should just put reasonable methods in their games to let players, whether new or old, move through a game easily. Books use pages and chapters, but no reader expects to be able to instantly find the paragraph they’re looking for. Books also expect you to, you know, be able to read the language in order to finish them. There’s a skill involved! Albums are segmented by tracks, not by notes. So don’t over think it. Let players move from level to level, or mission to mission, or checkpoint to checkpoint. Whatever. Just go with something that works.

Yes, climbing Mount Everest is less satisfying when everyone can teleport straight to the top. But a good video game is one in which the ascent itself is a pleasure, and not just the final view.


  • This doesn’t have to be complicated, or perfect. Developers should just put reasonable methods in their games to let players, whether new or old, move through a game easily.

    Save points, saved games, difficulty levels, difficulty levels that can be changed mid game, cheat codes and dynamic difficulty reduction. They do. Plenty of them. Infact, some games even let you skip past a level if you fail too many times!

    I really, *really* can’t begin to say on how many levels I despise this article as an English teacher with the comment about the book… that’s grated me a bit for a while but each to their own. While I do understand what he’s saying I immensely disagree, opening up everything from the getgo removes a lot of challenge. Stuck on a level? Hard bit in the game? Why bother when you’ve already got the next level handed to you on a platter…

    • Let’s not forget about story. How exactly do you suppose a game like Uncharted could tell a story if you could play the last mission straight away? It’s common sense why games progress the way they do.

      If someone handed you a novel, would you instantly skip half way through and ignore every ounce of character introduction and story progression?

      For a racing game, yes, please have the option to unlock all cars and tracks (although I enjoy having something to work towards) For story driven games, give us options to change the story, but not skip it all together. What an odd idea.

      • If it is a story driven game, it doesn’t make sense to unlock every section straight away. If the level and variables are different depending on your choices in the game prior to the mission, this will make it even harder. Even worse it could destroy your reality of choice because you can see all the variables there from the get go.

        Begin mission 14. Did XXX die? YES/NO Did you choose to save the dog? YES/NO Did you pick up the red fez back in mission 2. YES/NO. START MISSION. From the settings alone you would be able to tell all the variables involved. The whole aspect of conversations of games in general is what the other person did. But what is the point when everyone can see the choices available right there and then.

        The only thing i think that should be done for every game is that Cutscenes and Tutorials can be skipped.

        Maybe the story thing could work once you pass the game, and it opens up all the variables then. That would work too. Because most people once finishing a story with multiple choices will very rarely go back to replay it a second or third time. They have done it once, so reward them with all the variables straight off the bat after.

      • I think it’s about why you’re playing the game. An example he mentioned was that a critic could skip through parts of the game to get an understanding of the thing as a whole rather than playing the first half or having to go through the whole game to know what happens at the end. I also think it’s clear that people like you and I, regular people who enjoy the process of playing video games, wouldn’t use this feature during the first playthrough of the game. But for example if I played The Witcher 3 and then lost my save file or wanted to replay it I could just pick the bit I was up to and go from there. You’re not losing anything by getting the option to jump around the levels/missions/story of a game, you’re just allowing people to experience it how they want to experience it.

        • At that point, designing games around functionality for a critic becomes a dangerous slope. Do you make it too easy to appease the critic? Do you make it a quicker experience so the critic can enjoy the whole game (2 – 3 hour game ala Homefront instead of a 12 hour game ala Wolfenstein) or do you reduce the difficulty on VERY HARD to Normal and VERY EASY to a cakewalk where nothing shoots at you etc. Total Biscuit ran a whole thing on this with his MAD MAX rant, that critics and gamers buy games for very, very different reasons. If a critic cannot ascertain if a game is good or bad within a few hours of playtime regardless of actual progression, they’re not a very good critic…

          • Yeah that’s a very good point, but I think there might be reasons that non-critics would want to play games with a “skip to x content” feature. I’ve always assumed people play games the same way I play games but that might be wrong – when I’m at a difficult point in a game I never skip it.

            When I first started playing the witcher 3 one of the first non-story things I did was find a wyvern that was 20 levels above me and spend an hour and a half fighting it. I think there are some people who’d like to skip the metaphorical wyvern, if you know what I mean. In New Super Mario Bros there were some levels that I stopped deriving enjoyment from – I was just grinding against them because they were hard but I did it because that’s the way I play games. I think others would come up against that and go “okay I would be having a better time if I could skip this” and I think that’s a totally legitimate concern for developers.

      • Honestly I don’t care if you can unlock every level in a story-based game right from the start… but for pete’s sake don’t make it the default behaviour. There’s a reason novels that use chapter names don’t have a table of contents at the front – I don’t want a mission select screen covered in spoilery mission names and summaries; anything beyond a rough percentage of how much of the game I’ve “completed” allows me to guess if a plot point should be taken seriously, and any plot twists are potentially ruined because “there’s no way a central character with that extremely famous voice actor would be killed off in level two.” Hell, the only reason a percentage works is because it’s usually artificially inflated with collectibles anyway, and is thus inherently misleading as any indication of story progress.

        Put the unlock mechanism at the bottom of the options menu, with a confirmation dialog with a big spoiler warning and an accept button that reads “I know what I’m doing – I don’t care, just unlock everything.”

    • I completely agree with you. Getting to the next level/area/section has always been used as a carrot-on-a-stick to keep people motivated to play. Where is the sense of exploration when you know exactly where and what is available? If you take all of that away, there isn’t much holding everything together.

      Imagine trying to tell your friends about your progress in a game in this challenge-less limbo the author wistfully dreams of…

      PS The comparison to DRM is quite a poor attempt at trying to scrounge for a very weak point, if there was ever a point there at all.

    • I feel like Mr. Chris may be in dire need of a basic education in the way many games present and facilitate narrative, also, narrative in general.

    • There are games where the “open everything up” idea really just doesn’t work, particularly those with levelling/RPG-style mechanics.

      Where would you be at the level 10 checkpoint in Skyrim? Or what would your character look like if you could jump straight to the final set of story missions?

      On the other hand, I do get where he’s coming from. A couple of months ago I finished off Omega Quintet, a JRPG on PS4. However, the end of the game wasn’t all that satisfactory; it turns out that to unlock the “true ending” you need to do certain things just right – including completing certain missions in chapter four, perhaps a quarter of the way through the game. You also need to build the “affection” of the idols tha you’re managing so that certain of them are affectionate at a certain level. (None of this is explained. You need to dig up FAQs.)

      Now, I could load up a chapter four save and re-play the last three quarters of the game, but frankly Omega Quintet is not that remarkable a game. Some way of exploring the extra bits that have been effectively locked off would be very handy. However, it’s not going to happen…

      And then there are the occasional games with a difficulty spike, a single mission buried in the middle of much easier missions, which effectively blocks you off from the rest of the game.

      When I played the original Darksiders, there was a point where the game taught how to do a particular action using a combination of button presses and joystick movements. I couldn’t get it right no matter how I tried. Furthermore, the game checkpointing stopped me from even being able to review the tutorial, and the action taught wasn’t described anywhere that I could find.

      So in that case, again I was blocked off from most of the game because I couldn’t repeat a particular action, and had no way of reviewing how to do it.

      It was tremendously frustrating, and it’s a singular weakness of checkpoint save systems that only allow you to jump back to the most recent checkpoint.

      In general, I like to play games linearly; following the story is fun. But there really are times when it’s horribly frustrating and limiting, and you feel like the developers are showing you a huge middle finger.

  • Oh this nails it. It is especially important for future replaying. There may be one mission etc that was stand out and may be the reason to reinstall later – but to get there you have to play all inc tutorials means some don’t bother.

    Also – seventh circle of hell for all producers who disallow cutscene skipping.

  • Yeah I strongly disagree. If you make levels etc.. playable in any order then it makes development a lot harder for storylines and character development.

    MGSV did a decent job where you can play the side ops whenever you like but as a result the game felt disjointed. It worked in peace walker but that was for a handheld platform where your gaming time may have been broken up but has no place on a console/PC.

  • I think that it would be fine to have the option of playing any part you want, just so long as there’s also the option to do things the old-school way. It all reminds me of a guy who was telling me about a Final Fantasy game, saying “It gets good 20 hours in”. I’m definitely not gonna trudge through 20 hours of crap just to get to the good stuff, and if someone gets stuck on a level they hate, why force them to play it? I couldn’t be bothered finishing Brütal Legend because of the tower defence sections (which felt like an absolute chore to me), and if I’d been able to skip them, I probably would have enjoyed the game a lot more.

    • Yeah but that’s the problem. If a game ‘gets good’ 20 hours in, that’s shit game design and indicative of a bad game. Should you play a game at all that only ‘gets good 20 hours in’? I mean obviously that’s ff13, and it’s true, even then it didn’t get overly good, just better than continually running forward…

      • Hmm I don’t know about this.

        I hated Master of Orion 2 the first time I played it – it was insanely complicated and I got crushed pretty quickly. But I am not one to back down from a challenge, so I sat down with the intensely detailed user guide (it was a different time… a better time) and got to work figuring out how to play the game. It took many hours of playtime and study until I had a good grasp of it, well over 20 hours…

        Fast forward 20ish years and MoO2 is still one of my favourite game of all time. Alot of games with lasting appeal will take you some time to master, and will be brutally unforgiving until you do.

        I think my closest analogy would be the TV series The Wire. I know plenty of people that stopped watching in the first season because ‘they didn’t get it’. I also know plenty of people that watched all 5 seasons and (like me) think it’s the greatest TV show ever made. However, I don’t know anyone that has stopped watching in season 2, 3 or 4. It’s a show that gets better the longer you watch, and once it has the claws in you’re hooked. Imagine skipping straight to season 2, because you heard that’s when it ‘got good’… it wouldn’t work.

        • That’s vastly different though to being difficult to play for the first 20 hours and immensely rubbish for the first 20 hours. The game was always ‘good’ as it inspired you to come back for more. Something like ff13 is a slog, a boring, boring slog for that time period that makes you regret going through it. What you went through, we all have in games that have those learning curves, DayZ, Arc, Master of Orion, Civilisation etc. Not exactly learning curves but more like learning cliffs, it makes them more rewarding. But when you have to go through 20 hours of shit game to get to the good game… that ain’t on.

          • Ah, yeah I see your point. I guess you being terrible at the game is alot different than the game itself being terrible.

            It’s like the opposite of Spore. The first few hours were a treat, and then the game got boring and awful.

  • Nah, having stuff locked is the only way I won’t binge and get bored.
    I do like the old system of cheats becoming available to unlock things one at a time, I am more time poor now, and if I buy a car racing game for example. I want to be able to race with the car of my choice as I don’t have 100+ hours to put into earning those cars. But make it a cheat I have to go find, so I can go down that rabbit-hole if I wish, but have incentive to enjoy the unlock and discovery, which is a major part of the joy and sense of achievement that gaming brings me.

  • On one hand, I feel like progressing through a game at the pace/path intended is part of playing a game. Because a good game will generally introduce new mechanics (or in RPG examples, require you to level up) as you progress, you need to go from A to B to C and so on. I guess you could jump straight to E or F but you wouldn’t have any idea what you’re doing, you might not have the required gear or levels, etc. Sure, the game could give you those things, but it might leave you confused, just like if you flipped straight to the end of a book or last scene of a movie.

    Then again, I do sometimes feel bothered by the fact there are parts of games I never get to see because I don’t have the time or skill to progress. I think there have been a few games that let you skip – the “recent” Alone in the Dark for instance allowed you to skip to any point you liked (IIRC), though there was an achievement for not doing so – but even this might be tedious. I do think all games should have a casual difficulty that allow you to effectively stroll through the story with only a modicum of skill, but then there’s little incentive to play on harder difficulties. I imagine only a fraction of people truly relish playing difficult games for the challenge alone, meaning you’d have to give them bonuses in game – which is just another means of gating content.

    Yes, it bothers me that games I don’t finish contain content I will never see despite paying for it. In most games that’s on me for being lazy. In other games, it’s on me for being shit. But I also appreciate that games are a challenge to overcome and need to be enjoyed in a particular way that is different from most forms of entertainment. Games have challenges and puzzles and secrets, and the content unlocks progressively. There are certainly games that can enable access to all aspects from the outset, but not all games are suitable for this. Understanding this just goes with the hobby, I guess.

  • I fail to see how the Mountain Climbing genre, represented by the Everest game the author mentioned would be helped by having all the levels unlocked at the beginning. If he just teleported to the top, who would be there with him? Would everyone that was at base camp at the start of the game still be there? How would the game know who was lost along the way, or if your left foot should have frostbite or not?

    To be fair, the author of the article may have explained some of these problems in the body of the article, but I just read the headline then skimmed to the end, so that I could comment quickly. I’m too busy to read entire articles.

  • Sounds like the author is one of those sick people who skip ahead in books because the current chapter is boring. Disgusting!

    Having a games levels unlocked and skippable is ridiculous if it takes you out of the narrative of the game, I play games for the enjoyment and challenge, not just to complete them so I can discuss the ending with people on forums.

    Imagine if Bioshock gave you the option to just skip everything and walk into Andrew Ryans office and end the game.

    • They could be one of those people that skip to the end of a book, don’t understand what’s going on and then asks the internet to explain what happened in the rest of the book for them.

      • This sounds more plausible.

        “Can’t get through this chapter. Will skip to ending.”
        “That’s how it ended? That book was stupid.”

      • They could be one of those people that skip to the end of a book, don’t understand what’s going on and then asks the internet to explain what happened in the rest of the book for them

        I remember reading a piece by… I think it was Stephen King… where he mentioned his dream of thwarting people who turned to the back of a book to see how it ends by releasing a book with the last chapter missing, and people would have to write in to the publisher with a detailed synopsis of events up to that point, after which the publisher would send them the final chapter. It was tongue in cheek, but it does stress the fact that the ability to skim forward through a book is more a limitation of the medium rather than a design choice.

        King did manage to get his way in the end, anyway – he did The Green Mile as a serialized novel, one part every 1-2 months. So those of us who read it as it went along weren’t able to skip forward even if we wanted to.

        • Not to mention the wait for the final ‘chapter’ of THE DARK TOWER… by the time you got to book 7 you really didn’t want to skip a page at all.

          • I suspect that was more because King himself didn’t know how it was going to end, though, rather than some desire to keep the ending hidden away from the reader 😛

          • To paraphrase King “I can write a great story, but I’m terrible at writing endings” lol. But, in my honest opinion, Dark Tower ended beautifully, the way it should 🙂

          • Yeah. Although if you’d told me at the very start how it ended, I would have said “that ending sucks” 😛 But after actually reading it, yeah, it was a perfect way to end.

          • Reading out of context:

            “I just skipped to the last chapter of seven books….


            Reading in context:

            “I just read the entire seven books in a row… now Roland has the horn, the gun, everything. He can possibly save Jake, Oy, Eddie and Susannah this time around… he might find redemption and save himself too. He can stop Eddie dying at the hands of the Wolves of the Calla, he can stop Mordred being born, kill Flagg when he needs to rather than hesitating… he can even stop Jake from dying a second time! He might finally be happy and live a long life with his long lost love somehow… he’s got a chance to kill the Crimson King permanently and finally destroy the Dark Tower permanently…. how utterly beautiful.”

            Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig difference eh? Context. Without it, what’s the point?

          • @weresmurf

            Actually, I reckon it’s probably too late for him to save Susan Delgado. The way I understand it is that the branching point there is where he lost the Horn of Eld, which was at Jericho Hill, which was AFTER the events of Wizard and Glass. So, while he may be able to save the lost members of his ka-tet the next time around, I think Susan, his long lost love, would remain forever lost to him? After all, he restarts where he started the first book i.e. crossing the Mohaine desert, which is long after Susan’s death?

            And he didn’t want to destroy the Dark Tower, did he? I thought he was trying to save it from destruction at the hands of the Crimson King etc who wanted to plunge all of existence into chaos? So he might be able to save it by preventing the destruction of the beams, but he wouldn’t want to destroy it would he?

            I was always kind of intrigued by the question of how much of it happens the same way each time he goes through it. Do Susannah, Eddie, Oy, Jake etc crop up each time? Seems a bit harsh making all of them them suffer through this over and over again while they wait for Roland to finally get it all right 😛

            That said, it’s been years since I read it so my memories may be a bit hazy 😛

          • @braaains Yep you’re right my bad no destroying the tower just the Crimson king as thats where the beams all ran to! lol. But the point still stands (that we both agree on lol). The whole thing with his lost love was odd in a way, Flagg can transcend time to some degree, so I always wondered if the Flagg in the past, was the same Flagg in the future etc. It opened itself to many interpretations. That’s just one of the things about how beautiful the ending was, the open interpretation endings King does usually waver between poor to good (a wide spectrum indeed) but he nailed it I felt there.

  • I agree with the author of the article. Play the game whichever way you want. That’s why decades ago, games had cheat codes that let you access levels, gain invincibility and all manor of game breaking options. It meant that most people enjoyed games like a sane human being and the few people who desperately wanted to skip ahead at all costs just had to look up a code.

    My beef isn’t with the idea of unlocking the entire game, its with the idea that these guys thought they had revolutionised the game industry with a decade old solution…

  • Halo MCC has every level open to you from the 4 base games as soon as you open the game, it even has mix and match playlists that give you similar themed levels and the ability to create your own playlists.

    Didn’t hurt it one bit. You can still play each game as it was released. You can also play it in any order you want.

    I guess because it’s a collection/rerelease, it may not count in this discussion but I think it’s kind of relevant.

  • Games are not books. They are games. I hate how people keep comparing the two.

    Anyway, to destroy your argument, unlocking levels in games is all about the sense of achievement. It’s not “hey, this level is walled off to me what the hell?” but “oh hey! I did well and beat this level, so now i’ve unlocked an additional level!”

    It’s the very same reason why achievements and achievement hunting has become a thing. People LIKE unlocking stuff. Having a clear sense of progression in a game is a very, very good thing.

  • How about a compromise – keep all the levels locked off at the start, so that any potential spoilers can be avoided by players that don’t want to see them, but have a cheat code to unlock them all should the player want them.

  • I’am happy to see most of you disagree with the article because it doesn’t make any sense to me.

    It’s poorly written with bad exemple especialy the Uncharted one, why would anybody want to start a super story/character driven game in the middle of the plot. I won’t even start on RPG and choices/consequences game where you have to do tough decision, this make even less sense.

    The whole point of playing videos games for gamer ( not Game tester/critic) is the sentiment of achievement, unlocking, working toward something and when you get it you’re happy then you move on. I would have absolutly NO INTEREST in playing a game where everything is available from the beginning. Like what do I do know ? Whats the point of playing ? Racing and fighting games are maybe fine with something like this and even then, you’re playing but you won’t get any reward for doing so.

    Sure like you said it doesn’t hurt to have the options do to this, and I’am sure also like you said most people won’t do it but it really doesn’t make any sense in a heavy story game, character development. Let me skip those cutscene and tutorial and we’re good.

  • It would make it a lot easier for Kotaku to review games if they didn’t have to play them, right?

    Nevermind the fact that Metacritic is already making it extremely hard for developers to design the games they want, now they don’t even get them reviewed in the manner they designed them!

  • Let me try putting it this way: Walling off parts of a game until a player has completed other portions of it is a form of digital rights management. And you hate DRM, don’t you? This is a ridiculous statement akin to saying “You wouldn’t steal a car.” when talking about piracy. Why not go further? You put your private files and information behind a password or on a computer inaccessible to the internet. That’s DRM and we hate DRM.

    I think skipping would work for some games, and for others it would destroy the balance/fun/progression of the game. There’s also the question of “If a game allows you to skip to the end of the game only to find that you aren’t prepared for it, what’s the point in letting the player skip chapters?” I guess my opinion is that it’s a case by case argument that I agree with for some games, and others it raises my hackles.

  • What a rubbish idea. Sure after you finish the game it should let you go back in to play any mission in any order that you see fit but the first round should be playing it through as the developer intended, like a book or a movie or an opera.

    You used books and dvds as your excuse because they work for your argument. But if you go to the movies unless you walk in halfway through you would watch it from beginning to end as intended. If you watched a live show everybody in the crowd would think you were a jerk if you walked in halfway through. A live book reading would start from the start to the end. During the second time or third time people will want to play or read or see their favourite parts and that is fine but the first time should be how it was meant to play out.

  • It’s this sort of attitude that’s allowed “Let’s Play” Videos to thrive.

    I categorically disagree with the idea that we “SHOULD” be able to skip to all the good bits. You can’t skip a film at the cinema, you can’t skip a live gig to your favourite song, you can’t skip to dessert because Mum says you have to eat all your greens first.

    Sometimes life has boring bits. embrace them.

  • I agree: I wish Lego Batman3 allowed my young daughter and I to just “freeplay” from where-ever to when-ever so she can use any of the extra DLC characters she wants (some that I was made to pay for). Instead each stage must be first completed using the set characters in campaign mode up to locked in save points, and switching from campaign mode to “freeplay” mode is a pain as the campaign will lose all progress since that last save point. So I guess my only option is to try to complete the campaign on my own after she has gone to bed. But that’s not how I wanna spend my own limited “me” time…

  • Lots of comments are focusing on the idea that by unlock all levels at the beginning, the story/progression (if the game has one) could be ruined. I absolute agree. HOWEVER, I think the idea of the original article is about CHOICE.

    Yes, by jumping ahead the story won’t make sense, but it is the gamer’s choice to do so. Video games should at least allow gamers to jump ahead or play it in any order they like IF THEY CHOOSE TO.

    When I read a book, I can start by reading chapter 3, back to chapter one, then jump ahead to the final chapter. The story won’t make any sense and any enjoyment I get is out of context, but again, it is my choice to do so.

    I don’t think Chris is saying that gamers should play games out of sequence but simply we should have the choice to do so. The option to play games in any order should be there. Gamers are intelligent enough to make their own choice whether or not they use it.

  • This article, as well as TotalBiscuit’s video on the same topic, completely miss the fact that unlike movies and books, video games are an interactive experience. In many games, what you do in earlier levels affects future ones, whether it be story choices, gear or level upgrades or anything else that has effects that last beyond the current level. You can’t just skip forward in those types of games, it would destroy an important part of the way they function.

    There are select types of games where this kind of thing might make sense. Call of Duty, an otherwise hollow set of vaguely connected missions with a thin veneer of story, is an example. But they’re in no way the majority. For the majority of games this is a terrible idea, and the argument this article presents, that it should be in all games, is just incredibly poorly considered.

  • Referencing Uncharted 4 bothers me the most as it is, if previous titles are anything to go by, the most likely game to allow you to play how you want when you want, providing you have finished the game at least once and you are buying it for the story told anyway. Once complete you have weapon cheats, skins and the ability to jump into each chapter with what weapons you please. That’s pretty accessible as far as I am concerned.

    Overall I disagree with the article. Part of what makes games fun is the effort reward cycle of shiny new toys or remembering a gated area that you can go back to explore when you get the appropriate upgrade and so on. Wanting to jump in wherever is also doing a disservice to the developers who have crafted their levels with a learning curve that you approach in the order the levels are designed to be played in. Jumping around would a) make the stages feel disjointed and b) perhaps worst of all, turn you off the game entirely because you haven’t developed the expected skills required to pass a stage later in the game.

  • I agree 100% on this with any multiplayer content. Whether you can equip a scope or different weapon/loadout shouldn’t be behind a massive XP wall, bring back the glorious days of quake imo!

    Story driven content on the other hand it makes absolutely no sense to do so. If you have issues with it lower the difficulty (most games offer dynamic difficulty selection).

    • And that’s where I 100% agree. I don’t like artificial XP walls in a multiplayer game, that’s ridiculous. When everything is unlocked, it’s a better experience all around.

  • *Sigh* I am late on commenting on this =[ but I digress…

    If the game is designed to be all unlocked from the start, then I agree that it would be a welcoming addition. But, while every level should be accessible from the start, I don’t think the story scenes should be.

    The important in between bits that give a video game it’s story should only be accessible by playing the missions linearly. Maybe give a the first 1 or 2 lines of dialogue, but then fade to black and back to the mission select menu.

    You want to access to all the gameplay from the start? Go for it.
    You want to experience the story of the game as the creators intended you to? Harden up and play it the way it was meant to be played.

    • That, is actually not a bad compromise. The only way to see the story is to play that way. Indeed.

    • Problem being that if you’re doing GOOD story telling in a game – as opposed to the shitty exposition dump at the start of the level (maybe in the occasional cutscene in the middle of a level), you cannot remove the narrative from the gameplay.

      With good story telling in games, the narrative happens during the gameplay. So if you’re jumping around you’re still going to be getting a piecemeal story in a completely illogical order.

      Or hell, screw it. Let’s just make Memento: The Video Game and watch people bitch about it.

      • If it’s mid-game exposition, just mute the audio dialogue that pertains to story; simples.

  • I’m a little surprised as to how many people are against this idea; against the possibility of more choice in gaming. No-one would be forcing you to level-skip, just give you the option if you so wish. I’m sure we’ve all come across parts of a game we’d rather skip; for me, it’d be that notoriously ridiculous mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 that saw you run through a forest, to a chopper, with dudes hiding behind trees, shooting you from a mile away, dying a stupid amount of times, finally making to the chopper and then Getting shot in the face in a fucking cutscene
    Also, the comedian in the video makes a great point; games are the only entertainment medium that actually punishes you if you’re not good enough. But they’re also the most interactive medium, and gaming, in my opinion, is one of the greatest ways to tell a story; by directly involving the viewer. However, it’s hard to recommend some of the best stories in gaming to people who don’t have the same skills as some of us, when you know they’re going to struggle with it, get frustrated and give up, giving them no chance to actually enjoy it.

    • I agree and disagree. Choice is always good – no doubt – but skill walls exist in all media, not just gaming. Sure, the punishment is more direct but I can’t exactly lend “War and Peace” to people who aren’t into books, nor could I sit down and enjoy a movie such as “Primer” or “Cloud Atlas”, nor could I enjoy a contemporary art music concert. They all require a certain level of prior knowledge or understanding.

      That said: if they aren’t big readers there are books that are more accessible with great stories, if they don’t watch many art-house/indie/experimental films there are wide appeal blockbusters and if they enjoy music but can’t get their head around modern art there is tons of easy to source popular music.

      Art often strives to be challenging, and sometimes that means it won’t be completely accessible to all.

      Completely agree about stupid levels such as the one you mentioned; way to use gameplay to support the narrative!

      • You say you may not be able to enjoy a contemporary art music concert without a certain level of prior knowledge or understanding, but they’ll still play for you (you can even walk in halfway through a concert) and you can hear what they have to offer. It would be more like a game if everytime a straggler walked in, they stopped playing and started from the beginning again, or forced you to repeatedly listen to a section of music until you “got” it. Books such as War and Peace, or films such as Primer may be tricky to get into, but none of their content is actually “locked out”, as levels are in first person shooters, or cars are in racing games.

        • I agree, the brutal linearity can be a killer. The first time I played Fallout 3 the game crashed and deleted my 50 hour save file. I didn’t pick that game up for years because I didn’t want to sit through all of that again. Same thing happened in Red Dead Redemption. I also find that some of my favourite parts of longer games are the later sections, such as in The Witcher 2, but it takes so long to get to them I will often tap out before I get there.

          You are right in saying that no content is locked out in other forms of media; I was coming more from the angle of games punishing lack of skill over things like levels, weapons, cars etc. I would love to play through the Borderlands games with my partner because they are exactly her sense of humour, however she gets frustrated with FPS on consoles. It would be great to skip forward to all the sections I thought she would like but it wouldn’t be the same experience.

          I think CD Projekt Red have showed off again how to do this well. Their most recent expansion is end game content, which is awesome but requires a high-level character. I am replaying the game right now, but I am much too underleveled to play the content, so instead of being locked out of that content I can simply make a generic level 32 character and play the expansion as a standalone campaign. TW3 would have been terrible if there was a chapter select or replay mission option (removes all consequence of choices) but I think they did the smart thing in this case.


          Honestly I think there are some games open content would work for, other games it wouldn’t. My main concern is if too many people ask for this kind of availability we will start seeing freemium style content on games such as Guitar Hero and CoD.

  • I can’t believe this is actually an argument FOR the blops3 campaign system – the whole idea of playing the game is going from start to finish, the motivation to play games is the challenge of unlocking things. I don’t feel satisfied with a game unless it makes me work for my unlocks. It’s like guitar hero, up until one of the more recent editions (I think 5) they just give you the whole song list, and you know what? I never played the story.

  • I am definitely of two minds on this. A book or movie gives you the freedom to skip ahead if you want to (and I can understand why people want this kind of freedom in games), but thats because they offer no freedom within themselves. As @rakunado said above, when you skip ahead halfway through the game, are you going to be presented with choices that you should have made earlier on? Or will games just become more linear so there are no choices to be made to cater for those that want to start halfway through.

    I prefer games be seen through from start to finish when theres a story component. Like GTAV, the ability to replay any mission at any time is ideal and in a world where cloud saves are almost everywhere, coming back to it after a console has died doesnt seem to be much of an issue anymore.

    What really gets me is when a game hides harder difficulties behind a full game completion. Why shouldn’t I be able to nail the hardest difficulty from the get-go? Also someone said something about cutscene skipping – agree here, but also want the ability to pause cutscenes. I’m too paranoid that if I hit the 3 crack lines it’ll skip the cutscene when I have to quickly pause.

  • Is this a troll article? This is legitimately one of the worst ideas I’ve ever read.

    Let’s start The Last Of Us from the last mission and then work backwards. Yes, that will be the emotional journey it was meant to be.

  • This kind of content on demand approach to game design needs to be looked at in context. A game such as a Mario platformer or Call of Duty lends itself to the feasibility of this model. There are (relatvely) insular levels which do not necessarily require that one complete them in sequence. I personally prefer to but if it is a choice of skipping ahead, it is not actually game-breaking nor does it spoil my experience. Where this model is not suitable is in games such as the Elder Scrolls series which would require a system which allowef players to not only access different quests but perhaps phases of quests (perhaps lengthy chains). The issue I see is the multitude of reasons players might skip ahead, whether through impatience/boredom, stuggles with difficulty or simply being time-poor, there would be issues of how far do we take content skipping? This would lead to convoluted systems being required which could detract from development time. But this post is getting a little long and probably won’t be read, that’s my two cents.

  • Netflix allows you to skip straight to season 3 of House of Cards but there isn’t much point of doing that. Suppose it should be the same for games. No harm done.

    My biggest gripe is car games locking cars behind artificial leveling up. That is stupid as I never end up playing them long enough to get the supercars. I’m looking at you GT.

  • Netflix allows you to skip straight to season 3 of House of Cards but there isn’t much point of doing that. Suppose it should be the same for games. No harm done.

    Yer but that could be a convenience thing – they don’t know (yet) if you’ve watched it on an other medium eg foxtel or dvd.

    You might argue the same for games but largely game saves are in the cloud now so it’s kinda moot point. Once you have completed a game lots of them let u revisit area’s or story missions in any order (starcraft II for eg).

    @hondo_bogart – tagged as i fail at reply

  • I read the first paragraph of the article and then skipped to the ending.
    Did i miss anything important?

  • The most valid portion here is for games that you have started, put aside for whatever reason and want to go back to. If you have lost your save or something similar then you need to do the full game just to get back to where you were.
    For some games that might be ok but if it is a story based game or simple mindless tutorial chapters that you have already done it can just be a core. Knowing that you were up to a specific level and being able to start there would be great. I know I have missed seeing the ending of a number of games when I have done a system change mid play through and couldn’t be bothered redoing so much of the game.
    Also with minimal gaming time now I don’t want to spend 10 hours of play time just to get back to where I was.

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