The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Collectables

The Ten Commandments Of Video Game Collectables
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Even if you don’t love video game collectables, you’re probably going to collect them. They should at least be somewhat worthwhile, right?

Most modern video games sprinkle small, collectable items around their levels to encourage completionists to explore. Once you’ve cleared the level of bad guys or puzzles, you can backtrack and find all the gems, coins, action figures, CDs, VHS tapes, treasures, little woodland people or coffee thermoses the developers have hidden for you. Collectables can be hard to ignore, because they tickle the part of our lizard-brain that demands we get not just some of the things, but all of the things.

Some recent games have done a great job with optional collectables, but there are still plenty of sinners out there. As we did with PC gaming and video game menus, we have once more climbed Video Game Mountain and come down with a set of guidelines.

10. Thou shalt make collecting interesting.

For anyone can just go looketh behind that crate over there, and that crate over there. For it is not challenging or interesting to simply looketh behind all the crates, and in fact there may be a better place to put a collectable than behind such a crate. For we art here to play a video game, not to play a video game whilst intermittently pausing to go looketh behind all the crates.

9. Thou shalt make collectables emit some sort of sonic or visual clue.

As more and more games replaceth bad collectables with good ones, our habit of searching behind every crate might fade. Yet thou shalt not assume we hath unlearned our bad habits, and thus shalt not force us to search for collectables without some sort of assistance. Whether by subtle visual guide or audio cue, thou shalt indicate to us that a collectable is nearby.

8. Thou shalt make it clear if a collectable can’t be reached.

Looketh. We liketh Metroid Prime too, and appreciateth the way that game locked off collectables behind abilities the player would eventually unlock. If thou art planning to use that formula, thou shalt do it as well as that game did. Thou shalt make it clear if the player doth not have the proper upgrade to reach a collectable so that he or she doth not waste too much time attempting the impossible.

7. Thou shalt give some sort of reward for collecting things.

For while exploration is often its own reward, thou shalt not ignore those of us who would prefer something a little more tangible. We shalt accept an expansion of the backstory, for worthy Lore is treasure enough.

6. Thou shalt make audio logs play over gameplay.

For if we hath taken the time to dig up an audio log, we wouldst prefer to listen to it while continuing to explore. If thou art forcing players to remain in the menu screen to listen to audio logs, thou art doing it wrong. Furthermore, thou shalt provide a written transcript of audio logs for players who might prefer to read rather than listen.

5. Thou shalt be gentle with the fourth wall.

Yes, we art aware that this is a video game. We art furthermore aware that many video games feature collectables. Thou shalt not feel the need to remind us of this by making collectables self-aware meta jokes, nor by having our character remark on the tedious nature of hunting for collectables. Maketh the collectables fun and interesting. That shall suffice.

4. Thou shalt not require the player to slow down during story segments.

We hath still not forgotten the part in Alan Wake where a massive shadow tornado is destroying a bridge and yet Alan must momentarily stop his panicked flight to double back and grab a coffee thermos. We shalt never forget.

3. Thou shalt make it easy for players to track their progress.

For lo, it is true that we live in the age of subreddits and game wikis. And lo, we shalt acknowledge that more online research bandwidth has been dedicated to tracking video game collectables than the majority of infectious diseases. Yet thou shalt still clearly inform us how many collectables we hath collected, and how many remain. If thou art feeling generous, thou shalt even break down each region with its own sub-list. However, if thou art doing this, thou shalt reflect on the fact that perchance thine game contains a few too many collectables to begin with.

2. Thou shalt offer some sort of in-game explanation.

Hark! A collectable appears on the horizon! Is it a book, or a treasure? Or perhaps a small creature, or a coin? Whatever it is, may it somehow tie in with the overarching story and/or may it be something that the main character would actually take the time to collect.

1. Basically, thou shalt not simply throw a bunch of random shit into thine game to make it seem bigger.

For verily, most of us do not require video games to be larded up with empty extra content. If thou art adding optional collectables, thou shalt take the time to make them worth collecting. If thou findest that thou lacketh the resources or bandwidth to add interesting collectables to thine game, thou shalt not be shy about cutting them and moving on.

So it has been written, so it shall be. One day. Hopefully.


  • I generally don’t care about collectibles in games because they’re little more than an overglorified fetch quest. I’d add tying collectibles to endings and in game perks or progression to the list as well. Collectibles should be optional challenges and not force players to take an hour or so from saving the world just so they can collect ten MacGuffins Jim doesn’t need so he can open a door to the place they need to go next or give you a perk you need to get past an obstacle. Of course there are exceptions to that, like if you make it actually feel like you are contributing to the story, not just randomly going out and playing hunt the thimble.

    • This rings especially true for me with Batman: Arkham Knight. The 700 million Riddler rubbish things strewn around the world, required to get the “proper” ending was just rubbish.

      I arrested every crim, and beat all of Riddlers trials and when he retreated into his little hidey-hole, Catwoman couldn’t have said it better “let him stay in there and rot”, which is exactly what I did. Repeating the same “puzzles”, races, thug beatdowns or time trials just to get him to come out was absolutely ridiculous, and worse still that it was required to get the proper ending.

      I like it when collectibles aren’t just hidden in a secret corner, but more that they’re strategically placed to show you some of the fantastic world the developers created that might show areas or places you wouldn’t have normally seen through regular play. Bethesda games are particularly good in this regard.

      Also, one personal commandment of mine… if there is an ingame collectible map, purchasable or otherwise, I always take that option over having my laptop by my side when I play. Would much rather use tools provided by the game to nab those collectibles rather than constantly referring to a map or youtube walkthrough.

  • Was it Black Flag where you furnish your house and some collectibles there? That I like, having a place in which to display your stuff. Although everything else collectible in AC is bad.

    Also, audio logs should give you the space to listen to them. So many times in ME Andromeda Id pickup a log, wall five steps, have some other log or automatic dialogue interrupt that, then have that be interrupted again. Also screw collecting them all in Prey. There are just too many to track for a trophy.

    Dont make it a trophy unless they arent a complete chore to get. Dishonored did it well. Not many collectibles to get and you can replay missions. Bloodborne did it well, if not for the fact chalice dungeons can be tedious. Dark souls 3 new game plus 2 rings are borderline.

    • IIRC furnishing the home / base with collectables was something you did in pretty much all the AC games. I remember collecting works of art and stuff in AC2 and AC3. Not quite the same though because those games break the first commandment and have way too many different collectables, and none with any real useful purpose.

  • If thou art feeling generous, thou shalt even break down each region with its own sub-list. However, if thou art doing this, thou shalt reflect on the fact that perchance thine game contains a few too many collectables to begin with.
    I don’t care how few collectables you have you should always break it down in regions/chapters/locations/levels. Completing a games and have it say you have collected 9/10 of the super shiny and expecting you to play through the entire game again searching every nook and cranny for one shiny is stupid. If I have to turn the 5th level inside out to find the hidden shiny then I don’t mind. Making me to that for the first 4 chapters when there was nothing to find is pointless. And then doing the rest of the game only to find that I missed a destroyable wall of chapter 2

  • I liked most of horizon zero dawn for this trend. Give us some interesting(ish) collectibles that are clearly tracked and award us for collecting them and also have a second set of collectibles that aren’t tracked, but are also not tied to an achievement.
    But christ, if you are going to give us a reward, make it worth it, especially given that we can only receive it once in the game.

  • The best example collectable IMO are the chapters of the book you can collect in Trails in the Sky. Each one tells part of a story, collecting them all is optional and super obscure sometimes, but there’s only a few and if you have them all you unlock an otherwise obtainable top-end weapon for one of the characters right before the endgame.

    There is nothing worse than being given a reward for collecting stuff that is only useful before the game ends but you practically have to finish the game to collect everything. Or worse, a reward that’s worse than something you could get just playing the game normally.

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