I rolled the credits on Ghost of Tsushima at 3am on Tuesday morning. I’m not going to talk about that experience here in this article, I’ll save it for a later one, all I’ll say is that it was brilliant and I loved playing it. In fact, I want to play it again. So, imagine my disappointment when I realised that there’s no New Game Plus (NG+) option. Sure, I could start over on a fresh save. I might do so, I haven’t decided yet. I could play it on a harder difficulty this time around now that I know what I’m doing. What I’d like to do though, is play through the whole game with the entire repertoire of skills, weapons and abilities that I unlocked. If you are a developer reading this, especially if you are working on an RPG, I implore you to make sure NG+ is a feature in your game. Allow me to explain why I think it is so important.
It’s the single easiest way to add value to your game for the players who fall in love with it. It’s doubling the size of your game for the players interested in going through it again without impacting on those that will be done with it after a single playthrough. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, players who want to could just start again but it isn’t the same. There’s something to be said for feeling like you’re being thought of as a player by the developers. Like there’s support and recognition of your love for the game that means you want to play it through a second time; not only that but it is encouraged too.
By their design, RPGs often save their best abilities, weapons etc for near the end of the game. It makes sense, after all there isn’t much progression to be had if you give the player their best move right at the start. What makes NG+ modes so satisfying is how having all the cool stuff changes the dynamic of the game. Particularly in the first half or even two thirds, before the best stuff is unlocked. You’ve played it once, you’ve earned it and progressed as intended the first time. During the second run it’s nice to have that full toolkit to really enjoy the best moves. Now, depending on how it is balanced, or the difficulty chosen by the player, NG+ can either be an overpowered player just wrecking shop or be an immense challenge. There’s room for both and both are insanely enjoyable.
I understand that nothing in Game Development is free. There’s only so much time, money, people, resources etc to go around. It’s always easy from the outside looking in to say “why don’t you just do this?” or “just change this, it can’t be that hard” and so on. I’m occasionally guilty of that I’ll admit, though I do try to stop/correct myself. Game Development is hard work at the best of times. So, for all it seems like a fairly easy thing to include in a game, it could be insanely difficult to implement. I imagine that is especially true before the final picture of what the game will be like finally emerges in the latter stages of development when the cuts or changes have been made and the nitty gritty of getting it to work really starts.
Now we live in a world where updates can be released and additional content patched into games, it would make sense that NG+ might be a feature best kept until post-launch. I’m sure there is an argument to be made for that approach and I’m perfectly willing to get behind it. If that is indeed the plan then let the players know. For The Witcher 3, NG+ was the last piece of free DLC that launched as part of their original roadmap of content before the larger expansions came at a later date. For God of War on PS4 by Sony Santa Monica it was a full 4 months later that NG+ was added, which is perhaps a little too long out. I certainly hope that Ghost of Tsushima will get one much earlier than that.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to decide for myself if I want to start again or not.