Open worlds are more interesting with things to find inside them. Where do new collectathons go right and where do they get lost?
In my post Collectathons I describe how N64 era Jump ‘n’ Run games reward us players for exploring their worlds. Today, open worlds are the norm for most 3D games and many developers fill them with collectibles.
The biggest offender is Ubisoft with their Assassin’s Creed games. The first title in the series was actually quite fun. The parcours running system made exploring the cities fast and exciting. However, the developers went overboard by the second game.
In Assassin’s Creed 2 there are “hidden” chests and several kinds of collectibles in every corner. Worst of all, if we uncover the map by climbing on a tower, the game marks down all the collectibles in the area on the map. This turns a treasure hunt into picking up groceries. There is no rush of excitement in finding something, that is not hidden.
In addition, the map reveals the overwhelming amount of trinkets that are not relevant to the game mechanics. They are merely trash littering the cities and we are the garbage disposal cleaning the streets and backyards. Even chests with money become meaningless, if we swim in endless amounts of coin.
Whereas Ubisoft does this mistake in basically all their open world games, Nintendo fell into this trap as well. In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild over a hundred shrines constitute the game’s main content. While looking for them is fun most of the time, they all look the same inside and many of them even force the same one-on-one battle on us.
In addition, the game has a semi-important collectible in the form of Koroks. These small forest spirits hide in all corners of the world. The more we find, the more equipment we can carry. I was content with how often I found the little creatures. However, after finishing most of the game, I looked up how many they were and was shocked. Since there are hundreds of them, they are basically everywhere. The world in Breath of the Wild is large and I did not want to turn over every stone to find them all. And I mean this literally, since some Koroks hide underneath random rocks.
Fortunately, some members of the old Rare development team have regrouped as Playtonic Games and created Yooka-Laylee, a true new collectathon. With few, well placed collectibles, they demonstrate how less can be more. The game tells us, how many of the important Pagies and other items we can find in every level. This means that we do not have to guess, in which level we have missed anything. And since a single level is not too large, we can thoroughly search every corner.
Other small teams have added to the Era of new collectathons with games like A Hat in Time and Snake Pass. A Hat in Time is a lovely jump’n’run with a time travel twist. Whether Snake Pass can be described as a jump’n’run is questionable, since we play a snake and can only slither our way through this equally adorable collectathon.
If you want to create your own collectathon, do not litter your beautifully designed world with heaps of irrelevant trash. Try to make every discovery meaningful for your players. Not every collectible needs to be hidden. Some of them can be easy to see, but hard to reach. In any case, tell your players at least in which areas they have found everything already. If you want to, you can help them with an oracle of sorts, that gives vague hints on where else to look.
What are your favorite experiences with new collectathons? Share them in the comments below! I look forward to reading them. In the mean time, I collect more shiny things.
(Photo by Dan Dennis on Unsplash)