Monday, September 18, 2017

General RPGs' Collectathons' Bad Rewards

Who’s psyched for a short rant?

Okay, could we PLEASE get some sort of formal, written agreement across the board from RPG companies that if your game has a long and involved collectathon, the final reward for finding every single hidden little collectable object has to actually be, y’know, rewarding?

This is not fucking rocket science. If you have hidden 50 secret magical doodads throughout the game and given the player a sidequest to find them all, there should be an end reward that doesn’t make them feel like they wasted the extra hours of their time that it took to track them all down!

Most games can figure this out. Find every single Normin in Tales of Zestiria, including those rotten little bastards that are hidden in goddamn scenery? You get a final Normin with 1 of the best equipment blessing powers, AND you get him via an amusing scene that reveals a little bit of back lore for Edna, along with a couple of those delightful Tales of series skits. That’s a fairly decent reward. Go through the inordinate trouble of tracking down 4 separate sets of 8 eggs in Lufia 2? You get an ultimate boss fight with a grumpy and now overworked dragon, and then are rewarded with the best sword and accessory in the game (which honestly is not nearly worth the trouble, if you ask me, but it IS an actual reward). Find all 99 dalmatians in Kingdom Hearts 1, and your final reward is the best wind spell in the game, a grab bag of some of the best inventory stuff in the game, and a torn page (which unlocks a part of the Winnie the Pooh sidequest, which, I mean, is plot stuff, so I’m obligated to approve of it even though, as noted long ago, I can’t fucking stand that dopey, staggering heap of urine-colored lint). Oh, and a short little cutscene of all the dalmatians running around their now overcrowded home, which is either adorable and fulfilling to watch, or makes you shudder with rage and wonder if Cruella didn’t have the right idea, depending on how much trouble you had finding all the monochromatic little vermin. But, y’know, since most people are not quite as easily frustrated by small things as I am, nor quite so quick to jump to vengeful thoughts regarding puppies, Imma assume most people like the cutscene, and say that overall this collectathon has a good reward.

But, see, while most games can manage to come up with something actually fucking decent to reward a player’s detailed exploration to find all 80 fabled mystical hot dogs scattered about the land or whatever other crap the collectible mcguffin of the day happens to be, some apparently can’t be bothered. Illusion of Gaia, for example. 50 Red Gems there are, scattered throughout the course of Illusion of Gaia from start to finish. That’s a lot of hidden locations to find, and some are rather challengingly hidden. Not helping matters is the fact that a lot of these are permanently missable--there are a lot of locations in IoG which you cannot return to after certain points in the game. So you go to all this trouble, and what’s your reward? You get to run through a short and frankly pretty uninteresting bonus dungeon, learn that the Red Gem collector was secretly the first boss of Soulblazer all along, and then fight him. That’s fucking it. No actual reward for your effort, just a tiny extra dungeon that’s boring, a fight that’s just a remix of the first boss from a previous game, and, like, I dunno, 5 lines of dialogue? Is the reward just supposed to be the satisfaction of knowing the secret of the Red Gem guy, and the fate of Soulblazer’s first boss? Because I’m gonna be blunt: I didn’t give a damn about the former, and I hadn’t even realized I was supposed to give a damn about the latter.

Or, worse yet, what about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Where was the vaunted Nintendo polish when it came to those fucking Gold Skulltulas, huh!? This massive (for its time; still sizable today) land of twisty dungeons and obscure hiding places, and you’re asked to search it for 100, that’s one-flippin’-hundred, giant spiders* peppered all throughout Hyrule. And if you do stay the course, put in the time and effort, and actually uncover every last damn Gold Skulltula? Your prize is 200 rupees. Now, granted, you can keep coming back and getting 200 more rupees each time, so it's actually infinite money, so this seems, on paper, like it's a pretty good reward. But tell me: what the hell is there, by the point that you can reach every Gold Skulltula, to even buy any more? 200 rupees or 2 billion, it means nothing at the point of the game where there's nothing substantial left to purchase! I'd wager most players' wallets are completely full by the time they even get this reward, having had nothing important to buy for hours and hours already! At least Illusion of Gaia’s programmers went to the trouble to whip up a little bonus dungeon and a rehashed boss fight. They might have been mistaken about what an adequate reward for their collectathon would be, but they TRIED. Nintendo just doesn’t even bother pretending that it didn’t just put you through hours of busywork to artificially inflate the length of the game.

And don’t even get me started on Energy Breaker’s Shiny Pebble situation. At least Illusion of Gaia and Ocarina of Time actually did give you something for finishing their collectathons, terrible though the rewards may have been. Energy Breaker rewards you periodically for finding enough of the Shiny Pebbles scattered throughout the game, but if you actually manage to find all 50, which is no small feat, what happens? NOTHING. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but here should actually be a reward for the player completing the collection quest you asked of them!**

Look, bottom line, if any budding game developers ever happen across this: please, make sure that the game-long collectathon actually has a worthwhile reward for its conclusion. Don’t make the ‘reward’ an extra chore that answers a question no one was asking, don’t make it a condescending pat on the head and some money they don’t need, don’t just forego rewarding them altogether...the players have put effort into finding all that you’ve hidden, so reciprocate with some effort in thinking about and creating a reward they’ll feel satisfied with, yeah?

* Who was the genius at Nintendo that decided to make the collectibles for this quest a bunch of giant fucking spiders, anyway? Giant fucking spiders whose bodies are skulls? Other RPG collectathons have you searching for precious jewels, cute puppies or other mascots, ancient artifacts, special coins, collectible bottle caps...things that you want to find, or at least don’t mind doing so. What’s Nintendo have you scouring every inch of the world for? Abominations. It’s like they were determined that absolutely no part of this sidequest should be appealing.

** I admit that on this point, I’m going on other people’s reports, not personal experience. I didn’t find all 50 myself when I played through Energy Breaker. Nonetheless, multiple other players have reported getting nothing for going to the trouble of locating every single Shiny Pebble in the game, and no one has contradicted these statements, so I’m assuming they are correct.


  1. Regarding Ocarina of Time, as far as I remember you can get those 200 rupees repeatedly, so the reward is actually endless money, but the point of "What's there to buy that the player hasn't bought already?" still stands.

    1. Drat, I forgot that part. I've changed the rant accordingly. Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Zelda is a different sort of animal in its quest rewards. The typical Zelda economy doesn't exist beyond one or two mandatory purchases, and the funds needed to buy those rare unique capacity upgrades or whatever are obtainable well before you see a second shop. What ends up happening is the monetary reward is scaled as a score system, with the color/amount conveying the points earned for discovering/reaching the chest. Thus, the vast majority of chests serve no function in gameplay.

    The Skulltula reward is merely an extension of this. Even if it were a limited print heart piece, it's not a greater reward than all the inane things you did to earn all those other pieces.

    If it were something substantial, you'd have availability issues and complaints that you need to do all this busywork that'll easily beat out the time it'd have taken to play the game without the quest. You don't have a Skulltula Mask in this game the way you do in Majora's Mask for the fairies.

    The way things are, a 200 Rupee prize is so egregiously not a perfect one, but taken in context with the "big deal" rewards you get at earlier benchmarks, it's not too bad.

    Yeah never mind, it is too bad. Piece of Heart or GTFO. But this is the game with the Gold Scale. They warned us.

    1. Well, while you have a point about it being bad if it was substantial (though I do think it being the final Piece of Heart would have been quite fine), you can have a reward that's fulfilling AND insubstantial pretty easily. Have the reward as, oh, I dunno, an item that turns Link into a Cucco. Doesn't do anything in the game, but damn would it be fun to run around and have people comment on it, like that mode in Suikoden 3 where you run around HQ as that rambunctious puppy. Or a set of golden Skulltula armor that drains your rupees with each swing, but you hit twice as hard--that'd actually make all the excess rupees you've got by the end of the game worth something! Or maybe in the ending, you see all 100 Skulltula guys dancing in the background during the Saved the World Party. None of these are substantial, and I might even still complain about the last one (I was annoyed with how little of a difference saving the animals in Super Metroid made, though I still did it every time), but they'd at least be honest attempts at a fun reward, without having to be substantial too late in the game to use it. And that shit's off the top of my head!

  3. Tbh i never do the collectathlon, so i prefer "braggin rights" rewards.
    I don't want to do a boring chore so i can get a part of the plot. Special weapons and the like are fine as long as the game is not unreasonably difficult whitout them.
    Finding the 108 stars of destiny Evert time is my limit(fuck you Clive, because of your stupid recruitmant flags i got the bad ending my first playthrough.)
    Having collectible imo isn't bad because some people like them, just don't force me to do them.

  4. I surprised you didn't mention the korok seed side quest in breath of the wild. Granted the reward is a parody of the golden poo and might be a bit of commentary about 100% completion but...

    In other news Jigglypuff actually resurfaced in the Anime. It was the one where Brock and Misty came back for a bit for nostalgia. (And probably sorry for replacing them in the new movie for suspiciously similar substitutes)

    1. I only didn't mention it because I haven't played Breath of the Wild yet. Good Nayru, they pull this shit again?

      Oh, awesome! What's the little puffmeister up to these days?

    2. Well literal shit. You only need to collect 441 out of 900 Korok seeds to get all the upgrades.

      Jigglypuff from what has been seen is just a Cameo really

  5. I learned my lesson about the Skulltulas. I collect enough to get the Piece of Heart and no more. I would mention that the rewards you get up until the Piece of Heart are fairly good. You get essential wallet upgrades, in addition to the Piece of Heart itself. There's also the other side of the coin here, where the alternative would have been for Nintendo to give players a Piece of Heart for collecting all 100 Skulltulas, which would have been an absurdly difficult task for one quarter of a health upgrade, but would've made collecting all of them more worthwhile. Personally, I prefer that I can just ignore half of the spiders and still get all the rewards I want from the sidequest.