Episodic Is A Viable Structure, But Not For Every Type Of Game
Like with most things, it depends on your perspective.
For example, if you had told any of us back in the 80's or 90's that we'd get our favorite new game in pieces, delivered at set times throughout the year, and we could either pay for them all up front or each one individually, I think we would've laughed. I think we would've hated the idea.
But of course, this was before the digital explosion, before the aforementioned pieces could be delivered to us without any need to leave our homes. Back in those days, we would've had to go to the store to buy a new disc each time a new chapter came out, and that really is ludicrous. It's very different from expansion packs, too, because at least PC players got the full game before the expansion packs rolled out. Now, we have more delivery options and yes, I do believe our lives are more hectic.
Therefore, on the surface, episodic appears to be a perfectly viable system. However, I think it's important for developers to remember that it simply doesn't work for all types of games. Certain styles and genres are resistant to this piecemeal delivery option, no matter how hard the developers try to make it fit. Now, last year's Life is Strange is a good example of a narrative-driven experience that was successfully told via episodic delivery. But that's because the story was designed with this in mind; each chapter was essentially a freestanding vignette of sorts.
For the most part, I don't believe an episodic structure works for immersive story-driven games that really need us to play from start to finish without break. Heavy Rain, for example, would've sucked as an episodic experience given the way that game was created and produced. That being said, if the team had planned for episodic and structured the story differently - like perhaps giving us four parts and each part focused on one character's story - it could've worked out. It's all in how you approach the adventure. The recently released Hitman seems like a wild card to me...not sure how that will fare.
I do know that breaking up older games that were never designed for episodic is idiotic. The fact that Square Enix wants to do that with the Final Fantasy VII Remake proves just how clueless that company really is. You'd have to drastically overhaul that entire game in order to make an episodic release even remotely plausible. Breaking up that epic adventure into pieces is just beyond laughable. And this is my point: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We just need developers to understand this.
3/10/2016 9:40:19 PM Ben Dutka