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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.

Tags: episodic games, video game dlc, gaming industry

3/10/2016 9:40:19 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (11 posts)


Ather
Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 10:32:58 PM
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Dragon Warrior 4 would have worked well as episodic. 5 different stories, 5 episodes. Final Fantasy 6 would have worked as 2 episodes. Ep1 ends with the failure to save the world. Ep 2 deals with the aftermath and trying to save the destroyed world.

Most games just don't work broken up. If you want it episodic, design it that way. It's like a movie designed for 3D vs post converted 2D movies. People like the former, not the latter.

With episodes and DLC, it seems game makers are trying to divide their game up, give it to us piecemeal, and rake in more money than a single game would give them.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 10, 2016 @ 11:28:20 PM
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I don't much like it anywhere even if it "works." Besides just me, the average person has thousands of things going on in life plus digital life. How am I gonna remember everything that happened six months ago now that you finally got around to finishing another part of the game you never bothered to finish before releasing?

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godsman
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 1:42:12 PM

Agreed. Kings quest worked really well being episodic, because each episode does not rely on each others plot.

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Godslim
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 8:45:49 AM
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Personally I dont like it gimmi a full game! It seems the only good thing about dlc and episode content is the devs make more money.

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godsman
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 1:40:27 PM

I dont care. For me, I waited a decade I can wait another 3-4 years for ff7. As long as they can merge the 3 episodes back when the collection comes out.

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Underdog15
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 11:39:55 AM
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I'm really only ok with it for FFVII if each "episode" turns out to be an incredibly full and complete experience in and of itself. If the alternative is a shorter, chopped up experience, then go for the episodes.

Basically, I'm not at all against FFVII being episodic on one condition... If I end up putting in, say, 40-80 hours with each episode, then fantastic! If it ends up being a 10 hour per episode thing, then they can f*** off.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 3/11/2016 11:41:29 AM

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godsman
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 1:37:46 PM

You'll lose the exploration because the maps will be chopped up. I dont see how it can work. Do you have to collect all the items and monsters in episode 1. Then again in 2? I played white Knight chronicles and loved it. Then I realize I have to start over in wkc 2. I never got to it. The game mechanics and flow are disripted.

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godsman
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 1:33:13 PM
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The difference is a movie versus a TV show. Each episode must have enough plot to stand by itself and end in a cliff hanger so people will want to play the next.

Call of Duty makes sense. A bunch of nonstory related episodes with no leveling to carry over can be episodic, but no one would pay for that.

The ff vii episode makes you wonder, do I carry my level over? What about my items? Will all the big bosses be reserved for episode 3 because my level is low in episode 1. So many chances to anger the core gamers.

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Abidan13
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 4:40:43 PM
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When we say episodic most people jump to games by Telltale. In the case of FFVII, since it has been brought up, why are we not using Xenosaga as an example? All 3 games were episodic and each game was easily 60 hrs+ with sidequests. Each game you started from scratch with the same (and new) characters. Episodic isn't necessarily evil. I think people are just hung up on the word "episodic".

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 4:56:12 PM

That's not the same as today's structure.

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Abidan13
Friday, March 11, 2016 @ 5:04:48 PM

That's an interpretation, yes, but that's only because that has been what companies have been using for smaller scale games. All that has been said is "multi-part" and "episodic". Everyone has just been making assumptions. Nothing says Square Enix won't use a model like Xenosaga or even like Mass Effect which is what I would consider "multi-part" and under "today's structure".

Little details have been given so there isn't any point assuming it will or won't be a certain format. I just want to remind people that another "episodic" structure does exist and has worked for large scale RPGs.

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