Telltale Games are well known for making episodic story driven games with practically unmissable platinum trophies. But the question is, should a game reward you with a platinum trophy for simply completing the story? Let’s talk about it.
What is the Porpoise of Trophies?
Now first of all we need to understand why trophies were introduced in the first place. The main reason for their existence is not for trophy hunters per-say, it is to entice players to explore the game fully and for data collection, so they could sample how players are engaging with their game. Some studios, like Capcom, use trophies, in-game tracking and bonuses to encourage players to finish their games multiple times, because in the end of the day the more time you spent playing a certain game chances are the more memorable this experience is going to be. Like, if you finished Resident Evil game 6 times and mastered it by doing so, chances are you are going to buy the sequel.
Another reason, which to be fair, is less common now, with more and more players switching from physical to digital games, is the second-hand market. If your game is short and lacking replayability nothing will stop someone to buy it day one and resell it a week later, and this will impact your sales in the end of the day, and obviously publishers don’t like that. By the way, I actually believe that the rise of digital distribution platforms did contribute to lowering the bar for platinum trophies in AAA games, but I might be wrong, just something that feels plausible to me.
Now, let’s switch our focus back to the gamers. I personally enjoy the challenge of getting a platinum trophy and actually making an active effort in achieving it. It doesn’t mean that every single game should force you to finish it multiple times and on the highest difficulty, but when you see that 45% of people have a platinum trophy in Walking Dead Season 1, and I am talking about general public by the way, it doesn’t feel as rewarding as getting a platinum trophy in, Detroit Become Human for example.
I like to explore everything that the game has to offer and push myself to finish it on the highest difficulty, which if not for trophies I probably never would have done. But here we have a bunch of successful story-driven games that abandoned those tropes entirely and I platinumed some of them and had a great time, so why are they so special?
Why it worked for Telltale
Now, I agree that Telltale games have some magic that very few games managed to replicate. Square Enix did a great job with Life is Strange, but in the end of the day you have to see those games for what they are, and they are pretty linear in their structure. Sure, the entire premise is that your choices matter, and they do, to some extent. By making different decisions you might get a different ending or have good or bad relationships with other characters, but in the end of the day your journey won’t be too different. It’s not like by making an alternative choice will put you in entirely different circumstances.
For that reason, I don’t think that they offer replayability value for an average gamer. I mean, sure, you might be interested in seeing what happens if you make dissimilar choices, but most of the time other than a few lines of dialogue it won’t change much. And yes, before you jump in and say that it can change which character lives or dies at some points it doesn’t change the story too much. So, I wouldn’t replay the whole game just for that, maybe only a specific chapter or even look it up on YouTube.
And it might sound like a criticism of those games, but it’s really not, because the stories that they tell are actually really good, and although I didn’t play all of them, I enjoyed those that I did. For that reason, I actually believe that they made the right call with their trophy lists.
When you play a Telltale game for the first time it does feel unique and I believe that replaying them for the second or third time could ruin the magic and that is when you start noticing those things, like I did. In my opinion this is the reason Telltale games went with this structure. They want all the gamers finish the story start to finish without ruining the magic and they succeeded. Those games are not just quick and easy cash grab games aimed at trophy hunters, like Ratalaika makes, they are actually really good. For those reasons I had a lot of fun getting the platinum trophies in the Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us and Batman series, despite them being easy platinums.
Should Other Developers Do That?
All right, so if it was the right call for Telltale, maybe other developers should do it too. To that I would say that it depends on what type of games we are talking about, because even for story driven games that wouldn’t work most of the time.
Let’s take a look at David Cage’s games, like Heavy Rain and Detroit Become Human, games that are story driven and offer you close enough premise – your choices move the story forward. Then maybe those games should reward you with a platinum trophy for completing them as well? And to that I would say that probably not, and here is why: They are stand alone games that don’t, and probably will never have sequels. This means that the narrative and ending can be drastically different depending on your choices, unlike Telltale Games stories that have to be more conservative because of their structure.
When going for a platinum trophy in Detroit Become Human I had to finish it 3 times, and I actually finished it 4 times in total prior to getting the platinum, and despite some things that were happening regardless there were huge differences in later stages of the game and therefore even upon revisit of the story it was still fresh and enjoyable for me.
Games like Life is Strange on the other hand, could probably get away with a similar structure, and to be fair they kind of have it already. The difference is a couple of collectibles you need to find there and I honestly didn’t mind that at all, because you have a chapter select and you can skip dialogue when replaying a chapter for the second time, so you could just blast through them. So, I think it could work for those types of games but that’s about it.
I mean I can’t imagine an open world or action game that will reward you with a platinum trophy for simply beating it, because this is not what developers want to encourage in those types of games.
So, should other developers adopt this approach?
In short, no. And if you go a little deeper into that, then it depends on the game. This formula can work only in linear story driven games that offer little to no combat and exploration and don’t have big replayability value.
So, Telltale Games were right on the money with that approach for their games, but I don’t think that any other AAA developers today that should do the same.