How would you resolve dead content with different scaling systems?

Sigony

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Introduction
I want to explore some ideas about resolving dead content, and even recycling content, and I think I may as well have it be open for discussion.

As small game devs, it benefits us to have the content go a long way for us, rather than us going a long way for more content. What are some ways that you would go about doing that?

Dead content: content that the player no longer has an incentive to play.

Dead content happens when:
- the content is not necessary to achieve the goals that it supposedly makes progress toward.​
- the player has surpassed the need to use this content and will no longer re-visit it.​

The first point above can be circumvented by considering the optimal path that the player will take. Not too hard. Also consider the path that a less knowledgeable player will take.

The second point above is one issue that inevitably arises when you have an RPG.
> the player has surpassed the need to use this content and will no longer re-visit it.

Scenario 1
Let's say that you have 3 areas. The first area is level 1-10, the second 11-20, the third 21-30.

The player gains good amounts of exp in the first area, but gets to level 14 and finds that the experience is no longer as good as the second area, so they move to the second area, and so on.

The above scenario indicates that there is no need to visit the first area any more.

Question 1: How can fixed level areas that no longer provide exp still provide incentives for the player to visit and farm them? What are some systems that you have seen in games to make you re-visit under-levelled areas?

My answers:
Persona 3 FES: Elizabeth's non-repeatable requests to farm rare drop items, kill a specific enemy x times, or collect x amount of a drop for a decent reward. Completing all of these requests unlocks content that would never be seen otherwise. These quests are also missable if not completed by a certain date in the game.​
- Fetch quests (limited, could do repeatable)​
- Missable content is unlocked by visiting areas that might otherwise be dead content​
- Location specific resources : certain personas (like pokemon) can only be found in certain dungeon areas.​
- Rare and valuable random events : the player may run through lower level dungeons to find "golden shadows" which drop rare resources that can be used to the player's benefit. When going to a new dungeon floor, random events such as much stronger enemies, or every enemy being a golden shadow have a chance to occur.​

Scenario 2
You have 3 areas, but the enemies scale with the player. The player always gets good exp in every area.

Every area is essentially equivalent. The player goes only to areas that progress the story or their own immersion in the characters / world.

The above example indicates that there is no reason to revisit areas, because all areas provide the same exp, and the story content is a limited resource.

Question 2: How can scaled areas that no longer provide new story content to the player provide an incentive for the player to revisit them?

My answer: I really cannot think of too many good examples. One interesting one to note:​
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen: Most of this game is not scaled, however what it does have is Bitter Black Isle, a masterfully crafted replayable area, which is a very hard dungeon unless you're well prepared and know what you're doing. Even if you have a team of maxed characters, it is still challenging in some areas. You may need specialized equipment and loadouts to beat your intended target. The dungeon consists of many rooms, which are chaotically linked together. Once you beat the dungeon the first time, the layout will change, and remain that way so that the player can learn it. The player will run and re-run this dungeon to the final boss, or to the hardest monsters along the way, to get a chance at rare drops that can be refined into the best items in the game, and which need to be upgraded through 6 tiers of upgrades using items that can only be found as rare drops from the enemies in the dungeon. And, in order to progress past the 3rd item tier, you need to defeat a dragon to have a chance at having your item upgraded to the 4th tier.​
- This dungeon is accessible from the very start of the game, where you have no hope of doing 99% of it. Interesting choice, gives players something to strive for.​
- Farmable bosses: with drops that are always valuable, such as the UR dragon dropping revival items, always giving a certain amount of levels up, and the chance at very good weapons.​
- Farmable mini-bosses that the player may just run away from at first, only to later learn that to get a high tier upgrade they need to get 3 of its rare drops, etc.​
- Farmable loot chests that respawn: a drop table with rare desirable items is a sure way to go. These chests take a few in game days to respawn, as do bosses.​
- Area lore: perhaps as you go through an area over and over again, learning its ins and outs, you learn about the lore of the place. A good way to integrate your theme, world building, and characterization in a way that may not directly serve the plot.​

Question 3: What are some scenarios that you think require some well-thought out systems to keep the content from dying?
 
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Sigony

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Further thought has reminded me of the idea of gameplay loops.
It seems to me that all of the above examples involving areas that are dead content in the most basic of RPG settings, can be salvaged by including areas that are at risk of becoming dead content into different game loops.

Does anyone know of methodologies for modelling gameplay loops?

Edit: AKA Compulsion Loops

Edit 2: Compulsion loops, per wikipedia, involve extrinsic rewards. So, I found this video talking about intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards.

It raises the question, while extrinsic rewards are necessary, how can I make every moment of gameplay intrinsically rewarding, such that the player does it because the activity itself is fun?
 
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AfroKat

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Scenario 1: What Persona 4 / P4 Golden did was after you clear a dungeon you usually get a party member. Once Dungeon 2 opens up you can revisit dungeon 1 and get to the boss area fighting another miniboss there. Once the miniboss dies there's a strong weapon for the party member you just got.

Scenario 2: once you pass a dungeon and enter a town, quests could open up enabling you to enter the previous dungeon and get some goodies. But then what's to stop you from going through the dungeon as fast as possible, just to get the quests and then backtrack to farm enemies / chests.

A big question is why do you want the player to backtrack? They already full explored that area no need to go back. Unless it's a metroidvania
 

Sigony

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Scenario 1: What Persona 4 / P4 Golden did was after you clear a dungeon you usually get a party member. Once Dungeon 2 opens up you can revisit dungeon 1 and get to the boss area fighting another miniboss there. Once the miniboss dies there's a strong weapon for the party member you just got.

Scenario 2: once you pass a dungeon and enter a town, quests could open up enabling you to enter the previous dungeon and get some goodies. But then what's to stop you from going through the dungeon as fast as possible, just to get the quests and then backtrack to farm enemies / chests.

A big question is why do you want the player to backtrack? They already full explored that area no need to go back. Unless it's a metroidvania

I want to make the content that is created go as far as possible. But, I want to do that while avoiding any dissatisfaction from the player. Not everyone wants to 100% complete the game, so in that case there needs to be consideration for them and not forcing them to backtrack. But, for completionists, the people who want a challenge, I think that it is quite okay to have them backtrack through previously explored content in order to find new content afterwards, just like with P4 where you get a bonus for doing the dungeon again.

Sure, you can't do that unlimited times. There needs to be a point where the game is actually 100% done, but that doesn't mean that we can't stretch our content a little bit further to give some more hours and some fresh content regarding any of these:
  • items
  • backstory
  • foreshadowing
  • characterization in any other way really
  • world building
  • challenges that require mastery over all of the previous content, like hidden Final Fantasy bosses.
 

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