Here’s a question that recently came to my mind: is it necessarily good game design to leave your best features hidden, or hard to discover until you do a lot of undirected exploration?
I thought of it because after I played Mory’s latest game (which I recommend!) I was told there’s a lot more in it than I might think. It reads to me like not-so-subtle encouragement to play it again and discover these hidden features, which I’ll make an effort to do, but can’t always guarantee these days. But then, it made me think of how I designed Chivalry is Not Dead and how, while some people were able to figure out what I was getting at because they replayed the game several times, others played it once or twice, didn’t see anything of interest that would compel them to keep trying for new endings, and wound up missing out on what I saw as the essence of the game. In a way, I’ve been trying to combat this tendency with Life Flashes By; it’s a game where it’s relatively easy to find what you’re looking for, and where you can see all the content in one playthrough if you want to.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m a fan of games that hold your hand and tell you exactly where you need to go and what you need to collect. I’m not sure I even like tutorials, for that matter. I think being able to explore things is essential to my ideal playing experiences, and I’m far from against hidden features in principle. I just want to make sure that as many people as possible understand what I was getting at when I designed the game in the first place, even though they might not agree with everything I’m trying to express. But maybe it’s just me; maybe some game designers are more than happy to close their best stuff off to only those who are “worthy”.