In this article, I will take a look at in-game collectables. I will look at Achievements and Trophies attached to finding collectables, discuss my favourite in-game collectables and also my least favourite ones. Would games be better without in-game collectables or can they enhance games if some simple rules are followed?
The world is in peril. So go and find us two-hundred feathers.
For most of my gaming life, I have loathed in-game collectables. Typically when it comes to Achievements and Trophies, I like to try and earn them all. But when I see “Collect 300 flags”, I usually think “Sod that,” and skip over it.
Too often, developers just added in random shit to pad out their game. They weren’t found in interesting places and the collectables themselves were just dull items which didn’t really do anything. One of the worst culprits for collectables is Ubisoft. The feathers in Assassin’s Creed games aren’t interesting in themselves and the reason for collecting them doesn’t make much sense from a story perspective.
Here’s some good rules to consider when deciding whether to add collectables.
Are the collectables actually interesting?
I like the audio-diaries in the BioShock games because they deepen the backstory. They made me want to find all the audio-diaries in the first BioShock game not just because I wanted the Achievement but because I wanted to find out more about Rapture and how it had all gone so wrong. I also liked that the audio-diaries would play over me generally progressing in the game instead of the game effectively freezing whilst I listened to/read a diary. That’s much more interesting than just picking up a random feather.
Does it make any sense that the collectables would exist?
Yes, I know that it’s a game but if you’re going for a realistic world, please don’t make the collectables too gamey. Why would there be 900 SEGA Cartridges to find in this medieval RPG? I’d sooner the developer didn’t keep breaking the fourth wall just to give me something to collect.
Does it make sense that the main character would want to take time to collect them?
This one ties in with the last one. The world is in peril and only I can save it. With a ticking clock and life as we no it in danger, why would I stop to collect some stamps? I don’t care how rare they are – it wouldn’t make sense for my character. Now, if it’s a detective game and the collectables are clues which when pieced together mean you can solve a mystery about a character’s past, that’s more relevant. Or if you’re a wizard and you’re collecting components to make new spells which can be used in-game, that too is preferable.
Does it make any sense that the collectable would be found where they’re found?
If you’re dealing with a character as crazy as The Riddler in the Batman Arkham games then fine. He would put a collectable halfway up a building or hidden behind a forcefield. But if no such crazy character exists, why is the collectable in such a mad place?
For a similar reason, I’m not a fan of games with random loot drops. Why did that rat have a two-handed sword? Where was it hiding it? If it’s strong enough to carry a two-handed sword, why was it so easy to kill? If it’s able to carry a two-handed sword, why didn’t it use it against me?
Is the act of collecting the collectable an interesting one?
If I have to walk around breaking random barrels open in the hope that there will be a Golden Nut hidden under them, it’s going to make for some dull gameplay. I’m not going to give you props for making a game that technically took me one hundred hours to complete if half that time was spent searching under crates or inside barrels for some pointless item.
Does the act of collecting ruin the pacing of the story you’re trying to tell?
If it does, should you really be putting the collectables at that point in the game? If it’s supposed to be an intense moment where my life is on the line, please don’t make me run to get a coffee thermos (Alan Wake, I’m looking at you).
Do your collectables reinforce that your game is only for a certain gender?
If you’re making an intentionally sexy game that has a very clearly identified target audience in mind, then okay. If I’m playing a borderline hentai game and you want me collect panties then whatever – I knew what to expect when I bought it. But it’s a roleplay game that could be enjoyed by men and women alike, maybe don’t throw in a load of cards depicting scantily clad women? If you have to include scantily clad collectables in such a game, you could cater to all genders and sexualities. Thankfully The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3 didn’t include the romance cards.
Is it easy to track the progress of whether or not collectables have been found in an area?
If there are ten collectables for me to find in a stage, please indicate in that stage that there are. It would also be great if when I’ve found one, the game tracked that I had and which of the items had now been found. Don’t make me replay a level over and over again for something which isn’t even there in the first place.
If it’s currently impossible for me to reach a collectable, say so.
If I need a mega jump move to reach a collectable and I’m not going to be able to unlock the mega jump move until I’m a higher level, please signpost this fact. I’d rather not be wasting time attempting the impossible.
Is there a reward for collecting the collectables?
This can just be an expansion of the backstory if it’s written well enough (see BioShock’s audio-diaries). Alternatively, they could unlock cool moves for my character or be used to construct powerful items or spells.
Are you a fan of in-game collectables? What are your favourite and least favourite in-game collectables? Please comment below and let us know.
I hope you liked this article. If so, you could read the Elder Scrolls online player who hoarded 40k lockpicks rewarded article. Alternatively, you could read the Assassin’s Creed Origins Preview: Revitalised article.