You want me to find three-hundred feathers?! On in-game collectables.

You want me to find three-hundred feathers?! On in-game collectables.

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.

assassin's creed feathers

“You want me to find 400 feathers for you? Okay, my friend. But please do be aware that every feather that I find, I will be shoving up your ass, starting with these two right here.”

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.

collectables bioshock audiodiary

I loved the audio diaries in BioShock. They added to an already great story and could be listened to as I continued to explore Rapture.

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?

riddler trophies collectables

Riddler Trophies in the Arkham games being in crazy places made sense, as they were left there by a madman. Often, the act of collecting them was a challenge and you felt a sense of satisfaction from working out how to get one.

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.

witcher collectable

In the original Witcher, you were awarded a “romance” card whenever you had sex with someone. Does becoming a Witcher make you immune to STDs? If not, they missed a trick – you could’ve collected them too.

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.


I love gaming, creative writing, the theatre, anime, watching football & spending time with friends & family. I'm also a bit obsessed with superheroes.

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9 comments on “You want me to find three-hundred feathers?! On in-game collectables.”

  1. Avatar elnawawi says:

    I hear you, it’s such a pain to do collectables sometimes. But what makes it worse is when they include a decent reward for completing them, it turn it from optional to mildly mandatory, which makes you more crazy to find them all.

    To improve, they could split collectables in milestones. Like, if there’s 75 candy rolls all over the 5 zones in the game, don’t demand of me to collect every single one hidden in every none-sense corner in the world to just unlock one single thing in the end!

    Instead, hand me something when I collect 10, then another by 25, then 50, and finally 75. No matter where I collect this item (Maybe I’m more interested in one zone more than the other!), just pat my hand and tell me I’m making progress. Make me feel I’m doing progress! reward me for doing 80% of the effort, why it must be 100% or nothing?!

  2. Avatar Lich180 says:

    Horizon Zero Dawn is probably the best example of well done collectables in recent memory. Each item you find has a little story attached to it, separate from the rest of the game. You also can buy maps to show you the general location, then find the actual item itself.

  3. Avatar Rakuyo says:

    Hiding secret endings and the like behind collectibles ruins things for me.

    I usually end up not getting these endings, as the path to getting them is just a mindless grind.

  4. Avatar Fallenangel700 says:

    Killing Floor 2 has a nice collectible system. You need to find and shoot 10 identical items throughout the map before the match is over to get the achievement for that map. The nice part is that there are 50 something to find, and you only need 10. Plus, if anyone in the lobby finds one it count towards the 10 for everyone.

  5. Avatar Fexelea says:

    I like collectables and I liked Assassin’s Creed flags, encouraged me to explore the world thoroughly which was very enjoyable. I do understand that time is valuable so not for everyone.

  6. Avatar dn1nd says:

    I’m Not A Completionist So I Never Really Cared About Collectibles.

    If It Was There And Easy To Collect While Playing Through I Would Grab The Collectible, When There Is An Incentive To gather Them Like In Infamous Then I Will Get As Many As I Can Tolerate Getting.

    Otherwise I Am Indifferent.

  7. Bonaduce80 says:

    For games that I like with achievable trophies that sound reasonable, I will go for the Platinum. The little OCD inside me resents having some of them locked behind multiplayer when I don’t have PS+.

    I am playing NieR (PS3) now and that having to upgrade all the weapons is biting my back so badly now. Those hours of farming… :(

  8. Avatar Fexelea says:

    The original Nier platinum is a glorious pain

  9. Avatar Caradox says:

    Fexlea, my issue isn’t that it takes a long time to get collectables. I pumped over 150 hours into Persona 5 on my first play through. I also bothered to find all of the audio diaries in Bioshock etc.

    It’s more that I want the collectables to be interesting instead of just a feather/flag/whatever that does nothing.

    In terms of it encouraging you to explore the world, if the world’s interesting enough then you shouldn’t need to know that there’s a feather to want to go and see it. I prefer the ticking off areas discovered in the map in the Fallout games to collectables in terms of wanting me to explore the world.

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