Replay value…it’s that magical characteristic sought after by game developers that keeps gamers playing, even after they’ve completed a game before. Non-linear storylines, secret costumes, and unlock able content are all staple ways of adding to replay value. However, one aspect that many developers overlook in regards to lengthening a game’s lifespan is audio….yes, we said it…AUDIO. Audio won’t entice players to play longer in the same manner of secret costumes and unlock able content, but done correctly, audio can support other game elements to enhance replay value numerous hours after the first playthrough. However, done incorrectly, bad audio will prevent players from playing longer since at it’s worst, bad audio can quickly annoy players. Let’s looks at a few ways that you can enhance replay value through audio.
Think about a sound that occurs frequently in your game, possibly a footstep sound or a weapon sound. Now consider how long a gamer will potentially be hearing this sound. Hearing this exact same sound over and over again when a certain action is triggered is a sure fire way to annoy your gamer, and the main culprit of this is caused by using one audio sample per action. Furthermore, having the same sound triggered is unrealistic and unrepresentative of how sound works in the real world and your gamers will pick up on this. One technique to remedy these static sounds is to use sample variations that give the sound more variety, sounds more natural, and will not annoy the player. Another nice touch is to add is subtle random pitch adjustments each time the action occurs. This, combined with varying samples will result in a more dynamic sound that will sound subtly different each time it’s heard. After hours of hearing the sound being triggered, your gamers will thank you.
In the same vein that hearing the same audio over and over again can be frustrating, hearing a static music loop over and over again is another sure way to annoy a gamer; especially if a level is played for long periods. Fortunately, games have a unique advantage versus tv and film, and that is interactive audio. Interactive music not only enhances the experience (which is another subject in itself), but can extend the replay value of your game tremendously through enhancing other elements. For example, suppose a game level can be played in multiple ways: stealthily with a knife or a guns-blazing way with a shotgun. Now suppose that depending on which weapon you use, the music responds. With the knife, the music is rather ambient, putting the gamer in stealth mode. With the shotgun however, war drums, brass, and strings are added. Each way the gamer plays the game, the music adapts, making it not only a new gameplay experience, but a new audio and emotional experience since the music reflects how the gamer plays the game.
Replay value is a sought after element of many games, but do not overlook the role that audio has in enhancing the replay experience. At best, it enhances the replay value and at worst, it can negatively impact replay value. With a few subtle touches to a game, audio can greatly contribute to your game lasting longer.