A number of indie developers banded together to declare that today is "Size Doesn't Matter Day." The objective: Dispel the myth that a game has to have 40+ hours of content to be fun. And while I have quite a bit to say on this topic, I think that my fellow indies have already covered it quite thoroughly, so I'm going to tackle it from a different perspective.
If you're a game developer, the truth is that there are simple things you can do to extend the replay value of a game. Here are a few tips:
- Have a tiered completion status. Rather than rating each level as done/incomplete, score players in several areas: Did you find all the stars/secrets? Did you beat the "expert" time threshold? How about the "slowpoke" time threshold? Does being called a slowpoke make you want to try it again, even though you finished it?
- Add achievements. Most platforms have free third-party achievement systems. Believe it or not, these really drive sales. Adding achievements is usually pretty easy and it can really add a new dimension to the gameplay -- Consider the "pacifism" achievement in Geometry Wars, where you get an achievement for surviving without shooting for 60 seconds.
- Make the final level/puzzle insanely difficult. After all, if they get that far, they're up for the challenge. Since it's the last level, the player won't feel like it's blocking them from unlocking the full content. And if they finish it, they feel pretty awesome.
- Hide secrets. And make them HARD. e.g., secret stars in Mario 64 and Braid. The ones in Braid are particularly fiendish. Some literally take hours to earn and you'll never find them without a walkthrough. But that's ok -- they're bonus content.
- Cheat codes. You type "unicornpuke" and the zombies get reskinned as rainbows. That'll get you some attention on the forums.
One thing to note about all of these items is that, in the grand scheme of things, they don't take very long to implement compared to the core gameplay functions. But for players, they all give the impression of a lot more content.
For more discussion about why Size Doesn't Matter, check out these quality posts: