Game Features and themes required for my purchase and playing of a game

Some of the recent threads from this forum have gotten me thinking on why I like the games I do, and why I will replay certain ones instead of trying a new release that reviewers are raving about. What features or theme’s compel me to get and replay games, even on not so great titles…

Since I primarily play strategy and RPG’s here is my list for each

Strategy Genre Feature Must haves
[li]Open ended play- missions based games are ok but I’d much rather sink my teeth into a game that lets me freely choose my own path to victory
[/li][li]Vanity endings- any game that allows the ending summary (via cutscenes or a ranking) of the game be impacted by my decisions during play has earned my attention and has most likely earned me replaying the game multiple times!
[/li][li]Layered strategy/management- Layered strategy is not common in strategy titles but very coveted for my pallate of playing style…whether its X-Coms strategic management impacting tactical battles or Total War series I’m often drawn to titles that make the effort to provide layers to strategy management
[/li][li]Strong storyline- While I always knew it was important, Space Empires V has made the point for me that a title lacking a strong storyline and can alienate me despite having most of the features I like
[/li][li]Robust economy/diplomacy- Such a underrated feature, and games like Civilization and Empire of the Fadings Suns should be the standard not the exception
[/li][li]Destructible environments- I love destroying things, it also allows me to create strategies that the designers didnt necessarily plan for
[/li][li]Unit special abilities/leveling/rank- personalizing the units or at least making you vested in the units you are managing makes the game much more compelling
[/li][li]Customized unit creation- allow me to create and modify the units, I not only want to outthink the AI I also enjoy outthinking the developers anticaption of my units and how I use them
[/li][li]Visual manifestation of the choices I make- whether its the play map itself changing to the choices I make or something as simple as a Picture of my City bussling based on my current technology in Civilzation[/ul]
[/li]Great features though not necessarily required
Save anywhere
Pause and order (if real-time)

Examples: Master of Magic, Master of Orion 2, Empires of the Fading Suns, X-Com, Pirates, Star Wars Rebellion, Civilization series, Warhammer Liberation

Roleplaying Genre Feature Must haves
[li]Direct Party Control- I just like directly controlling my party, while action rpg games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dungeon Siege 2 are fun, nothing replaces the shear joy you can get from games like the BG series, Jagged Alliance, and many others of the same ilk
[/li][li]Leveling, abilities, powers, perks, disadvantages- What’s a RPG without the ability to improve your character, most likely one I dont want to play
[/li][li]Open ended play- Mission type play is ok, but again doesnt hold a candle to a true open ended game
[/li][li]Vanity endings- again worth repeating, any game that allows the ending summary of the game be impacted by my decisions during play has earned my attention and has most likely earned me replaying the game multiple times!
[/li][li]Inventory control- RPG seem alien to me without some base inventiry management/control
[/li][li]Destructible environments- same reason I stated in strategy
[/li][li]Strong storyline- again the same
[/li][li]Layered strategy/management- Jagged Allaince, X-Com, and even base management in games like Soldiers of Anarchy really add to the fun of these types of games
[/li]Great but not required
Save anywhere
Pause and order (if real-time)

Examples: Silent Storm, Jagged Alliance 2, Freedom Force, Soldiers of Anarchy, Baulders Gate series, X-com, Nightwatch

On reflection of my buying patterns. I’ll need at least 4 of these features before Ill even consider picking up a title. Unless it’s theme appeals to me, then I’m more forgiving.

If a game has a theme that interests me I tend to buy it even if it doesn’t meet my normal set criteria, as long as it meets most of them

[li]Super heroes
[/li][li]Modern day Alien Invasion
[/li][li]Babylon 5
[/li][li]Star Wars/Star Trek
[/li][li]American Revolution
[/li][li]Post Apocalyptic
[/li][li]Giant Monsters
[/li][li]Any far future Space expansion themed game
[/li][li]EDIT (late addition for something I missed): Any transaltion of my favorite old PnP games

Looking at the reviews I’ve done and the games I’ve played over the past 20 years and I really feel this is a pretty accuracte baseline for what appeals/drives me in feature requirements. :)

I can’t even name how many new release’s I’ve passed on because either the game did not include these features, or the reviews I read did not think to call them out. Even raves titles like Company of Heroes and Gothic 3 I’ve passed on because as far as I could tell they didnt meet the majority of these requirements.

replying to my own posts…sigh :)

I feel compelled to clarify my definition of Layered strategy/management, specifically that is pretty broad

For instance

Space Rangers 2- RTS action embedded into a rpg

Pirates- tons of sub games that tie into the over open ended play

Star Wars Rebellion-the hero factor, where ‘quests’ and missions are intergrated into a standard 4x game

Empire of the Fading Suns- again the Faction leaders and Regency and officers put a little mini diplomacy game right into a standard 4x game with otherwise normal diplomacy

I agree with most of what you said. Did you grab EU3 from Target yet? On clearance for $12.48!

Unfortunately if I had such a list of critical criteria, these days I wouldn’t find a damn thing that would fit it. But then again, I’ve enjoyed bits and pieces of things here and there enough to keep me happy anyways.

> Did you grab EU3 from Target yet?
Picking it up this friday :)

While I think my standards are high, I don’t have such strict requirements.

Reasons why I buy a game:

  1. Developer (Irrational, Relic, Nintendo, etc…)
  2. Genre (RPG, RTS, FPS)
  3. Unique Aspect (Pikmin, Killer7, God Hand, STALKER, SupCom)
  4. Forum Play (Is there a bazillion posts about it? Case in point: Space Rangers 2)

I’m sure I could break it down, but I don’t really research the crap out of games and know everything about them before I buy. I just get the general vibe and use my keen intuition to know what is good and what isn’t. But if I want to play it safe I buy from favored developers.


If you didn’t get Company of Heroes, you are being too picky.

I bought Company of Heroes, but I was too picky to finish it.

>I’m sure I could break it down, but I don’t really research the crap out of games

This is a really good point most of you wont recall me anymore. However, I’ve played so many games over the years, and lots of them were for reviews for various gaming magazines (reviewing titles such as little known gems likes like Original War and Spellcross to iconic titles such as Dune 2, Army Men and Lego Rock Raiders).

For the longest time I played everything under the sun they put in front me…and while l loved it and being able to do the job I did… I knew at the end I needed to take a break.

I still love and extremely passionate about gaming… but I finally got to a point where I wanted to play games that I loved, just for the fun of it again. I’ve been cursed for being the analytical sort, and as a result I had a clear understanding of why certain games appealed to me more than others.

I’ve largely bowed out of gaming journlism because while I can understand why certain games appeal to the broader audience…such as Company of Heroes which I played a bit (work related) and is a fun, slick, and polished title for what it offers. I find I no longer share the vision of the general mainstream gaming public on what makes a great game.

I have accepted that I have a very highly personalized standards regarding gaming, and what I would be willing to plop my personal money down on. I can only imagine that this brand of personalized vision might land me a postage stamp size editorial slot on the wargamer’s legal disclaimer page :)

My requirements for playing games:

  1. is it fun?

(runs and hides from Tom)

(Quietly sneaks into the massive cave known as the Internet and deliberately pokes the sleeping monster known as the forum flame war) …so what your saying is that cut scenes universally detract from the fun of any game? :)

Sorry, I always chuckle when I read a absolute statement regarding such a subjective industry, which is why so many of my posts/articles are full of qualifiers :)

But are all your qualifiers so cute? I could just eat you up!

You’ve just been Chet-ized! He’s the only person on the entire planet more cynical than me!

  1. Are there butts and/or boobs?

Your post has convinced me that I should focus less on feature lists such as the ones you wrote and more on looking for great games that I’ll enjoy.

What RPG’s have destructible environments? That’s an absolutely bizarre required element. And almost all the games you listed as RPG’s meeting that criterion are tactical strategy games, not RPG’s.

Interesting comment…how did my post help you reach that conclusion?

How do accomplsih that? Does this imply that you will buy every game that is released and try them all? Or read the previews and buy the games and what sounds appealing?

I’m really not trying to be confrontational…I’m just coming from a frame of reference where I can’t see how you can say that without
A. becoming a gaming journalist
B. Buying every game released

Personally I took road A :)

If you’re implying you read previews and set your buying standards on what sounds interesting…I challange your are still using a set of critera, just the fuzzy logic kind.

To clarify my critiera doesnt mean I automatically exlude games that dont fit the definition. I (relying on the same fuzzy logic) often have, and will, pop down the money on such titles as Spore, Black and White, Evil Genius, The Movies and Dungeon Keeper 3…often with mixed results. With these type of titles the developers are taking a chance and I’m all for supporting them and taking a chance as well. Sadly (but happily for my pocket book) these types are titles are increasingly rare.

However most developers and publishers choose to follow a certain tested model for design when developing their games. Adding their own flourishes to a tested formula in their releases. If a developer goes this route, I’m frankly a lot more discerning especially about what I’m willing to plop my own money down for. Since I’ve already seen alot of these design flourishes in one form or another.

If my logic is flawed, or missing “the big picture”, please call me on it (this goes for anyone)…I always love a thought provoking and articulate debate :)

They’re a minority I’ll give you that. However, a few delelopers have done it and I’m always really drawn to titles that make the effort

Freedom Force, Silent Storm series (and spin offs), X-com series
The canceled X-Com game from the Gallop brothers, the early build of the canceled Gaurdians Agents of Justice I played with at one E3 for a few hours… also used a totally destructible environment

When I think “tactical strategy games”,for me, are more along the lines of Combat Mission and just about all the Commando clones (I was one of the beta testers on the original Commandos…so I owe everyone a heartfelt apology for my invlovement in that sub genre :)

While the titles I list up top focus on developing characters and equiping them, which in my mind fits squarly within the realm of titles like the BG series, Icewind Dale, ect…ok maybe X-Com is more strategy than RPG