Over the last few years we have been seeing a growing trend in expanded content that has been utilizing external devices to drive experiences for gamers wherever they go. With that, the Daily Reaction crew have decided to discuss what about the trend has helped push the industry forward, and what about it has missed its mark.
Dan: I have always enjoyed the ability to use an external device to improve my gaming experience, as I am able to easily access information or improve my current status even when on the go. But, I think that not every game has understood that each app or external device should work as an assistant to help drive an experience, and not become a conflicting one.
When Chandler and I first started talking about this topic, the first game that come to my mind was Assassin’s Creed Unity’s mobile app. At first, I enjoyed my time being able to quickly manage a clan of assassin’s, send them on jobs and accomplish many of the meta game aspects that have grown within the franchise. But, over time I realized that the amount of involvement needed to fully appreciate the app become overwhelming because it required almost, if not more, time than the console experience it was supposed to be supporting.
This was something that was supposed to be designed facilitate a better experience to players of the primary game, as well as give mobile users something to get them interested in the franchise. But, instead, I found that its usage of cool down timers and having to revisit the app constantly, became a side task that pushed away from the narrative driven console title. I would have loved to continue playing the mobile portion of the experience, but its level of detachment was something that I simply couldn’t overcome, as it was almost too much of a game in its own right.
If we look at Destiny, we can also see a title with one of the best usages of an app with its ability to let players completely manage their inventories on the fly with their phone. If you are like me, you have just about every free slot available in the game taken up with stuff, it can become challenging to move anything around, as a different character will usually be holding what you need. This is something that the app solves perfectly, as I use it as an extension of the existing content, and am able to swap items around without really have to leave my game — in effect, it keeps me in the experience, instead of taking me out of it.
Sadly, Destiny is also a great example of how a title can overy rely on an external device to push an experience forward. If you have played the main campaign of the game, you will know that there is much left to be wanted in terms of narrative. But, in its place, users are expected to collect Grimoire cards, so that they can hop on to either their phone or Bungie’s website to read up on the events that occurred. This is exactly another example of having to leave an experience for another, and does little more than replace a games content with another type of experience. If Destiny had only included the ability for players to read their Grimoire cards in the game, it would have at least made more sense, as the true content of the game would feel much more encapsulated.
Chandler: I’m a gamer to my very core, so I always want to be in the game. Even when I am out and about, I’m thinking about loadouts and inventory management and leveling up and everything that I want to be doing in my games. Enter the recent onset of companion apps for games that can not only interface directly with the game while you are playing it, but also allow you to work towards content within the game when you aren’t at your console. The idea of never stopping the progression is a tantalizing one. If I can continue to earn experience and money — or whatever else makes sense for that particular game — while I am not at my console, that just keeps me involved in the experience.
The big problem is when an app segments the experience, instead of enhancing and expanding it. The Destiny grimoire problem is a huge one that you mentioned. Instead of simply expanding the experience, and allowing you to get content that was already in the game while out away from your console, visiting the external app or website is required to get that information. Playing a bit of the Devil’s advocate here though, other games do a similar thing in expanding the universe or story through external books or comics (such as Mortal Kombat), so Destiny using the app for the grimoire isn’t really much different, except that more people actually have access to it and it is free.
As you mentioned too though, on the other side of the coin, Destiny shows a companion app done right, allowing on the fly and away from console inventory management and strategic gameplay session planning, as well as being a general hub of information about the goings on in the game. For online games, I think this kind of thing is crucial to keep players up to date on the world state and their characters. I was ecstatic when I discovered the ease of use with Destiny’s app, and thinking about the release of Elder Scrolls Online next week, I can only imagine that the experience would be vastly enhanced with the use of a companion app to track my character, inventory, and general information about the world.
Assassin’s Creed Unity’s app ran a bit too slowly for me to really ever consider it of value. It was supposed to connect to your game to allow for second screen content like being able to show the map, which worked ok when it was running well, but disconnected far too frequently. The rest of the experience, when taken away from the console, was a bit more of sore thumb, really feeling like a separate experience than a true enhancement to the core game. With the on-the-go nature of an app, it needs to be designed well, and run quickly. If it’s a chore to even pull up and use, the experience is either complicated, or simply not utilized.
Ubisoft announcing that they are moving away from using an app for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate seems like the right move if they can’t develop one to properly enhance the game, rather than locking off portions. There’s a fine balance to not relying on the app for the core experience, yet still allowing it to offer a significant enough enhancement that people want to use it to expand and continue their game. Personally, I would like to see more developers taking an approach to engaging players in their games outside of the living room, but it must be done right, or not be done at all.
Which app based or extended content has ever improved your experience? Would you like to see more games use alternative methods to push how we enjoy games? Let us know in the comments below, email us at [email protected] or expand your PSLS content @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife.