YouTube has ruined singleplayer games for me. I would much rather watch a content creator that I enjoy play a new story-driven game than play it myself. They usually make the experience more enjoyable, sometimes do better at the game than I would have, and it saves me the money and possibly time of buying it myself.
There are a few exceptions, but if there is only one solution to a puzzle, a set number of interactions to be had, and one final outcome, then the game is not worth buying.
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Maybe you don’t want someone else moving your in-game head around, or that guy keeps on skipping past those easter eggs you read about on Reddit. Fine. To each their own, you go spend $30 on that indie title, but the rest of us like our money and want to spend it on more important things, like CS:GO gun skins.
I’m exaggerating, of course, but the validity of owning a singleplayer title is becoming less essential to our gaming libraries. This is especially true for the independent artistic games like Inside, We Happy Few, and Ori and the Blind Forest.
In these examples, there is each a set path for you to take and, though there is opportunity for failure, you are greeted with the same outcome when you succeed. This doesn’t make for good replayability or playability at all. If I can watch someone else do all the work and I’m told the same story, then why would I pay money to do it myself instead?
So what would make me want to play a singleplayer game? I know an “indie studio”, that consists of 5 people working away in someone’s apartment, may want to tell a story that no triple-A publisher would ever dream of putting out there. But, there are more important requirements to hit if you want to make money off your masterpiece. These are however based on my own opinion and shouldn't be thought of as a real guideline.
Should always be the main focus of a video game. Make something that gives the player control over what’s going on. This can be a recycled mechanic, a combination of a few, or something completely different. As long as it’s fun to play and doesn’t feel like a chore (unless you’re making a game about doing chores, then you’re doing a great job).
Not everyone is a gaming expert nor do they have the patience for 50 QTEs as a final boss, so a scalable difficulty is also a good ingredient to encapsulate a wider audience for a longer time. Players should be able to make it through easily at first, given encouragement about doing good, and given the opportunity to practice and acquire skill to gain more reward without breaking the economy of the game.
A good example of such a game is Hotline Miami, where you can take your time in clearing the levels and are given reasonable checkpoints, but reward you simply with a better score for being more ballsy or stylish with your acquired skill.
Drags a player into the world you’re laying out. It is what brought your protagonist to the battlefield, what built the skyscrapers in the background, and what causes electrons to spin around the atoms that make up your universe. The Dark Souls series implements depth very well. Without directly telling you the backstory of every enemy, you’re able to pick up on clues from the setting and make connections simply by discovery or willingness to look deeper into the subtext.
This isn’t exactly a selling point of a game, but it can give the buyer some reassurance that they've made the right choice in buying this game because they got to discover something themselves. This also ties into the next point.
Yes, that thing that you wanted to drive your sales is actually good for something. But how do you make everyone want to read your book rather have one person read it to them all? Choice is the key element to creating an enthralling narrative that invites people to take your idea for a ride, see how far they can go.
That’s why a lot of successful singleplayer games are open-world RPG's which allow a person to pour their own personality into their character. Take any Bethesda game for example; they spread their story across hundreds of kilometers of land for you to explore at your own pace and discretion, however the player should be compelled to complete a task or continue with the story, even subconsciously.
The composition of these elements, and some others that get kinda nitpicky and situational, is what creates a great singleplayer game. This is ambitious, though. Not everyone can just come up with some genius game mechanic and create an intricate story and universe that comparable to Tolkien. That's why singleplayer games are dying.
The ones that come out don't warrant being played personally. Maybe YouTube isn't the only factor. It could be the lower average interest in such games, or the production cost versus revenue. Developers are focusing less on singleplayer games and more on the multiplayer ones that sell better.
An obvious example of this is Valve's abandonment of Half-Life 3, despite the unanimous outcry for it. The info is slightly dated, but it is because of profitability that the company has decided not to take strides to releasing this game.
This shouldn't demotivate independent developers from creating games. It should, in fact, inspire you to make better ones. Not making a worthwhile experience is like selling water next to a well. Content creators may be unknowingly ruining a genre, or they may be showing us how we need to make them better.