In Psychonauts there were arrowheads, PSI Cards, figments and more. In Crackdown there were Orbs. In Burnout Paradise there were Billboards, Smashes, Jumps and more. In Test Drive Unlimited 2 there are roads, photographs, wrecks, shops and so on.
Collecting MacGuffins can form part of a game, or be the main focus of a game; and for some of us it can be fun, and an obsession. However, there is often the spectre of “the last one”. I have no idea how long I spent in Psychonauts looking for one damned figment (some were very hard to see in busy areas). I know I spent weeks looking for the last Secret Orb. It took me a lot of time to find the last Smash in Burnout Paradise, even with a cheat map. I’m now looking for the last 1% of map in the Ibiza 2 area of Test Drive Unlimited 2 (TDU2). And it’s frustrating.
There’s a balance in these games between collecting being difficult enough to make finding MacGuffins worthwhile, and give you that feeling of satisfaction, and making it so difficult that you begin to experience the non-fun kind of frustration.
If a game has far more to do than collecting, then it can ease the frustration level as you can go off and do other things, returning periodically to try to complete your collection. Or, as in several games I’ve played, accidentally find the Last MacGuffin while doing some other activity.
On the other hand, no matter how much there is to do, if you can’t find the last one, especially close to completion of other parts of the game, the frustration can return again full force. This takes some gloss off a game, no matter how good it is.
Some games try to help as you get closer to completion. For Crackdown they eventually released a patch that made an Orb’s distinctive ‘hum’ louder, and detectable from further away, the less orbs there were. Even with that, finding the last one was a pain.
In TDU2, as you drive over a piece of road, it becomes highlighted, while the bits you’ve yet to drive are still grey. In theory, this should help, but finding that 1% has had me peering over the full map, and driving randomly (the grey is more obvious in the mini-map while you drive). Of course, I’ve done a few more races, and taken some photos to help pass the time, but I’m getting back to the frustration level now.
The real problem here is that unlike many collectibles from games, there are roads all over the map – miles of them. You can’t do a walk through, or use a cheat map for something like this, because the cheat map is essentially the entire map!
At this point, after so much play, I really wouldn’t mind if un-driven road was highlighted in some fashion. I’m thinking that if you’ve been Free-riding an area for a while, and there’s very little left to drive (say 3% or less – a number plucked from the air), then the road you’ve missed would glow in the map, or similar. I don’t really expect them to do this, but right now, it would be nice. I can’t imagine how I’m going to deal trying to finish the four Hawaii areas.
Some of you are probably thinking “you can’t find it – big deal, move on”, which is probably a sensible view. However some of us like to complete certain challenges, and it bugs us if we can’t. Some games (like Red Dead Redemption, which I’ll write about another time), I just shrug my shoulders over and move on. Other games, like Fallout: New Vegas, or TDU2, scratch my particular collection/completion itch, and I really want to finish certain parts of the game.
I doubt there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to this “problem” as there will be some people that want things easier, and some won’t want any help at all with finding the Last MacGuffin. Then there is the issue of achievements and trophys. If you have a game on “easy finding” or “help me lots” do you still get the 100% completion? Is that fair to those who have it on “hard” or “don’t ever help me”? Are there different achievements for each level of difficulty?
All I really know, is that for me, I like things to be a challenge, but not so much that it takes me weeks of searching to find one MacGuffin.
Now, where is that last 1% of road!?