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To new game+, or not to new game+?

Something I've been mentally wrestling with for a while now is whether to have a new game+ in Forgotten Gates. To explain more fully, here's an overview of how I'd had things planned until relatively recently. Since FG has a cast of 12 (main) playable characters, I needed to have a way of giving them all a decent amount of time in the spotlight. Hence, I came up with the concept of sending parties of four each to three different lands through magical portals -- the titular 'forgotten gates'. The player would decide which party to send where, and play out the story by skipping between parties as needed.

The "problem" with this approach is that a player would need to play the game at least three times to experience the full content. The story would be subtly different (mainly in terms of how dialogue plays out) depending on which party went to each land, and arguably facing the dungeons and boss fights with different parties would provide interestingly different play experiences (assuming I design them well). Perhaps most importantly, I wanted to have optional "side quests" in which one or two characters went off on their own to achieve an upgrade only they can use. But if the side quests take place in different lands, whether the player has the opportunity to do each of them depends on whether a particular party is brought to the land for that side quest.

So I figured, hey, why not just do a new game+ with it? That way at least a player could go through the game several times without feeling like they're losing all their progress. In fact, I could adjust the toughness and abundance of enemies for each playthrough to keep things interesting for the player. Second playthrough? Assume the characters start at about level 30. Third playthrough? They must've hit the cap at level 50 by now, or if they haven't they will pretty quick. Sure, lots of players will be satisfied and put the game down after just one playthrough, but it doesn't hurt to provide some challenge for those interested enough to play again a couple times for the 100% completion, right?

Well, more recently my thinking about FG was somewhat revolutionized by the concept of resetting character levels for every dungeon. This would mean that a new game+ wouldn't have as much meaning to it, because there wouldn't be character levels to carry over from one playthrough to the next. There could still be inventory, which I'm thinking will be more important than ever now, but making the enemies tougher, even if just by making them more numerous or even more aggressive or intelligent without increasing their stats, could quickly create a sharp incline of difficulty for the player compared to the previous playthrough. On the flip side, if the enemies are exactly the same in each playthrough, it could be a bit of a slog to go through familiar territory again, especially for parts before and after the three-land split.

One thing I could do to at least reduce this problem would be to not have a full new game+, but just allow the player to repeat the parts which are different when approached with a different party. I even have a legitimate fictional justification for this: since the game's plot is a story-within-a-story about online roleplayers acting out a shared fantasy, once the conclusion is reached the roleplayers could say, "Hey, why don't we do a what-if scenario where we decided to send the groups out to different lands than last time and see how that would've played out?" For that matter, I could allow them to repeat any chapter of the game with a party of any composition, although I wouldn't want to tackle the combinatorial explosion of changing the cutscenes to accomodate the player's hero picks. X)

With that approach, perhaps I might as well even just make all of the side quests available after the main win, without requiring the player to actually go through the three-lands campaigns with different parties. They still could if they want to in order to see how the cutscenes would play out differently and such, but the primary bonus of doing a quest they couldn't before and gaining a special toy would be immediately accessible. The downside is, they wouldn't have much remaining content in which to use said toys...although with the Rogue-like bent the game has taken, I'm starting to think I should toss in a lot of quick one-off quests that have nothing to do with the main plot. Maybe mopping those up will give thorough-going players satisfaction, especially if some of them are more challenging than the main quests.

So, any thoughts? If there were lots of optional quests that have only a brief story attached to them with little-to-no bearing on the main plot (or even just "Here's a challenge, have at it"), would you enjoy that? Would being given instant access to the character-specific side quests after beating the game once feel cheap or disconcerting to you? Would you rather go through the campaigns in the three lands several different times to access the sidequests, or even repeat the entire game at a more demanding difficulty level? Or would you prefer that no choice is provided about which party goes to which land, so that all of the side quests can be done in a single playthrough?


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Have you ever played Tales of Symphonia to completion to see the New Game+ options?

There are a lot of cool things you can do with New Game+.
I'll list you some.
- newgame+ score store :: Basically, you judge the players actions on each previous play through and allow them to purchase a series of perks based on how well they played.
- exp modifier :: let them level up faster, thus decreasing the grind
- new optional items/weapons/armours, with awesome perks :: maybe an awesome superweapon as the new game perk
- fan service or costume :: meh...
- cheats :: or allow a cheat to be turned on with every newgame+ completion, however it's done, let the player break the rules a bit, let'em earn the option to walk through all walls or something like that.

Also, allowing repeated dialogue to be skipped would be good.
Adding special new game+ easter eggs is also generally good, it doesn't alter anything important, but it's a cool bonus.

Just be creative. You know your game best, how do you think you can play on it's strengths to pull players back in?
I think the New Game+ store or menu option is a good idea, but I'd add to that that you shouldn't necessarily restrict yourself to offering the player options that'll preserve challenge. The players being offered a New Game+ have already completed the game; some of them may want to find more ways to challenge themselves, others will want different ways to get enjoyment out of the game. Sometimes a New Game+ can be a source of catharsis, allowing players to obliterate obstacles which were challenging the first time around.
New game+ is a good option IF you can provide enough new challenges and rewards for the player to play the game over again. Adding special dungeons, hidden characters, extra weapons and items for your new game+ is a good way to start.
In my game, since I plan to have an option to carry over the save to its sequel, I won't be implementing the feature as it might ruin the gaming experience for the next part.
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