What are your thought on this..
I'm guessing that story and characters will rank higher for you, right?
Sorry to take so long to reply, been busy with work lately and I figured it'd be good to give other folk a chance to chime in prior to my own wall-o-text
I'm generally all over the board. I think the biggest core element I would like to see boils down to one word.
That concept can add a lot to a game. Diverse levels and areas to see, diverse npc's to interact with, diverse enemies to deal with, diverse weapons and armor and customisation options, tones, plot points, genre's, stories, attacks and movement, animations, voices, ambiance and mood.. You name it, if a game has a diverse set of ANYTHING it helps my enjoyment of the game.
That is to say, I don't require every game to be diverse in everything, and I don't expect the diversity to be in the hundreds for EVERY detail. But every extra option, mood, character, setting that they imbue into a game is one more flavor and texture I can appreciate.
Variety is the spice of life, yes?
Sadly to offer diversity is a ecconomical nightmare for developers, so it is rare that we see a lot of it beyond some of the most core elements. Usually we'll see diverse weapons and armor, diverse enemies to fight, and some diverse NPC's to interact with. There is always some allotment of different places to explore and fight through, but depending on genre and style, it often hits the same beats everyone else does. Every game has a sewer level, a fire level, an ice level, a forest area, desert, etc etc etc. That leads me to the last diversity aspect I really love.
Diversity Beyond Convention.
I love to see games defy the common game rules and what is popular or a "sure fire win" . I absolutely loved Dungeon Keeper back in the days of classic PC Gaming because at the time, nothing like it had been done (that I knew of at least) and it took my idea of games and threw it on it's ear. And Dungeon keeper, you'll notice, has a lot of diversity too. Tons of monsters to lure, tons of ways to build your dungeon, a lot of types of traps, ways to train and grow the monsters, spells to learn, monsters to possess, etc etc. Even for such an old game, it had quite a lot to enjoy about it.
Beyond that concept, I do appreciate a unique well crafted art style. Some of the games that Sony Studio's has done have been my favorite despite having awkward controls or other issues. All time fave for the longest time on PS2 was 'Primal' due to the adult tone, amazing art prowess and overall AAA execution (it just had crap controls). Same for team Ico's stuff, Folklore (ps3) and so on. As an artist I appreciate when the dev's have an especially talented crew working on a game. And that doesn't have to be just "eye bleeding details in 3d graphics". A lot of the kickstarter campaigns I backed are not 3d, but got backed due to having exceptional artistic skills. Here is a few examples:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/13 ... enture-rpg
Knight and The Ghost Lights:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/20 ... ost-lights
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/21 ... -adventure
And many others (a few that failed their campaigns, sadly).
The games I'd say I have played the most and enjoyed the most (and have replayed a few times in my life because they're such a joy) would be :
Persona 3 and Persona 4
Fallout 3 and Fallout NV
The Last Remnant
Tecmo's Deception Series
P3/4 would be the highest ranked, as I've sunk more hours into those 2 games than most others (possibly more than them combined). It was a total departure for me in terms of RPG gameplay. It defied convention and was a anime rpg with dating sim elements and a strong cast of characters and story with a TON of creatures to summon, people to meet, activities to do, and varies plots to hash out. After playing it and getting deep enough into everything, it ends up feeling like a living breathing world, and one based in a semi-modern realistic Tokyo so it feels almost possible (though after a while it gets a litttle outlandish). Persona 4 takes that notion and amps it up even more with a lot of the nuance and charm of a small town setting, tons more characters and people to interact with, a lot of themes and ideas (some very adult ones too) to work through, and all the rpg goodness p3 had. Neither game has kickass graphics, though they're no slouch either.
The Fallout Games gave me the sandbox variety and freedom I really loved, with a rich diversity of skills, perks, abilities, weapons, armor and items to enjoy. Toss that in a massive free to explore wasteland (something I've been morbidly fascinated with since I was a kid) and a whole slew of characters and quests and I was in heaven. Fallout NV wasn't quite as good, but wwith a lot of expanded ideas and added features, it still managed to shine.
The Last Remnant is sort of a guilty pleasure. It was one of the few games that Square designed using someone else's engine (Unreal) and whereas it allowed them to bang the game out fast and with a CRAP TON of stuff, it has a lot of.. flaws. Lackluster story, hit or miss voice acting, a protag thats kind of a whiney slaphead, stiff animation cycles that look too "hand puppeted". But despite this the graphics still look great (especially if you tweak the CFG files in a few ways) and once the game hits it's stride and allows you a true large roster of npc's to control it is just totally addictive. Tons of enemies and a massive variety of locales and vista's to appreciate, characters to talk to, quests and items to get, hidden monsters to fight and rae loot to gather, weapons to craft and use, skills to unlock, etc etc. I sank about 270 hours into this one and I've been itching to revisit it (I had briefly last year but something got borked with my pc and the game was insta-crash whenever I loaded it so I eventually took it off).
Tecmos' Deceptions series is similar to Dungeon Keeper in that you play a sort of "evil" entity that has to place traps and use them with the environment to survive and get rid of the people seeking to kill you for a variety of reasons. The story is convoluted and mostly ignored, voice acting has always been in the native Japanese, and graphics improved over time (the third one on ps1 was really a game that should have gone to ps2) but never was a powerhouse. But again, there was a massive variety of traps and trap tweaks you could do, ways to add up exp and money killing foes, and devious methods to pile up a combo.
So yeah whereas I do love a great story and characters, TBH, in games it is so rare to find exception writing that provides that so I stopped expecting/looking for it. It is changing, slowly, to where newer games are using more nuance and so the story and writitng is better. But because it is still generally lackluster, I don't pay it much mind.
I just loves me my variety. Allows every playthrough some uniquity, allows creative thinking and problem solving, allows the player to create the experience THEY will enjoy(not what the developer thinks is the koolest, necessarily) and allows replayability in most cases. I even appreciated Mass Effect 1 2 and (until the end) 3 because I was able to tweak the world and story and events to match my characters backstory and really roleplay her the way I wanted. Replayability showed me a lot of the variety was not REALLY there, but the first rundown was a right good time.
Wow that took a while. And sadly I didn't organize and break out the details like Kwasatz did, sadly. But hopefullly it gives you a whole different idea of what players may appreciate.