'Just One More' design in Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- Edwin McRae
I realized that I was no longer playing AC: Odyssey. Instead, that game was playing me!
AC: Odyssey is a nefarious masterpiece of 'just one more' design. The secret sites on the map are perfectly spaced so that the next one is a manageable ride from the one you've just completed. The timing is impeccable too. It'll only take you 15-20 minutes to get there and complete it. What's another 15 minutes when you've already been playing for an hour and a half? Nothing, unless you've fallen for that cunning little ploy ten times now and it's 2am in the morning on a work day. The side missions are similar. You'll be just about finished everything in an area and then another exclamation mark will pop up somewhere. Or you have completed everything and then there's an area dominance battle to trigger because you've reduced Sparta's stranglehold enough for Athens to make their play. Or there's that timed mission on offer, the one where you need to go sink five pirates ships within the next few hours or the quest vanishes, wiping the accidental progress I've made on that quest already. I'm at 2/5 because I sank a couple of pirate ships on the way to this island.
When you add in leveling, mercenaries that keep turning up bearing Legendary and Epic items, a web of cultists to assassinate and the mediocre main storyline if there's nothing better to do, AC: Odyssey is a Fatal Attraction scenario. And I don't even get to be Michael Douglas with some semblance of control over my sorry life. I'm the bunny in the pot! Curiosity leads to compulsion leads to obsession as my dopamine system is worked like a one-armed bandit. Dopamine is what makes you feel motivated, you see. It's the neurotransmitter that produces the 'just one more' feeling.
So now I'm giving me dopamine system a rest. And how am I feeling about it all today?
Strangely listless, floating aimlessly like a Greek warship without sail or oars. Yes, this is the post-dopamine-high doldrums. But writing this post is helping. I can feel a faint sea breeze picking up. It's ruffling the previously limp sails now.
About Edwin McRae
Edwin is a narrative consultant and mentor for the games industry.