quest for booty

collectables of yesteryear

Let's have a look at what I believe to be the most eficient design philosophy we can apply to the collectables found in collect-a-thons of old.


treasure (breadcrums)

Every collect-a-thon has that one item that is scattered everywhere.

From crystals to precursor orbs, they tend to act as a breadcrum trail to help guide the player.

It also tends to act as the worlds currency, and it's just laying there!


Hold onto your cash people!!!

Progressors (used to progress)

Power cells, stars & jiggies are just a few examples of these big shiny keys, without them we would never leave sandover beach, or enter the hoverboard race in Blackwater City.

These are generally found at the end of a path or by completing a specific task in a level or area.



stand-ins (for when the game gets to hard)

Chasing down egg thieves, picking up 100 coins or freeing all the scout flies, are things we can do when a specific mission or path is just to hard.

These collectables offer their own unique challenge; when completed you are rewarded with a progressor, allowing you to potentially avoid a tricky mission.



Every developer adds their own spin to the archetypes I've presented.

Let's have a look at how focusing on different aspect changes the way a collectable is implemented.


Exploration centric:

Jak and Daxter: the precursor legacy, crosses all it's "t's" & dots all it's "i's".

Precursor orbs are used to guide the player, either to a power cell or a mission that will provide one; there are also 7 scout flies in each area. Jak and Daxter refined the core principals in order to promote exploration and guide the player through the seamless world they built.

action oriented:

I would dare to say that Insomniac games have always had an inclination towards action; from burning sheep all the way to obliterating OD'ed.

The gems in Spyro are held by enemies and placed in such a way that they invite exploration.  Much like an Indiana Jones there is both action & explortion, with the former outweighing the latter.

Theme park Inspired:

Banjo-Kazooie's use of weenies provides players with landmarks that contain progressors.

Music notes and stone path are used to guide the player to each weenie. However, you could easily find your way to each of these landarks by yourself.


In closing

  • Make your treasure a once in a life time experience (This a personal note but, having a treasure that re-spawns like "A hat in time" or "Super lucky's tale" is not the most efficient way to use this type of collectable IMO.)
  • Have a consistent progressor (The hot air balloon pilots in Spyro sometimes asked you for gems and somtimes asked you to free a certain amount of dragons, this was later fixed in the sequels and made for a better experience.)
  • Make your stand-ins fun challenges!!!

the end