You've certainly got a point here Lephys. Money, time and manpower all need to be spent efficiently because they don't have unlimited amounts of it. I'd say that's the biggest and most viable concern. But, it certainly makes you wonder doesn't it? After all, it wasn't I that decided to do a game based on souls (which obviously opened the door to viable amounts of time travel story telling, multiple "perspectives" and the like). Thanks for actually stating what the Half Life expansion was btw... nothing more frustrating then seeing a reference to a game I haven't the foggiest clue about. As for the expansion thing, it might actually be worth a shot but the general idea I had in mind for the "first playthrough" was that you couldn't quite stop the main villain. I'm not sure how the player base would take such a loss. Though it would probably be a very good incentive to buy the expansion so what do I know.
Is that a Fifth Element reference I see? Went up quite a few notches on the awesome-o-meter with that one Lephys.
I think the bolded part is where people often get hung up and i'm not entirely sure why that is. I always find it so damn "funny" whenever our average adventuring group boldly and proudly goes up to the king/mayor/whatever and says that they will cure all the ruling parties' woes. I always have one question in mind whenever this comes up "Where the hell are the royal guards?". I've seen one and only one instance where this would actually be plausible in real life and that was in an indie game. Should this area be "content locked"? You bet it should. Kings didn't exactly grant audience to every Tom, **** and Harry that strolled into their courtroom. But I have digressed as even this really doesn't matter because players are actually okay with content locking.
I'd say Arcanum was the game that would be the most obvious example of the former statement. If you've never played it then you just have to know that all of your starting statistics would *greatly* influence how your particular game would play out. I ended up making a low charisma character that I later regretted playing. I could only ever have 1 companion or I could spend extremely valuable character points on boosting it up at the cost of needed combat viability. There was a choice I had made at the beginning of the game and it had a (noticeable) consequence to it. I do not fault Arcanum for this. If anything, I applaud the actual consequences of the real choices I have to make even at character creation. You cannot do everything with one character in Arcanum thus there is replay value (and a hell of a lot of it). In order to do this, they have to lock you out of specific paths you *could* have taken with a different character. This would be locking you out of content though whether you'd consider this "arbitrary" or not is up to you.
You see content that's locked would really only be considered arbitrarily locked if you could actually reach it in the first place. Maybe your second playthrough of the game is actually the prequel to the events that happen at the beginning of it. Your character has "memory loss" at the beginning of it yet the main villain keeps subtly implying that their is familiarity between the two of you. So the first playthrough you piece together events that should be in your memories but are not for some reason. Maybe *you* are the reason for the rise of the villain. Maybe you need to stop this from happening, maybe you don't. Maybe you need to kill "yourself" to save the world or maybe *you* are the shadowy figure that gets introduced halfway through the game that axes the main villain before you ever reach him. Maybe you end up crushing your "former self" resulting in the bad end you get at the end of the game. Maybe you finally get to play a LEGITIMATE anti-hero (Raz's favorite archetype). The possibilities, of course, are near endless.
You know now that I think about it Golden Sun for the Gameboy actually did something along these lines. It was a two part JRPG for the Gameboy that followed a boy named Isaac who due to various events was attempting to stop the "villains" from relighting some lighthouses scattered across the game world. Thing is, when you hit the end of the first cartridge your perspective on whether it's actually a bad idea to relight the lighthouses may actually change. You see, in the second part your main character instead becomes Felix who's goal is to actually light them. This makes absolutely no sense unless one thing has changed (your perspective). You basically play the second game attempting to do something you were trying to stop in the first. This would be an example of good world building.
Man, sometimes it feels like the Japanese always beat us to the punch...
I think defining "arbitrary" would help differentiate between what I do and do not support. Arbitrary means, in this context, "Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system".
Using this definition, I actually approve of the way Arcanum accomplished replay value: Who your protagonist was, what they were good at, their position on the technology-magic spectrum, and the choices that they made determined what content they experienced, and the content that they were locked from had a logical rationale behind it, based on the systems of the game, and your choices from character creation onward. There was no piece of content that was barred to you on your first playthrough, provided you made the right choices, solely by virtue of it being your first playthrough. Let me contrast this example with one I find to be more arbitrary: Mass Effect 2.
In ME2, if you imported a character from a previous playthrough, you would start at a higher level and have bonus resources and paragon/renegade points. But from a story perspective, this made absolutely no sense. If you imported, you were commander Shepard, sent on a mission to fight the geth after destroying the big bad from ME1. If you created a "new" character, you were commander Shepard, sent on a mission to fight the geth after destroying the big bad from ME1. Storywise, NOTHING WAS DIFFERENT. However, as a gameplay mechanic, they chose to reward importing a previous character over creating a new one in this manner anyway. So, as far as the story was concerned, you were at a disadvantage, with no reason or system to explain it, and the paragon/renegade bonus in particular was almost required to get the best outcomes at the end of the game. In short, an arbitrary metagame mechanic ("new" character vs import) led to different outcomes, with absolutely no in game justification.
I am not against content locking, I am against arbitrary content locking/advantages. Let the replay value come from different choices, not having to beat the game to unlock certain features arbitrarily in the next playthrough.