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Author Topic: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design  (Read 43477 times)

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Sharkey

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Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« on: January 15, 2008, 08:55:49 PM »

Already did a pissy article about this, but never a day passes without encountering some kind of fuckheadedness that really doesn't have any technical excuse.

I would like to go back and revise at least one of those, however. Cut scenes should be skippable, sure. More importantly, they should be pausable and rewindable. I'll spend hours just horsing around, but the moment I hit a half hour long cutscene is the precise time the girlfriend will get home or the building will catch fire.

I also forgot to include the worst offender of the lot. I don't know which fink thought the one thing that should be introduced to MMOs would be unskippable goddamn cutscenes. Not only an MMO, but one of which I was already particularly fond and had stuck a lot of time into. City of Heroes isn't a game I play for the plot. And strapping me down and forcing me to watch what essentially amounts to someone else roleplaying multiple times through the course of a raid does not improve the experience. MMOs are repetitive enough without freezing everything so I can watch some douche in shoulderpads go off about how I just walked into his trap for the fiftieth goddamn time. If they had to do it they at least could have made them long enough for me to go take a leak.

I'll be adding to this one. Bear in mind I'm not talking about design choices you just don't agree with. I mean things that universally make shit less fun for all involved.
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PhoenixUltima

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2008, 09:27:42 PM »

Psychic guards. Now, I understand that these are supposed to be highly alert trained professionals guarding critical locations. That's cool. I respect that. But if I manage to sneak in without ticking off any guards or leaving any evidence of my entry and siliently kill a lone guard with one silenced headshot, his buddy 20 feet away and on the other side of a wall shouldn't yell out "Intruder!" and hit the alarm. I'm looking at you, Splinter Cell.
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Brentai

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2008, 09:57:16 PM »

Triple bonus points on the unskippable cutscene thing if there was actually an option to skip cutscenes implemented in the debug version of the game, and it was removed from retail.  In case you weren't aware that Square-Enix really, really wants you to sit through a lot of shit.
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Doom

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2008, 10:00:53 PM »

Forced difficulty.

Pokemon AI literally reads your moves and mon selections and reacts up to the last second, and I'm pretty sure can force "% chance to happen" effects at will for itself.

But if you want to bitch about a manlier tv game, God of War. That last part of the Ares battle was a chunk of shit in my delicious cake.

The transition from GoW to GoW2 is a pretty rock-solid guide to how to make a game and then fix it's mistakes. Maybe you could force developers to play both in some manner of class. Or concentration camp program.
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Royal☭

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2008, 10:04:52 PM »

Cutscenes are the devil's tools.  Call of Cthulhu had an unskippable 10 minute cutscene right before a difficult death trap.  And the only available saves were 20 minutes before the cutscene and right after the death trap.  Drove me insane.

Invisible walls.  Now there is a poor design decision.  There are so many legitimate ways to keep a player from jumping over a fence and running free in the environment that not allowing the player to jump over a waste-high wall seems ridiculous.  Hell, not letting us explore that environment is even more ridiculous.   This is even more irritating when the game has a physics engine that allows me to stack boxes.  When I build a makeshift stairway out of some crates and can't jump onto a roof, that's just lazy.

Sharkey

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2008, 10:32:11 PM »

Monster Madness I think was the worst invisible wall offender in recent memory. Those weren't just barriers to keep you inside the game. They were all over in the middle of the playable area, for very little goddamn reason. Obviously they were just trying to keep you from shortcutting across rooftops or whatever, but when you're moving right along across the things and -whap- stop dead and your feet start doing that sliding across the ground without going anywhere thing... frustrating as hell. It was worst in the park area where there wasn't anything even remotely resembling a physical barrier most of the time, and usually obtainable items on the other side of the goddamn force field. It was just a retard way of making you walk around more.

It's a sloppy way of doing things at best. But when it's so damn out of place that you think it might be a bug for a while because it's just unfathomable that it was done on purpose, yeah, somebody fucked up.
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PsEG

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2008, 04:24:10 AM »

Catch-up/rubberband AI. This might be harping on the forced difficulty point a little more.

This bullshit shows up the most in driving games, and it even has a few supporters who think AI that magically sticks to your ass when you're doing well "makes for exciting races" or whatever. I classify these people as clueless ninnies who hate the idea of intelligent, challenging AI.

If you are kicking the computer's ass in a race/event/whatever, having the computer sudden turn into a master (or glaringly break game rules in shittier games) to keep right on your tail is not fun. Especially when it means making one mistake near the end will cost you a win.

Burning Example: I lost a race in Midnight Club III after one mistake in an otherwise phenomenal performance, and won the very same race after half a dozen crashes, catching up and passing the leader (who had magically slowed down with the rest of the pack) at the end. My time for the crash-filled come-from-behind win was over a minute slower than my one-mistake third place finish.

That isn't rewarding skill. That's like turning a game into the Family Feud, where only the last round or minute really matters and everything beforehand is fluff.
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Bal

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2008, 04:58:35 AM »

That rubber band shit drives me up the wall. I can't count the number of perfect races ruined by that nonsense. One crash and as you're checking into the wall, zoom zoom zoom, hello fourth place. A related and specific version of that is the item weighting in Double Dash, leading to what I dubbed the "raped on your doorstep" phenomenon, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Here's a huge one for me, out of genre missions. Thought you were playing a run and gun FPS? Well surprise, bitch, welcome to the stealth mission. Oh sure, the engine doesn't support it, and none of the previous levels gave you the skill set to complete it, but fuck you.  Stealth missions, escort missions, first person turret gunner shit out of nowhere, driving for no good god damn reason, whatever the hell it ends up being. The best is when they combined the two. Here's this new game mechanic -QUICK! It's the only thing that can protect the  McGuffin! Huh? Wha? Oh, it's been shot once, now I get to watch the unskippable cutscene introducing the new game mechanic.
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Arc

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2008, 09:18:22 AM »

Challenge: Cite one escort mission that hasn't suckled upon yeti balls. GO!

When attempting to experience a playthrough in full, it's not the special weaponry or hit-point-maxed, color-swapped hidden bosses that push me to explore further on. No, it's the non-player characters, whom I enjoy conversing with at all times, dull exposition or not. Bonus points if talking with them rewards my character with experience or items.

Which all leads me to curse arbitrary or unknown trigger points, closing off all those conversations from ever coming about. If you can warn me that the last fuckall boss is just ahead and would-i-like-to-turn-back-?, then go that extra half an inch and do the same before major altering events. At the least mark on the map where such triggers lay, sheesh guys for realsies.
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Bal

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2008, 09:34:22 AM »

I don't know. In the case of branching NPC development I think it would take something away if a a warning popped up when you were about to say something precipitous. Maybe I'm just a big RP fag, but when you say something to someone, you don't normally get warnings that this will lead to undesirable results.

Quote
Challenge: Cite one escort mission that hasn't suckled upon yeti balls. GO!

I thought for awhile, and the best one I could think of was from Bioshock.

[spoiler]Protecting the Little Sister didn't put me off at all. I think primarily because of the fantastic lead up to actually getting her as your guide, and the feel of being a Bid Daddy. The fact that losing her isn't instant game over is nice too. Each major encounter is also gives you ample opportunity to prepare with the various resources available to you.[/spoiler]
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Sharkey

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2008, 09:38:55 AM »

This bugged at least a few people, but I had no troubles escorting Alyx around in HL2: Ep 1. I certainly didn't feel any deep emotional bond with the character or whateverthefuck Newell was going off about, but she didn't die and she didn't get in my fucking way. Even better, only three quarters of the stuff she was talking about was foreheadslappingly stupid.

My favorite one ever, however, had to be Superman Returns. Wherein, as a solution to Superman's invulnerability, they made the entire game an escort mission for a whole city.
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Brentai

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2008, 09:49:21 AM »

Challenge: Cite one escort mission that hasn't suckled upon yeti balls. GO!



Quote
Which all leads me to curse arbitrary or unknown trigger points, closing off all those conversations from ever coming about. If you can warn me that the last fuckall boss is just ahead and would-i-like-to-turn-back-?, then go that extra half an inch and do the same before major altering events. At the least mark on map where such triggers lay, sheesh guys for realsies.

I love how FF12 actually warns you when you might get stuck in a dungeon and probably shouldn't save over any earlier files.  ...but I hate the fact that this is a new thing.
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Kazz

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2008, 10:11:48 AM »

This bugged at least a few people, but I had no troubles escorting Alyx around in HL2: Ep 1. I certainly didn't feel any deep emotional bond with the character or whateverthefuck Newell was going off about, but she didn't die and she didn't get in my fucking way.

If you ever led her into danger and let her get shot, you'd learn that she was all but completely fucking invulnerable.  She COULD die, but she had like ten times Freeman's HP.

I'm reminded of a mission in Syphon Filter 2 for the PS1 in which you have to go through a canyony area where enemies are all over the walls and can kill you in just about one hit.  They do not, however, shoot at your AI partner, under any circumstances.  So I led him to the entrance to the canyon, hid next to a wall, and let him spot and kill every enemy before we moved on.

Another point: how can someone expect you to develop an emotional connection to Alyx when your protagonist is a fucking mute?  Here I'm picturing someone stroking the screen longingly, wishing for any way to interact with their beloved Alyx that didn't involve firing up Garry's Mod and stapling her to the wall.
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Zaratustra

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2008, 10:29:45 AM »

Forced difficulty.

Pokemon AI literally reads your moves and mon selections and reacts up to the last second, and I'm pretty sure can force "% chance to happen" effects at will for itself.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheComputerIsACheatingBastard

If you ever led her into danger and let her get shot, you'd learn that she was all but completely fucking invulnerable.  She COULD die, but she had like ten times Freeman's HP.
Dog has the high HP. Alyx merely regenerates at an extremely high rate.

Another point: how can someone expect you to develop an emotional connection to Alyx when your protagonist is a fucking mute?
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S D S

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2008, 10:33:41 AM »

I am a grown human being and have a life outside of mashing buttons. Sometimes I have only a few minutes to play a game; sometimes I need to stop playing a game entirely to do something else (which means the pause button just ain't gonna work). When you make a game that doesn't let me save when and where I want, you're making the argument that playing the game is more important than anything else I need to do with my life.

 At this point in the development of game consoles, there's absolutely no technological reason that games can't be saved at any point, whether they're on the computer or a console. Save points are a design issue, and they are bad design issue, in my view.
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Koah

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2008, 12:10:01 PM »

Slowly-scrolling text with no way to speed it up.  In anything.  It's not that I don't appreciate the developers' efforts to make their games accessible to the barely-literate, but they should at least stick some option in there for people who can read more than two words per second.  Most game designers know better nowadays, though.  At least I'd hope that they do.

Oh, also: Situations where you know what you're going to do is the dumbest thing ever, but you need to do it anyway to advance the plot.  That's more a sin of game plotting than design, though.
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Brentai

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2008, 12:19:08 PM »

Oh, also: Situations where you know what you're going to do is the dumbest thing ever, but you need to do it anyway to advance the plot.  That's more a sin of game plotting than design, though.

I had to actually explain to one of my bosses what I meant when I made some reference to jumping off the waterfall in FF6.

"No, there's that part when you're just Sabin and Cyan, and you get to this waterfall and it asks you if you want to jump, and you have to jump."
"But why would you jump?  I don't get it."
"Because you have to.  It's the only way to go any further in the game."
"But why are you jumping?"
"Because you have to."
"Does it give you any reason?"
"No."
"You just jump."
"Yes."
"...I don't remember that."
"And then you have to fight a bunch of fish while you're falling."
"...I don't remember that."
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Arc

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2008, 01:41:53 PM »

In the case of branching NPC development I think it would take something away if a a warning popped up when you were about to say something precipitous.

Wasn't so much writing on dynamic NPC behavior, was more referencing the total voiding of the opportunity to interact with them whatsoever in the first place. I've no issue with pop-up windows, since I've yet to be immersed enough that one would take me out of the experience. Even so, the warning could be subtlety placed into the actual conversation.


Save points are a design issue, and they are bad design issue, in my view.

Ballyhoo and codswallop! They're a legitimate form of challenge, allowing placement for a player to assess their faults while still correctly penalizing them for their failure.

The days of leaving Super Mario 3 turned on over the weekend are finished, true. A system that allows to be shutdown and resumed at any moment is smart, yes. However, once the player is game over'd, reverting to a previous check/save point is perfectly reasonable.
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Thad

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2008, 01:56:48 PM »

Another point: how can someone expect you to develop an emotional connection to Alyx when your protagonist is a fucking mute?

I've gone over this before, but yeah, I don't generally care for silent protagonists.  It doesn't help you relate more to the main guy, it just makes the main guy more boring.

(Exceptions: LttP; the first two Suikoden games.  Not Chrono Trigger.  Chrono Trigger has aged better than probably any other JRPG I have ever played, but it still has a really weak cast.)

Slowly-scrolling text with no way to speed it up.  In anything.  It's not that I don't appreciate the developers' efforts to make their games accessible to the barely-literate, but they should at least stick some option in there for people who can read more than two words per second.  Most game designers know better nowadays, though.  At least I'd hope that they do.

The best is when they ADD that shit to remakes.

The original versions of FF4-6 had text appear instantaneously; they added a scroll in the GBA remakes.  Which, in the case of 6, actually fucks up the audio/video sync of the ending and has Strago's theme come up while Shadow's still onscreen.

Oh, also: Situations where you know what you're going to do is the dumbest thing ever, but you need to do it anyway to advance the plot.  That's more a sin of game plotting than design, though.

Like the "drink the tea!" infinite loop in the first Suikoden.
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S D S

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2008, 02:04:19 PM »

Save points are a design issue, and they are bad design issue, in my view.

Ballyhoo and codswallop! They're a legitimate form of challenge, allowing placement for a player to assess their faults while still correctly penalizing them for their failure.

Arc, good sir, I'll have you know that I was so incensed I had to have Standish retrieve the smelling salts for me after I fainted near dead away at such atrocious language.

Yes, save points can add a challenge, but I personally think that it's a crappy way to do it. I mean, it'd be like increasing the challenge by making your movement controls less responsive or by making the screen flicker off for a minute or two here and there. Why not increase the challenge in a less artificial, in-game way, like by making enemies smarter or giving you less resources?

I've found that the older I get, the only thing that thinly-doled out save points seem to challenge is my patience as I repeat the game from the last save point.

With near ubiquitous saves, or the ability to save from anywhere, I still face the same challenge -- it's just the repetitive trudge I miss out on.
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