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Author Topic: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design  (Read 43478 times)

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Bongo Bill

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2008, 02:26:22 PM »

A distinction should be drawn, I think, between ending the game because life happened to you, and ending the game because a zombie orc nazi sneaked up on you. All games should allow something like a suspend save that deletes itself upon reload, at the bare minimum. Repeating challenges you've already mastered is a serious problem and probably ranks on this list, but there are other reasons that the developer might want to turn back the clock on the player. Take one of Arc's points of no return. Put a save point right before it and the player can drop out if they're insufficiently prepared. Rely on quicksaves, though, and the player can get himself stuck that much more easily - and on handhelds especially, it's not an option to have an arbitrarily huge number of quicksaves, even if the player thinks to make them.

So does this make the point of no return an unforgivable sin in and of itself?
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Sharkey

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2008, 02:36:08 PM »

I think from what we touched on regarding escorts we've pretty well boiled it down to the essentials:

Your NPC ally must either be really fucking smart (this is exceptionally hard to do,) damn near invulnerable, helpful, or something over which you have complete physical control. Alyx was some combination of the first three. It didn't necessarily make her bits enjoyable, but it did at least make them shockingly inoffensive compared to similar sequences in other games. The companion cube, if it even counts, was the last three. It was also a great example of a character that by virtue of never fucking speaking reduced the chance that you'd want to shoot it yourself.

The weird exception to all this has to be Yorda, who was autistic, made of wet toilet paper, and impossible to get to do anything but play with the fucking birds. Also, she talked, but was completely incomprehensible. There was a small but non-zero chance that what all that babble actually meant was "I apologize profusely for my inability to walk in a straight line like a non-retard. Your patience will be rewarded with sex." Which was somewhat more bearable than, say, a constant 18 kilocycle EEEEEEEEEEE sound, but it wasn't anything that made her more likable.

Then again, the Little Sister escort wasn't that bad, either. I think maybe it's a matter of understanding. If you're escorting what appears to be an empowered character-- say, a guy with a fucking machinegun and a flip attitude or a giant robot made of rusty I-beams-- you expect him to pull his weight and then some. If your charge is going to die if someone breathes on it too hard, you damn well better make it a little girl or a no-legged puppy to adequately, instantly, and constantly communicate just how much is going to be expected of you.

Better yet, make it an indestructible little girl with a bazooka or a wheelchair-bound psychic with forcefields and mind lazers. If we're going to be surprised, best to be pleasantly surprised.
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Brentai

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2008, 03:22:00 PM »

You know what I dig?  There's this escort mission in one of the Siren games where you have to get this nearly defenseless, shellshocked little girl to the safety of some secluded shack full of ammo where the zombie-farmers can't find you.  But the thing is

[spoiler]
Once you've locked yourself in with her and think you're safe, she flips out and stabs your wildly confused character over and over again until he dies wondering what the fuck just happened (you play multiple characters, so this isn't a game over so much as the end of a subplot.)  It's probably the only Creepy Little Girl I've seen with any real effect; having an actual connection with the character is way different then just seeing her pop up in the middle of a corridor and laugh as if she's really got something.
[/spoiler]
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Kazz

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2008, 03:59:16 PM »

Quicksaves can fuck you over.  I recall when my friend was playing Red Faction and operating entirely out of a single quicksave.  He was in a long tunnel and hit the quicksave button, and no more than a second passed before he was hit by a train and killed.  Evidently, Red Faction didn't have an autosave at the start of chapters or something, so he could either eternally relive his embarrassing encounter with a Martian cowcatcher or restart the game entirely.  He chose to never play Red Faction again.

I'm reminded of a time when a little boy stole my Ocarina of Time cartridge and deleted my save game before returning it (I was 3/4 of the way through).  Why the Hell can't you set a password on save files?
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Joxam

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2008, 04:05:28 PM »

One of the things I hate the most about FPS games is the really fucked up divide in difficulty. Either I can take three clips to the face at point blank range and not even get a bloody nose, or thinking about getting shot kills my character.

I've always also hated every type of 'raise' action that wasn't explained away with magic. A shot of adrenaline isn't going to put you back on your feet if your skull has just been shot off, Kane and Lynch, especially because in order to actually get killed your character has to take five pounds of lead to the face in the form of 9 mm rounds.
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S D S

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #25 on: January 16, 2008, 04:59:03 PM »

I think a good compromise would  be including a quicksave feature along with liberally sprinkled save points or autosaves, but again, it's something I feel comes down to artifical challenge.

Having quicksaves at all, though, yeah, that's a nice compromise if you don't want to design a "save anywhere" feature  from the first day of planning a game.
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Bal

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #26 on: January 16, 2008, 05:29:40 PM »

Western RPGs have been save anywhere since time began, it's expected, and the opposite is true of JRPGs. It's just tradition at this point. Personally, if you feel you have to have some kind of checkpoint system I prefer the trend of action games in the last few generations. The game saves regularly, and when you quit (usually Save and Quit), it just brings you back to the last one when you boot back up. It's usually a perfectly acceptable spot. Others, like God of War and Ninja Gaiden, have save points literally every ten feet, which is worse, but still more or less acceptable. I'm a big fan of the way Nintendo handles things with the DS, forcing every game to possess a standby mode regardless of whatever save or checkpoint system they might have.
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PhoenixUltima

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2008, 07:36:59 PM »

I think the Hitman series (except for the first, which didn't allow mid-level saves at all) handles the save issue pretty well. You can save at any time in a level, but you're only allowed so many saves per level depending on difficulty. In Blood Money you're allowed something like 7 saves (way more than you'd ever need if you have even an iota of skill) on rookie mode, 4-5 on normal, 3-2 on expert, and you're not allowed to save at all on professional, but that's the game's ultra mega super very hard fuck you sideways difficulty, so that's ok. The game saves your level-to-level progress regardless of difficulty (and, in fact, independent of your mid-level saves, which are erased once the level has been finished) as well, so if you've beaten a level and want to just quit for the night before tackling the next one, hey, no problem. As well, it's supposed to be a stealth game, but if the alarm sounds and you're found out you can actually still play and even win. Being swarmed by every guard on the floor is almost instant death on the higher difficulties, sure, but you're allowed to make the attempt regardless. Of course your rating will suck if that happens, but that's the price for failure.
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Koah

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2008, 08:58:22 PM »

Monster closets, or at least single-occupant ones.  I can understand entire walls opening up to reveal small armies, but when it's this piddly little thing that takes two fist/wrench/flashlight/crowbar/knife swings to drop you really have to wonder why they even bothered.  The least they could have done is have something substantial drop out of a ceiling vent or teleport in or bust through the floor or something.

...and who sticks tiny rooms with doors that are designed to look like the surrounding walls in buildings, anyway?  I don't expect realism in games, but damn.
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Royal☭

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #29 on: January 16, 2008, 09:50:52 PM »

I think the biggest make-or-break about an escort mission is whether you follow the target, or the target follows you.  I hated Bioshock's escort missions because all of a sudden the run and gun gameplay came to a screeching halt as I simply stood still sniping splicers as they can around the corner while waiting for the little girl to finish her damn scripted sequence.  By contrast, HL2's escorts had Alyx trailing behind you, and progress was still determined by the players actions more than anything Alyx did (unless there was a gate in the way in which case you needed Alyx because apparently nobody but Barney can apparently hand things to Gordon).  The fact that she was nigh-invulnerable and her fighting aliens rarely got in the way of your own was an added plus.


As for save points, I'm convinced they're a hold over from old game design and have no place in modern games.  I want to be able to tell the game when I want to quit and not have to wait until the game approves of my quitting.  I will admit that some save methods, such as the Legend of Zelda style of just saving your progress and letting you resume from the last house you entered, are effective.  But that's really just a stripped down save anywhere.  But the "this is the exact point in space and time where you will resume the game arbitrarily determined by the designer" style of save sucks. 

Kazz

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #30 on: January 16, 2008, 10:24:20 PM »

Chalice in FF:CC for Gamecube.

Let's have a game where everybody has to have their own GBA and special cable to connect to the game in the first place and then let's just totally remove one of the four players from the game.
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Lady Duke

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #31 on: January 16, 2008, 10:38:55 PM »

Kazz had many a terrible night playing FF:CC with me, 'cause I sure wasn't going to hold that godforsaken chalice.
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Thad

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #32 on: January 17, 2008, 12:03:18 AM »

As for save points, I'm convinced they're a hold over from old game design and have no place in modern games.

Let's talk about random encounters.
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R^2

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #33 on: January 17, 2008, 09:35:57 AM »

Random encounters are great fun, especially when you need a rare random drop from a rare random encounter.

Also, random encounters you can't even find because they move from place to place. Pokemon is the only game I know of that does this -- with one legendary each in second- and third-generations and two in fourth-gen -- but it needs to fucking stop.
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A≤

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #34 on: January 18, 2008, 02:51:37 AM »

.hack//GU has a 100-level dungeon called Forest of Pain towards the end. You can save every five levels, but after Level 50 you can't go back to town, which is effectivly what I did to beat it over the course of the week. That's fine, it's supposed to be the Secret Super Hard Dungeon With Gamebreaking Rewards, and the save points give you an oppertunity to change your party, alchemize your weapons, and store some of the loot you get.

My issue is how it upped the difficulty later on down. It takes a handful of somewhat weak enemies, increases their HP by twenty-fold, their attack & defense by twentyfold, and then makes them immune to physical damage. You can hurt them only by magic damage - which only because I went against what the game said and gave the main hero a few magic spells was I able to use - or use Awakening, which is basically your Limit Break, and takes a good 10 minutes to charge up. And sometimes it doesn't even kill the bastards.

On top of all this, to get all the bonuses, you had to kill X amount of enemy parties. I wouldn't have minded this so much if I had gotten even something remotely resembling a hint of "Hey. Take a Shadow Warlock with you." But no, I encountered a slew of Physical-Immune enemies with two physical attackers and a healer.


Give the player a HINT at least when you do something like that. Otherwise they view each battle as a 20-30minute long chore, when the entire game has shown then that outside of boss battles they should take 5 minutes, tops, and that's something that should be reserved for Final Fantasy games
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Arc

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2008, 12:52:07 PM »

Sound volumes not mixed correctly.

Three outta five times the developer simply blast the default settings for the music, voice, and effects volumes up to ten. Since voices are the first to become drowned out, I keep those at ten, lower the effects to eight, and then the music to four (which is sometimes still too loud).

Not everyone can be Skywalker Sound, but actually producing a mix that works correctly on five for all settings is an honest accomplishment these days.
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BŁge

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #36 on: January 26, 2008, 05:55:03 AM »

I think a good compromise would  be including a quicksave feature along with liberally sprinkled save points or autosaves, but again, it's something I feel comes down to artifical challenge.

That's sort of how Morrowind did it. You could manually save anywhere, but there was also a quicksave feature and whenever you slept, it would autosave.

Of course, the escort missions were annoying. The moment you attacked something, your escortee would join in, which mostly consisted of them getting in the way/dying.
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Brentai

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #37 on: January 26, 2008, 10:52:18 AM »

I think people are more wanting the FF-remake style of saving, where you could save anywhere, but it ended your game automatically and got wiped the moment you loaded it, and then you could permanently save at inns because that's how you play the game.
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Burrito Al Pastor

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #38 on: January 26, 2008, 11:36:40 AM »

I recently got Front Mission DS (and it's quite good). There's a quicksave feature like in the Final Fantasy Advance games, except that when you load a quicksave, it doesn't delete it. So how it actually works: I have three save slots I can use when I'm in a town, and one save slot that I can save to during a mission, but it takes maybe 30 seconds longer because I then have to load it to continue playing.

Somehow, this is an improvement.
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Royal☭

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Re: Unforgivable Sins of Game Design
« Reply #39 on: January 26, 2008, 09:51:48 PM »

For systems that aren't save anywhere, I enjoy the Zelda system.  In wide open, exploration games it's sometimes easier just to record the player's character progress rather than their exact location in the game world.
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