April 1, 2015 | Written By: Alex Schwartz
Video game development is not an easy task, evidenced by the years that takes to put together a successful title and the often-seen patches, changes, and fixes throughout its lifetime. However, with an ever increasingly vocal gaming community, feedback for and against certain design decisions, both visually and mechanic-based, seem out of place and represent lazy development in the modern age. Some things have gone to the wayside thankfully, including having an open-world game with no decent end-game play or forgetting to warn a player that a final mission was about to start (thus removing side missions as possible options) but others have gotten fair amounts of negative feedback from the gaming world and yet are still implemented in numerous modern games. Hoping to alleviate this and bring them to light, we present our 13 ways to ruin a video game – take note developers!
#13: Lack of Effective Customization
Gamers like to be creative – this is evidenced by the massive video-producing community surrounding the popular Grand Theft Auto V title and the various things they attempt to do for viewers. However, one of the most standard points of customization is in appearance, defining how the character they will be controlling for the game looks, sounds or more. Some games provide customization that seems lackluster, with the recent Destiny being a great example as each race had very indistinct features a lackluster performance when it came to other points of design (including ship and sparrow design). Others go the route of providing a cookie-cutout character for an RPG adventure, which is especially noticeable in first person games like Dying Light or the Call of Duty series. Adding in some simple customization, especially to the multiplayer, goes a long way to improving a games overall quality as well as giving a bit more personalization for all gamers that pick it up. I mean seriously, how hard is it to add some different color shades and not make it a hassle to do so?
#12: Lackluster and Out-of-character Final Boss Fights
This one seems to be a modern fault more than anything, producing final boss fights that are often the most forgettable (or regrettable) portions of the game. A boss fight is a rather simple premise – all the skills that go into proceeding through the game should effectively come into play in the final fight, forcing you to put it all together to win that last battle. However, way too many games lately have been using sequenced fights, basic “press x to win” battles as well as lackluster and underperforming fight sequences. It is quite a disappointing feeling to go through the entire game and run up to the final battle feeling like it’s a forgettable portion of the whole experience. There have been numerous games that did this, Dying Light and Shadow of Mordor being great recent examples and others that have done it right, like Destiny. This is a simple element but one that truly defines a game as it’s the last memory for most players.
#11: Unfair AI
Anyone that has played a racing game has experienced making a great play, gaining a substantial lead and being passed by a supersonic speeding car with unfair AI tactics. While this was acceptable in previous generations of gaming, in modern games with higher processing power, larger memory and superior gaming engines, there has to be a better way to equalize a game when players get too far ahead. Whether this is necessary is an even greater question – why shouldn’t I be rewarded for beating the game’s own AI? AI should have similar consequences as the main players whenever possible – this applies to all realms of gaming including FPS titles and more. It’s an annoying element that quickly ruins the feeling of immersion.
#10: Consequence-Free Gameplay
Another modern focus it seems, games that contain virtually zero consequences for failing or making a mistake have gotten too popular lately. In a world filled with second-by-second checkpoint save systems, making a mistake often means having to only replay the last 15 seconds properly, allowing almost infinite retries until they can get it right. Made a mistake in inventory choices? Abandon an objective, get what you need, and come back with no cost whatsoever. While some players may enjoy this feature, there is a larger sense of accomplishment when you get pushed back slightly for making a mistake – it doesn’t have to go back to a life system but with regenerating health and excessive supplies in most games today, simply waiting or backtracking makes any difficulty almost ridiculously easy to complete. A good bottom line – if a blind monkey could complete a game through random chance, it needs some changes.
There have been some recent titles that succeeded at this feature, most notably being Dying Light taking away survivor points (and often sending you back further than you wanted) as well as Destiny (at certain points anyways). It has been proven to be possible but many seem to forget and create an all-too-easy experience that just removes the challenge.
#9: Horrid Inventory Systems
A simple google search on this concept alone reveals the hundreds of mistakes made in designing an inventory system and UI. While one can appreciate the difficulty in making it useful while also simple, some games just miss the mark completely. Skyrim is a great example, allowing the player to hold way too many items, very little ways to sort or organize, and having a less-than-useful storage system for taking items out of the inventory. Organization is key – allowing users to break up things, select a favorites or recently used items list and more. Having multiple menus for different items or breaking them into categories all works fine yet so many developers seem to miss this point. Keep it simple and save me time when I need to choose a new weapon because annoyances like that do keep players from finishing games.
#8: DLC Games – Selling 60 for 100
Unfortunately a recent motivation lately, games are working the DLC angle a bit too hard lately, pushing paid expansions that add necessary components at times to turn a 60 dollar game into 100 or more. Destiny has done it with the expansions that limit multiplayer gaming and even the entire “10 year gameplay” plan that Bungie promised – hard to stick by that when only a single raid is provided to those that don’t purchase the DLC. Evolve has become the definition of games like this, restricting matchmaking abilities for DLC elements and even giving away a special character for pre-orders. This has taken marketing to a whole new level of unfair and creates divisions among players. Provide a sixty dollar game and add to the gameplay with DLC, not force it down the throats of many players. It’s a horrible tactic and one that truly devalues a game overall.
#7: One-Trick Pony Boss Fights
Boss fights are kind of a recurring theme in this list but they have truly gone downhill in modern gameplay. Older school titles worked the bosses as a fun challenge and evaluation point, a way to see how well things have progressed in the game and add a sort of checkpoint in the game’s progress. Some games have done bosses extremely well, fitting them into the skill sets of the game and progressing with increased difficulty as it progresses while others require a “shoot, hide, shoot” method that just ends up feeling time-consuming. Worse yet are bosses that just feel out of character of the rest of the game. Dark Souls is a great example of how to make difficult gameplay but a horrible way to define boss fights – bad hit boxes and overtly replicated mechanics make for a tedious fight in most cases. FPS games hit the mark even worse on this, often forgoing the typical boss fight for a challenge in the level that still feels overtly repetitive. Give the player a challenge and fit it to the battle or avoid it altogether, but when a boss fight puts me to sleep instead of energizes me, you’re doing something wrong.
This fits in well with the boss fight previously – bullet sponge enemies are a relic of the shoot-em-up era where complexity was indicated by how long it took to take down an enemy. In the modern realm of gaming, this is just lazy development work and a real lack of creativity when numerous other techniques have been shown to work just as well. This is especially annoying in games that boast a level of creativity in choosing a fight and how to proceed or games with an equally large budget that should have avoided this (Destiny being the grandest example of this). Shoot em ups are a great genre but have gone from the modern era – stop using design decisions form them.
#5: Content-Filling or ‘Fluff’ Missions
With the expansion of open-world hitting almost every game type and genre, the need for side-missions has increased massively. Many developers aren’t used to this premise, creating a rather linear story and setup and working their creations into that. However, the use of side missions as a way to artificially extend a game is also becoming increasingly present in many modern titles. These include missions that either seem to just take forever for no real particular reason, are faced with many of the other facets in this list including bad bosses or bullet-sponge enemies as well as aligning itself with the story in no particular method. Dragon Age: Inquisition found a nice balance between creating useful side missions, adequate rewards, and tying them into the overall story; a player feels like they are accomplishing more when seeking out the side missions because the world they exist in feels real.
Avoid the filler missions and make the game itself longer and better –most gamers would rather have a shorter game with a polish than an artificially elongated one that is filled with boring and sometimes ridiculous side missions. Equal to this category are missions no one likes to do anymore, including: escort missions, ‘defend the point’ missions and travel missions (go to point A and complete).
#4: Checkpoints and Awkward Save/Load Systems
The birth of a checkpoint system is highly regarded as a great decision in gaming, both for gamers who like to progress through a certain point without having to be sent further back and developers not having to worry about bad save states. However, when things go wrong with a checkpoint system, they go terribly wrong. Numerous games have had horribly set checkpoints (sometimes making it impossible to proceed from that point) alongside a bad interaction when trying to load – Alien: Isolation took a decent stand on this, providing checkpoints and save points throughout the game and allowing the player to load from a save point, load from a checkpoint, or load from a past save point (thus allowing them to step back and fix mistakes). This is the right way to go forward with it and allows the user to interact properly – another issue lies in games that have multiple choices or states. Having a checkpoint system may be great but sometimes it’d be nice to see what various paths can provide without having to burn through a 30 hour game again just to see one different cutscene.
Checkpoints are fine to keep, but make sure they are useful and always have a secondary incase the checkpoint is logged at a bad point as there is no worse feeling that coming back from a checkpoint where you are being shot or falling into a death hole (yes, that last one is quite common actually).
#3: Unskippable Cutscenes
There really isn’t much that needs to be said about this – developers, stop doing it! With many modern remakes occurring, players have often already played the game so having to sit through a 15 minute intro cinematic is annoying. It’s made even worse when it’s a game with multiple sequences like this as it just takes away the energy and flow. Even for new games, some people just want to get playing and worry about the details of the story later – why does it matter if they do that or sit and watch?
In this same light are what I call “playable cutscenes”, where a player is controlling the character but it really is a scripted or pointless section of the game. For all the great things the Last of Us did right, one annoyance was the beginning level when you are controlling from the daugther’s perspective and then from Joel – why couldn’t that just have been shown in a cinematic? I understand immersion but it’s just a waste of time and makes for an unskippable portion should you want to replay the game..
#2: Mandatory Tutorials
Picking up the newest copy of almost any modern game is a great feeling – booting it up and having to wait an hour before you get to any actual meat of the game while it teaches you which is the x button is not. In the earlier days of gaming it made plenty of sense to have detailed tutorials. Even as games advanced the typical tutorial was expanded on increased as new features including motion control were introduced as well as newer assets. However, by this point, most of us have seen everything and don’t want our hands held through the start of the game. Watch any consistent player or streamer with a new game – first thing they do is test all the buttons! Tutorials are great things to have, just stop making them mandatory – add in a way to skip them for veteran players, especially in sequels, reboots, and serial games.
#1: Quick-Time Events (QTE)
At the number one spot is the bane of my existence when playing a game, the reason why so many games are avoided by me and a single reason I will NOT purchase a game – quick-time events. Going back a bit, QTE had a purpose – to keep the player engaged during the longer cinematics and introduce a different style of gameplay in scenes that couldn’t be fully developed to do what they wanted. God of War is a great example of this – instead of having to painfully code fighting a massive beast, a QTE-based boss fight occurs with a mix of standard combat as well. However, there are too many games that use these religiously, keeping you glued to the controller and getting increasingly annoyed when being off by that quarter second because you happened to blink at the wrong time. This in conjunction with bosses that become a glorified QTE – Dying Light lost a lot of credibility when it did this; combing through the hordes of zombies to reach the final boss and having to push six buttons in the right sequence really took the wind out of the sails. Other games have similar issues, often lying either in boss fights or final confrontations – the Call of Duty series is hilariously known for this, with the final battle being a cookie-cutter “chase the bad guy, get screwed, desperate fight that ends in you doing something crazy”, all powered by a quick time event sequence.
Now in some cases these can work out, as explained above, but in the general sense, gamers don’t need additional motivation or push to say awake during cinematics. Furthermore, if the game doesn’t really use them at any point before this, throwing them into a final fight is just going to frustrate people even more. Nobody likes QTEs – some people can overlook them as part of the industry but they don’t appreciate having them. Find better ways to keep their attention…like creating an engaging and immersive experience!
What did you think of our list? Did we miss something that drives you insane while playing your own video games? Let us know in the comments below and give us your take on our list.
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