My Top Five Game Design No-No’s
As gamers, we’ve been living in a world where video games have been getting more and more cinematic every millisecond. They are almost becoming interactive movies, as they often piece together stories more interesting than movies themselves.
But for all the wonder that is “the video game,” there are several things games have done as they’ve advanced that still, unfortunately, persist to this day. These are my top five gaming no-no’s. Feel free to come up with your own in the comments.
5. Do Not Take Control from Me – This one is actually very important. If I’m controlling my character and, all of a sudden, the camera pans (in game still, of course) to something off in the distance you want me to see…that’s not cool. Especially when it’s another explosion. I see enough of those while I’m blowing things up in game, thanks. There’s a very disheartening thing that comes from having your camera fixed on a point you can’t move it from (ok, you can move it an inch in any direction. Sorry) and still being able to move around in the world. If you’re going to make me talk to someone and still let me be in the world (and not a scripted cutscene), let me walk around at the very least. I don’t want to be fixed on a person’s face for however long it takes to finish the conversation.
Additionally, quick-time events are also ways to make me mad. Perhaps if you give me a timer and let me actually make the decisions, sure. But instant “keep on your toes, press this or die” QTEs are the devil. There’s no getting around that. Even worse are QTEs inside cutscenes. I can live without control so long as I’m supposed to be watching the story unfold. That’s what a cutscene is…but don’t poorly implement the illusion of control into something I’m meant to watch. That sucks.
4. Do Not Make Unskippable Cutscenes – As far as games go, I’m a relatively patient person. If I die repeatedly, the only reason why I’ll get frustrated is if my deaths were the result of poor game mechanics. I’m a patient enough person to sit through all of Metal Gear Solid 4’s cutscenes (which should say something to you about my patience), but the one thing that makes going back to it a bit more appealing is the fact that I can skip scenes. This ability is becoming much more commonplace, but there’s still the occasional holdout that refuses to let me. We’ve all been there. The “Up, Down, Right, A, B, Select, B, Y, X, X, Y, Trigger, Trigger, ALL BUTTONS” technique that doesn’t ever work. It’s the most downtrodden I can feel about something in a game, especially if I die frequently as a part of a challenging section and the designers thought it important to put a checkpoint right before a cutscene. Even if I can skip your cutscenes, don’t do that anyway.
3. Do Not Skimp on Saves – I am a person. I have a life. I want to be able to leave a game whenever I want and come back in wherever I left it. The ability to save anywhere and anytime is truly a wonderful thing. There are acceptable times to not allow it, such as in the middle of a boss fight and …no… that’s about the only time it’s not acceptable. If I just played a game for an hour and I still have no save point, you’re doing something wrong. Even my favorite game series, Kingdom Hearts, is guilty of this. I just want to press the start button, save the game, and turn off my console. We’ve gotten to the point where that’s acceptable, especially when our consoles nowadays overheat faster than an ice cube in an oven.
An addition to this would be games that feature final worlds with zero save points. This is another thing that Kingdom Hearts does. You all know what I mean. “Are you sure you’re ready? If we go, there’s no turning back” is code for “you’re about to enter a two hour long level without the ability to save or exit without having to start it all over.” The only good thing about that warning is that I can at least turn the game off and mark on my schedule when I have time to plow through a final level.
2. Do Not Give Me Dumb A.I. – I know it might be hard to program a computer controlled character to the point where it does things a human controlled character does, but maybe one day we’ll get to the point where that’s possible. Now, however, all I need is for the computer to be more useful than a brick. Shoot when you’re supposed to, follow me when you’re supposed to, help me when you’re supposed to. In the event of imminent threat, do what makes sense. Bullets flying at your head? Oh. Must be time to run at a wall. If you’re not going to offer me the ability to have minor control over my “wards,” as it were, then at least make them smart enough to not be a burden. This isn’t even detailing computer controlled characters in escort missions. While not on this list specifically, escort missions have a special place in gaming hell, especially when the bogus A.I. that almost works for a combat centric character is applied to a disempowered babysitting job.
1. Do Not Deny Us Friendship – If your game has the capacity for some kind of multiplayer experience, let me use it while I’m sitting in the same room as a friend I want to play with. I’m not saying it works for every game, but there’s no reason why I can’t play through the campaign of latest shooter with a friend. Even one of my favorite games of the year back when it released, Burnout Paradise, didn’t have this option. It’s a racing game. It’s an unorthodox racing game, but it’s still a racing game. I want to be able to shoot at my friend in a local multiplayer round of Battlefield. You don’t even need to include additional story for it. Just put some other person in the equation and don’t worry about it. Borderlands, a game that really celebrates the idea of playing games with friends, only acknowledges the fact that one person is playing. And you know what? It works out fine. There’s nothing really wrong with sharing a single player experience through controller passing. It’s just a shame when I invite a friend over and my sentence goes “well, we could play that, but it’s single player.”