Over the last few years, games have started to develop a few nasty traits. Like in any person, traits are generally part of the evolution of character, game elements that develop when developers try to find new ways to innovate, or in some cases, even take shortcuts. In some cases, these aspects of design can become innovation stalwarts, providing standards for the industry. But over time, they can become stale, or crutches to disguise bad design. But sometimes, they shouldn’t have existed at all.
These traits can arise for all sorts of different reasons, from laziness, to create mass appeal, and even, more recently, one of greed or exploitation. Sadly, the more games that start to use these elements, the “cheaper” the titles become. In this article, I’ll cover a few of my top pet hates, and establish why I think that games should remove them, and what I think that developers find some appealing about including them.
Ever since Halo 2 developed this absolutely ridiculous excuse for a gameplay mechanic, every single FPS aside from a few has introduced it. What originally began as a system to remove the archaic “health pack”, it has evolved into a system where hiding behind a box for a minute or two can suddenly make you all better. What really pushes my buttons about regen, is that in most titles, there is no explanation for it.
If you have a special ability or spell that provides you with the ability, then that’s fine, it would usually only be available in a finite amount, or be difficult to obtain. But simply introducing it as the only mechanic, removes almost any actual difficult from the game. You don’t really feel the need to try different tactics, especially if you can take a rain of bullets in the head, kill the enemy, then hide to recharge.
It’s obvious why developers love to use this tactic. No-one has come up with anything to replace health packs. FEAR 2 recently went back to them, and I can see developers falling back to old faithful until a smart dev figures out a way to hurt you then fix you that doesn’t involve a mid battle cat-nap.
Horse Armour. Picture Packs. Honestly, is this what we envisioned when we finally developed a system for downloadable content? Besides the obvious demos and arcade games, the large majority of junk on these marketplaces is astonishing. For every free map pack or extra multiplayer mode, there’s some ridiculously overpriced Rock Band track or an add-on for a game that should have already have been included in the original boxed copy. Stuff like 500 extra gold for an RPG? Unbelievable. Now Capcom wants us to pay just that little bit more for something they just decided they wouldn’t put in the final game. What next? Pay for Disc 1 at the store, Disc 2′s a DLC?
Next they’ll be offering a pack that simply unlocks everything for you. Oh… crap.
Yes, it was cool in the Matrix. Yes, it was cool in Max Payne. No, it’s not cool to put into every single game ever since both of those two released. Absolute stinkers like TimeShift actually tried to base entire games around it. Slowing down time is a great idea, but doing it so you can sidestep a couple of bullets is a feature we’ve probably exhausted pretty well by now. Using time to manipulate events is a feature most games still haven’t been able to master, but simply freezing the screen so you can run around and do flips off walls while firing a SMG tends to be clumsier and repeditive then one would like.
Random battles originated because there wasn’t enough programming space on a cartridge to show enemies. We can now. That said, showing enemies removes half of the surprise and suspense we’ve all become addicted to. So rather then simply having enemies stand there so we can run into them, visible or not, why aren’t battles simply designed with a point, instead of padded fodder to waste time before the boss. In any case, this needs to go, especially since quite a lot of titles have removed the need for them, yet more seem determined to keep them around. Sigh.
Quick Time Events
The point of video games is to learn how they work then manipulate the controls to win. Flashing the right button on the screen to press is about as challenging as finding an STD on a cheap hooker’s blood sample. If you, the developer, want to include cool sequences into the game, then why not get up off your cheeto covered beanbag and actually program some half decent controls so we can actually manipulate the scene. If we managed to evolve from the terror that was Full Motion Video quasi-games in the mid nineties, then I’m not entirely sure why we had to rebirth the placenta of that era’s game mistakes.
Cheap Boss Fights (not hard, just cheap)
Here’s a tip. If you don’t want to piss off your players, don’t do the following: Develop a boss that, no matter what, will always be significantly powerful then you and hold abilities that you will never be able to get even after days of play. Then, make that boss spam the same said abilities over and over until you die, causing you to rip the game out of the console and carefully snap it in two. People like challenges that they can actually overcome. Creating enemies which sole purpose is to kill you without any chance of the player actually winning is a fantastic recipe for that same player to, say, never purchase any of your games again.
Realism is one thing. But creating so much micro-management that your items actually wear down over time is simply cruel and unusual punishment. It’s bad enough that you had to grind for 16 hours to find that special amulet, but then finding out you had to repair it after every battle otherwise it disintegrated is soul crushing. People don’t want to play the virtual equivalent of maintaining their swimming pool, they just want to spend a few hours not having to worry about paying bills or repairing their broken hot water heater.
Get out of Death Free Card
Prince of Persia and Too Human made it impossible to die. This takes the original rant about Regenerative Health to the next level. Why remove the only major obstacle in the game? What’s next, enemies that don’t attack you anymore? That just give you chocolates and flowers, wish you a good day then show you the path to the end of the level? Half the reason you want to finish a level so badly is because something smacked you down and you want to then dish out dollops of sweet revenge. If some magical fairy, deity, angel or magical parrot drops in and says “Oh don’t worry, I’ll save you”, then you’re basically immortal.
But not immortal in an innovative, intelligent and plot related way, but in a stupid, basic and “but it keeps the combat flowing!!!!111″ douche-bag kind of way.
I’ve been able to play games without installing them on my console for years, so why should I be forced to wait 20+minutes before I’ve even got past the booting screen? Some of us don’t really feel the need to install 10gb worth of game and wait half an hour when realistically you’ll save probably 4 seconds per loading screen. Because yes, it still needs to load the damn thing off the hard drive.
What static, tired game elements are you guys sick of?
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