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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.

Regenerative Health

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.

Useless/Exploitative DLC

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.

Bullet Time

slowmo

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

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

hammer

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)

Dear Devs,

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.

Weapon Degradation

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.

Compulsory Installation

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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  1. In before Quick Time Events.
    But seriously, I hate it when you have a cutscene packed with QTE, sometimes I like to sit back and enjoy the cinematics, not waiting tensely for a triangle flashing on the screen.

  2. I loved horse armour. I agree with most everything on this list, especially bullet time.

  3. avatar Ian H

    Can you please list some games you actually enjoyed as this article was just negative.

  4. @ Ian

    I wasn’t talking about games as such, just game cliches I’m sick of developers exploiting.

  5. I love negative articles. But really though I am a sucker for QTE, and I’m sick sick sick of bullet time.

    What intrigued me is “cheap” boss battles. You were eerily spot on with a lot of my complaints, and I periodically read this article because of how interesting it is.
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FakeDifficulty

    If you want something positive, Jimmy loved JRPGS before they changed :D
    http://gamerlimit.com/2009/03/jrpg-what-happened-to-you/

  6. I have a love hate relationship with regen health.

    Also, I would argue that some of the QTE in RE5 were pretty challenging, but I entirely understand what you’re saying. In the cutscenes with quicktime events, I don’t recall what actually transpired.

    Fun read!

  7. “In the cutscenes with quicktime events, I don’t recall what actually transpired.”

    Yes! Off topic (but kind of related), in MGS4 when Raiden was having his huge fight with Vamp and the screen was split with Snake (who I had to control) on the other side, it was SO annoying!

    Regen is a weird one. You’re rioght though, when explained it’s OK. Like in Resistance: FOM.

  8. avatar Ian H

    @ Jimmy P, forgot to thank you for the interesting read. It was a good article, I was simply interested in what type of games you find interesting.

    Thank you!

  9. avatar Ryan

    yea, most of the points made were good points. I have to say bullet time is a stretch (as there are only a very small amount of games ON THE CURRENT CONSOLE GENERATION) that actually USE it.

    And i’m not sure which BOSS you couldn’t get passed. But i’m pretty sure if there were any bosses THAT PARTICULARLY FRUSTRATING, then we’d know off hand what the hell you were referring to. My advise is, sack up, and beat the bastard.

    And i agree, they should incorporate HEALTH packs MORE, but not entirely. Obviously you’ve never played COD:WAW on veteran difficulty.

  10. I actually quite liked how Timeshift handled it fairly often, as it wasn’t all about slowing down time to get that Max Payne effect. Did you ever see the videos that came shortly before release, showing the difference between “noob” and “pro” Timeshifters. Was really quite interesting, for example the pro one would shoot a barrel of a high platform, jump on top of the barell, then rewind time so the barrel went back up with him on top it, and voila, reached a hard to reach place.
    Would have been nice if the game had created use of such innovative mechanics, sadly not.
    A game that does use slo-mo very poorly is Fear 2 (in my opinion, anyway.)

    I like QTE sometimes, felt Resi 4 handled them pretty well mostly, but something like Force Unleashed distracted me too much from the game.

  11. You think Skate 2′s pack is bad? Check out this crap! Most of the items are unlockable within the game, overpriced, and crappy. Darth Vader is effin $5 bucks for a suckish character.
    http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/games/media/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d8024e4d07e0/?of=3

  12. Nice article. I agree with most of them. The regenerative health, it depends on the game and the character like you said. For games like Call of Duty where the main character is an ordinary soldier, it makes no sense having the regenerative health. I like how Resistance 1 approached the regenerating: only regenerating to a quarter.

    QTEs, I only liked them in Resident Evil 4/5 and Shenmue. As much as I like God of War, I think the game would be better off without the QTEs.

  13. Horse Armour-a definite WTF moment on Bethesda’s behalf. I like Oblivion but the only horse worth having in the game is frakking (yeah I just watched the end of Galactica, so Im usin it!) invincible…so I should pay to get it armour? For what?

    It’s like paying for items with a credit card to use in a game (like member service for Runescape or Street Fighter 4 costumes).

    Random battles- a major pain, a major bloody pain. I recall playing FF7 and wandering for ages trying to find Yuffie and went the wrong way…so many random battles made me swtich it off. Not needed anymore…

    DLC- As a relatively new 360 owner I don’t feel the need to get xbox live. Yet I recently got shivering isles and can’t play it because I need an update from Live that should have came with the disc!

    One thing which really grinds my gears is gamer points. What are they there for? So some kid can see that you have 2,000 points and he has ten thousand? Now what? Same goes for achievements-waste of time.

  14. avatar anon

    this is an excellent observation of ridiculous and awful traits games have acquired. i agree entirely.

    • avatar Marja

      As a long-time user, I can confirm that the reaept problem is routine. I have on occasion been able to exactly as stated, and force my way into Contestants’ Row and even a pricing game because I was able to recall the approximate value of a particular prize.

  15. avatar graphics v. writing

    I’m all for 1080p graphics – but I don’t want it to be an excuse for sloppy writing or cheap voice-overs. A compelling game should be one that draws you in and engages you in the story, rather than just leaving you musing about how realistic the textures on a slab of concrete are.

    Some of the best, most addictive games I’ve played were quite crude graphically. But as Andy Serkis pointed out, games today have no heart.

  16. @ Ian

    Oh, thanks mate!

    I enjoy heaps of games across a range of genres, particularily RTS and RPG games, with a bit of action and sim games for good measure.

    I prefer games that make me think, and I’m a big fan of developers taking new leaps and bounds in gameplay innovation.

  17. You give a good point, but I dont think Jimmy wants to abolish them, just cut them down a notch. They’re used too often.

  18. I love Mirror’s Edge but the bullet time was awful, I was all over the place with that. All over the place.

  19. Some of these i agree with. Those boss battles make me sick to my very core

  20. avatar LBD "Nytetrayn"

    …”carefully” snap the disc in two?

    Nuts, I’ve just been snapping and going. :(

  21. avatar lol

    dlc is the cancer that destroys this industry.

  22. You know what I hate more than anything?
    Rubber banding, it is the absolute worst idea ever, and it ruins any game it is present in, but yes cheap boss fights suck as well, Genreal Radec I’m looking at you, and the fight with Vamp in MGS4 in which I expended around 500 ammo.

  23. DLC, when done right, can be worthwhile. Rockstar and Bethesda have the right idea in this respect. Capcom, Namco, and EA are “doing it wrong”, however. Nickel-and-diming consumers who have already dropped $60 on your game for game modes and extras that we would’ve gotten for free on the PS2 or Xbox is highway robbery.

  24. Good article , especially about item degradation. You should be able to focus on more important things than having to constantly worry if your gear is gonna crap out on you.

  25. avatar HaloHappy

    Dude, most of this shit is the truth. Especially the cheap boss element. I hate all bosses that use the same bloody move over and over again and kill me. Take Seth from SF IV, He’s kicking my ass down to danger levels before you can say hadouken.

  26. avatar xtc

    Wow, so halo introduced regen. Too fuckin bad that you can throw a grenade to the place where the bitch is hiding. If you know how to play the game then you can kill from anywhere. Actually play the game before you make false allegations dip shit.

  27. avatar anon

    Impassable terrain. “Oh, I’m sorry, this part of the hill is 1 degree steeper, so you’re just going to bounce around and fall down a bit. You’ll just have to spend 10 minutes walking around this small hill to get to the other side.”

  28. avatar Hunter

    Wow, I can’t believe no one else mentioned this. Um, escort missions anyone? Trying to keep a some mentally deficient sidekick alive is one of my least favorite gameplay mechanics.

  29. avatar Eli

    Downloadable content isn’t new, or even remotely new. PC gamers have been downloading content for years, and it’s been free, more often than not.

    Yet another reason why console gaming is great for corporations and shitty for gamers.

    • avatar Hamdan

      I am having trlobue with pathwords. I play it on facebook and it loads quickly but hangs up constantly. the letters start to fall in after I make a word and just hang up in the air for 5 or 10 seconds. I have the latest flash player downloaded to my pc. and have a new top of the line Hp laptop. thanks for any input you may have.

  30. avatar AbsolutValu

    I can’t say I mind regen health or what you call the “get out of death free card” – really, drying in the game is the equivalent of waiting 5 seconds and reloading a previous save anyway..

    The newest game mechanic I hate the most is the ability to customize the way your character looks, their gender, their age etc etc. Never has there been a more useless feature.

  31. avatar DCX

    I disagree with dissing EA/Rock Band for DLC. You expect to get 300+ songs for 60 bucks? It’s nice that you can spend 1.99 to get a new song and not buy a whole new game for it. PS2 version has no DLC available, comes with a set amount of songs, and you must buy track pack disks to get these, instead of the option to pick and chose what you want.

  32. avatar Eric

    Earthbound AND chrono trigger were SNES titles that didn’t have random battles.
    I didn’t mind them and prefer the old preX FF (PS1 and earlier, IX being my favorite).
    But i agree With mostly everything here. 1st rule MAKE THE GAME FUN.

  33. avatar Fikus

    All you do by telling people to get rid of these mechanics is reduce the possibilities for them thereby turning every game into the exact same thing. Boring as hell I think. Also as a side note Prince of Persia’s no dying system was brilliant. The game was too easy but it was not because of the death mechanic. All it did was make it so I don’t throw my controller in frustration every time I have to wait 30 seconds for the game over screen and then the load screen.

    • avatar Driss

      Sounds like you’re doing a great job! I have moved to the world of work at home mom after being a SAHM for many, many years. I love it, but it is tough to juggle!

  34. avatar Chris

    What about the concept of jumping? Jumping was originally introduced as a tactic to be able to climb obstacles and leap over ledges. However, in most FPS games, jumping is done by people to avoid bulletfire and confuse opponents. Who the hell in real life decides that when an enemy is coming at you with a chain gun that the best method of escape would be to jump straight up in the air!? This is rediculous and needs to be removed from games as a strategy to duck gunfire. Simply slow player speed by 60%, disallow firing, or allow double damage to anyone who jumps. This will still allow jumping to be used to overcome obstacles, but will no longer be able to be used as an exploit.

  35. avatar The Yar

    Your arguments against regenerative health and against get out of death free cards completely contradict one another. You hate the fact that games just allow your health to regenerate without explaining some magic power or item that allows it, yet you prefer that dying and being reincarnated to try again is something that just happens for no explainable reason instead of incorporating it into the game mechanics. Seems like you just hate anything that isn’t how 8-bit platformers worked.

  36. avatar gamer

    You should be able to skip any cinematic ever. When I replay a game, I don’t need to see the movies again but it is torture when you are forced to watch it all.

  37. avatar Josh

    I have to agree that random battles are no longer necessary. I mean, i loved ff7 and even ff8, but I’d love to see as shift away from them. I’m particularly fond of the latest installments to the .HACK series (the G.U games). It kept the exploration and the feel of an RPG, but mobs were visible on screen and you could choose most of the time whether or not you wanted to fight them or just try and sneak around them, it added a lot to the game. I would like to see more games follow that trend

  38. avatar wondersquare

    Regenerative Health, I havent seen many if any games beyond Halo 2 that used it and believe me i’ve played alot of games.
    if you have a damn good reason to be regenerating health ingame then its good,
    Useless/Exploitative DLC, if its not say a single stupid song or costume then what ever it is is worth it.
    Bullet Time, as long as its not the main focus fine. and no max pain sucked ass, dieing every time you turned a corner and a pointless slow motion roll, not fun.
    Random Battles, their essential nuff said.
    Quick Time Events, Dragon’s Lair was horrible and nobody likes it so nuff said.
    Cheap Boss Fights, the computers ai isnt the best so this is gonna happen.
    Weapon Degradation, quit whining beyond world of warcraft where the hell does this happen? tell me, because it doesnt.
    Get out of Death Free Card, well its only in the modern prince of persia and nobody likes it so meh as long as its not used again were fine.
    Compulsory Installation, your harddrive is there for a reason, if their wasnt one you’d be complaining about having to switch cd/dvds all the time.

  39. @wondersquare
    Regenerative health is in almost every FPS nowadays, not just Halo 2+. Funnily enough, Resistance uses a hybrid regen/health bar system.

    The get out of death free card goes way beyond simply Prince of Persia – see this article
    http://gamerlimit.com/2009/03/gaming-to-die-for/

    Also people are complaining about installs like RE5 that take 5GB, when you can just buy the 360 version and have 0 space taken up.

  40. avatar Dave Gallagher

    Dave’s Rants:

    1) How-to-play tutorials that last more than 60 seconds (except for complex games). I should be able to figure it out pretty quick, otherwise the developer did a poor job designing the controls (just had to use “every” button!).

    2) Crap multiplayer matching. I’m looking at you, Gears of War 2…

    3) Fighting games that display moves using “Light”, “Medium”, and “Hard” Punch or Kick, instead of saying what damn button I’m suppose to press. Is it the A button? B button? X? Y? Left Bumper? Right Bumper? Trigger? Click stick? Nope, you’ve got to figure it out every time.

    I realize that developers let you remap controls, but it’s not hard to update the “how-to” templates to reflect said button changes. At least in the arcades they write what every button does on the overlay graphics.

    4) Games that think it’s a good idea to overlay giant storyline text onto the screen while you’re playing. Katamari Damacy wins at this.

    5) Forcing you to watch, or scroll through, extremely long story lines. Arg. Metal Gear Solid 4 was more movie than game.

    6) Company logo intro’s that last more than 3 seconds. Why even have them at all? Just put your logo onto the bottom corner of the menu screen. You get everyone excited to see your awesome logo (which will probably change in two years anyway), and you don’t waist people’s time by forcing them to watch it! Hint: Spend the processing time loading the game instead.

  41. avatar abner

    QTEs – i hated the sudden qte’s during a cutscene in re4

  42. QTE’s don’t bother me at all. I think Resident Evil 4 and the God of War series use them better than anyone else. They add a sense of peril and connectedness to the game. But then again there are those games that use QTE’s in a completely arbitrary way like Tomb Raider Legend or Soul Caliber 3.

    I absolutely hate the weapon degradation in Far Cry 2 and Fallout 3. It’s not so much of a problem as you get better repair skills in Fallout 3, but in Far Cry 2 it is a horrible nuisance and completely breaks the gameplay because you have to stop and run away to a save spot or weapons shop to get some more weapons that will last any length of time because weapons picked up from enemies break after one clip of ammo.

  43. This article is pretty old by now, but I find it strange that nobody mentioned Braid in the “Get out of death free with time manipulation” debates. I feel that, since it was much more of a puzzle game than a combat game, it was ok to take dying out of the equation by merely pushing the X button. Dying isn’t a fear in Braid; not knowing how to collect a certain puzzle piece was. By eliminating a nuisance, the game let you play much longer without needless backtracking. You merely had an “oops” moment, then you were back into the puzzley fray.

  44. avatar Pokus

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