It’s not an article by Cracked, I promise. Pity though, it’d probably be funnier than my ham-handed writing. Which is why, today, I have a special treat. A friend of mine wanted to write a colab article about things video game companies really need to stop doing, and I thought it would be a fun thing to do. So you’ll get three things from me, and three from my friend, DDDreamer. So let’s see how this works out! First up, my three that games need to stop having…
Broken Pre-Oder Bonuses:We all know what a pre-order bonus is. Everyone loves those! Buy the game early, snag some sweet stuff to enjoy in-game. Heck, I do it all the time if I like what comes with it. The last (physical) game I pre-ordered was Halo: Reach, and I got a nice little multiplayer skin out of it. Now, that is fine. Cosmetics and other things that don’t disrupt the balance of the game are the perfect little treat to entice a buyer into reserving a copy early. The problem is when you do stupid things that break the game.
If you’ve ever heard of it, pre-ordering Fallout: New Vegas got you the Caravan Pack. What was in that Pack? Oh, some food, water, and the best leather armor and shotgun you’ll see for a few hours. The pack completely broke the balance of the game and rendered all of the starting armor useless and the guns inferior to the Caravan Shotgun. That’s bad. Care to guess what’s worse? When you do that in a multiplayer game. Battlefield 3 has a pre-order bonus of several weapon modifications that give an edge in a competitive environment. Now, they have said the bonuses will be available to everyone for free later, but come on. You’re selling power-ups to people that shell out money, assuming they even live in a country where the deal is going on. If you don’t, tough luck. There will be better players in multiplayer because they pre-ordered and you didn’t. Fix your pre-order rewards game companies, don’t give stuff that make single player boring and multiplayer broken.
DRM: Pardon a moment while I rage- STOP PUTTING THIS ON GAMES. DRM is possibly the stupidest “solution” to a problem I’ve ever seen. Piracy is an issue on PC, we get that. You do not fix that by punishing your consumers. How many pirates do you think any DRM scheme has ever stopped? I’ll give you a hint, it’s less than one. Companies are even worse when they come out and say “Our game is different! It’s uncrackable!” Do not challenge these people. The game Spore was cracked open before it even released, and no company has ever released an uncrackable DRM scheme. Not one pirate has ever been stopped. Stop trying, you’re only hurting us. Instead, try and reward consumers with things like cosmetic upgrades or same-tier items. Don’t break the game to reward a paying customer, but stop swinging your fist at phantoms. You’re only punching us. Knock it off.
Forced Linearity: First off, let me say there is nothing wrong with a linear game. Some devs just want to tell a story, and sometimes I just want to watch a story without having too much influence over the events. That is fine. Here is what isn’t: Forcing the player to sit still and watch some event before the game will let them continue. Here is a tip, game companies, If I didn’t see it, I don’t care. Nothing is more annoying than being booted out of the experience by the game ripping away control as you hear the faint screams of a dev somewhere going “Look what I did! Look at what I did!” before letting you pass. Leave it in the game, but don’t force us to watch the thing. If I want to stare at the roof or run by a tv screen, I deserve to miss whatever you were trying to tell me. Think of it this way, let’s go to a hypothetical cutscene in that beaten undead horse that is World War II. Compare “Oh my god this is stupid, no one cares the ship blew up” because I was looking at my shoes and the event wouldn’t continue to… “HOLY ****, That ship blew up!” because I was looking around and noticed it going up in the background. One of these is a nice reward for a gamer being aware of their surroundings, the other is a dev yelling to look at what they did. I’ll let you pick which is which.
Alright. That’s my three done… Let’s see what DDDreamer wants to talk about:
Invisible walls: Isn’t this just the most annoying thing ever? You’re playing a game, trodding along merrily, enjoying the scenery. Then suddenly: WHAM! Your trip is halted by a huge, invisible wall made out of pure “YOU SHALL NOT PASS”. You’ve encountered an invisible wall.
These things are especially obvious(and obnoxious) in sandbox games, where they are used to keep the player inside the sandbox. Makes sense, doesn’t it? There’s nothing outside of the sandbox, so you want to keep the player inside of it. But why the heck do you have to make it so blatantly obvious that we’re walking into an invisible wall!?
Oblivion is a major culprit when it comes to this, as no effort whatsoever has been into making the edges of the sandbox seem sensible or immersive. Instead, whenever you walk to the edge of the map, you’re greeted with an invisible wall and the text “you cannot go that way. Turn back.” Really? That’s the best you could do, Bethesda? Why not something along the lines of “You’ve reached the Cyrodilian border. Beyond here lies the other countries and nations of Tamriel. You decide to remain in Cyrodiil, as you’ll be safer here for the time being.”
The fact that there were hard, unmoving walls alone screwed me over several times. Once during a playthrough I was climbing this mountain, trying to reach Dive Rock summit. I eventually got up atop a peak from where I could see Dive Rock and from there I plotted a course for it. The less rugged, the better. I checked my map, noticed that I was far from the border and then set off on the least rugged path I could find.
Tried a slightly different route.
Eventually I had to slide down part of the mountain and painstakingly climb up another slope to reach Dive rock. All because of those bloody invisible walls.
Bottom-line: If you have to make invisible walls, make sure they work well and don’t break immersion and/or flow.
Obvious Weak-Points: Oh dear, this annoys me to no end. Now, I understand that game designers want to make it easy for the player to figure out where to strike a really large boss in order to actually inflict damage, but do they really have to make these weak spots big, glowy and blatantly obvious?
Yes, I’m looking at you, Super Mario Galaxy 2.
I remember playing one of the first levels, getting excited when I realized a boss battle was impending (I love videogame bosses). Imagine my surprise and disappointment when the boss is a huge snake-dragon with HUGE, RED PUSTULES all over his body. But things didn’t end there, not at all. The game decided that the weak spots weren’t obvious enough and proceeded to blatantly TELL ME that they’re weak spots, just to prevent me from ever misunderstanding what part of the boss I’m supposed to hit.
I get that Nintendo intended SMG2 to be a game accessible to everyone, but there’s no need to insult the intelligence of all the gamers out there by making everything so blatantly obvious. In the end that boss turned out be a fair challenge, but for all the wrong reasons.
Also, another gripe concerning weak spots: if your boss has a rather obvious weak spot, don’t give the boss an attack where it completely reveals said weak spot! It makes no sense that a boss would just shove it’s only vulnerable part in your face. It’d be like an elderly karate-master starting off all of his deadliest moves by thrusting his weak and fragile hip forward and keeping it there for a while.
Bottom-line: Don’t treat your players like they are too mentally challenged to figure out where to hit a boss. Try to implement weak spots that make logical sense and are intuitive. Like, say, a dragon who’s weak spot is this small patch of skin that lacks scales. Stop taking the easy route by having weak spots be big, glowy and embossed with a “HIT ME” stamp.
Unskippable Cutscenes: You take a deep breath and move your character up to the entrance. The screen fades to black as a cutscene starts playing. Having already seen it three times you press the cancel-button to get it out of the way. Nothing happens. You press another button. Nothing happens. You start to madly mash all the remotely relevant buttons that you can find. The cutscene still plays. You’ve encountered an unskippable cutscene.
One of the most annoying aspects of modern gaming, especially when followed by a challenging gameplay sequence. Having to rewatch the same scene over and over again because you died/otherwise failed at a gameplay sequence gets stale very, VERY quickly. But that’s not all, sometimes a game just decides to bore you with extremely, EXTREMELY long cutscenes that you just can’t skip.
The Japanese version of Xenosaga 1 is a perfect example of this, with cutscenes that could run for as long as 30 minutes, all the while being completely unskippable. Granted, I understand that they want to make sure that people don’t accidentally skip sequences that are important to the story, but I’d still prefer it if there was a skip-button.
I can’t understand why game-companies are doing this so frequently. Sure, if the sequences are in place of, say, a loading bar, it’s understandable. But having cutscenes be unskippable just ‘cuz is NEVER a good move. ESPECIALLY when they’re placed right before a challenging segment of the game.