Video game design can be loads of fun. It’s also hard work, of course, but any job where you get to work creatively is a good thing. One where the goal is “helping other people to enjoy themselves” is positively ecstatic. Unfortunately we don’t live in a world where sheer good vibes can pay the rent, so video game design has to be supported by developers- and they need to be supported by sales.
This has lead to a lot of misguided attempts to boost profits. Several developer decisions have had the same effect on video game design as adding a spoiler to a bald eagle. An idiot might think it’ll work better, but you’re horribly desecrating a magnificent thing.
5. Non-skippable Cut Scenes
The video game industry makes billions of dollars, but it’s still small change compared to Hollywood. Some developers are trying to make games more like the movies, which is bad, because all the player does when enjoying a movie is sit motionless for ninety minutes without any ability affect things. This is not the ideal design principle for an interactive game.
Most modern games now add ridiculous stories, but that’s not the problem. If you need your armored linebacker to have a deep and troubled motivation for killing the alien hordes apart from “I have a gun and they’re there,” that’s your problem. The ruination sets in when the cut-scenes establishing this story are not skippable. If someone is hammering the joypad to get on with the action, forcing them to watch some asshole trying to emote through ten inches of pectoral armor-plating isn’t going
to convince them that they’re taking part in classic literature. Leave the cut-scenes for those who prefer not to play games, and let us hit B for “Back to the actual game.”
4. Quick Time Events
One step up from the non-skippable cut scene, but that’s like being one floor up from the ninth level of hell. It still sucks pretty bad. The
“quick time event” is another symptom of Hollywood syndrome, where the video game design is dominated by a producer who has a glorious image of an exciting action sequence and doesn’t want some stupid “player” ruining it. Instead of using a character and your skills to escape virtual death – you know, playing a game – a quick time event means you just watch a little movie and press a button to get to the next part. It’s as interactive as hitting “play” on a DVD remote, except DVDs don’t rewind and make you do it all over again if you don’t do what you’re told.
3. Over Sized Maps
Video game design means building a weird and wonderful world, one filled with fun and new discoveries. Developers, however, don’t care what that
world is like after you’ve paid for it. PR dominates actually playing the thing, so some modern games advertise “immense virtual landscapes” and “the biggest game world yet!” at the expense of actually having anything in it. It’s easy to make a game world twenty square miles in size when it’s just one square mile copied twenty times. There’s a very
simple rule to schooling video game design: if you can’t think of anything new and exciting to add, the game is either finished or you suck at that job.
The horrible victory of developer sales over video game design. When a game is successful it will have a sequel these days, no matter how
little sense that makes or how complete the previous game was. This means that instead of video game design being used to come up with fresh and exciting new ideas, it’s applied to tiny tweaks trying to justify another sixty dollars for the same game with a few extra bullet points on the back of the box.
1. Downloadable Content
The worst of the bunch and an ever-escalating problem. In the previous problems developers overrode or ignored basis video game design school principles, but with DLC they attack it directly. With a knife. Greedy companies carve entire chunks out of the game’s structure, selling the amputated organs as “extras” for real money. Meaning you’ve spent sixty dollars for a game, but as far as the developers are concerned, you’ve only just
started paying them.
*EDITORS NOTE: Special thanks to Nerd Bastard contributor Luke McKinney for this gaming observation.