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The Short Memory of Game Design

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the remember-and-keep-your-twinkie dept.

123

Gamasutra has another piece in Ernest Adams' ongoing series Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! This week he looks at the terrible long-term memory the game industry suffers from. Because of fast turnover within company ranks, games released by a single studio can consistently make the same bad design decisions over and over again. From the article: "Which is worse: A game that introduces its features sparsely but regularly, or one that gives them all to you at once and then never gives you another one? I would much rather play the former. Obviously this will vary somewhat by genre, but offering up a new twist every now and then will certainly help to keep the player's interest. Too many games turn into a boring grind in the last third or so, and the player has to slog through it if he wants to see the ending. We didn't get into this business to make boring grinds."

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what has the author done exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692819)

His websites down right now, but who exactly is this guy telling everyone they can design games?

Re:what has the author done exactly? (3, Informative)

joystickgenie (913297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693468)

Honestly I was expecting way more from his because I have read some of his articles before and many times he seems on point. But here is a list of his credits for your perusal.

Published Games

RabbitJack's Casino for IBM PC (1989-91)
Third Degree for CD-I Player (1992)
John Madden Football for 3DO (1994)
Bill Walsh College Football for Sega CD (1995)
Madden NFL 97 for Sony Playstation, IBM PC, and Sega Saturn (1996)
Madden NFL 98 for Sony Playstation and IBM PC (1997)
Madden Football 64 for Nintendo 64 (1997)
Madden NFL 99 for Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, and IBM PC (1998)
Michelle Kwan Figure Skating for IBM PC (1999)
Madden NFL 2000 for Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, and IBM PC (1999)

Unpublished Games

Takeover for IBM PC (1991)
Dungeons & Dragons for the CD-I player (1991)
Baseball '93 for IBM PC (1992)
Wildfire! for IBM PC (1993)
Baseball for Sega Genesis CD (1995)
Psychic Warriors for IBM PC (1998)
Genesis: The Hand of God for IBM PC (1999)
Dungeon Keeper 3 for IBM PC (later retitled War for the Overworld) (2000)
Theme "X" (2000)

To me personally this credit list doesn't seem very impressive from design aspects. Perhaps he made a name for himself in the industry with his consulting work.

Re:what has the author done exactly? (2, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693749)

Based on that resume it appears that the Author based his opinion on game design by finally learning a lesson after a career of making the same mistakkes he is speaking against. Madden makes up 2/3rds of his published resume and other than some graphics upgrades, Madden hasnt really added anything special or changed up gameplay since the Sega Genesis days. In fact, up until they got completely spanked in game reviews (sadly not with madden sheep) by Sega's NFL game there had been no real changes in game mechanics at all.

Hey, gamers! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692822)

Strafe does not [reference.com] mean the same thing as sidestep. We at Wikipedia would appreciate [wikipedia.org] any insight you can offer as to the origins of your illiteracy.

Re:Hey, gamers! (1)

Eideewt (603267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692915)

Blah, blah common usage, blah blah blah.

Re:Hey, gamers! (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692922)

This is pretty strange, but it's got a purpose. I believe ID coined the phrase, but it's similar in theory to Strafing. As one flies in the plane one would "strafe" a target, which would mean to shoot from the plane. However the way the shooting normally would happen is one would start shooting before, as the cross hairs moved over the target, and finish shooting after the target, aka a "strafing run". This would allow a hopefully large amount of damage in a single run.

Strafing in the games is likely a reference to this as you would duck out of one corner, fire over the whole attacking enemies (usually coming from one direction) and slide into another corner (which at that time you turn and wait for the rest to come around the corner, or you'd strafe back and run for your life.

If one was to imagine the screen of the game turned sideways, the view of strafing would be a bit like an airplane flying over a target to unload machine gun fire.

You'd have to ask ID (I believe they created it) if this is the real reason, but I'm 90 percent sure it comes from "strafing run" rather then "strafe" itself.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693110)

At last, a sensible answer! Thank you.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693869)

The best excuse I've been able to come up for it is that it started with the phrase "circle strafe", which is an excusable extension of the usual definition of "strafe".

After "circle strafe" became common usage, then perhaps gamers unfamiliar with the word "strafe" used it to refer to "sidestep", which is an essential part of circle strafing.

But this is my own made-up etymology; I don't know if this is how it actually happened.

Re:Hey, gamers! (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696408)

Nope, that won't do. "Strafe" was in the manuals and in the keyboard setup screens before there were games in which you could reasonably circle strafe.

Hey, Wikipedians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693323)

Wikipedia does not perform the same function as a dictionary. Or an encyclopedia. Under no circumstances is it an acceptable reference for a report, analysis, et cetera.

We on the Internet would appreciate any insight you can offer as to the credibility of your "facts". I mean, come on--my 15 year old brother can "contribute" to articles that neither you nor him understand; how are you going to check that his formulae for solving advanced physics problems are accurate? You're not, that's right. You ingrates.

Re:Hey, gamers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15695244)

say, since this asshole was kind enough to provide us to a link to his precious site and since he is too dumb to understand common usage -- what say we all go over there and educate him?

I mean, its GOT to be better than replying to his posts, right?

On the other hand... (5, Insightful)

jizziknight (976750) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692830)

It's also really annoying when a game gives you no features at the beginning and makes you trudge through a few hours of play before you get to do anything cool. Or if the one critical feature you need is given to you at the very end, and you have to practically play the entire game again to beat it (I'm looking at you, Jet Force Gemini). It also sucks when you get no new features for each iteration of a particular series.

On a related note, this is also why I can't stand most MMORPGs. Too much time wasted grinding. I don't want to kill monster x for 5 hours so I can level up so that I can use weapon/ability z, and then start killing monster y for 6 hours so I can level up and.... you get the idea.

Re:On the other hand... (5, Interesting)

kthejoker (931838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692954)

What every MMORPG needs is a handicapping system. You go into settings, you set your handicap, and you get to ascend accordingly.So you could have Level 1, the Casual Gamer, who levels up quickly but doesn't get access to all of the quests or best weaponry or any of the fancier materia vs Level 10 the Ubergame, whose grinding takes twice as long as normal, but has exclusive access to the +70 Vorpal Sword of Fantasticness and SideQuests A, B, and C.

Again, this goes back to the whole "What Suit Are You?" style of RPG gameplay. Some people are completists, some people like community, some people just like the theatricality and fun of playing a game, and some people are stat freaks, and most people are shades of all 4. MMORPGs needs to acclimate for that better - want to be a completist? you have to grind more. A stats freak? We'll boost you up, but it'll cost you. In it for the community? Level up faster if you're playing with a friend. And these are just ideas off the top of my head, but they strike at the heart of what's dumb about grinding: it's not for everyone.

The parent poster complains about 6 hour grinds - if there were 2 hour grinds (in the midst of a fun sidequest, or with a clear "save this countryside" campaign behind it), nobody would complain. So what's the difference between 2 hours and 6 hours? The very arbitrary nature of these kinds of numbers prove that the problem is not the time, but the very concept itself, and the fact that no game designer seems to want to cater towards allowing more flexible leveling and participating options for gamers (and yes, non-gamers) into their world.

That's a pity, and I hope that in the next 5-10 years, some more adventurous game companies figure out that with episodic content, different methods of entry for newer players, different schemes of success and advancement, and a better sense of handicapping, they could easily hook 5, 10, or 20 times the number of players they do now.

(I say all this as a huge fan of single-player RPGs (Final Fantasy in particular) who couldn't stand the grinding of Diablo II or EverQuest and never tried to get back on the bandwagon.)

Re:On the other hand... (1)

salmon_austin (955310) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693089)

damn, that is a good idea. I wish it would happen.

Re:On the other hand... (3, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693480)

I like the idea of handicapping system, it is a step in the right direction. However lots of MMORPGS are already plagued with farming and rare item market and that won't help with the handicap system ( because you don't have any hope of getting the uber object without the right handicap )

I have another idea slightly in the same line. I'm thinking why no using a automatic anti-grind system. Give quota for player. Let say for the first 2 hours you play you get 100% XP, after you only get 80%. After 2 more hours of game you get 60%, ... up to 20% after 8 hours.

That seems harsh for the hardcore player, but hardcore player can still create multiple characters ( let's face it, a real hardcore player has already mutliple high level characters ... ) That means that the difference between hardcore and casual will be in the number of characters: Hardcore player will have the opportunity of playing high level mage, monk and warrior, while the casual player only Mage for example.

Well ok, not perfect. And that doesn't solve another problem of casual player. As in real life, you don't see your friends every day and sometimes you are busy for a period and don't see them at all. After when you meet again, it is very difficult to do a game again with them since they basically are too advanced ( or they restarted a new character that is far behind )
I'm currently playing GuildWars with some friends. Unfortunatly I could not play as often for 2 weeks, and therefore the number of level between them and me is significant enough that we cannot play together anymore :-( So maybe there could be a catchup system ? Let's say you team with people too advanced and the system raise your level and equipment temporarily ??

Re: catchup system (4, Informative)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693769)

City of Heroes and City of Villains have a system where either the higher level character can temporarily be a lower level or the lower level character can temporarily play as a higher level when teaming. It makes the game fun and playable for both the hardcore and the lite players in our guild.

Re:On the other hand... (2, Interesting)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693788)

You're not playing the same GW I'm playing. the level cap is extremely low and you get exp really quickly, your friends could easily get you 3-4 levels in an hour or two if you were post-searing and really low level. Probably 1 an hour if mid level.

Also theres no reason you can't hang with them if they come and run you to the area, you may not be able to do much but leech exp, but with hexs and disruption skills you can still be some use.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693884)

Yeah, leveling in GW is really fast. In Factions, it's ridiculously fast... I reached level 18 or 19 in less than a week (level cap is 20), and I've only done two missions (out of 13 or so).

Re:On the other hand... (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694466)

I guess, generally speaking, I'm expecting a bit too much from a computer game. I used to play paper RPG and the GM always found a way to stick any character in the game and have fun. I'm getting older, I sometimes want instant rewards ...

Otherwise I agree with you, GW was not the best example and could even be a counter example.
If you want to know, technically in GW, I just arrived in North Shiverpeak.
They played several days more than me and are currently in the jungle, they are level 20 with Drognar armors, and I'm still level 13 with crappy Ascalon armor. It takes me several hours to get 1 level. ( Because I play with hench, I suppose. )
I will catch up: they ran me to the Peak and there I took another (free) run to drognar but with no money to pay for the armor :-( Eventually when we are all level 20 with drognar armor, it will matter much less.

Re:On the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15695312)

have you considered just creating a PvP character to play with your friends? Instant level 20 with all sills you've unlocked and decent equipment (not the best, but decent)

Re:On the other hand... (2, Informative)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694093)

I agree, I have some "friends" (in that online-only, don't-know-your-real-name sense) that I've power-levelled in a game who are now 20-30 levels higher than I am.

Most games would have a great benefit from an experience-boosting effect for more casual gamers. Something along the lines of 5% per offline-day for 1 hour per offline-day (to a max of 5 offline-days - 25% bonus for 5 hours). Some people would think it is unfair, but the advantage is that "casuals" could try to keep up the pace with the "addicts", the disadvantage is that you don't have as much loot to show for your progress.

I always have a great time when partied, but when I'm offline for extended periods of time, while they aren't, it becomes counter-productive for them to be in a party with me, and it becomes especially counter-productive for me in some games where the experience is distributed by level (with the higher level getting more due to the higher need for experience points) up to the point where all of the experience is going to everyone else in the party.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Incoherent07 (695470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694177)

WoW's rest system was originally going to do this, but apparently people in beta disliked getting penalized for playing too much, so in its current form it simply gives you bonus experience after you've been logged off for some amount of time. Obviously it's not much of a solution, but it's a step in the right direction.

Wow, nicely done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693832)

This is the stupidest +5 informative post I have ever seen. Congrats.

Re:On the other hand... (2, Interesting)

angrymilkman (957626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694654)

but you shouldn't let the user decide for himself what his suit is. Nobody plays the game on easy, the game should just monitor automatically how long the user wants to play and adjust the difficulty to that.

Re:On the other hand... (3, Interesting)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695259)

How about you make it so that there's actually more skill involved in combat and leveling up. Do away with levels entirely. Use a skill-based system (origional ultima online, anyone?) Make it so you can get to "slightly better than average" in under a few hours, and most of the game content can be experienced at this "slightly better than average" point. Make it so equipment doesn't have so much of a bearing on how well you fight/cast magic/whatever. (A master swordsman with a stick could probably best a neophyte with a finely weighted broadsword) Make permanent death part of the game. Utilize some inheritance system, so that you don't lose EVERYTHING when you die... and allow all your characters to share the same surname. One thing this would do: allow casual gamers to quickly and easily accomplish just about everything in the game. And those people who get -good- at the game - not those who just play it endlessly - might eventually get characters that are much more skilled than other players, and actually become famous for whatever they might do. Ideally, the player power curve would be a bell curve, with very few weak characters and very few powerful characters, but a lot of average characters - and have most of the game content focused on the average players.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

rujholla (823296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696062)

Aye!!

One of the most anoying things about the PVP system in WOW is that it doesn't really matter how skilled you are, the people with the uber raiding guilds will win because they have the best gear unless they are complete idiots.

Metroid and Zelda did this right (4, Insightful)

Erioll (229536) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693040)

You're absolutely right jizz. Now for examples of games that do this right I'd point to games like Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. Both of these games are "item-centric," giving the player increased abilities as time goes on, and yet they also keep the core mechanics there, so that the game experience at the end isn't drastically changed from the beginning. If you're awesome with a sword at the beginning, it will still serve you well at the end. And the Metroid games are the same, in that as long as you're good at the core shoot/dodge/jumping maneuvers, those are almost-always worth more than the best weapons around.

So getting the balance right is why games like those two have become greats: they keep the game interesting and fresh all the way through, while still not invalidating what made them fun at the beginning. I'm sure there's other examples of this around, but there are few that have historically done it as well as these franchises have.

Thinking about it, Mega Man might be an argument for EITHER side, but I think it's worth mentioning as something else that can go either way depending on your perspective (and I'm referring to classic Mega Man, not whatever's been done lately that radically changes things).

(and if others have good examples of doing it right, that'd be great to mention too)

Re:Metroid and Zelda did this right (2, Interesting)

jizziknight (976750) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693146)

I wholeheartedly agree. One thing I especially like about the Metroid Prime games is the "loss" of features. Both start you out with many of the basic features/abilities, and some event causes you to lose all or some of them. Sort of like a preview of what the game will be like before you get into the thick of it. The first bit of the first one had me going "Damn, I wish I could get that morph ball back." I also like the differences of features between the two.

As for Zelda.... Wind Waker didn't do quite as good a job as say Ocarina Of Time. Everything you needed for a particular dungeon you already had or was in that dungeon. And then there was the whole sail-to-every-tile-twice bit in order to get every item once you had all of your abilities. Overall, though, I still enjoyed the game.

Tell me about it (2, Insightful)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692837)

This is the field I hope to enter in three years time, after getting through university. It's shocking how many games drag on towards the end, and even worse the ubiquitous sequels made each year with absolutely no attempts at improvement...
One game that suprised me time after time was Advance Wars (1, 2, and DS), each time introducing new and unique strategy elements and tactics, improved AI, improved graphics, and yet retaining it's core gameplay and character.
Even GTA dos this well, despite my other critisism of it.
I hesitate to mention EA's endless flow of carbon-copy sequels...

There has to be a balance, though.... (3, Insightful)

Ykant (318168) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692845)

I don't know how many games I've played that feed you new techniques and weapons as you go along where, once you get the uber-weapon, the challenge sucks right down to nothing until you get to the endgame. Or when you work on the same section for hours... only to immediately receive an ability that would have gotten you through in minutes. Or enemies near the end of a game that can only be defeated by something you just received, making everything else you've perfected along the way useless. The God of War endgame comes to mind (not bashing the game, great game, this is just an example) - you've perfected your technique with the default weapon to reach the end, nothing could possibly stand under your vicious onslaught, only to have it all taken away from you and wind up with a completely different weapon against a difficult opponent. It's sort of an artifical way of increasing the difficulty of the section.

Re:There has to be a balance, though.... (3, Insightful)

ArmyOfFun (652320) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693175)

once you get the uber-weapon, the challenge sucks right down to nothing until you get to the endgame
The converse is also true though. In GUN, you get some uber-weapons after you beat the game and all side missions. The problem is that after you beat the game and all side missions, there's nothing left to do! I'd give GUN a pass if, like some of the Resident Evil games, I get the uber-weapon after beating the game but can start a new game WITH the uber-weapon(s).

Castlevania/Metroid handles the uber-weapon problem the best. When you get good weapons, power-ups, spells and so on, the portions of the map you haven't been to usually still offer a challenge. The difference is that you're forced to back-track through some of the areas you've already been, but given your new gear, you can easily kill enemies that used to give you headaches.

Another complaint about GUN, falls under the article's "Extreme Rule Changes When Fighting Boss Characters". The final boss is a Metroid style-boss in that you have to figure out "the trick(s)" to beating him. The problem? He's the only character in the game like this! I was so used to the run-and-gun style of the rest of the game, the final boss took way too many tries before I realized he operated according to rules not found in any other part of the game. Argh!

Re:There has to be a balance, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15694817)

"Castlevania/Metroid handles the uber-weapon problem the best. When you get good weapons, power-ups, spells and so on, the portions of the map you haven't been to usually still offer a challenge. The difference is that you're forced to back-track through some of the areas you've already been, but given your new gear, you can easily kill enemies that used to give you headaches."

Backtracking to a previously visited area was a pain in Anachronox, where some dev had the idea of making the foes scale to your level so that the guys who were blocking your path 20 levels ago are just as tough now when you have a need to return through that same path. Yet another flaw in what could have been a totally awesome game.

Kinda Sorta ... (5, Insightful)

Tranvisor (250175) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692848)

"Which is worse: A game that introduces its features sparsely but regularly, or one that gives them all to you at once and then never gives you another one? I would much rather play the former."

Would Tony Hawk games be as much fun if you could only do 1/4 the moves in the begining? Course, as your stats increase throughout the game certain moves go from tough/impossible to easy but you can still basically do almost everything at the very beginning when it comes to moves.

Unlockables are fun but some games take this concept to far...

Re:Kinda Sorta ... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693390)

The "all feature in the beginning" is probally the most extreme in simulations, where you often get everything at the very beginning and there aren't even stats you could improve. What however improves over time is the players ability to handle the plane/car/mech and that is IMHO by far the best thing, since its fair, there is no magic 'smash hundert monster to level up', but its all simply your skill and nothing else. Ikaruga is yet another game where you start with everything right from the start, there are no uber-weapons to collect, yet it was the best shooter of the past years thanks to the interesting black/white game mechanic.

Re:Kinda Sorta ... (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693428)

Have you played a recent Tony Hawk game? American Wasteland gives you jack squat for abilities at the beginning of the game... Normally that's the kind of progression I like in a game but as someone who'd played through the other 6 versions completely it was more annoying then anything else.

As much as I love the Tony Hawk series it's getting really tired, I'd almost say it rivals Madden in terms of how much they add with each annual "re-release"

Water levels (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692868)

If you dive down to a lower level and get out into the air down there... why doesn't that space just fill up with water?

Perhaps that space has a higher air pressure than outside?

Re:Water levels (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692895)

If you dive down to a lower level and get out into the air down there... why doesn't that space just fill up with water?


A wizard did it.

But what...

A wizard...

Re:Water levels (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692897)

You would think that would be the case if the level was properly designed according to real world physics. But I'd seen some underwater levels that defies real world physics because the designer was too lazy to take that into consideration.

Re:Water levels (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693018)

And there are games where I don't care. If the setup of a water level in Super Mario Ultra is physically impossible, I don't really care at all. The fact that Mario can jump 10 times his own height, and drastically change his direction while in the air is already impossible enough that I don't expect realism in the game.

Re:Water levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693314)

Hey man, those 'shrooms really do give you extra lives and make you taller (and in some cases smaller--like in the NEW Super Mario Bros.)

But I agree, who cares about realism if it doesn't add to the fun factor of the game? Not all games have to strive to simulate the real world.

Re:Water levels (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693512)

True. Some games don't need real-world design considerations to be fun. I was thinking of first person shooters when I made my comment.

Re:Water levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15695030)

Even then, I don't see the problem. Yes it's unrealistic, but I don't play FPSes looking for realism either. At least not Quake and Duke Nukem as mentioned in the article. Maybe the water is held in place by the same technology that less those platforms float in midair, or teleport you across the board, or launch you 100 feet in the air and land you again without injury.

Yup (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693016)

He is wrong about the water level thing. You could have a pressurized tube underwater that you escape through. Or if you reenter through a diving bell or into a sewer pipe which could be at a different pressure. There are several valid scenarios.

And what the hell is up with picking on Myst? That game is what, 13 years old? Come on ...

Good ideas, but not for all. (4, Insightful)

kinglink (195330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692885)

So wait, it was OK when GTA San Andreas had you wait til 1/3rd of the game was done before you could buy any weapons? According to "No New Features After the First Few Levels" that would be a good thing. Personally I think that's the WORST thing about it. No new features has to be taken with a grain of salt. Let's look into it.

"Person can't drive car til they get license, they must past a long involved series of missions to do that, then to own a gun they must get a gun license, which happens through another set of four missions. Person finds a rocket launcher on the ground, must now take lessons from a third NPC."

Sounds exciting. How about

"Person grabs a car, drives to a local gun range, buys a simple gun because it's all he can afford, as he drives to the next point, he finds an AK-47 on a local gangbanger, he grabs the weapon and starts to shoot up the street".

I don't know the second one sounds like it'd be more fun. I mean learning new "skills" is good, but learning simple stuff that should be available at the begining is lame. In San Andreas, they locked the Airports, which is a good thing at times. People could still get in, hijack a plane and fly badly.

I think that cavet that you should gain skills depends on the game. If you're doing open world games, you shouldn't get completely new skills unless there's a reason. Perhaps you can get a group together after a while and lead them because you earn their respect. But then again from the begining you're able to use all your abilities that you normally would with out having to "unlock" them.

I looked at the writer's bio and found he wrote a bunch of books, good for him. as well as

"Ernest was most recently employed as a lead designer at Bullfrog Productions, and for several years before that he was the audio/video producer on the Madden NFL Football product line. " ... Hmmmm I'll leave on that note. You can decide yourself on his opinions validity, oh and that's ALL the specific industry experience he gives.

Re:Good ideas, but not for all. (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693215)

"Ernest was most recently employed as a lead designer at Bullfrog Productions, and for several years before that he was the audio/video producer on the Madden NFL Football product line. " ... Hmmmm I'll leave on that note. You can decide yourself on his opinions validity, oh and that's ALL the specific industry experience he gives.

It's all [designersnotebook.com] the industry experience he gives?

Re:Good ideas, but not for all. (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694294)

I meant on that site, I'm sure he's completely valid, however the fact he even references Madden in his small blerb and then tells US what's wrong with gaming is a little short sited.

He had 7 YEARS at EA, I'm sure that also left him a little jaded. I've never been employed by them but I'm sure the employees have little to no say, especially working on madden every year, at the company I work (game industry developer) the lower end people have a lot of ability to move however we try to create fun games, not games that sell, we've done well in both areas but that's probably because we personally like our games and customize them to what we would expect to see.

Re:Good ideas, but not for all. (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693291)

Wait...

He's an unemployed game designer complaining about turnover in the game industry!?

Re:Good ideas, but not for all. (2, Interesting)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693504)

So wait, it was OK when GTA San Andreas had you wait til 1/3rd of the game was done before you could buy any weapons?

Eh, San Andreas was f'ed up in a number of ways. I just can't be bothered to play it anymore, because even after I cheat to get the jetpack or helicopter it still takes too damn long to retry a mission. I'm not sure whether to respect or pity the people who actually finish that game. (Maybe they never fail a mission, I dunno.)

It's like they took Vice City, which IIRC I 100%'ed (so it's not like I dislike the game play), and said "We want to make this twice as long", so they just expanded the world and blew out the first 10% of Vice City (you know, the most boring 10%) into I-don't-know-how-much-of- the-game-because-I-can't-finish-it, but definately "way too much".

all marketing, no game (4, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692887)

What's worst is to polish a crap game with a marketing assault. Mario could have been announced with a 3x5 card mailed to my sister's pet dog and it still would be a sweet game. A huge animation for a crappy game in times square just makes that company look desperate and deceitful. How many super-rendered game commercials have you seen that literally show no gameplay whatsoever? Just show the damned game, if you're ashamed of it maybe you shouldn't release it!

Re:all marketing, no game (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692952)

If there's one thing I appreciated about the God of War commercials, which played endlessly on television, is that the rendered content was accompanied by an equal amount of gameplay footage.

Re:all marketing, no game (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15692970)

The reason why this happens is because developers/publishers have been so successful with it in the past; there is an endless list of games that sold well because it was above average, exclusive to a platform, the company produced a massive advertizing campaign, and the company bought good reviews (*cough* Halo *cough*).

Only when the game is a real turd (Turok) do people really notice it though ...

Re:all marketing, no game (2, Insightful)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693541)

Halo's success was only in part to do with advertising, it's a clean, well-done FPS that offers a lot of options during battle. Also I should note I'm mostly referring to the PvP side of it. The solo game was fun but got repetitive and boring fast.

I never saw any ads for Halo but after playing it at a friends house I became instantly addicted, it had a balance to it that other FPSes at the time seemed to lack. If the game sold only on advertising hype then there would be no explanation for the massive popularity of it on xbox Live (Halo 2 that is) and the freeware networking program that was created for Halo 1 before over-the-net play was provided by MS/bungie through Live.

Re:all marketing, no game (0, Offtopic)

mh101 (620659) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695253)

I wonder if I need to see a psychiatrist? For some reason, I read what you wrote as "...a 3x5 card stapled to my sister's pet dog."

Casual games / gamers (5, Insightful)

fotbr (855184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692923)

Since I've entered the "real world" I have nowhere near the amount of time to spend gaming as I did in college.

I'd rather have all the features, abilities, etc "unlocked" from the beginning so I can have FUN. Racing games are the worst. Start with crappy car, on a boring track. Then spend hours to achieve first-place so you can get a slightly better car, or have a slightly more interesting track. Repeat for days until you finally can run the high-end cars on challenging tracks. All in the name of providing "lots" of gameplay. Gameplay, yes. Fun, not so much.

Give me all the cars, tracks, cool weapons, gadgets, etc all at the beginning and let me get my hours of gameplay in 10-20 minute pieces of fun.

I think "Casual games" and "Casual gamers" want fun out of their games, not work. Which means a lot more games can fall into the "casual" category than just brain teasers and Bejeweled or Tetris clones. Let the hardcore crowd work for weeks to unlock the super-baddass-mega-blaster, but at least give everyone else the option to click a "unlock all" option and just have fun.

Re:Casual games / gamers (2, Interesting)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693127)

For similar reasons, I noticed I'm losing the ability to play console RPGs.

I recently picked up Star Ocean 3 on the cheap (I'm a bottom feeder, what can I say?) and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish it. I'm still in the first sixth of the game and already there was a dungeon I barely could get to the next save point before I had to stop anyhow. I'm nervous that this game, which I otherwise enjoy so far, is going to throw a required three+ hours to the save point at me, and that's going to require me like blocking out weekend time... if I bother. (At least this doesn't have random battles making the backtrack time to a save point indeterminate, and the enemies do chase you down but they didn't do the cheap shit with them unavoidably jumping at you; look, if you're not doing random encounters, roll with it, don't try to sneak them in the back door!)

I'm also getting tired of "stomping on rats" just to get to the point where I have a decent selection of abilities. That is, I'd like to start at the moral equivalent of level 10-15. Will it really break the game for my spellcaster to start out with basic heal, basic fire, basic water, basic group attack, etc., and my fighter to already know a couple of techniques?

To its credit, Star Ocean 3 does have a decent "event skipping" system, although IMHO the designers were forced into adding it against their will and it feels like they're a bit snotty about it when you select that function. (Too bad for them; it works OK.) And it doesn't have the God-awful "Your Time Is Worthless To Us" Sphere system from FFX, turning all but the simplest level ups into multi-minute sphere-popping extravaganzas, for which much can be forgiven...

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Canthros (5769) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693452)

I've been having this same problem for a while now. I actually got all the way to the end in FF8 and FF9, and couldn't be bothered to spend a week grinding just to beat the end boss. (An especial shame in FF9, where the end boss seemed terribly out of proportion to the lead up thereto, and marred a game I thoroughly enjoyed otherwise.)

In fact, I think the last RPG I played all the way through was FF1&2, and I'm not sure I completed all of that. That was over a year ago, and I've played at least two RPGs since, and been unable to train my attention on them long enough to complete either one.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693611)

(An especial shame in FF9, where the end boss seemed terribly out of proportion to the lead up thereto, and marred a game I thoroughly enjoyed otherwise.)

I had the same problem in FFX too. Everything up to that point I thought was pretty well balanced for someone who wants challenging fights that you can win with thought and a couple of tries. But it seemed to me the end boss was a real jump after that.

Eventually I cheated; I found that I had just enough stuff to "mix" a Trio of 9999, which makes all damage computations lock to 9999; combine that with some multi-shot magic skills and the boss goes down. But I wasn't very close to beating him without that trick I couldn't have discovered without a FAQ, and while I enjoyed the game and don't feel cheated (only paid $12 for it, after all), I felt no desire to follow up with the rest of it.

Compare to FFX-2, which I eventually 100%'ed, because that could be done in nice, bite-sized pieces. (The story is inferior, but I liked the mechanics much better. And no Sphere Grid!)

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696361)

What? X? X had the easiest end bosses ever. Methinks you should have run around, done a bit more optional stuff, and gained more stats in the process; by the time I finished that game, a Trio of 9999 would have greatly reduced my damage potential. Yunalesca, a few hours earlier in terms of mandatory plot, with all of her status attacks, was at least 10 times more difficult than any of the "final" battles.

I've got to agree with the grandparent, though, about VIII. Due to some poor planning, I ended up at Ultimecia's castle, and I was completely screwed. Short on supplies, all abilities locked out, and there are no stores in the world of "time compression", which I'm sure was just an excuse for the fact that they didn't put the store data on Disc 4. In any case, I ask myself, what's left? Some battles and some FMV. Okay, I say... I'm here. I beat the game. That's the end of that, what's left? ;)

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693879)

For similar reasons, I noticed I'm losing the ability to play console RPGs.

I recently picked up Star Ocean 3 on the cheap (I'm a bottom feeder, what can I say?) and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to finish it. I'm still in the first sixth of the game and already there was a dungeon I barely could get to the next save point before I had to stop anyhow. I'm nervous that this game, which I otherwise enjoy so far, is going to throw a required three+ hours to the save point at me, and that's going to require me like blocking out weekend time... if I bother. (At least this doesn't have random battles making the backtrack time to a save point indeterminate, and the enemies do chase you down but they didn't do the cheap shit with them unavoidably jumping at you; look, if you're not doing random encounters, roll with it, don't try to sneak them in the back door!)


That's why I only ever play CRPGs on console emulators. Don't have a savepoint handy? Just pause the emulator and save the current state.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695227)

I recently picked up Star Ocean 3...

Well, that was your first mistake. I was warned about SO3 before I got it (I loved SO2, btw), unfortunately, I didn't take heed, and picked it up anyway. The game takes itself WAY too seriously, the story blows, and gets worse and worse as the game progresses. The gameplay is extremely unbalanced and thus unfairly difficult. For a game that's supposed to be about real-time action, it leaves way too much to chance, and not enough to actual skill. The item creation system, which seems to be a central part of being able to ubber enough not to have the game insanely difficult, is extremely poorly done. Oh, did I mention that the story was rediculusly bad?

And yes, I HATE mindless leveling up. Don't make me have to go back through a dungeon 5 times just to get good enough to go onto the next one, I thought we were past that by now! A good game should have a nice momentum forward, alternating between different types of gameplay (battles, puzzles, exploration, etc.), so one doesn't get particularly old. So many times, in SO3, was I ready for a dungeon to end after I'd only played through the first 1/4 of it. After I went through half the "sphere company" dungeon, and being bombarded by way too many instant kill normal enemies, and was then faced with two bosses, each of which could have easilly taken down my whole party, I just said "fuck it", and haven't played the game since.

I've played some difficult RPGs in my time, a lot of them were extremely fun and exciting games. SO3 wasn't fun, it was a painful experience that I can't believe I wasted 3 months of my time on. Oh, and the camera and map systems were unbelievably bad. The camera was placed too high to not have to use the full screen map all the time, which just made all of the environmental graphics completely useless, I felt like I was practically playing an ASCII based 2D RPG.

One I'm enjoying a lot right now is Suikoden V, which isn't very difficult, but it's enough of a challange to still be fun. The game moves along quite quickly, but is still extremely long (in a good way). Instead of collecting items, you end up collecting characters, and some of them include interesting backstories which make it all worthwhile. The only flaw I can see with the Suikoden system (and I've played III as well), is that getting new characters doesn't really change the gameplay all that much: I can't go anywhere that I couldn't go before, I can't really do anything that I couldn't previously (with some excpetions), and most of the characters are neigh worthless. Still, it's a fun packrat game with a lot of pay-offs, a strong and intelligent story (that feels disturbingly close to current US politics, at times), good characters, and well-designed dungeons that are just about the right length. It's not a perfect game, but it really seems to be on the right track.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695410)

I haven't bailed yet, but I can see what you're saying.

This is one of the reasons I'm a bottom-feeder; somehow, blowing $50 feel much more than 2.5 times worse than blowing $20.

My biggest complaint so far is completely unrelated to any of that; I was hoping for a sci-fi RPG, not a fantasy RPG with spaceships. I suppose I should have known better; Japan's RPGs are pretty stuck in their groove.

This was probably the deciding factor between it and Suikoden, which was next to it.

Re:Casual games / gamers (2, Insightful)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696086)

Have you ever played SO2? It's even more a fantasy RPG than SO3. In fact, SO3 would have been better off had it NOT done so much sci-fi. Basically, for the first half of SO2, the main character is stuck on a planet that's pretty much like old-school Final Fantasy or Suikoden, in terms of technology and civilization, at the mid point, you leave planet 1, and end up on planet 2, which is much more contemporary in nature. All the sci-fi elements are VERY secondary (you end up on a ship for a total of 4 minutes... litterally). All-in-all, though, it's a pretty fun little game, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it's quite enjoyable. SO3 falls flat on its face because it turns into Star Trek (some extremely bad ST references) + magic, the worst part being its constant habit of trying to explain away sci-fi science, which is just a really terrible idea unless you really have some decent grasp of current scienfic ideas.

I must admit to being a long time fan of Japanese RPGs, and I do think that some of them are quite good. But the one thing that will kill a game for me is if it tries to be more than it really is. Any game that is given a fake facade of intellectualism really makes me cringe. Same with Anime... don't give me a bunch of random SHIT to make me think, "wow, that's so deep that I don't even know what it's about!" because, most of the time, it's exactly that, just a bunch of random stuff thrown together, with little thought, just to make kids feel like they're watching something intelligent (I'm looking at you, "Eva"!). This is why even though my absolute favorite games are probably more on the serious side of things, I think that lighter games are more likely to succeed. I love ChronoTrigger, because it's just a fun romp, there's a serious side to it, but that simply is played out with the reactions of characters to the events. I hated Chrono Cross because it tried so desperately NOT to be a fun romp, and tried to be really "deep" and "emotional", and it came off as complete schmaltz.

That's where I'm liking Suikoden V, it's one of the few games that actually is MORE than it acts like it is. With things like talking beavers, cutsy little characters, things like that, you'd expect something not too heavy. But it also serves to paint a fairly intriquite picture of national politics, and the nature of power struggles in a way far more advanced than most games do. It does this in a fairly unpretentious way, as well. The fantasy elements are VERY secondary, the basic premise does not require any fantasy plot devices. Replace "Sun Rune" with "Atomic Bomb", and you pretty much have the same thing, unlike SO3, in which you have genetically engineered super-kids who have the ability to interact with other dimensions. One minute it's trying to be Eva, the next, it's The Matrix... grrrr, I have so many problems with that game.

This is one of the reasons I'm a bottom-feeder; somehow, blowing $50 feel much more than 2.5 times worse than blowing $20.

Yeah, but that pales in comparison to the TIME you put into it. $50 is nothing when you start thinking "I just wasted 50 hours of my life on this piece of crap!" For that reason, I'm much more likely to do a bit of research, and maybe even spend a little more $$$$ if I have to, to get a GOOD game that I won't feel like shit for haven't played.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696120)

Oh, sorry to respond twice, but I wanted to comment about the sci-fi / fantasy thing. To be honest, I've never seen a full "sci-fi" RPG. I guess Fallout could be considered this, but I can't really get myself interested in that series. There are a lot of halfways, like Xenosaga, .Hack (though I can't vouch for them, personally), FF8 is sorta light on the fantasy elements (and one of my personal favs, if you haven't played it already). But every American or Japanese style RPG I can think of has a lot of fantasy elements. Although I'm hearing great things about Pheonix Wright, which doesn't even have battles, or magic in it!

Oh, though, if you want one that doesn't FEEL fantasy, in the slightest, make sure you play Earthbound, one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Sure, it's got magic, but how fun is it that you're playing the Japanese vision of a stereotypical american boy in a stereotypical american land? One of the quirkiest games I've ever played. Too bad only one of the games in the series saw the light of day in the US.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

digidave (259925) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693223)

You couldn't be more right. The first thing I do when getting a game is look online for unlock codes. Too often I find myself not buying a game because I don't want to be bothered. RPGs are completely out of the question, but sports and racing games are good.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693248)

I believe Super Smash Bros: Melee has a 'unlock' system that is similar to your wants. Asisde from playing the game a lot... In SSB:M you could unlock everything by doing all the challenges, beating the game in every way and all that stuff, but you could also unlock the new charecters and most of the extra levels just by logging time. Well, the game lets you do everything from the begining. Yes, new chars come later and they do take time to master, but it's a lot better knowing that you don't have to be an expert. Besides, you could get around the time limit very easily.

For instance, it takes 100 cumulative hours of gameplay to unlock charecter X. You simply plug in four controllers, set time on 'unlimited' and leave the game running all night. 25 hours (minus any time you actually play) later you've logged 100hours! The game is always fun, the new levels are just different platform configurations with some added eye candy, so you aren't missing much without them. You can easily live without the new chars as there's already a lot of variety (and some of them are just slight veriations, IE: Captian Falcon and Ganondorf).

Guess I'm trying to say that it shouldn't require 400 hours and the blood of one hundred virgin princess just to get last few extras. This is why I don't play Final Fantasy games anymore. After FFVII it just got ludicris trying to get everything! And VII was just as bad with Ruby and Emerald Weapon.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693554)

Interesting counterpoint; I lost my fully-unlocked save file for DDRMAX2, which unlocks things purely on a song play-through basis. I thought I'd try this basic trick, only in this case I just muted the game and periodically hit "x". (I don't have a turbo controller.)

Bastards programmed it so you have to actually meet some minimum performance guidelines for the play to count. And no unlock codes, of course, even though there is really no reason not to include them.

I really enjoy DDR, but this is by far my biggest pet peeve, and DDRExtreme2 is even worse with the unlocking, since it actually involves skill. I'm glad that wasn't my first DDR or it would have put me off the genre entirely when it would have taken me months to unlock more than a handful of new songs, leaving the majority of the content untouchable.

I bold that phrase because I wish somebody from Konami would see it. Fuck your hardcore fans, if they want to play unlocking games, let them use their own discipline to do it. This policy makes me think really hard about whether I want to buy your game at all. I've basically not bothered tracking down DDRExtreme1 because I think it works this way and it's just not cool.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693382)

That's why I really like the Sims 2: The game itself gives you a list of cheats. It's fun for my sister to play for weeks on end without cheating, it's fun for me to play (massively cheating) for the 2-3 hours a month I can give it. I certainly wish more games were like that.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

scaryjohn (120394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693409)

Give me all the cars, tracks, cool weapons, gadgets, etc all at the beginning and let me get my hours of gameplay in 10-20 minute pieces of fun.

But then the 13-19 year old set decries it as "t3w ez" or "teh l4m3" and it doesn't get shelf placement.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695637)

Ah, but if the 13-19 year old crowd wants to engage in dick-swinging contests over who can get what 1337 piece of gear, let them. All I ask is that the game makers give me the option to bypass the BS and just play the game.

Put another way, I don't care if a bunch of 13-19 year olds don't think I "earned" the stuff. Let them "earn" it if it means that much to them. Flag save games, screenshots, whatever with "Casual Play" or something like that to keep them happy that the "posers" aren't trying to brag about stuff they didn't "earn".

I think the game studios can keep both the hardcore gamer and the casual gamer happy in most games. MMORPGs would pretty much be the exception, but most casual gamers I know don't want to spend that much time on them anyway.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693917)

Obviously the real world has made you forget how video games work. What would be the point of a game like Metroid Prime if you were immediately granted with every powerup and item in the game? You just have to spend time getting stuff in games. Video games have always been a time-consuming hobby. Why should that change just because you chose a lifestyle that leaves no time for gaming?

Re:Casual games / gamers (3, Insightful)

fotbr (855184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15695614)

No, it hasn't. I think games will eventually change to meet consumer demand. To some degree we're already seeing this -- spend any amount of time on the World of Warcraft forums and you'll see constant complaining about the amount of grinding required. In all fairness, its not limited to WoW. Also see the popularity of games like the Sims -- where you can sit down, mess around a bit, save it, and turn it off. Some racing games do a pretty decent job -- unfortunetly they tend to be nascar games where there ARE no "better" cars to unlock, since they're all the same anyway, and being nascar, the variation in tracks is minimal as well. Most fall into the trap I described before.

I'd love to find a good helicopter sim to replace the obsolete-but-classic AH-64D Longbow. Or a good F-16 simulation like what the Falcon line used to be (yes, I know, Falcon4 was re-released). They both take time to learn, yes, but the "missions" are separate, and for the most part, short, without being an arcade shoot-em-up.

As for choosing "a lifestyle that leaves no time for gaming" -- I work 40 hours / week, very little overtime, and even then the overtime is not required. As with most people I graduated with, we have time, but we can now afford our other hobbies, and if that means sacrificing time sitting on my butt playing games to gain more time out doing things, so be it. If the game companies continue to want our money, they'll adapt to a changing market. If they don't, and want to survive entirely on what the 13-19 year olds can get their parents to buy them, thats fine with me too. I know I'll be able to use the extra time to prep the toys for track days. And real racing is better than any game.

Re:Casual games / gamers (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696119)

Why should that change just because you chose a lifestyle that leaves no time for gaming?

Mostly because game companies want to make as much money as possible and if they can include more persons in the fold, they'll change the game to make more money.

Everything in moderation... (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692978)

It also sucks when the game you're playing at the end is nothing like the game you were playing at the beginning. If I liked the beginning, chances are I'm not going to be too pleased if the end is completely different.

Exercise a bit of moderation. And remember, you don't need to add bells and whistles to keep the player interested. That job can be left to the plot. If the game has a great story, you can re-use the same damned engine without adding any new features at all and you can keep the player interested beyond the endgame and into completely different titles. Some of the best selling games of all time shared an engine and just plastered some new content on top. Why don't developers remember that?

I agree! (1)

Xiph (723935) | more than 8 years ago | (#15692991)

Hmm, the article was surprisingly good.
I didn't agree with the first claim, probably because i prefer multiplayer games, nor the last, because i don't believe realism is always the best choice. But the rest of the article was very objective, so to sum it up:
  • Spread gamefeatures throughout the game, instead of all at once.
  • Don't change rules, to make experience obselete in end game.
  • If you do localization, don't do it half-assed.
  • Provide subtitles.
  • Don't obfuscate the interface.
  • Save those configs.
  • Keep options/config available whenever possible.
  • Obey the laws of physics (i don't entirely agree with this one).

unlocking new features (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693066)

I'm not a regular gamer, so cheat codes are a great way to extract a little fun. An hour or two of grinding is ok, if it's fun. But if things drag on, time to cheat, get some fun out of this beast of a game, then stick it in a closet.

Eternal Darkness (2, Insightful)

dasheiff (261577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693181)

As mentioned before on Slashdot, I think this was done very well in Eternal Darkness. There are about 11 chapters and only 12 spells in the game which you learn as you go though. The spells get more effecive as the game progress, but since you play with many different character with strenghs and weaknesses the play of the game changes. Everytime you start a new chapter you don't start out with all of your magic. You do get it all at once at some point, but you are forced to explore and feel a little helpless without it. Some people are really good at magic and some are not so good. And since the spells have a fairly large fundimental varience, i.e. not just Fireball 1 2 3 etc. You might think, I think that other time before I had this would be easier with this new spell, it doesn't obsolete the older spells. Sure the story line is amazing, the puzzles interesting, and the character diversity well done, but the combat doesn't get old either. This game got it right.

It's all about the crates (2, Funny)

ewe2 (47163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693380)

Crate Review System [oldmanmurray.com]

The ones that got it right (5, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693439)

Let's try to remember how some games got it right.

The most obvious one that comes to mind is Half-Life. The original. They do give you lots of new and interesting weapons throughout the game, but the gameplay is the same, which means you don't actually have to learn many new skills during the course of the game. My only complaint there would be Xen at the end, where the physics completely change.

But mostly, the game interface and the gameplay itself doesn't change fundamentally. What changes is the content. An example would be going into a tunnel which leads to a cliff face -- the tunnel has the feel of the vents and such, then you hit the cliff face -- completely different. Suddenly, you have to look up and down, and you have to watch your step. Get through that, and you're in a trench, trying not to get noticed till you get to somewhere you can successfully lob a grenade from. And so on.

And enough "plot" to keep you interested. They don't need a cutscene to keep things interesting.

Compare that to, say, Zelda. The entire game is discovering new and cool bits of gameplay. It's rarely frustrating, because if you make it through the first level, you've got the hang of discovering and using these new bits of gameplay. And again, no cutscenes needed, although they are there.

Or Halo 2. Gameplay is very consistent, yet you're never without a sense of place, and while there is a bit more repetition than I'd like, the story does move along, and so does the kind of situation you end up with. Sniping jackals takes a completely different kind of skill than driving a tank, or swording a bunch of Flood. Yet the learning curve is practically nil, and I don't think I ever felt cheated by suddenly being presented with a completely different game that I sucked at.

And compare that to a game that gets it completely wrong like, say, Doom 3. Absolutely nothing new. Oh, sure, towards the end you get the SoulCube, and the final boss battle is interesting. The rest of it is completely boring. I mean, there are some relatively interesting puzzles involving machines and controls, but it's almost impossible to notice those, or any bit of plot development, amid all the insane, mind-numbing repetitiveness of the levels. The only thing that changed was the environment, and it was kind of cool the first time through, when the graphics were hot shit. Now, yawn. All the cheap thrills don't work when you know where they all are, and it just isn't a fun game anymore.

One of my most frustrating games has got to be doing the minigames in Final Fantasy X. Thank God they aren't required. One night, my roommate and I decided we wanted Tidus' Legendary Weapon, which meant we had to beat the Chocobo training session. This required a wholly different skillset than anything else in that game, and in fact, was completely different than most other games I've played. It's a race -- on a bird that doesn't always want to go where you tell it -- where you must dodge oncoming traffic (seagulls) and also collect enough balloons to win. With very little margin for error -- not only do you have to be able to handle this game, but you must absolutely kick ass at it. Took the two of us about three or four hours of playing the exact same 40-second race over and over.

Or the lightning dodging. Completely unlike anything else required. Fun anyway, because after I could get to 10 or 20, I started over, got to 50, and just kept going, 200 was pretty easy. But the same roommate could never do it.

In the case of FFX, this is completely forgivable, because neither of these are required. In fact, anything actually required by the plotline was incredibly easy -- it breaks the longstanding tradition of having Omega Weapon be the most powerful enemy in the game. Omega in a pansy next to some of these (optional) Arena monsters -- roommate goes in thinking it's going to be the toughest battle ever, summons an Aeon in overdrive, unleashes the overdrive... one hit. We must've laughed for a solid ten minutes after that.

I don't really have a good example of a really bad game that does introduce new features... let's see... The Matrix: Path of Neo. First bit of gameplay is run your ass off and don't get caught, except it's ok if you do. Second bit is training, which ranges from martial arts two swordplay to guns only. That is, they start you off doing nothing but kung fu, then they give you a sword (which can break), then they give you guns and take away all your kung fu skill for that sequence. Then, as the game progresses, you have more and more missions into the Matrix, with more and more different skills. Not just more skills, different ones -- lots of guns, dodge bullets, stop bullets, flight... At more than one point they actually dump you right into a completely disjointed reality, where your biggest challenge is finding your way around, except in one where you must fight invincible kung-fu ants who can only be hurt by fire (and not falling into the void, oddly enough). And finally, the battles at the end are unlike any that come before them -- hovering in the air, mostly it's no longer about kung fu but about knowing when to push "dodge" and when to push "attack", with the final battle being "dodge every 10 seconds, until he gets pissed, then attack". Final showdown is also frustrating in that it's about twice as hard as the rest of the game, even if you know the trick with the controls -- dodging while you're standing still goes up, but dodge + up arrow key also dodges up, if you don't know that, then dodging while not pressing any key = dodge in direction you are drifting in.

In other words, Enter the Matrix would, every now and then, change into being not only a different game, but practically a different genre of game. It would go from street fighter to GTA to arcade to RPG and everything in between. I appreciate the variety, but I don't like having to completely suck at the game every level or two. Doom 3, on the other hand, feels like it's the same goddamned level all the way through, a level which is many times longer than it should be. I much preferred Half-Life -- it may look and feel like a different game, but if you were skilled at "We've got hostiles", then you should be ok in "Surface Tension" and even Xen.

Re:The ones that got it right (3, Interesting)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693650)

The most obvious one that comes to mind is Half-Life. The original. They do give you lots of new and interesting weapons throughout the game, but the gameplay is the same, which means you don't actually have to learn many new skills during the course of the game. My only complaint there would be Xen at the end, where the physics completely change.

Indeed, I was at a loss to find a way to stop falling to my death starting that level. And it appeared from search results many people were just so exasperated with questions about it that they just berated people for not going through the tutorial when really it is just that it takes so long for some players to get that far (not playing every free hour of every day) that that one little detail on how to do those long jumps gets forgotten.

Just like how I don't know how to do them right now.

Re:The ones that got it right (1)

titzandkunt (623280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694165)


"...Indeed, I was at a loss to find a way to stop falling to my death starting that level. And it appeared from search results many people were just so exasperated with questions about it that they just berated people for not going through the tutorial when really it is just that it takes so long for some players to get that far (not playing every free hour of every day) that that one little detail on how to do those long jumps gets forgotten..."

I didn't have this problem. Before you go into the portal room for the jump to Xen, doesn't a scientist max out your weapons and then give you some kind of extended long jump pack, all the while telling you that it will be vital when moving around in Xen?

Also, IIRC, doesn't he also tell you that if you need to practise your long jump, now's the time or suchlike?

I haven't played the game in and age, so this is all from memory, but I'm fairly sure it's right. I don't see how Valve could have made it any plainer without putting up a big-ass sign by the door to the teleport chamber:Xen welcomes careful long jumpers.

Re:The ones that got it right (2, Insightful)

cloudofstrife (887438) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693732)

I couldn't agree with you more - I had the same experiences with FFX, and I had a lot of the same ones with Kingdom Hearts 2 recently.

I bought KH2 with high expectations - the first game was great in my opinion. However, KH2 screwed it up big time. They tried to take what was good from the first game and add on more (limits, drives, different summons and magic, etc.) to make it a new experience and justify people spending $50 on the new title. However, all of the new stuff is almost completely pointless - magic is even less necessary in KH2 than KH1, and I never used the summons in either game, and the limits are almost as pointles. Drives are cool, but you can't use them for a large number of important battles - if Donald and/or Goofy aren't in your party, you can't use some or all of your drives! This is ridiculous, especially in the final boss fights.

Which brings me to my second huge gripe about KH2 - the reaction commands. These were also added to the game, since there really wasn't anything like them in KH1. And they're necessary to the game, but no two commands are the same at all. They don't trigger the same way, they don't act the same way, they don't do the same thing... It's really really annoying, especially in the final battle, which I won't spoil, but it had me almost at the point where I was going to scream and beat the living crap out of my PS2. Bad, bad SquareEnix.

KH2 isn't a horrible game, I liked the new Gummi missions (so much better than the old missions) and most of the gameplay is fine, although a little heavy on button mashing. I had wondered how IGN (I think) had given KH2 a 7.4 out of 10, but now I know why, and I'd be tempted to give it a lower score than that if I reviewed it. /rant

In any case, it just bugs me that game developers continute to make the same mistakes over and over again, especially with something as important as core gameplay. And it isn't even just the smaller manufacturers, either. Shame on Square. Shame.

Re:The ones that got it right (0, Flamebait)

hyfe (641811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693963)

Final showdown is also frustrating in that it's about twice as hard as the rest of the game, even if you know the trick with the controls -- dodging while you're standing still goes up, but dodge + up arrow key also dodges up, if you don't know that, then dodging while not pressing any key = dodge in direction you are drifting in.
That's quite a trick. Holding up and pressing dodge will dodge up, who'd have imagined? You, sir, are a god among gamers.

Would you mind terribly if I asked you a question? I've been playing this game called 'Super Mario', but I can't figure how to jump to the right. I know how to walk right, and how to jump, but finding which combination of these two buttons will produce a right jump really has me stumped.

Hoping for a quick answer;
Yours sincerely,
Hyfe

Did you also hate WarioWare? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694250)

I don't really have a good example of a really bad game that does introduce new features... let's see... The Matrix: Path of Neo. First bit of gameplay is

And then you go on to describe something with about as much variety as WarioWare. What does WarioWare do right that Path of Neo does wrong?

Re:The ones that got it right (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694475)

If you liked Half-Life, what was wrong with HL2? I bought these games soley for Counterstrike, but discovered I liked playing HL, also. I'm liking HL2 even more, truly a great sequel, IMO.

Choose-your-own-difficulty (1)

Cocoa Radix (983980) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693462)

I like games where some of the powers/abilities you can obtain are optional. In particular, the Gamecube's two Metroid Prime games do this fantastically.

There's a certain number of items that you're required to get (without exploiting glitches), and they're introduced regularly throughout the game, all the way up until the last couple of boss fights. In addition to these, however, there are extra weapons (such as MP1's wavebuster or ice spreader) that are immensely powerful and helpful, but also completely optional. The same goes with health and ammunition increases. They're all completely optional.

Giving the player this choice allows him to, essentially, choose his own difficulty. He can go through the game with minimal energy and ammo, or he can go through it completely maxed out. If he wants to be maxed out, though, he has to go through the challenge of locating all of these powerups, as they're often extremely well-hidden.

I think that more games should implement a similar system. I don't think that it would only work for a Metroid Prime-style game, either. RPGs could definitely benefit, and FPS games could perhaps hold off on giving you that BFG-equivalent 12% through the game. I'd like to see if any progress is made in games in this area, or if these same mistakes are repeated endlessly.

Re:Choose-your-own-difficulty (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694006)

RPGs already have that system. It's a rarity in FPS games though.

Re:Choose-your-own-difficulty (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696395)

Metroid Prime handled the issue of "building up the game" beautifully. First, take basic gameplay that's really fun. Then, add multiple axes along which the character can grow, each with their own interesting points. Then, add a few things along towards the end just for surprise factor. Roll it all into a game that's polished in every facet, to ensure that every moment is fun[1]. Release, and watch as people worship you. ;)

[1] We won't talk about the Omega Pirate.

Finally, the deaf are getting some help (4, Interesting)

Buran (150348) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693521)

It's about time the issue of captioning is getting press. I'm hearing-impaired and captions are vital to me. I must have them available to understand important messages. If there's no captioning and I can't make out the dialogue without it (which is often), then the game doesn't get played. I still haven't done much with Starlancer since it had no captions even though it was developed by many of the same guys who did the well-captioned Wing Commander series (what the hell?) and the publisher knew about it but outright said it wasn't going to fix it. That's callous and uncaring and insensitive. Haven't bought anything from those guys since.

Now, some people may say that it's less realistic to have captions, and in fact I've gotten really tired of Knights of the Old Republic periodically yelling at me about using captions in the loading screens ("turn off subtitles for a more cinematic experience" my ass, I NEED THOSE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE SAYING, so shut the fuck up!). That's fine; if you don't want subtitles, don't turn them on. That's why it's called closed captioning!

I've even had people call me a snob when I tell them that when I watch anime (and that's not often), I will only watch subtitled anime, not dubbed. (How does that make me a snob, anyway?). I asked them how they'd feel if they were in wheelchairs and it was seen as snobby to actually demand that buildings and street corners have wheelchair ramps. Oh, their expressions ... followed by my glaring at them and then wandering off to find someone else to talk to.

Half-Life 2 even has the standard symbol for closed captions on the box (a TV with "CC" printed on the screen). Why can't other games do that, too?

Re:Finally, the deaf are getting some help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15693612)

I will only watch subtitled anime, not dubbed. (How does that make me a snob, anyway?).

Lots of people without your disadvantage insist on avoiding dubbed anime as inherently inferior. This displays their l33t aesthetics by preferring the originally cast voices to the ones used for dubbing (which might or might not be as carefully cast). It might also allow them to show off some knowledge of Japanese.

Since there's a fair degree of snobbishness exhibited by people that insist on subtitled anime, most people naturally (if incorrectly) then assume that people insisting on subtitled anime do so out of snobbishness. This is called either stereotyping or Bayes' Theorem depending on who you ask.

Re:Finally, the deaf are getting some help (1)

Goose42 (88624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693994)

I only speak English, but enjoy my anime (or any foreign film, for that matter) to be subtitled rather than dubbed. This is not because I'm a snob, but because the voice actors are usually rather terrible. I'd like to hear the original actor doing their role, because there is still an inherent amount of inflection in the voice that really gives the actor's performance its power. Take that away, and you're not getting the show that the actors, director, and crew originally wanted you to see. It'd be like turning the color red off on the TV, and then expecting to make proper sense of the picture.

Take, for example, the film Amelie, a gorgeous French film. I could never, ever watch that dubbed, because the actors in that film are such extreme caricatures of reality coloured by French culture that no dubbed English voice could ever do them justice.

I don't see this as snobbishness (although there are plenty of people out there who will play it off as such for their own ego stroking), but just the best way to enjoy an artist's creation. If someone else likes dubs, that's great, but they're not for me.

Re:Finally, the deaf are getting some help (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696178)

I'm a big anime fan, myself. And I, like you, tend to prefer my anime and foreign films in their original language. BUT, the cold hard truth is that many times, subtitles are better in anime because you DON'T understand what the person is saying, and in actuality, the writing is just really really bad. Having a show in a different language with subtitles can start to mask bad writing, of which there is a lot of, everywhere, and anime isn't ammune to it. I tell this to some anime fans, and they get really defensive, as if you've just insulted their entire being, but it is true. I don't have as much of an issue with anime and video games being dubbed in english, as I do with film. NEWSFLASH: Animation (including video games) is dubbed to begin with, it's not like your denying the "actor's" creative interpretation of a character... there is no actor. Some higher-budget anime and games go as far as to re-animate the mouth movements for english localizations; and then we're basically back to the same exact process it took to make the Japanese original.

Film, on the other hand, is a disgrace when dubbed. In that case, you are denying the actor's original interpretation, for what, so people don't have to read the text? Please. The only film I ever saw in which I thought did a great job of dubbing was Das Boot, which took me about 10 minutes before I realized it was dubbed anyway.

Re:Finally, the deaf are getting some help (2, Interesting)

DLWormwood (154934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694138)

It's about time the issue of captioning is getting press. I'm hearing-impaired and captions are vital to me.

What's tragic is that people like you should not have been suffering in the first place. Voice-only communication in games is a recent phenomenon. For most of it's history, games required sub-titles since that was all there was room for! None of this fancy-smancy voice MP3/PCM/WAV data takes all sorts of migs and megs of memories that cost mucho dinero to produce.

I can hear just fine, but I'm now surprised that I'm apparently a minority when it comes to turning on subtitles in my games. Even heavily voice acted games like Final Fantasy X & X-2 benefit from subtitles (there's even a mechanic that depends on it) and for other games like Dark Alliance, I leave titles on so I don't have to worry about waiting for dialog to finish before I skip ahead to the next bit to text...

The Hollywood-ization of video gaming appears to have become a Devil's Bargain with regard to the medium's recent success...

Re:Finally, the deaf are getting some help (2, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694963)

### It's about time the issue of captioning is getting press. I'm hearing-impaired and captions are vital to me.

Captions are also very important for non-native speakers, average school english might be enough when you have a non-accent english speaker, but as soon as a game adds some accent it gets a heck of a lot more difficult to follow, if the game has environmental sound or badly balanced volume for speech and other sounds it gets often impossible to decipher what people are saying. One game which solved the issue very well was Fahrenheit, it not offered subtitles, but allowed you to switch freely between all available languages independly for subtiles and audio, so if one wanted english audio with german subtiles, no problem, most other games often either only allow to set both subtiles and audio at once or even worse, only come with a single language to begin with, in days of the DVD thats really not excusable, there is more then enough diskspace available.

Another benefit of subtiles is that they allow you to easily skip through dialog while still allowing you to know what the person would have said, this is especially nice when one ends up running into an already heard dialog again. Luckily most adventure games have allowed this, but many other genres still allow little freedom when it comes to skipping through cutscenes and dialog.

Game duration (2, Interesting)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693604)

The design issues thing that most annoys me about a lot of games is the cheap way they add more hours of gameplay. It's like the designers came up with the game and then thought "oh no, the reviews are all going to say it's only 10 hours long, what do we do?". If your game idea is only good enough for 10 hours play, then make the game 10 hours long. Don't:

- add reprise levels: all the ideas from previous levels, but in a different order!
- force backtracking: what fun, revisiting the same areas I've already completed. Paper Mario:TTYD did this and it killed the game for me
- Fiddle with the save points so the player has to repeat more of a level after dying

Replayability (1)

Phoenixhunter (588958) | more than 8 years ago | (#15693821)

Good points with regards to reprise levels. I always felt that games should have a 'Director's Cut' on some levels where the difficult is amped up or otherwise uniquely challenging without the usual 'increase enemy hitpoints and increase their damage output'.

In the strategy department: (1)

Wooster_UK (963894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694053)

Ever played a strategy game which has had whole swathes of the game that you had to unlock level by level? I mean games where you couldn't even do basic stuff -- like a space RTS where you couldn't build stuff or carry out research -- until you'd advanced a level. In that instance, it was coupled with a first level which was very easy to fail just by blind bad luck: a recipe for complete disaster.

Note to designers: if you're going to make things unlockable, make sure the game's still playable without them, yeah? And make sure it is genuinely easy to get to a stage where your players have the freedom to do whatever they want, within the confines of the game engine.

I choose option C: (1)

Other Than That... (824148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694906)

The worst, in my opinion, is a game that gives you everything to begin with, then knocks you down to near powerless after about 10 minutes. You start out with all these cool powers you don't even know what to do with yet, and then suddenly all you can do is punch.

Ve-e-e-ry frustrating.

Re:I choose option C: (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15696216)

Someone's not a big fan of the Metroid Prime series, I take it? They did just that, and, as you can see, many of us are using those games as an example of the pinnicle of successful game progression. Now, granted, they didn't give you EVERYTHING in the beginning, they just gave you the basic powerups: morph ball, bombs, missiles, and grapple beam (about 1/4 of the actual powerups in the game). Now, that little intro wasn't what made the game great, but I think it was an interesting idea, and done well. I don't think they have to do it again, but I wouldn't mind.

Ironically, Prime Hunters didn't do it, though, and that game BLEW, progression-wise. The only powerups you got were new beams, which were basically just keys to open new doors. No movement upgrades, no suit upgrades, the only device they used in the entire game to let you go on to new regions was the good old "locked door". Metroid was one of the first series to do away with this convension, and used other, more interesting, and less obvious tactics, such as higher ledges that require higher jumping or double jumping, half-pipes you can "ride up" by using the morph ball boost (this was a great idea, btw), suits that allow you to not die in heat-filled regions, scopes that let you see things outside the normal visual spectrum. And sure, throw in weapons that are basically keys to unlock doors, for good measure... which is fine along with all of this other stuff. But Metroid Prime Hunters? Nooooo, just weapons to unlock doors. Fuck that.

Bad Web Designer, No Twinkie (2, Insightful)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15694951)

I should make a column called this, and put pages like this one on it... pretend the next paragraph is a header.

Not Including Links to Other Articles in the Same Series

If an article is the seventh in a series, why aren't there links to the other six articles? How about a link to a page that has links to all of them without having to sort through Gamasutra's other features? Even a separate page for the Developer's Diaries series of articles would be an improvement over what we have now.

Re:Bad Web Designer, No Twinkie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15695763)

You could also ask why flipping the pages in a thread shows the same posts you just read, why their database doesn't have a Year column (or why it's not displayed), why you can't search post bodies, or why their login doesn't work for months at a time.

If Slashdot was run by one guy in his spare time, then it wouldn't have these problems after 6-7 years. Suffice to say, Slashdot is run by zero guys.

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