I never cease to be amazed at some of the choices game developers make. Even truly great games can wind up with a bizarre hold over from mediocre predecessors. Here’s my take on a few trends that need to end.
– Pointless button mashing
By this I mean the sudden call to press a button as fast as possible. Recently I tried out Batman Arkham Asylum. It’s a great title and probably the best Batman game there is. However, every single time you open a vent you have to mash A repeatedly. Of course, if you go into the vent, you’ll have to come out. The designers also LOVE them some vents, so you can expect to be in and out of vents all the time.
Another variation … multi-player. For example, in Hasbros Family Game Night 3, when playing Life, you’ll occasionally get sued. This is settled by both players shaking their controllers to influence their counsel’s abilities. Sure, this SEEMS like a good way for players to go head to head in a mini-game. Yet, it really just measures a physical ability. The person better at it is going to win every time. What’s the point?
Button mashing adds nothing to gameplay. Or I should say it adds nothing interesting to gameplay. I can only assume that game designers are now paid by the number of buttons they can force players to press.
Why does it need to be a mini-game for Batman to remove a vent cover? It’s not even a mini-game. It’s a micro-game. Only game isn’t appropriate since it isn’t fun.
– Quick button pressing in boss battles
We’ve all been there. The giant dragon pops out. His jaws open and fire comes gushing out. Before you can even think a picture of your controller pops up with the B button highlighted. Oops. You didn’t press B. You’re dead. Reload. This time you press B. Oops. You didn’t press A. And so on.
As far as gameplay goes, it’s basically Dragon’s Lair. (If you’re not familiar with it, Dragon’s Lair was an interactive cartoon that only progressed if you hit the right direction or button at the appropriate time during gameplay. It was also awesome.) The difference between Dragon’s Lair and these button boss battles is that Dragon’s Lair didn’t put a picture of your joystick in the way of the awesome graphics.
Right now I’m playing The Force Unleashed. I just finished the first boss battle which ended with a giant force battle progressed with button mashing. I have no idea what happened in the battle because I was concentrating on the pictures of buttons that popped up. Why even have graphics if you’re going to hide them behind pictures of buttons?
There’s also the problem of ticking off the gamer. See, that button-mashing mini-game isn’t what we signed up for. I don’t want to work hard learning your combos, exploring, meticulously absorbing the idiosyncrasies of the gameplay only to have the whole game ruined because you suddenly decided I should press the Y button. (I’m looking at you Assassins Creed 2).
Button prompts aren’t depth. They add nothing good to your game. At best, they distract us from your scripted battles and cut-scenes. At worst, they tick us off and make the idea of shelving the game seem more attractive.
– Unskippable cut-scenes
It’s not that cut-scenes are bad. They give us a moment to relax and drink in the story a bit. Hell, Pac-Man had cut-scenes in it. But surely game designers realize that people often play games more than once.
Listen designers. You make games not movies. You should understand that the majority of your cut-scenes suck. Just like when movie guys try to make games. Keep them short. And for god’s sake let us skip them. At a bare minimum have an autosave immediately after them.
And that goes for “in-game cut-scenes” too. Arkham Asylum starts with a lengthy cut-scene and then has a long walk with Joker into the asylum. Yeah. I get it. You want to build some tension. It worked in the Half-Life games.
Honestly, nothing you do is going to make me want to look at the credits before the game starts. (That goes for movies, too). I don’t follow the industry, so they’re just random names to me. All it does is make me quit paying attention to the game.
– Downloadable content
I understand the idea. People like a game, so they’ll pay a little more cash for an excuse to play it a bit more. The problem is I can count on one hand the games I’ve liked enough that I paid for DLC. Usually I just download whatever free crap I get for buying the game at a particular place or pre-purchasing.
I remember being stoked about DLC for Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins. But by the time it came out, I had moved on to other games.
There’s also the issue that DLC directly prevents me from buying games. If I’m on the fence on a game, I’ll often wait for a Game of the Year or Collector’s Edition which compiles all of the DLC with the game. By that point, I usually wait for the price to drop low enough to try out. That’s a long time for companies to go without my revenue.
– Pre-order bonuses
It started simple enough. Pre-order and you get some crap you don’t care about. Eventually that crap became in-game crap you don’t care about. Now the stakes keep getting higher and higher as in-game content gets more significant.
Consider Star Wars: The Old Republic. Pre-order the Collector’s Edition and you get 7 in-game items, a CD, a journal, a map, a statue and, of course, the game. It also costs $150.
I know nothing about SWtoR, but I know most MMORPGs suck. In fact, of the dozens I’ve played, I only played four for more than two months. That’s an awfully big financial risk (unless you really, really want that in-game Flare Gun).
The problem is those of us who don’t pre-order start to feel left out. Some games are throwing in weapons and maps as bonuses. That’s significant content. Even if you give us a chance to buy it online later, the damage has already been done.
If I’m paying $60 for a game, I want to know I’m getting all of the content.
And don’t even get me started on The Sims 3. That’s the worst example of micro-transactions of all time.