Author Topic: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.  (Read 3808 times)

Skeletor

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I don't write enough in this sub-board but it is actually my favourite one.

I'd like to hear your views about those game design sins which we find too often in games, and actually frequently oin those "top notch" ones which roll millions in costs and profits.

I'll start with two of those which I despise the most, both of which come from poor game balancing.

I. Level scaling.
Example: Wizardry 8, Witcher 3
The whole thrill of levelling up gets diluted, and monsters which are supposed to be lower threats become unrealistically tough (e.g. kicking dragons asses and then being knocked out by a city guard on witcher 3).
Some ideas on how to fix:
1. instead of making the same enemy stronger as the game progresses, it's better to increase its quantity, or to make bigger enemies appear
2. make low threat enemies still potentially annoying (e.g. paralizing/confusing/leveldecreasing/statdecreasing/itemdestroying/itemcursing attacks); this way less powerful enemies can still and always remain threats.
3. Increase the breadth of variety of possible enemies which can spawn randomly. Yes, hobgoblins still can spawn when you are high level and this is great because by them being now no-challenge you actually feel high level. But their likelyhood to appear is decreased, whereas now that you reached level 37 there is a possibility you will encounter high level bandits, or swamp dragons, etc.


II. Level restrictions on equippable items
Example: Witcher 3, Diablo.
Such restriction can come in 2 ways. Either enemies just don't drop out of depth stuff, or you do find it but it's unequippable until you reach a certain level.
Again, something like this completely removes the thrill of winning against an out of depth enemy to find out of depth loot, and makes the whole game feel like a book or a movie rather than an interactive challenge.
Possible ideas on how to fix:
1. Equipment can become cursed, corroded, or can be destroyed or stolen or lose enchantments (e.g. Nethack).
2. Make battles non trivial even with superb equipment. Make multiple aspects of the "perfect build" to be needed, and no no-brainers.

I'll come out with more, feel free to add.

« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 01:44:47 AM by Skeletor »
What I enjoy the most in roguelikes: Anti-Farming and Mac Givering my way out. Kind of what I also enjoy in life.

Skeletor

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2018, 04:32:45 AM »
Another thing which isn't really about poor design per se but I still don't really like: when the game holds the player's hand too much.
E.g. deus ex, baldur's gate, all those games with limited dialogue options that make it trivial to go through the main mission.
Wizardry 8 here does an excellent job: the player can actually write freely to NPC the topics he would like to know more about, and the whole world feels like having much more secrets this way. The draw back is that most players today would resort to crappy online ad-ridden spoiler things, which also has to be counted in for what concenrs the user experience, so all in all I would say I am not completely certain about this point and how to make moder player re-experience that kind of 90s sensation when playing games where there was no access to spoilers and one had to figure out things by himself. Took me several months how to figure out the goddamn 9 platforms room in EOB2, but hey it was so incredibly rewarding to manage to go through that level it actually felt like I lived that adventure myself. With spawning gargoyles immune to nonmagical weapons, gelatinous cubes devouring party's items, entry door sealed with no possible return to the forest, and on top of that magically induced nightmares which made it impossible for the party to rest and regain hp and spells. A+ hardcore oldschool experience.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2018, 04:34:21 AM by Skeletor »
What I enjoy the most in roguelikes: Anti-Farming and Mac Givering my way out. Kind of what I also enjoy in life.

Vosvek

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2018, 07:18:08 AM »
Interesting time of arrival. You've just missed Olim's antics. :-X

***

Oblivion is another, perfect example of level scaling done utterly wrong.

I don't mind level restrictions on items, but it has to be done right. Runescape is a grind, yet when you finally reach level 50, that Dragon Scimitar feels powerful. Better yet, you're impressed when you see other people with high level gear. However, in Runescape, you drop items on death (much like earlier MMOs), so unlike other games, you don't necessarily get to keep this permanently.

That said, I do mostly agree. Often it is done wrong. A good game will rely on true conflict (like a boss or hard-to-get-to place) to slow down the player from getting those items, rather than on artificial stats. Even Morrowind at least played with the idea that to even pick up Daedric, you needed a huge amount of carry weight... which you could only get with high strength -- a hidden level restriction in a way, and that works well.

III. Loot to kill to loot to kill progression
Example(s): Diablo, Torchlight, etc.
This progression of kill to loot so you can kill to loot to kill..., though initially rewarding, becomes monotonous rapidly. Like you're standing on the production line, repeating the same action over and over and over and over again to no real outcome (although, at least in production line work you can earn money to buy a fancy couch you never really needed). It's just dull and uninspiring.

Monster Hunter takes this path, yet its made more interesting by the fact you hunt for materials rather than specific equipment, and then use those materials to craft items of your choice. It at least feels diverse, or as if you have some level of player agency.

Another alternative is to work toward something that's actually interesting, or to instead have a game focus on the goal. If the goal is to slay some super-villain, then let the player choose how they want to go about doing that: will they grind for materials, explore for legendary equipment, or attempt to fight the boss head on, that should be up to them.

IV. Dull random loot
Example(s): Skyrim, Diablo, Torchlight, Borderlands, Tales of Maj'Eyal
Nothing annoyed more more in Skyrim than the fact that, no matter which blacksmith you talked to, the all sold the same items, excluding a couple of randomly enchanted loot. It makes the world feel utterly dead, and those items don't feel special. This is something Oblivion did do well, to a degree. Every shop in the imperial district, even if it sold the same items as another shop, at least had one unique item. It's simple, but it at least felt like the items were apart of a universe.

Diablo also has this issue. Outside of a few special effects, most items only differ by a couple of stat points. Its that age old 'If everything is unique, nothing is unique'. Borderlands at least tried to make this somewhat interesting by adding branded weapons. But even then, loot gets dull quickly.

Roguelikes tend to do this well, though mostly because you're expected to die rather quickly. They can get away with spawning in a Cursed Mithril Greatsword and have it feel special, as the chances of that happening again are slim. And even if you reach the late game where those items are abundant, it still feels special as you've had to work your arse off to get there in the first place.

V. Minigames vs abstractions
Example(s): -
(using fishing as an example, here)
This is something I see in games all the time. Sometimes when I go fishing in game (as an example, this relates to any interactions), I don't care about playing a crappy little minigame to 'feel' as if I'm fishing. I want to cast the rod, wait a second, and then hear a sound: success/fail. My goal is not always to have a full-on, fleshed out fishing experience. If I want that, either I'd play a 'fishing game', or I'd go out and do it in real-life.

I'm certainly not saying minigames are all bad. However, sometimes its easy to get caught up in the idea that every interaction needs a special activity. The imagination is powerful, and games can take advantage of that.

Additionally, games can also take advantage of abstraction to create somewhat unique items. Say you're doing a quest line for a civil war, and the general wishes to reward the player. It's much better to reward the player with 'Legate's Imperial Armor', which is just standard Imperial Armor with better stats, than it is to give them random loot: 'Iron Armour of Alchemy', which is completely irrelevant to the quest line. Perhaps if you were an Imperial healer, that might make sense, but otherwise, it just feels lame.

***

As an added. I think most of these designs are more about how you choose to design, rather than the idea itself. If done well, all of these sins could work well.

Skeletor

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2018, 12:19:19 AM »
You raise three valid interesting points Vosvek. Yeah the minigame thing used to be cool when first implemented some 20-15 years ago but is now kind of unoriginal and doesn't offer much value anymore.

Anyway I am still touched by how wonderful Witcher 3 was.
Whenever I listen to those random youtube RPG atmosphere sountrack compilations and there's something from Witcher 3, I get happily reminiscent of the good times playing as Geralt of Rivia. What a wonderful adventure playing and finishing the game on "hard" mode (which wasn't really hard for us hardcore calloused roguelike bearmen). Just listening to the soundtrack reminds me all of those memories. It's like I personally lived that adventure and it's now part of my past experiences, it actually added something to my life - I know it sounds autistic and r9kish but there you go.

And the thing is: Witcher 3 failed in any single game design aspects of those me and you mentioned.
It failed as a game per se, but it kicked ass as a kinda interactive narrative immersive experience.

I think I have yet to see a product which offers the best of both worlds, but when it comes in the market, it will hopefully modify the way big hits are made.
What I enjoy the most in roguelikes: Anti-Farming and Mac Givering my way out. Kind of what I also enjoy in life.

Krice

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2018, 08:06:26 AM »
In context of roguelikes and many other games it's the "1980's" design where you can not prepare for something that will most likely kill your character without proper fight or anything like that. This design style comes from ancient games that didn't have save game, but they were short so they had to be designed that way to make them appear longer.

ToryBlaker

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2022, 07:06:21 AM »
Forced Gameplay

I once heard it said that players and developers enter into an unwritten, hard to define contract during the game experience. Before purchase you have a general sense of what the game entails, and then in-game the general framework is laid out for you regarding what you can and cannot do. When this contract is broken, frustration ensues. This is why Final Fantasy XV’s Chapter 13 had to be remade post-launch. The developer forces you to play in a way that was either optional or did not exist up until this point.

We all know about the ham-fisted stealth mechanics that are thrown in without the control scheme or AI to back it up. Or the most classic example – forced party members in an RPG. Remember when we told you you could pick your own party members? Well good luck beating that boss now with this level three dude. Sometimes it makes sense story-wise (you can’t really use Aerith after she’s dead), but most times it could’ve been avoided. How about the Gummi Ship in Kingdom Hearts, because we all bought that game to battle through space in a rocket ship right? Ok Square Enix you win, I will upgrade the damn Gummi Ship. Just this once.

TheDinoBoss

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2022, 09:57:29 AM »
For a lot of games these days, especially bigger budget titles, I feel like bloating is the biggest sin. I'd much rather have a streamlined experience rather than one where every single currently trendy feature and mechanic needs to be stuffed into it. Even worse when this is how the story is treated too, and it ends up just being so elongated and convoluted. I think this is why FTL is one of my favourite games - so streamlined and constrained yet so deep.

mouser

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Re: Major sins in game designs. The ones which ruin million $ games.
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2022, 05:32:35 PM »
For a lot of games these days, especially bigger budget titles, I feel like bloating is the biggest sin. I'd much rather have a streamlined experience rather than one where every single currently trendy feature and mechanic needs to be stuffed into it. Even worse when this is how the story is treated too, and it ends up just being so elongated and convoluted. I think this is why FTL is one of my favourite games - so streamlined and constrained yet so deep.

I think many people actually like power-bloat. What I mean with this is that they like it that there are complex skill trees and complex combinations of items and equipment. Sometimes the ammount of stuff you can equip and combine gets ridiculous. Lots of RPG-alikes do just this, but the trend has some hardcore endorses, so maybe it has its merit.