Why Can’t I… Skip Ahead In Games?

By John Walker on September 10th, 2009 at 11:11 am.

The future, my friends.

There was a comment made by comedian Adam Carolla, many years ago, during an episode of the American late-night radio programme Loveline. He had been given an Xbox 360, because celebrities get given stuff like that, and decided he’d buy a game for it. One which involved fighting in the Second World War in some capacity. It interested him as a fan of History Channel documentaries on the subject, and he liked the idea of recreating classic battles. But when he tried to play he couldn’t get out of the opening area.

This isn’t a comment on gaming inaccessibility, or how cackhanded Carolla must be, but rather it’s about something he said after this. He said, “Where’s the button that lets me just skip to the next level?”

This thought has stuck with me for ages. It’s a thought that comes back to me every time I encounter a section of a game that’s extremely difficult. Especially when it’s a stupid stinking boss fight. With the recent announcement of all three Metroid Prime games getting remade for the Wii it reminded me that I’ve finished neither of the first two because I couldn’t get past bosses. In the first one it’s the final fight, but worse, so much worse, in the second it was a fight midway through the game. (Everyone I’ve asked about it says, “Yeah, you need to use a guide to get past that, and then be very lucky.”)

Which leads me to think: why isn’t there that button?

Oh Samus, I've never been all the way with you. NO NOT LIKE THAT.

Clearly there have been cheat codes for as long as there have been games, and very often there’s a level skip in there. But these are fewer and farther between these days, games very often offering no such ability. Which is another interesting angle on this all. What changed where developers decided their games should be exclusively for those capable of beating them?

So let’s say you’re playing a vast RPG. It’s forty, fifty hours long, and you’re absolutely loving it. You’re halfway through, you completely adore your character and companions, and then you reach a sequence you can’t get past. You go off and do some side quests, try to level up a bit, and return to find it equally impossible. Perhaps you specced your character poorly. Perhaps the game’s difficulty is screwed up. Perhaps you’re just not good enough at the game to successfully complete this section of it. Whatever the reason, whoever’s fault, I’m not convinced it makes a difference. Right now, across all gaming, that’s you done. Game over, move on.

Which strikes me as madness.

My primary purpose for writing this is to hear the counter-arguments. I’m certain there are positions to ridicule what I’m saying, or people who would state that this exclusivity is important. I can’t see that this is the case. If I’m not good enough/levelled up correctly/meeting some really poor design, why should that mean I don’t get to see what’s on the other side of it? Why can’t I press the button that skips it, moves me on to the next bit?

You could argue that it’s cheating. Well yes, clearly it is. So it was when I put on God mode in that bit of Doom II I couldn’t do. Or when I used the level skip commands I’d found for whichever platformer. Sure it’s cheating. It’s cheating your way to having more fun.

No one minded when you cheated at Doom!

You might say that it would ruin the game – that once you knew you could skip ahead, you’d lazily do it before you were genuinely stuck. I think there’s a wealth of truth to that. I know for sure that if I’m playing an adventure game and get totally stuck, once I’ve looked up that first hint I’m going to be tempted to return to the guide far too quickly. It’s a real discipline not to. (An aside: this reminds me of how I’d get past bits I was stuck on playing adventure games in the early 90s. My dad’s friend Ted. Somehow he’d always played all adventure games and finished them before I got them, and I’d nervously phone this smart, sensible man I’d only met a couple of times, and squeak my question to him. He’d give me splendidly cryptic clues to push me in the right direction. It’s far easier to resist phoning your dad’s slightly scary friend Ted than looking at GameFAQs.)

But you know what? So what? So what if it means someone could cheat their way through the game to the end, possibly losing out on a lot of the fun on the way? They paid for the game! It’s theirs! If you buy a murder mystery film on DVD and immediately fast forward to the end to find out who did it, you’re an idiot, but it’s in your right to be!

People seem to get very cross at the idea that someone else is taking a shortcut when they worked extremely hard to walk the long way around. I think instead this should be converted to pride. Rather than being cross with the other guy, be pleased with yourself. From your perspective they lost out.

So what’s the good reason why there shouldn’t be a button to skip to the next level/next area/other side of the boss fight?

Perhaps it’s something to do with loot/XP in my RPG example. When you kill the Terrible Giant he drops an amazing sword. If you press the SKIP button (which will be on all keyboards), you’d have to get that amazing sword automatically. But again, that’s fine! No, it wasn’t earned. But to hell with that – it’s important for enjoying the game, and it’s a damn sight better to have a sword you didn’t earn than turn the game off and never play it again because the bastard giant kept killing you no matter what you did!

So let’s have that button. What harm would it do? Let people enjoy a game some more?

, , .

189 Comments »

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  1. John Walker says:

    Hey Brian, I can’t resist mentioning that I wrote that hint system : ) I’m glad it works.

    Clovus – re Carolla. I’m horribly behind on his new podcast. It’s good for keeping up with Bald Brian’s health, which is a frightening tale. Did you ever see his TLC show, The Adam Carolla Project? That was splendid, and had some lovely moments with Drew.

  2. soylent robot says:

    Another idea I had was this: I have bought this game, therefore I own everything in it. If I want to play Chapter 5 now, I should be able to do that instantly.
    I can open a book at any point and start reading from there…

  3. zipdrive says:

    @roBurky:You are absolutely right. I have to admit, I’ve never thought of that.

    @ OP: different types of games should have different types of skipping. Skipping to the end of a level is the simplest, but only works in level-based games; winning matches in sports games, ending missions/quests in sandbox and RP games and gaining God Mode in fighting games other such beasts. It might be a bit more complicated in adventure games, but I’m sure it’s solvable.

    My only concern is that such a solution to bypass problem bits might discourage developers from tuning their games properly as they think “meh, the weaklings can just skip it, if they want to”.

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    The one game I’d really like this feature for is Pscyhonauts. I must have spent at least 3 hours trying to get through the fucking Meat Circus level without success. And, apparently, I’m not even at the really frustrating bit of that level. But I really want to see the end of the game, so every few months I load it up and plug away at it for half an hour or so, always failing at more or less the same point. I know exactly what I have to do, I just always screw up one of the jumps and have to start all over again.

  5. Shadowcat says:

    I think about the number of times I’ve found a part of a game cripplingly difficult, but persisting with it has taught me how to play the game properly, and given me the skills required to enjoy the subsequent parts.

    If I could skip forward without having learned those lessons, then all that happens is that the rest of the game sucks.

    Yeah, it means we have to have faith that the developers know what they’re doing, and there will certainly be games in which it would be a great feature, but it would absolutely hamstring others.

  6. GJLARP says:

    For me, part of the fun is derived from the sense of satisfaction of getting past a really difficult spot. If not, I wouldn’t even bother playing the game, I’d just watch a walkthrough of it on Youtube.

    It’s for that reason why I didn’t enjoy Bioshock as many others did. The difficulty level was stripped down, and there was too much hand holding, despite it being a graphical powerhouse.

    Admittedly, I don’t condone the use of “cheating AI” or whatever to intentionally make the game harder. In the end, this is up to the developer to strike a fine line between “playable but challenging” and “tear your hair out”.

    Anyway, that’s what cheats are for. To, well, cheat, and get past a boring level or whatever. It’s not orthodox, and that’s good too.

  7. Deerhoof says:

    I’ve been thinking along these same lines. Possibly a little differently however.

    It pains me each time I format, or move PC’s, to have to replay manditory training levels before the game begins proper.

    A good example of this is Plants Vs Zombies.
    I played this through to conclusion once, and thoroughly enjoyed it, however each time I load it up now, since I’ve lost my saves, I lament the prospect of playing through the first 10 or so stages, where it slowly introduces all the different game modes etc, which need to be completed in order to access minigames, and the more advanced adventure modes.

    I’ve barely played since my initial run-through because of this.

  8. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Not only should you be able to fast forward a game but you should be able to rewind it too i think.

  9. Lyndon says:

    The reason games are different to films and books is that they usually have a difficulty curve. A book is usually not supposed to get harder as you read it.

    What would be the point of skipping past a difficult encounter just to face another even more difficult encounter?

    Until you’ve learnt how to defeat the last boss what hope do you have against the next one?

  10. The Sombrero Kid says:

    the argument that the ability to fast forward would ruin the discovery element of a game is total pish, films rely even more heavily on the discovery element than games do, the only part of a game that’s not reusable is it’s paper thin plot, most films have a pair of flimsy legs of cinematography and acting held up by a Giant crutch of a plot, which isn’t reusable either, the knowledge that you can skip to the end of a film or book doesn’t ruin the film or book nor does anyone watch the last 5 minutes or read the last page first.

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i have a novel that uses fewer and fewer letters as the book goes on(as they get banned from the world the books set in), so that kinda gets more difficult as the book progresses.

  12. Christian says:

    @The Sombrero Kid:

    You mean something along the lines of how Prince Of Persia (Sands Of Time) did it? That was a fun mechanic, and in this case the skip-thingie would be that it always works without running out. Or allow you to fly..

  13. Muzman says:

    This sounds mean but reviewers are kinda the over stressed skim readers of games. It should come as no surprise they would think this a good idea, to my mind.

    I mean, we want designers to create more in depth and experiences don’t we? Experiences that are interdependant on a lot of factors; narrative, atmosphere, challenge mechanics etc. That may not work out perfectly every time, but that’s the gambit. It’s difficult to ask for a way to make that more conveniently consumable at the same time.

    Granted, this varies a lot and there are high crimes and low; not being able to kill that one boss and just godding to the next bit is common and seems pretty innocuous. But the resistance to this ought to make some sense to people. Art is a dictatorial exercise, and anyone who isn’t into the latest consumerist deconstruction trend really needn’t be obliged to add functions that put them there for the “Play The Game Your Way™” experience.
    Consumer convenience is, and should be, to some extent at odds with artistic intent. Even in crappy art I’m afraid.

    Anyway, I’m all for time skips, level cheats or tourist mode difficulties in games that it suits. It’s just that it won’t be all of them.
    (My other unpopular arguments in this series include: “A lack of a ‘save anywhere’ can actually be a good thing” and “The mere existence of a third person view in Thief: Deadly Shadows could undermine its immersion goals”

  14. The Sombrero Kid says:

    also a difficulty curve is a pretty 90’s concept most games don’t have difficulty curves these days

  15. AndrewC says:

    This is a ‘games as sport/games as story’ issue, right? And, as with most intractable problems, it’s down, not to the game itself, but the players’ attitude towards it.

    If you approach games as sport – as a thing to test oneself against – removing the challenge is lunatic as you are simply removing the game. It is ‘cheating’, it is for ‘noobs’, and so on.

    Yet for those who approach games for an immersive interactive experience, the game mechanics are there purely as a means to an end to get attached to the world and to feel the experience more keenly. To have that experience stopped by some random bit of game mechanic seems loopy, and seems like bad game design.

    The solution is to accept that games are not homogenous. I have some vague recollection of some Sunday Papers article about how gamers treat games as ‘all one thing’ in a way they never would with books, or TV, or movies. We can accept without mention that a comedy may have a rubbish plot, or that a romantic drama may not be all that thrilling, but when a console game doesn’t provide the putative ‘depth’ of a niche PC strategy title? All hell is unleashed.

    Same with this sport/story split. Quake 3 is all about the challenge but, say, that new time manipulation game is all about getting regular interesting situations to play about in. Just because they are both FPSs doesn’t mean they are remotely similar games.

    I reckon. So yeah – the problem, as with all things, is not games, but gamers. Bloody gamers.

    P.S. I’m on Walker’s side.

  16. SuperNashwan says:

    I don’t know about skipping stuff entirely, but at the very least you should be able to alter the difficulty level whenever you damn like, rather than being forced to start a whole new game.
    One of the great things about PC gaming is that even when you don’t get access to the dev console for cheatiness, chances are someone has coded a trainer for the game. I’ll often give myself eg extra money when the only barrier is time spent grinding, PC gamers just don’t need to suffer having that nonsense forced on us by developers.

  17. Christian says:

    And to the book/film-analogy:

    I quite often skip ahead in movies/books when I find a passage to be boring and leading nowhere. You could argue that skipping passages is also cheating yourself and you don’t get the whole experience as the author intended..but if I just don’t enjoy the passage, who is he to tell me I should? If I skip some important plot-turn..well then I’ll have to go back and reread it..

  18. Rockeye says:

    It does depend very much on the type of game. A beat ‘em up like Street Fighter 4 is all about the challenge in single player, and the large amount of difficulty levels lets you tailor that challenge to your level. Having a ‘skip this opponent’ button would make destory the purpose of playing. Ditto for sports games.

    For a game with a linear/almost linear progression, story and new areas and content linked to progression though, I can’t think of any reasons why it shouldn’t be incorporated. A difficulty spike part way thorugh a game that prevents you from seeing the rest of it is incredibly frustrating.

    The only issue I can see is that sometimes there are situations where a game is trying to introduce a new concept/force you to use new tactics you may fail the first time because you’re grasping what you need to do, but once get the idea of it, it can be quite easy. If you skipped on your first fail without learning, it would impede your progress later, forcing you to skip again and again.

  19. The Hammer says:

    “I’ll rant forever about how most games are too difficult, but I think the answer is in dynamically adjusting difficulty, rather than level skip codes. Max Payne pulled this off to an extent many years ago, yet for some reason, it never caught on.

    Games are clever enough these days to work out when we suck at them. Surely they could be made clever enough to work out we want to enjoy them.”

    I think this is definitely true, and would be a more satisfying, and less arbitrary solution. However, it wouldn’t really work too well with puzzles, I don’t think.

    There’s also the case that you’d be trying to get to a level you’ve bought the game for, and you don’t want to trawl through the preceding chapters which don’t interest you as much. See the Cradle in Thief 3 (a level I’m immensely interested in playing, having seen lots of praise for it) or the open-area sections of Half Life 2: Episode 2. I can’t say, in the latter, that the antlion sections gripped me much, and I wasn’t having great deals of fun.

    It’d also help when you reinstall a game, and come back to find you somehow lost your saved data, or something. No need to play it through all again to get to the bits you want.

  20. AndrewC says:

    Oh god a level select in Thief 3 would be joy.

  21. Pzykozis says:

    There’s definately a place for this in some games, there’s one in particular that springs to mind. ‘Tales of Vesparia’ for 360, it’s all happy and dandy everything looks good and fine then all of a sudden a wolf boss appears with like.. 30k hp when your guys hit for 100ish… I’m not even talking difficulty curve this is basically like running into a brick wall that curves back over you.. like some old 2d sonic loop de loop.. sheesh I haven’t played it since.

  22. Ingix says:

    There is a big difference between those scenarios: If a reader wants to find out who the killer is when starting to read a mystery, he can do so with no additional cost to the author/publisher. So there are no bad consequences to the publisher and to other readers.

    In the case of computer games, however, there are additional costs. The developer has to either identify potential situations where a ‘skip option’ should be presented, or has to generally define certain points in the game that they consider “end of level” and to which you can skip forward at any time.

    The developer has to inform you of the story that you have skipped and has to give you whatever resources would be adequate at those times. The first part was already mentioned by jalf:

    At the time you decide to skip forward, you may have 20 bullets of type 1, 30 bullets of type 2 but 200 bullets of type 3. The developer might think that 100/100/100 would be an adequate arsenal for the point to which you skip forward to. Should he now take 100 bullets of type 3 away from you? Should he change your new bullet arsenal to 50/50/200?

    My point is: Incorporating a skip option into a modern game with dozens/hundreds of variables, multiple possible solutions, non-linear gameplay etc. is not something done in one afternoon by the intern. It is *not* a piece of cake. It will use a non-trivial amount of developer and other resources (e.g. QA: “If I skip part boss 1 and 3 but beat boss 2, the door to dungeon 4 never opens”).

    I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done; having the game playable for as many people and playstyles as possible is a good thing. But as always, denoting resources to that goal will take away resources from other parts of the game. This is the important difference to the “start reading mystery novel at the end” scenario, which authors/publishers get “for free”.

  23. The Sombrero Kid says:

    to be clear the only reason to want to fast forward a game is not because it’s too difficult it could be for any number of reasons which is precisely why it should be included, if your concerned about it making the game easier don’t use it to make the game easier, which is why the counter argument stinks of i can’t be trusted with power therefore no one can have it!

  24. Bhazor says:

    Why don’t companies use it? Because people are an idiot.
    I’d say at least half of players would just skip straight to the end and a large number would then not even try the rest. That’d be a pretty big downer for those basts who put two or three years into making the bally thing.

    I agree with Muzman, it’s an attractive idea to stressed out reviewers but for people who just want to play the game and the designers? Not so much.

  25. itsallcrap says:

    With the recent announcement of all three Metroid Prime games getting remade for the Wii it reminded me that I’ve finished neither of the first two because I couldn’t get past bosses

    All in all, I agree with you – there’s no point hiding good content from people simply as punishment for not coping with the last thing your threw at them.

    Nonetheless, I am going to have to call you a pussy.

    Sorry.

  26. Carra says:

    In the past I used to use those cheats to pass the hard areas. But nowadays I stopped doing that as I usually ended up just finishing the rest of the games with cheats once I used one. For adventure games I have to be stuck for about half an hour before I look at the hints/solutions. And then try to not look at it again…

    There’s a few solutions. The hint system Telltale uses for their sam & max games works fine. Adaptive AI. If it sees you are stuck, reduce the difficulty à la Left 4 Dead. Or go level up and get better items in rpgs or warhammer:40k 2.

    One problem with cheating in the middle of the game is that it is tempting to cheat for the rest of the game. Why? It only gets harder. You’re already having problems with a mediocre part in the middle of the game. Only harder scenarios will follow. Examples would be men of war or the old commandos game. If you can’t handle the earlier scenarios, there’s no way you can beat the last ones.

    When I do get stuck I prefer to use a guide then cheats. You can usually finish a part of the game with a guide. It’s a form of cheating but I still passed the part myself. I remember being stuck in Half Life 2 episode 2 because I could find no exit. It took me about an hour to figure out how to get out of a section with my boat. After looking at a picture by picture guide I finally figured out that I was doing the track in the wrong order.

  27. Concept says:

    That level skip was necessary in Arkanoid.

  28. Altemore says:

    I like the way World of Goo kinda sorta implemented it. If you can’t beat a part, circumvent it. This seems to me like a good middle road. Instead of simply stopping dead the moment you hit a wall, have the ability to walk around it.
    Another example of being able to do this is Deus Ex.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Comparing the ability to skip sections of films and books to a game seems an odd one to me and doesn’t add weight to the argument that we should be able to pick and choose parts of the game to play. Why would you ever want to read chapter 6 before chapter 5? Why would you skip past scene 23 of the film? These things are heavily centred around a plot, with each piece important to the overall narrative (or at least they should be.) Skipping a section would mean you would be missing out on important developments, be it plot or character related.

    I know that there are plenty of people that do do this, but it completely baffles me. It seems to me that if there is a section of a film or book that is boring you enough to skip it, then you are probably just going to get bored with the rest of it too, probably even more likely as you are far more likely to not fully understand what is going on.

    However, when it comes to games, where the plot and characters are usually a secondary consideration and are mostly not very interesting, skipping can be more justified.

    Many people here are arguing that games contain a difficulty curve, but the number of times that a game throws in a randomly hard piece seemingly out of nowhere is very common. COD4’s Ferris Wheel section is a prime example of this, where a fairly easy game suddenly throws more enemies at you then there have been throughout the entire game so far with limited cover to protect yourself from them. I’m sure if there had of been a skip button for that piece I would have used it. I would have missed out on the satisfaction of completing it, but I’m sure I would have gone back and persevered with it in my own time.

    I think a skip button that appears after you have died 4 or 5 times on the same section would be a perfectly fine. Also, being able to adjust difficulty mid-game is a real must. I’m less a fan of the game self-adjusting the difficulty, as they usually have a tendency to increase the difficulty, but not decrease when needed. I seem to recall Far Cry being a prime example of this. Max Payne did do this quite well, but I seem to remember that the adjusting difficulty setting was in fact the easiest difficulty you could play at, with the harder difficulties becoming unlocked once you finished on this mode. I expect that the system was in favour of decreasing difficulty rather than increasing.

  30. nine says:

    My prediction: one game company will, without fanfare, put this into a top10 multi-platform title. Within two years, every new game coming out will have this feature.

  31. Calabi says:

    I have played shed loads of games and now the majority in certain areas are becoming dull. The always ask the same things of you, you know what to expect. The always give you boring and tedious tasks which havent changed from the inception of games.

    The majority of games are not a challenge they are a chore.

    Bioshock was not challenging when you came to the end, they tried to make it a challenge, but all that did was made it a chore, which I would have give up from if I didnt want to get it over with.

    The majority of bosses are not challenges, they are chores whereby you have to divine the single way and rules the developers have made for you to complete that obstacle.

    Skills dont even enter into these things as a skilled shooter must hit that monster the same times as a non-skilled person. When you search for an item all searchers are equal and must spend the same amount of time looking as there are no clues for things locations.

    Alot of games are created with elements that reduce the skill differentials so that those whom are skilled will take longer to complete it and those whom are less skilled take even longer to comlete.

    It would be great to skip these things. I know I enjoyed the only myst game because it had those hints and clues, whereas I would have given up with it and hated it, if it did not.

    Also note there are different kinds of games, many of them dont know what they are trying to be. Shooters, like gradius and R-type and whatever are created for the challenge. Other games think they are made for the challenge like Call of Duty but then they have such an involved story which makes the player want to continue, and yet puts sometimes insurmountable barriers for them to experience it. And why dont they have scores?

    It would be great to skip the bits, where they have decided that the player must spend 3 hours in this area shooting monsters to make the game a bit longer. Maybe then developers will realize that, they are making rubbish, so they look more indepth at what they are doing.

  32. Mika says:

    @AndrewC
    Couldn’t agree more. I’ll never want to play that Cradle level again (as great as it is).

  33. Mattthew Walton says:

    Baldur’s Gate: got stuck.
    Baldur’s Gate 2: got even stucker.
    Neverwinter Nights: got monumentally stuck trying to kill a dragon at a point in the game where you can’t go and do anything else at all.
    Neverwinter Nights 2: got bored.
    Knights of the Old Republic: got stuck at the LAST BOSS

    Very frustrating, really. Most of the time I got stuck it’s because there’s some new, powerful adversary who has a power or a resistance which you’ve never encountered in the game so far at any level that actually made you think about it and perhaps ensure that your party was equipped to deal with it. The dragon in NWN had enormous spell resistance. In BG2, it was the mind flayers, I had no way to deal with psionics and failed all the saving throws against them immediately. There’s not much fun in watching your paralysed party getting slaughtered over and over and over again…

    I think a lot of these things are flaws in the game design, and it’s something I’ve never, ever seen in anything from Valve. Half-Life 2 has hard bits, but it always seems possible without having to go back and redo your character. Not that you get any character customisation. Maybe that’s part of the problem – RPGs have to work for a vast number of possible different players.

  34. Lyndon says:

    What I’m saying ties into the whole idea that games are fun because they involve learning. Let’s just look at strategy games for a second, which are full of systems and subsystems. You hit a mission, it’s really hard and you keep getting your arse handed to you. Then you suddenly click with one of the subsystems you previously didn’t understand, let’s say it’s widgit production. Once you’ve learnt the trick to widgit production you breeze through the level. Now you just know the next level will require a mastery of widgit production and probably some other sub-system you haven’t figured out yet. If you still haven’t figured out widgit production you’re just going to get your arse handed to you even worse than before.

    This is generally how games get us to engage with them on anything more than a shallow surface level. By gradually exposing us to their mechanics and forcing us to master them to progress.

    Is this an idealised view of how games work? Yes. Do the majority of games function this way? No. But some games, the very best games, do work like this. Like Portal, yeah I said it, I know it’s the go to great game but whatever.

    Portal is the perfect example of a game that requires that you learn it piece by piece until you finish. Letting you skip a lesson would only make it harder to learn the next lesson.

    The skip button may improve bad games but I believe at a cost of damaging great games. I would rather a sea of bad games and a few great ones than just a sea of the mediocre.

  35. Ginger Yellow says:

    The difficulties Ingix raises are mostly addressed by the patent filed by Nintendo. It wouldn’t work great for something like Fallout or Mass Effect, but then Nintendo doesn’t really make that sort of game. In Nintendo’s system, the game doesn’t “skip”, it takes over from you.

  36. Igor Hardy says:

    I agree with Phlebas – the popularization of the skip button would lead to lazy and poor game design not affecting the sales that much. This way most games would become prototypes with maybe a bunch of cool ideas, and maybe some neat cutscenes, but lacking effort to make it all truly playable throughout.

    Also, the ability to skip levels in World of Goo almost made me to give up on that excellent game. I got to a point where I didn’t beat several levels in row and after giving into the temptation to skip all of them I suddenly felt disconnected from the game and in general depressed about my incompetence. After a months or so I came back to it, but I still have this unpleasant memory.

  37. Bhazor says:

    Reply to Walton

    Yep. As such they’re also by far the hardest to design skip points for. Deciding how much a player needs is very different to designing a competent build and equipment lay out.

    Also
    About BG2: use a Invisible Stalker (level 6 mage spell) psionic immunity, they’re invisible to flayers and they drain all their magic rendering them powerless.
    About KOTOR: Kill the prisoners

  38. qrter says:

    @ Bhazor

    Why don’t companies use it? Because people are an idiot.
    I’d say at least half of players would just skip straight to the end and a large number would then not even try the rest. That’d be a pretty big downer for those basts who put two or three years into making the bally thing.

    I agree with Muzman, it’s an attractive idea to stressed out reviewers but for people who just want to play the game and the designers? Not so much.

    Oh come on.. that works both ways. Do you think the “basts who put two or three years into making the bally thing” are impressed by all the people who give up on their games? I bet that must feel great.

    And seeing the number of people here who wouldn’t be averse to such a function, it’s not something just for stressed reviewers.

  39. Clovis says:

    @John Walker: Ya, The Adam Carolla Project was great! My wife likes watching all those home improvement shows, so it was nice to watch one that was not mind numbingly boring. Oh, if you enjoyed that you need to watch Adam’s movie, “The Hammer”, just so you can watch Ozzie “act”. The movie itself is pretty good too. I recommend it on DVD so you watch the extras and commentary which are great.

    I don’t know how there can be 100 home improvement/house flipping shows on US cable, and no one would give that show a second season. Adam did somehow manage to get that show on Comedy Central but it was really terrible. The best thing about the podcast is that you don’t actually have to look at the host.

    Oh, BTW, I actually heard that episode of Loveline and was really impressed with the idea at the time too.

  40. Gap Gen says:

    I think Yahtzee has made the point in ZP before that skipping games is pointless in some cases because if you want to skip a section, it’s a sign the game design isn’t good enough. I think the most recent Alone in the Dark was an example of this.

  41. Bhazor says:

    Reply to Qrter

    Getting stuck and having no lower difficulty or in game solution is just bad design. A level skip would ruin the best games as people would just skip levels at the first hurdle.

    Also how many people who comment on this blog are game journalists? I dare the say the ratio of reviewer:player would be higher than in the general gamer population.

  42. Dracko says:

    Solution: Better designed games.

  43. Mister Adequate says:

    Because games aren’t directly analogous to other mediums. At the core of the experience is the progression. You do task X and acquire item/weapon/ability Y which then lets you tackle task Z. To remove that is to remove a core component of what makes games games.

    Because games are, quite simply, meant to be played (whatever Hideo Kojima might think). I may sound elitist, heck I probably am elitist, but I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea of not wanting to play the game (Which is to me what this all boils down to).

    And because if a game is poorly balanced enough to be too difficult to get through, or is not engaging enough to be worth sticking with, then adding in a level skip option is just bad design which doesn’t address the core issue – that the game is poorly balanced or isn’t engaging enough for people to want to stick with if they get stuck.

  44. BooleanBob says:

    The World Ends With You (DS) had a really smart take on this. It had a range of difficulty levels that could be changed at any time out of battle, each of which altered the lucrativeness of any treasure obtained by offing foes. On top of this, any battle (after a point) you contrived to lose was immediately available for retry – and there was a separate option to replay that single fight on the easiest difficulty.

    Thus you could tailor the game’s challenge through these settings (and a couple of others for good measure – it’s the only game I’ve ever played where you have the option to level down), dipping down a notch when some too-great obstacle was encountered but never really feeling like you were just giving up on the game (either literally, or by skipping ahead through the content as mooted by JW here). And conversely, taking it on at standard difficulty or higher would provide satisfaction and pride, as well as the in-game validation of material reward.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve played over a dozen adventure games, cherished each dearly, and completed precisely none without the help of a guide. The best I’ve ever managed was the first episode of Teenagent, which took me a year of on-off effort, and made me feel like God himself.

  45. Noc says:

    I think part of the problem for some games is logistical. These are the ones that aren’t level based, or where you’ve got a ton of interconnected “levels” nestled around various nooks in an open world.

    So doing a bit either a) gifts you some item that opens up new areas, or b) changes the world in some way to allow to reach new places. They’re very much about doing these things in sequence; jumping around will have you missing things you were supposed to pick up (and will need later), and bypassing script cues.

    So something like a “Kill this boss” button would be workable, but it would require quite a bit of effort to build a system allowing you to dynamically jump around between different points in the narrative. Especially if (god forbid) you’ve got any choices somewhere down the line.

    Even games that don’t fall to sequence-breaking are also often about progression, where you’ll need the experience/loot/whatever you get from the hard bits to continue. I remember playing FFIX a while back; I was running it on an emulator, so I just quick-loaded out of all the random encounters, because they were boring. Then I got to the endgame and was horribly underleveled and got slaughtered by everything. This gets more complicated when you’ve got games where you have some choice in how your character progresses; do they set you up with new levels and equipment if you jump ahead? What equipment do they give you? Do they just give you a bunch of experience and gold and leave you to make up the difference yourself?

    And then you’ve got plot bits, for games that require them. Is there a way to fill you in? Will you just be confused? Will you be asked to make choices based on information you were supposed to hear before and then skipped?

    So I think a lot of the reason it’s disappeared from some games is just because it’s more difficult to incorporate than simply teleporting the player to the requisite location. No excuse for discretely level-based games, though.

    . . .

    @Matthew Walton: OH GOD the NWN dragon. I couldn’t beat it either; it’s got both a high SR and a high AC, and I guess I didn’t have enough of a dope build to make it through. It’s not that great a loss, though; the basic NWN campaign is the most mind-shreddingly tedious thing I think I’ve ever played.

    Every so often I (used to) think “Man, I never got through the NWN campaign. I think I’ll try again.” And then I try. And after a chapter and a half or so, I say “screw this” and go do something more interesting. I think the NWN campaign has single-handedly turned me off to a lot of Bioware’s subsequent games: after seeing the formula presented so starkly, that’s all I see when I try and play KOTOR and such.

  46. Jake P says:

    @Gap Gen: Good point about Yahtzee.

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/892-2-5D-Hoedown

    Skip ahead and watch 1:46-2:00

  47. H says:

    Totally agree with that JW said: If I’ve bought the damn game, I should be able to skip ahead or God mode or do whatever the hell I like.

    For GTA:SA that would be skipping a mission that I could never do. on GTA:IV that would be making the game actually work.

  48. Gorgeras says:

    Prototype was one of those games where death should have not been included: you’re not playing something that mere bullets and rockets are supposed to kill and there are at least three NPCs that re-occur in the game precisely because conventional means can’t kill them. Why isn’t Alex Mercer one of them? They should have made that so your ‘life’ bar depletion just means you can’t use any powers and need to run away rather than friggin restart from a checkpoint/ragequit.

    Yes it is about better game design. When Ubisoft made the Sands of Time they included the reversal mechanic as a means of avoiding the irritating ‘die and quickload’ 95% of the time. But why do you die in Sands of Time? Not because the jumping is fiddley but because no one who hasn’t played it before can predict what happens in the next few seconds. They weren’t covering for bad design as much as they were simply solving an unsolvable problem.

    But skipping levels, etc; the problem is solvable easily most of the time. This is just a way of not having to solve it.

  49. phil says:

    The only way to beat the NWN dragon I found was hit it twice, teleport out (with a now dead companion), heal, resurrect, save, teleport back – which didn’t exactly make me feel like a demi-god after it fell over 30 mins later.

    That said, the design logistics of including an epsiode skip in a RPG would be problematic, auto resolving side quests and auto leveling might take too much away from the player.

  50. Dante says:

    “People seem to get very cross at the idea that someone else is taking a shortcut when they worked extremely hard to walk the long way around. I think instead this should be converted to pride. Rather than being cross with the other guy, be pleased with yourself. From your perspective they lost out.”

    I think we can also see a prototype version of this in difficulty levels. In a strictly logical sense there is no reason to play a game on hard when easy is available, yet people still do it, and take pride in it. I think this cuts a neat hole in the “if you can skip it, everyone will just cheat” theory, because in theory everyone could just play games on easy mode, but we don’t, because we’re too proud.

    Really all that you’re asking for here, and I totally agree, it to take what difficulty levels have started and run with it.