Rules For Games: Do & Don’t #1

By John Walker on July 2nd, 2010 at 6:21 pm.

OBEY ME!

It’s about time everyone in the games industry did what I tell them.

So starting today, here’s the first of my Do And Don’t guides. Obey them, developers. Live longer.

Do: let me flush the toilets and turn on the taps. Scenery, in any game of any genre, shouldn’t be painted on the walls. And so many games before have put in a nice toilet flushing noise. Since all games do insist in including a toilet, as well they should, then all games should include the splishy sploshy noise of flushing it.

Don’t: tell me that you’re a game any more. You want to capture something of Brechtian estrangement, break down that fourth wall with mallets and wrecking balls, because you think it’s a fresh and original approach. It’s not. It’s been done a lot, and it’s probably a sign that you’re not confident enough in your own creation. If you feel the urge to winkingly acknowledge to the player that they’re playing a game, then you need to go back to work to create a more convincing world.

Do: feel free to let me quick save. I know, I know, you’re very proud of your checkpointing, but as it happens I don’t really want to repeat any fight in the game seventeen times because of your difficulty spike. And sure, you could consider it cheating, letting me blag my way through sections. But I sort of bought your game, and arrogantly feel like I should now be able to enjoy it as I wish. Perhaps that might be to opt out of quick save spamming. But perhaps it will improve the experience if only you’ll let me.

Don’t: show me an unskippable animation when I die. It doesn’t matter how elaborate you make this, the maximum number of times I’ll ever want to watch it is none. And if your load times are horrible, this becomes infinitely more awful. If you’re only ever playing your game with God Mode on to test it, switch it off occasionally to see how the rest of us will suffer when we play. YES! I KNOW! I DIED! SHUT UP AND RELOAD! JUST BLOODY RELOAD! That is how the rest of us suffer when we play.

Do: let me carry more than two guns. Just when did we all decide that we weren’t okay with that element of unrealism in gaming? Sure, it can be set in the retro-future on a spaceship made of time, but god forbid we holster an improbable number of weapons. Especially if you’ll then let me carry hundreds of bits of ammo for all the weapons anywhere. Where am I storing those? In my magic trousers? And if so, why can’t I stick a pistol and a rocket launcher in there too? I want to stick a rocket launcher in my magic trousers!

Don’t: leave diary entries by one person scattered over miles of corridors, buildings and countries. That’s not how a diary works. A diary tends to be all in one place. Most people, when journaling their lives, don’t tend to scribble it out on the nearest scrap of paper and then leave it wherever they wrote it. Because that would be utterly insane.

Do: feel free to hire a writer to work for your team from the start of development. Many really are amazingly talented, and their skill with coding is extraordinary, but this doesn’t always naturally lend itself toward crafting fine narrative. It does, however, mean that we end up with characters called Dirk Bluntly, who say things like, “This is the last time I’m going to take any more of this!” Which we don’t want as much as people apparently believe.

Don’t: do anything to us in a cutscene that we could easily prevent during the game proper. It’s extremely unlikely that the enemy is going to capture Tanker McTankerton by pointing a gun at him menacingly. Because that’s what everyone else did on the way there, and he blew them all up with his grenade launcher. Which he likely would do here as well, if only you’d flipping give us the controls back.

Do: however, let me do anything amazingly cool my character can do in a cutscene. If the best I can do is jump the height of a brick, then that’s what he’s limited to in the scenes too. If he can cartwheel up a wall, fire lasers out of his eyes, and turn into a spider, then I have to be able to do those things too. In the game. In real life would be good too.

Don’t: have flying baddies in your game. Sure, there may be examples of the odd few that have worked. The rest haven’t. It’s so, so unpleasant. Like a lovely walk in the woods ruined by the constant assault of gnats in your face. Fun, people. We want to have fun. Not be constantly irritated. Fun.

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383 Comments »

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  1. bildo says:

    flushing toilets with a flushing sound must be present. Reference: Duke Nukem.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      and of course being able to smash the toilet, then drink from the water that gushes forth. This should heal me, but I don’t know why.

    • po says:

      And with the advances to physics engines, there should be floaters. That float.

    • Zogtee says:

      Back when we played Swat 3 (awesome game, btw), we were impressed by the fact that you could switch the lights on or off by, you know, flicking the light switches. I don’t remember if you could do it on all maps, but you could on some. It was a small thing, I suppose, but it added a lot to the sense of immersion. This was years and years ago, so you think it would be more common today, but it’s not. Lazy sods.

  2. Dan says:

    I agree with everything

    Not even everything in this article, just plain everything

  3. Phoshi says:

    Agree, but I would also add: Do: Keep things consistent. If I have legs like tree trunks, I should either be able to kick down every wooden door, or no wooden doors, not just the wooden doors that glow. This goes for everything else, too, if my bullets break glass they should also break a bottle. If my magical time glove works on a staircase, it should work on the rest of the metal floor. I don’t mind not being able to rocket launcher everything into submission, I do mind only being allowed to rocket launcher some things into submission, without having a decent reason.

    • nate says:

      This is what ruined half-life 2 for me– a game I know a lot of other people loved. That damned gravity gun….

    • Azhrarn says:

      @Nate: You should see the stuff Singularity pulls sometimes, your TMD (temporal manipulation device) is rather awesome, but quite limited in what it will affect. It also includes a gravity gun function.

      Age/Revert works on pretty much all enemies though, which is a plus. Now, whether you want to use it is a different matter (some enemies love to melee and become explosive with a time pulse).

      Deadlock is an exception as it works everywhere (and on everything) and can make some fights into “incredible machine” scenes just by stacking exploding barrels and bullets in the bubble before collapsing it and annihilating an entire room in a split second.

    • Grot Punter says:

      Now, I do believe Singularity tried to make consistency by stating the TMD only worked on things made with/that contained E99.

      Edit: I just remembered that a projector vid at the start stated that ALOT of things on Katorga-12 were made with E99, so yeah, your DO still stands.

  4. ChaosSmurf says:

    Taking bets what John’s been playing, guessing Singularity myself.

    • N says:

      Thinkin’ the same thing lol.

    • JKjoker says:

      then he forgot the “whenever you introduce a new game mechanic (like the weapon locker/upgrade thingy), do not rush me with story elements, im freaking reading over here!”

      i swear several scenes in that game feel like playing a multiplayer game for the first time with a friend that played it 50 times, you stop to check out new things while he is constantly agroing everything and preventing you from switching weapons/upgrading/reading

    • Will says:

      Ha, I was thinking the same thing. Still enjoying the game though – about time someone was inspired by the art direction from Metroid Prime et al. But I could live without the little logos on manipulable objects, and the writing, oh dear me no.

  5. Guestman says:

    Listen, dude. In my day we were swarmed by cliff racers every time we left town. And we dealt with it.

    Sure, they were annoying, but they gave us easy access to levitation mats.

    • Grot Punter says:

      True dat! Morrowind and its atrociously promiscuous cliff racers were a hell of a time.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      Did someone say Morrowind?

      Excuse me while I change my pants.

  6. Jimbo says:

    Do: guilt trip or mock me when I try to exit the game. It makes me want to ruffle the game’s hair and call it a cheeky scamp.

    Don’t: make me restart the game in order to apply graphical changes. That isn’t endearing at all.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah, seriously… graphics? F that. Actually the big problem is usually the games that require that also have an insane load time, or unskippable cutscenes, or some other nonsense that only amplifies the irritation.

    • jeremypeel says:

      @ Jimbo: Are you sure? Boo will miss you…

    • Nesetalis says:

      “Please dont go.. the drones need you.” ahhh SMAC ftw…

  7. Bas says:

    Agreed, entertained, more of these please!

  8. leo says:

    The coolest part of Prey was at the very start in the bathroom, you could touch and activate everything, even the soap dispenser. I wish more games did that.

    • Fumarole says:

      That toilet would have come in handy when the character did his first inverted-drop-thingy and emptied the contents of his stomach. Which in fact was the second coolest part of the game.

    • kafka7 says:

      If I’ve just killed a bunch of people in a toilet then a working soap dispenser is the first thing I look for.

    • Wilson says:

      @leo – The soap dispenser? Damn, now I feel like I missed out on something.

  9. Lack_26 says:

    An XP bonus is always nice when you flush a toilet in a game, public hygiene awareness bonuses are a good thing.

  10. Web Cole says:

    “This is the last time I’m going to take any more of this!”

    Yoink.

  11. Calneon says:

    4th one I feel is in direct relation to Resident Evil 5.

  12. terry says:

    I was impressed with the quality of Bioshock 2’s toilet water swirl but their apparent inability to show the bowl filling up lost points from me.

    Pre: edit. My captcha is 2PSS. Uncanny.

  13. Karthik says:

    Flying baddies reminds me of the manhacks from half-life, my favorite gnats in the face ever.
    Sadly, they didn’t get much screentime in the episodes.

    Worst flying baddie ever: The rakk from borderlands.

    • Fwiffo says:

      CLIFF RACERRRRRRRR!!!!!!

    • Grunt says:

      Cliff Racers win ANY contest about annoying flying baddies. I played Morrowind so heavily for a time I even started hearing the flying bastards in real life!

    • Psychopomp says:

      >Open up Morrowind in editor
      >Delete Cliff Racers

      Feels good, man.

    • Vinraith says:

      I never found cliff racers all that annoying, but then of the thousands of hours I logged in Morrowind a miniscule fraction were un-modded. Passive cliff racers make great scenery, so I’d miss them if they were gone, and once you get used to one of the wildlife mods (which render non-diseased wildlife non-aggressive) it’s always a shock when a racer DOES attack you.

    • Collic says:

      hahaha i was about to post something about cliff racers as well. God they were annoying.

      They didnt often kill you, it was more the fact they chased you relentlessly and at low levels you could spend ages futily trying to bat them away with your sword, or shoot at them only to miss, again and again.

    • Kommissar Nicko says:

      Cliff racers were only aggravating if you made the mistake of playing an archer. I recall my master of the bow loosing hundreds of arrows trying to cleverly use unilateral preemptive strike diplomacy, only to have them drift meaninglessly through wing collision mapping. DAMN YOU ASYMMETRICAL WARFARE!

    • dadioflex says:

      Sure, you can delete the cliff racers but there’s a mod out there that lets you hunt them to extinction, in theory. I say in theory because I got a message saying there were going to be fewer cliff racers around, after killing dozens of them, but they’re still showing up. I’m hoping that that means they’re becoming rarer and if I kill a few dozen more they’ll die out completely.

      Or, yeah, just delete them. Hmmm.

  14. Hunam says:

    Don’t EVER have a character in the game hassling me about doing the objectives. It winds me up. SupCom is the worst for it.

    TAKE OUT THE BASE

    YOU SHOULD TAKE OUT THE BASE

    THE BASE IS STILL THERE!? DESTROY IT!

    WHY HAVEN’T YOU DESTROYED THE BASE YET

    DESTROY THE BASE

    DO IT

    GO ON

    DO IT

    etc.

    • Hunam says:

      Crap, broken tag fail.

    • Sassenach says:

      SupCom’s constant reminders wouldn’t have been half as bad if the nagging wasn’t almost always strategically terrible advice.

    • sinister agent says:

      Worse are games where other characters give you crap for doing things BETTER than they are. I think it was a flight sim where my squad leader bloke screamed in furious horror that I wasn’t following him the instant I turned 15 degrees to the right. No, boss, I’m not following you. I’m following the bloke who’s about to shoot you down, you tart.

    • Grunt says:

      Transformers does this a lot.

      “HAVEN’T YOU PRESSED THE SWITCH YET??”

      NO! Feck off, Megatron, I’m having fun trying to spook this robotic arm.

    • Farewell says:

      The original Z ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_(computer_game) ) actually had your units blaming you if the battle was going badly, and this was actually one of the many things that made the game very dear to me.

    • Rufust Firefly says:

      The constant nagging in SupCom made me miss the bombastic narrator at the beginning of Total Annihilation. At least you could turn him off.

  15. westyfield says:

    Do: let me see my character in a mirror in-game. Especially if it’s an FPS.

    • Chris D says:

      But not if I’m a vampire

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also, if I look down, I expect to see legs and feet.

      Call of Juarez and its sequel are a rare recent example of Visible Legs Technology™.

    • M_the_C says:

      Or preferably, a flamingo.

    • Premium User Badge

      DarkNoghri says:

      @LionsPhil

      Curiously, Left 4 Dead had implemented Visible Legs Technology™, while the sequel has not. In fact, that reimplementation is one of the frequently requested items on the forums.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      @M_the_C:
      Mirrors are more fun than television
      *screams maniacally*

      Man, I’d like to see this as a full-blown miniseries..

    • oxymelum says:

      Also, let me shoot myself in the legs please.

  16. Alexander Norris says:

    The “two guns only, plus maybe a side-arm and some grenades” thing is actually a good thing. It means devs can’t give you a gun that you’ll only want to use in 10% of the game. Giving you a gun that you only want to use in 10% of the game is dumb – it’s a waste of space when you could have included a gun I want to use 100% of the time instead.

    Doom-style weapon progression is dumb. I much prefer having games where all the guns are interesting and have a reason to exist.

    • Crapknocker says:

      I have to disagree, pretty much every weapon in the Doom Guy’s arsenal had a purpose. Even the shotgun vs. super shotgun; one was better in some circumstances than the other. In this case, I’d almost call the ‘one rifle fits all’ approach a dumbing down.

    • Jimbo says:

      I agree with Crapknocker (always wanted to sat that). Back when you could carry a whole bunch of guns, they could shake up the gameplay and you could decide which tool would be best for the situation in front of you. Now they just have to make everything beatable by anything, in case that’s what the player happens to be carrying. It’s not like there are ever *really* any consequences – should I carry this rocket launcher in case I come up against a helo or a tank? Well no, because there will be a stack of rocket launchers lying around anyway if that does happen.

      Two Guns has its place for sure, but I do miss those shooters that could be designed around a massive arsenal of weapons/tools.

    • Urthman says:

      Restricting the weapons you carry almost always makes a game more boring. It’s like RPGs that encourage you to put all your points into a single skill or weapon and use nothing but that for the whole game.

      If rocket launchers, flamethrowers, pistols are only useful in a few rare circumstances, you end up carrying the middle-of-the-road, versatile-but-boring machine gun and shotgun and using nothing else for the whole game.

      Take Far Cry 2. The flamethrower is really cool, but so rarely useful I never carried it around. Total waste. (Although I have to say that overall Far Cry 2 is better than most games at using the carry limits to force you to plan and use strategy. And the ability to store weapons and swap before each mission makes a big difference too.)

    • Mman says:

      In theory it might be supposed to be like that, but in practice on weapon-limit SP games, at least the first time through, you just choose the dependable generic stuff and ignore the interesting stuff because the risk generally isn’t worth the reward. That mostly applies to non-weapon-limit games too, but at least in those you have the option to experiment while still having your reliable stuff if it turns out to be a bad idea.

    • Jad says:

      That mostly applies to non-weapon-limit games too

      Which is a real problem too, which leads me to my “Don’t”:

      Don’t: Give me a really cool, fun superweapon half way through the game, give me almost no ammo for the gun, and then have some boss that will make me regret actually using it during course of the game. (even worse is when I save up all the ammo for the superweapon, and then the boss is actually killed in a cutscene)

    • godwin says:

      I think there are other factors at play here that determine how effective such systems can be: the variety of enemies, the availability of ammo, and balance between these elements. I think Crysis handled this really well, especially considering its weapon mods and nanosuit abilities.

  17. Perrin says:

    Mostly this is a fair enough list but the flying baddies thing made me realise we’ve reached a really sad state where people think of video games now as FPS or 3rd person action games. Because I’m pretty sure EVE online or Afterburner would both be ruined by an absence of flying baddies. ^_^

    • Zetetic says:

      Well, if you’re being irritating, the Don’t could be generalised to “Don’t use baddies that can move in more dimensions than I can.”. Which I’m not sure is good advice either. Flying enemies in FPSs can be fine, so long as the designers truly understand the extra degree of irritation that they introduce.

    • kenmcfa says:

      Zetetic’s “Don’t use baddies that can move in more dimensions than I can.” rule should *definitely* apply to the likes of Eve. Time-travelling cliff racers do *not* make for a good game.

  18. 32lknssw says:

    I don’t agree with the 4th wall thing, but that might just be a reaction to the latest gaming story trend of taking itself waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too seriously. I.E Call of Duty. I rather like games like Red Alert when they are quarky and self-aware, not serious at all. Sure, that atmosphere is great, but doesn’t apply to all games. Just I gag when games and movies take themselves over seriously.

    Everything else I agree with. I love flushing toilets.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I agree on the Red Alert front, but there’s a difference between self-aware and fourth-wall-demolishing. It still happens rarely enough in film that it can be genuinely shocking, but it’s been a feature of games since the beginning of time. Particularly Western RPGs, but they can get away with a few easily missed easter eggs (note: not an entire game of them a la Fallout 2).

    • jarvoll says:

      Red Alert, the original, was not self-aware and took itself entirely seriously. Sure, it was ridiculous, but it was *seriously* ridiculous. The self-aware look-how-camp-we-are crap only started after Westwood were bought by The MachEAne and made RA2. It shocks me how many people forget this, or never knew to begin with.

  19. Vinraith says:

    I actually enjoy having to make decisions about what weapons to keep, rather than being able to run around with the arsenal of a small country. It adds an additional level of choice and consequence, can improve replay value, and yes the sheer unreality of being able to carry 12 guns bothers me if the shooter itself is remotely realistic (obviously in something like Serious Sam it’s not a problem).

    Also, flying baddies can be great. Excluding all the non-FPS games that wouldn’t work without them, the most recent example I’ve (re)encountered is the swarms of angel-things in Serious Sam HD. Awe inspiring, really, and they make for a fun fight. I’m not saying this isn’t frequently done wrong, but let’s not dismiss the entire idea.

  20. Walsh says:

    My biggest beef is any cutscene where your character shoots someone (looking at you Red Dead Redemption), there is zero reason to have a cutscene replace something I’m perfectly capable of doing in game.

    • Calneon says:

      Agree with this, when I see explosions I want to see them in true 1920×1200 resolution not compressed 720p garbage.

  21. Premium User Badge

    KingCathcart says:

    There are some exception to the rules.

    For example RE: Point 4 – Batman: Arkham Asylum.

    Oh, and Shadow of the Beast 2

    • bakaohki says:

      Oh Batman Arkham Asylum and another thing: save points. Maybe it was me, but I wanted to fucking quicksave – I never knew where exactly was the last damn save point, so when I had to kill the same goonies for the third time I just removed the game for good.

  22. Flaringo says:

    Yes. YES! EXACTLY!

    Listen to this man. LISTEN, GOD DAMNIT!

    TOILET FLUSHING, CUT-SCENES, EVERYTHING, LISTEN!

  23. SirKicksalot says:

    I was always impressed by how Gears of War handles your death. It somehow feels a lot more brutal than expected.

  24. The Army of None says:

    “I want to stick a rocket launcher in my magic trousers!”

    Oh my.

  25. ellep says:

    Don’t: Make a single-player game that requires me to be online for any reason. I’m looking at you, Steam, Ubisoft, EA. If I’m doing something that’s taking up the entirety of my bandwidth in the background – or heavens forbid, my horrible cable Internet goes down – and I want to play a game in the meantime, and your ping to the server times out because I have a few thousand concurrent connections with a higher priority, just shut the hell up and start the game. Ping later if you think I’m a horrible thief who doesn’t deserve to play your game until I download an illicit patch that disables your bullshit reasons for requiring an always-available Internet connection.

    What I’m saying is if you goddamn kick me out of goddamned Assassin’s Creed one more goddamn time because my goddamned roommate nuked a goddamned Hot Pocket, I am going to rain hell, fire and goddamned hellfire directly on your goddamned France until it is as black as your goddamned souls.

  26. Bri says:

    ” I want to stick a rocket launcher in my magic trousers!”

    Best quote ever.

  27. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Completely agree with all those… And:

    Don’t tell me where I can and can’t jump. If Batman can perch on a Gargoyle, he should be able to perch on a similarly-sized ‘thing’ sticking out. If my Merc can jump on top of a barrel in the Zone, he should be able to deal with a low mesh fence.

    Don’t stick doors on walls unless they’re openable. I don’t know why that bugs me, but it does. Just put a poster up or hang a painting there or something else instead. Preferably a cupboard with something useful in it, like a couple of medkits, some ammo boxes and an upgrade for something.

    Do give me the option of playing in first person throughout the game with standard WASD+Mouse. I am not a camera hovering a few feet above my body, and so find that vantage point in games causes a weird feeling of detachment. Third person definitely has its place in RPGs where you have a little crew of folk to boss around, and also on consoles where you’re a long way from the screen, but on PC it just sucks.

    *ahem* I’ll shut up now and let you get on with it before I end up pre-empting everything you were going to say, and making a complete hash of it… But I had to get those of my chest. Had to.

    • Walsh says:

      I can’t believe floating camera still exists, if I’m playing in the first person I better damn well be able to look down and see some fucking legs.

    • Heliosicle says:

      Crysis is the only game I can remember where your body was properly animated, swimming backwards looks so cool!

      Also L4D1 had legs which you could shoot, which was funny, dunno why they took them out for L4D2.

    • Nick says:

      Fear had it too, seeing your hands when climbing a ladder and stuff, I think it was one of the first games I played which did that. At the very least its thefirst I can remember. Oh, apart from Op Flashpoint.

    • Thants says:

      Mirror’s Edge too.

    • godwin says:

      In Op Flashpoint/Arma your character’s body and arms is actually part of the world though, you can turn/tilt your head and see your own shoulders. Interestingly it has a 3rd person camera too, no surprise given how much driving/flying there is in the game, but in infantry mode it is very useful in improving situational awareness. IIRC Battlefield 1942 also had 3rd person mode for infantry, good for checking one’s level of concealment in MP games.

    • Collic says:

      The riddick games had a rendered player body as well.

  28. Fwiffo says:

    Cutscene disparity has always bugged me. Particularly damage. Filling a boss with enough lead to plumb a Roman villa only for him to only be visibly harmed/killed by a single cutscene bullet always gripes me.

    Also bullet sponges. Bullet sponges that instakill you are worst. You listening Bethesda?

  29. mandrill says:

    Would this post be in any way related to the recent release of Singularity?

  30. Premium User Badge

    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Don’t lead me through the game by some character (or worse, more than one) talking in my ear all the time. Especially don’t make them able to magically always know where I am or what I have to do next.

    Being led by the ears is painful.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      @VFIG:

      System Shock, Bioshock, Deus Ex — all have made a good thing out of this, and have integrated it into the storyline as well, rather than having your guide magically know things.

      Mercenaries, the Hitman series — these tended to be less about guiding you, more about assisting you. I quite appreciated having an assistant in my ear in both cases.

      In fact, I can’t really think of an example where I haven’t appreciated having voice(s) in my head guiding/assisting me — sometimes even just because it gives me the feeling that I’m not alone, that there’s someone out there working with me rather than against me.

    • peachykeen says:

      Splinter Cell.

      “Don’t set off an alarm, Fisher.”
      “Don’t set off another alarm, Fisher.”
      “Dammit, you set off an alarm, Fisher.”
      “Fisher, didn’t I tell you not to set off an alarm.”
      “Be careful with the alarms, Fisher.”
      “Watch where you leave bodies, Fisher. Someone might set off an alarm.”

      That series almost single-handedly ruined in-ear assistance.

  31. Risingson says:

    DON’T: achievements. Mass Effect 2 convinced me to ask for it.

    – Achievement: erudite!
    – Achievement: very erudite!
    – Achievement VERY VERY erudite!

    In a row.
    No, please

    • Sonic Goo says:

      Achievements aren’t bad in themselves, it’s how they’re used.

      Do: have achievements that encourage people to do strange and unusual things in the game

      Don’t: have achievements that require you to do one simple boring thing a million times

    • grimskin says:

      Don’t: give me achievements for just playing the game (like “5 level completed”, “10 level completed”). It’s just make me feel like some retarded kid – ‘Oh, 10 minutes without shitting your pants, gooood boy’ !

    • Stu says:

      @Sonic Goo: YES. Every developer putting achievements in their game should look at how Crackdown did it, with its achievements for climbing to the top of the highest building in the game (and another for jumping off it), attaching five gang members to a single car with the harpoon gun, detonating 100 explosive objects in a minute, using explosives to keep a car airbourne for 7 seconds, etc. Basically, it uses achievements as a shiny, points-based carrot to encourage the player to mess about and have fun in the game’s sandbox environment.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Personally, I appreciate when achievements are for correctly executing a particularly useful tactic, and/or are something you would be likely to do anyway at some point once you become skilled enough. I like to be alerted to particularly useful tactics, and/or rewarded for correctly executing them.

      A lot of TF2 achievements end up being like this. If you play the game well enough, long enough, you can complete a lot of them without having to go out of your way.

      Giving me achievements for doing something completely ludicrous is funny enough, but I’m not terribly likely to do it unless I’m just farming it intentionally. And as soon as that’s done, I’ll go back to never doing it again.

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Don’t forget gnomes.

  32. TenjouUtena says:

    These are a little more RTS oriented:

    DON’T: Make me play through several levels of tutorial with all of the features turned off. I know you’re trying to baby everyone into the game; but seriously it’s annoying to know that the solution to my problem is just locked int his game. Also, in most RTSes, this teaches you the wrong way to play, and you have to unlearn all this restricted gameplay before you can play the game for real.

    DO: Make an interesting and more than 5 hour single player campaign. Especially if you’re only going to give me 2 missions with all the toys on, then I can either play against your retarded AI, or be thrown to the wolves online where I won’t stay alive long enough to learn anything.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      I would extend your DON’T to say, if you’re going to have a tutorial / early levels with some things not available, don’t give me victory conditions that would be any easier were those things available.

      Tropico 3 is an example, where many of the early starter islands disable some of the extraneous things. You don’t need tourism on the first island since it’s all about production. You don’t need a power station on many of them, since it doesn’t help you achieve your goals. In both cases, they’re just things that could mislead a newbie (“I must have power stations because how can we do anything without electricity?!”) and/or overwhelm them with choice.

      But yes, if you do remove extraneous stuff during the tutorial, don’t cripple my goal-reaching ability by doing so.

  33. Archonsod says:

    Don’t Force me to spend the first thirty minutes of the game in a tutorial. It may be useful the first time around, but when I’m on my sixth playthrough I’d like to think I already know how to move the camera around.

    • bwion says:

      This rule goes double, nay, triple, nay, more than that for RPGs, or anything RPGish enough to allow me some flexibility in options for my character. Because I can and will start those games 7.6 squazillion times and, basically, SHUT YOUR STUPID FACE, IRENICUS’S DUNGEON AND ALL ITS INHERITORS.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Ah no, see I reckon Irenicus’ dungeon is a great example of a forced tutorial done right, as it’s so full of intrigue and wonderful plotting. The alarmed room in which Irenicus attempts to set up the conditions of his lost love in an attempt to feel the same emotions he used to is… well, hugely sophisticated characterisation to say the least.

    • Mr Labbes says:

      I must agree that Irenicus’ dungeon absolutely rocks. It’s not so much a tutorial than a forced beginning, but a very good one. To be honest, I thought the second time I played BG2, I’d skip it.
      Played it three times now, and never did. It might be not as “free” as later parts of the game, but there’s so much love in there, I can’t help but play it every time.

  34. Urthman says:

    You’re absolutely right about everything but flying enemies. They’re are plenty of games with good flying enemies. Serious Sam. Any game with helicopters and a rocket launcher. Any game where you can throw cars at helicopters. Any game where you can shoot cannonballs at helicopters. The vulture dudes in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.

  35. kitzkar says:

    Breaking down the fourth wall is very entertaining if done well. And it only works well in quests. See, for example, Simon the Sorcerer.

  36. altid says:

    Throwing out a Don’t: Put me in a fight that I have to lose to advance the narrative. It’s bloody annoying, particularly when I don’t get my stuff back.

    • TenjouUtena says:

      Very this. Especially in any game with a resource conservation aspect.

      Supposed-to-loose fights have so worn out their welcome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      I would also say, if you’re going to take away all my stuff (via some means other than a must-lose fight, please!), give me back MY STUFF later, not just a generic (re)starter pack of gear. I didn’t save all that crap just so you could reset me to what you think is a reasonable loadout later.

    • iainl says:

      This, very much so. Oblivion has been sat on my shelf for the last two years because I reached the point in the story where you have to give up all your possessions to infiltrate somewhere. I don’t _want_ to lose all the expensive goodies I’ve spent a long time accumulating, and there’s no way to tell the ‘permanent storage’ cupboards from the ‘things mysteriously vanish after a while’ ones.

  37. Unaco says:

    My experience of Morrowind as a game was in no way depreciated by the lack of Toilets and Sinks, Toilet and Sink noises, or, indeed, any form of bathroom/restroom activity or interactivity.

    • DMcCool says:

      Speak for yourself mate.

    • Jayt says:

      By saying “My experience” I’m fairly certain he was speaking for himself.

    • Stu says:

      I’m fairly certain that Mr McCool was making a joke by implying that his enjoyment of the game HAD been ruined by the lack of lavatoriality.

    • DMcCool says:

      Yeah maybe that joke didn’t work. For the record though Morrowind is my favourite game of all. Despite the low lavatoriality

  38. Mman says:

    I agree with pretty much every one except the second, which is more of a game-by-game thing, the writers one (there are exceptions but some of the worst recent plots have been by “professionals”, so while it can be great it guarantees nothing) and the last (which is more because it seems a general comment on irritating “pest” enemies, which frequently don’t fly at all).

    Especially the two guns thing; if realism is a focus, or it’s multiplayer (where it actually can add strategy) I’m fine with it, but weapon limits mostly add nothing whatsoever to an SP game. It can also harm games as the only real way to not be full of trail and error (outside of providing usable weapons right before specific enemies, making the limit pointless) is to have a very limited selection of enemies, and this has contributed to a general big lack of enemy variety in recent FPS games, even in unrealistic ones where it would be justified.

    • Bhazor says:

      The two weapons maximum thing? Halo did it.

    • Mman says:

      Yes, Halo was the game that everyone ripped off when it came to weapon limits. Actually it’s probably a series that comes close to making the limit work for me; almost every weapon has some sort of use, and you generally are given freedom to choose what you want. There are sequences requiring substantially different tactics depending and what you have/haven’t took with you without falling into trial and error and still allowing for some degree of enemy variety, albeit not that much. Although the higher settings generally show that certain combinations are far more effective than others.

      One game almost getting it right doesn’t reflect to well on the usage of it in general though.

    • poop says:

      i like the idea of weapon limits but limiting it to two always leads to stupid situations where I carry the rocket launcher or whatever in favor of the assault rifle only to realise that at any possible point where I could need a rocket launcher there is already one sitting there waiting for me

    • blah says:

      I’m pretty sure Halo just about copied that (among practically everything else) from other games before it, like the Delta Force series for instance.

      Next you’ll be saying they invented sticky grenades…

  39. Mman says:

    Oh yeah, and a don’t; Invisible walls. Integrate limits naturally into the world; even a contrived blockage beats an invisible wall, at least the latter provides a obvious visual cue to not go some way, as opposed to trying something and being blocked for no reason (an instant immersion breaker).

    • Fumarole says:

      Invisible walls are the devil. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty.

    • Premium User Badge

      DarkNoghri says:

      Agreed. I’m looking at you, L4D(2).

      Most places they didn’t even bother putting one of those “You can’t go here” textures, you just bounce off of empty air for no reason. It gimps the hunter so very much.

  40. The LxR says:

    My thoughts exactly – most of the bullet points describe Singularity perfectly.

  41. El Stevo says:

    Regarding the two weapons thing, I have and idea for a system where you can carry as many guns as you like as long as there is room to strap it to your body in the style of The Matrix. I have fantasies about a mission planning stage where you meticulously decide what weapons and tools to bring, and where they should be strapped to your body.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I have fantasies about not having to do this every time I enter a battle in X-Com. Or at least be able to do it accompanied by a ‘gearing up for a shoot-out’ soundtrack and Morpheus soundbites.

    • Lachlan says:

      I, too, thought of X-COM immediately on reading that. It suffered from a lack of any way of saving the loadouts. Later modders added it in, to general rejoicing.

      Preparation music is a very good idea, though. UFO had surprisingly tense music on the briefing screens, especially for Terror Sites and plot missions. Interceptor did briefing/prep screens nicely with suitable B-movie music and a Big Red Dramatic Button to launch the mission. These little touches added hugely to the atmosphere whilst being very simple pieces of staging.

  42. Hunam says:

    Tutorials should be banned.

    • Antithesis says:

      Indeed. We should have the knowledge of how to play beamed directly into our brains, or failing that, a big reminder to look at the instruction booklet.

    • Nick says:

      No, they should be optional.

    • Hunam says:

      I’m willing to allow pop ups that turn up the first time you need to use a skill and also I’ll allow those tips to be stored in the menu under a tutorials menu which will re-explain things to you, perhaps with little videos.

      I think one of the MGS games or something else had this. Basically, I don’t ever want to have the game take control away from me.

      Double death on them if they try to have an in game character push the tutorial off as some sort of fucking training.

    • jeremypeel says:

      “You should have no trouble with this assault course, what with you being our strongest recruit. Now, grab the rope and when I say go, press the space bar…”

      These kind of Truman Show-esque slips fit both the tutorial and fourth wall-breaking complaints.

    • Lukasz says:

      yeah. In AP it was quite jarring. To play veteran you had to finish recruit… so you done hacking, lockpicking, bypasses hundreds of times. Yet the game still tells you how to do it, when to do it in the beginning.

    • Forch says:

      I’d like a happy medium between absolutely nothing, a hand-holding tutorial, and a help screen that tells gamers who know how to using the fucking wasd keys what they want to know but confuses casual gamers.
      When you start the game, dialogue box with three options:
      I play a lot of games, show me what I need to know to play
      I don’t play a lot of games, show me the basics
      I’ve played before- skip to the beginning.

      Deus Ex handled this pretty well with offering an in-character tutorial or the option to get straight into the game, but the fact that I have to be told that YOUR APPOINTMENT TO FEMA SHOULD BE FINALIZED WITHIN THE WEEK every time I start the game, adding loading time, is a bit annoying.
      Where is the “2nd Playthrough – Skip all opening cutscenes” option?
      Speaking of which, how about making a game that automatically stops showing the logos for the developer, publisher and nvidia and all that shit when you beat it the first time?
      Just boop, straight to the main menu. You’ve seen all of that plenty of times having played through the game, just go.

      Oh, and:
      DON’T offer little more than resolution and particle effect quality in your game’s graphics menu. Seriously. How hard is it to offer simple things like fullscreen/windowed (Mirror’s Edge ‘DOES NOT SUPPORT WINDOWED’. Why? Because they said so.) or a wider field of view?
      DO offer impossibly high graphics settings, in case I want to play your game in 20 years on my insane super-rig that runs on stem cells without modding it, because graphics-improving mods are never as good as native support.

    • Belua says:

      Is it weird that the “YOUR APPOINTMENT TO FEMA[…]” line is so burned into my brain that I actually heard the voice from the game in my head saying it when I read that comment?

  43. Teris says:

    Reminds me of Ernest Adams’ “Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!”, which was always a fun read. Looking forward to more!

  44. Radiant says:

    Diary entries made out of AUDIO LOGS.
    “Fuck my husband, I think he’s going slowly insane”
    “Sorry dear what was that?”
    “Nothing my love! Just going to leave this audio contraption here by the bins.”

    I disagree on the flying baddies.
    I imagine that would fuck up quite a few dog fight sims.

    Although worryingly not all of them.

  45. linfosoma says:

    I’ve been playing the Chronicles of Riddick lately (escape from Butcher’s bay, not the shitty sequel) and judging by these guidelines it’s the best game ever (and to be fair, it’s pretty damn good).

  46. Acid Rhaine says:

    I’d like to say that ‘unlocking’ cheats is just dumb. It’s a frickin cheat, so just do the right thing and give it to me from the beginning.

    If I’m the kind of guy who wants to do the whole game ‘legal’, I’d do that even if the cheats were avail from minute 1. If I’m the kind of guy who wants god mode and kgillion bullets in my 50th weapon in my super magic trousers I’m just gonna go all h@x0r and probably bork my ini.

    Like you said, I bought the game, let me play it how I want to.

    Sinks that turn on and keep running even if you leave the room.. Refrigerators that when you open them light up.

    (y)

  47. sinister agent says:

    Agree gently on most, but particularly the writer one, and the cut scene ones. “Look at all the fun you could be having!”

    And, for example, GTA San Andreas, where you’re basically blackmailed by a cop and have to humiliate yourself by doing his bidding, even though you meet him face to face many times, immediately before and after doing so, you have personally gunned down hundreds and hundreds of cops. Nnggh.

  48. Johann Tor says:

    It was a little suffocating to read through the article. I kept thinking ‘you’re talking about an FPS right? – or a third person shooter?’ Come on!

  49. rocketman71 says:

    DO: support LAN. If you take it out, you’re not avoiding piracy, you’re losing sales and making your fans angry.

    DON’T: put “press enter” after loading the game. It’s absolutely stupid. Get me to the main menu, idiot.

    DO: use dedicated servers in your game (if justified of course, like on MW2). And release them publicly.

    DON’T: make people pay for them. It only shows that you are a greedy bastard.

    DO: let me choose to not see the 985 logos at the beginning of the game. At least after the first time.

    and, for that matter,

    DO: let me uninstall the single player content separately of the multiplayer content. Having 9 GBs in my HD when I’m only using 1 is stupid.

    DON’t: use DRM. It’s useless. It’s expensive. And only buyers will suffer through it.

    DO: hate Ubi. And Kotick. And Activision. And EA. And.. uhh, almost all of them. The bastards.

    I have a lot more, but since publishers and devs are not going to listen (or read), I’ll stop here.

    • El Stevo says:

      @ rocketman71

      “DO: let me uninstall the single player content separately of the multiplayer content. Having 9 GBs in my HD when I’m only using 1 is stupid.”

      Are there any games that currently allow this? I’ve not heard of it before and it’s not a bad idea.

    • rocketman71 says:

      @El Stevo: Wolfenstein (the last one) has separated single and multi components. The game doesn’t say a thing, but you can delete the SP directory and keep playing multi. It’s a pity that the game is an offense to its predecessors.

      I’ve seen a friend that bought MW2 on Steam (yeah, he’s barely a friend anymore ;) ), and it looked like single player and multi were separate installations. At the very least, they were different links. Yet again, the game is another POS, so it seems we’re out of luck.

      First thing I do with many of those games is delete all the videos, or substitute them for empty biks (a bik with a single second of black screen). I can recover 2-3 GBs per game usually. But I shouldn’t have to do that. Publishers will tell you that hard disk space is cheap nowadays. Not true if you have a SSD (I wish) or a Raptor.

    • Hunam says:

      I believe Dark Messiah of Might and Magic allowed you to install the single and multi separately.

    • jeremypeel says:

      “I have a lot more, but since publishers and devs are not going to listen (or read), I’ll stop here.”

      I think you’d be surprised by the number of proper real life devs who frequent RPS.

    • Samuel Bass says:

      Unless you’re actually shouting this post very loudly, there isn’t much to listen to, but I am reading.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Re: “press enter to dismiss this useless title screen” … there are worse things. Like, on a PC title, saying “press start button to dismiss this useless title screen”. And even worse, like expecting a particular key to be pressed rather than any keyboard key for those of us who don’t actually have a controller (a condition the game should be able to detect anyway!).

  50. Tom Camfield says:

    flying enemies are the suck

    • Vivian says:

      Boo to flying baddies? HL2’s gunships were amazing!

    • jeremypeel says:

      Aye true dat, but it’s hardly the only usually-rubbish-thing Valve made fantastic in that game.