Escape! Escape! Embracing Skippable Combat

By John Walker on February 23rd, 2012 at 4:41 pm.

Thanks Craig!

The argument was made by Jennifer Hepler six years ago. Back then the BioWare writer argued that if dialogue can be skipped in games, then why not combat?

Ignoring the hideous treatment Hepler has received this week, and we will be*, the argument remains a truly excellent one, and one I want to explore.

I enjoy combat in games. I play lots of games just for the combat, and if there’s a story attached then that’s a bonus. Clearly, being a right-thinking individual, I can’t stand boss fights, but otherwise rolling in the ruckus is lots of fun, and a huge reason to be playing games.

I’m also someone who adores narrative in games. That’s my first love in this pursuit and always has been. Growing up on text adventures, when the closest you got to combat was reading that it had happened, being told a tale is a massive motivation for my time spent playing games. Not an exclusive one by a long stretch – my fondness for action-RPGs, third-person combat, and Burnout Paradise ensures that I’m just as likely as any to shout “BLAH BLAH BLAH!” at talking characters as I search for which key skips their blather. Just let me hit stuff! Look at me – I’m varied.

If I’m not reviewing something, I’ll exercise that ability to skip past dreary, pointless dialogue. If it’s proved to add nothing to the game, or actively made me want to not like it, then it makes far more sense to Esc Esc Esc my way through and get to the next bit I enjoy playing.

So why can’t the same apply to combat?

What’s interesting is the primary response seems to be extraordinarily defensive. “But that’s not the point of the game!” they cry. “You may as well watch a film if all you want is a story!” And it’s not even the poorness of those arguments that’s the issue here. What’s so strange is that people are arguing at all. Because to say, “I would like it if combat could be skipped” is not the same as saying, “You HAVE TO skip all the combat in a game or we’ll kill your parents.” But the only rationale I can find for why people are so incredibly angry or upset by the possibility of Escape’s powers working elsewhere is because they’re perceiving it as an infringement of their own potential enjoyment of a game.

Which it is not.

The idea that someone would play the utterly brilliant Dragon Age and skip the conversations feels monstrous to me. Miss out on all the amazing jokes with Alistair? Skip over the scathing sarcasm of Morrigan? Fail to outrageously flirt with Zevran? Let alone not reading the Codex, and learning of the thousands of years of history that precede the events in which you’re taking part? But… but… BUT! That would ruin the game!

But then, just possibly, there might be one or two people who didn’t enjoy Dragon Age’s dialogue. No, really, there may. And for them, their time in Thedas is much better spent with the pause-based RPG combat, intricately controlling their band of characters with carefully balanced tactics, each member refined to the precise AI responses they desire, while improvising techniques amidst the frantic Hard difficulty battles. They couldn’t give a flying dragon plop if your influence on Alistair is causing him to have a crisis of faith, nor does their mind get filled with the consequences of Qunari invasion of Kirkwall. They don’t let it concern them, and they click straight through it.

So why can’t the person who just cares whether Morrigan will get one over on her mother, or if a dwarf can make it as a mage, have the same ability to hop past the parts that don’t interest them as much?

Yes, of course, if we were talking about Dragon Age specifically, it’s rife with reasons why missing combat would be problematic. But we’re not. We’re talking about games that haven’t been developed yet. Games that could throw out approximated amounts of XP for skipped battles, or whatever the particular shortfall might be, for the player who opts to jump forward to the next conversation-based quest. And we’ve not even considered the practical motivations – replaying a game to see what other narrative options were there would be much easier, and certainly more convenient, if you could just focus on the dialogue and make different choices.

To argue that removing the requirement to play all the combat in a game is to render the experience to being equivalent to that of a film is to completely miss the nuance of gaming. Beyond the sheer obviousness that try as you might, it’s awfully difficult to have an influence on a film’s ending, the simple act of clicking a mouse changes the way you experience the media. What about Visual Novels then? Aren’t they narratives you read and occasionally influence? Yes, yes they are, which is why I fully argue that they’re games. But let’s not get sidetracked there – that’s not the concern here. The point is, if my skipping a shitty boss fight, or hopping over a particularly frustrating combat sequence, to you means I’m making a game the same as a VN, um, so what?

That’s what’s so very mystifying about the argument. We don’t need to be having an argument! Because no one anywhere is suggesting that combat should be removed from games, and certainly not that anyone should be under any obligation to skip combat, why is there even a reaction at all? It’s like someone wanting to ban people from visiting Burger King because they pick the tomato out of their Whopper. They’re not forcing you to miss out on your tomatoey goodness – they’re just eating the burger differently than you do. Your burger stays just the same.

Deciding how other people are allowed to play games, or believing that other people playing differently is an affront to you, is mystifying. Such a solipsistic view of the gaming world is utterly without merit or value to you or anyone else. If people want to skip combat, you should get on with not caring at all.

Everyone pays for the game, and while we have no stinking rights of ownership, we do still at least cling to the right to play it how we choose. If I want to play Skyrim with a no-clip cheat on and walk through every wall in the game, I can. It would be a strange thing to do, certainly, but it wouldn’t be a problem for you. And if I want to skip all the combat in Torchlight and just read the quest descriptions, you’d rightly think me insane, but it wouldn’t make your enjoyment of the game change in any way.

I think skippable combat is a fantastic idea. I doubt I’d use it very often. I can imagine Deus Ex: Human Revolution being a lot more fun if I could exercise the right to skip its awful boss fights, and I certainly might consider it if I’m playing an action game with a frustrating difficulty spike I’d like to see the other side of. In fact, I find it utterly bizarre that we’re not allowed to jump to any chapter of a game when we first install it. We’re allowed to with films, and no one can stop you turning to the last chapter of a book. Goodness knows why you’d want to, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t.

Getting to the end of a game doesn’t need to be a privilege, earned through hard labour and toil. It’s something anyone can be allowed to do, however they wish. Sure, this “achievement” culture has broken some people’s understanding, and heck, take them away from me if I skip something – I’ll somehow cope. But I don’t see why anyone should be restricted from seeing any part of a game they’ve bought for any reason. And if skipping combat is a way to do that, then skip away.

PS. Massive thanks to @caterwail for linking me to this:

*We am not interested at all in discussion of the despicable campaign of hate directed toward Hepler in the last few days, and any comments about her will be deleted, and we’ll ban anyone we choose. It is NOT being tolerated. If we need to, we’ll just switch off the comments.

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510 Comments »

  1. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    I dont even know why this is such a big thing. OF COURSE people play video games in different ways and for different reasons. Why would we stop them?

    Surely the personal attacks bit is the only reason this is being actually discussed. Because, well difficulty settings (and what Hereticus said in another comment about there being a level of specificity of the difficulty you are adjusting if the game is also suitably complex is very valid – and good example!).

  2. DarlingDildo says:

    L.A. Noire has skippable combat.

  3. Tams80 says:

    That Dara Ó Briain skit is brilliant. I saw it live and was delighted when he started it.

  4. T_L_T says:

    Hmmmm…

    If you have the option to skip the combat in games, even if you don’t have to, there is still an effect to people who don’t. It psychologically devalues the game for the player

    In a game you start at the beginning and are rewarded for your skill at the game to unlock progress throughout. This then becomes your own personal narrative through the game.

    If you get past a particularly demanding section based on your skill (even if not much skill is needed on an easy mode) the feeling of accomplishment would be diminished if all it took was to press escape to do it.

    One of my favourite games from last year was Dark Souls, which demands attention, skill and commitment from the player and as a result I found it to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences for a long time. If that had a skip combat button the game itself would be ruined.

    Not all games or gamers are the same of course, but I do think that not being able to access all the content of a game at first switch on really helps with the motivation to play it!

    I still remember the disappointment I had with Singstar when I realised there wasn’t anything to unlock as a reward for being good at the game!

    • jrodman says:

      Good example. Dark Souls certainly would not work with such a button being present for even a relatively small number of its challenges.

      But I don’t think this is a suggestion that every game with every design should adopt such an idea.

    • Nic Clapper says:

      “even if you don’t have to, there is still an effect to people who don’t. It psychologically devalues the game for the player”

      Absolutely. Would become more a game of will to not press the skip button instead of a game of challenging encounters to beat.

  5. municipalis says:

    I can’t believe people are actually arguing that games shouldn’t come with different options for different players. It’s as idiotic as the people who argue “Games shouldn’t have cheats because they ruin the fun!”. Since when did you become the Grand Arbiter of fun?

    I get the sense that the people who object to these (completely optional!) options are acting out of some sort of weird snobbish status-protectionist instinct concerning the “art” of gaming much the sameway that book snobs used to decry paperbacks for being too un-literary.

    Essentially that by opening up literature (or games) to a mass(er) market audience will somehow affect their own enjoyment of it – by virtue that they can no longer claim distrinction over those who are unable (rather than unwilling) to partake in their lesiure activity.

    It’s as pathetic as it is absurd.

  6. ElPoco says:

    Rise of the Dragon had skippable combat. Lose three times in a row in one of the combat mini-game and you were offered the option to skip the combat.

  7. jryan says:

    The way I see it, not being able to skip the conversations is like having to start a book over from the beginning every time you pick it up.

    Combat is at least somewhat different every time you run through it.

    On consoles, however, or PC games that have “save points” rather than a free save-where-you-like I find myself wanting to skip EVERYTHING up to where I last died.

    • municipalis says:

      Combat is at least somewhat different every time you run through it.

      Not really. Whether it’s jumping on a guy, shooting a guy, or dodging a boss’ laser attack, combat sequences can be pretty repetitive, regardless of their actual difficulty. You might personally find them exciting, but there’s certainly been games where I’ve gone more-or-less on autopilot to get through the combat and see what happens next (Halo is a good example; but then the story got so bad I gave up on the whole experience).

  8. nootpingu86 says:

    Nice job fishing for clicks and comments. Commendable effort.

    It’s still not a good idea.

  9. E_FD says:

    The Typhoon aug in DX:HR might as well be called the Skip Stupid Boss Fights Aug, because that’s it’s main use.

    I can certainly understand the skipping combat sentiment; I played through Witcher 2 at the easiest difficulty because I was playing for the plot, and I generally give myself max stats so I can skip past the fighting when periodically replaying Planescape Torment, though in both cases, these are games that have rather clunky, questionably-designed combat anyway.

    On the flipside, the vast majority of games, even the ones considered “well-written”, have plots that are only satisfying as a framework for the gameplay itself. Or, perhaps more egregiously, they have plots that are themselves completely linear and involve no gameplay at all, such that removing the combat would basically turn the entire thing into one big, non-interactive cutscene. I can’t imagine a game with skippable combat being at all satisfying unless the plot involved a huge amount of branching choices and consequences, and some sort of system akin to the conversation battles in the latest Deus Ex.

  10. Fiwer says:

    What if they made a game that didn’t have any combat at all? Instead, you could sit in a big dark room with a bunch of strangers and watch a long cutscene. Truly, that would be the ultimate game.

    • Hematite says:

      If you’re playing a game which is only fighting and cutscenes, and you’d want to use a skip button on ALL the fighting you’re already in gaming hell.

  11. nootron says:

    John, I feel like your article was written to cause drama, despite your implied impartiality of the subject at hand.

    First, you decided to bring Helper into this, and so you are partially responsible for the vitriol being tossed at her.

    Second, you begin with the premise that “combat should be skippable (because it isnt right now).

    I have been skipping combat in games for a long time. Total War anyone? Final Fantasy, Ultima, etc, avoiding open area combat is/was a skill in those games.

    So lets get off our high horse of journalism here and step down to a more appropriate start to the article:

    What types of content and how much content should games typically allow?

    If you had started with that instead of “JENNIFER HELPER SAID YOU SHOULD SKIP COMBAT AND I AGREE AND PLZ DONT FLAME HER!”, we might have started off on a better foot here.

    • Hematite says:

      Having not heard of Jennifer Hepler before this article I didn’t see anything particularly inflammatory in what John wrote. I guess there’s ill-feeling spilling over into RPS from whatever’s happening on the rest of teh internets.

      It’s an interesting point that dialogue is often skippable and combat rarely is (bar cheat codes and similar meta-gaming), if only as a signal of how the gaming industry views itself and the different aspects of what it creates.

      re: the balance of different types of content in a game – a skip combat button’s best use is to tune the balance to whatever the particular player likes. Even the best devs can’t always get it right because people have different tastes in combat style, difficulty and duration. See all of the combat tweak mods for the recent Bethesda games.

  12. Mman says:

    One annoying argument that keeps coming up is the idea that if someone dislikes an aspect of a game and wants to skip it then there’s something objectively wrong with it; I’ve loved nearly everything about games/parts of games that many other people dislike, and also disliked games/parts of games I know many people love, and most of the time it’s nothing but personal opinion. If someone really dislikes a certain aspect of a game it’s frequently not a statement on that aspect’s quality at all. What makes this especially bothersome is that the same people who say this are frequently the same ones who complain about games nowadays trying to be all things for everyone. So apparently games compromising their vision to please more people is wrong, yet, if any single aspect of a game doesn’t appeal to everyone who plays it, there can be no reason other than it being Objectively Bad.

  13. Jim9137 says:

    Screw combat, skip walking, please.

    • municipalis says:

      That’s an excellent analogy:

      Are the people against a ‘skip combat’ option also against, say, a ‘fast travel’ option in Skyrim? It is, after all, an essential component of gameplay: it’s how you find so many landmarks, quests, people, items, and interesting bits of lore.

      But I don’t think anyone would argue that the fast travel option should be removed: even if you avoid using it, sometimes your patiences wears thin and you just want to get on with the rest of the game.

      Now what if Skyrim added an option to ‘skip’ the combat – say you turn on the option and anytime you entered a dungeon you’d get a prompt “Would you like to skil the combat for this section? All hostile characters will die the second you hit them and you will be invulnerable”?

      I would never use that, but I see no reason to object to it. Heck, maybe I would use it to skip some of the early grind when I re-roll a character.

    • Hematite says:

      Good points, both of you. The fast travel in Skyrim is an interesting example because I quite like the way it’s implemented – you can only fast travel somewhere after you’ve legged it the first time. That wandering around is a big part of what makes Skyrim a great game for me.

      In fact, when I started playing Skyrim I deliberately declined to use fast travel, or even the world map as a reference to enhance the feeling of being in a big, new world. I loved it!

      But on the other hand, it got old after only about 20 hours, and now I fast travel with the best of them. And in fact, on additional playthroughs (I tend to start multiple characters with different builds rather than levelling up a single character to be great at everything) I’d much rather just be able to fast travel anywhere instantly. I already did the trek with a previous character and there’s little enjoyment to be had from being forced to do it again.

      So even though I enjoyed an unusually strict restriction on travel to start with, I am solidly in favour of player choice. The only problem is that it puts more responsibility on the developers to highlight different potential play styles so that the player can pick the one they like best.

    • Jim9137 says:

      Incidentally, it is not a huge problem in Skyrim. Compare it to games like Mass Effect, which certainly have nice set pieces – on the first walkthrough. When you are doing the sidequests, you’ll be going through the same corridors, hearing the same conversations, seeing the same textures over and over and over again. And the net benefit? You feel kind of nice when you first walk in. I suspect most of the playing time is spent upon walking (or holding the up key down), than actual gameplay.

      But I’m grumpy and old and picky about how I spent my time. How dare games reduce my RPS browsing time so needlessly

  14. automata says:

    Shouldn’t the issue be addressing what’s bad about game mechanic/game element x and making it fun, rather than figuring out ways to eliminate it, or even focusing on making a game that does not have element x in it at all?

    I can understand skipping dialogues in games: most of them are at best written at a mediocre level and are generally boring; they contain nothing of importance that isn’t summarized into your journals that you can read in a fraction of the time it takes to wade through the (usually) overwritten dialogue; they are repeated exactly the same with each play-through, and some lines are often looped so you hear them repeatedly if you don’t; and they’re voice-acted in most modern games, so listening to stuff which you’ve already read and absorbed is a waste of time.

    And the biggest bugbear of all: they are not really that interactive. Games are principally about interactive entertainment, so if dialogue is so limited, then it’s not meeting the expectations of interactivity, then it’s going against what you expect from a game.

    Or, you know, maybe that person just doesn’t want that type of game. Which is fair, games don’t have to be for everyone; but the developers and publishers should make it abundantly clear what they’re focusing on so you know what you’re getting into; then it’s your fault for picking it up. There should be games being made to cater for people who don’t want to have to wait for Boring NPC #37 to get through their dialogue tree; and if there’s not, then there’s a problem with the market.

    This doesn’t mean that you design your game for dialogue to be skipped for people who want it though.

    If you do, then just do everyone a favour and remove dialogue altogether, and focus on making a good non-dialogue experience. Otherwise you have to spend development time and energy ensuring that gameplay and everything is balanced for two or more types of players;

    The same thing with combat. There are plenty of games where combat encounters are easily winnable, or just boring and tedious, especially today with health regeneration and the like. That means that you should either work on those systems to make them more enjoyable, or you cut them out. Otherwise you’re spreading your focus too far with trying to be all things to all players, and you’re going to end up with a mediocre product.

    And this is why John’s idea is just so awful for future games. A game should not strive to be “all things to all people”, nor should a movie, a book, a song, a piece of art; trying to cater one thing to everyone will generally leave everyone unsatisfied. But this is what his argument essentially entails. (Funnily enough, people have attributed this response to “gamer entitlement” when this issue – adding a separate game mode or feature solely for a proportion of gamers and non-gamers that aren’t really interested in the game’s gameness – really is the height of entitlement.)

    And that’s setting aside the fact that there’s already ways for you to avoid having to engage in the combat in games. Watch a Let’s Play of it online. Grab a friend who likes that part and get them to play those parts if you want more interactivity. Or, you know, just not play the game and play something else or do something else entirely different.

    • Hematite says:

      The problem with just getting the devs to work harder on making all the game systems fun (apart from the fact that it’s what they should be doing anyway right now, and it’s not happening in practice) is that the perfect balance of different game elements depends partly on player preference. Even if the systems are flawlessly implemented some players would be happier with only 80% of the amount of shooty bits relative to talky bits. Or 120%.

      It’s hard to argue that taking choice away from players will improve their experience of the game, even in a perfect world.

  15. Ashen says:

    Wow, I really expected better from RPS.

    So, why not have skippable combat? Because such as it is, combat sequences form the main backbone of vast majority of games, certainly every single Bioware game ever made. While in the past decade games made some good progress in integrating storytelling with gameplay, such a magic button would only serve to throw that out of the window and push games further into the realm of discrete chunks (combat-cutscene-combat-cutscene-credits roll; which admittedly is still the structure for a lot of games).

    All in all, making the interactivity optional in what is an interactive medium doesn’t seem like the right idea. And for those saying that it’s all well if it’s optional – yeah, right. Some people do have restraint when it comes to creating their own experience, but most will gravitate towards the path of no resistance. There’s a reason Doom doesn’t tell you to press IDDQD at the start of the game.

  16. KaMy says:

    Dialogues should be skipable for one main reason, when you do the game more than once (or when you die / save / quit / crash in a games that only have auto saves that never saves after but always before 5 min long videos :coolface: ) you want to be able to get past long dialogues without being forced to wait for it. Just as it should be for cut scenes, intro videos etcetc.

    That mode lately wich consist of forcing you to see cut scenes, wait for character to red their text or animted menus taking ages to do a simple action sucks. I’d rather go back to good old non spoken dialogues and static but charming menus poping in 1/4 secondes even in RPGs.

    • bill says:

      Combat should be skipable for the same reason – especially in games that have multiple endings. Sure, maybe I enjoyed (or not) fighting 1bajilion kobolds the first time through, but this time I just want to find out what could have been different.

  17. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Some games have combat difficulty separated from general difficulty so you can adjust them separately. That’s a fine idea and more games should do it.

    On the general topic of allowing players to access any part of the game they like, I do sympathize with those who just want to get to the juicy bits, but would like to reserve the right for the games who want it to retain that competitive element. If you were not forced to complete levels in super meat boy for instance, you would not be provoked into replaying again and again and then be rewarded with all those 40 simultaneous replays of all your attempts. (It can be noticed though that SMB has a smart system where you only need to finish a certain number of a world’s levels to access the boss level, so if there are individual levels that you just can’t manage, you can skip them without penalty.)

    The competitiveness, the “beating” of a game is sometimes the whole point, and I would like games to keep that element, in spite of – or rather because – it making them different from other media. It’s also not wholly unique; there are art installations that demand a great deal from their audience in order to appreciate them.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with a system where you could choose to jump to any level in a game, but doing so without first unlocking it the regular way would disable achievements. That would maintain the integrity of achivements for people who care about those.

    Just some scattered thoughts.

    • Hematite says:

      You’ve got a good point about some games only making sense as a ludicrous challenge. I think those kinds of games will always be around because sometimes you just want a challenge and they’re perfectly honed for that purpose.

      Happily over the years that kind of arcadey game has become such a definite niche that it isn’t usually burdened with any ‘fluff’ which doesn’t relate directly to the core gameplay – so you either play it because you like the one trick it offers, or you play something else. (there seem to be some other posters around here today who think this is the only ‘real’ kind of game)

      Just throwing ideas around, I can even see it being perfectly possible to have that kind of game with content-skipping, although I think it would require some kind of ‘ranked mode’ where you’d have to play strictly by the book, as compared to ‘tourist mode’ where you could level warp and mess around with all the content.

      Edit: on re-reading, I see my last paragraph is basically what you said. Serves me right for writing a reply without paying enough attention to the original.

  18. jplayer01 says:

    Thank you for writing this article. It sums up everything that’s wrong with, well, everything I can think of.

  19. d34thm0nk3y says:

    Being able to skip combat would be extremely detrimental to the stories of so many excellent games.

    In a good game, the combat should REINFORCE the story of the game. If you want to skip the combat, then the game is either doing something wrong or the game just isn’t for you.

  20. wearedevo says:

    “The idea that someone would play the utterly brilliant Dragon Age and skip the conversations feels monstrous to me.”

    There was an utterly brilliant Dragon Age? Can somebody link me!? I only played the mediocre one that Bioware put out a couple years back.

  21. Pantzed says:

    Wow. Talk about out of control fan entitlement on both sides of this argument.

    The gaming industry is booming. And like all booming industries, it will continue to evolve. It will produce some games that let you skip dialogue. It may even produce a few games that let you skip combat.

    Completely regardless of people screaming on forums, some systems will be successful in the marketplace and perpetuate. If the system/genre you happen to advocate falls flat on its face or is replaced by another, take heart. There is always indie gaming.

    *sniff sniff* Smell that? It’s capitalism. And it works.

    • Hematite says:

      You’re right that the games industry will continue to evolve, but because of its incestuous nature it won’t necessarily diversify – there will inevitably be fads in game design, and dead-ends that will be consigned to history eventually (fingers crossed for 0-day DLC and social network integration to meet that fate).

      I believe that by brainstorming and discussing what’s good and bad about game design trends in a public forum like RPS we can influence the direction of the industry. Not the guys who write cheques at EA, but quite a lot of indie developers hang around here, and so do some of the big guys (Ken Levine mentioned it in his recent interview I think). Talking about this stuff sensibly can only make the industry more healthy by showing that there’s interest from a discerning audience, and giving the forward-thinking devs some ideas and reassurance about new design directions which will set the trends for future mainstream development.

    • Prime says:

      “*sniff sniff* Smell that? It’s capitalism. And it works.”

      You mean the system that’s slowly destroying itself right in front of our eyes, with banks and businesses dying left right and centre, with markets in chaos, with entire countries on the verge of economic collapse…you mean that capitalism?

    • Pantzed says:

      You’re absolutely right. Due to the current turbulence, people are going to drop this concept known as “Ownership” and everything will belong to everyone.

      Or, or! Each and every one of us will be a completely independent and self sufficient entity. No more trading goods and services for other goods and services around here! If you don’t already have it or can make it yourself, well, then you don’t get it.

      Set sSarcasmLevel=0

      Stepping back to the real world: Even were the bombs to fall tomorrow, and assuming some vestige of humanity survives to see this post apocalyptic landscape, I can absolutely assure you that there would be some sort of tradesmen who would craft goods or provide services to sell in exchange for other goods. When these tradesmen realized that there was more demand for good ‘X’ and it provided higher value to more people than good ‘Y’, I can again assure you that most tradesmen in the craft of ‘X’ and ‘Y’ would indeed skew their time and effort more towards ‘X’.

  22. Dominic White says:

    I’m not sure about skippable combat, per se, but one of my favourite games in recent years (hell, ever!) – Bayonetta – had something even better.

    Now, Bayonetta is famous for being a hard game. A very involved one, too – it’s an extremely deep and complex modern-day brawler. The ultimate evolution of Streets of Rage, with a move-list as long as both your arms and shocking amounts of subtlety. The higher difficulty levels will ruin you unless you’ve played for dozens of hours.

    The easiest difficulty setting makes it accessible even to complete non-gamers. While you feel like you’re in control of the character – she moves where you point, and attacks when you press the button – the finer details are all being handled by a very capable AI that plays like an expert-grade player. Hold the stick towards an enemy and mash the kick button and it’ll automatically string together the most impressive kick-centric combo it can, automatically dodging and parrying any incoming attacks all the while.

    You basically get all the spectacle of the combat, and see all the moves, all the weapons and all the enemies, but without any of the frustration or lengthy learning curve. The only negative aspect is that if you play in this mode, you don’t get ranked on the scoreboards. Understandable, really, as it’s not really ‘you’ that’s playing, so it provides some incentive for folks to come back and try it on Easy or even Normal mode.

    It’s the best of all worlds. Everyone wins, everyone comes away happy and with a challenge level they’re happy with, without losing out on any of the meat of the game. So yeah, I’d be in favor of seeing something like that in more games.

    • bill says:

      As with many points raised here, what would be a good solution tends to vary depending on the game.
      Some games would work with simplified controls, others with easy difficulty, others with “skip if difficult” and others do work with automated combat results. Some wouldn’t work with any.

      For example, I don’t think that kind of thing would work with an RPG with lots of filler/random battles… because you’d still have to work through all of them, just with less risk of failure. But the risk of failure wasn’t the issue in the first place… it was the repetitiveness and time-consuming nature.

      I personally would never skip combat in Ninja Gaiden, but would skip it often in Baldur’s Gate / Final Fantasy and would skip it from time to time at the end of Jade Empire. I wouldn’t skip it in Deus Ex the first time, but i might in a second playthrough to see alternate endings.
      It all depends…

  23. Xfraze says:

    I think that having the option to skip segments of gameplay is not a bad idea at all. I love games that are broken up into chapters so I can play a chapter when I want. Usually I go in order, but there are time where I may have played the game in the past and just want to go through it again to collect items or other things and the gameplay proves to be tedious.

    I hope that if this trend becomes popular, developers won’t focus on story and give gameplay a back seat to story, because ultimately, what I’m playing/paying for is an interactive experience.

    If gameplay gets cut at the expense of story, then we wouldn’t have games like bastion which managed to blend everything together into a great experience, or uncharted 3.

  24. Jahkaivah says:

    I’ve been having this very thing on my mind before I noticed this article.

    Thing is, this wouldn’t actually be at all groundbreaking.

    Plenty of RPGs and turn based strategy games already have some manner of “auto-play” feature that essentially lets an AI carry out your moves for you. Total War games for example allowed you to auto-play each combat sequence and determine the outcome of the fight.

    The key thing is that auto-play features work best when there are drawbacks for not fighting efficiently. In a traditional RPG, if you might be able to choose to auto fight and consequently lose a chunk of HP because the AI doesn’t play as well as you do, but if you were to take control you could reduce the damage taken greatly. This gives people who aren’t fans of combat their skip button without trivialising the efforts of those who are fans of combat.

    Of course this wouldn’t work as well in your typical modern Bioware game as all the damage from the fights tend to regenerate away afterwards.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Total War games for example allowed you to auto-play each combat sequence and determine the outcome of the fight.

      But that’s not the same as skipping the combat. There are still consequences for your strategic and tactical choices, and the outcomes are determined by a number of factors tracked by the game. You’re still playing the game.

      What Hepler and others are suggesting is that you should be able to play Bioware games only for the story. No need to choose character builds, no need to customise stats or weapons or combat abilities, no need to think about the game part in any way. Just skip from cutscene to dialogue option to cutscene. That’s not a game, and even the most clueless narrativists know this, deep down.

    • bill says:

      I don’t see any reason why some games couldn’t just include basic skip options (like X-Wing Alliance) and games with more tactical depth couldn’t do some form of auto-combat resolution. You’d still be picking your team, leveling them up, equiping them, but it’d simply be having narrative/large scale consequences (like total war) and not need the micromanagement.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      @Runs With Foxes

      “But that’s not the same as skipping the combat. There are still consequences for your strategic and tactical choices, and the outcomes are determined by a number of factors tracked by the game. You’re still playing the game.”

      Why yes, that is pretty much what I said in the last two paragraphs of my post.

      Point is that auto-play already exists as a perfectly decent compromise for appealing to those who don’t like combat without actually taking it out of the game.

  25. Grimgrin says:

    The reason devs put in skippable dialogue is because the the dialogue was repetitive, bland, or flat out bad. I mean for all the people who played WoW how many quests did you do in the game, and how many can you remember? Any game that has skippable is basically saying “We didn’t feel that the combat was enjoyable so rather then have you test your skill, feel free to skip it”. and really how many games have you played that you thought to your self “Man this would so much better if I didn’t have to keep over coming these obstacles!”. I’m not looking forword to the day that I start talking to some and say “Kill that one boss was a real pain! did you have alot of trouble to?” them: “nah, skipped it.”.

    • pipman3000 says:

      The reason devs should put in skippable combat is because the the combat is repetitive, bland, or flat out bad. I mean for all the people who played Plasnescape: Torment how many fights did you do in the game, and how many can you remember? Any game that has skippable dialog is basically saying “We didn’t feel that the dialog was enjoyable so rather then have you actually read a thing, feel free to skip it”. and really how many games have you played that you thought to your self “Man this would so much better if I didn’t have to watch this cutscene!”. I’m not looking forword to the day that I start talking to some and say “Reading that text was a real pain! did you have alot of trouble to?” them: “nah, skipped it.”.

    • Grimgrin says:

      Do you really think Plasnescape: Torment would have been a better game with out the combat? I mean combat wasn’t the most elegant but, it could be very rewarding.

  26. Viktor Pants says:

    I think its fine to have the option to x out of combat or dialogue from time to time, My only concern would be that designers would become lazier and fall back on the “hey if you don’t like it you can skip it” excuse a little to often. It might end up lowering the bar for what we expect from an experience and in that sense it could be problematic,
    It might also end up being costlier if you have to produce a cut-scene/NIS for every skipped combat encounter so that the players who skip through the combat get some feedback for their choice.

  27. MultiVaC says:

    I think there are a few reasons they don’t make combat skippable in games:

    1) It makes up the vast majority of the time you spend in the game. Even in dialog heavy games like BioWare’s nearly all of the game would be skipped. This would also mean skipping over a huge amount some of the most carefully crafted content, like almost all of the level design. I’m not saying I really care if people want to skip it, if they want to do that it’s their choice. But it’s a really bizarre way to approach things, to spend $60 on something that you want to skip 90% of. I don’t really think this is an idea that many people- developers or players- are sincerely interested in. It seems like the only reason we are talking about this is because of an odd statement from one individual and the subsequent obscene overreaction be some incredibly rude people on the internet.

    2) Often time combat IS part of the narrative. Combat sequences are the main way your character gets from point A to point B, and they often involve scripted sequences where things happen that affect the storyline. Not to mention implied narrative through the scenery in which the combat is happening. The scenery and atmosphere of game levels can be used as a way to tell a story and evoke emotions, and some developers are truly brilliant at doing this. I would say that a game where the combat scenes are nothing but gameplay systems without any meaning or context that are just there to fill up space between the “story parts” is a pretty shitty game, honestly.

    3) The whole thing probably wouldn’t make any sense, plot wise, if you just cut out all of the combat. A typical Mass Effect mission would end up be a shuttle landing on a planet, and then suddenly Shepard standing in the bad guy’s office with him saying “Damn you Shepard, you broke into my base and killed all my guys! You’ve foiled my plan!” Paragon: Take bad guy to space jail. Renegade: Kill bad guy. I guess you could turn the whole battle into a cutscene, but it would end up being either a short, crappy, poorly animated thing that takes all the weight out of the confrontation, or a huge, exciting production worthy of what you were aiming for, which leaves you pretty much making a movie alongside your game. It would be a difficult thing to pull off.

    I also think that if we can so easily segregate story and the bulk of the gameplay elements (which combat usually makes up) we aren’t living up to the potential of the medium at all. But that’s a different discussion.

  28. d5tryr says:

    I’d love to skip the combat in Tomb Raider games.

    The climbing and exploration is so much fun, but whenever I’m having too much fun with that I’m forced to mow down a couple of tigers and gorillas between back flips.

    That insane lady is so obsessed with murdering every near extinct animal she happens across. Christ Lara, if you hate animals so much then stop going to the effing jungle!

    Anyway the combat is just filler in the name of ‘breaking things up’. Why do I need to have my fun broken up with un-fun?

  29. pipman3000 says:

    Why doesn’t someone make an RPG without combat at all? I mean it is a ROLE-PLAYING game right and maybe it’d be nice once in awhile to play a character that isn’t a blood-thirsty imperialist who wipes out entire communities of primitive people just to take their shit.

    just make planescape: torment 2

    • jaheira says:

      Everyone read this. It’s an utterly dire article that gets demolished by a superbly angry Walker in the comments. Thanks bhlaab!

  30. mllory says:

    The problem with skippable anything (other than cinematics and start-of-game adverts obviously) is that it’s like a sign from the developers saying ” Sure, our *aspect of game* is crappy and not all that well thought out but you get the option of skipping it!”. And this problem becomes even more apparent when the thing we’re considering skipping is combat – arguably the meat of the game.

    The fact that someone gets the option to choose to skip combat does change your experience because it fundamentally changes the way the developers construct their game. It’s like wanting an artist to give the viewer the option to gray out all that busy background stuff to concentrate on the figures better. The game should work as whole or get split in two different games entirely.

  31. codename_bloodfist says:

    >Yes, of course, if we were talking about Dragon Age specifically, it’s rife with reasons why missing combat would be problematic. But we’re not. We’re talking about games that haven’t been developed yet.

    And herein lies the problem. These games will have to be designed on a rudimentary different level in order for this option to even work, thus changing the game for better or for worse. My concern is that instead of gameplay and dialogue going in unison, we’ll be getting something (even more) akin to the original F.E.A.R. where combat and horror sequences could have come with commercial breaks in between. In the end both the people who want the visual novel and those in for the full experience will suffer.

    I’d rather have them develop another Heavy Rain than put this into the next GOTY RPG.

  32. stevendick says:

    I had an epiphany while playing Dragon Age II: I don’t need to make the combat fair or challenging

    After almost 30 years as a gamer, for the first time I reduced the difficulty level to easy as I just couldn’t be bothered with the fighting, but I did want to get to the end of the story.

    So I too think games with stories should accommodate those players who want to skip the fighting.

    I know my dad likes playing the Mass Effect games, but allowing the skipping of combat and hacking would be a benefit as his reaction times don’t fit with the game mechanics.

  33. Jamesworkshop says:

    wow this is a large comment thread for somebody I have never even heard of.

    Didn’t alone in the dark 5 have thing like this that was touted as movie dvd playability or that in-game autoplay help system nintendo was exploring

    http://uk.ds.gamespy.com/articles/100/1001883p1.html

  34. bill says:

    I think this is a remarkably excellent idea.

    The main reasons being:
    (a) I have lost count of the number of games that I don’t finish. And i’ve seen many others comment the same thing. This would allow me to at least burn through the end of the story even if i’ve become bored of the gameplay.
    (b)I’d be able to replay and experience alternate paths/endings. I know uni students have unlimited gameplay time to replay every 80hr RPG 10 times, but personally I’ve replayed ONE game in my life to see the other ending – Jedi Knight. Most games have way too much filler, and I don’t want to play through the whole thing again to just experience a different 10 second cutscene.
    (c)Many games have way too much filler combat It’s repetitive and designed to pad out the gameplay time. Killing kobolds is fun the first few dozen times… after that it gets old.
    (d)It’d be optional
    (e)I personally can’t understand how anyone would click through dialogue/cutscenes in games, but I wouldn’t want to remove their ability to do it.

    I think it’d be good to have a “don’t let me skip combat” checkbox at the beginning of the game, for those who are worried about being tempted to take the easy way out or something.

    Other than that, excellent idea.

    • Barnox says:

      @bill : “(e)I personally can’t understand how anyone would click through dialogue/cutscenes in games”

      If you’ve already seen the cutscene before, or if the main part of the game is not the story, but instead the action, you may want to skip the cutscene. I can’t for the life of me remember one useful cutscene in Bulletstorm, but I can remember the main part of the game (impaling people on cacti)

      Fast forwarding dialogue is useful for people who prefer to read it than listen to a (sometimes horribly botched) voice actor. If you can read faster than the voice actor talks, but can’t skip the dialogue, you’re often stuck there, sometimes for a good 20 seconds, doing nothing. I myself experienced this with the Skyrim Daedra quests: The daedra are the only people whose dialogue you can’t skip through. It slowed down the gameplay for me, as I wasn’t able to continue with the story, the action or even jump until the damn thing stopped talking at me.

  35. Gira says:

    Wow, look, this is honestly the worst thing I have read on RPS for quite some time. I mean, let’s skip the part where the abomination that is Dragon Age was described as “brilliant”, and get to the meat of the argument: BioWare’s combat systems have always been terrible. This is not a new thing. They are really, really bad. If you want to play a modern post-Bio RPG with excellent combat, try TOEE. Unfortunately, rather than trying to fix their combat gameplay or address their utter incompetence in that regard – even the Baldur’s Gate games were stuffed with endless filler trash mobs – they say to their audience, “Hey, you can skip it!”

    Why are you people okay with that? Why don’t you demand more? How about, you know, making combat actually interesting and deep, and maybe even catering for character builds that avoid combat? You know, like in Fallout, a game that came out over a decade ago? These are supposed to be RPGs, not scripted action games. Why aren’t there other means of avoiding combat without actually having to “skip” it, Walker? Do you think it might be because BioWare are really, really bad games designers?

    Crazy idea, I know.

    EDIT: Oh, and as an addendum, it seems Walker’s of the very recent school of thought where RPGs are basically just action games with binary dialogue choices. Has it ever occurred to you that characters could have agency outside of dialogue trees? I mean, it never happens in BioWare games, but they’re not really the gold standard for the genre.

    • Tubbins says:

      I know. I can’t believe the amount of people saying this is a good idea.

      What developers — especially RPG developers — should be doing is building games that cater to all character makes. That way if the combat is not for you, you build a diplomatically-oriented character, and the game caters for the role you choose. That’s what the “role-playing” bit in “role-playing game” means, by the way: the role you choose, not the role the developer chooses for you.

      What’s going on here is that people are realising that Bioware’s gameplay is vapid, unimaginative, and boring, but instead of demanding better gameplay, they just want to cut it out completely. This is encouraging and rewarding Bioware for their lazy, half-assed development. It’s the kind of thing gamers should be totally against, but everyone is just happy to just continue gobbling it up.

  36. namad says:

    honestly the article here is a bit of an oversimplification. many games are a lot like a visual novel with some combat thrown in. for those games this might make sense… but what about games like super meat boy? or things like the original mario? there’s nothing but game mechanics in the game, so skipping them can end up ruining a game. people can’t help themselves really, it’s a sad fact, but true. part of the gameplay in SOME games is indeed feeling frustration, it’s part of the experience. maybe games shouldn’t be designed this way….however … unlocking this sort of thing is NOT in the game developers best interests! why? well if you can just play any level you want in a game, a lot of people will end up just playing the best few levels, and skipping 90% of the game, they’ll hear about a best level, try it right away, try to play normally, and shockingly they’ll learn that MOST of the game they bought sucks! and 99% of the content is contrived and pointless and awful. the reason seeking ahead in a movie or book doesn’t ruin the medium is that well… generally in a movie or in a book, the production crew works REALLY HARD to make sure all the parts are good! so even if you’ve spoiled a bit of the mystery you’ll still be interested to see what happens, many books and movies get read/watched over and over, why? because they’re just damn well made. however many games are just shittily made, they’ve taken one or two interesting levels, pushed them to the end, then broken the concept up into 87 shitty levels to make you play. if people stop playing those shit portions of games… well they’ll stop wanting to pay 50$ for 2hour games too. basically shitty content, bad levels, boring game sequences are EASIER to produce. Once you’ve made your best level, making a dozen or two dozen copies of very similar yet much less carefully produced content takes a fraction of the time, bloats the gameplay time, and makes it easier for consumers to swallow the price. skipping combat in deus ex might make a bit of sense. skipping combats in diablo II wouldn’t make any darn sense at all.

    skipping content would likely be especially popular as well as especially BAD in platformer/action type games. the games are often designed around the concept of teaching the player to be better at the game, there’s a difficulty curve, a bit of frustration is expected. in an ideal perfect platform game, players will experience frustration in mild degrees. the player will be forced to redo a fight a few times, but ideally this teaches the player to improve and makes them better capable of handling content later in the game, if it were possible to skip past the first frustrating moment the player would be undertrained! they’d be too inexperienced to handle the next hurdle, forcing them to skip more and more and more content as they progressed. until the difficulty curve felt like a brick wall and they weren’t playing at all anymore!

    so yes, in some games… you just flat out should be able to skip past things! however… if the feature were in every single game out there, some games would certainly be harmed instead of improved. it’s hard for an average player to experience frustration, see an out, then not use it. game balance is sometimes carefully crafted around a sort of constant mild frustration buzz, designed to train players, allow them to FEEL progression, allowing them to for example easily stomp past earlier content, while barely handling hard higher levels.

    most games out there have a story so freaking shitty that if you skipped all the gameplay content you’d have nothing left! sure deus ex and mass effect would still be fun as visual novels, but anno 2070 wouldn’t and neither would super meat boy!

  37. Mavvvy says:

    You want narrative buy a book, is what sounded off in my minds eye. But then I realised there is indeed room for quality narrative on games, its just so few are built solidly around the story and even fewer still are of good quality. A statement like “make combat skipable” is certainly eye catching……but I would say back make a game that relies solely decent narrative and then you can discuss the game mechanics.

  38. Melonfodder says:

    I don’t particularly want to browse through the comments but I couldn’t see anything on the first page so here goes a shoutout to Nintendo:

    How do you offer players a way out if they’re struggling with the game portion? They allow you to skip it if you struggle with it. I’m not too fond of the idea of an instant god-mode button everywhere, because it takes away quite a bit from the challenge/reward mechanic that keeps us glued to many games. I like being rewarded for my struggles. I realise this does not work too well for more open-ended games, but what if, instead of just letting the player go through Mass Effect 3 without ever feeling the challenge and that sweet reward that comes with it, allow the player a chance first, and only after a few reloads a god mode can be turned on.

    Or just pay the game on easy I guess. Isn’t easy practically the “experience the story” mode already?

    • bill says:

      It’s one of many possible solutions, and might be better suited to some games than others. X-Wing alliance had it and it worked quite well for that kind of “mission-in-one” flight sim.

      But the problem with it in some other game types is that it doesn’t actually allow you to skip the bits you DON’T LIKE, only the bits you have problems with.

      For example, I loved the beginning the Final Fantasy 6 on the GBA.. it seemed awesome and I was enjoying the story up to the point (early on) where walking down a corridor in a house resulted in at least 5 random battles! At that point I gave up and never got to enjoy the story, because I wasn’t going to sit through an entire game of annoying repetitive random battles.
      Giving me the option to skip them Only If I Fail wouldn’t really address that problem at all.

      In XWA you wouldn’t want to skip a battle without trying it at least once. But in an RPG with numerous repetitive grindy battles you might want to skip a load of them without having to try them first.

  39. aznan says:

    I think this seems like a brilliant idea. I’d be jumping all over Catherine if I could skip the block puzzle bits.

  40. RegisteredUser says:

    I agree with people who say that giving people the temptation will often lead to succumbing and ruining the whole point of the game many a time.
    That being said however, there comes a point in games like the Total War series where you are essentially fighting 2 x 80 people troops and have to invest 5-15 minutes to just mop them up when you KNOW you will crush them easily where its just more sensible to press the autoresolve button and move on.
    A nice example of how you can live with just “number fights” and still actually be playing the game is stuff like Hearts Of Iron or Europe Universalis. There is still an element of strategy and planning etc pp, but it is more abstracted. You don’t “skip” the battles, you are very much only playing for them in HOI still, but its all happening on a different level.

    What I mean to say is: This is not something you can just say. You have to be genre-specific. Being able to just skip fights in Street Fighter does not make sense, nor does skipping the parts where you shoot in Call Of Duty(although one can just skip those games completely these days..).

    I would argue that to some games having to play some of the things is integral to them even existing and/or making “sense” and being fun and being skippable just ruins them, and some games have situations where autoresolve(as opposed to skip, which is another issue still) makes sense.

    Otherwise just go watch youtube playthroughs or something.

    • bill says:

      Or all the annoying mopping-up fights in King’s Bounty. (though that game did have an auto combat option, but it tended to lose half the troops – whereas micromanaging them would save them but take hours).

      I think it’d be a great option for some genres, an ok one for others, and a pointless one for yet others. And it’d need to be implemented in different ways for different genres. So it’s not a simple one-case-fits-all topic.

  41. Plinglebob says:

    After reading through a lot of the comments, one argument in support for skippable gameplay sections seems to be ignored (and an argument thats close to my heart).

    Some People Are Bad At Playing Games

    I’ve been playing games for almost 2 decades and aside from a couple of genres, I’m really really bad at it. My RTS tactics suck, my FPS aiming is abysmal, I can’t sneak to save my life and I struggle when I have more then 1 character to control in an RPG. However, I love the story in Warcraft III, I think the turn-based gameplay in the Total Wars games is brilliant and wandering round the island in Crysis on a high-end rig is probably the closest I’ll get to a tropical holiday until I win the lottery. However, if it wasn’t for the fact that each of these games give you the ability to “Skip” gameplay sections (“Allyourbasearebelongtous”, Auto-resolve battles and God mode) I probably would have ditched them all after a couple of hours. I almost ended up ditching DA:O because I ended up starting the fight at Redcliffe early and I spent an hour trying to win it.

    Gamers often seem to want people to accept them and for more people to join in, but unless AAA titles make themselves accessable to someone who’s never played a game before (either through a “Super Easy” mode of skippable gameplay), new people are going to be put off.

    • Plinglebob says:

      Oops, I’m obviously also really bad at using XHTML script as well. Sorry.

    • mllory says:

      I don’t particularly wish other people to accept me as a ‘gamer’ or whatever. I just wish to play good games.

      There are different games for different people and not every game is for everyone and that’s okay. Why should games try to cater to the lowest common denominator?

  42. Cerzi says:

    I think it comes down to a paradigm shift in which storytelling in games has been emphasized over challenging gameplay.

    Here’s an easy comparison for you: Tomb Raider 1 vs Uncharted. In the former, there was a narrative but it was very unintrusive, and the gameplay itself was the dominant focus. Just jumping from one ledge to the other could be troublesome, and indeed the whole point of the game.

    In Uncharted, a lot of the movements that people would pain themselves over in Tomb Raider are pretty much done automatically. Press a button and you’re effortlessly scaling a sheer cliff face in a way Lara Croft never could. The player is more passive, the narrative is more important.

    In this example, it seems fine to be able to skip platforming in Uncharted, or not fine to skip story, and it seems fine to skip story in Tomb Raider, and not fine to skip platforming.

    In other words, we shouldnt be arguing for a general status quo here. It all comes down to the game in question.

  43. Velvetmeds says:

    Skippable combat should have always existed. There isn’t a single game where the combat is good enough to never be skipped.

  44. Midroc says:

    While i think that skippable combat isn’t a big thing, i still see it as a start to a slippery slope leading
    towards the dumbing down of games in general. Why stop at just skipping combat? start skipping puzzles, just have an instant teleport to the next place of event etc etc.

    Why would the developers spend time creating exciting combat and intricate puzzles if they think that a large percent of the playerbase will just skip them? If the publishing fatcats get in on this, it isn’t unbelievable that they would just cut corners in the gameplay department with the attitude of “If players are skipping it, why waste money on it?”. It might lead to more work put into the story, but when the gameplay is gone and the only interactivity left is choosing to progress trough the story A, B or C style, then i think the industry have forgotten what games is all about.

    On another note i think people have forgotten what makes you want beat a game. Working really hard towards a goal and finally beating it is an exhilarating experience, thanks to endorphines being released from the brain as a reward for the hard work. If there is no hard work involved, you don’t get any endorphines, which result in a “well the game is over, meh”.

  45. jhng says:

    This was a really interesting article and a good thread (although I didn’t real the whole thing) — thanks are due to Mr Walker.

    I totally agree that making combat necessary for progress is undesirable in a lot of games where there may be many other non-combat reasons for playing the game (story, scenery, role-playing, etc etc).

    But there is a slightly dangerous side-effect of skippability which is that it could lessen the incentive for designers to properly balance the game. Already simplistic difficulty settings that just adjust relative health/damage have this effect to some extent. It would be preferable for games to be inherently self-balancing as far as possible so that the difficulty is determined by how you decide to play the game (e.g. whether to grind more in an RPG or whether to increase the number/difficulty of win conditions — like the much more sophisticated difficulty adjustment in the Thief games). If combat became skippable, then I wonder whether designers would be inclined to say ‘it doesn’t matter if its a bit too difficult for some players some of the time since it is skippable’ and take a less rigorous approach to balancing.

  46. Barrista says:

    “Deciding how other people are allowed to play games, or believing that other people playing differently is an affront to you, is mystifying”

    I think this is a mark of immaturity myself. And you will find it in places other than how someone chooses to play a video game.

    “You like PS3 over Wii? You’re a moron.
    You like the samsung Galaxy phone over the iphone? How dare you!!!! You’re a moron!
    You got a poor version of the tablet I own that runs fine? What the hell is wrong with you! ”

    Personally, I don’t care how people choose to play a game or what material objects they purchase for themselves. What I decide to do is what matters, right? If someone wants to cheat to unlock limited trees in Skyrim? Okay.

    When Bioware starts to pay me, then maybe I’ll care about how others are “doing it”.

  47. Duke of Chutney says:

    the whole world and its dog has already commented but i shall do so too anyways

    This makes sense only in games that separate the games action from the story, like bioware games.

    Imagine doing this in HL2? or worse still DOOM3.

    There is a design philosophy in some game dev circles that says if the developer differes a decision to a player that represents the failure of the game developer to make a decision. An example of this might be giving a player the decision on whether or not they can carry two guns in stead of 3 at one time. Maybe the skipping combat idea is viewed as the same.

    There are also the traditional ideas about what a game is, you make progress, get rewards etc, solve puzzles, overcome obsticals etc, and win. If you can skip do you win?

    Dara O’Briens comments about guitar hero make an interesting point. people dont necessarily play that game to win, they play for an experience. Maybe game devs have to come up with a better appreciation of why people play their games and design them respectivly.

    A good example of this is dwarf fortress, a game where you cannot win. The developer understands that you arnt trying to win, the same is true of minecraft. Alternativley the Call of Duty games (they are dull but…) they understand that all people want out of their games is to win at shooting mans. Perhaps bioware don’t understand why people play their games.

  48. cassus says:

    I think the reason people threw a hissy fit over the whole thing is that a lady that dislikes games is making games for a company that, arguably, has made ONE game with gameplay worth playing since they did the baldurs gate stuff… Well, neverwinter nights was OK I guess. The gameplay in the Mass Effect games is, to me, pure rubbish, and for bioware games, I kinda see her point. Cause if I could skip all that crappy combat I might have watched the story. I got about 10 hours into ME2 and then I couldn’t take any more of that game. Which means I’m lost whenever podcasts go into a 30 minute “oh mass effect, yee amazing gem of gaming” praise-fest. I’ve no idea what happens in either of those games. So yeah, BioWare, please make your gameplay skippable, or better yet, stop making horrible gameplay. Baldurs Gate has some of the most amazing gameplay EVER. And you proved you still had it with Dragon Age 1, then totally broke it again with dragon age 2.

    yeah..

  49. Barnox says:

    I’ve been playing Roboblitz, and I feel that the way that combat was handled in that game was ideal for a puzzle-platformer.
    The combat was presented as part-and-parcel along with the story and the puzzles. The enemies themselves were as much a part of the puzzle as the locks and keys. There was no sense of “I need to kill 5 more of these to get to the next part of the puzzle” and I think games that implement combat as a side mechanic should do it sparsly and optionally.

    That being said, I do feel that games should have the option to skip content based on when you feel like it, if the content is not a central part of the game. Metal Gear Solid 2 does this in a minor way: The Fission Mailed screen allowed me to complete a section of the game, featuring heavy combat, that I would normally have died many times doing.