Rules For Games: Do & Don’t #5

By John Walker on November 19th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Just do what I say and everything will be alright.

It’s been over a year since I last unleashed my law-commanding fist of righteousness. This is intolerable. So thankfully the list of rules that games developers and publishers are FORCED BY INTERNATIONAL LAW to follow have been further extended. Six new rules are added to the lexicon. Failure to obey them results in instant withering looks and sighing disappointment from their mums.

DO save my checkpoints – it’s not actually against the law for me to stop playing a game and then play it again later on. It’s not cheating. It’s not weird. It’s what people do. Why on EARTH should I have to start an entire mission from the beginning just because I wasn’t able to play your game non-stop from beginning to end? You lunatics.

DON’T tell me I’m leaving the mission area. If you’ve designed a level, let me walk around that level. Don’t give me the ability to walk around that level, but then announce that you’re going to kill me if I don’t turn around and go back to the invisibly marked section you’ve deemed acceptable for this moment. I’m not a prisoner released on an ankle bracelet, I’m a maverick with a lot of guns and a need to see that tree over there. If you didn’t want me to do that, why did you put that tree over there?

DO let me have the ability to turn off vibration on my 360 controller when I’m using mouse/keyboard controls, without having to pull its USB cable from the PC. There is little more terrifying in gaming than when the controller starts violently shaking my desk, making that horrible FLRRRRFLLFRLRLLRRLLL sound, because I opened a door or picked up a weapon. Although I’ll tell you what, horror games – you have my full permission to use this to the maximum effect.

DON’T use super-fancy CGI characters in your cutscenes, and then cut to the dodgy old triangle version of the same people that actually make up the game. It makes everything seem so much worse! And on that matter, don’t ever, EVER put actual real-life photographs in frames on people’s desks. It’s like having a big flashing prompt appear on screen that reads: “Look how unrealistic this game world is!” That seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

DO feel free to let your plot be comprehensible. Yes, you’ve seen a film where everything was really ambiguous, and you thought, “Gosh, I didn’t understand any of that, it must have been really clever! I’ll be clever too!” But you aren’t being clever. You’re being obtuse. If you’ve got a damned clever story that will bemuse until climactic moments reveal incredible links, or even an esoteric narrative that is open to the interpretation of the viewer, then great. But you don’t. You’ve got a story about four soldiers who shoot people until it ends. One of them dies.

DON’T Give me an ability that you’ll then take away when it’s inconvenient for you. If you let me jump, and then later on take away my ability to jump, then you are the same as a person who gives a child a big lollipop, and then snatches it away and jumps up and down on it shouting at the child, “HOW DARE YOU CONTINUE ENJOYING THIS LOLLIPOP! YOU MAKE ME SICK, YOU PUSTULE!” If I’m able to run (for the obligatory three seconds), then I’m able to run. Don’t snatch that ability away from me because… because for some reason you’ve decided it’s important to walk at half the usual pace across this patch of barren land where nothing’s happening because you hate people because perhaps you didn’t get the bike you wanted when you were nine. Good.

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190 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Nathan says:

    What games do you think have constrained the environment well? I struggle to think of any (non-open world) games that don’t have either a silly “Turn around now” prompt or overtly offensive waist high walls to keep me from going astray.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Just set everything on islands. Islands are cool. Everyone loves islands.

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        RedViv says:

        On note of your nickname, the game that spawned it. Water curses are cool. Just let the limitation actually fit the context.

        • mouton says:

          I am actually replaying Psychonauts just now. It is a wonderful example of a world without invisible walls. Ok, there are soooome, but only in a few nigh-inaccessible places.

          On a related note, I am also playing Borderlands 2 with a friend, a game that puts “b” in “bullshit invisible walls every-fucking-where”

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Having a massive gameworld edged by mountains is pretty good. Coming to a mountain range in Skyrim or Fallout feels natural, and because you cannot usually see the opposite ‘wall’ it doesnt feel like you are in a box.

            STALKER often went for the hills or ditches / valleys approach too, though its barbed wire fences weren’t too offensive.

            In addition, the whole list in this article really could have been abbreviated to just “Stop making Call of Duty / Medal of Honor”.

          • MrUnimport says:

            I think I did prefer STALKER’s wire fences to FO3′s mysteriously impassable rocks. At least the fences have the connotation of impassability so I just give up and walk the other way, in FO3 I kept on trying to scale the rocks that failed to differentiate themselves properly from the other rocks and cliffs in the game.

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            maninahat says:

            Use a ha-ha. That’s the best way. It’s impassable, whilst still showing a world beyond the wall. Alternatively, just put a damn good damn justification for why you can’t leave. Arkham City made it pretty clear: try to fly over the walls, and the prison gun turrets will blast you. It was so intuitive, I never even thought to try escaping during my first playthrough.

          • Myarin says:

            Boombooms are absolutely the best way of doing it. Or some other story-relevant idea.

            If you’re in a warzone, then just say that the area you’re trying to move into doesn’t have proper air support, and have an increasing number of missiles barrage you.

            If it’s a haunted house type game, then have a bunch of ghosts start chasing you around. Kinda like what happens when the time runs out in Bubble Bobble.

            Also, if you really care about the player, just put some really bland terrain in. Use a separate type of mapping code which allows you to put in 3 times the map’s size of barren wasteland. Voila, you have a minigame where the player can try to suicide-dodge increasing threats at the end of the world. Yes, it takes code and effort and laziness in coding seems to be the “in” thing for games these days, but it’s awesome and results in Youtube videos which result in marketing for your game.

            I think Morrowind does some of this when you try to swim out to sea? There’s a pretty decent few minutes of swimming allowed, seeing as it takes no memory to store barren ocean, and you start getting monsters attacking you. Also I swear one of the Ace Combat games did something like this.

            Oddly, most of the games I remember having genuine threats if you run out of time/leave the area are older games, roughly the 1997-2007 vintage. Things are becoming way too streamlined these days. People spent years coming up with ways to eliminate invisible walls, and now they’re coming back more and more. It’s crazy, watching designers doing things that were considered verboten by tasteful designers in the past. (The mentions of San Andreas and Crysis are great examples of slightly older games bothering to use creativity to solve the problem.)

      • Gnoupi says:

        Just Cause 2 is set on an island. But you can swim, and it has planes. So ultimately, you have to be restricted.

        • Somerled says:

          GTA San Andreas is the same, but warps space beyond a certain distance so that you never get too far from the game space, no matter how long you swim or fly. Clever and sinister.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            I guess you can just keep playing the “waves / clouds going past you” animation, but keep the player character still. It feels like you are moving but you’re not?

        • rb2610 says:

          Crysis just put f***ing sharks in the water, bastards.

          That was the one time I didn’t like how realistic the graphics were, damn sharks coming out of nowhere, I almost crapped myself D:

          • LionsPhil says:

            IIRC, your C.O. does warn you…

            Beyond a certain point, Korean ships will start targetting you with missiles, too, should you be evading sharks by using vehicles.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            See now thats why I am such a graphics junkie. When something is so real looking that your brain and body literally screams GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE against all rational “its just a game” reassurances.

            Those sharks really freaked me out.

        • Mr. Mister says:

          Not explicitally… I’ve read tales of Ricos stunt-jumping onto NPc-driven Boeings and leaving the game on for hours, only to find themselves still riding that plane, with nothing but an endless see surrounding them.

          Procedural generation!

          • LionsPhil says:

            I did that, but what seems to happen is that a certain distance past the island, the jumbo just hovers in midair. Same seems to go for anything else: it doesn’t collide, but its movement is clipped. Turn around any time and your trip back will be a fixed distance.

            Which is good, really. Getting arbitrarily far from the island into nothingness would add nothing to the game, just risk getting you stuck in a really boring state. (Bailed out? Enjoy your swim, since you can’t call extractions without somewhere to put down your beacon. Guess you could drown yourself…)

          • Mr. Mister says:

            You don’t know? You can set up yor beacon in the water’s surface, even if you are swimming. So, at the very least, you could call for a speedboat.

            Well, it’s not so strange that there’s a limit distance after all… but as I understand, the perimeter must be ridiculously big, to lose sight of Panau.

      • dee says:

        but swimming is hard to do, so just kill people arbitrarily when they’re more than knee deep in water.

        • Beemann says:

          Are you Red5?
          My Firefall character can FLY, stomp mutants into the ground and take a grenade to the face, but he’s completely helpless once he walks into the water
          That said, the rest of the world constraints are actually kinda cool, particularly since they interact with various gameplay/story elements and can be altered

      • sybrid says:

        Spaceships are good too. They’re basically space islands where ‘being exposed to the water instantly kills you’ makes sense.

        • TsunamiWombat says:

          I second this. When the ‘water’ is a cold, tenebrous vaccume of nothingness, “touch the water and die” makes perfect sense.

      • mbp says:

        Second the Islands suggestion. Far Cry did this brilliantly. I never did figure out whether or not there was supposed to be just one island or whether the game was supposed to be set on some king of archipelago. It doesn’t matter it just worked.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        I remember just sort of walking off the island of Morrowind (I made a silly powerful water walk amulet, okay?) and that got a little weird. Of course, I found Solstheim this way, so it was alright in the end. Turns out it takes less game time to walk to Solstheim than it does to get there via boat.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Off the top of my head I think Dishonored made a good stab at it. Although it does rely on those Half-Life 2 walls to section off the city, it feels surprisingly unrestricted when you’re bounding about on the rooftops.

      • Ricochet64 says:

        Is there something wrong about how Half-Life 2 did it?

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          Half-Life 2 has a number of sections where it’s painfully obvious that you’re being forced into a linear path even though you’re in some kind of huge environment.

          It’s about as good as it could be in terms of details, but the whole premise is flawed. Levels like that will always be a jarring experience.

        • DiamondDog says:

          Unless it’s an open world game you obviously just have to accept there are limits on where you can go, and at some point you will be forced towards an objective. But sometimes in Half-Life 2 (and Dishonored) all you’re presented with is this huge, impassable metal wall with no context for it being there other than ‘dystopia’. It’s not a checkpoint, or a guard post… there’s just a big wall plonked across the street. Less jarring than bumping into an invisible barrier, certainly, but it’s still a clear indicator that you’re in a restricted level.

          Having said all that I still think Dishonored did a good job of disguising it’s boundaries and making the levels feel open to exploration. Often when you went poking around in the corners of the level you’d find an extra little alleyway or open window into a room that stopped it feeling like you’d hit a flat wall.

          • DrGonzo says:

            I’ll disagree on that one, there may be a few frustrating occasions I’ve forgotten in HL2, but it had a giant wall that was eating the city as you went through it. It was a nice narrative element that explained dead ends, and more restrictions as the game went on. Then after a while their control starts to give, and you get to go through a fair few of those walls that used to restrict you as they collapse.

            Dishonoured on the other hand dealt with invisible walls very poorly. I really enjoyed the game. But was constantly reminded of invisible walls everytime I tried to climb across rooftops, but oh not that rooftop as theres an invisible wall stopping me, and I can’t go above 3 floors up as their is an invisible ceiling far below my maximum jump height. It could have all been fixed so easily by slightly tweaking the level design.

            And now I can’t go down this street it’s an illogical dead end. They took the looming walls from HL2, but not the city munching which meant they made less sense thematically to be blocking a pointless dead end.

            Still, both excellent games that dealt with it far better than most.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Man, those giant walls in HL2 really were a neat narrative trick. That sort of barricading can go wrong too though. I’ve been replaying the witcher and the way the city is divided into quarantined districts is really rather silly and immersion breaking. The worst is the parts of the trade quarter that are blocked off by wagons, behind which there is a spookily empty ghost city.

          • DiamondDog says:

            I’d completely forgotten about the moving walls in HL2, good point.

            Have to disagree about Dishonored, though. I thought it was designed in a way that always made it clear which parts of buildings were traversable, so I could always see a path through the area by looking at the architecture. Just a shame that some of it was rather bluntly cut off by walls of metal.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            For me the difference with the half life series was the sense that, even though I was in this one restricted bit NOW, there was a world outside of it. Somehow the whole place felt like there was always more just beyond that I was about to discover and so I never FELT hemmed in or directed.

            Correction, once I felt hemmed in, and that was the car journey in episode 2. But thats the only time – even the buggy and boat levels in HL2 didn’t make me feel that. I don’t know why, even replaying it now its the same. Odd.

            IT IS THE MAGIC OF THE GABEN.

          • MrUnimport says:

            I think part of the reason I didn’t mind HL2′s Combine barricades was that they were very obviously imposed on the city from outside. The city itself wasn’t a bizarre Kafka-esque construction trying to devour me with its architecture, it was a perfectly normal and navigable city that just happens to be full of alien metal roadblocks.

            Compare FEAR, which made completely no sense at all and thus failed to feel like any kind of real place.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Ha ha. “Stab.”

      • S Jay says:

        Agreed, BUT Dishonored had some really strange invisible ceilings (which made no sense in connection with the awesome blink ability).

        • Snidesworth says:

          Yeah, finding those rooftops you couldn’t grapple onto for no good reason was infuriating when the rest of the game implores you to use its vertical spaces. It meant I had to stop and check if every high ledge was a viable perch before flinging and blinking myself towards it, slowing the game down in a frustrating way and diminishing that whole immersion thing.

        • Stephen Roberts says:

          I felt that Dishonoured made it pretty clear which roofs (rooves?) were the ‘edge’ of the map and which weren’t. The really steep pointy ones that were in range of your abilities were a clear no go. Maybe I’m making excuses for a game I am incredibly impressed by. But take Rage, immediately outside the first bit I encounter that I have no ability to scale knee high rocks. Why? Invisible wall. It took me all of three seconds to think of a thematically consistent solution to that problem: Sand storm. Sure, climb the stupid rocks and go wondering, but a sandstorm rolls in and fucks with your vision and (more importantly) your life.

          This is why sharks will eat you at sea. It’s non immersion breaking.

          I’m kinda surprised we’re at Do and Don’t five for this, actually. No invisible walls is my first law of game design.

      • MaximKat says:

        Until you decide to take a swim and find an invisible wall

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      mrwonko says:

      There’s also offensive locked doors and offensive invisible walls.

      Valve does a good job of making you want to go where you are supposed to go, though.

      • Syra says:

        Is it just me or do people forget that the seemingly vast majority of half life 2 was spent with an endless cliff face on your left and an angry ocean on your right?

        • Saldek says:

          I probably would have forgotten about that by now, but fortunately I seem to remember that it wasn’t the case.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Syra – try turning down the difficulty on the buggy section :)

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      darkChozo says:

      I think it’s a matter of avoiding the largest excesses. Obviously, if your world isn’t procedurally generated you have to bound it somehow, but inexplicable (not waist high, mind you) cliffs are better than invisible walls or magic instakill snipers. Borderlands does a pretty good job about it, the out of bounds areas are actually justified by, well, giant turrets. Contrived, yes, but actually pretty well justified by the game itself.

      • Pop says:

        Project I.G.I was pretty interesting for it’s seemingly (and possibly) unlimited world. We got bored trying to find its limits.

      • mr.black says:

        Whenever the barrier is explained in-world, in-story, that can usually be brilliant. Whenever it isn’t and you get an invisible wall, that ALWAYS annoys!
        I remember Riddick- EFBB had one of those brilliant ones. When you land on a first platform, there’s an obvious path you have to take to progress the tutorial, but behind you is an open desert. Why wouldn’t you go away to the desert? Minefield, to prevent prisoners from escaping! You could go there if you wanted to, but that would be the death of you cause of logical reasons..

      • Baines says:

        Some Call of Duty multiplayer maps use minefields, which are marked. Didn’t some of the Halo MP maps put large guns at the edge?

        Stalker uses deadly levels of radiation, unmarked except for the warnings popping up complaining about deadly radiation. Sometimes I think that was nice and fitting, but other times it seemed kind of annoying. The latter when you are stacked with anti-radiation armor and radiation reducing artifacts, to the point that you can walk in-bounds pretty much anywhere you want and never even noticed radiation, only to still take lethal levels if you walk near certain map edges. And made worse in that the game sticks stashes in some seemingly lethal locations, which creates one of those annoying game dynamics of “Oh, I don’t want you going there. Or there. Or there. But that almost identical space over there, you get a reward if you go there and live. And that over there, crossing that is actually mandatory to finishing the game. So put your running shoes on…”

      • gekitsu says:

        thats what makes the big difference, doesnt it – how well the level boundaries are integrated into the game world. if there is a sensible reason for dropping dead outside a certain safe area, there is nothing wrong with it. turrets might work, maybe some form of contamination, maybe a good old mine field.
        then, mix things up a bit, come up with a plausible cocktail of things you cant/shouldnt pass, and the player experience should be much more coherent.

        also, dont go “you left the mission area!!!1 be a nice lad and turn around in 5…4…3…2…1…BAMLOLURDEAD” – it shouldnt be much more work to make that warning into something that isnt out of place in the game world.

        an onscreen countdown – i consider on screen text something akin to notes the player figure took, a mental to-do-list, a sense of orientation… mostly a stand-in for internal feel-y stuff like that – almost never works, unless the player character has some kind of psychic gps implementation…thing. whats wrong with calling the player on his radio? or having some visible in-world signs? “here be mines,” conspicously toxic-looking oil-slick-cum-strange-fumes things? heck, the soviet firing brigade in call of dutys stalingrad level was pretty cool, too. just respect the game world. how are players expected to if the guys who build the darn thing didnt?

    • pepper says:

      Far Cry 2, dont walk into the barren hot desert for too long(its on the sides of the map ) or you will dehydrate.

    • VileJester says:

      I have not finished Dishonored yet, but I think it does it pretty well.
      Especially considering you have the ability to jump really high + blink.

    • immerc says:

      Dishonored does pretty well, aside from certain roof features looking like they should be prime candidates for blinking, but are mysteriously slick.

      The Assassin’s Creed series also tends to do it well. Most mission areas are wide open and it’s up to you to figure out what parts to use, where to explore, and what to ignore. When they do have borders, the borders don’t tend to be invisible walls, but zones where if you leave you “lose synchronization” because the computer you’re in doesn’t have data about those regions.

      Grand Theft Auto also does it well, with most areas of the city being open to you at all times, especially if you’ve made it far enough in the story to unlock every section.

      One of the best of these was a title from more than a decade ago called “Big Red Racing”. What made it great was that it was a racing game, and probably the only racing game I’ve ever played that lacked invisible walls. You could choose to drive right off the race track and travel around in the countryside.

      • SominiTheCommenter says:

        Not to mention the actual city walls, in most places, are the visible walls.

      • Stephen Roberts says:

        Big Red Racing will never die. It lives on in my heart: “well that ain’t mah belly button,…” “That ain’t mah finger neithurr”.

        Damn fine game, sir. Damn fine.

    • der_Zens0r says:

      doom

    • Xepter says:

      In my opinion “Jorney” does a great job at constraining the environment. It never feels unnatural or forced ;)

      • tengokujin says:

        I was endlessly amused by how my avatar would flip head-over-heels from the strong winds at the edges of playable areas.

    • Kefren says:

      I remember playing Dead Island recently. I came across a fence on the beach that extended into the water. I wanted to explore the other side. So I waded into the shallow water, and was just about to pass the last post when the game sent me back. No logical reason why the character couldn’t have cut round that way. So I put a vehicle there and climbed on top. I still wasn’t allowed over the fence. The developers had decided I should only access that bit of beach by going over the mountain, even though that was a boring route. It really dropped the immersion for some time.

    • Squishpoke says:

      Serious Sam 3 has a thing where if you wander out too far in the desert, a giant sand worm comes along and gobbles you up.

      I like it because you can see the sandworm coming and you have a chance to make a run for it!

      • Kefren says:

        That’s a better way of doing it, it makes sense within the game world.

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        welverin says:

        The Borderlands games have laser towers that shoot you if you wander too far out of range in the unbounded areas, another nice in game reason for it.

    • porps says:

      I thought rift did a really good job of it, i loved mountain climbimg/exploring in that game

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    AlwaysRight says:

    “King of the Trolls”

  3. Meat Circus says:

    DOFACE & DONTFACE

  4. hjarg says:

    Hmm, someone is really enjoying codblops2?
    I know how you feel…

  5. Uthred says:

    Sorry but I like super CGI custscenes and I’m more than willing to suffer the disconnect between pre-rendered scenes and in-engine scenes for the eye candy

    • Kestrel says:

      For sure. CGI cutscenes were the only things pulling me through Final Fantasy VIII.

      • Syra says:

        VII

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          Stellar Duck says:

          X

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          phuzz says:

          FF VII had one set of character models for the cut scenes, another, lower res version for the battles, and a cutesy version for the main game, (plus another version for running around the world map, but that was just a small version of the main one I think).
          Or at least that’s how I remember it.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        To be fair, the Final Fantasy series is designed around the cutscenes. Quite literally in XIII’s case, where the cutscenes were finished long before the gameplay, leading to some strange plot holes.

    • rb2610 says:

      But in-game graphics are good enough now that in any AAA game and even lower budget titles in-engine cutscenes still look amazing without causing that disconnect between cutscene and game.

      The first time I played Crysis I thought the opening scene was a pre-rendered cutscene at first, but nope, it was in-engine. There’s no need for pre-rendered any more, at least not in 1st/3rd person games. Fair enough however if you want to have some pre-rendered scenes in an RTS or something though, but even then, as the Rome 2 trailers show, there’s just no need.

      • Uthred says:

        I disagree, even really nice looking in-engine stuff doesnt look as awesome (at the moment) as, say, the closing CGI/realm reborn thingy from FFXIV

        • rb2610 says:

          Sure it looks nicer, but is it needed? Sure you could get a sports car for your commute to work, but is there any point when a regular car would get you there just as fast?

          Pre-rendered cutscenes tend to be the biggest files in a game install, they waste disk space, cause a disconnect between gameplay and cutscenes and as other people have mentioned, they often don’t age as well as in-engine graphics.

          Essentially, unless your game is of a genre that doesn’t suit having in-engine cutscenes, then you don’t need pre-rendered.

          Also, if you can’t wow the player with an in-engine cutscene you should probably re-think the artistic direction of your cutscenes.

          I can see the necessity in the past, where facial animation wasn’t possible in-engine and in order to attempt to create a connection with characters it was very useful, now-a-days it’s not.

          • Uthred says:

            I think worrying about disk space is largely pointless, even for SSD’s (the only place its a concern nowadays) its becoming less and less of a concern. There are cinematic techniques and angles which generally dont work in in-game engines – because the engines were designed for play. But ultimately I like them because they look better and as the commenter below mentions they serve as a treat/reward. I do admit they suit some genres better than others but I dont think I’ve ever felt that a well done bit of CGI has detracted from my experience with a game (I also think they age about as well as most game engines i.e. not very)

          • Soon says:

            That seems to discount any more stylised approaches to cutscenes. Thief’s were awesome and it’d be a massive shame for the next game to lose them.

          • rb2610 says:

            @Soon

            You make a good point, in some ways it does work, if the cutscenes are stylised and artsy. A recent example that springs to mind is Guild Wars 2, although even then, the characters are rendered in-engine.

            I think the problem is cutscenes that aren’t done in-engine purely to disguise flaws in the engine or just for the sake of MOAR GRAPHICS. These are where it detracts from the gameplay, every time a cutscene ends you’re thrown back into the shoddy in-game graphics with a thud of disappointment.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          I have always loved the big budget pre-rendered cut scenes! They feel like spectacular treats. you know, if they’re good.

      • Phantoon says:

        Word. Dark Souls on the PS3 managed to do it right despite the PS3 being pretty weak compared to current PCs without it looking bad at all.

    • galaxion says:

      cut-scenes nowadays tend to look worse than the actual game graphics, usually due to non-native resolutions or bad compression.

      • Nic Clapper says:

        Yea and I notice that in-engine cutscenes even tend to looks worse these days…like they’ll add filters or change the way it looks somehow (like Just Cause 2 for ex)…

      • Salt says:

        True that.
        I found it especially jarring in Deus Ex: HR where the rendered cutscenes were made using the in-game models, but without the tesselation applied in-game, and with piles of encoded video artefacts.

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      darkChozo says:

      I think the rule is that if it would look better in CGI than in-engine, like some of the fancier FF cutscenes, then yeah, go for it. If it looks exactly the same as an in-engine cutscene, or hell, looks worse, don’t do it. Games that pre-render in-engine cutscenes and then play them back at 30 FPS confuse me.

      • Uthred says:

        Yes thats an excellent rule and really the best way to approach it

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      what about DXHR matching its cutscenes to it’s in game appearance? but only on consoles; PCs’ tesselated 1080p loveliness was marred by blocky under-lit 720 folly every time something important happens :/

      • Rao Dao Zao says:

        Wasn’t that way for me — the game itself was basically unshaded (running on lowest settings all round :<), while the cutscenes were uber-dark-contrasty-shadows. But you're right; the disconnect either way totally broke it.

      • Nic Clapper says:

        Im sure the models in the pre rendered scenes had more polies…so ‘tesselation’s kinda irrelevant heh. But yea it def was a jarring transition.

        • Carbonated Dan says:

          cutscene characters were angular where in-game models were smooth, so polies were certainly fewer than tess can provide

  6. DickSocrates says:

    GTA IV infuriated me with removing the ability to run while indoors.

    I have often been chased by cops, decided to go into one of those buildings where you could either go out the back way or up onto the roof and been shot in the back because Niko suddenly decided he would only jog lightly. One of a toilet roll length list of bone-headed head-scratchers from Rockstar.

  7. Persus-9 says:

    I think the final rule does admit quite a few exceptions. If you half kill the player character then you should absolutely remove their ability to run and jump. If I’m half killed in a dramatic moment it may not be good for them to shrug it off as if nothing happened. I think the key thing is this should never be done arbitrarily. You should never not be able to run just because your character apparently doesn’t feel like it or not be able to jump because if you could jump then you could jump over that fallen tree and run away into forbidden parts of the level.

  8. ocelotwildly says:

    I’m not sure about the no real-life photographs rule, I think that they can make for touches of detail and intrigue that flesh out the world a bit. Gordon Freeman’s daughter springs to mind as being a nice little touch.

    That said, it might be a bit more incongruous in a modern game, where the photo could be rendered in pixel perfect detail rather than the slightly blocky simulacrum that was possible in 1998.

  9. futage says:

    Could not disagree with the penultimate one more strongly. I’m getting tired of games that explain the living shit out of everything, leaving me no mystery and wonder. I’m sick of games where everything that happens is plot-significant.

    I like being confused and wondering what this object might have been or why that person did that or what that book has to do with anything. Games which fuel my imagination, even if out of simple obtuseness rather than anything particularly clever, are profoundly better than those which assume I don’t have one.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      That’s assuming that games that are trying to be mysterious and clever are succeeding in doing that rather than falling short and just being obtuse, of course. Which is probably where most games that attempt this fall down.

      Having good world-building is all very well. We all like that. Not everything needs to be explained in words and it’s good to have some things left to wonder about. I don’t think John is saying that shouldn’t happen. Take Portal for example. Very simple plot but lots of cool mysteries lingering around the periphery.

      I think what he is saying is that leaving things poorly explained, confusing and hard to follow simply to make the plot look more complex and grown up than it actually is, is cheating.

      • futage says:

        No, I don’t buy that. I enjoy it when the author of a game creates a clever mystery, teasing me with bits of narrative and clever hints and clues as to what this object might be for or do. I also like it when it’s simply incongruous and unexplained.

        Or rather I prefer either of those over the alternative of having everything explained. I like discovering these things for myself, trying things out and so on. And sometimes there will be no answer to discover, and that’s great too. That’s how things are, not everything has a purpose for me. This reminds me that I’m not the centre of the game’s universe. It’s anti-solipsistic. Something games are generally very bad at.

        Not everything makes sense, not everything is pertinent to my current experience and not everything is amenable to me. I like games which reflect this and, as I said, cause me to wonder (not just ‘what is this for’ but more fundamental shit like ‘who the hell am I?’, ‘what’s my position/role in this world?’).

        Well constructed mystery is great but often feels constructed. Obtuseness doesn’t, it feels (or at least can) more like a real place with all its meaninglessness and lack of obvious logic. It’s like the difference between a well constructed level and a level which feels like a real place. Both great, but very different things.

        • Mman says:

          Given the examples this article isn’t talking about games that have legitimate mystery to them, but games with basic stories so obfuscated by bad writing and attempts to be “clever” that they’re just a mess.

          • Tom Walker says:

            Oh, you already said it.

            Sorry, I left this page open while eating my dinner and then commented without refreshing.

            Poor etiquette.

    • Tom Walker says:

      You seem to be arguing against the statement, “don’t make your game confusing because I might not understand it.”

      I think what the article was saying is better summarised as, “don’t try to compensate for having an uninspired plot by implying mystery that isn’t really there.”

      • futage says:

        Your summary is fine but doesn’t alter my strong disagreement.

        How do you go about ascertaining whether (unresolved) mystery is ‘there’ or not? If you’re confused and/or your imagination is provoked, it’s ‘there’. Whether that’s constructive or not int he context of the overall experience is another matter, and one of quality. If the rules boils down to ‘don’t do things badly’ then it’s facile.

        @Mman, if Mr. Walker meant obfuscation and bad writing then his complaint was incredibly badly written.

        In a world where the vast majority of games are patronising in their desire to explain everything, almost unanimous in their reluctance to engage the imagination of the player, I welcome ambiguity even if it’s just for the sake of being ambiguous.

        • Mman says:

          Unless you haven’t had much exposure to the typical AAA stories he’s calling out (lucky you) I don’t see anything ambiguous about what John said. The kind of stories called out combine the worst of both worlds by explaining everything constantly yet being confusing anyway due to how awful the writing and implementation is.

          • futage says:

            Then that’s a complaint about bad writing, not about intentional ambiguity.

          • The Random One says:

            What are the ‘typical AAA stories’ he’s calling out anyway? I feel the same way, because very AAA game I”ve played for the past five years shouted its story to me with a loudspeaker over and over again just to make sure I was following it.

        • Mman says:

          Most post Cod 4 Modern Military Shooters for a start; their main plot points get handed to you on a plate, and yet they’re so full of arbitrary time (and character) skips and flashy style-over-substance narrative devices that by the end you still have barely any idea what the fuck happened/why it was important half the time.

      • soldant says:

        I totally agree. It seems to be creeping into a lot of indie art games that try to be enigmatic by implying there’s some big mystery, but it’s only there to cover up the absolute lack of real story. Mystery is all well and good, but it has to be somewhat cohesive to allow for someone to draw some kind of conclusion with room for debate. Far too many games come off as random or deliberately cutting things out to create a sense of mystery when there really isn’t one. It’s sloppy, it’s lazy, and it’s an example of bad writing. Valve are becoming guilty of this with the HL2 story arc, deliberately cutting things out that have no reason to be ignored, purely to keep their game going.

  10. Brun says:

    Basically everything in this article except for the 360 controller item can be boiled down to “stop compromising your game for the sake of your story.”

  11. Jahkaivah says:

    Pre-rendered cut scenes can have the problem of looking dated later down the line when resolution standards for monitors get higher and higher, playing Psychonauts now for example makes the often plot-critical pre-rendered cutscenes look incredibly blurry on a modern screen.

    Having said that, it is preferable to in-engine cut-scenes that either end up with completely out of sync audio or suffer unwatchable frame-rate drops.

  12. Atrocious says:

    “DO let me have the ability to turn off vibration on my 360 controller when I’m using mouse/keyboard controls, without having to pull its USB cable from the PC. ”

    This. A thousand times!

    I have a 360 controller on my desk for the occasional game where i prefer gamepad flight controls, like the X-Series or Battlefield 3 (chopper). For everything else I use keyboard and mouse. It’s bloody annoying to be forced to disable the controller in the control panel, just because game devs love to rumble my desk in the weirdest moments.

    Some games even go so far to map the default key settings for a shooter to the gamepad. Did I buy a console or what? I think Metro 2033 did that and without disabling the gamepad it was pretty much impossible to make it work with keyboard and mouse.

    • pepper says:

      I got a logitech Rumblepad 2 which has a ‘vibration mode’ button. With this you can turn it off. Does the 360 not have such a thing?

      • Trithne says:

        Pretty sure it does not. Also, I love the Logitech F710. Game auto-defaults to gamepad controls? Flick it to DirectPlay mode instead of XPlay mode. Doesn’t register as an Xbox controller, games don’t think they know better than you anymore.

  13. rocketman71 says:

    DO save my checkpoints

    WRONG.

    DO have save & quick save. Automatically save at the beginning of each level, and before anything important happens, be good enough that it doesn’t mean half a minute of HD writing warning me about impeding doom, and for the love of god, DO let me save whenever the fuck I WANT TO.

    This is the PC, you know?.

    • bwion says:

      But if you allow people to quicksave, then people might actually use the quicksave, and then they might abuse the quicksave, and suddenly everything is all quicksaves and people enjoying their games without earning the right by playing the same bastarding level 50 times and then where would we be?

      Also, I am completely incapable of not hitting F5 every ten seconds and your blatant disregard for my infirmity is shocking in this day and age. Far better that everyone else should suffer than that I should be inconvenienced in my quest for an inconvenient game experience.

    • Gnoupi says:

      To be honest, while I tend to agree on the quicksave in general, I grow tired of it, and prefer a smart checkpoint system.

      If you force me to quicksave to not be frustrated by redoing everything when I die, I will do it approximately as often as I press ctrl+s when I’m typing any kind of document. Which means I’m going to do that every 10, 15 seconds at best. And that’s annoying, because it’s purely compulsive.

      “Oh, a tricky jump. ” F5
      “I managed the jump!” F5
      “I made 3 steps and there is a new room” F5
      “Health dispenser” F5
      “Enemies on sight” F5
      “I killed one enemy and I’m back to cover” F5
      “I killed the other enemy but I used more bullets than I should have” F9
      “I killed all enemies” F5

      Give me a game which does checkpoints in a smart way, before any challenging room (and between the steps of a long challenge), often, and in the correct places in general. It’s much more enjoyable.

      Examples of such system that come to mind:
      – VVVVVV (one checkpoint at the entrance of every room, except for the hard trinkets)
      – Mark of the Ninja (with the exception of one or two points which were putting me in an impossible situation, but it should be fixed by now)

      • Phantoon says:

        Sounds like a level design problem more than a save type problem.

        • MrUnimport says:

          Things like “obstacles” and “enemies” are pretty universal to all levels, don’t you think?

          I actually think Dark Souls pulls it off pretty decently, the game effectively runs checkpoint-to-checkpoint but it has a constantly-running autosave that allows you to quit any time you feel like.

          • Senior Super Couch says:

            Totally agree about Dark Souls. That game pitches its save system perfectly. I think that says what I want to say about saves: it depends entirely on the game experience. If quick saving fits the world and the gameplay, let us use quick saves. If a checkpoint system fits the world and gameplay experience, then just use checkpoints. It comes down to each individual game and the world it creates there is no catch-all “correct” save system. A lot of people hate it, but I thought the save system in (the console version) Far Cry 2 allowed brilliantly for improvisation and careful, methodical planning. What it could have used desperately was a save-every-ten seconds mode like Dark Souls so I could just suspend-save the game and come back later rather than drive for twelve minutes to find a fucking safe house while I desperately needed to leave to go do something important in the real world.

            So yeah, I think the kind of save system appropriate depends heavily on the game. That said, if it’s something like GTA, just autosave when applicable, DON’T MAKE ME REPLAY THE ENTIRETY OF A FIFTEEN MINUTE MISSION. Oh, and please don’t SAVE RIGHT BEFORE AN UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENE. No one wants to hear the same lines repeated over and over again before some overly hard boss fight.

    • derbefrier says:

      quick saves are for the lazy. Just keep throwing yourself against that wall eventually you’ll get through it and with quick save you can just keep reloading right in front of it. Wait you want me to stop and actually think about what i am doing? THIS IS PC DAMNIT

      in all seriousness though some games are fine with a quick save system others I think it would ruin it, Darksouls would make a good example of quick saves ruining the game in my opinion. Declaring one universal save rule solely based on the platform you choose and not the game itself is pretty stupid.

    • acho says:

      I hate it when savestate management and constant quicksaving become part of the gameplay experience. It’ll eventually also lead to abusing your magical time travelling/savescumming powers.

      Deisgn your game around the fact that it saves at specific points, and let me live with the choices I’ve made, without it ever leading to unforeseeable dead ends or game overs.

      And it’s irrelevant whether we’re on the PC or not, it should be up to the game how it handles its savegames.

    • Premium User Badge

      neofit says:

      Save anywhere is a must. For those who don’t value their time, those who “abuse” this feature (whatever that means) and then hate themselves and the world, those who, if they stop reading a book, always restart from the beginning of the last chapter instead of looking for the exact line they stopped at, etc., these people may enjoy an option to disable save-anywhere and use chapters. Yet save-anywhere is a must.

    • Vorphalack says:

      Preferably, give me the option to choose between save anywhere, save points, and save on exit. So many games could be improved by having an optional Iron Man (save on exit only) mode.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I agree that quicksaves would ruin certain games like Dark Souls. I also personally think that in certain types of games good checkpointing makes for a far more fun experience. But, why not give people the option anyway?

      • KevinLew says:

        I really don’t see why games can’t just have all the save systems just like you stated. I personally like as many save points as possible, or better yet, just an ability to save whenever. Personally I’d like to know why “save scumming” is such a derogatory term since it basically means “I don’t like how other people play their single-player video games in the privacy of their own homes”.

        To me, it’s kind of like getting mad because one of your friends used a Game Genie to cheat his way to the end of Super Mario Bros. Or getting mad because somebody used the God Mode cheat in DOOM to beat the final boss.

        In any case, I’ve noticed the problem with checkpoint systems is that they tend to put checkpoints in really stupid locations sometimes. My favorite is when they save before the idiotic cut scene so you have to pound the Skip Scene button every time you get killed.

        • Gnarf says:

          ‘Personally I’d like to know why “save scumming” is such a derogatory term since it basically means “I don’t like how other people play their single-player video games in the privacy of their own homes”.’

          Eh. I don’t like how other people play their games. I also don’t like how people read tabloids or watch like bad television or have like ketchup on everything or whatever. I don’t know that it is stuff I get mad about. Is more like stuff I mildly dislike.

          It’s really about how I would like the games I play to be*.

          And it’s really really about being bothered by the “all games should let me such and such” way some people go about it. It is as if game design isn’t a thing.

          (*And that is not a matter of “all games should use only checkpoints” or anything much like that. There’s a bunch of ifs and buts, but, keeping it simple like, it does pretty much amount to generally prefering systems where saving progress is out of my hands.)

    • lokimotive says:

      I’ve grown accustomed to checkpoints and, at this point don’t really mind them that much. I’m the type of person who abuses quick saves, so having that system removed is fine with me. I can see how other people are annoyed with it, but I don’t really mind it in most cases, especially if the checkpoints are well laid out.

      HOWEVER, holy shit does it annoy me when I don’t start at a checkpoint after I quit! I think the first time I really noticed this was in VVVVVV and I initially thought it was a bug. Honestly! Why would you not start me in the same room that I left the game from! Why the hell would I want to do all that crap again? Holy crap, that first one is so on the nose for me, I wish I could like it a million times over. I know it won’t change anything, but I just cannot understand why game designers do this.

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      What are you? A casual gamer or something?

    • Mman says:

      I would agree that saving anywhere (or checkpoints regular enough that it’s almost the same) is the best in most cases. On the other hand I’ve seen enough games get alternative systems right that it can be fine. The important thing is that it actually requires some sort of vision behind the game; developers who, say, make an utterly generic linear shooter with little atmosphere and no challenge beyond dealing with hitscan bullshit but put checkpoints ten minutes apart because “challenge” (or they just couldn’t be bothered adding more) can go fuck themselves.

      If anything it’s the stuff around save systems that has pissed me off more recently; things like only having one save slot ever or having no idea if quitting the game brings you back to your last checkpoint or the start of the level like the article mentions.

  14. LennyLeonardo says:

    Isit just me, or are all these rules thinly disguised rants about CoDBlops 2? I mean, the penultimate in particular is really blatant.

    • Premium User Badge

      strangeloup says:

      Could be applied to any ‘realistic’ brown manshooter of the last five years, really.

  15. rb2610 says:

    Regarding the last rule, as long as it’s not removing something that just makes the game frustrating, like forcing you to hobble slowly over long distances or something (although forcing the player to hobble could be fine as long as it’s just a very short section of gameplay) then it can be a good mechanic to restrict the player part way through a game.

    I usually enjoy levels where you have all your weapons taken away after doing half the game with a massive arsenal, then have to build up from the start again, as long as it’s done well. It usually makes the player use skills and items they wouldn’t have before rather than always relying on the same weapons/abilities throughout the game.

    • Brun says:

      then it can be a good mechanic to restrict the player part way through a game

      That’s what he means by “when it is inconvenient for you.” If you’re having to take away abilities from the player for arbitrary or weak reasons so that a level or sequence won’t be trivialized (or will be made more difficult), it’s time to rethink your level or sequence design.

      • rb2610 says:

        I’m not saying that all examples of this are good, many of them are terrible. But when it’s done right, having yourself thrown into a situation where you have to rely on basic skills and weapons rather than playing the entire game with the biggest, most powerful gun/sword/fireball etc as soon as you get your hands on it.

        For example, I seem to remember a level in I think it was Rainbow 6: Vegas (might have been Vegas 2), where you got captured at some point in the story and had to escape with just a pistol. Then rather than being able to stick with whatever gun you choose every level, you have to make do with what you can find on enemies throughout the level.

        In that case, it worked and the situation made sense.

        Personally, I find it fun when a level switches things up a bit so you end up trying weapons that you’d usually ignore.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I take it he didn’t like most of Metroid titles…

      • Phantoon says:

        Those are entirely separate games. I don’t think the comparison even comes close. And his point was that hobbling the player was often arbitrary.

        • Mr. Mister says:

          It can’t get much more arbitrary than “The blast made you hit your back against the wall: Your suit lost all of its technology!”.

  16. lordcooper says:

    Agreed on all points except the last. Some games manage to do this well and force players to adopt a slightly/very different playstyle. MGS2′s ‘naked Raiden’ bit, MGS4′s ‘two old men beating the shit out of each other’ bit and FF7′s ‘ninja stole all our magic’ bit all jump to mind.

  17. Zandhork says:

    Send that last rule to whomever designed Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. You get an awesome drill/man-sized buzzsaw/jetpack early on in the game, but then you get a level where all weapons are taken away. Not just your projectile weapons, but the jetpack counts as well, leaving you with a pathetic double jump.

  18. acho says:

    The only point I agree with is the real-world photos of people in games.

  19. roryok says:

    I’m not a prisoner released on an ankle bracelet, I’m a maverick with a lot of guns and a need to see that tree over there.

    Is there a game where you play as a prisoner with an explosive thingie on like Wedlock, Fortress, BattleRoyale, NoEscape etc? There should be one of those.

    • lordcooper says:

      There needs to be a Battle Royale game. Maybe a Sir, You Are Being Hunted mod?

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        YES. Or a Hunger Games game. It should be multiplayer. It would essentially be like DayZ but without zombies, and more trying not to get stung by giant wasps that make you hallucinate.

    • Baines says:

      Didn’t Enslaved have a mechanic like that? Main character wore a shock collar, controlled by the AI character that he had to escort?

  20. Insidious Rex says:

    The oddest game to make my 360 controller vibrate like a mad loon was minesweeper when you click on a mine. Serves me right for playing it.

  21. diebroken says:

    “DON’T use super-fancy CGI characters in your cutscenes, and then cut to the dodgy old triangle version of the same people that actually make up the game. “

    Apart from the forced boss fights, as one of the downsides, another was that Deus Ex: Human Revolution did this on occasion to a degree.

    Why were some of the cutscenes performed whilst playing the game (preferred) and then some done using pre-rendered/recorded cgi… (even if they were originally done using the game engine, minus the live-action aspects)?

    Surely they would’ve saved space by using scripted cutscenes using the the game engine entirely? It was quite distracting…

    (At least the pre-rendered cgi cutscenes in StarCraft II looked damn good.)

  22. SlappyBag says:

    Another Rule: DON’T stop half way through a cutscene to tempt with with 2 seconds of gameplay to then jump into another cutscene. You make me feel like I can actually start playing and then rip it away. Its pretty much piggy in the middle. >_<

    • Phantoon says:

      With that in mind, can we just get rid of Quick Time Events entirely? At least in cinematics.

  23. Stevostin says:

    “DON’T tell me I’m leaving the mission area.”
    I much prefer this kind of limit to the wall and cliffs etc that constantly cluster the landscape in case you may forgot that this actually is a video game.

    “DO feel free to let your plot be comprehensible.”
    Except if your game is called “Hot Line Miami”, of course. In that case it’s ok to do David Lynch version of story for a video game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’d play a video game with a plot written by David Lynch.

      Maybe Telltale could do a Twin Peaks series..

      • wu wei says:

        Don’t toy with me.

      • Senior Super Couch says:

        That’s utterly amazing, as soon as I saw “David Lynch”, my first thought was Telltale adventure game. Imagine sleuthing around the Great Northern Hotel as Agent Cooper, while in the background there plays a snazzy rendition of the Dream Man’s Dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKBRyNNW3u0

        Uuuoogh my God yes.

  24. povu says:

    Hitman Blood Money (And I suppose Absolution and the previous ones too?) is a pretty big offender of the first rule.

    Seriously, I get the limited saves thing. But do you really need to inconvenience me by not allowing me to quit in the middle of a mission and just keep those saves, just because you’re afraid I’m going to savescum in this single player game? I get it, there’s a highscore board. I don’t care.

  25. SirKicksalot says:

    Games like Gears or the newer CODs force walking sections in order to stream the next part of the level. I’ll take that over loading screens.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Although I’ll tell you what, horror games – you have my full permission to use [unexpected 360 controller vibration] to the maximum effect.

    Now that’s proper brilliant.

    “For the optimum gameplay experience, please leave now while your other half hides the 360 controller somewhere in the room, then return and press ENTER to continue.”

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      There should be horror games that have secret instructions for your roommate/other half/puppy to do something scary at predetermined points.

      The number of times I nearly fucking died when my girlfriend sneezed while I was playing Amnesia… good lord.

  27. mikmanner says:

    Haha for the checkpoints, I’m making a game at the moment and I cannot figure out for the life of me how to save the players position as well as everything else in the level with a checkpoint so at the moment I’m forcing the player to start from the beginning of each level…

    I wish I didn’t have to I just don’t have enough skills, I need more skills.

    Saving and loading is a really tricky thing to pull off in complex games, the engine I’m working in doesn’t support save states. It’s tough buisness.

  28. VanishedDecoy says:

    Ha! I can definitely relate to the Xbox 360 controller one.

  29. Jenks says:

    FLRRRRFLLFRLRLLRRLLL

    I hate vibration even more with the controller in my hand than on the desk. In my case, the proper solution was to get out my torx screwdriver and operate. If you insist on having vibration when you’re using the gamepad though, I have no answer besides FLRRRRFLLFRLRLLRRLLL

    • Eukatheude says:

      Once i spilled a screwdriver cocktail over my mouse.
      I know it’s completely unrelated.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        It doesn’t even have anything to do with PCs, let alone games. Poor little rodent.

  30. Kein says:

    There is no reason
    to be upset.

  31. LionsPhil says:

    360 controller

    Remember when they were just gamepads, and you could use one from another manufactuer, like Logitech?

    Win7 still even has the Game Controllers control panel applet, showing all the axes and buttons of my entirely functionally comparable pad. You know, what an OS does: abstract specific hardware into its capabilities so you don’t have to target just one particular bit of it.

  32. Barberetti says:

    “DON’T tell me I’m leaving the mission area.”

    Yet another annoyance from the mound of a million annoyances that is SWTOR. So after seeing a few loading screens enthusiastically urging me to explore over the course of my short time with the game, and having just arrived on Tatooine with my nice shiny new speeder bike, I decide to go exploring!

    20 yards off the beaten track and my bike suddenly disappears from under me, and I’m unceremoniously dumped face first into the sand. Health going down and a big “EXHAUSTION ZONE! TURN BACK NOW!” message flashing across my screen, I scramble madly back to the path as fast as my pathetic excuse for a Sith Lord can manage.

    Yeah, that was the last time I bothered exploring in that game. Can’t be doing with that shit.

  33. Solskin says:

    I love theese. John, please quit your dayjob and then do this, and only this, all day long.

  34. Ostymandias says:

    Black Ops II?

  35. sabrage says:

    Gaming, we need to talk.

  36. Premium User Badge

    welverin says:

    What really annoys me are games that assume that just because I have a gamepad connect to my PC that I must want to use that. Even more annoying are the ones, Metro 2033, that display all input prompts based on that even when you’re using a mouse and keyboard and haven’t inputted a single command with the pad.

  37. malkav11 says:

    Honestly, I never leave my 360 controller plugged in unless I am specifically using it, because games these days tend to automatically default to it if it’s there. Which is fine if I -want- to play the game with a controller, but most games I actually do not want to play with a controller. That’s one reason I’m gaming on PC. The vibrate thing is also annoying, of course.

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  39. Frank says:

    “If you’ve got …an esoteric narrative that is open to the interpretation of the viewer, then great. But you don’t.”

    Man, now you’re making me worry that Valve is going to go all Lost (the television series) on Half-Life’s scifi world.

  40. Lemming says:

    I couldn’t help but feel the author of this article had just been forced to play a Call of Duty game or similar.

  41. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    I think the Exes Deus generally did pretty well using vehicular pileups, back alley fences, boring water (with invisible walls, granted), and whatnot to provide reasonable restrictions on movement. In the first game, especially, if you stacked up barrels and boxes to jump out of bounds and got stuck, it was your own fault. At least you could experiment. And I only remember one spot in Deus Ex 3 where there was a blatant invisible wall. It annoyed me since it didn’t even prevent you from skipping dialog triggers or anything arguably useful like that, but not enough to tarnish the game in any meaningful way. It let me climb onto plenty of roofs! Also, Mirror’s Edge had monochrome death awaiting wanderers. They were occasionally bullet-induced, but reasonably so, given what was going on. And I thought the falls were very nice cringe-inducing deterrents.

    Now, since you mentioned them: Open worlds can be done wrong, too. Just last night in Skyrim, I wormed my way up an island mountain outside of Markarth. I found a cool looking temple at the top but ran right into an invisible wall when I tried to check it out. No magical excuse or anything — just a hideous, rectangular, invisible wall. It looks to me like they might be preventing end-of-game or -quest spoilers, but they could have just left it mysteriously bereft of activity and magically sealed the doors until the appropriate time. I had to no-clip my way in just to restore the immersion ( :P ), but I couldn’t walk around once inside: The invisible wall was a single volume that pushed me to its boundaries if clipping was on. I left the doors alone to avoid any real spoilers, but jeez!

    Bethesda has also seen fit to stop me from jumping from many high places like a bridge in Solitude and Dragonreach’s back porch. Sure, they prevent you from being dumb, especially since you can’t train yourself into some sort of Michael Jordon kangaroo-cat monstrosity like in the previous games, but I can’t even jump on top of most of the parapets I’ve encountered. I want to perch and be at risk of falling, darn it! Again, Mirror’s Edge does this nicely.

    And then there’s the restricted controls of Skyrim’s intro sequence before the dragon shows up. It reeked of Duty, and I wish they had the guards push you or knock you out instead. I love Skyrim, I really do, but I have half a mind to fix some of that hand-holding once I finish playing. I love Bethesda for letting people mod these games.

    Well…that turned out kinda long…a peev-based response for a peev-based article, I guess. And holy cow is this comment thread long! There’s nothing else on the first page! :D

    Edit: Slight reply-fail…this was directed at the first comment posted.

  42. Hyomoto says:

    Yes, you shouldn’t do something amazing in a cut scene and then expect the player to drive their character around (Yes you, Code Veronica), and quitting should certainly be an easy process (honestly, I usually just Alt-F4). Some of these things are fine, but let me rant will you?

    Checkpoints? Oh, I’m sorry, was the big bad game so hard for you? No, the issue here is having a game that is game a hallway. Examine Hitman 2; you have a wide variety of options and ways to handle your mission, and if you fudge it, you may still be able to salvage it. You can lose, but there are so many ways to win, it isn’t a chore to try again. In fact, playing it over is part of the fun: trying to find new and inventive ways to win, or setting a personal goal and trying to achieve it (I’ll kill him in the bathroom with the toaster!). No, checkpoints are a symbol of a simple-minded experience. If a game is so dull that its reward is completing it, perhaps you should be more bothered by the fact your goal is to stop playing than that it forces you to play it over.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’m sorry, it says here your license to rant has been revoked.

      Also, can’t you save at arbitrary points in Hitman 2?

      • Hyomoto says:

        Yes, but it was up to the user and restricted by difficulty. On easy you could save five times I believe, and on the hardest difficulty, only once. My example is about how a game like Hitman 2 didn’t feel like a chore to play because it was very dynamic and trying again wasn’t rage worthy (“I’ve got to watch this scene … AGAIN!?”) It was all up in the air, and trying again just gave you a chance to do just that.

  43. wu wei says:

    Rule 5.3: best onomatopoeia ever.

  44. Sunjammer says:

    God I hate this series of articles so damn much. As a game developer, it drives me up the fucking walls that the press seems like they’ve earned the right to define what makes good or bad design. It’s one thing to complain about a grievance, it’s another entirely to suggest a solution, which is ignorant of the inextricable nature of technology limitations versus game design ambition. Say my tech doesn’t support wide open roaming worlds, yet my narrative would sure like to show you a forest. I guess I can’t now because you can’t grasp the notion of a beaten path. I suppose you’d rather not have the forest scene, because the invisible walls would just be too god damn much for you to deal with?

    What this article, and its ilk, basically say, is “stop doing things that aren’t ideal, do ideal things instead”, which is such, such childish bullshit. Vote with your money, not whiny posts on the internet. I promise you, smarter dudes than you are behind the things you’d rather they didn’t do; there are more variables at play than most players understand, more people, more politics, more money and more reality.

    I’m not saying it’s not right to be annoyed by things. But to be a consumer and arrogantly assume you have more creative say than in how you spend your money is a fundamental misunderstanding that makes you look real, real dumb.

    System Shock 2 has horrendous music, hideous graphics and is one of the best games I’ve ever played. Gamers need to learn to live with such compromise and praise the amazing moments where things really do come together ideally, rather than endlessly bitch about the times that doesn’t happen.

    • Mman says:

      Here’s various ways I can think of to handle this Forest hypothetical:

      1. Keep character movement limitations consistent and provide physical barriers rather than invisible walls.

      2. Temporarily change the gameplay or storytelling in such a way that things such as invisible walls are irrelevant. Such as using things like text segments to describe things hard/costly to portray in normal gameplay.

      3. Get better tech. Maybe a few years ago tech complaints would be valid for something like this, but now, when there are free engines that can handle entire islands and similar?

      4. Change the story so a Forest isn’t needed or is done in a way where things like artificial barriers make sense (like a dream). Yes, this is a valid method, and many good ideas have come from working within limitations rather than trying to butt heads with them.

      That’s just some generalised things I came up with in a short time, let alone what someone (or multiple people) devoted to it could come up with to get around this seeming issue.

    • Ernesto25 says:

      It was constructive criticism and if you haven’t noticed he does review these for a living you can’t say “nah not buying the game” after you play the game. Let me be immersed i hate invisible walls even in games i like such as dishonored, let me quick save we have progressed from pac man i shouldn’t have to restart these from idiotic checkpoints. these are legitimate suggestions some of which were common place 5-10years ago how hard can it be?

    • Senior Super Couch says:

      First of all, that last paragraph is brilliant, and I agree with it entirely. Now for the bad part: Sunjammer, I understand what you’re trying say, but critics, as, you know, critics, have a right to say whatever the fuck they want. They speak for the gaming public and if certain design choices annoy the hell out of the gaming public then they can say whatever they want to about those choices, including suggesting alternatives. I understand there are myriad reasons for those kinds of things to appear in the game, and sometimes it’s absolutely inevetable, due to time or budget constraints or poor management or whatever number of shitty problems game makers face these days, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to be subjected to garbage design, regardless of the reasons behind it. As game designers and creators, you guys (who I respect the hell out of, near any job in the games industry is the polar opposite of a picnic) have the right to make a game however you see fit and however you are able, and as critics and as consumers, we retain the right to say whatever the bollocking hell we want to about your game whether it’s positive, negative, uninformed, ignorant, or just plain stupid.

      Yes, I can see why you’re angry, and yes, it sucks for the carpenter when some random consumer tells him the rocking chair he slaved over for hours and hours slowly chiseling and shaving at isn’t comfortable, but if it’s not comfortable, than the carpenter fucked up, and to the consumer and critic all that time and work he spent making the thing is invisible. All that matters to the critic and the buyer is the end product, and if the end product makes the player/sitter want to stick a gun in his mouth, then it’s his prerogative to say so. If he tells the carpenter he should’ve used a different lathe or whatever, he may be wrong, but it’s absolutely his right to say so, no matter how incorrect or annoying it may be.

      Tl;dr: Yes, it’s hard as hell to make a game, or for that matter anything creative, but to the consumer and the critic, all we see is the finished product. If it sucks, or contains elements that suck, then it is our right to say whatever we want about the creation, whether it be criticism or alternative design suggestions. It’s the developer’s right not to listen, but it’s not the developers right to tell someone they can’t say something. Imagine if games journalists said developers had no right to write about games because they lacked the professional experience of writing for a publication. That would be complete and utter nonsense.

      Wow, long for my first post ever. Geezus. Anyways, that’s my fifty pence.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Yeah. Personally as a writer, I certainly hope that people will tell me if they think my writing sucks and why. I may or may not agree with them, but I need that kind of feedback to grow as a writer. I certainly don’t consider myself the final authority on what is good writing, or insist that critics go out and write a novel of their own before commenting on mine. A certain degree of humility and openness towards the audience befits any creative professional.

        • Sunjammer says:

          Okay so just to be clear, I didn’t intend to say that people shouldn’t criticize; They should. It would be much more palatable to me simply if this article series was a series of don’ts, as that makes for fairly distilled, pointed general critique of how games are made, and that might actually have some merit.

          What bothers me is the suggestions of how to do things instead, because you cannot make such generalized suggestions in a vacuum. When building a game there is always hundreds if not thousands of moments when you bang your head into the wall over something you’d like to do but can’t, or something you have to solve with a hack rather than with a proper solution simply because a) you are not the lead programmer and the lead programmer is stressed out over something bigger or b) you don’t have the time. It’s not even as if this article deals with flat out issues and bugs; It deals with sets of nice-to-haves. You can’t make pointed critique of missing nice-to-haves.

          There isn’t a magical catchall technology that will always allow you to do all things. For instance, XCOM doesn’t have randomized maps because implementing it in UnrealEngine would require engine modification severe enough to make that feature economically unviable. That is a perfectly valid excuse.

          If you’ve climbed what felt like a sheer cliff with your pinky fingers, come out on the other end hoping maybe you get to eat next month, some prick showing up telling you maybe you should have used your full hands instead is maddening. It’s not about whether the customer has a right to complain; Of course they can complain. But don’t be arrogant pricks about it and assume attempts were not made to please. A simple “don’t buy this game” will do, thanks very much, and we can all strive to better ourselves in the future.

          Anyway this is a sore point for me and I should probably stfu now :-) But thanks for listening

          • Senior Super Couch says:

            Well understood, Sunjammer :). I probably didn’t make it clear enough in my first post, but whatever I may think about design intent and journalistic free speech I understand that the vast majority of game developers go to hell and back when they make a game, and I respect the bejeezus out of that. You guys never cease to impress me, and this attitude of shitting all over “niggles” or little quirks of the game or engine just to find something negative to say gets old real fast. That said, for the most part, I personally don’t think this series of articles is doing that at all. But, opinion is opinion, that’s the beauty of it after all.

            I once read about a film producer who would stand up and clap at the end of every movie he saw, regardless of budget or quality. He did so simply because he realized what a monumental undertaking creating a film from scratch was, and understanding the tremendous work and effort involved gave him respect for anyone able to actually finish so monumental a thing and get it released. More often than not, we fans tend to lose that mentality. I think we should speak up when we have problems with something, but equally we should make sure to be vocal about the wonder and delight that comes from inhabiting another world, another person, or another mind state for a given amount of time.

            After all, we are all here because we love games, and if we bitch about them, it’s just because we want the medium we love to get better. Video Games.