Rules For Games: Do & Don’t #7

There has been confusion in the past over whether our stating something on RPS has direct impact on the whole of the games industry. When we suggest, say, there should be more female lead characters, awful people become enraged, certain that our commands will be obeyed ruining their manly games with ponytails and copies of More magazine. Let us just make it absolutely clear that when it comes to our immediate and all-encompassing influence, this is definitely the case. Here are more rules developers are obliged to follow.

DO let me run the game in a window. I’m bemused we haven’t included this one before, and I’m pleased to report that just the assumption that RPS would be demanding it has seen this rapidly become the norm for PC gaming over the last couple of years. But there are still exceptions. No longer is it true that your game requires a PC’s undivided attention, and there are just so very many reasons why someone might want to be able to click outside of your game to do something else, without a cataclysmic alt-tab seeing monitors flash, sirens sound, and flocks of birds flutter away from nearby trees.

DON’T force me to set difficulty levels at the start of the game, and then refuse to allow me to change it. Difficulty levels are there to let me tweak the game to be the optimal playing experience. I’m not playing your game to take part in an international tournament – I’m entertaining myself. If I find, as I play, that my entertainment would be improved were it to be more or less difficult, that is when I would turn to the difficulty slider. I do not care about a league table you think anyone other than three people all called variants of “D4RK_D3STROY3RR” is ever going to look at. And I care more about the career prospects of a Maltese mayfly than I do whether I’ll be able to get all the “achievements” you’ve made available for those whose sense of self worth is so low that a hastily scrawled jpeg appearing on their own game launcher is of any import.

DO allow me to choose whether your game keeps running when I click outside the window it’s running in. While my instinct is to demand that games psychically be able to tell if I want them to pause or keep running when I click outside of them, I’m willing to concede that the technology is not quite there yet. So instead a compromise – let me choose. Sometimes I want a game to pause mid-cutscene, or at a vital point, when I am forced to respond to an IM or send an email. Other times I want your slow-ass game to get on with its current tedious nothing-time while I check through Twitter.

DON’T ask me if I’m sure about every single thing I do. Again, here I ultimately want the psychic detection systems in place, so games can only ask me this when I have somehow clicked to close the game instead of return to it, and not when I haven’t, but again I’m exhibiting unusual levels of tolerance here in allowing intermediary measures. On this occasion, how about you don’t warn me I’m going to save over an older save game when I’ve had to overwrite an older one due to your ludicrous paucity of save slots, by laboriously double-clicking on one in order to make it available. It’s hard to do that by mistake. And talking of which…

DO allow me to make as many saves as I wish, until my HDD is full. My PC, as much as it may frighten you, is not a Sega Dreamcast. It has a great big hard drive, thousands of gigabytes all over the place, and this is more than enough room to slot in more than nine of your 300k save files. While absolutely no bastard is taking any notice of one of my earliest rules, that save files should be in one agreed location (something that Unity games have made a billion times worse – thanks) I can assure you that my PC is going to cope with as many of them as I wish to create, and I do not need to be sacrificing earlier saves in order to have – at the very least – a save at the start of each of your game’s levels. You dick.

DON’T have your game dump back to the end of the main menu, with no changes, after completion. So few games seem to understand this. If I’ve enjoyed your game enough to finish it, then I’ve developed a connection with it. Most people don’t finish most games, as awful as that makes humanity, so when someone does, it’s worthy of note. A game’s close is always sad – it’s the reason why game endings always seem so flat, so disappointing, no matter how hard they try. After 15 or 25 or 100 hours of interaction, the ending means all of that is coming to an end – this distraction that’s occupied me for so long is no longer here. Game endings are, I think it’s safe to say, like experiencing abandonment. So when this is met with flopping back to the same opening menu I’ve already seen thirty times, the lack of empathy with my situation borders on contempt. I finished you! We stuck together through thick and thin! And now it’s over and you’re like, “Oh, right, who were you again?” You have to acknowledge it! The screen now needs a new background, a la Portal, or new menu options clearly displayed that celebrate the new levels of our relationship. You just have to act like you care – just at least pretend that I wasn’t yet another of your sluts, tossed aside with a cavalier uninterest. Sniff.

The Complete Rules For Games can be read here. And by “can”, I mean, “must be on penalty of grisly death”.


  1. P7uen says:

    Superb stuff, couldn’t agree more.

    Re: windowed mode: can we include an amendment about choosing to lock mouse movement to the window? Let alone mouse-scrolling, I’m trying through KOTOR2 now on a dual monitor setup, and even full screen my mouse goes to the other monitor, causing terrible things to happen when I click.

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      Uncanny coincidence, I am experiencing exactly the same situation as you are with KOTOR2 right now. I can confirm that it is particularly annoying.

      • P7uen says:

        Ha, glad I’m not alone! If you’re stupid enough to have formed the habit of turning 270 degrees left instead of 90 degrees right like I have, I think we should get married.

    • tehfish says:

      Indeed, it’s incredibly annoying.

      I found this primarylock program when having the same problem with skyrim, fixes all other games too :)
      link to

    • Lemming says:

      While I agree with the sentiment, I think it’s a bit unfair to cite a game that pre-dates common dual-monitor set ups. We are talking about a system where even Windows hasn’t managed to let you have two different wallpapers natively . Let’s direct the ire at Windows itself, rather than a superb slightly over-the-hill game!

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Ultramon adds most of the features you could want for multiple monitors (seperate backgrounds, taskbars on secondary monitors, ‘move to other monitor’ buttons etc.).
        I just realised I’d been running a pirate version for years and just bought it. It is almost £40 though.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        While there are still a thousand things that could be done better with multi monitors in windows. On my current Windows 8.1 I have separate wallpapers and even the auto-rotation of the wallpaper list switches them separately. I don’t know if that’s something new for .1 or if it was in 8.0 too. :)
        There are even some special task bar settings when you have two or more monitors plugged in (to show it on one or all, show window buttons depending on its current screen and grouping setting).
        Edit: There is also some new multi-desktop fluff in the AMD Catalyst beta.

    • Talonek says:

      Mouse going of screen is a pain in the ass for RTS games, as they don’t scroll in the direction that your desktop is extended.

  2. thekeats1999 says:

    I would like to expand the last one. Not just a menu or background that shows I have completed the game. I would like more games to use the New Game + method.

    I want to go back and play the game again with everything unlocked feeling like some ancient biblical destroyer as I reek havoc on all who stood in my way previously.

    Also a big YES to the adjustable difficulty. I can’t remember how many times I have been part way through a game and found I was breezing through it yet couldn’t make it any more difficult other than replaying the last three hours of the bloody tutorial (same applies to it being too difficult).

    • serioussgtstu says:

      I was about to post the exact same thing about new game plus, many games with progression mechanics deserve this option. Progression isn’t usually very fun a second time around, and seen as how cheats have gone the way of the dinosaur, I’d like to see them replaced with more enjoyable replayability.

      I was recently disappointed to find that Tomb Raider 2013 didn’t have this option, and I’m just not going to start a fresh game, no matter how pretty Lara’s hair looks.

      • derbefrier says:

        Yes! I was so happy the new shadow warrior had this mode. I was able to crank up the difficulty and have fun all over again. Good stuff

      • thekeats1999 says:

        This is my biggest complaint about Strider (the other being no fast travel system other than the Panther). A game perfect for New Game +.

    • Klydefrog says:

      Yes! Also ideally, especially in RPGs I want everyone in the game to exclaim about how powerful I am and perhaps how I’ve already heroically completed the game as I walk past them. I realise this makes me seem very insecure, but I just feel like those games that do allow you to replay them in a new game plus type mode don’t ever seem to acknowledge that, which can actually lead to the same abandonment feelings as the menu not changing. I feel like I haven’t explained this very well but hopefully someone knows what I mean.

    • The Random One says:

      Man, just having a different title screen would appease me. Mario Kart 64, only you truly understand me.

    • El_Emmental says:

      Spec Ops: The Line has a new main menu screen (made of an ingame scene, with wind and sand storm) after you complete each mission/stage, and a new main menu once you finish the game.

      Difficulty level can be changed at every mission, and will be suggested if you die too often over the same part.

      Sadly, most people hate that game for not being better than the Heart of Darkness book, thanks to a handful of people (journos iirc) who pretended it was that wonderful (when the developers were much more careful about the writing/story-telling quality of their game, only citing some “inspirations”). Another case of a good game ruined by useless hype.

  3. Spacewalk says:

    You’re damn right a PC isn’t a Dreamcast; no Powerstone ;_;

  4. Chiron says:

    Oh god the Save folders… the save folders. I just stay as far from the My Documents/My Games/ folder as I can, there are great lost tribes of Civ4 games in here and I think the Assassins Creed saves have transcended to the next level.

    • Talonek says:

      They have become self-aware…

    • bstard says:

      Lately I moved my CK2 saves to the NAS backup. Now I know PCs has lots of storage but as it turns out 50gb of saves were the reason it took like 1 minute before the save list popped up ;)

    • Baines says:

      I just stay away from “My Documents” in general, at least as much as possible. All the programs I install make it impossible to navigate or to manage files there. Not that programs even care, as some instead use “%user%” as their dumping ground. I have legitimately lost files in the My Documents part of the file tree.

      As for finding save games, I’ve gotten to where I don’t even try when I move PCs. The saves are everywhere. Documents, My Games, Saved Games, SavedGames, AppData\Local, AppData\LocalLow, AppData\Roaming, the game’s Program Files directory, the registry (and how I hate when games use the system registry as their save game space), whatever I’ve forgotten to list, and whatever other random path or typo the programmer managed. And, of course, let’s not forget the occasional game that saves in %user%.

      I don’t care obsessively about Steam Cloud saves, right up until I move to a new PC installation…

    • Gazdgod says:

      Save game folders all over the place are a nightmare. What I’ve resorted to doing is creating a single “save games” folder, containing shortcuts to all of the save files for my installed games. Even at that, there are some games where finding the saves can be notoriously difficult. It surely can’t be that much of a chore for developers to allow users to choose their save games’ location.

  5. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Remember Operation Flashpoint?

    One save. One fucking save. Bastard game.

    • Volcanu says:

      Ha. Not to mention you could (speaking from bitter experience) use that save just seconds prior to being riddled with bullets, with no possible means of escape.

    • Ernesto says:

      But you could overwrite that save by hitting Ctrl + NumpadPlus and then typing savegame… or something similar. It’s kind of cheating, but I wouldn’t have finished it otherwise.

    • Colej_uk says:

      I’m probably in the minority here, but I loved that limitation. Saving was an important decision to make, and I had to think about where and when to use it. I liked that a lot.

      Frequent saving with no limitations is often a sure fire way to kill tension in a lot of games. To some it will be worth it in order to save themselves from the frustration of loosing some progress, but I would rather have that risk looming over me as it makes the dangerous scenarios presented in games actually feel dangerous.

      The ideal solution is to just give players the options, like in Thief.

    • Guvornator says:

      Yeah, but you felt like a the King Of All the World when you finished the missions, especially the one were (spoiler) you were on your your own in the forest. It wouldn’t have been as tense with multiple saves. And if you think that’s bad, the first PC version of Alien V Predator had no saves until they were patched in. So I think there are good design reasons to limit the amount of save games.

      It think John is talking more about the situation I have with Fifa 13. There are 10 save slots, plus 3 autosaves. For everything. I have 2 career modes on the go, so that means only 5 slots each, plus an autosave that may or may not be there depending on how long you play (it saves after every match, in any of the 3 autosave slots). Oh, and Fifa 13 corrupts saves*. There’s no good reason to limit the saves, because you can’t save during the match, so you can’t save scum your way through that tricky fixture. The only reason it’s there is to stop console types from filling up their HDs – except, like ALL GAMES EVER you can delete the save games from within the game. So you don’t even have to venture into the (relatively) fiddly bits of your console’s OS. It’s weird and stupid and I hate it.

      *extremely rarely, but frankly once is more than enough

      • Volcanu says:

        Oh yes that forest mission was a right bee-hutch to complete. But oh so satisfying when you did. I’m still really quite proud of beating OF, it was incredibly unforgiving but that did get the adrenaline pumping when you had nearly completed a mission, had killed numerous enemies and then all of a sudden bullets start fizzing around your ears and you cant spot your assailant.

        The last mission where you have to intercept the enemy general in the UAZ was also a toughie. Mmmm, nostalgia.

    • TWChristine says:

      It’s funny you mention that as I’m playing through ARMA 2 right now, doing my little saves as I go, revelling in the pop ups of Game Saved. While I agree that the one save really made the alone mission that much more tense, I think I would’ve liked to have known that was going to be the case as opposed to saving somewhere near the beginning and not realizing it wasn’t saving anymore until I died further on, and then thinking it was just a bug. It was also a pain with that mission because it was just sooooo long! Running for cover to a bush…sitting there for 10 minutes as I surveyed the open ground..watching and memorizing the patrols..hoping I didn’t miss one that would be in the woods behind me when I finally line up that perfect shot in front. It did give me some intense memories through…just could’ve done without the multiple hours and playthroughs it took.

      • Volcanu says:

        I might be wrong but couldn’t you increase the game speed in OF? I’m sure I remember eventually just pegging it as fast as I could with the speed turned up to full…..

        • TWChristine says:

          Indeed you could! I tried to make a run for it like you mention, but I always ended up getting killed. :/ In the end, I would only use it in the areas where I had memorized the patrols/knew there were none. Or if I wanted to just get my crawling from forest to bush over with!

  6. DrollRemark says:

    The only confirmation dialog should be on clicking the “Exit to desktop” button whilst mid-game.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Speaking of which DO allow us to exit to desktop from within-game

      • Tuhalu says:

        Yes please!

        I think some of the biggest transgressors here are console ports (big surprise?). One example I ran into lately was the Steam version of “Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst”. If there was a story scene happening, you had to play (or skip) through the entire thing, get hit by an auto save (too bad if you didn’t want to save quite yet!), then go the menu screen, then press the correct button in the menu to exit to a game start screen, then exit the game start screen to the title screen and then you can finally choose to exit the game.


        • P.Funk says:

          AssCreed 1 PC port…. mother of god….

          Coincidentally, it also would revert to windowed mode at any attempt to alt tab from full screen.

      • Rizlar says:

        Thought the ‘don’t dump me back on the menu’ was about to address this. But yes! Don’t make me go throught two menus to quit the game, only to reload the game’s start menu.

      • AndiK says:

        Try hitting Alt+F4. In my experience, this works for most games even if they don’t explicitly offer this in their menu.

      • GameCat says:

        I’m bored with this game
        Of endless stabbing and stealth
        So I will close it
        But I think I need some help

        Escape to call menu
        Then click quit
        Do you really want it?
        Yes, no, fuck you
        Just let me quit
        Just let me quit

        I woke up in some machine
        which have old latin name
        I think I’m trapped forever
        everything seems to be the same

        Escape to call menu
        Then click quit
        Do you really want it?
        Yes, no, fuck you
        Just let me quit
        Just let me quit

        I’m still in the game
        Just please let me die
        cause it’s just a nightmare
        I think I’ll stab my own eyes

        Escape to call menu
        Then click quit
        Do you really want it?
        Yes, no, fuck you
        Just let me quit
        Just let me quit

        Disclaimer: I wanted to make a list of moves you need to close first AssCreed, edned up with song, lol.

        • Zekiel says:

          I was going to mention this! Your way was far superior to mine.

          Still can’t believe the designers didn’t think that one through a bit better. Did anyone playtest that game??

      • unit 3000-21 says:

        I am replaying Dawn of War Dark Crusade right now and I must say that amongst its many virtues “Quit to Desktop” button is the greatest. I simply cannot recall any recent game with that most wonderful of all options and it makes me quite sad.

        I also seem to recall a game in which you could turn off the “Are You Really Sure?” popups, sadly I do not remember what game it was.

      • The Random One says:

        Alt + F4 usually does the trick, and when it doesn’t Mr. Task Manager comes out to play.

    • mistwolf says:

      Don’t go! The drones need you!

    • TiagoTiago says:

      For anything that the player might regret accidentally doing (other than more realtimey things like movement), a confirmation is pretty much essential. But obviously confirmations aren’t for everyone, so a “don’t show me this again” checkbox (with accompanying reset option somewhere int he options screen) would be ideal.

  7. sophof says:

    Oh man, that last Don’t has been bugging me for ages and I didn’t even realise it until now!

    • guidom says:

      I really noticed the truth of this when I finished Saints Row 4, and it had an awesome little dance-off scene with All Your Favourite characters. After such a fun game it was nice to have an irreverent and ridunculous ending scene.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Yes! I don’t understand how developers can graduate from developer school without knowing all of these rules.

  9. Viroso says:

    I wish whenever possible games had console commands or some way of allowing the player easy access to the game’s innards.

    I say this as someone who doesn’t cheat in games, I wish every game allowed the player to cheat the hell out of it.

    It doesn’t ruin the game, fact.

  10. MartinWisse says:

    Actually, y’all did mention the “do let me run this in a window” before, and also the “do let me have unlimited saves”.

    So erm, new rule for journalists/bloggers/strike through what’s not applicable: do read old installments in a series so as to not repeat yourself?

  11. Ramshackle Thoughts says:

    Don’t provide a splash screen of the game’s title where the only option is to return to the main menu. So if I click Escape too many times on my way to leave I don’t have to go through profile and configuration loading, AGAIN, just so I can quit to the desktop.

    • konondrum says:

      Yes! Spelunky (one of my absolute favorite game Of the past few years) makes this mistake, and it still manages to piss me off at least a couple times a week.

  12. olemars says:

    As a do for the second don’t, I’d like to be able to delete more than one save game at a time without having to hunt for whatever obscure save game location a game uses. Too often it’s click save slot, click delete, click yes I’m sure, click yes I’m really sure, wait for list to rebuild, repeat x50.

    • Zekiel says:

      YES. This was a problem with the Witcher 2. For some bizarre reason it wouldn’t let you overwrite old saves (??!). But it also took longer to load the more saves you had. (???!) And you had to laboriously delete save files one at a time.

      Wonder if they’ve patched that yet?

      • Gnoupi says:

        Not to mention the size of those save files, easily accumulating to a few gb, if you are an adept of the quick save key…

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Nothing beats XCOM EU’s utterly broken save system. Once you got over a certain amount of saves, it stopped even attempting to impose any order on them at all, and when you tried to delete older saves to make the list behave again, it mattered not that you clicked on save #27 and pressed delete. Oh no. It deleted YOUR MOST RECENT SAVE REGARDLESS.

          Had that happen a few times before I figured out how to manage it. I forget what that was, but I know it took effing forever. I suspect it was because Firaxis hated me for saving.

  13. Surlywombat says:

    Not sure anyone has used achievements based on difficulty as a “reason” to not let you change it, if they have they should be shot. There are plenty of games which have achievements based on “starting and finishing a game at a certain difficulty without changing it”.

    I do actually quite like achievements. As such I would like to suggest some rules for achievements:

    – Achievements should be achievable. Theres a minor trend to put in achievements which are impossible.. why?
    – Then there is a massive trend you can’t avoid getting just by loading the game up.
    – Don’t go overboard. There are games out the with 100s of achievements. These tend to be massive amounts of filler achievements.
    – Only add achievements that will add something to the game. I think the Gnome achievement in l4d2 is the perfect example of what to aim for, it changes how you play the entire campaign.

    Basically – please put some bloody effort in and come up with interesting ones or just don’t bother.

    • Chiron says:

      “Congratulations, you have started the game!” Achievement

      I really hate Steam achievements, find them pointless.

      • GameCat says:

        And then:
        You achieved “Achive 1 achievment” achievment.

    • John Walker says:

      I’m afraid a number of games have done this. I believe Medal Of Honor did it.

      • Frosty840 says:

        I vaguely recall that at least one game I played stated in its Achievements listing that you’d get whichever difficulty-based completion awards you’d earned, and that the game would monitor the lowest difficulty level you used during your playthrough to determine that level.

        • TheMightyEthan says:

          Not a PC game, but that’s how the Halo games do it.

      • P.Funk says:

        Why not treat changing the difficulty level mid game the same way most games treat using cheat codes?

        I seriously don’t understand the harsh conformist culture of consoles.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Tales Of Maj’Eyal has 1,225 achievements. No idea how many of those are filler, but jesus.

      • eddparsons says:

        Of course this number is vastly inflated by there being 9 different versions of each achievement depending on difficulty level / roguelike mode (Normal, Roguelike, Exploration, Nighmare, Nightmare Roguelike, Insane, Insane Roguelike, Madness, Madness Roguelike)

      • Fumarole says:

        Last night I played One Finger Death Punch for the first time. I played for 13 minutes and received 17 achievements.

    • jezcentral says:

      The impossible achievements seen to be there to give people a reason to play a game for dozens, or even hundreds, of hours, to make them think they have got value for money. I don’t do this, because I’m at that stage in life where I have money, but no time. I enjoy achievements for what they are, a diversion that can sometimes enhance the game, but it irritates me that I have loads of games where I have all but one or two achievements, because I won’t grind for them. Take Limbo. I have all but one of the achievements for that game. But to get that final one, I would have top finish the game in one sitting, dying less than than five times. No. That would take me dozens of hours. Not going to happen. Achievements for getting to level 100 in Frozen Synapse, or Borderland’s Mad Moxxi’s Underdome stuff are just grind-fests.

      Some, like TF2’s Mutually Air-sured Destruction are so ridiculous, I refuse to believe people get them without farming it with a friend.

      • rikvanoostende says:

        Wasn’t there a game where you get an achievement if you play a match against someone who previously played a match against someone who previously played a match against someone who previously played a match against someone who previously played a match against the Sid Meier?

        “Six Degrees to Sid” in Civilization 5, I think. That was a [female dog] to achieve.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          In L4D there was an achievement called Outbreak, that you’d get if you were vomited on by someone playing a boomer who already had the achievement. I assume they seeded it by a few Valve dev’s joining multiplayer games.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        Sometimes just dicking around in a game trying to get achievements can be a lot of fun. We use to do it in the days before achivements were a *thing* – see how tall a tower of players we could build in CS and that sort of thing.

        • jezcentral says:

          Oh, I agree, but ones requiring weeks of solid play definitely preclude the term “dicking around” to get them. :)

        • P.Funk says:

          But that was more fun because it was an organic expression of you childlike creativity in exploring your sandbox.

          One of my favourite memories of my early gaming life was about Day of Defeat Classic. I was a die hard regular on a 23/7 Charlie server. 23 hours a day it would be D-Day. That 24th hour however the server admin would orchestrate crazy non-standard house games. My fav was playing hide and seek on dod_forest. The allies would be unarmed and the axis would have nothing but their trench tools. The map was cool because it was a forest where you could hide in the blobby textures of the trees and stand on the branch polys. I remember the first time when I had no idea where to hide. Desperately trying to find a bush. or a ledge above a tree and timing the jump right, praying you wouldn’t be THAT guy the hunters found vainly jumping at the base of a tree.

          In my opinion achievements kill the joy of discovery because most of the game is filled with reminders that what you think you discovered was put there to be found and tallied.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Another one to add to that list, when doing difficulty based achievements the achievement should be to complete the game on AT LEAST that difficulty. Not ON that difficulty on AT LEAST that difficulty.

      Yes there are plenty of games out there that even if you complete it on super duper, OMG! What type of sick bastards are you, extremely, unbelievably hard difficulty level it will not give you the achievements for beating the game on easy, medium or hard settings…you have to play through and complete the game on that specific difficulty to get the achievement…for each difficulty!

    • soulblur says:

      Good achievements either

      1. make you play the game in a different way than you normally would, say, by adding structure or mini-challenges to a free-form game,
      2. make you aware of things you didn’t realise (hopefully without being spoilers) or encourage you to explore different areas or facets of the game,
      3. or are funny.

      Example of 2 (this is a spoiler for Deus Ex: Human Revolution): I didn’t know you could keep the pilot alive until I hit the end of the game and looked at the achievements. I had tried to keep her alive several times, but eventually assumed she was scripted to die. Evidently not.

      Example of 1: most of the achievements in Paradox strategy games. The games tend to be very free-form – you define what you want to accomplish. Achievements give you some structure or goal to work towards (although I’m not convinced that all of their achievements are in fact achievable without gaming the system).

      • KevinLew says:

        I absolutely agree with you on this. Achievements should be used to make the player realize that there’s more than just one way to solve a problem, point them toward a hidden objective that they may have missed, or maybe just get them to explore more and not rush through the game. In other words, make the game more interesting and more fun. That’s why I think achievements are totally fine in the grand design of video games.

        However, I think that since all console games require achievements, some game developers have stopped caring about them and they implement just really boring and bad ones just to get the requirement out of the way. In my opinion, the most lazy ones are for beating the game on (x) difficulty or under (y) time limit. I understand why they are designed that way. It’s to make a so-called exclusive club of people that can beat the game at the hardest settings. But at the very core, it’s just really bad game design and it doesn’t really help anybody in the end.

        The difficulty one is the easiest to explain. If you think about it, everybody has different skill levels and therefore their personal enjoyment can be tied into the difficulty. All the achievement is telling gamers is to play at a difficulty level that’s harder (or easier) than what they’d like. This just makes the game either super-frustrating or flat-out boring–depending on which direction they are being pushed–and this basically makes the player hate your game. Ironically, the opposite effect of what the developer probably they wanted.

  14. Wulfram says:

    Don’t just let me run it in a window, let me run it in a borderless window.

    Having an option to lock the difficulty to make yourself eligible for leagues/achievements/other bragging right typee thingies may be a good idea, though.

    • burth says:

      Yes, but also DON’T place this borderless window right in the center of my screen with no option to move it somewhere else. This pretty much defeats the whole purpose of using windowed mode and has happened to me with at least 3 different games recently.

  15. Lars Westergren says:

    I kind of like not being able to change difficulty. Some of the best moments I’ve had in gaming is when I’ve met an obstacle that seems insurmountable, and instead of being tempted of going “the King demands to be amused” and lowering the level, I actually had to learn new tactics and become better at the game to progress. The sense of triumph is something special.

    Perhaps a compromise could be that achievements are unlocked on completion only if you never changed difficulty level?

    • JonWood says:

      I’m far more likely to just throw my toys out of the pram and give than I am to fight through the same section of game the 500th time. I’m aware that makes me a big girls blouse, but with a new baby and a massive backlog of games to play I just don’t have the motivation to carry on playing a game once its frustrating me.

      • Lars Westergren says:

        I didn’t mean to be a tough guy on the internet. I have also lowered difficulties on many occasions, and I’m totally fine with people doing it.

        Sometimes the challenge can be nice though. In XCom: EU you couldn’t change difficulty if on “hardcore” right?

        • mattevansc3 says:

          I’d say LA Noire got it right by giving you the option to skip a section if you failed it three times, it was classed as a fail for achievements and scoring and blocked off some avenues (doing well would give you more clues or more story options) but it allowed people who weren’t good on the driving sections such as myself the option to continue enjoying the parts of the game we paid for.

    • John Walker says:

      You forget about going in the other direction. Being able to put the difficulty up is often very important for enjoying a game.

      • Premium User Badge

        Velorien says:

        This is the only thing that makes Blizzard ARPG III v2.0 playable for me. Now, even a new character can skip all the way to Master difficulty, the penultimate, instead of the old system where you had to complete the entire game on Normal before the very concept of difficulty made its appearance.

        Of course, now I’m on Master difficulty, instead of the monsters dying instantly, I die instantly because of killer lag in an always-online game. But I guess every step in the right direction counts.

        Edit: the original version of this post got eaten. I vaguely remember talk of a filter that affected mentions of the game in question. Is that still on? What exactly is it meant to accomplish?

        • Sam says:

          Cyberwitches were using the comments systems of popular video game websites to perform the rituals for summoning that-which-must-not-be-named.
          Turns out Castle Shotgun is on a powerful layline. Who knew?

  16. PopeRatzo says:

    The end of Saints Row IV wasn’t sad, it was exhilarating, hilarious, and caused me to call my wife over to watch with me and even got me out of my seat to bust a move.

    When it comes to a game that shows a little respect to its audience, Saints Row IV is right up there. And in the most important measurement, giving value for the not insignificant price, it was stellar.

  17. stiffkittin says:

    Fantastic additions. Now where’s your much promised one of these for Kickstarter pitches John?

    Also have a few pointed suggestions for Steam Greenlight videos but that is one nasty tangle of paradoxical and deranged expectations there – I fear therein lies madness.

  18. princec says:

    IMHO having difficulty levels is a sign that the design isn’t quite right in the first place.

    And another thing from the developers’ perspective: wouldn’t it be lovely to add some special unlock graphics and game mode when you complete a game? We could spend another £10k developing that feature, just for the 1% of players who complete the game. If only the other 99% would feel happy paying for its development knowing they’ll never see it.

    • Volcanu says:

      Except all John was really asking for was a different title screen or some small token to acknowledge completion. I’m not sure changing the main menu screen backdrop (like many old SNES or N64 games used to do) would cost “£10k”.

      It’s just a nice, simple little touch that adds some satisfaction when you’ve completed a game. You sigh with satisfaction and think “ah, my work here is done”

      • princec says:

        Kinda spoils it for the next player though, no?

        • TheMightyEthan says:

          How common is someone playing through a game on someone else’s account really though?

        • Volcanu says:

          Eh? Do you mean if you have multiple people playing the game on the same account?

          If so, I wouldn’t go as far to say “spoils it”. It would just mean no change when they too completed it. Which is the case with most games anyway. And I would have thought multiple people playing the same game on the same account would be a very small minority (less than 1%).

          • princec says:

            Very common. Think families.

          • Volcanu says:

            I suppose I assumed that the default would be that each family member has their own windows account, and through steam family sharing gets a ‘clean’ version with respect to achievements in game.

    • Zekiel says:

      No, no, no. Having difficulty levels is NOT a sign of poor design. It is something that acknowledges that not all players have the same skill. One player’s “hard enough” Quake is very different from another’s. Not including difficulty levels is either a sign that you think the story is the main thing (so you’ve made the game deliberately very easy) – which is fine, but definitely not for every game. Or its a sure-fire way to exclude 50% of potential players from you game because the only difficulty setting is either too easy for them, or too hard.

      Shamus Young wrote a very good essay on difficult – which includes the very good point that simply providing options called “Easy, Normal, Hard” (or indeed “Normal, Hard, Very Hard”) is really stupid because the player has nothing to grade against. This is 500x worse if you then have to restart the game in order to change difficulty levels.

      Sorry for rant. Pet hate.

      • Zekiel says:

        Counterpoint: someone else pointed out (in another thread further down the page) that you can have dynamically adjusting difficulty, like Half Life 2 and Left 4 Dead. implementing that would somewhat mitigate the need for difficulty levels (although it still doesn’t allow users to self-differentiate between whether they want a punishingly hard experience, or a “tell me a story” experience)

    • Gnoupi says:

      Except your skill level is not the same as someone else’s. The need for challenge is also different.

      I personally strolled through Red Faction Guerilla on the easiest setting, using little else than the sledgehammer, because I had fun running towards guards with it like a crazy person, without them gunning me down at every occasion.

    • thedosbox says:

      “IMHO having difficulty levels is a sign that the design isn’t quite right in the first place.”

      You may be right, but how does locking in a games difficulty help the customer in that case? At least with an adjustable difficulty, we can work around any issues and enjoy the game.

  19. Mikkoeronen says:

    I do disagree on the matter of changing difficulty settings. These days I play games on the hardest or second hardest difficulty setting (depends if the last option is pure insanely hard).
    This makes me to dig every possible corner of the game to find out anything that would make me help on progress. It also assures more enjoyment I get out of the game. It feels so good when I past on points I’ve been stuck at for days.
    Allowing to increase/dicrease difficulty while starting a game at hard/hardest diffficulty would be too teasing when getting stuck. It would be too tempting to decrease the difficulty at those times, atleast for me. This happened when I played Arkham City. I got stuck at joker fight for days, then finally I thought “Fine, I’ll decrease the difficulty to get past JUST this part”. But then I realised you can’t change the setting. I was actually glad! Anyway I finally got the game through and I was VERY glad and entertained that I wasn’t able to “Fool” myself with difficulty :)

    • TheMightyEthan says:

      No one would put a gun to your head and make you change the difficulty, but because you prefer not to have the option means no one else should get it either?

      • Mikkoeronen says:

        Of course not. I am just pointing out my own point of view, I don’t mind if someone else wishes to have the option.
        I am just happy if there’s a challenge and I am not able to fool myself with temptation to dicrease the diccifulty level at any time. Sometimes if I dicrease the difficulty to get past a point I get stuck at, I forget to put it back up and I play the game through too quickly.

    • Barberetti says:

      Games should have an option to lock the player to the skill setting they’ve selected before they start playing. Leave it unchecked if you want to adjust the difficulty on the fly. Everyone wins.

  20. princec says:

    Also… about saved game locations. If only there had been some sort of agreement on this 20 years ago. Sadly things have evolved in their own merry way, and we just make do.

    Of course it’d be ideal that we could set an option to specify where those savegames go, perhaps in the options screen. If the 1% of players who give a crap where savegames actually end up beyond “somewhere under my user home folder”, then it’d be nice if they ponied up the £10k fee between them to pay for it.

    • Hexagonal Pensioner says:

      Your idea about having option in game about where to put saves is wonderful. I’d previously thought it would be nice to have as an option during the installation of the game. Perhaps directly after the “where would you like to install the game” there would be a prompt to select a savegame directory. However, your idea about having option in game about where to put saves is much better.

      Someone listen to princec.

    • Sam says:

      With the notorious difficulty of budgeting for the many aspects of video game development, I’m glad to see the adoption of a solid and reasonable standard: Everything costs £10,000.
      I mean that in the most loving way possible. I just found the implied budgeting system in your two comments very amusing. Like Poundland, only expensive.

      What’s ironic is that most developers probably would need that much to implement a save file dialogue box. They’d want to integrate it in to their fancy ScaleForm UI, so it’ll be some programmer’s task to implement all the fiddly boring work of navigating directories using a set of stylish and slightly unclear UI elements.
      To avoid that, a new rule: Do use the system’s standard open/save dialogue boxes. They work better than whatever you cook up and are a lot cheaper.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        And the “We are the 1%” mantra too.

      • princec says:

        For a small studio £10k represents the amount of time that would go into the specification, implemention, and QA of a feature like that, and its subsequent maintenance over the years. That might well represent several % of the budget, and when there’s more important things to be spending the money on, that’s where the money goes. See what I’m saying here? The issues John is outlining are all perfectly real, it’s just that with the price of games at rock bottom, competition sky high, and development budgets being rather high, in a high risk industry… you can see why these features don’t get in.

    • Cinek says:

      Simple solution to the save game problem:

      Allow users to specify save game directory in config.ini

      Suddenly everyone are happy – devs can put their saves in My Documents or some obscure hidden directories, while aware users can have everything sorted in a perfect order.

  21. The Colonel says:

    Slightly uncomfortable last sentence to hear from John Walker given all of the anti-sexist stuff that’s been (rightly) pushed on RPS over the last few years.

    • John Walker says:

      You’re aware I’m referring to myself as the “slut” in that sentence?

      • The Colonel says:

        Just an uncomfortable metaphor is all I’m saying.

      • Gnoupi says:

        Still not a word I enjoy seeing, personally.

        • C0llic says:

          I dont see how you could be offended personally. Words only really have that power in the proper context, which this wasn’t.

          • derbefrier says:

            this is just what happens when you take the black and white approach to these types of issues that RPS has. john created this mentality now he has to deal with it.

          • pepperfez says:

            Even if it’s been(/is being) rehabilitated, “slut” is still an ugly-sounding word with an ugly history. It’s not crazy to cringe when you read it, whatever the context.

          • sinister agent says:

            this is just what happens when you take the black and white approach to these types of issues that RPS has. john created this mentality now he has to deal with it.

            Oh, do go away, you tiresome oaf.

      • aleander says:

        While I think I see what you did there, it’s one of those words I’d be very careful about using in jokes, especially as a man who’s unlikely (though it happens) to ever be on the receiving end of in real life serious situations. I guess I’ll add myself to the list of the people who were made a bit uncomfortable by it – and that’s *despite* me knowing perfectly well what kind of joke you were making. And even though it *should* be a good joke – it just hits a bit too close to very real things I’ve witnessed.

  22. Henson says:

    I wonder if there’s a performance issue reason behind the ‘limit the number of save files’ issue. I’ve played games made in the last six years where all load times were positively correlated to the number of save files in the designated folder; that, whenever an autosave was overwritten, the time spent doing so was affected by the save file folder size. Is this just an issue of the past, or do developers know what they’re doing?

    • Lars Westergren says:

      If the code is fine, there should be no reason why the number of saves affect load times. But there are numerous ways of screwing it up – i.e all saves are in one file in a homegrown file db format. Or having to parse a whole save file to extract things like play time and progress, so all files have to be traversed and parsed before the list of saves is displayed for the user to select one.

  23. Fenix says:

    Is it just me or did John write some parts of this in hard mode English? I mean I am pretty confident about my English reading comprehension skills but I have no idea what is going on with the grammar of this sentence:

    “And I care more about the career prospects of a Maltese may fly than I do whether I’ll be able to get all the “achievements” you’ve made available for those whose sense of self worth is low that a hastily scrawled jpeg appearing on their own game launcher is of any import.”

  24. Stevostin says:

    I usually agree with everything in this serie but quite everything (except the last point) here is pretty weak or even wrong in my view. Actually, I would like youtub to launch every video full screen by default, even with shitty res, because well, as long as I am watching it, i am watching ONLY it. Same goes for games, I just never play not full screen. I am sure some would say “ok you don’t like it, but why deprive the ones who do”. Answer is because every bloody feature takes time and is a tradeoff for another feature. So to please that gaming journalist more often than not I would be spoiled of something I’d rather have instead.

    • Eukatheude says:

      For your first issue, use firefox + smartvideo.

    • anark10n says:

      And notice how John was referring to being offered the options to run the game according to his preferences and not make them mandatory or leave them in the state they are, you know, like what other computer programs that aren’t video games allow you to do. Not everybody runs games the way you do, and some games only run a certain way, which gets in the way. Your tastes are catered for, his tastes are catered for; win win.

  25. namad says:

    there are some problems with difficulty being adjustable on the fly. if the difficulty is just a dumb dmg/hp multiplier then yes why not adjust it on the fly but if the difficulty system is more complicated than that and a level has already loaded it might be too late to instantly load the harder or easier version of that level.

    also there is only one possible universally agreed upon save game folder location and that’s within the installation folder. any general OS based user folder is going to never be universally agreed upon because there are too many minds involved in deciding. just putting a save folder inside the installation folder which the installation folder also lets me choose is something that could in theory be OS independent although might get confusing for computers used by many users with different user accounts but this is something that the game itself could cope with if it so chose.

    • Sam says:

      Unfortunately, most games aren’t allowed by Windows to write to their installation directory. Anything under either of the /Program Files/ directories is protected by default.
      Of course plenty of people install games to some other place, but the great majority of games with installers end up somewhere that the game itself cannot write to without administrator permissions.

    • James G says:

      No, Don’t put my saves in the game’s installation folder. That means I need to independently add each game to by backup. Not to mention you’ll run into permissions privileges with any halfway competent OS.

    • Low Life says:

      The user’s personal document folder is the best choice because that’s one place the user generally has write access even if everything else is restricted (for example on a shared computer).

  26. bill says:

    I seem to remember Dar FOrces having a good way of doing the diffiuclty.
    You could change the difficulty at the start of each level, so if you got stuck you could dial it down.
    But the list of levels shows (with different colors) which ones you’d completed at which difficulty.

    So I got stuck on one level for a while, and dialed down the difficulty to get past it.
    But then I could see the “easy” standing out each time I saw the level list and after I finished the game I had to go back and complete it on hard just to make it match the others.

    Or that might be all a dream.. it was a long time ago…

  27. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    If there’s one game that needs window mode it’s Crusader Kings 2. It drives me nuts that I have to click out of it all the time, even to respond to something on my second monitor. And no, I don’t want to open up settings.txt and tweak whatever stupid line of code there is to tweak.

  28. groovychainsaw says:

    Difficulty is one I’d like to see more help with. I turned it down in Deus Ex:HR once I realised the boss fights were cheap and awful and i couldn’t play them using my character build. I was glad I could just open a menu to do that, so well done Deus Ex:HR.

    The other example is the King Kong game that michael ancel did, which had (IMHO) a great adaptable difficulty level which simply made each area as you progressed tougher and tougher and tougher until you died, then eased it back one notch. It meant I had a lovely, challenging game after the first hour that killed me occasionally but didn’t feel too unfair (I had to fight 2 T-Rexes after a good long run of success, which was fun :-). The whole game was designed around it and seemed pretty smart to me.

  29. Ergates_Antius says:

    And I care more about the career prospects of a Maltese may fly than I do whether I’ll be able to get all the “achievements” you’ve made available for those whose sense of self worth is so low that a hastily scrawled jpeg appearing on their own game launcher is of any import.

    On one hand – haha BURN!
    On the other hand: If there are people with such a low sense of self worth, maybe *mocking* them isn’t really the best course of action. That seems kind of, well, mean really. Just a thought.

    • Premium User Badge

      Velorien says:

      That rang false to me as well. A skllled writer shouldn’t need to take cheap shots in the process of expressing their opinion. If your opinion is that wise, it can stand on its own merit, without you having to prove how much better you are than people who disagree.

      • Geebs says:

        There’s no logical discontinuity there as long as you consider the true and validated fact that anybody who disagrees with John about anything is an “awful person”.

    • Mbaya says:

      I must admit, this rubbed me up the wrong way a little.

      As someone who’s disabled, there isn’t currently a whole lot I can do. Gaming is a daily activity for me that provides a great deal, those little jpg’s may not seem like much, but they can expand what a game offers, give me goals that I can attain and provide a little something I can look back on and remember the good times I had with said game.

      All of this from a little jpg, that does a great deal more for my personal self worth than such a comment made by John.

      I want to add, I’m not an anti-John troll who picks an argument with everything he says, I often hold similar values and agree with many of his points, if not always the way they are expressed. It’s just odd to read such a comment by someone that puts so much effort into the inclusion of all types of different people in the industry and the hobby of gaming.

      • Kentauroi says:

        I feel kind of the same in terms of achievements. I don’t have the time nowadays, but back when I had lots of time and little money achievements were a great way of getting the most bang for my buck out of a game. I didn’t hunt them religiously, but if I found a game I really liked achievements (or trophies rather) could be that push I needed to jump back into it again and spend the time to 100% it during a second runthrough.

        I also find it kind of weird that John is decrying achievements for beating the game on a certain difficulty level as meaningless while then suggesting that you should get a new picture and maybe some music for the main menu after beating the game. I mean the only real difference between a different menu background and a little jpeg on an achievement is their size and level of detail. They both have the same lack of impact on the game itself.

        • Mbaya says:

          That’s a really fair point about the menu screen Kentauroi.

          As for achievements, I did used to put a bit too much effort into getting some of them back in the day, but much like you, when its a game I enjoy (or a clever achievement that makes you change the way you’d play, in an enjoyable way) they can add to the experience. I’ve often viewed them in the same light as goals for a quest…if you can play and enjoy a quest in a game that would reward some experience or an item, I see that little achievement as a similar reward, just one I can view outside of the game as well.

  30. Moraven says:

    The problem I find with difficulty is it is hard to gauge how much effect it has on your enjoyment of the game. Bravely Default I could be enjoying just the same in Normal than my current Hard play through. I do not know how much of a difference it is making and usually early levels do not give a good feel how hard it is. At least you can adjust it whenever.

    Also I hate unlockable higher difficulties. Just give it to me at the start.

    I do like the Devil May Cry of adjusting difficulty after one stage. “Hey you sucked at Hard, maybe you want to take it down a notch”.

    • Cinek says:

      “Also I hate unlockable higher difficulties. Just give it to me at the start.” – this.

      What kind of retard came with that idea anyway? Why would I want to play the game on easy (for me) and unenjoyable mode just to try it again with some reasonable difficulty? I would more likely find this game just too easy and rage-quit before ending.

    • sinister agent says:

      Those games that think I’m going to play through a too-easy version of the game for many hours just for the privilege of playing it at a setting I want to play it at?

      Yeah, fuck off. There are literally HUNDREDS of other games I’d rather play instead. It’s not 1990 anymore, and your audience is neither ten years old or required to put on their pants to buy, install, and play anything else.

  31. gruia says:

    preach it !

  32. Psymon says:

    Speaking of difficulty, I’ve always hated when you’re given easy, medium, and hard, often with no context as to what they mean.
    I’d prefer if more games moved to a system like goldeneye on N64, or ARMA3. (only examples I can think of for now). There’s presets you can chose from, or you can go in and tweak every variable.

    • jonfitt says:

      I’m too young to die
      Hey, not too rough
      Hurt me plenty

      • Psymon says:

        Haha, great example! Reminds me how Duke Nukem was similar.
        Bonus points if you can tell me exactly what the difference is between each setting.

    • sinister agent says:

      I’ve seen some valid, if not bulletproof reasons against having multiple independent difficulty sliders/settings, but I absolutely agree that even if it’s just a cse of “easy / normal / hard”, some context should always be given. Does “hard” actually make the game more demanding (Thief and its more ‘professional’ limitations like no killing, more stealing, more objectives), or is it just an enemy health multiplier that turns fights into tedious slogfests (Notch’s Elder Scrolls series)? It’s not self-evident, and should always be clearly explained.

      • jezcentral says:

        Ooh, ooh, yes! Thief didn’t get enough credit for the detailed difficulty explanations. I hope other devs follow their lead in this. Also, I love the fact that the enemies don’t get any stronger once you get to medium difficulty, the gameplay, not button-mashing, is what makes the game harder. More of this,please. That’s GREAT.

  33. psepho says:

    Re saves, do you remember with old school FPS how you could choose which level to play from those you had unlocked? Why is this no longer a thing?

    For many games it would be trivial to have a menu section for ‘choose level’ (or ‘mission’, ‘quest’ etc). But hardly any games do it. Please make it so, RPS.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Amazeballs Spider-Man did this. Mostly to open the levels for joyless collectible hunts, but the thought was appreciated.

    • Zekiel says:

      Yes. Someone (who?) pointed out that games are the one medium that locks their content away from the consumer. Almost all games are the equivalent of films where you can’t watch the ending until you’ve watched every other part of the film. Or a TV series where there is no way to skip a rubbish episode – even if you’re re-watching it! Imagine an ebook where you couldn’t skip ahead… when you think about it, its bizarre that you can’t play a game you paid for in the way you want. Why can’t I skip the Deep Roads in Dragon Age Origins? Or the boss fights in DXHR? In the Good Old Days (TM) you could enable cheats to get past them, but these days you can’t even do that most of the time.

  34. Mman says:

    I’m in two minds about the difficulty thing; while being able to do it realtime is good, one of the biggest complaints about difficulty settings in general is when they’re just basic number tweaks, and realtime changing promotes developers to do that because of how much harder it is to do complex changes realtime. On the other hand I fully agree it should be in every game where the difficulty is just simple number tweaks.

  35. DrMcCoy says:

    Portal 2 came to Linux the other day, so I played it. And I was really frustrated when I hit the ridiculously low save limit 50 mid-way through. Grrrrr.

  36. DanMan says:

    If your game can be played in both 3rd and 1st person view, let me invert the x and y axis independently for both, like Tomb Raider 2013 does, for example.

    If your game has game pad support, don’t just add XInput, but DirectInput, too.

  37. substationradio says:

    it’s amazing to me that there are still games that dont let you pause ANYWHERE you want (cutscene, fights, in the middle of a line of dialogue). I have a condition that forces me to stand up suddenly with no warning and walk around in pain and there are some games that have had me red in the face and white-knuckled waiting for some sequence that can’t be bothered to give me a break to finish

    • Carra says:

      Edit: nothing to do with your post…

      Crusader Kings 2 and other Paradox games manage to fill gigabytes of save files, filling up my SSD.

      It’s fun to be able to open them and change your game. It would also be fun to just, you know, zip them all.

    • jonfitt says:

      It’s not comparable to physical pain, but as a father of small children who plays while they nap. I occasionally have to dash off at a moment’s notice. So games that don’t let me pause anywhere are a problem.

      Also games that don’t let you save and resume where you were. Some games like Borderlands do let you save at any time, but move your character back to the start and reset the level when you get back. Unacceptable! I quit playing the expansions to Borderlands 1 because of this.

  38. Malfeas says:

    Huh. I did not think of the last one. But you are absolutely right.
    Thanks for this, it may be a small thing, but I feel it is an important small thing.

  39. Universal Quitter says:

    “someone might want to be able to click outside of your game to do something else, without a cataclysmic alt-tab seeing monitors flash, sirens sound, and flocks of birds flutter away from nearby trees.”

    See, where has this John Walker been lately? This kind of stuff is what I love about RPS.

  40. sinister agent says:

    Can we get a “DON’T call your game ‘Space/Star/War/Dead x’ or ‘x Space/Star/War/Dead’, because for fuck’s sake”, please?