The RPG Scrollbars: The Worst Parts Of RPGs, Vol I

Hmmm? Sorry, is there something in my teeth?

As wonderful as RPGs are, some tropes and cliches and just general bloody annoyances really do spoil the fun. Some of them might only crop up occasionally, others just won’t go away. Some, you might think, are just petty irritations. But no! All these incontrovertible sins must be destroyed at once! Here’s a few of my least favourite offenders. What others would you add to the cursed list?

Overly Optimistic Bandits

It’s one thing to try and mug a passing would-be hero on their way to becoming someone. That’s your job. But when you see a team of battle-hardened knights in full-plate, archmages humming with power, clerics bearing the very mantel of your world’s deity and a druid still yet to wipe the blood off their lips from their last shapeshift… and your response is to genuinely think you can take them? No. Stay out of the way, and don’t waste the time it takes to click on you and turn you into giblets.

“Oh, Hang On, I Just Remembered I’m Evil!”

I don’t object to games not including evil options. Honestly, most of the time it’s probably for the best. But! If there is the option to play as a monster, a sociopath or merely a scoundrel, the plot has to recognise it. Baldur’s Gate 2 for instance doesn’t give the slightest thought to why a Chaotic Evil character would so much as lift a finger to go save Imoen. In Oblivion, there’s a particularly head-desk worthy moment where a player can be caught up in a honey-trap scheme, and even join in. Even doing so, even if they’re currently the head of the Thieves’ Guild and a high flying murderer in the Dark Brotherhood, it’s interrupted by a sudden decision that justice should be served. No. Find proper motivation for evil to keep playing, or move along home. (Allamaraine, count to four…)

(Update: According to comments, BG2 did offer a selfish reason. My bad, it’s been a while. Point still stands though, that if there’s an evil path, it needs to be more than a last minute “Whoops, decided to conquer the world instead.” Especially if it’s a character decision, not yours.)

“Wait, Getting PAID Is Evil?”

The flip-side of that one, where asking for resources that are only going to go to helping others is evil. Allowable in specific cases, like the poor widow tending the failing farm. Just Stupid Good in most, where it’s only an option to compensate for the lack of any real moral choice to make, and only doable because every RPG game economy is more broken than a dropped china vase.

Indestructible Plot Coupons

And yet still, no Warupeachi.

If the baddie needs three pieces of the whatever, or the seven gems of whatever else, or the four map pieces of another thing to complete their evil plan, give me a good reason why I can’t just find the first, smash it, and consider the job done. Paper Mario 2 on the Gamecube knew better than this. Your task was to get seven stars the villain needed to open a door and release a great evil, and it’s actually asked – why bother collecting the other ones just so he can swoop in and probably get the lot in one go? Ah, it is explained. The evil behind the door will break out on its own eventually, but by challenging it in a weakened state, there’s a chance of re-imprisoning it properly this time.

That’s right. Any RPG that pulls this has an inferior plot to Paper Mario 2. Think about that.

(But not too hard, because Paper Mario 2 was awesome. Not that I’d say so on a PC site, natch.)

The Vagaries of Stats

A character creation gripe. When asking us to assign points, or subsequently choosing equipment or shopping in-game, tell us clearly and up front what these numbers mean. In any class based system, highlight the key stats and say specifically what they do. Wrap it in flowery stuff if you want, but underneath I expect you to outright say, for instance, “Strength makes you hit harder, Intelligence makes your spells hurt more, Wisdom gives you more spell points.” Also lovely would be some indicator of how important individual points are. Take Fallout’s SPECIAL system, which is somehow both a good and a bad example. Perks and basic stats from 1-10? Easy! But when it comes to skills, is there a notable difference between having 20 of something and 40 of it? We need to know!

This is all the more important in games which put very different spins on what initially looks fairly obvious. Bound By Flame for instance offered a Pyromancer set of skills that was much more of a support tree than an offensive one. It’s not enough that hardcore players will know the details second time through. Most will only play once, and the first run is always the most important.

The Expectation of Wikis

This tends to be mostly a problem for MMOs. The average player should never, ever need to look at a wiki or third-party tutorial to understand a basic concept, to know what gear is right for them, or what a stat actually means. It doesn’t matter that the hardcore audience will, or has played enough of these games to know what something like a “To Hit” percentage is. Third-party sites are fine for things like theorycrafting, but the basics should be as clear as possible. Speaking of which…

MMOs That Don’t Bother Teaching The Basics

It’s amazing how many hours they demand to level up, yet almost never find the time to actually explain and guide new players in the arts of things like team-play and dungeons and how to actually play their class in a dungeon environment. Final Fantasy XIV is the only one that’s really bothered in recent years, with both mandatory training and easy dungeons on the critical path to get a flavour for both them and the art of fighting bosses. Most others are happy to have level after level of utterly trivial PvE drip-feed skills without ever actually teaching anything worth knowing, like what rotations are and the difference between a DPS and a tank, resulting in players entering that side of the game completely clueless and usually just being shouted at by more experienced players for not having somehow intuited it all by osmosis. There have got to be better ways.

Stop Trying To Replace The DPS/Tank/Healer Trinity In MMOs

Yes, yes, the impetus is understandable, but it never bloody works. That’s how players are going to approach their builds whatever you do and how open your system is designed to be. Accept it. Like most classless RPG systems, it just makes things more confusing, and greatly increases the chance of players utterly borking their builds. A real pain, especially if there’s no respec option.

No Auto-Level Up Option

Generally fine in something without set classes, or with a single hero. When you’ve got a full party though, having to assign points is both a pain and offers a big risk of screwing up. Thankfully rare these days, but does crop up occasionally in games like Pillars of Eternity.

Cutscene Failure

My dear, how does it feel to know you are currently the least popular Star Wars character in existence? Except Jar-Jar Binks, obviously.

This isn’t an automatic sin, but only if handled properly. I have no problem for instance with the end boss showing up early to prove their power. However, two things make it intolerable. The first is if losing the fight that leads up to that point still results in a Game Over, because only victory or a specific attack sees the game continue to the point where you lose. The second is if you’re handily winning, only for a cut-scene to change your fortune in a really stupid way. Knights of the Old Republic for instance would have been so much shorter had Bastila not jumped in to take over a fight with baddie Darth Malak, resulting in your loss, her capture, and him getting considerably tougher before the rematch. At the very least, if a fight is going to be interrupted, don’t have it presented as a favour because the player isn’t ready to win the fight they’re currently winning.

The Elder Scrolls Needs To Rename Its “Thursday”

“Turdas”, honestly. Find any excuse to change it before the next one.

Okay, so that’s a bit more specific than most of these. But seriously.

Worlds of Murder

NPCs should have at least a little more range than “Hello, traveller! Welcome!” and “I MURDER YOU TO DEATH!” To use words you probably won’t see very often, I really liked how Risen handled it. Get into a fight with someone who doesn’t want you dead, and most of the time they’ll just knock your arse to the ground and take your wallet. Another, simpler, option would be to treat the player as dead but have them wake up in jail. It’s one thing for a character to respond with lethal force if you try and murder them in their bed… but if your crime was accidentally picking up a comb that was flagged as theirs? Yeah, in that case, crazed vengeance seems just a leeetle bit of an over-reaction.

The National Elf Service

I am a creature of the night! And I'm feeling a mite peaky!

Look, I accept that that some story and game dissonance is inevitable, and generally it’s fine. If an assassin jumps out and stabs the King, drama probably requires that he die, rather than take 5HP damage and sit back comfortably while his guards turn the assailant into red mulch.

However! If the world is one where resurrection is easily available, and every store sells magic health potions, this really needs to be factored in. Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption (otherwise known as “The Crap One”) still stands out as a triumphant failure here, with the intro showing hero Christof being slowly brought to health, only to find a potion seller a quick stroll from his sickbed. There are always ways to justify why a particular death counts for real, from soul-destroying weapons, to not being able to take the body to a convenient temple, to ‘death’ in combat actually being a knockout. Handwaving is fine, but don’t defuse the drama with the obvious question “Wait, why can’t I cast my Resurrection spell here?”

Broken Economies

At least try. That’s all I ask. While I appreciate a lot of people don’t feel this way, so I won’t include it in my list, I will also add that I dislike heroes that craft. You want a sword? Go raid a tomb. Need a new one? Give a blacksmith some of your hero money. Honestly, the economy would be in a much better state if heroes didn’t feel the need to do everything and instead spread the love a bit.

No Difference Between Day and Night

Have a day/night cycle, don’t have a day/night cycle. But if you do have a day/night cycle, have it affect things. Not every game can be up there with Ultima’s cutting-edge 1992 technology, with the characters wandering home at the end of the day and other ‘living world’ type stuff. But if there’s a map transition or other scope to clean the board, please do something about the bustling marketplace going on in the pitch blackness and the drunks outside the tavern at 9AM.

Useless Stealth

Of course, ENEMIES being stealthed doesn't mean they shouldn't get a punch to the chops.

If you’re going to let me be invisible, don’t break that because a boss has a prepared monologue and battle arena. If you didn’t want me trying to backstab him while he scratches his arse and waits for me, don’t let me become invisible. If nothing else, provide some kind of warning that it’s not going to work, even if it has to be as blatant as him putting an anti-magic field in front of his arena.

Sword Fighting With Vermin

You do not have duels with rats. You spear them with your sword if they’re lucky. If they’re not, you give them a taste of your +2 Boots of Much Stomping. Ideally, you just tell the person who asked you to kill them to do what a sane person would do, and put down some poison. Much simpler.

Sudden Enforced Storyline Grouping

See, this was a really fun game before you started insisting I team my magnificent magic with these acronym-spewing oilsacks...

This is a particular annoyance with World of Warcraft, though other games have suffered from it too. Love or hate the fact that Personal Quests allow people to play through MMOs without grouping, the fact is that they do, and that’s how many people prefer to play. In World of Warcraft for instance, I’ve soloed most of the game at my own pace, taking my Undead Mage from primitive beginnings as a newly reawakened corpse to being the Commander of the Horde. I’ve fought in the war for Northrend, been pivotal in the rise and fall of Pandaria, and led the charge into Draenor.

But what I never get to do is finish the story. I want to defeat Arthas, I want to join the siege on Orgrimmar, I want to kill Deathwing and I want to do whatever ends Warlords of Draenor. But I don’t particularly enjoy MMO group play and I don’t enjoy raiding. If my character is enough for 95% of a campaign, dammit, they’re good enough for the final 5%. It’s not as if basically every Blizzard ending doesn’t boil down to an existing storyline character running in and claiming the credit anyway.

I wouldn’t even mind if that chance was held off until the next expansion pack, to reinforce that raiding is the preferred way to go. I don’t even care if there’s loot. But throw me a bone!

Apathetic NPCs


I still think Skyrim’s guards should arrest players for indecent exposure. I miss when RPGs would routinely factor in at least a couple of snarky comments for if you wandered around in your underwear. It was a good test of how responsive the rest of the game was going to be, if the designers had bothered. (Though not necessarily the mark of a great game, as Hard To Be A God proved despite its clever/heavy focus on social interactions based on your current clothing.)

It’s asking a lot to have characters react to everything, or even a lot. But, as a few basics, I want people to note when I randomly start stealing their stuff, for guards to not give me lip after saving the world from whatever currently plagues it, and to not be talked at as if a rank amateur from Level 1 to Level 100. This one is actually pretty easily done, just by not writing guards and random NPCs as jerks. Then, no changes are necessary at all! Who do they think they bloody are anyway?

Mindless Filler

If you can take out this group of orcs, and you took out the group of orcs before them, chances are the next one won’t cause a problem. We don’t really need fifty groups of orcs to test this hypothesis. Either use a system like Pillars of Eternity’s limited rests so that multiple fights take their toll, or cut to the good stuff and save us a boring hour of target practice. We get it already! Orcs exist!

Thee, Thou, Thine

See also, writing all text in runes. Though that's thankfully rare.

Ultima was the last series permitted to use Ye Olde Renaissance Talke.

Anything else, you missed your chance.

Lockpicking/Hacking Minigames

No. No, no, no, no, no. Lockpicking gets boring very quickly, and there has never been a hacking minigame in an SF RPG that hasn’t been terrible. Just do a bloody stat-check.

Bikini Armour

Yes, you knew it was going to be here. Here it is. However, I’m going to balance it with:

Cowardly Brothels, Prostitutes, Sex Scenes, Etc

If you’re going to put them into your game, have the balls or equivalent ladyparts to actually do it properly. As a particularly shameful example, here is a picture from the Game of Thrones RPG (the older one, not the Telltale one) which borrows cast and visual cues from the TV series, only to serve up this as the local brothel. Worst pasties this side of a crap branch of Greggs.

And you've got to assume taking those things off at the end of a shift is really going to pinch the nips.

The Witcher 2 showed that you can do graphic sex scenes with taste and meaning. This kind of content can also fit just fine on the seedy side of town. Or you could do other stuff with it. How much fun would it have been in Dragon Age to work on a scheme with Morrigan where she’d go get a prostitute and then turn into a giant spider? (The only acceptable excuse for this, in my book, because comedy trumps even horror) But if you don’t have the guts to do more than giggle and feel a bit naughty, then such content isn’t for you. Go back to the shallow end of the rating scale.

Oh, and be more interesting than to fade to black and consider your sex scene done.

Boring Openings

Again, MMOs, looking at you especially. They’re endemic to the genre though, in many forms – the long-winded lore dump intro movie in which someone discusses the last thousand years of history in ways that can be summed up as “Dragons exist”, the boring tutorial chapter in which our boring hero goes about their boring life to give us something to contrast it with, despite us knowing up front what that’s going to be, the boring ‘village on the road to the town where the game actually starts’ cliche, and numerous other boring, boring, boring things. Sometimes 60 or so levels of them.

RPGs are tales of heroism and adventure, and that should start from the beginning. The player character doesn’t have to be introduced personally beating up a dragon or something of that ilk, but if they’re not doing something interesting, the intro has failed. A fairly good rule for editing a book is to throw away your first chapter, because that’s usually where you just pontificated and introduced things that didn’t matter, with the second chapter being where the real action starts. Games are no different. Give us a reason to spend 20-50 hours in this world, beyond “Well, you paid, right?”

Well, I definitely feel better for getting that off my chest. Any of your own to add?


  1. Skeletor68 says:

    Bastila was unpopular?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      In that moment…

      • Skeletor68 says:

        Fair enough. I just remember my lonely teenage self being all ‘I’ll save you Bastila, don’t be bad, you’re the best!’

        As a side note, I loved the game and started a second ‘evil’ character. I didn’t even have the stomach to be mean in a video game.

    • ansionnach says:

      Couldn’t stand her, or get why I had no choice as to who was on my crew. Is the cat woman dark jedi the only one you can turn away? Glad I finished her off. Spent hours running around that bloody field being killed by her on hard mode and when I finally defeated her by running in circles for another hour while the others fired at her with ranged attacks, she was suddenly oh-so-sorry. Pull the other one! KotOR suffered heavily from narrative intrusion… and it wasn’t even very good. Only characters I could stand were Jolee and Mission, with Carth whenever I hadn’t them as long as he kept is trap shut. KotOR’s a weak game with no story; the sequel is barely a game but has a superb story. Would be nice to get a book or film based mainly on the second one written by Chris Avellone.

      • Coming Second says:

        A KOTOR2 revamp can’t be that far off, surely.

      • ThomasHL says:

        I think KotoR2 is the best use of making you ‘unlock’ backstory with characters. It’s probably the only RPG where it felt like people were talking to you because they were growing to trust you as a person.

        It would be a shame to lose that with a game or book version. And a shame to lock you down into having a view one way or another about Kreia and the Sith and the Mandalorian wars.

        • ansionnach says:

          Well said, you’re probably right. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that it’s all over when you’ve enjoyed something so much, instead of sitting down and being satisfied that it was good. At least the story was fairly complete in the restoration mod. If there’s anything left to do with the game it would be to balance the encounters to introduce some gameplay, but it would be pointless using that terrible game engine.

  2. stonetoes says:

    Enemies that don’t drop their equipment.
    When I’ve just escaped from my jail cell naked and beaten up the guard with my fists can I please steal his sword and breastplate? Pretty please?
    Yes, I’m aware that this would bork the in-game economy even further, but there are other ways to fix that.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Also, depending on the world, people forgetting that mages’ fingers/voices can be tactical nukes.

    • Cinek says:

      +1. I didn’t realize just how annoying this can be till I played Wasteland 2.

    • Moth Bones says:

      Also the flip side of that coin – animals running around with gold coins in their mouths.

      • Robert The Rebuilder says:

        I always thought the loot came from their stomachs, which my character ripped open after the battle.

      • Drayk says:

        The bards tale has a super funny scene about that where the narrator says something about how improbable it is to find loot in a wolf belly and the bard tells him to shut up, that he would ruin his way of making money.

        here is a link to that scene:

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          Hah, I recently saw that scene for the first time and that’s just one of many funny scenes in The Bard’s Tale. I’m quite enjoying it and don’t know what to so many others have against it (to them it’s the Bastards Tale, rather than the Bard’s Tale), but then again, they’re not me.

          • mgardner says:

            There are many truly funny moments in Bard’s Tale that I remember even years after playing (Beer, Beer, Beer song at the top of the list). However, if I am remembering correctly, it seems like all the entertaining content was in the first third of the game, then it just became a dull, repetitive grind.

    • ansionnach says:

      The way to fix that is make it almost impossible for a naked guy to defeat someone in full plate with a sword, right?!?

      • Don Reba says:

        Jacky Chan could do it, and hilariously, too! Don’t you think the saviour of the world should be at least as good as Jacky?

        • ansionnach says:

          Humour overcomes all, eh? Reminds me of an interview I think Ron Gilbert gave a magazine years ago about this. His point was that the worlds and puzzles in adventure games will always seem completely ridiculous in some way but humour can make this less of an issue. His example was the fact that you could only find a lighter on the plane in Zak McKracken. Nowhere else in the world. Why can’t you just buy one in a shop? Maybe not the best example from my perspective as that “puzzle” drove me mad. Still, I think his point is a good one.

          Let’s say then that you’re the chosen one and you subdue the full-plated and armed knight with your mighty fists. You search him and discover that he was actually just a reenactor wearing knitted armour who’d had a little too much to drink. If you choose to you can take the Fake-Armour-of-Everything-Bar-Drink-Soakedness -10 and parade around in it. You’re then arrested and thrown in the stocks for parading around claiming to be the chosen one while obviously intoxicated. The villain then calls a snap election and everyone is happy because he secures a democratic overall majority with 36% of the vote by virtue of the first past the post system.

    • kalirion says:

      Any equipment which doesn’t drop is obviously soulbound. And smells so bad that no shop would buy it, either.

    • caff says:

      You’re not allowed. Go and retrieve your items from the cupboard near the entrance to the jail, like everyone else.

  3. Syt says:

    “Boring Openings in MMOs”

    Agreed – few seem to do this right; and often after a brief bout of excitement tedium sets in. For all its flaws, I think The Old Republic did that pretty well. You got pretty decent combat skills from the get go (you feel reasonably powerful from the start), and all stories start with action and reasonably high stakes in the n00b areas. Plus, when you leave, you’re thrown into an (optional) dungeon before moving to your capital planet.

    • James says:

      Indeed, you would have to be genuinly inept to fail at the opening parts of TOR. I remember that after the opening scenes of the Agent storyline the game goes ‘right, go from here to there and there are a bunch of baddies. Kill them, and bonus points for killing the tough ones – go’ and then let you learn your stuff in a really easy environment. Rather than say, Skyrim, which throws you in at the deep end straight away.

  4. basilisk says:

    Any mention of being The Chosen One or an Ancient Prophecy of any kind.
    As a bonus, having anything that’s called %noun%+%noun% of %noun%+%noun%.

    Either of these says “we’re too lazy to think”, which means I’m too lazy to care.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      “Any mention of being The Chosen One or an Ancient Prophecy of any kind.”

      This! I said that exact thing to Richard on Twitter.

    • ansionnach says:

      Some day there’ll be an RPG called “The Chosen one Does Everyone’s Laundry”. You’ll get a discount off the “Bonus Chores” DLC if you write and test all the code, code review it, submit it to GitHub, build it and add it to Steam.

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      Bluerps says:

      Same with “Destiny” or “Fate”. It usually kills anything that’s interesting about the plot. If it’s already decided that the hero is going to win, then why even continue the quest?

      • ribby says:

        You can have a prophecy but only if you do something unexpected with it- ie make the chosen one someone else or reveal that actually they’ve been misinterpreting the prophecy all along and Mr Hero is actually going do doom us all

        • jrodman says:

          It can also be fun to find out that the prophecy was actually talking about someone else, not you all along.

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          Didn’t Morrowind have that sort of loose prophecy, where you could be the chosen one or it might be some guy in a village on the other side of the island (and various others). Plus, not many people actually thought it was real, and it didn’t really get in the way of whatever you chose to do.

    • mgardner says:

      This is another trope that Bard’s Tale parodies really well with a song starting:
      “Oh, it’s bad luck to be you.
      A chosen one of many isn’t new.”

    • Telkir says:

      Ditto with making the main character (or some similarly plot-crucial character) an amnesiac. Memory loss has been done to death, and I really don’t… um… ah, damn, what was I going to say… tip of my tongue…

  5. Wulfram says:

    BG2 lets you say you’re pursuing Irenicus because you think he can unlock power or something. Kinda weak, but you didn’t have to care about bratty sister.

    Also, single player RPGs at least should continue to try to replace the DPS/Tank/Healer trinity. It’s tough to do with MMOs because you need a rigid structure to get random yahoos to cooperate, but it’s really not necessary in single player.

    • Kefren says:

      A good clarification on the single-player aspect. For years I played pen-and-paper RPGs, then PC RPGs, and I’m not even sure what this “trinity” means, so I guessed it was part of a particular type of RPG or approach to it. I was thinking back to games like Deus Ex and System Shock 2, where I tried different things as I felt like it or the “character” I was playing suggested. Very rarely would I end up with all points in one type of ability or role – it was always a mixture of things with some specialisms that wouldn’t fit into some simple trio structure. So saying that replacing an unimaginative 3-way classification “never bloody works … That’s how players are going to approach their builds whatever you do and how open your system is designed to be” struck me as very odd, and didn’t in any way relate to my RPG experiences over 30 years. Maybe it’s because I don’t play MMOs…

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        It’s an MMO thing because balancing an encounter for five whatever-characters means that five specialists will usually be able to crack it over one knee. It’s a genre that prioritises efficiency (especially with how much content has to be replayed) over roleplaying, which means that via class or gear or stats, people end up focusing. When things are widened out (DC Universe Online tried this, as just one example) it seemingly makes it more interesting, but in practice just makes it more confusing because nobody knows what their priority is, and the roles always reassert because it’s the easiest path.

        • Kefren says:

          Ah, that’s why I was unfamiliar with it, thanks. The only RPG I played online was many many years ago on AOL, some text-based one where I never even left the town, I would just use text to roleplay and it was fun because most other people seemed to enjoy that over dungeon raids. I don’t think my character even left the town, it was too much fun having non-fatal duels with other players, all based on test (there were no images at all). Probably more of a glorified chat room than anything, but it was a dream to me, because it was always the roleplaying that I enjoyed.

          • Therax says:

            Sounds like one of the Simutronics games, possible GemStone III or DragonRealms? I spent quite a lot of time playing DragonRealms back in the day on AOL, and was surprised to find out that it’s still running.

    • Xerophyte says:

      It’s worth mentioning that the original Holy Trinity was tanking, healing and crowd-control. Anyone could do damage, after all, but without an Enchanter to mez things you were severely limited in what sort of camps you could grind in old, dumb EverQuest. This new-fangled upstart redefinition with damage as a key role is a lot saner in most ways: dealing with groups of mobs by efficiently murdering them is generally more fun than by putting all but one to sleep. Still, I don’t think it’s necessarily the only interesting primary division of party labor that could possibly exist.

      I’d say that the lesson to learn from either version is that playing an RPG party is helped by having clear and obvious specializations that the game enforces on the characters of the group. Exactly what specializations a game enforces is less important than that they’re distinct in purpose and playstyle. If playing a party-based single-player game it gives the player well-defined pieces they can use for solving the combat puzzle. If playing an MMO it lets individual players pick both a playstyle and a level of responsibility that they’re comfortable with.

      • Jenks says:

        Thank you, I get tired of bringing up the original trinity meaning but it’s great to see someone else say it. The trinity was a derisive term we, the non war/cler/enc plebs called the first half of every well put together group. Now it just means ‘all the classes’ which is fairly meaningless.

        Online role playing games were better when there were actual roles to fulfill in combat. All the unique utility abilities have either been baked out of the genre or given to everyone, and the three remaining roles (tank/heal/dps) are given to everyone – just some can do them slightly better than others. If you tried dealing any significant damage as a warrior in EQ circa 1999, or taking a hit as an enchanter, you were going to have a bad time.

      • Cederic says:

        Even early WoW required good crowd control skills. It was far from unusual (especially until everyone was in raid gear) for one of the damage dealers to focus on CC and not on damage.

        When the game lost that, it became less fun. Turn up, kill everything in sight as quickly as possible, loot, move on. No challenge, no interest, no “oh shit, missed the cooldown, mob loose” panic moments that force everyone to step up and survive a challenge they’re just not geared for.

        Replacing fun with 25 man “hit this key at exactly that point in the fight” raids killed WoW for me.

        • jrodman says:

          CC definitely isn’t the only way to keep an encounter mentally engaging, but I do admit I had the best times with burning crusade heroics without being overgeared, where everyone in a 5 man group hit their notes on the pull just right or they died.

          And a really skilled group would “HANDLE IT!!” when many whelps happened. I would cyclone as the druid healer, or the dps warrior would howl of terror to give us a moment to respond to the loose mob.

          I’m not really convinced that the modern game is mindless, but my interest wandered off many years ago for other reasons:

          * An inability to meaningfully contribute to other players enjoyment of the game beyond being a reliable raid-group member (game design simply precludes almost any meaningful helping-other-players outside raids)
          * Raiding with the schedules and the commitment crap being unfun pretty fast
          * The solo game being, despite an okay experience, completely exhausted by the time I was done

  6. WarderDragon says:

    Hold on! Baldur’s Gate 2 consistently gave you a choice in every dialogue relating to the saving Imoen bit. You could either say that you wanted to save Imoen, or you could say you wanted to chase down Irenicus. Never once did the game force you to actually care about Imoen.

  7. Bobsy says:

    Baldur’s Gate 2 did try to give an impetus for naughty characters, in that you were hunting Irenicus instead of rescuing Imoen, either for revenge or to have him unlock your powers. Weak, but it’s there.

  8. Troubletcat says:

    Glad to hear that somebody else is as sick and tired of crafting being in everything as I am. It’s just silly. But I suppose a lot of people like it…

    …Where I am, drunks outside a pub at 9am isn’t actually that uncommon. And it’s a known fact that games in general were technically superior in the early 90’s compared to today.

    You used ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ in the first sentence of the Sudden Enforced Storyline Grouping section and I am considerably upset.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Seems like he mostly hates that it has to be the hero doing that, most of the times at least. The Old Republic had a cool idea with your companions but it still seems a little weak.

      My biggest gripe with crafting is that it shouldn’t so often be preferable to the best stuff you can find around. If a legendary sword was crafted in incredibly special circumstances, with materials that came from something that doesn’t exist anymore, and with the whole process happening in a very special place and time with the help of a legendary weaponsmith from a civilization that no longer exists, you shouldn’t be able to craft better.

      Or maybe you should be able to, but only because you’re playing a game that doesn’t relegate the most interesting bits to lore books, and actually lets you track downs remnants of this or that, but it should be a properly serious undertaking and outside the boundaries of the random adventurer, who might not even have the slightest idea that some things still exist for those who care to discover.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        It would be nice if the best weapons/armour were something that required a bit of work to get, for example if you were to find some amazing metal then get a blacksmith to craft it into stuff, then take those things to an enchanter. That way you would end up with a suitable end-game item, but it would be limited (so you don’t end up with a bagful of them), and could be tailored to your strengths/needs.

    • Freezern says:

      My biggest gripe with crafting in MMOs is how it’s kinda forced down everyone’s throat since WoW.
      It’s one thing for my warrior to pick up fishing, field cooking or other mundane but essential tools for a roaming adventurer, but being a full fledged armorsmith?
      It’s done so poorly and yet everyone copies it.

      I think Star Wars Galaxies had the right idea(about a lot of things) when they did their best to separate fighting and crafting into two equal experiences and roles.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      It’s a sort of odd case in games that allow itemcrafting, since any player will typically want to partake in it to some degree, even if it generally doesn’t make sense by either real world logic or standard narrative tropes. Craftspeople spend their entire life on their trade, and yet you, in addition to being the Legendary Hero, are able to not only pick up the trade in a matter of minutes (or even seconds,) but are also able to surpass them within a matter of in-game weeks?
      Narrative-wise, there’s a difference between the standard plot of a greenhorn discovering their hidden talents and becoming the best in their field and a legendary hero deciding to take up learning cookery in their off-time from fighting the Ancient Evil in order to have a stat-boosting item for the Ultimate Dungeon. Even historical epics tended to limit the hero’s skills primarily to martial ones.
      I enjoy the feeling of freedom that crafting gives, but no matter how nice the crafting system is, you can’t in any so-called sandbox RPG be The Legendary Blacksmith; instead you’re resigned to being The Legendary Hero Who Dabbles In Smithing In Their Off Time.

  9. Dicehuge says:

    Not letting me name saves is a particularly cruel sin in RPGs. I should be able to call it “THE BIT BEFORE I MAKE THE BIG AMBIGUOUS MORAL DECISION” rather than having to guess if it was ’16:37 4/5/2015′ or ’16:39 4/5/2015′
    Also RPGs seem particularly inconsistent in picking out what the Quicksave button is. Everyone knows F5 is the only suitable option, and don’t even think about making me go to F12 to load.

    • Aninhumer says:

      Although, please don’t go too far the other way and force me to input some text before you’ll let me save.

    • iainl says:

      That goes way beyond RPGs to a more general rule:

      I don’t care how many platforms you’re releasing to, or even if your own is the initial one. If you put a game function on F12, approximately eleventy-million Steam users are going to rip your fingernails out in case you ever get on there.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Here’s a pro tip:

        Remap your screenshot button to your “pause/break” key. Worst case scenario is that you’ll pause the game when taking a screenshot.

    • Kefren says:

      I like F5 quick save, F9 quickload (both easy to find in the dark), but just curious what is wrong with F12? The only key that has caused problems in games for me is the Windows key.

      • JeCa says:

        It makes steam take a screenshot, pause the game and bring up a menu asking if you’d like to terrorise your friends with images of your exploits (thankfully you can turn it off).

      • NathaI3 says:

        By default, it’s mapped to “take screenshot” in Steam games

        • carewolf says:

          What? Did they somehow miss the PrintScr button when they defined that, and chose just to stick with it in stead of correcting it?

          • April March says:

            Print Screen copies the screen, but F12 already creates an image file. It’s marginally more efficient and user-friendly, and Steam is nothing if not marginally more efficient and user-friendly.

    • Kala says:

      Yes. Let me name saves.

      And infinite save slots please, I’m not using memory cards any more.

      Oh – also – in rpgs where you make a central character, please organise saves under the heading of that character. For instance, load game > select character > select [named] save game

      Bonus points for those that’ve screen capped my portrait and have some kind of nice looking screen for character selection when loading a game.

      • Dicehuge says:

        Yes! This is always such a pleasant surprise when they go the save-files-by-character route, RPG’s are all about replaying with different characters so it’s great when they facilitate that rather than giving me a Skyrim style list of numbered saves to navigate.

    • Kala says:

      I’m not at all keen on F5 as quick save and F6 as quick load. They’re too close, mistakes (dreadful, catastrophic mistakes) will be made. There’s at least one game I played that had that as a default and – finger-slip – onoes!

  10. Chris Cunningham says:

    I thought Redemption was really good at the time. You could also install and complete it the same year it was released without any third-party patches, which must count in its favour compared to the other one.

    • skyturnedred says:

      I have Redemption next to me right now, as I’ve been contemplating replaying it. I did quite like it back when it first game out.

    • Emeraude says:

      I really hated redemption myself – talk about when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

      The game was built on classic combat-focused RPG assumptions that really weren’t ‘t fit for it’s supposed content.

      As with Neverwinter Nights, it was all about the multiplayer anyway.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      My younger self is grumpily defending Redemption. I mean, sure, the writing (dialogue in particular) was wonky, as was the level design. And it did get repetitive with the endless gratuitous dungeon delves. On the other hand, er the music was pretty good? And it did have some of the atmosphere of the PnP game, which I was into at the time. Kind of. Obviously it’d be completely forgotten now if it wasn’t for being a World of Darkness game, but…
      I think that my younger self might be an idiot. Still, enjoying cheese is fair enough as long as you admit how crap it is, right?

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I know several people on the forum that thinks Redemption is much better, because you have access to lots more skills, it’s easier to roleplay and to mod and whatnot. I played Bloodlines first and like it much better, but Redemption has this old-school action-RPG charm and lots of well-designed parts as well. It’s especially neat to be able to play a vampire in both medieval and modern times. Just calling it The Crap One really is fighting words, lol.

    • Hieronymusgoa says:

      For its time Redemption was pretty good. It did mess up some stuff (often minor) in every part (i think) starting from too many (useless) disciplines which could lead to horrible skilling to sometimes too tough as nails situations like the “Deutschritter” castle thingy. On the other hand they did a really good job with the past/future storyline, the companions were no Bioware material but nicely done regarding the source material and so on.

  11. skyturnedred says:

    Companions with utterly broken/useless stats. There are a lot of BG2 companions that I never traveled with after their quest was done, just because they are useless in combat.

    • Nibblet says:

      Actually, the only weak companion in the game was Hear’dalis(bard), all the others were just a matter of gearing right.
      Mazzy being a kneehigh weakling? Give her a belt that sets her strength to 19 or more permanently, or better yet give her Crom Faeyr and turn her into the most overpowered fighter in the game.
      Keldorn getting on in years and not being as sprightly as he once was? There are permanent +18dex braces that will clear that right up.
      The only stat you could not compensate for was constitution and the two characters with low con were both casters anyway.

  12. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    It’s not that asking for pay is considered evil, the thing is that you’re always forced to sound like a douchebag when you do, and that’s pretty much forced on you.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      KotOR 1 has this tendency to sometimes make the Good sound goofy/awkward and the Evil sound petty or douchy. That’s particularly so with one scene where you and crew are captured and confronted by a previously admirable officer who has now turned to the Dark Side. You there have the dialogue option of saying some very preachy BS about how anyone can be saved or replying “Don’t be so preachy”. Neither is good.

  13. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I get what you’re saying about Boring Openings, but I’m also not convinced. I find a boring opening is a good time to get yourself into the zone — set up your key bindings, fine-tune the mouse sensitivity, that kind of stuff, before haring off into the actual action where these things being off kilter will send you swiftly to the reload button.

    I suppose the size/length of the boring opening makes a difference. I’m a purely singleplayer man so maybe I’ve just never been involved in a slow opening that is 60-levels-of-grind slow.

    • BradleyUffner says:

      Let’s talk about Dragon Quest VII. It’s like 4 hours before you even get in to a fight. The game has one of the most epic stories I have ever played, and I frequently feel like I want to replay it… Until I remember how long it is before you are actually allowed to start playing.

    • Baffle Mint says:

      There’s a difference here, I think, between exciting and complicated.

      Like, look at Final Fantasy 7, which opens with you infiltrating a heavily guarded power plant, destroying a giant robot scorpion, and then getting out just before the whole thing catastrophically explodes.

      That’s super exciting, but it’s also the tutorial level, where you only have access to the most basic gameplay mechanics.

    • green frog says:

      I recoil every time someone demands they cut all the “boring” bits out of games. In my opinion we have more than enough games that are just NONSTOP EPIC ACTION, so I actually really appreciate it when a game gives you a little down time where nothing very intense is happening. It gives the actual action more impact and makes the game world feel more real.

      A movie that was nothing but car chases and explosions for two hours straight wouldn’t be exciting by the end, it would be boring, and it’s the same for games. You need to change up the pace or it gets tiresome. The accelerator shouldn’t be pressed to the floor the entire time.

      Too often already game developers assume their audience is nothing but ADHD addled teenagers who will lose interest the second something “awesome” isn’t happening onscreen. We don’t really need more games developed with that attitude. I realize I may very well be in the minority on this though considering how frequently I hear gamers complain that it’s “boring” every time a game dares to slow down the pace for even a few minutes. It’s frustrating.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Yes. Pacing and contrast seems a lost art at times. It need not be so.

      • jrodman says:

        I would suggest that there’s a big difference between “slower paced” and “pretty much irrelevant”. Slow paced segments with meaningful connection to the game? Love it! Slow paced segments that offer little or nothing to engage me? Cut it!

        • jrodman says:

          On second thought, that applies to irrelevant uptempo stuff too. I’m not interested in trudging through your scene of explosions if it’s meaningless and disconnected with everything else. And that is probably the more common scenario, actually.

  14. 2late2die says:

    “No Auto-Level Up Option” ?? o_O

    Stop being lazy. Seriously, I actually hate the auto-level up option. If you find assigning points a chore, guess what, the game has failed on a much more basic level. Leveling up is a key component of RPGs and that process should be exciting as you reveal new skills, abilities, talents and what not, and get to grow your character’s powers.

    • thedosbox says:

      Not everyone wants to micro-manage their entire party – hence the word “option”.

    • WibbsterVan says:

      Phew, thanks for telling us all how we should play our games, and what is/isn’t lazy. It makes it so much easier than having to for these opinions ourselves.

    • jrodman says:

      Levelling up can be interesting and exciting even with no choices. See 1974 D&D. The trick is not to level up freakin’ 100 times.

    • Kala says:

      Everyone likes different stuff.

      Personally, I’d agree; I very much enjoy the customization, see it as a key feature of developing my characters and wouldn’t like them being automatic.


      If there’s an option to auto-complete, I can just ignore it. While it’s an element of the game I enjoy, I don’t mind others having different priorities. (it’s not going to effect me at all, after all)

      It’s like the shit Jennifer Hepler got for suggesting a combat skip option for those not necessarily interested in the combat but wanted to progress in the story; but that’s the point! people cried, she just didn’t understand games! It’s the point for some and not others, and is the same principle as being able to skip story-based cut scenes or not.

      (whether cut-scene exposition in games a good method of storytelling at all is a separate issue, mind…)

      …I’ll admit though there’s a larger problem where things are put into the game that add convenience for the player, and you use for that reason, but ends up being detrimental to what you actually enjoy about that game; kind of an inadvertent self-sabotage. (Like quick travel in elder scrolls games, for example, which I tend to take advantage of and then wish I hadn’t).

  15. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Compulsory mingames, or other times when you’ll do something completely different to what your character normally does. I don’t mean the lockpicking mingames that Richard mentioned, I mean things like the compulsory swoop bike race to rescue Bastilla in the first KOTOR. Basically stuff where I have to learn to play a completely different game just to move the story forward on that one occasion.

    An honourable mention for Guild Wars 2’s occasional instance I turn into a pig or an ostrich or have to use a crap glue gun, when whatever situation I’m in could be solved much more easily by staying human and using a sword.

    A dishonourable mention for Assassin’s Creed 3 (yeah, it’s not an RPG, but whatever) in which to level up in the thieves’ guild you need to play lots of checkers and nine man’s morris. Fuck. That.

  16. schlusenbach says:

    Never set an automatic save point before a cut scene, so that I have to skip the cutscene again and again when I have to reload after losing a fight. I’m looking at you, Witcher 2.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Or in Witcher 1, where there was a save point, followed by a long, and unskippable cut-scene, followed by a fight where you had to defend an NPC against much tougher monsters than anything you’d fought up until that point.
      I did make it past that fight eventually, but gave up not long after.

      • Swordfishtrombone says:

        Which bit is that?

        • tobecooper says:

          Probably the doggie at the end of chapter 1.
          The fight was either stupidly easy or extremely hard depending on your character build.

    • tobecooper says:

      To get to the last boss battle in Of Orcs and Men, you have to get through two lengthy unskippable cutscenes and two additional fights. This is the worst and most thoughtless placing of an autosave I have ever experienced.

      • Katar says:

        I think that got changed in a patch, but yeah that was absolutely terrible when the game launched. I almost gave up on the Witcher 2 at that point.

  17. Merus says:

    The trinity, when you’re playing as only one part of it, is as terrible an idea as playing a virtual foot-the-ball game where you only play as one player. It’s especially bad when which one you have to be is determined by character creation, so you’re constantly stuck waiting for a tank to show up, and no-one wants to play a tank because they get all of the responsibility and none of the fun that the DPS get to have.

    I don’t have a problem with the archetypes, it’s just that a system that fell out of the braindead way text-based online games handled which player an enemy was going to hit is not the best solution. The only reason tanking works is because of aggro, and aggro is lazy.

    For all the guff that D&D 4th edition got for being based on MMOs, what they got right was pushing forward the holy trinity to a place where computer game makers would have a much better baseline if they stole it. You can’t tank because each enemy behaves according to its own personality, but you can push and pull and apply effects where the enemies take damage if they don’t attack a specific party member. Healers could take out weak enemies, but they had to get involved in the action instead of being laser focused on everyone else’s health. What enemies did was immediately relevant to the entire party.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Hah, but tanks also get the unwarranted privilege of complaining about the rest of the team, too, when many of them are just terrible.

      Little do they know that in proper raiding guilds even a tank’s threat generation is put into scrutiny.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Also, i played some tanking myself other than DPS, and i know others that would concur with me that with a decent and fast team you probably have the most fun than the rest of the group.

        How? By anticipating everything, handle and solve problems before they even happen, being always a step ahead of the rest of the group, and generally completing the dungeon like a rocket. You need a pretty serious healer though and ultra fast DPS, but then you can’t get the latter if you can’t handle all that aggro, no matter how careful the rest are with early damage spikes.

        One thing is for sure, at least for me, the most intense and fun part of dungeons/raid for me have been speed runs, extra challenges and all that stuff, and everyone needs to push the role to the point that the trinity starts to shine, rather than prove boring.

    • Lamb Chop says:

      I was a druid, so I could actually play all three roles (and did) for my raiding guild. From my experience, healing is the most stressful but most abstract (keep the spreadsheet topped off), DPS is the easiest, and tanking requires the most situational awareness (if the fight was designed well)…also, if you mess up, everything fails in a spectacular and exciting way. I found tanking tons of fun.

      To be fair, as a feral druid in the TBC era, you didn’t have a skill rotation, you had a really complex priority list, and your DPS varied widely based on how competent you were at executing it. So it was uniquely the only DPS that had interesting mechanics (at that point, the dominant warlock build cast one spell all fight).

    • Arathain says:

      I don’t mind the trinity as a way of structuring RPG grouping. I object to the esteemed Mr Cobbet’s sentiment here. You don’t need to design around the trinity. It has been done differently- the prime example is City of Heroes (maysherestinpeace).

      You could put together a classic trinity team in CoH, and it work fine, but there were many other viable ways of putting together teams. The biggest thing enabling this was the strength of buffs, debuffs, and controls, replacing the healer archetype with a broader support role, who might strengthen the team or weaken the enemy to the point where a healer or a tank is not necessary. It also allows you to design interesting ability sets that aren’t just slightly different ways of making green numbers appear on your tank.

      Further, you make each player a little tougher and more independent, so that they’re able to handle some attention. I also loved the selectable difficulty for your instances, so you could tailor the experience to the strength of your team.

      Fundamentally, you just needed a team with a variety of skills who knew how to play the role that they had built for themselves. Grouping could be such a joy in that game, even random pick up groups. Sniff.

      • Juke says:

        There, there. We’ll get you a beer to cry into and share war stories about the Old Times, when all you needed to feel superheroic was an internet connection and a sliver of an original idea.

        And to tie the two forks of this discussion back together, I’ll also add that, which City of Heroes is my only major MMO experience, I found tanking to be the most exciting role, and the one I found myself playing again and again. All the more interesting, as in single-player RPGs, I’ll almost without fail play a spellcasting class, or some variant of a projectile-based damaging type, but in a game tried to make every player feel “super,” nothing was quite as exciting as leading the charge and holding the front while your team took care of business. So maybe it’s a personality type thing more than anything else. I’ve certainly met players that gravitate more to one role than others, and the particular role each prefers is fairly well-distributed.

        I can’t speak to the approaches of other games our there, but one thing CoH seemed to do well, is allow people to fill the Tank/DPS/Support roles in different ways. Even within tank builds, there were options for damage avoidance vs. damage absorption, or different balances of defence/offence, and by-and-large most were well-balanced enough to let each build be useful while feeling a bit different to play. There was room for “customization,” but it was within the role, so it limited the ability end up gimpy. Hopefully more games are taking this approach to “many paths to the trinity” as they continue to refine the MMO design…

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      ” is as terrible an idea as playing a virtual foot-the-ball game where you only play as one player.”

      Actually this mode exists in PES2015, and it actually works pretty well. It allows you to play in any position you choose, although why anyone would choose to play as a defender or goalkeeper I don’t know.

  18. Rymdkejsaren says:

    The whole “ye olde” thing becomes even more funny when you find out it’s actually pronounced “the”.

    link to

  19. klops says:


  20. Dicehuge says:

    If laying traps is an option in games, don’t make cutscenes move my party, I spent a lot of time setting up clever hallways full of traps in NWN2. I’d then send one guy up to a group of enemies to lure them back only for a cutscene to trigger my entire party to move to the wrong side of the damn hallway.

    • Henson says:

      This is the one that pisses me off the most, particularly when playing a game like Dragon Age: Origins, where positioning is key. There’s a reason my archers and mages are trailing in the rear and my fighters are on point, and then the game traps me in cutscene only to warp my mages within spitting distance of their whole platoon. Thanks, guys.

      • CraftyBanana says:

        Shadowrun: Dragonfall (much as I love it) was a serial offender here as well. Not with cutscenes (that frequently), but your main character has to open every door, doors that would frequently have heavily armed gangers/security dudes/giant scorpions lurking on the other side, and ready to riddle you with lead before you had a chance to move. This did not mix well with my hollow-boned rigger/decker character (bonus points for their attendant trail of drones being a red flag for every smuck with a grenade).

        • Henson says:

          This reminds me or Arcanum, where you could only control your main character. Unfortunately, enemies had a tendency to target the first of your party to come into view and not relent for anything; invariably, the first of your party to come into view would be YOU. This resulted in every fight with my ranged or backstabby characters running around in circles, hoping that my ogre henchman would catch up and score enough hits on the enemy to convince it to change targets.

          • Mischa says:

            Arcanum had a bigger problem in that XP was only given to the character that killed the monster. So if the player character had a supporting role, and his companions did all the killing, he would never level up.
            Even worse, companions leveled up at the same rate as the player, so THEY wouldn’t level up either: XP going to them was useless. So in every fight you had to make sure that the player character was the one delivering the killing blow…

            More on topic, for Richard’s list: uneven distribution of XP.

        • Juke says:

          True! For God’s sake, Dragonfall, let my bruiser open the damn door unless it’s electronically locked; my decker wasn’t cut out for all this front-line assault business! Fortunately, the Harebrained Schemes team seems pretty attuned to making the right improvements each time they update their game engine, I have to assume they’ll fix that up for their new Hong Kong project.

          But yes, also found it odd that every enemy seemed to suffer from an extreme case of droidophobia. To the extent that the would spray lead in the direction of my puny support droid until it was reduced to slag, all while being shot in the face by sniper rifes and shotguns. Poor droids. What did they do to you? It was just holding my medkits! It would have been an interesting tactic if the droids could take a little more punishment, but as it was, my decked had to rely more on her assault rifle than her droids by the end of the campaign. Game was still a blast though, if a bit unbalanced (and in ways unpredictable for newbies, which kind of plays into Richard’s “Vagary of Stats” gripe above.)

  21. Sui42 says:

    Definitely agree with most of this.

    In particular: economies, and a sense of value. I love the beginning of RPGs, when you’re poor and you have to scrimp and save to purchase that extra shiny sword. It means you actually have to consider what to spend money on, and make hard choices (and, just like in any form of storytelling, tough choices are what create good drama). But in most RPGs, you’re super-rich before you’re half way through the game, (usually sooner), which effectively makes everything free, and removes the actual ‘game’ element from buying and selling.

    (also: just adding super expensive things to the marketplace isn’t enough to create an enjoyable economy. What if you had an economic rival, who could purchase things before you? Who could buy out the houses on the property market and drive the price up? Antagonism and rivalry make things interesting. Capitalism is ALREADY a game, and very few games really make use of this).

    ALSO: in general the whole good / bad stuff is done terribly in RPGs , for this sole reason: it’s too easy to do the good thing. Every time you make the ‘righteous’ choice, you should be forced to LOSE something, to sacrifice something. Similarly, if you do the evil choice, you should create enemies who hound you later in the game (think something like House of Cards. Every time Spacey’s character gets ahead with an evil deed, he makes an enemy, which makes the plot so much more interesting). The worst thing about RPGs is that they are content to let the player weave a terrible story, where they go from strength to strength by simply selecting ‘good’ or ‘evil’ from a drop down list. But this makes for terrible storytelling.

    Good stories emerge when characters are in tough situations, and have to make the choice between the lesser of two evils. Why was the end of Mass Effect 2 so great? Because people could die, and things were actually at stake. In most RPGs, the only time anything is actually at stake is when you are fighting… but a game over screen ends the game, rather than making the story more interesting.

    In general, I think RPGs need to become storytelling games, rather than boring rise-to-power simulators that are only interesting for the first 5 or so hours, before you effectively amass enough stats and money to effectively be playing in God-mode.

    (I also think RPGs are too long, and feature too much filler. I would rather play a 3 hour RPG in which the story can vary wildly, to a 10 hour RPG fleshed out with identical conversations and fake choices. In other words: less linear content, more optional / divergent content ).

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I tend to think that given a choice, most players go for the ‘good’ option because helping people feels better than hurting them. Taking a break to be evil can be a fun diversion, but…

      • Sui42 says:

        I think the worst thing about the whole system is that a good / evil choice is effectively a false choice. There are rarely any gameplay ramifications… the choice usually just dictates whether you are a dick to the quest-giver or not. As you say, it’s mainly just a little psychological boost to the player: “Oh, I did the right thing. That gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Yay.”

        If you were to actually watch an RPG’s story, as a TV episode or something, it would be terrible – whether the protagonist was good or evil.

        • Emeraude says:

          That’s why I actually loved doing an evil playthrough for Mask of the Betrayer.

          There’s layers of it, and you can really be a monster… *and* it impacts the gameplay. Also, damn if all that unique gear is not proper motivation, if you don’t really care about what you do to others to get it.

      • c-Row says:

        Sometimes the bad choice totally goes against the build-up as well. While not an RPG I can’t see anybody taking the “other” choice at the end of Far Cry 3 for example since it totally throws out everything you went through during the whole game.

      • Fnord73 says:

        It makes me feel evil just to say it, but Im still waiting for the first true Lawful Evil RPG to come out.

    • Chiron says:

      I was unsold from Skyrim after I watched a Lets Play where the player gets asked to steal an item and the player replies back “Hell no, I’m no theif!”, the NPC then goes “ok, I’ll ask you later” or similar

      Your actions have basically no consequences, you can do whatever you like.

      Its not just Skyrim but that does sum up the problems with RPG writing, the worlds a sandbox and you can do anything you like but as a result it just feels empty and soulless, an MMO without even the randomness of some 12 year old screaming “n00b” as he whomps your character.

    • ohminus says:

      Play Witcher games ;)

    • Aninhumer says:

      The worst failure of a moral choice system I ever saw was in Mass Effect 2, where you have to choose whether to kill or enslave the Geth. Throughout that mission, my companions were continuously questioning whether enslaving them was really a good thing to do. But at the end you’re given a binary choice, where the only “kill” option has Shepard shouting something like “DIE GETH SCUM”, with absolutely no acknowledgement of the moral nuances expressed earlier.

      • CraftyBanana says:

        I had a completely opposite experience of that same choice: it was one of the few renegade options I made on my mostly-paragon play-through, precisely because I felt the game had played up the moral shadiness of re-writing their entire belief system, and it really resonated with me.

        • Aninhumer says:

          Well yeah, I had the exact same experience, and I too decided to kill the Geth to spare them slavery. My objection is that when I chose that option, the game represents that as me being a Geth hating monster who revels in their genocide. I reloaded my save in disbelief, and searched for some secret way to actually express my choice, but I didn’t find one.

  22. Ham Solo says:

    Animal enemies with large weapons/armor parts as loot.
    (Skyrim) Every guard knowing everything about you, especially if you’re in the dark brotherhood.
    NPCs going completey insane/trying to kill me after I stole cabbage or killed a chicken.
    (Skyrim) Unkillable children that act like little brats.
    Unlikely barriers (this door is locked, you cannot break it apart with either your lvl 79 fire spells or your 150dmg-per-hit axe)
    (MMORPGs) Idling group of 3-5 enemies standing in one spot until you come within 25 m and attack them, and 50m further on is the next group of 3-5 enemies, idling. Also they respawn after 10 minutes.

    • Dervrak says:

      Oh, the key one gets me. I’m nearly a god, I can rain fiery death down on entire cities and cleave a dragon in half with one casual swing of my Vorpal Axe of Epic Slaying +20, yet the locked half rotten wood door with rusty hinges is apparently my kryptonite because when I try to use any of my godlike powers on it, I get a message “This door can only be opened with a key.” (And to think, if the big end boss would have only invested in one of those doors, he would have been unbeatable…)

  23. Humppakummitus says:

    I love Dark Souls to bits, but god DAMN it needs to learn to explain the stats and basics. For example, did you know AGI defines how long you’re invinsible when rolling? Absolutely vital information, not explained anywhere.
    Weird comparison this, but the DS games could really benefit from a Skullgirls type in-depth combat tutorial.

    • GameCat says:

      While in menu, press select button on your gamepad. Then use cursors to move around statistics etc. to get the info about them.

  24. Skull says:

    I disagree about avoiding ye olde English in fantasy RPG’s. I greatly enjoyed that aspect of Dark Souls and it made the NPC’s cryptic and creepy monologues even more engaging and mysterious. I would actually like a game to go full Milton / Keates and shock the world with incredibly deep and thought provoking poetry.

  25. Romeric says:

    Over-encumbrance mechanics. No problem carrying 409/410 lbs, but if you reach 410, you’ll barely be able to move. It shouldn’t be so binary!

    • Sui42 says:

      This. Also, I hate games that appeal to the inner-hoarder in me. in Fallout 3 / TES games, I will always be carrying around dozens of useless crap to sell, because I can’t help myself. But it reduces the game to a petty chore of inventory management.

      I would prefer if RPGs imposed *proper* weight limitations, but gave you more interesting ways to make money, rather than just hauling a sack of guns and swords back to a vendor.

      • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

        It would also be nice to have a convenient system for Followers to carry loot with them, as well. Technically it’s not undoable at the moment, aside from the fact that you have to pick up the items yourself and navigate through a series of dialogue options every time you want to give them something.

        And the fact that you can only have a single follower at a time. It’d be nice to have a retinue; running around as a two-person group all the time despite saving the world, being a high-ranking official in one of the two civil war factions, and being the hero of each jarldom in the game.

    • Chiron says:

      Fallout skills, you need 43 points to wear this armour, no not 42! 43!!!! HAHAHA LOSER!

    • Zekiel says:

      I take the point but I think RPGs would become needlessly complicated if you introduced a sliding scale. Most irritatingly for encumbrance, you’d always end up feeling annoyed when you were moving at anything below 100% of max speed so it would still feel like a hard limit.

    • CraftyBanana says:

      Honestly, I’d rather an RPG either give me an infinite loot-sack, or get rid of the looting aspect completely. If we’ve accepted a dude can shove three complete suits of armour and a couple of swords into some weird extra-dimensional space where their bulk doesn’t hamper him at all, cutting off the inventory at ’60 items’ or a specific weight limit just seems perverse.

      • aliksy says:

        I liked how Pillars of Eternity gave you a pretty infinite “stash” where you could put all the loot. You had a limited subset of items you could access in combat, but everything else you could pick up.

        • His Divine Shadow says:

          Agree about the Pillars. The stash mechanic is a simple but effective abstraction of having an oxcart and some servants to help your party collect the loot (or maybe collecting the loot afterwards, once the path is cleared).

      • malkav11 says:

        This. With an edge to mostly getting rid of looting, really. In most games it’s a heap of stuff that’s basically just cash waiting to be converted into liquid currency except way more of a pain to deal with than if it were, in fact, cash. Every now and then you get something that’s genuinely useful like an improved piece of gear or a consumable, but even then it’s often just got higher numbers, or you’ll never actually use the consumable because you’re hoarding it against a greater need that never comes. I’d rather have less loot and make it more meaningful when it does turn up.

    • Juke says:

      Torchlight is the most notable example I can think of that tried to address this, by giving you a pet that was smart enough to drop extra gear back to the local shop while you stayed and continued to plunder dungeons. You didn’t get the benefit of your pet while they were gone, so there was a nice little built-in tradeoff for the convenience.

      But I think one of the ways to solve this “horde all loot” tendency would be to do a version of what someone would be most likely to do in real life: take anything of interest, and sell the knowledge of the rest to someone else for a “finder’s fee.”

      Whether manually by heading back to the nearest local shopkeep, or just virtually via some flavor text, your character can tell some local scavenger-type “I ran the thugs out of a house in town. Locked what I didn’t need in their shed/safe/secret hidey-hole/etc.. Couple bucks and I’ll give you the location and the key to the padlock on the shed/combo to the safe/secret word to the hidey-hole/etc.”

      Maybe even that’s overthinking it; just put an NPC in the starting location that cuts a deal with your PC to pay a percentage of any loot left behind on their adventures. The more loot stashes your PC tells their new pal about, the better the percentage gets as the NPC sees you as more trustworthy and “knows you’re good for it.”

      You could still swipe great items to sell at full price later, but you end up with some cash for the “junk” and a lot less micromanaging headaches.

      Easy! Right? Maybe?

      …Please? Some developer somewhere, try it, yeah?

      • Hex says:

        What you describe is sort of at the root of the first game I want to make, should I ever learn to program:

        NPC heroes run around in the dungeon trying to accomplish quests etc. They need to stay light on their feet, so of course they only ever grab especially fancy weapons that npc enemies drop. The player starts out as a scavenger, perhaps pulling a donkey along through the dungeon corridors, gathering up any weapons, armor, and knick-knacks he thinks he can sell.

        The player is not very adept at defending himself, so a lot of the game is staying close enough to heroes to benefit from their protection, while trying to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

        As the game progresses, it transitions into more of a logistics/managerial sim, in which the player hires other folks to do the grunt work, while focusing on making sure the good hero parties are getting tailed by sufficient scavengers.

        Another element to keep things interesting would be having to set up teams of specialized scavengers who would be more or less effective depending on the party make-up of the heroes — for instance, you might want to be sure not to include ratmen or goblins in a group that’s trailing a paladin, as they tend to be xenophobes, etc. There would be a lot of room to explore different traits/prejudices for this kind of thing, though there may be plenty of game without worrying about it.

        Furthermore there would be room to add more sim-stuff in the realm of building up shops and safe-havens within the dungeon itself to support heroes. Anything in the name of profits!

        (In the meantime, I’m sort of taking a stab at novelizing “roguelike” in an effort to explore these ideas — and others — and maybe if I get published, drum up some interest for someone else to make this thing. Whee!)

    • Dargona1018 says:

      I actually find Dark Souls Equip Load mechanics could be put into other things.
      Of course, this is how much you have equipped and not in your inventory, but a similar system in place might be good.

      In Dark Souls, all your armor had a certain amount of weight on them.
      Wearing nothing is less weight than leather armor, and thus lighter than iron armor.
      Same as with weapons; Using fists lower your weight, a bow is lighter than a longsword, and some of the absolutely massive weapons have more weight too.
      You can increase your Equip Load using.. Vitality, I think it is.

      More weight = less movement speed and a worse dodge-roll (you either have a slower but still useful “fat” roll, or a clunky one where you fall on your ass and take about 2 minutes to get back up). Although you take more damage wearing nothing and using but cestuses, you can dodge-roll outta the way of attacks easier, and can run around them quicker.

      Now, onto relevance. A pure slider (after a certain amount of weight) would be useful, but considerations must be made.
      -If you have almost full regular inventory, you wear heavy armor, and use a great big hammer, you will be slower, attack slower, and *possibly* turn around slower. Of course, then, strength would decrease this “weight slider” so it’s in a regular area.
      -If you are a thief-y dex character that sneaks around, pickpockets, etc, you will have more overall speed, softer footfalls, and generally be a quick character. You will be able to hold less before your performance is hindered, but yet again, a stat can be used to slightly decrease the weight slider.

  26. VCepesh says:

    In addition to overly optimistic bandits and exceedingly problematic rats… Spiders, insects and wild animals as enemies. Seriously, why are those (inexplicably giant) spiders, despite frequently being encountered in dens with webs all over the place, attack on the ground? Why are they always hunting in packs (something not unknown in real life, but rare)? Everyone hates so much on spiders. And why are all animals so rabidly aggressive? Justification is rarely provided. And even then, they are typically trash mobs anyway, so i’m feeling simultaneously confused, guilty and bored.

    Also, intrinsic to most RPGs (and not only), both PnP and PC – levels and level scaled content in general. I’m not talking Oblivion-style level-scaling, but a more conventional “3-level bandit in 1st Location” versus “10-level bandit in 7th Location”. Or even a “10-level dog”. That could probably wipe out the entire starting town, simply because it is from a higher level location. It has ten times the hit-points, five times more damaging bite than a soldier’s halberd strike and Armor Class of [Too High for You].

    • Dervrak says:

      Lol! The old “World of Warcraft” paradox, how can an average “trash” wolf from Draenor be strong enough to solo raid bosses from earlier expansions? Of course the real answer would be that it is pointless and boring to put level 10 wolves up against level 90+ PC’s, but it still rather odd if you think about it too much.

      • Fnord73 says:

        ANd why oh why havent the level 20+ monsters already invaded the lands of the level1 people?

    • Syt says:

      That’s something Gothic 1&2 (possibly 3? didn’t play it much) got right. Wildlife was dangerous, but the animals were also territorial. When you got within their range, they would start to threaten you with cries/snarling and posturing, giving you a couple moments to retreat before they would attack you.

  27. Belsameth says:

    My top pet peeve is probably NPCs that expect you to save the world but then charge you an arm and a leg for the weapons and armour to go and do so.

    • Jad says:

      Oh my god yes! Came down here to say this.

      Suicidally Capitalistic Storekeepers

      Often it is somewhat explainable, you might be on a quest to save the world but no one knows it, people might not believe that the danger is real, etc. And in the real world, the Army pays for equipment even if it is “fighting for your freedom” or whatever.

      However, if 1) it has been made very clear that you, and you alone, are the sole defense against the imminent evil and 2) the dragon or whatever is already here, wrecking the town, every storekeeper and NPC around should be shoving healing potions and weapons into your hands screaming “Please take them! Take it all! Just do something!”, not blithely gouging you even as their house burns down.

      • Baffle Mint says:

        Speaking of, mine would be

        Patrons that don’t Patronize

        The High King of the Elves has decided that you’re the chosen one, and only you can stop the Dark Lord! By reaching into his vast resources, he can give you… a pep talk.

        What? You wanted soldiers, or an equipment budget? Nah, sorry, you have to put that shit together on your own.

        The fact that Mass Effect did that really took me out of the game. I’m a high-ranking officer in both the earth army and the most powerful alien army in the known universe, and my budget consists of whatever I can get from looting the dead bodies of the people I kill?

        Not only is that infuriatingly cheap, I find that behavior dishonorable. What am I, a vulture? The game is supposed to have moral choices, but Paragon Shepard doesn’t think twice about lifting ten bucks off a guy who’s still bleeding out from the gutshot you just gave him. It’s gross and stupid.

  28. TomxJ says:

    “Overly Optimistic Bandits” can also be substituted with “Dangerously blase townsfolk”.

    Seriously, if a group of 6 people, armed to the teeth and wearing body armour walked into my local and started asking one sided questions I’d finish my pint ASAP and GTFO.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      To be fair, when half of the supplies sold in a town are weapons, armour, or the like, I’m pretty sure it can’t be an uncommon occurance.

  29. klops says:

    Ancient Evil wanting to destroy the world. Reason for that? It’s evil! Evil wants to rule a world of ash.
    But Why? E V I L !

    Sure, it worked in the Lord of the Rings and in many monotheistic religions. It still is a very lazy explanation and about as interesting as zombies.

    • ohminus says:

      It didn’t work in LotR because the goal of Sauron wasn’t to destroy the world. The actual motivations and metaphysics in LotR are far more complex. But don’t tell PJ, he’ll think you’re nuts….

      • klops says:

        I might’ve oversimplified LotR bit a bit. Also the religions part, sure. But without any Silmarillion or Tolkien’s secret notes to use, wasn’t Sauron’s aim simply to enslave the world in LoTR. And while his lands were piece of shit, I suppose that would’ve happened for the rest of the world as well. For what? What were the actual metaphysics and motivations for evil in LotR?

        I know it goes offtopic since the topic was Evil Satans and their lack of reason in games, but I’m happy to be corrected since it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book (which means I shouldn’t be using it as an example while there are tonnes of examples I mentioned).

        Who’s PJ?

        • Fnord73 says:

          Actually, Saurons realm was far vaster than just Mordor. He had the whole of Harad and so on wich was a sweet land of bountiful corn, wine and oliphants. Mordor was just his frontline, think Stalingrad to Stalins Soviet wich went all the way to the pacific.

        • tigerfort says:

          There’s a really big difference between destroying the world and ruling it. They may both be things that other people will oppose, but the latter is a much more comprehensible goal for a character who isn’t a sulky teenager in disguise.

          • klops says:

            There is a big difference between ruling and destroying, yes. But if you turn the world into a desolate wasteland where you’ve stolen the sunshine, you can call it destroying. That’s what baddies often do.

            My LotR example seems to be proven wrong. I even got who PJ is.

  30. Dervrak says:

    The stat systems are what gives me a chuckle. In the Baldur’s Gate series (and pretty much and of the old D&D games) you could play a non magic user and set you intelligence to the lowest possible 3 (or two for half orcs) with no repercussions whatsoever. In fact there was really no reason NOT to set your intelligence that low (to max other stats) as it did nothing. However under D&D rules, plants had an intelligence of 1 and animals typically 2-5. So if you really had an intelligence of 2 or 3 you would be unable to speak, or dress yourself let alone know what a sword was or how to use one (or for that matter comprehend anything that is going on around you plot wise).

    Some more recent games, Fallout comes to mind, does actually take extremely low intelligence into account. But even then it’s effect is limited to funny dialogue options. I would love to see a game that would simply be unplayable if you minimized a stat (strength – you couldn’t even pick up a dagger, dexterity – you couldn’t even stand up without tripping and falling, intelligence – you would just set there drooling banging the hilt of a sword against your head etc).

    • Kelsier says:

      My DND game includes the rule that when a stat hits 1, you die. My DM’s got a thing for traps and magic that permanently screw with your stats and one of my friends got his strength set to 2 via absurd time travel and aging-related shenanigans. He has been refusing to open doors, drink potions, etc. for fear he’ll hit the trap that’ll reduce his strength one more point and kill him.

  31. TMA says:

    “Why yes, I did in fact retrieve your Ring of +3 Dancing from the Spire of Madness, located in the Fallen Mountains guarded by non other than Görmädon the Defiler himself. How did you manage to lose it there anyway?Never mind, so, you reward me 15 gold for battling Creatures of the Night, unimaginable horrors from Deadplane and Giant Rats for several days? Well, thanks, I guess. Have fun with your ring.”

  32. Emeraude says:

    “Wait, Getting PAID Is Evil?”

    Of course it is.

    The Expectation of Wikis

    That one is a bit tricky because one player’s “fuck it I’m going to look for it in a wiki” is another’s joy of playing.

    See for example exploration based quests. Some players want to have to explore all the maps themselves to find the right spots. Others just want the end result and will check on a wiki.

    That’s the quest marker issue when you’re down to it: to some players it’s a feature, to others it’s a defect. And since we’re talking multiplayer games, you can’t quite simply offer a toggle on/off option. Because people still have to play together.

    Though you can say the same with, say, strategy for bosses. One of the reasons I’ve stopped with the MMO genre, it was always a race against time to enjoy the moments when new content was still open for experimentation, when you were looking for strategies.
    And then the wiki crowd demanded that you used the recorded strategy for ever and ever (yeah very thick brush stroke).

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      His point was slightly different, that you are expected at the start of the character’s creation problems to make informed decisions, but you don’t have the tools to be informed.

      Without a map marker you still have the tools for navigating, provided that the game gives you the clues instead of just telling you to go to “some mountain, don’t bother which one because the marker will tell that to you”.

      • Emeraude says:

        Same difference, and I was getting at it with the combat example.

        I mean, I know some people just want everything told and formated beforehand, but to others the exploration of game mechanics, the heuristic process of learning as you play, *is* integral apart of the game. Sometime a major part of it.

        Granted, we’re a probably an insignificant minority nowadays.

        But then, something I hadn’t considered, would the “no wiki” rule extends to “no manual” ? That is, is it a “no external source” rule at all ?

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          These days, I think there’s no excuse for a game not to contain everything that the player needs to know. (Which is not the same as literally everything) There are so many vectors for information and so many examples to borrow.

          I also maintain that there’s a difference between stuff that’s fun to learn, like how to best use the tools at your disposal, and stuff that’s a pain in the arse, like realising late in the day that you’ve screwed yourself. Alpha Protocol for instance. Later bosses were either a total cakewalk or a near/literal impossibility depending on what you’d specialised in, far too late to start over. Some games benefit from having the player as a jack-of-all-stats, others, you need to start building to focus on, say, sword-and-board early on. It’s fine to have a sub-optimal build, but in many RPGs it’s way too easy to find yourself screwed.

          • Emeraude says:

            These days, I think there’s no excuse for a game not to contain everything that the player needs to know. (Which is not the same as literally everything)

            Can’t say I agree myself. And we’re back to one player’s “need to know” is another’s “fun killing overabundance of info”.

            The Alpha Protocol example is interesting is that, as far as I’m concerned, the matter is not that you’re not being given the right info about the rules and working of the game so much as the game has been poorly balanced. There is an optimum build and there are subpar ones.
            Apart from the game designers flat out telling you “well, we did a poor job of balancing all those options we gave, so stick with those few that work” I don’t really see that as a lack of info proper.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          What i mostly meant is that sometimes there’s not even a semi decent indication of the various things that are influenced by a stat, or “how to read” certain descriptions.

          Min-maxed builds and optimal paths should absolutely be tied to external references and in depth knowledge and research.

          Basically, i’m not asking DS devs to provide the softcapt for adaptability or other things in relation to carry weight, or the formulas i need to use to calculate all that i want to know, but i also don’t think it was up to the community to even understand simply what adaptability actually IS.

  33. quietone says:

    Rat battles are good. I look forward to those in every RPG. It’s a tradition. It’s what separate boys from men.

    It’s RPG’s bar mitzvah.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m sure it could be done in a better way, like for example if you are given a quest to go down to the basement and kill all the rats, but when you get down there they all scurry into their holes. You then have to think of a way of getting rid of them, knowing that they’ll never just come out and fight because they know they’d get killed.

  34. teppic says:

    There’s a lot of laziness with MMOs especially in terms of day/night – vendors and other NPCs that never, ever, move from the same spot.

    Another thing I dislike is the total ineptitude assumed at low level. We’re supposed to accept that this amazing hero can be killed by a rabbit when dressed in armour with a sword?

    • tumbleworld says:

      Totally. I get that the writers want you to have a nice big dramatic story-arc, but honestly, if the way you and your companions grow in power in most games was even vaguely realistic to the setting you’re supposed to be in, everyone over the age of six would be L40 Deathbeasts. It’s insane. Just start off with an assumption of competence, damn it!

      On a similar tack, there really ought to be an end to mysterious old ruins packed full of treasure. I mean, come on, really? It’s on the damn map, even. How in the name of hell hasn’t it already been picked dry over the last eight thousand years that it’s been sitting here? Don’t try and tell me that it’s because there’s a beam of wood barring the door, or a spinny lock with only 27 different possibilities.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      but the alternative is often just annoying, coming back from a quest, laden with loot but the vendor is not there and you have to wait. Sure, it’s more realistic but it takes me out of the game more than a 24h vendor(i think gothic did it). Maybe a 24/7 vendor with different clerks?

      • teppic says:

        There is the issue that in an MMO you have no control over day/night (there’s no rest option), but having the same vendors in the same spots all the time is just plain lazy. They could have an area of a town that has vendors operating during the night and is dead during the day, for example. Switching out the vendor character would be a nice touch, and easily done.

        • gombicek says:

          In MMO its a good think that they stay on the same spot. I don’t want to spend half an hour trying to find the bloody smith just to sell him couple of daggers.

  35. .backslash says:

    Two tings I’d like to add:

    Making the player ‘the Chosen One’ in an MMO. The Elder Scrolls online is a particularly egregious recent example. Its fine to acknowledge the player as a hero amongst his peers but don’t insist that they’re performing a unique role in a conflict as there are twenty others characters standing around the same NPC, having the same cutscene.

    Also, I was always bothered by monks in the older versions of DnD. On one hand you have a guy wielding the +3 Greatsword of Excessive Particle Effects and clad in a +4 Runic Plate Mail of OP Stats and on the other hand – some scrawny dude in a robe punching things, explicitly not employing any magical assistance whatsoever. And yet the two are somehow equally effective. There’s suspension of disbelief but that’s just silly.

    Also, unnecessary apostrophes when naming stuff. Just… no.

    • Harlander says:

      Man, D&D monks are wuxia, which is a kind of magic all of its own.

    • Carcer says:

      By older editions, do you mean 3/3.5? Because, uh…

      For a start, although many monk abilities are mundane in nature (signified by the Extraordinary qualifier, meaning they’re obviously pretty rad but not magical), many of their abilities are Supernatural and explicitly powered by magic, will stop working in anti-magic fields, and whatnot. On top of this they’re not even avoidant of magical items. There are magical items to let the monk apply magical bonuses to his attacks, magical items that apply armour effects that don’t invalidate the monk’s abilities as normal armour does… the average high level monk and high level fighter will be rocking just as many magic items as each other. But as for equally effective…

      They get very good base unarmed damage, but they have no inherent extra bonuses to that. Because they’re horrendously dependent on multiple good ability scores they don’t have the raw strength that fighter types have, so they have less damage bonus, they don’t even get full attack bonus progression so they’re less likely to hit than the fighter, and though they can make many more attacks in a single round than the fighter, those are all less likely to hit and it requires the monk to stand still, when half their abilities focus on mobility and they lack the armour class (because they can’t wear armour) and the hit points (because smaller hit die and lower constitution) to tank incoming attacks. Monks are not as effective as fighters of equivalent level, and they’re both really shit compared to most casting classes – but Monks are generally considered to be the weakest core class in those editions of D&D.

      • jrodman says:

        Pretty sure “Older Editions” here means 0e / 1e, and possibly BECMI mystics (mostly the same). The 1e monk ability scaling basically gave them armor classes and tohit bonuses that typically tracked what a fighter would get with all kind of magic swords and +3 plate mail of awesomeness.

        Personally I wasn’t a big fan for flavor reasons (If you want to play a game with eastern warrior monks, go for it, but either make it gonzo, or lots of matching flavor, please.) But balance-wise it worked out fine because those other people did get those magic items.

  36. Moth Bones says:

    A minor irritant is when a game’s opening movie prominently shows the protagonist doing something they can’t actually do in-game. Yes, I did spend a fair number of minutes trying to find the ‘jump’ button in The Witcher.

  37. His Divine Shadow says:

    I quite liked hacking in Human Revolution actually. I think it had nice balance between using both the player’s and the PC’s skills.

    • Amazon_warrior says:

      Having just finished playing the director’s cut version of HR, I agree. I actually quite enjoyed the hacking mini game. BUT! I hated the implementation of it as a reward system. If I find I preferentially *choose* to hack a system rather than use an uncovered passcode because then I’ll get XP and MUNNIES (and/or more hacking software) that I won’t get if I just type in some letters/numbers, there’s probably something wrong with the system.

      Something I would have liked to have seen for security computers is the following: Use password, get access to ALL the functions (cameras, bots, turrets) -OR- Use the hacking mini game to “capture” different functions (cameras, bots, turrets) based on the hacking augments available and personal skill. And for crap’s sake, REWARD BOTH PATHS EQUALLY. <_< Or more equally, at least. And leave money out of it. Would mean the hacking augmentation system would need stripping down a lot, but forgive me if I think that's no bad thing.

      And while I'm on the subject of HR…. story info in diaries/emails/semaphore/whatever. If you're going to have it, PLEASE let my character take note of it, at least a bit. I compulsively read ALL the things, but by the end of the damn game Jensen is STILL surprised by Megan's "reveal". Never mind whatever else he could have paid attention to and seemingly didn't. It's as though, unless it says "access code" or a quest-giver has directly told him to read something, he's all tl;dr, lol! Which makes me very much wonder why I bothered wading through the literary equivalent of inventory cruft, other than because "do mini game, receive treats".

      *takes deep breath* Better stop there, I think.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I didn’t mind them in both DX:HR and Alpha Protocol, but for some reason really dislike lockpicking minigames (as in Oblivion/Fallout 3). Mass Effect was somewhere in between, and Bioshock’s pipe dream was awful (not that Bioshock is an RPG, but still).

  38. ohminus says:

    The economy thing is something that really bugs me, especially where it goes all the way into a credibility thing – just look at Skyrim, where the player can make weapons of supreme quality, all the while training smithing in his spare time, whereas the pros who work the forge from sunrise to sunset are all losers compared.

    The only really redeeming factor is that there are some artifacts (Dawnbreaker, Auriel’s Bow) that have effects on them you can’t just copy and paste. It would have been truly mindboggling if the player can actually make divine artifacts…

  39. iainl says:

    Hello Elder Scrolls Game. How are you?

    Do you still require that I, as a mere adventurer of 40 hours standing, serial defeater of Dragons/Orcs/Scandinavian Zombies/Rats/etc have not yet developed the skill required to put on this delightfully armoured pair of boots?

    You do? Well, I mean, I can see they’ve got rather impressively complex buckles, I guess.

    Or is it just that a mere amateur would cut themselves on the glass bits? Good point. Sure. It’s a bit like how I probably couldn’t hold that sword, because it’s just so damn sharp I’d cut myself.

    • iainl says:

      Well. I say “hold”. I mean, clearly I can hold it, because I can pick it up, stuff it in my invisible rucksack along with the other 20 I picked off the dead guards, and carry it back to a shop with a guard in the corner who doesn’t seem that bothered about someone selling 20 guard swords because they didn’t count as stolen as long as I murdered the owner first.

      But somehow, waving it around is nothing like waving a different brand of sword around, oh no.

  40. onodera says:

    I actually like minigames. Why should combat be the only full-fledged system and not a stat check as well? Dialogue trees are glorified stat checks already, but that at least is a necessary limitation, since both chatterbots and Morrowind-like systems are still too primitive and clumsy. But why should picking a lock be reduced to a stat check when we can adequately replace it with something that feels like picking a lock?

    I would like to add another item to the list: long and interesting dialogues followed by “I can’t let you leave” and an unavoidable battle (e.g. Ravel Puzzlewell and that Watcher in Caed Nua). It’s quite likely that I will want to reload to replay the battle, since I didn’t prepare for it in any way, but now I am forced to rapidly click through the whole dialogue again.

    • Juke says:

      I enjoy a decent minigame also, though I respect they are divisive. In fact, I liked a specific set of minigames that were themselves extremely divisive, namely the lockpicking and hacking in Alpha Protocol. I totally get how they would be terrible for players using KB+M, which is a legitimate design flaw, but for those using gamepads, I thought the use of trigger manipulation in the lockpick game was actually an interesting way to evoke the act of “feeling” your way through a mechanical lock. And they were occasionally hard enough to fail, though high PC skill made that unlikely, which I always though is as it should be. Even a master lockpick could potentially encounter a lock they are not familiar enough with to guarantee success. That’s what made the minigame a game and not a pointless interactive cutscene. So, I can see this being a hard thing to get right for devs.

      Admittedly, a skill check would be far easier for them; I’m surprised how many attempts at “fun minigames’ we get anyway.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I like the lockpicking in Gothic 1 & 2. It’s very basic LEFT/RIGHT combinations, but it feels much more like lockpicking than other games. You can’t see the inside of the lock and just have to go by ear, listening for a click or fumble… and screwing up isn’t an insta-fail (just a chance of breaking your lockpick, depending on skill). You can trial and error your way through it, and you can even luck your way through a combination sometimes. Infinitely preferable to *just rotate this thing until you see that this thing lines up with that thing, now do it again*.

    • malkav11 says:

      The entire concept of minigames is inherently flawed. Either it is an activity that is fun enough to be a full-fledged game system as robust as anything else in the rest of the game, or it isn’t worth putting in at all. Departing from the core gameplay loop for some other system that the player did not sign up for is generally counter to enjoyment and all the more so when the minigame is inevitably underbaked because it’s not the focus of the game and can’t receive the same amount of attention and design iteration.

      It’s particularly irritating in RPGs, though, since it often eschews character stats for player skill.

    • green frog says:

      I agree on the minigames. It’s true that sometimes they don’t get it right and the minigame is just poorly done, but overall I appreciate attempts to give you something to do in the game world besides fighting and talking to people. A little gameplay variety goes a long way in making the game world feel like it’s more than just an endless series of enemies to churn through.

    • His Divine Shadow says:

      RPGs already are the most promiscuous genre. They have have 2 core gameplay levels – tactical and strategic (character development). It’s also universally acceptable to have puzzles in RPGs. Past a certain complexity (rarely reached these days though), quest-solving can be considered a type of gameplay on its own. So why not minigames.

  41. kud13 says:

    If you are making an old-school RPG, with 10+ attributes, and then even more diff. Characteristics that they affect, then you really need to take the time to put up a small pop-up, saying: “YOU ARE ABOUT TO BEGIN CHARACTER CREATION. YOU ARE LIKELY NOT TO UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING. WE STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU READ PAGES XXX-YYY OF THE MANUAL FIRST. DO YOU WANT TO PROCEED? (Y/N)”

    Also, yes. No more rats. Unless they are mutated, giant sentient rats. If you have to do sewers/ basements, equivalent-see the original Witcher on how to make it tolerable, if not interesting.

  42. Laurentius says:

    What ?

    These are basically non-issues, or at least for me. I have never noticed any of them to be a problem in CRPG (and they have a lot of problems).
    What next ? 25 worst FPS moments and #1 is this wierd camera placed supposedly in character eyes ?

  43. Dervrak says:

    Another thing that always got me was how animals such as wolves, rats and the like can drop gold,weapons, etc. when killed. I suppose it might make some sense if you defeat them in a lair and find these items on the remains of previous victims. But when a rat comes bounding out of the woods after you and you dispatch it to find 10 gold coins, a sword, a suit of chain mail, 2 potions and a magic tome on its corpse..well that does raise some questions.

  44. King in Winter says:

    Bikini Armor is just one corner of the Unholy Trinity, where the other two are Boob Plate and Combat Heels. (And the Trinity in turn belongs to the category of Unrealistic Armor, which contains such worthies as Not Wearing a Helmet.)

    • whbboyd says:

      Not Wearing A Helmet goes away the day developers can make a hat that’s not irredeemably stupid looking.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I’ve always been okay with not wearing a helmet, only because it’s standard in films as well (because if you’ve paid for a famous actor, you should be able to see their face!)

        I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but helmets often look so crap anyway it’s best just to ignore them.

      • teije says:

        But I like the incredibly dorky Skyrim hats!

      • iago says:

        Ah, the School of Stupid Armor & Weapon Desing. With spade models for swords, oversized everything and Absolutely No Throat Protection armors. Something inside me dies every time I see their products. Which is a lot.

  45. lokimotive says:

    I’m so glad to see a mention of The Siren’s Deception Quest, because I had the exact same reaction to it when I was playing the game, and I think it’s possibly the nadir of The Elder Scrolls series setting up nominal freedom, but not following through with reactive storytelling. I was a female thief, and if I wasn’t the leader of the Thieves Guild at that point, I was well on my way. So when they asked me to join their gang I was like, well of course I’ll join your gang, that sounds like a great idea. NOT AN OPTION! Oh… well… I guess… I’ll kill you?

  46. Crafter says:

    >“Wait, Getting PAID Is Evil?”
    add mass murdering people = GOOD. My character is a ‘Last, Best Hope of Humanity’ in New Vegas whereas I have only served my interests.
    They did tend to align with the NCR, but I have still only helped them in order to get paid and murdered thousand of people in the process (Overly Optimistic Bandits at its best surely helped me out in that task).

  47. craigdolphin says:

    Cut scenes need to be fixed. Let me skip ’em if I want. But even more importantly: LET ME PAUSE CUT SCENES!!!

    FFS. Either allow me to do this or post guards outside my door and near the phone to ensure I do not get interrupted during an un-pausable exposition-laden cutscene that I would really like to have seen but real life rudely intruded.

  48. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Plenty to agree with here. Aside from over-reliance on grind/stats/levelling/gear for a sense of progress, and combat mechanics revolving around hitpoints, it’s the economies in single player RPGs that are my personal frustration.

    e.g. I’m playing Pillars of Eternity right now and there are countless drops of basic equipment – which is where the vast majority of my income comes from after selling them in stores. Why not just drop more money instead of requiring all that inventory busywork? Or reduce the cost of stuff? Fair enough it’s nice to have basic items around because can enchant them, so just make them purchasable cheaply from shops.

    The result of broken economy is always the same, you sooner or later get to the point where you have more money than you can possibly spend, but also the “item economy” is full of powerful magical artifacts that are almost indistinguishable from each other and no real meaningful choices have to be made about what to keep and what to sell.

    It’s a shame that it’s part of Pillars, because they did a fantastic job of getting rid of combat grind for xp – why couldn’t they go the extra step of getting rid of combat grind for money too?

    Still the best RPG since the first KOTOR though.

  49. teppic says:

    Lord of the Rings Online is not so bad regarding optimistic bandits. If you’d clearly kill the person or creature it’s no longer aggressive towards you, just ignores you. And there are lots of semi-aggressive things (like bears) that will growl at you if you get close but not attack unless you stay there too long. I’ve not seen this sort of thing much.

  50. Dervrak says:

    What I hate about in game morality systems is they usually force you to play as either Mother Teresa or Satan incarnate. There is no middle ground, all the good weapons and bonuses are geared to one end or the other of the good/evil spectrum. Why can’t I just play as some average Joe adventurer who’s just trying to make a buck (or gold piece) from my chosen profession and not really worry about the moral implications either for good or evil. Sure I usually try to follow the laws and don’t indiscriminately slaughter, but by the same token I’m not the going to risk my life against a horde of bandits to retrieve your cheap trinket unless you agree to pay and pay well. If making an honest living from your profession is “evil” then so be it. (And for that matter, isn’t it a bit evil or at least really self centered to ask a complete stranger to risk life and limb to retrieve your trinket and then also expect them to do it for free?”

    • kud13 says:

      Not all RPGS do the “good/Evil” affects your skills/equipment allowances”. That’s basically a Bioware-ism.

      Alpha Protocol, Witcher series, Arcanum- these were games where your disposition had an influence on story progression + characters’ reaction. (In Arcanum in particular, many chars would only join you if you were Evil).

      Morality shouldn’t be related to skills and equipment, unless you make that the driving point of the game (such as, the world is populated with sentient weapons left over from a Hell/heaven war, and these weapons only let the wielder use them if they have “compatible” attitude.

      In general, though, Morality meters are stupid, and lazy writing. I did like Alpha Protocol’s handling on opinions though, but that’s because that game was one big adventure play-book, and the only way to keep track od so many possibilities and keep it coherent was to do a numerical system (see my earlier point about being the core mechanic of the game).