Now Ubi’s opened the door, can we have our “Skip Boss Fight” button?

Ubisoft made a fascinating announcement this week. They revealed that the latest Assassin’s Creed [official site] is to add a “Discovery Tour” mode, removing all the combat and challenges from the game, to let players just freely experience their in-depth recreation of Ancient Egypt. It’s fascinating, to me, because it’s a big deal. And goodness me, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Because games should be delighted to include modes that remove all their difficulty and challenge, and players should cheer when they hear about it.

Oddly enough, a lot of players don’t cheer. In fact, people can get awfully angry about it. Since the announcement I’ve seen on Twitter a combination of people declaring, “Hooray! I’m interested in playing Assassin’s Creed for the first time in years!”, alongside others pointing toward those utterly furious that it demeans their hobby, cheapens games, and most heinous of all, lets in the riff-raff.

I say: BRING ON THE RIFF-RAFF.

I’m not playing dumb here, I’m not being coy. I know an awful lot of what’s made gaming culture such a miserably toxic environment over the last few years is deeply wrapped up in subjects like this, and those who spread the toxicity are those most likely to be on the side of condemning gaming options that remove challenge, that make the hobby more accessible to the crowds. But at the same time, I’m not going to allow that sewage to pollute my opinions, and my delight in expressing those opinions, and I’ve long been arguing that gaming can be a far better place if the industry would only introduce the “Skip Boss Fight” button.

Yes, of course, Skip Boss Fight is a totem for my larger point here, and it’s a title under which I’d include Ubi’s recent announcement (despite their rather awkwardly trying to wrap it all up as wanting to be Edumacational). It’s the spirit such an option captures, and it’s one that I think the industry would do well to breathe deeply into their souls.

This is ground I’ve covered before. And each time there’s been a very similar reaction. In 2009 I suggested it was daft that I’m not able to just skip ahead while playing game, like I could in a film, book, or TV show. Of course that’s daft! I wrote back in 2012 about the idea of being able to skip fights, as a reaction to the despicable response to BioWare’s Jennifer Hepler’s suggesting that game combat should be skippable. Of course it should! Last year I talked about how deeply peculiar is the perceived notion that people have to be GOOD at games for them to be properly enjoyed. Of course they don’t! And in light of this seismic (that shouldn’t be, oh it shouldn’t be) announcement regarding AssCreed Unity, I want to reiterate it once more: let other people play games their way.

The reaction against these thoughts is one of Us and Them, and a desire to keep the Them from getting near the Us. “Them” are all ordinary, inexpert, mediocre, or worst of all, new. While “Us” are expert, experienced, hardcore, elite. But let us reject that silliness immediately, and embrace the idea that welcoming the Outsider in is always how society broadens and blooms. Never mind that there are plenty of people already here who are looking for different and more varied experiences.

Gaming has always been inclusive. The idea that there was this Golden Age when all games were cripplingly hard, and only the Chosen were able to play, is bullshit. In fact, back in these imagined halcyon years was when games invariably came with cheat codes, god modes, all sorts of ways to subvert and play differently. And despite the outright terror that articles like this are harming their precious gaming, that the Outsiders are changing games to what the self-identifying Us perceive as “worse”, we’re currently experiencing a heyday for super-high-difficulty, super-challenging, extremely tough games, like we never have before. Funny, that.

I bought a Nintendo Switch recently, and have been playing Zelda: Breath Of The Wild as much as I possibly can. (Gosh, it really is quite the thing to be able to just pick up your game off the TV screen and play it on the train – I sincerely hope a PC equivalent is happening.) It’s an extraordinary game, vast and intricate and ludicrously alive. But, because it’s a Zelda game – hell, because it’s a Nintendo game – it has boss fights. And I can do them! They’re much easier than the average. I still hate them.

I hate them for me because I find them incongruous to the rest of the game they’re in (there are exceptions, games where a ‘boss’ is in fact a sequence that asks you to employ all you’ve learned so far, the gaming equivalent of a comprehension test, and these work so well, but they’re rare like rubies and it’s almost always just a difficulty spike). But I also hate them for other people, those who aren’t as good at games as I am (I am average good at games), for whom I know these are not boss fights, but end points. They are massive impassable obstacles between them and the fun they could be having afterward.

I’ve long hated boss fights, as chronicled perennially on these pages, because they’re difficulty spikes as game design. They’re something that should be rooted out by beta testing somehow being given feature status. And yes, for some reason people love them so, but just as many – if not more – can’t stand them. (Dark Souls wouldn’t be a bloody genre if people didn’t love a boss fight, but while it falls just short of selling seven billion copies, it’s inarguable that there are people who do not enjoy boss fights. And when your game is made of boss fights tied together with string, then yes, it’s plainly idiotic for a hater to buy it.) Here’s the magic though: if games had a button that let you skip past these incongruous segments so you could carry on enjoying the great game on the other side, that button could just as easily not be pressed!

The argument against the skip button, the tourist mode, the skippable combat, the fast-forward a level, all these ideas that keep coming up, is always the same. It’s always, “BUT SOMEONE MIGHT PRESS THEM!” It’s not an enormously strong argument, all things considered. It’s one I’d like to try to counter.

Yes, they might.

Goodness me, it’s like Hegelian dialectic in here.

Ok, it’s slightly more nuanced than that, although it’s never actually expressed truthfully. The argument tends to go, “But someone other than me might press them, and then they’d get to see a bit of the game that was meant only for the Deserving Champions!” Because, the real nub of it is, it’s about exclusivity. It’s about keeping the Thems, the riff-raff, the outsider, out. THIS section of the game, this is special to me and only those as great as I am! I DESERVE this bit of the game! Those weaklings do not! Gosh, it’s an ugly way of thinking, isn’t it? And so utterly idiotic too. Because it requires the mental gymnastics of somehow believing that one’s own isolated experience of a game is cheapened, lessened, impacted in any conceivable way, by the isolated experience of someone else playing that game. It is the transference of one’s ego onto the game itself. It’s not a healthy way to go about experiencing life.

The better argument, although it’s a lot less frequently uttered, is, “But I might press the button!” And here things get a lot more tricky. How many’s the time you regretted pressing the ‘hint’ button on your favourite mobile puzzle game? How often have you felt that incredible sense of achievement of having succeeded at a part of a game that challenged you so, which you know – you just know – you’d have skipped three tries back if you’d had the option? Yes, here, there’s a concern. But it’s not a concern about games, it’s a concern about yourself.

So even to use this far more valid worry, that you might spoil your own experiences when offered a tempting shiny red button, is an exercise in unacceptable selfishness. Because that shiny button becomes the thing that allows a multitude more people than you to enjoy their experience of playing this game, and refusing it because of your own inability to self-regulate isn’t a good enough argument!

There are obvious solutions. The most simple being the option to switch off the option of such a button when starting a new game, and impossible to switch on without restarting. Perfect, right? Those without the self control to impulse use it can remove the option, those who just want to enjoy the game differently than you have it on. Done. Then, if that weren’t enough (and it is), there can be reward mechanisms. Skip the boss and you’ll not get the sparkly new sword (that, ironically, will make things a little easier, but don’t think about it!). Or maybe, to embrace the ugly icky attitude, you get a different ending, and those who need to feel better about themselves than others because of their ability to better press some buttons in time with a cartoon get to see the PROPER ENDING. Not the dirty scumbag ending for paupers and the weak! Aren’t you great, with your ending. Imagine how people will stare at you in the streets!

So hooray for Ubisoft! Hooray for taking all the challenge and difficulty from a game for people who prefer games without challenges and difficulty! Hooray for skipping the boring bits to enjoy more of the fun! Hooray for people being allowed to enjoy a game in a different way from you! Hooray for the riff-raff!

487 Comments

Top comments

  1. alexheretic says:

    Unfortunately the people that disagree with this the most will find it impossible to skip this article.
  1. GrumpySasquatch says:

    There’s a world of difference between making games more accessible and ignoring the content. Lots of games have a “so easy you couldn’t lose” mode for people who just want to play – pretty much every FPS has a super easy mode – but a skip button has you losing out on important story content.

    Bosses aren’t just about killing something powerful, they’re the culmination of a story arc.
    Dark Souls has been brought up a bunch of times and I think it’s the perfect game for showing why this is a bad idea. The story of dark souls is told by showing with very little exposition. The fight against Gwyn shows us how keeping the flame going has robbed him of everything and trapped him in a painful, torturous existence. The boss fight against Seath the Scaleless has shown how he’s become an insane abomination. The actual difficulty of the game itself reinforces the theme that the world of Dark Souls is a dying, brutal world with a very cyclical nature. If you skip these boss fights, you aren’t skipping over a difficult obstacle, you’re skipping over the end of a chapter and jumping 30 pages ahead in the book.
    You aren’t just trying to make games more accessible, you’re trying to carve important parts of them off.

    The reason why people are getting upset isn’t because of an “us vs them” mentality. I don’t hate “normies” coming into my game. It’s because most of the attempts at accessibility cause either the gameplay or the story to suffer.

    Why are people so focused on accessibility? Sometimes things just aren’t for you. If you don’t like spicy food, don’t eat a curry. If you don’t like difficulty, don’t play a difficult game. This is like going to the people who created IT and complaining that the horror and child killing makes the film less accessible and thus they should make the film less scary and remove the references to Pennywise killing children.

    Games, just like films, books and TV series, have a purpose and a thing they try to aim for. Sometimes this means that they just plain aren’t something you like. I hate ARPGs and will never, ever enjoy Diablo because I hate the fundamental structure of the game. Does this mean I should try and make Blizzard change Diablo to be something I like? No, I’ll just go play a game I do like instead like Divinity: Original Sin 2 or The Witcher 3.

    This entire article feels like a five year old child seeing another child getting a toy and going “WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEE.”
    I actually like most of what Rock-Paper-Shotgun produces but articles like *this* are why so few people take this site at all seriously.

    • asadlittlepotato says:

      “You aren’t just trying to make games more accessible, you’re trying to carve important parts of them off.”

      How so? You would still have the option to not skip these fights. You would be able disable the option entirely. Why does somebody else not experiencing the full game matter to you? What if these boss fights are literally preventing from enjoying the game at all? Adding a “skip fight” button would not change the game in any way, except for those who explicitly chooses to use this function .Take another good look at your own arguments. This whole “you must consume and understand a game in the same way I do” thing is just another side of exactly what John is describing.

      “Games, just like films, books and TV series, have a purpose and a thing they try to aim for.”

      Yeah, and I can fast forward/skip pages of all these mediums, which I purchased for my own enjoyment , whenever I want to. Imagine getting this worked up over some stranger skipping parts of your favourite film. “You’re missing the point! The film is wasted on you!”

      So what? I will watch this film however I like. My skipping 30 min of the film does not in any way decrease the value, quality, artistic merit, and emotional significance of the film to you. Neither will my skipping some boss fights impact the design of a game.

      Besides, not every game packs such significance into its boss fights.

      • billnye says:

        In certain cases, this may work, but the writer brings up botw, and likely games similar to it. In Breath of the wild, you need to fight 1 boss in the entire game to save Hyrule. If you could skip it, there would be no fight, no game, you could just go to Hyrule castle, dodge the obstacles and win. Is that fair? A game that lasts like 15 minutes, with no real challenge or impact. If you go straight to the boss and actually win, you at least experience some of what the game has to offer, rather than a free win.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      You can ask the waiter to ask the kitchen to make the curry less spicy, or to leave out the chilli altogether. If he came back and said “If we remove the chilli you would be missing out on some of the content”, you’d be like “I know, that’s what I’m asking for. I’m asking for this curry, but without chilli.”

      • darkath says:

        The waiter will more likely tell you they can of course make the curry less spicy (and most restaurants will take into account the possibility that people enjoy different spiciness settings), but they can’t remove the spices entirely otherwise it would be a different dish.
        Just as you can’t have a “Crispy Duck” without duck, the restaurant will never cater to that particular need and expecting them to is unjustified.

        In the end the prerogative lies on the restaurant’s end. They are free to design any dish they want and you are free to buy them or not. If this restaurant only has spicy options, that’s their prerogative, and maybe you should instead try one of the other bazillion restaurant available in the same street.

        • Ich Will says:

          The argument is then that this hypothetical resturant will face a choice, be such a niche choice that they go out of business within the year, or serve watered down bland slop under the merketing sheen and pretense of it being hardcore spicy. By being flexible, they can offer customers who actually want the spice, their full, unadultorated vision, and still sell enough meals that they can continue to stay in business.

          • endosymbiosis says:

            To continue the analogy… there is room in the world for both types of “restaurants”. That’s why we have family restaurants and chains, but there are also restaurants that are small and specialize in one thing. Both can be successful in their own ways, there’s no need to argue about which one is “better”, or to force one to be like the other. You can just choose which one you go to. Let’s say you love curry but hate spicy foods: it doesn’t make sense to go to the little family owned hole in the wall that only serves spicy curry and then tell them they’re not “accessible” enough.

    • Ragnar says:

      The “skip boss fight” button is just a phrase, the idea behind it being to remove the difficulty spikes. It could just make the player invulnerable for the fight, thus letting them still see the fight and experience any story related content.

      No one is asking to change games’ genre. We’re not looking to change an ARPG into a CRPG, or turn a horror game into a comedy. We just want to skip the parts that we don’t enjoy, so we can get back to the parts we do.

      We can already skip cutscenes, or dialog, or quest text. I don’t see anyone up in arms about being able to skip these (arguably more) important pieces of content. Nor has such content disappeared from games just because people can skip it.

      If you insist on a non-game example, it would be like we’re independently watching the Blair Witch Project. The shaky-cam portions make me nauseous, so I fast forward through them to get back to the portions I can watch and enjoy – because the alternative is that I have to turn it off and not watch it at all.

      If we meet up later to discuss the movie, are you going to think less of me because I had to skip those bits of content? Or are you merely going to fill me in on any important bits I might have missed, and then we can go on discussing the rest of the movie?

  2. PikaBot says:

    I think there are a lot of games that could benefit from this option. There are also other games that I feel it would not be appropriate for.

    So, support it in many cases, do not support your idea that all games should do it. If a developer wants to make a niche title, let them make a niche title for god’s sake.

  3. bill says:

    For me it’d be the “But I might press it!” issue.

    Because back in the day i DID actually beat Meta Ridley and I also beat Alma in Ninja Gaiden and while fighting them was annoying as all hell, actually beating them made me feel great.
    If they’d had a skip button I’d probably have clicked it.. and somehow that feels like I’d have lost out.

    On the other hand, these days I don’t have the free time to spend 3 days retrying a battle, so those battles would probably have just resulted in me quitting the game.

    So current me would very much like one, but younger me might be against it.

    Ninja Gaiden did introduce a “ninja dog” difficulty that popped up as an option if you were too crap at the game… which was rather galling, but might be one way to go.
    (Of course, I turned it down at the time, but these days I might take it up on the offer…)

  4. ArgyleHammer says:

    The way I see it, “Skip’ability” moves games towards mass market entertainment, while shifting them farther from consideration as an art form on par with film, literature or music.

    The fact that Ubisoft is making a game with skippable content comes as no surprise. Their goal is to make money, as much as they can. That means targeting as big an audience as possible. Their goal is not to challenge your assumptions or shape your world view, it’s to take your mind off the crappy day you just had.

    In the end, this is probably a good thing. It will continue to dilute big budget games to the point that all artistic perspective is wrung out of them. Leaving a stark contrast between bespoke games and those that are simply there to make a buck. Of course, the divide is already there. Skippable / scrubbable features are simply one of the final beachheads.

    Widening the divide between games as entertainment and art, will mostly certainly also widen the gap between the people that enjoy each variant. How can it not? Those that understand and respect games as an artistic perspective (oh hell, just something that challenges ones ideas and comfort level), will find it harder and harder to understand people that want ever-safer, less jarring, “rides” through interesting landscapes. There’s really nothing wrong with that. It’s natural and happens in any practice that requires discipline, perspective and passion — sports, art, business, etc.

    In the extreme, the medium will be divided. Many AAA games will become “interactive movies” while many indie games will remain what I consider a game: a designed interactive experience, driven by player actions, skill and intellect which attempts to present a unique (often polarizing) perspective on a particular setting, subject, set of mechanics or rules. Basically interactive art.

    To me their are really only two victims here.

    The first is RPS. I’ve always seen it as standing for something more than “games as entertainment”. Over the years, I’ve seen it as a place where indies would stand out from the crowd, not as patronized artifacts, but shoulder to shoulder with multi-million dollar projects. I hope that continues.

    The second is John. As a gaming critic it’s ironic that he’s pushing for features which erode if not eliminate the demand for insightful, well thought out perspective on games. In other industries (food, music, film, etc) the most respected critics consistently look to elevate the craft, pushing it’s creators to realize evermore interesting works of art. If John’s dream of hyper-accessible gaming really came true, would there be a need for him? If games are for everyone what’s the need for critique?

    • asadlittlepotato says:

      Gaming has been long been a form of mass market entertainment. In film, the existence of franchised blockbusters does not negate the merit of or decrease the incentive to make more meaningful and artistic films. A move to ban blockbusters or action flicks because they are too accessible to the masses and not “elevated” enough would be ludicrous, whatever my own personal opinion on these genres are.

      • Emeraude says:

        But then a move that would call for the norms of blockbusters to be imposed to auteur movies would be acceptable? Should The Devil, Probably have employed real professional actors because people do not enjoy Bresson opinions on acting?

        • asadlittlepotato says:

          Unless I’m misreading his article I don’t think that’s what John is suggesting. He is not advocating for every game in existence to include this feature. The games he’s mentioned are already in the ‘mass market’ vein. Unless, of course, they start charging people to skip a fight and therefore be forced to design games around enticing people into skipping fights. Ubisoft/Bioware are already build around marketing their games to a maximum number of casual players.

          • Emeraude says:

            I think the problem is the historical framing of that debate.
            We have a present claim that not all games would need the feature, that some games fit a niche and should stay so. But then last time we had that demand was for an easy mode of sort for Dark Souls, a game that is willfully and purposely designed to be as mean as possible. That is integral part of the experience it’s trying to convey.

            So you can see why people would worry that, yes, the claim is nice, but more than likely we do not see eye to eye on where the line stands.

      • ArgyleHammer says:

        I agree. It seems you’ve misunderstood me.

        Success of games in general is good for all forms of game creation, AAA or otherwise. Case in point, the crop of indie games has never been stronger or more diverse.

        However, as I noted above, pushing for some / all games to be more and more “accessible” (I think John is really asking for “playable by all skill levels” … accessibility can be satisfied while catering to a specific audience) moves them father and farther away from being a game and more and more into the realm of interactive entertainment.

        There is a chance that if the interactive entertainment form of games becomes too dominant it will leave no room for the kinds of games many people enjoy today. Games with rules, challenge, specific audiences, etc, etc.

        I think the chance is very small, but I’d guess its existence is one of the reasons why so many people react passionately to this discussion.

    • Ragnar says:

      We can already skip dialog, text, even entire cutscenes. We can decrease the resolution, turn off visual effects. We can even turn off the audio.

      Can you believe it? Some gamers right now are playing games with the sound off, completely skipping all the sounds and music and voice acting. All these artists worked so hard to make the games’ audio, and some gamers are skipping it entirely. And they don’t even feel guilty about it.

      • ArgyleHammer says:

        Yes, I know :). I’ve even had to do it a few times.

        Interestingly I can’t recall doing this on any of the great games I’ve played. Options, like you note, in my experience have only been useful as a means of making a poorly crafted game a bit less frustrating or tedious to play. So I’d argue the reason these features are so rampant is due, in part at least, to the glut of poorly designed / crafted / rushed / etc games, born of an industry and art form struggling to find itself admits a sea of overwhelming growth and demand.

        More importantly, their existence does not in and of itself mean they are good for games, any more than the nearly universal absence of features like high-contrast mode, colour blind mode, or input experiences for people that can’t use a KBM or controller means they are bad.

        Adding features like “boss skip” to a game that contains (or is crafted) around boss fights is the laziest form of critic I can imagine. At best it will make a mediocre game somewhat enjoyable — especially by people that don’t like fighting bosses. A more interesting conversation, at least from a critique perspective, and what I’d expect of RPS, is to ask why boss fights are so common in games, and more importantly, why many of them are so poorly done. Better still would be to hold games to an ever-higher standard. One that slowly sees the boss fights of yesteryear pushed into the background while rewarding more progressive gameplay experiences.

  5. catscratch says:

    Something tells me this is less about giving casuals a way to get through the game and more to do with the AC combat system being so bad that people will actually want to skip it instead of playing any more of it.

    Of course, they could instead make the combat more interesting, but, in the words of another game critic… Oh, Ubisoft!

    In regards to taking challenge out of a game: this is a bad idea. Challenge is what makes environments feel alive. Taking the challenge out trivializes the environments and leaves players without a reason to care about them.

    Let’s consider this example. Suppose you have a game about a walk in the park. It’s a great looking game, Unreal or CryEngine perhaps, the trees are nicely rendered, there are flowers and tufts of various kinds of grass, creeks, paths, maybe a cave or two – and, presumably, the sun, casting good looking shadow effects on it all. It sounds very pretty, but in 2 minutes, you’ll be bored, and quit to desktop because there’s no reason to care about any of it. There’s nothing making you pay attention to anything aside from whatever external desire to look at things you brought with you into the game.

    Now let’s say I scatter monsters throughout the park, give you a sword, and tell you that somewhere I’ve hidden a treasure chest and clues to its location. I also put a stealth system into the game. Now, every meaningless shadow cast by every tree is a potential place to hide. Every tall tuft of grass could conceal a monster, or you. Is that just a flower you see, or is it a pair of eyes? You don’t know, so now you have to pay attention to every part of the environment, you have to have your head on a swivel, and simply moving around is an exercise in tension cause you don’t know what’s watching you or waiting around the corner. By putting in threats, I’ve made the environment more alive, and forced you to take every detail of it into consideration.

    Taking out the threat… makes games dull.

    By all means have an easy mode if people can’t get through regular difficulty. Or do what people used to do instead of microtransactions and sell cheats. But giving people the option to not play a part of your game does not make for a better game, nor does it make for more involving environments.

    Let’s not even talk about the precedent of making combat in combat-focused games optional. If we decide it’s optional, then the publishers can use that as an excuse to have mediocre combat – “they’ll skip it anyway!”

    Make games better, don’t just throw away those parts that need fixing most.

  6. leett says:

    In Super Mario 3D World (sorry), if you die enough at the same spot in a level, on the next respawn you have the option of collecting a power-up that essentially trivializes the rest of the level. You can run so fast and jump so high and are sufficiently invulnerable so that, assuming you’re physically able to play Wii U games in the first place, you’re basically guaranteed to win.

    Super Mario 3D World has some tough levels, post-Bowser. I died a bunch. And I never once collected those power-ups, because I didn’t want to. I had sufficient motivation and time (I feel that the lack of time that a typical adult with typical adult responsibilities has to fight the same boss 300 times doesn’t come up enough, in these discussions) to master each level.

    If you’re against such an option in games because you’d just use it and feel guilty afterwards, the problem isn’t the game. The problem is you, and your self-control.

    • pepperfez says:

      It’s reasonable to say, “I don’t want games to test my self-control in ways that will make me feel bad about myself.” That’s not a trump card, but it’s a competing interest that deserves to be acknowledged.

  7. HoboDragon says:

    Thanks for the article and all similar ones.
    I for one love this idea and will for the first time but again Ubisoft game.
    I don’t mind if I don’t get the achievement or the best sword –
    NO ONE will care how and if you finished the game aside from some peer pressure (probably dumb) “friends” or if you earn money as you tuber/streamer.
    I played DS 1-3 – with cheats. So sue me.
    End result – I still enjoyed the game and they made more money.

    • Jernau Gurgeh says:

      The only reason I got Dark Souls 2 and 3 is because I was able to compete the first game with an invincibility hack, and even then I still found it too bloody difficult! I wouldn’t have bothered with the sequels if I hadn’t been able to get somewhere in the first game and seen how wonderful it was beyond the ridiculously tough gameplay. Also, I had more or less written off Demon Souls on PS3 after getting nowhere in 20+ hours of playing, but with a souls multiplying exploit I was able to level up without grinding my life away and advance, completing the game with a d finite feeling of satisfaction and joy.

      FYI: I played all these games offline with the hacks, so don’t consider it cheating.

  8. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Boss fights are exciting, and they test your ability to use what you’ve learned in the stage. What kind of gamer buys an action game, and then wishes the action just petered out after building up to a climax.

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      Although i wouldn’t mind if they brought back cheat codes.

    • Matchstick says:

      People different from you.

      Not everyone is the same and different people play games for different reasons so any player getting upset that people might be playing game THE WRONG WAY is frankly being ridiculous and more than a little precious.

    • pepperfez says:

      Good boss fights are exciting and test your skills; bad boss fights waste your time.

  9. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    I feel especially warm to this article, illustrated as it is with a screenshot of Meta-Ridley, the reason I have as yet not completed the utterly fantastic Metroid Prime after 13 years of trying.

  10. Xelos says:

    …why don’t we have cheat codes anymore? God mode used to solve the difficulty problem. There were many games I’ve played sololy on god mode as a kid and still loved them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Because “Achievements”. But yes, we should definitely bring cheat codes back. I’d happily trade achievements and trophies (a blight on modern game design) for that.

  11. Laurentius says:

    It’s not only about skipping content but about playing things you want. What if I like particular boss fight and want to replay it? Well in many games without save state I have beat whole game up to this point, it’s stupid.

  12. Gothnak says:

    Dev with 20 years experience chiming in here.

    Our job is to make games that appeal to the most people possible, but we also need to temper any feature put in for cost, risk and how many more players we’ll gain.

    Adding a skip button isn’t a huge task, but admittedly it’s something we don’t think of much, as we expect people that buy our games want to have the frustration of challenge, as only by overcoming challenge do people enjoy it.

    However, it’s also known that many people don’t get to finish our games. I’ve worked on a franchise that is famously quite easy, and due to that a larger % of players finished it, which is good. However the reputation it then got is of not being a proper RPG by hard core fans, so as a dev you have to correctly target your market as that even if you are opening a game to more people, there may be a backlash.

    With that said however, I’m totally behind the idea. As long as firstly the game has a default challenging difficulty, and as long as the skip buttons skip as little as possible, I’d be for them. Personally with Assassins creed, I’d skip the stealth missions, I love combat.

    There are games that will have issues with this approach such as ftl or darkest dungeon that unlock content based on passing challenges. If losing and retrying is part of the learning experience, does the game balance and therefore the experience get work if you allow people to auto win? I’ve always enjoyed Fifa with a crap team against the AI and never understood those who go out and buy 100 packs on day 1, that seems to miss 50%of the core game experience.

    • mundanesoul says:

      Well said, Gothnak. Thanks for the insider perspective.

  13. teh_nerd says:

    Accessibility does neither mean simplification nor skipping content.

    Increasing the accessibility of a game with combat would mean to give casuals (like me) the opportunity to enjoy that form of content by enabling them to play it the way it was intended, by properly introducing the mechanics and providing the required information within the game itself, without relying on people having learned genre conventions from playing similar games over the past 20 years.

    A “skip content” button is arguably the lamest idea for making a game more accessible and inclusive and will only lead to games that are less balanced (“players can skip it, if it’s too difficult; release already!”) and to combat of lower quality (“don’t need additional combat animations or enemy types, it’s just optional content anyway!”).

    • Laurentius says:

      Tell me, are you a kid or a teen with zero expereince in the world because you definietly sound like one. That not how things works, subpar quality or lack of editorial care does not come from “it’s optional or it’s skipable content”. Completley different forces are at play so whole your fearmongering about lower quality or unbalanced stuff is quite simply bogus.

      • teh_nerd says:

        Why so angry?

        I can give you a concrete example: quest markers on maps, pointers to the next quest objective (arrows, lines on the ground), and other quest indicators made devs stop paying attention to detailed directions in quest texts and NPC dialogues. Today, even if there was an option to turn off the visual quest indicators, in most games it is simply no longer possible to play without them because the information in dialogues and texts is simply insufficient. Supporting both play styles in parallel would significantly increase cost, e.g. QA would have to thoroughly test both play styles. So it does not come as a surprise that most games today just neglect the written/spoken directions.

        This is a good example how an optional convenience feature led to a “lack of editorial care” (as you aptly put it) and influenced game design overall and, over time, became a mandatory crutch.

        • Laurentius says:

          OK so I take it back and apologize for my statement. So you do see where it came from. But isn’t that clear that it wasn’t convinient fmap quests that led to this? It’s crutch/stress iducing/cuting cost/saving time type of development of modern video game industry that is causing it. So taking on convinient features where there are far more detrministic forces causing drops in quality of content and editorial control is strange.

  14. Ghostbird says:

    Coming in very late to say: all of this. Yes. Absolutely.

  15. Shinard says:

    I’ve got to say, I’m against the idea and not because of an us against them mentality. Quite the opposite. Some of my favourite gaming experiences, the ones that hooked me on gaming as a hobby, have been boss fights. Specifically, boss fights where I’ve been stuck for ages, trying new tactics and tricks, before finally making it through. That feeling, of overcoming a challenge through hard work, creative thinking and skill, that’s a large part of what got me into games. And skipping a boss fight would skip that feeling.

    But it’s just an option? True, but I feel like it’s an option I would’ve taken, and so missed out on a lot. I feel like the option risks people skipping boss fights and being unsatisfied because of it, and so not wanting to continue on gaming.

    I agree that there are problems, though. I think including a boss fight skip button wouldn’t be as simple as that, but would require a larger redesign. An entirely new difficult level, a la AC:Oranges, a serious rethink of boss design to encourage choosing the fights over skipping them, and a level design overhaul to make sure skipping fights still provides a satisfying experience. The option to fight skipped bosses later, as well – if the game supports it you could have a unique piece of loot you only get from defeating the boss, either time. I’d support including a skip boss button and some design changes, but I think just including a skip boss button could cause more harm than good.

  16. Thirith says:

    I’m okay with a “skip” button, if implemented well and if it doesn’t have knock-on effects on development as those postulated by some posters. Personally, I’d have to leave it deactivated because I have ruined a couple of games for myself with cheat modes because having the option did change the way I played the game in ways that made them less enjoyable overall, and once I started using the cheats I found it more difficult to resist them the next time I ran into trouble.

    I do mind, though, that so little of the discussion seems to be about difficulty as a means of expression and games as (largely) authored experiences. This isn’t true for all games, but it definitely is for some: an easier Dark Souls isn’t just a Dark Souls that is less difficult, it is arguably a distinctly different experience, because the difficulty serves a purpose beyond gating off content. Similarly an easy Super Meat Boy would be a distinctly different game – just as To the Moon, Journey or Gone Home made to be more challenging would be distinctly different games. Personally, I find that I enjoy tightly authored games for this quality, and you can’t just introduce options – however justified your reasons – without making these games into something different, and that’s where I think the argument of “It’s just not for you” is legitimate – both for very challenging games and very easy ones. Games engage you in a dialogue, and the ways they focus, channel or restrict carry meaning. Sometimes not a hell of a lot of meaning, but difficulty (or lack thereof) is a valid means of expression, and I’m not convinced that it can be just a binary option isolated from all the other means of expression a game has at its disposal.

    • Thirith says:

      Too late for an edit, but still: I very much welcome the idea of a ‘tourist mode’, just as I welcome model viewers in games, though to my mind they’re pretty different from a “skip boss” button. The latter is about still experiencing the game but not the frustrating bits (though some would argue that if you skip parts of the experience, just like if you skip a chapter of Ulysses, you *aren’t* experiencing the actual thing); the former is about having different ways of experiencing the content without having to endure the game.

  17. sfg says:

    Oh great, this idiot again with his whining about toxicity.

    Yeah, what a great idea, why shouldn’t we give people who don’t actually like games (like this idiot) an easier way to play things…they don’t like. Wow. Amazing. Brilliant.
    Just so then we have even more idiots crying about toxicity and various other things that are completely unrelated to gaming in any way.
    Btw, if you have problems with this “toxicity”, then play the games on yourself or make your own little safe-space for those with very sensitive souls and stay there.
    I really don’t understand why people want to play games without actually playing them.
    What’s the point? If you only care about the story, watch a movie. What it is? You hate gameplay, you hate the “culture”, what is it that you’re still doing here?

    • Matchstick says:

      Conversely who appointed you the sole arbiter of the one true way to play games ?

      What is it about people wanting different things from playing games to you that makes you so disturbed ?

    • Emeraude says:

      Btw, if you have problems with this “toxicity”, then play the games on yourself or make your own little safe-space for those with very sensitive souls and stay there.

      He did, it’s called Rock Paper Shotgun. Just because the man is trying to get a conversation going doesn’t mean you can feel free to come on his home-turf and insult him there.

    • pepperfez says:

      This comment is just too, too perfect. It should be preserved in formaldehyde for generations to come.

  18. Syt says:

    It’s an interesting subject. There have for sure been games that I wished were “easier”, because I was primarily interested in the worldbuilding and lore – Dark Souls being a prime example wehre I tried various alternate ways to experience the content before studying Let’s Plays and Walkthroughs to make my own way through.

    In most narrative games (RPGs, FPS, other action games) I choose lowest difficulty or close to it to make it to the end. I have more than enough games to play as is, and in many cases I’m happy to experience a “light” version if it means I’m not missing (much) content so I can move on to something else.

    That said, I can accept that some games are just not for me, and that’s ok. Just like there’s whole segments of literature, movie, theater, sports, music that are directed at certain target demographics, so are games. And that’s totally fine.

    I appreciate if a dev makes a game that I’m interested in accessible to my level of skill (or adds an exploration mode), but I don’t begrudge them not doing so. Especially in a day and age where I can experience those games vicariously through Twitch and YouTube. At any rate it’s a fine line to tread between player railroading (e.g. taking control away from the player to make sure they see the awesome set piece vs. trusting your players to pay attention and find a huge, hidden away area). Ideally, it will be a choice left to the players, but it may not always be easy to implement while staying true to the vision of the developers.

    Today’s gaming market literally releases dozens or hundreds of games every week. It has something for every type of gamer, hardcore vs occasional, narrative experiences vs purely mechanical games, and everyone can find something they enjoy between Dwarf Fortress and Dear Esther, between Devil Daggers and Overwatch (how would you even add an accessible/easy mode to Dwarf Fortress?). The hobby is much more inclusive than it was in the 80s or 90s by virtue of breadth alone.

  19. KayAU says:

    I don’t mind there being options, and I don’t care if content is being seen by people who didn’t “earn” it the same way I did. Cheats have existed in games since I was a kid. Some people use them, some people don’t. It’s fine.

    But I also believe that this should not be a necessity for every game. Games are not books or movies, they are interactive programs which are designed to provide certain experiences. The difficulty may be an essential part of the experience that was intended by the developer. And boss fights are not necessarily road blocks to gate off content for the “deserving”, they are often an important part of the content themselves. In many cases it may be fine to skip these parts, or to make the challenge extremely low. But I also believe that some consideration should be given to the artistic integrity of the games, and the right of developers to control what they create.

    Also, I think the image of “elite gamers” who are just being petty and don’t want others to have what they have, is a bit of a straw man. I am sure these people exist, but I don’t think there are that many, and I don’t think they are representative of most gamers.

  20. DodoSandvich says:

    Actually I think the skip button might benefit the more hardcore part of the gaming community

    This influx of less nerdy and less hardcore (Not just non-nerds and casuals, we are working with a spectrum here people. It’s not us vs them) wether percieved or real (does anyone have concrete data?) is going to continue regardless of the introduction of this “skip button”.
    So the more hardcore audience is becomming a smaller part of the demographic and that means fewer games targeted at us.

    But, with the skip button and other similar tools game designers can make the range of difficulty wider. For a more concrete example, they can add difficulty to easy games and make them enjoyable for the more hardcore audience. Or in general, they can make games that fit a larger part of the spectrum, rather than just targeting one part.

    So for devs it’s no longer us vs them. It’s both :D

  21. TotallyUseless says:

    Boss fight and challenges off. What’s next, a Harvest Moon like game from Ubi$oft? Well I’d be down with it. XD

  22. hay82 says:

    It seems there are quite a few people who can’t see that others might enjoy different things in games than they do themselves. The example I see mentioned is Dark Souls, one person saying that skipping the boss fights would mean missing out of the story. I love the Dark Souls games but the bosses make me eventually drop it, but I have not once considered the story of Dark Souls to be part of why I enjoy the game.
    Another example is the idea that overcoming challenges is an enjoyment. Again using Dark Souls as my reference, I’ll say that bosses are just an annoyance to me, I don’t get the rush or enjoyment out of defeating a tough boss that others seem to get.
    Yet another example is the “this is how the developers intended it to be”, which is valid I’d say, it just makes more sense to me that people who make stuff would want as many people as possible to enjoy it. Once something is out of your hands as a creator, then it’s really no longer up to you how it is enjoyed. The thing about the ending to Mass Effect 3 seems to me a good example of the gaming community not always thinking much about what the developers want you to enjoy. Of course none of that means anyone has any right to force a developer to create things differently than they want to.

    I would never demand a feature of a game, but I will certainly wish for features I would like in games. I would love Dark Souls to have a skip boss button, but I don’t see that happening and I’ve found I don’t get far enough in them to really justify the purchase. Instead of buying Dark Souls 3 I watched someone do a let’s play of it, not that this compares to the feeling of playing it, but I got to see the areas. Perhaps it’ll be interesting to some that even in let’s plays I quickly skip the boss fights.

  23. jeremyalexander says:

    As someone that has been gaming since the Atari 2600, mostly on PC, but with some console experience as well, I think this might be my favorite development in gaming of all time. First of all, as a history major that specialized in Greco-Roman studies, which Egypt obviously played a major part, the kind of learning tool something like this could be is off the charts. Not to mention it can bring in people that have never played it. As for the vocal but absolute minority of jerks that care if someone else plays a game they play or plays it differently than they play it, they can be completely ignored. If the game is good chances are near 100% that they will buy it anyway, and if they don’t it would barely be noticeable in sales. Fake hardcore gamers are easy to ignore. I’ve been doing it and loving gaming since the late 70’s. Kudos to Ubisoft, of all companies, to lead the way with this type of innovation. These are the kinds of things that advance the medium as a whole, the tired old stragglers can be safely left behind while gaming expands into entirely new parts of society and brings eyes to the industry.

  24. LennyLeonardo says:

    I liked the chicken hat in Phantom Pain. However, it did kind of ridicule you for choosing the easier option, which isn’t nice.

  25. moke says:

    Are you somebody for whom anybody who doesn’t want to do or see something challenging that you want to do or see is a “snowflake”? Do you think these snowflakes are taking away your nice things by magically eliminating the demand you and others like you create for them? In that case you will not want a skip button, you will vote for Trump again and you will continue to argue that as societies get less and less arbitrary and brutal that somehow our moral framework is being eaten away. There is a name for these people and it is “reactionary”, and they think very highly of themselves.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      “There is a name for these people and it is “reactionary”, and they think very highly of themselves.”

      Dear god the irony of this statement, as it relates to the rest of your insane mini-rant of a post.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Please don’t drag the toddler-in-chief into this. Really not relevant.

  26. Kefren says:

    The simplest option = multiple difficulty levels. The lowest could make it hard to fail; the highest, hard to survive.

    Then let people change difficulty at any time.

    Getting frustrated? Drop the difficulty for a bit. Too easy? Raise it. It shouldn’t have to be a decision made at the start with no knowledge of what is to come.

    There’s no need for a “skip fight” button. Just drop the difficulty to the minimum (where the boss has little health and moves more slowly), then raise it again.

    This offers a way forward for everyone. And if someone enjoys a game and gets good at it, they’ll move up to another difficulty. I used to enjoy Doom enough that over time I bumped up to Ultraviolence and could complete all four campaigns in succession without a death. But I’d have never got there if I hadn’t started on a lower difficulty and got familiar with my first FPS.

    • zaqqq says:

      What about ridiculous gameplay mechanics like quest compass in rpgs? You can’t simply remove it on harder difficulty without adding some navigational instructions to dialogues and items in game thus completely changing the gameplay…

  27. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    You know, I’m all for games being made accessible to more people but your ignorant dismissal of what Ubisoft is doing with “despite their rather awkwardly trying to wrap it all up in a pretence at wanting to be Edumacational” is just as dumb as hardcore gamers saying games should never remove challenge.

    The fact that a large game studio are trying to combine the extraordinary environments they build for these games with a genuinely interesting attempt at exploring the actual history of the place while working with historians is a *good and valuable thing* that more developers of historical games should be doing, and here you are pissing all over it with your shitty “oh look at Ubisoft pretending to care about history lol”… it’s just sad and it really weakens the rest of your otherwise perfectly fine argument.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Sorry, but I cannot stand that kind of ignorant mean-spirited (and plain wrong) “AAA developers only care about money and if they say they care about something else they must be lying”-attitude. I expect that shit from Steam forums and reddit. I expect better from RPS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      As to your actual argument, I agree the one valid defense of challenge in games is that players may rob themselves of a more interesting experience choosing the path of least resistance. It can be hard to tell what you’re missing out on when you default to avoiding all difficulty. The solution I think is make it clear what is meant to be the ‘ideal’ intended experience, but still allow players to bypass or soften difficult bits if they really want to without fuss or judgement.

  28. Rince says:

    Why people are making a fuss about this?
    It’s the same as the good old difficulty levels. Just instead of VERY EASY, there’s a tourist mode.

    And that’s good, because not all people have the same skills levels. And not all people are masochists.

    Seriously guys, sometimes I’m ashamed to be a gamer.

    • zaqqq says:

      Because skipping game content is lazy game design that screams “We’re so incompetent in making our game even worth playing in some parts so here’s skip button.” It’s like microtransactions in single player game just even more ridiculous.

      • Laurentius says:

        Yes, because ability to turn off music that I have in every game nowdays screams “our music sucks ass. No, it’s an option and no one is getting huffy, why because that gatekeeping morons didn’t think about yet. Fortunately it is so widespread that no one can start campagin to remove that option on basis “play the game with orginal soundtrack as devs intended” and doesn’t look stupid. So skip boss fight I can guarnatee you we will get there, so you can start weeping now. Look how GTA changed, GTA VC and GTA V, now mission have checkpoints and after beating the game I can replay any mission without starting over.

  29. Umberto Bongo says:

    So basically for some games it’d make sense to and would be fine to have a skip button, and some games it wouldn’t.

  30. ramirezfm says:

    Skip boss fight button? Never! Stress free dicovery only mode? Definitely! Glad to see AssCreed doing it the same as I was glad to see The Forest do it.

    As for skipping bosses. If your bosses are skip material why include them at all? I prefer adding more options to tackle said bosses. Like VtM Bloodlines or Torment Numenera, you can fight some fights or talk your way out of some fights. Create boss encounters that can be tackled with brawn or brains instead of adding let-me-avoid-this-content button.

  31. dethtoll says:

    I hate it when Walker writes something I mostly agree with, albeit in general principle if not specifics.

    • Hidoshi says:

      I agree, I can totally understand the general point of “Most boss battles are too spiked with difficulty” (problem), but I disagree with “all bosses should have a skip button (solution).
      My recent example is Mario & Rabbids Kingdom battles. A lovely game (although too easy for me) that my wife really enjoys. She went perfectly through all the missions, no deaths at all. But when the first bossfight came she got wiped 3 times, so asked me to ‘help’ instead. The boss was really well done, with new attack patterns, as a new enemy and you had to change your tactics a bit, but it was just too difficult. So if there would’ve been a “skip boss battle” button, you would’ve missed a lot of the fun of the fight (and how would the developers feel, who put all the effort in designing and making this boss).

      Therefore I think that a skip boss button wouldn’t solve the problem (and is fuel for the “GID GUD” people and “ALL GAMES SHOULD BE FOR EVERYONE”), only the symptom. I do agree however that there should be a solution to boss fights having a weird difficulty spike, or being bad design in general.

  32. Martijn says:

    I hate them for me because I find them incongruous to the rest of the game they’re in (there are exceptions, games where a ‘boss’ is in fact a sequence that asks you to employ all you’ve learned so far, the gaming equivalent of a comprehension test, and these work so well, but they’re rare like rubies and it’s almost always just a difficulty spike).

    To me this is the argument against boss fights. Games should just be getting harder gradually and not throw in some roadblock and then get easier again. In some genres this is pretty standard. There are no racing games where you have to beat a Formula 1 car to reach the next level of touring car racing. Puzzle games also do not usually throw in a ultra hard puzzle at random points, but add difficulty step by step.

  33. bretfrag says:

    I think there is a legitimate argument against the inclusion of boss skipping buttons that isn’t properly addressed here. Playing games in most cases is about progress – progress in exploring more of the game in tandem with progressing in skill as a player. If you sever the connection between them, is it so hard to conceive that the former would become diluted? As with Dark Souls, here treated as an exception to the rule, so with many other games: progression feels good to a large extent because it’s intrinsically tied to desert. You can caricature this as a manifestation of perverse elitism or egotism, but I think it’s pretty fundamental to what’s enjoyable about most games.

  34. zaqqq says:

    Why not include skip button for completely opposite reason – avoiding boring filler “trash mob” fights, repetitive collecting of resources, pointless exploring of cloned locations etc.? It could make games like TES: Skyrim, Dragon Age: Inquisition or Fallout 4 that have ridiculous game lenght (70+hours) because of this filler content more enjoyable (but still not great imho) for some players…

  35. dskzero says:

    I guess, fine, go ahead. Just remember some of us do enjoy the inherent challenge, fun and entertainment that comes with playing videogames instead of just walking through them.

  36. Rizlar says:

    Apart from all the griping and angsty philosophising over this, I think there is an interesting point about why AssCreed.

    These mega budget game series create the most stunning worlds with thousands and thousands of hours work put into everything. No matter how big or talented your indie game dev is they cannot accomplish anything similar. In games like the AssCreed series, oft derided for being shallow and repetitive in gameplay and not having any plot worth mentioning, the big draw for people must be experiencing these places.

    So it makes complete sense to me that they would allow a tourism mode. It seems like such a waste of the craft and time put into these gobsmackingly artificed AAA worlds that they are simply used as blurred backdrops between neck stabbings and icons.

    I want to experience more of these masterpiece digital spaces and I want to play fewer big budget games.

    • teh_nerd says:

      I haven’t seen a single comment around here arguing against what Ubi is doing with this tourist mode. IMO, it’s a brilliant idea to re-use the incredibly detailed and well-crafted world of a AAA action game for something that seems to be an edutainment project (which would, alone, never have the budget to come up with such an immersive world).

      But, while Ubi’s idea is implemented as a separate DLC that does not affect the experience of the base game at all, the “skip content” button is proposed as a core feature of games in general, and as such it would heavily influence the game play experience and affect the overall design of these games (as others have pointed out).

      The fact that Ubi’s brilliant idea is lumped together with an age old discussion about game difficulty and exclusivity, even though they have little to do with each other, is one of the unfortunate aspects of the above article.

      • ramirezfm says:

        Ubi is not the first. The Forest added “vegan mode” for people who just wanted to build their base and explore the world a long while ago. (Haven’t played The Forest for a long while so I’m not sure that it’s still there, but it was a good mode.)

  37. The Lambton Worm says:

    I can think of at least one game which I don’t think ought to have an easy mode or skippable boss fights, which is The Void (aka Tension). I’ve played this on its standard setting and on a fan-made mod to make it easier, because I found the standard one too hard to progress.

    It’s about a world which is dying and starving and in which you have to scrabble around like a hunted rat just to survive, and the actions and choices and sacrifices of the characters take place in this world and your understanding of the meaning and significance of the characters’ actions comes in great part from your experience of the world’s character. If you make it easy to come by the game’s main resource, you don’t get the same understanding of the world, either in the sense of being able to work out what the characters are up to and to empathise with them, or to get the more basic visceral feel of knowing what the world is like through working and struggling in it. When I played it with the easiness mod it noticeably diminished my experience of the game, and in the end I went back to the standard setting.

    I still have not finished it. I intend to go back and some point and to practice the skills you need to finish it, but don’t know you’ll need until quite late in the day, from an earlier point and maybe this time find success. But if I still can’t, well, I still think the game should be as hard as it is, and though I’d very much like to see and experience the rest of it, I’m willing to be amongst those excluded if it lets the game do the thing that it does as perfectly as it does it. Shoot me.

  38. Captain Narol says:

    Wow, looks like you opened another can of worms, dear John.

    The good thing is that it brought more traffic on my favorite website, with all the “hardcore l33t” people coming in to oppose your views, lol ! Thanks guys for indirectly supporting RPS !

  39. BaronKreight says:

    You know how to evaluate a journalist? The more clicks/comments his scribblings generate the better the journalist. This is some fine journalist work right there.

  40. zmads09 says:

    Don’t forget that loot boxes, dlc, microtransactions and whatever, once upon a time was a nice novelty the games implemented. After that, the developers abused those systems and since then most of the games are half finish products. They designed the games around those things and that’s why every new game that launches it’s a convoluted mess.
    I get the point that some people don’t want to play the game and only want to be immersed in the worlds they create. The problem with that is they don’t need to balance the game anymore if you have a skip button, they’ll abuse this new system in the moment most of the people get accustomed seeing it around.
    In the end who likes to play the game for the gameplay will be the ones that lose. Don’t even start saying things like this is not possible, they won’t do that. Yeah, look at microtransactions today in full priced games.
    I don’t have the answers to what can be done to make the game enjoyable to all. I know that this is not a good trend to begin because publishers will abuse this and cannot be trusted.

  41. impeus says:

    [note: this is a comment on “skip boss fight” not “story mode AC”]

    Ten years ago I’d have thought this was a terrible shame, and more indicative of lazy game design than anything else. (“Eh, we don’t need to smooth over this difficulty spike at all, just slap a skip button in, it’ll be fine…”)

    These days I’m a busy parent. It might be months between gaming sessions, and each one might only be eight minutes long.

    It has often meant that coming up to a complex boss sequence means several days of frustration, followed by shelving the game in favour of something that I can actually PLAY in the short time available to me.

    I just don’t have the time for some of the kind of scenes that this would be ideal for any more – but don’t see why this means I should be relegated to playing more “casual gamer” type games if it’s not necessarily what I enjoy playing.

    If I had several straight hours a night to spend on gaming it would be a different matter, but that’s not the life I have any more.

    [though my tried and trusted solution for such dilemmas has generally been to phone my sister & get her to get past it for me…]

    Another thing that would be incredibly useful for a time strapped gamer who has just opened a save file from six months ago….. would be a toggle option for breadcrumbs to follow to the next/current action required. I have too many of those. I can’t remember what on earth I was supposed to do next (or even what I did last) and sadly don’t have the time to work it out. So my only options are to start the game again or just give up in the hopes that one day I’ll have the time and inclination to figure it out.

    • BertieDugger says:

      If I had several straight hours a night to spend on gaming it would be a different matter, but that’s not the life I have any more.

      Same here. I’ve been playing games for 30+ years and have bought hundreds of games (and plenty of hardware) but don’t have the same time to do it now.

      Should I have to give up playing because I’m not hardcore and turned casual? Will I never see the end of a AAA game again?

      If there’s a tourist mode or skip-boss-fight button for me to get my money’s worth without devoting hundreds of hours then why would that be a bad thing? I still bought the games so my purchases help support the industry too, and it’s not hurting anyone else if I play that way.

  42. Voidy says:

    Sorry, but I just don’t get the point of this article. What exactly is the argument here? That Ubisoft is adding a challenge-free exploration mode to the latest installation of AssCreed and more game studios should follow their example? John, I hate to break it to you, but games have been doing this for decades.

    Since times immemorial there have been cheat codes, skippable portions, shortcuts, difficulty levels and “undocumented” console commands that allowed us to play games whichever way we want. AFAIK the earliest game that introduced the “adventure” mode for players who wanted to focus on the story as opposed to tedious combat sequences was Might & Magic 4: the Clouds of Xeen, released in 1992. Since arcade cabinet days, games have been growing more and more accessible, more approachable, more and more adept at letting us customize our gaming experience. Nowadays, the absolute, overwhelming majority of games don’t even care which difficulty settings you finish them on – you’ll still get to experience the complete storyline, get all the achievements you want and walk away happy.

    Why are you still unhappy, then? Because few games choose to buck this trend and become immensely popular as a result? Because some games are still unrepentant about actually challenging the player, about relying on frustration, repetition and steep difficulty curves as actual game mechanics? Well, that’s their gimmick, that is what makes them different, and the seemingly disproportionate attention they’re getting is the sign that gamers like games that do things differently. What a surprise, eh?

    I also don’t understand why your argument is so narrowly focused. So you don’t like boss fights (and difficulty spikes in general, I suppose) and you want an option to skip them. I like boss fights, but boy oh boy, there are a lot of things in games I’d rather skip. I dread any form of inventory management. I abhor walking segments in “walking sims”. I hate min-maxing my characters. I hate collecting 15 bear ovipositors in order to progress further along the storyline. I hate grinding in general. Thing is, I’m sure you hate at least some of these activities with the same burning passion. Why not editorialize about them? Why not lament the Us vs Them mentality that permeates ‘hardcore roleplayer’ communities, the elitist attitudes displayed by top WoW raiding guilds and professional cyberathletes? What is it about “Nintendo-hard” games and their fan base that ticks you off so much?

    • The Lambton Worm says:

      I think yours is one of the best arguments in the comments.

      What I like in a game is time to think, and so ‘accessibility’ to me usually means turn-based or pausable. The idea that I could justifiably get ticked off that games which value fast thinking and twitchy reflexes don’t cater to me just seems absurd. Keep running with this argument and all games have to be all things to all people.

      • Voidy says:

        Thanks! I also enjoyed reading your musings on difficulty in Void/Tension/Тургор, and it seems to me that your argument in favor of mood-enhancing difficulty could be applied to a lot of games (Pathologic, Soulsborne, The Darkest Dungeon, etc.).

        Re-read this article a couple of times and still cannot fathom John’s implication that a handful of elitist jerks can somehow hamper videogames’ overall progress towards broader accessibility and inclusivity.

        Now excuse me, there’s someone knocking at the door. Apparently, a group of gentlemen in black hoods with RPG CODEX emblazoned on them in crimson letters want to discuss my views on Bethesda’s treatment of Fallout franchise. Should I be worried?

  43. Ulminati says:

    Is this a thinly veiled attempt to enable Professional Games Journalists to pass the tutorial level in Cuphead?

    • jonahcutter says:

      Interesting point actually.

      What’s an intrepid game critic to do when he can’t/won’t play the game he wants to review?

      And from that: What kind of analysis of a game results (and corresponding impact on the game’s sales) when a critic doesn’t enjoy a particular type of gameplay, or is just not that good at, and thus skips large portions of its content.

      The answer perhaps: John Walker’s Hyper Light Drifter review. Where he whined at missing clear cues and blamed the game for his own poor performance. He eventually gave a half-hearted and equivocating mea culpa to his own poor review (his review itself being poor, not the game). But with a skip button? He never would of even reached that slight bit of self-awareness and personal reckoning.

      • Ulminati says:

        Someone who wishes to review games for a living – but finds they are incapable of playing them – should be treated with the same understanding and sympathy as someone who wishes to review cars for a living, but can’t/won’t acquire a driver’s license.

  44. Binho says:

    So people are fine with skipping cutscenes and story, despite the hundreds of hours devs spend on them…but only skipping gameplay is disrespectful of their work?

    Gameplay and interactivity is not unique to video games. Board games, choose your own adventure books, and pen and paper games are as well. What’s unique is the combination of visual and audio elements with the possibility of interactivity, story and gameplay. If you can run by visuals, mute audio, and skip story, why not gameplay too?

    And I disagree this would make games trend to easier. I don’t think it would make any difference. Despite being completely optional, story and cutscene elements has gotten more and more complex despite their often completely optional nature.

    • Ulminati says:

      “Skipping the gameplay for the story” is hardly a new feature. People have made a living out of catering to that crowd with let’s plays on Twitch.tv and youtube.

      • Binho says:

        That’s not really relevant though. I watch let’s plays because I don’t have time, not to skip gameplay.

        There are plenty of times in games where I would happily skip whole set pieces that were stopping me from continuing to play the rest of the game. Maybe I’d tried the set piece a few times, and just couldn’t get the hang of it. Maybe it was a bad autosave location in a multi-phase boss battle, where I’d have to repeat the first few phases multiple times because dying in the final phase meant I needed to start over.

        Again, you can always skip cutscenes in situations like that. Why not boring, repetitive, or frustrating gameplay sections?

    • Emeraude says:

      It’s not unique to video games. It’s a defining feature of games. Period.

      • Binho says:

        Sure, but what is unique to video games specifically is the combination of the two. So I ask you again why is it ok the skip cutscenes and dialog (‘video’), but not gameplay (‘game’)?

        To turn the snarky ‘go watch a twitch stream’ remarks on their head, if you just want gameplay, why don’t you go play a tabletop game?

        • Emeraude says:

          The relationship to story itself is not unique to video games -you yourself gave examples of games that aren’t video games that are also tied to stories in similar ways: chose-your-own-adventure-books, but also some board games built round emergent storytelling (if only Once Upon a Time).

          As far as I can tell, the specificity that differentiates video games from other kind of games is that, for them alone conceptual space, representational space and playing space are indivisible.

          And I somewhat alluded to your question in this thread when mentioning the over-focus on games as content other games as process: if you actually believe that games are defined by that unique interaction of story and gameplay, why would you want to suppress any? Why would you want to suppress the very specificity of the medium you’re consuming?
          If anything we’re back to bad design, all too often both those elements – content and game-play – are segregated in ways that make them insignificant to each other. If they were well tied, not only you shouldn’t, you couldn’t want to want to separate them , as they would both define each other.

  45. kerbal says:

    Great idea, and a lot of handicapped gamers would benefit from this. For myself i would like to roam Dark Souls which i cant master, due to my response delay handicap. Would buy the game just to explore the art style and architecture. Guess i am not the only one.

  46. Jaykera says:

    The main argument against micro transactions is : if you’re offering a way to skip the content you created, that content must not be very good.

    Why would it be different with bosses ? (And I generally don’t like them, that’s one of the reasons I love Arkane games so much)

  47. popej says:

    I can’t see a problem with his kind of thing, so long as more difficult modes remain for those who want them.

  48. spidder says:

    Makes sense if you’re making a living by leeching off the video games industry and fans as “games journalist”.
    Not having to play the games he reviews will make his already unproductive work even easier.

  49. Ragnar says:

    John, how dare you suggest that gamers be able to skip such integral game content as boss fights?

    The only game content that is acceptable to skip is in-game text.

    And out-of-game text – I mean, who reads manuals anymore?

    Oh, and dialog.

    And cutscenes.

    And visual effects, if your computer can’t handle them, or you want a competitive edge, or you just don’t like them.

    And audio. Voice acting, sound effects, music – you can skip all of that, that’s not important.

    And side quests, obviously.

    And if you’re playing a more flexible game, like Dishonored, feel free to skip all the stealth or all of the combat.

    But how dare you suggest that we be able to skip such important content as boss fights? That would surely destroy gaming as we know it. Nevermind that PC games in the ’90s let you do just that, it’ll be the death of gaming I tell you!

  50. Urthman says:

    Because that shiny button becomes the thing that allows a multitude more people than you to enjoy their experience of playing this game, and refusing it because of your own inability to self-regulate isn’t a good enough argument!

    I think there are plenty of stories of people being delighted to discover they enjoy something they thought was too hard or uninteresting because a game forced them to learn a new skill. So you are asking people to give up that experience for the sake of other people’s enjoyment.

    Because you can’t know ahead of time whether bumping the difficulty down or skipping something is missing the opportunity to learn something new or just sparing yourself banging your head against a worthless wall.