Rules For Games: Do & Don’t #11

It has been far too long since I issued some decrees from my throne atop Gaming Mountain.

There has been some confusion in the past about the availability of potential to disagree with these mandates, so to be absolutely clear: there isn’t. They’re rules. You follow them, or, you know, you die. Simple enough.

DO try out your tutorial on a normal person who didn’t develop your game. Goodness me, this would solve so many sins in gaming. A regular game player, faced with those god-awful, unskippable, “Breathe in, then out, to continue existing” level patroniso-fests, would shout, “NO! I KNOW!” And then suddenly the option to skip would be added. And indeed at the other end, when your tutorial is so bloody complex that it requires its own tutorial (I’m looking at your Divinity: Original Sin GM mode – it literally has a tutorial tutorial), that person could scream directly into your face until you rewrote it in Human.

DON’T have characters smugly chastise your character for walking into a house, if there’s no ‘knock on the door’ option. It was cute the first time, when you were exploring a town and an NPC was shocked to find you sniffing around their lounge. “Ah!” we cried, “The game is being all clever!” But it’s not really clever when games rely on our pressing A to open doors, to then tell us off/punish us for pressing A to open doors. Sure, it doesn’t directly relate to real life – I’m not arguing I’ve the right to walk into people’s houses if they don’t lock the front door. Only after I survive the apocalypse. But when gaming historically relies on our doing an action, it’s time to present an option like knocking if you want to be Mrs Cute about it.

DO have a double-jump in your game. I don’t care what sort of game it is, there is no game that isn’t dramatically improved by a double-jump. An RPG, a driving game, a text adventure.

> JUMP

You jump in the air

> JUMP AGAIN

You jump a bit higher

DON’T put crafting in your game. Your game doesn’t need crafting. That other game you like has crafting because the entire conceit is built around the player’s ability to craft, but you’re adding it because you feel like your game should probably also have some crafting. Your game doesn’t need crafting, and it’s only going to add tedious fiddle. You do the crafting, the player will do the playing.

You can read the complete Dos and Don’ts of gaming here.

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139 Comments

Top comments

  1. Babymech says:

    "I’d like to ask how you imagine double jump to work in games like Europa Universalis" - basically you jump, and before (this is important) you hit the ground, you jump again. If you hit the ground in between it's just jumping twice.
  1. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Some of your mandatory mandates have merit. However:

    – You may be surprised to learn that screaming directly into a developer’s face is not an effective means of providing feedback on a faulty tutorial.

    – You are wrong about double jumps. It’s one of THE most tired gameplay mechanics. They work for some games especially in the absence of finer air control, but including them by default is lazy and bad.

    – Depending on how it’s handled, NPCs responding to trespassing is a good thing. Gothic does it well, as do most stealth games.

    Your decree on the topic of crafting is correct and one that righteous game developers would do well to observe.

    • klops says:

      “There has been some confusion in the past about the availability of potential to disagree with these mandates, so to be absolutely clear: there isn’t. They’re rules. You follow them, or, you know, you die.”

    • draglikepull says:

      Strongly agree with you on double jumps. It’s often just making the player press the same button twice to do something that ought to only take one button press. If every gap needs a double jump, then you’re just adding lots of needless button presses. Instead of making the jump go to 2, why not make it go to 1 and make 1 higher?

      • SuddenSight says:

        In well-made platformers, double jumps can serve useful purposes that 1 button press cannot. This can be done by making two different jump heights necessary, such as by adding spikes over the character’s head or by changing the distance to be jumped. That way double jumping is sometimes correct, and so is single jumping. Double jumping can also be used to change direction in mid-air (at least, with the way most games implement it). This allows for more complex jumping puzzles. I would argue that differentiation in jump is generally good because it allows for puzzles, or at least variation.

        That said, double jumps are not the only way to do this. 1001 spikes has separate “little jump” and “big jump” buttons, which works quite well. Many games, including Hollow Knight and Super Meat Boy, have hold-to-jump-higher. Mario has a mixture of hold-to-jump-higher and jumping again just after touching the ground to do a bigger jump (trampolene jumping?). All of these systems work quite well as well. I particularly like the Mario system, as figuring out how to line up a “Hup-hup-Huppooo!” in a level can be a bit of a puzzle in itself.

        So I disagree insofar as I like different methods of jumping, but I agree that there can be more variation in jumping and I would love to see gamedevs explore it.

        PS, an excellent example of a game that takes advantage of more limited jumping mechanics is La Mulana. One jump, fixed trajectory (no left-right adjustment). This feels harsh at first, but it plays well into the overall puzzley feel of the game.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        I don’t object to the mechanic of doubling jumping per se, I object to it being added automatically without explanation because that’s just a thing a platformer or action-adventure (or, as John decrees, any game) has to have. If all games have the same move-set, that’s boring.

      • bill says:

        The thing about double jumps is that it allows you to recover when you’ve screwed up the first jump. Hold to jump higher type controls don’t usually help with that.

      • lasikbear says:

        I play videogames to press buttons, not not press buttons.

        If I wanted to feel good about not pressing buttons I would actually block in any fighting game and improve my winrate significantly in the process.

    • bob27 says:

      John isn’t saying characters shouldn’t respond to trespass, he’s saying there should be an option other than trespassing if they DO react to it. Hence the suggestion of door knocking.

      Also I’m afraid that you are incorrect about double jumping.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        > he’s saying there should be an option other than trespassing if they DO react to it.

        Ah, you’re right it seems I misread that one. I retract that particular objection.

      • liquidsoap89 says:

        I don’t believe Doom is improved in any way whatsoever by having a second jump. As draglikepull noted (and as is the case for Doom), you’re just pressing a button twice to do something you could easily do by pressing a button once. Double jumping serves no purpose in that game, particularly since there’s no added challenge in jumping a second time. You just do it… Again.

        • Ragnar says:

          Except if you press the button twice, you go a bit higher. You can’t just make the single jump higher and leave it at that, the double jump always goes a bit higher. It’s that little bit extra bit to take you to 11.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      If screaming doesn’t work, what does? A spray bottle filled with water? Putting down dried fox urine?

  2. DantronLesotho says:

    I support these do’s and don’t’s. I would like to add:

    DON’T have your sense of humor in games based on the structure of putting others down. This is the weakest form of humor and is what makes your game seem more juvenile than you probably intended. before you write a joke, think about how it establishes the joker’s position relative to the jokee and see if there is a pattern in your scripting.

    DO put them in funny situations though that deal with hardship, confusion, and misunderstandings.

    DON’T set your game in a fantasy world that doesn’t have an origin story to the creation of the world/area. The setting of LOTR, Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls and other good worlds are richer specifically because the mythological basis for the world has been established. You don’t have to put it in your game, but your story and world will feel more lived-in because you gave it that much thought.

    DO allow windowed mode so I can play your game while I have a video playing in fullscreen mode in my other monitor without it screwing everything up.

    • SuddenSight says:

      Honestly, your first 3 apply just as well to all narratives.

    • bob27 says:

      I’m concerned about the last one. I don’t think we need to encourage more ADHD habits among the gaming youth. They already need a fidget spinner in both hands to do anything.

      • AutonomyLost says:

        Yes, this. I may not be known as a “youth” in its larger context, but I belong to the Millennial Generation, and I believe they, certainly at this point in time, are synonymous.

        Anyway, again, yes. No-one needs to be able to stream a full-length video in an entirely separate application while ostensibly concentrating on playing a video game. “It’s just one of those things”, no matter how incredibly trite and axiomatic such a phrase is. Just because it’s possible does not make it necessary or relevant to the community at-large. The last thing in a developer’s mind should be if they’re able to cater to the fruit fly attention span of someone who may or may not be devoting his- or herself entirely to the task and/or interactive game at hand. If you want to listen to a podcast, video, or individual, untethered music, go ahead; on your phone, your tablet, your damn BT headphones linked with the running car parked in your driveway. Being able to Alt-Tab to one’s heart’s content should not be expected, period, IMO. The developers developed a game. You’ve developed a penchant for playing games. Play the game, don’t worry about what else is going on.

        I may be mistaken, but I think gaming is a form of fun, study, and escapism. Why the need to flutter?

        • napoleonic says:

          You’re assuming that all games are immersive, such as shooters. I often have music on while I play puzzle games or strategy games. There’s no need to have the sound on for Civ.

          • Bull0 says:

            You miss Sean Bean’s lovely voice reciting famous quotes if you play with the sound off, and the game dips to a 7/10.

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          Harlander says:

          Being able to Alt-Tab to one’s heart’s content should not be expected, period, IMO.

          A game should behave like any other application with regard to how it behaves to standard controls – like focus switching, period, IMO.

          • phlebas says:

            Agreed. Alt-Tab isn’t (necessarily) about having a short attention span – I’d play most games fullscreen and be appalled at the idea of watching a video at the same time (unless it’s a puzzle game or suchlike, as napoleonic says) but I might want to put the game aside to answer a skype call without having to shut it down and restart it.

        • Cederic says:

          You may not be able to multitask. Me, I’m typing this comment while waiting in the queue of an online armoured combat game, with a film on the TV in the background and a cat purring between me and the keyboard.

          If you want to focus entirely and solely on the game you’re playing, that’s great, you go for it, enjoy. Other people take a different approach.

        • Bury The Hammer says:

          It works better with some games than others.

          I probably wouldn’t want to do anything else when playing Cuphead.

          That said, I would regularly watch a TV series or listen to podcasts when grinding away on World of Warcraft / Diablo.

      • Superpat says:

        Screw that, I’m the poster child for adhd and it’s my responsability to develop the discipline to deal with it.

        The main point of this is so I can keep doing some light amount of reading/working/personal projects while I’m playing a slow paced game like a paradox grand strategy or any multiplayer turn based game.

        Though in response to my sibling comment, in the dev’s defense, most games work fine with “alt-tabbing” on linux. So I think windows has a greater part to blame in this reality of “games are special programs that dont have to abide with the normal rules of software usability”

        • smcv says:

          “most games work fine with “alt-tabbing” on linux”

          If I understand correctly, that’s because X11 doesn’t have the same distinction between “true fullscreen” and “windowed fullscreen” that Windows does, so fullscreen Linux games are all the equivalent of “windowed fullscreen”. It isn’t clear to me why Windows has the other thing or why a developer would prefer it.

          • Thankmar says:

            I am no expert, but I think in the olden times when RAM was sparse, Windows would write anything not needed for running a fullscreen game to the virtual RAM including the desktop, to free up actual RAM. So the desktop had to be loaded into the RAM again when closing the game, or when Alt-tabbing. Thats why it was risky to do the ladder because your game or Win or both could geht unstable due to insufficient RAM. It just may be a leftover behavior.

      • Ragnar says:

        I completely agree. If a game is so insufficiently engaging that you need to have a movie playing at the same time, then it’s not a game worth playing.

        Likewise, if a movie is so insufficiently engaging that you need to be

      • Ragnar says:

        I completely agree.

        If a game isn’t sufficiently engaging to demand your full attention, such that you need to have a movie playing in the background, then it’s not a game worth playing.

        Likewise, if a movie isn’t sufficiently engaging such that you need to play a game at the same time, then it’s not a movie worth watching.

        Yes, there’s that 1 in 1000 person whose mind is always racing such that they need to be doing two things at the same time to be able to focus on either, but everyone else just does it to enable them to play tedious games and watch boring movies. Your time is precious and deserves to be spent on better entertainment.

        That said, I think every game should be able to be Alt-Tabed without crashing. Consoles now let me suspend the game, turn off the console, and later pick up exactly where I left off. It’s embarrassing when a PC game can’t even be minimized without crashing.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      DO have a full origin and history for your world, factions, characters, even individual items.

      DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT make the player sit through any of it if they don’t want to.

      • spamdangled says:

        I don’t agree with that at all. Unless it’s necessary somehow, huge reams of text for the sake of it, that only a small minority of people will ever read, can actually be offputting. I don’t need to know which famous Necromancer from a thousand years ago invented the health potion, or what ingredients go into it. It doesn’t make the world feel more immersive, it just adds (mostly) poor writing in the mistaken belief it adds depth.

        • MikoSquiz says:

          We’re not in disagreement here. I don’t think it’s at all necessary to put any of it in the game directly (although I do love Dark Souls’ habit of hiding little nuggets in the item descriptions that you can then piece together at your leisure if you wish).

          I’ve never liked big fat lore books all over the place. Just saying “Barenziah” has me snoring before you finish the word. But the most important thing is that you don’t yak the player’s ear off with massive lore dumps at every turn. I’m not going to stay awhile and listen, thanks.

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    Mungrul says:

    Oh gods, the amount of crap I’ve hoarded in DOS2 because the crafting system is still opaque. I’m hoarding stuff that appears to be ingredients that I have no recipe for (like children’s wooden blocks!), and thanks to the weirdly expanded crafting stations (a beehive is now a crafting station?! WTF?!?), I have no idea how to even start crafting or whether these things really can be used for crafting. CRAFTING! AAARRRGGGHHH!

    Actually, I think the gear system overall is broken in DOS2.
    Gear is frustratingly transient, and frequently you’ll craft or buy something only for the hourly trader refresh to make your purchase completely obsolete. And that happens multiple times per level.
    Or the really standout example of the Tyrant’s gear quest, where by the time I’d acquired the last piece, the entire set was underpowered compared to the gear I already had.

    One of these days someone will be brave enough to revisit the one good idea that Fable 3 had (that it explored abysmally unfortunately), where gear levels up with your character.

    Some of the uniques are quite cool in DOS2, and are nice reminders of earlier encounters. But they become outdated so quickly, they feel like wasted opportunities.

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      Drib says:

      I have entirely ignored crafting in DOS2 because it’s a complete mess and I refuse to bother.

      I’m sure I’m missing out on whatever, but I’m not going to try to work out their completely mad crafting system, especially with the complete lack of tutorial on it.

      • FrancoBegbie says:

        There is exactly one crafting recipe in DOS2 that’s useful (and was the same as in DOS1): combining boots with nails to gain immunity to slipping. It’s something…

        • bob27 says:

          Oh man that’s clever. It is completely opaque but it’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to real life crafting in any video game.

        • plugmonkey says:

          So far the limit of my crafting is to combine bottles with poison to create bottles of poison.

          • Ghostwise says:

            Which is good, because the alternative was a poisoned bottle.

      • AyeBraine says:

        I’m struggling with crafting in DOS2 too right now. But I remember how I liked crafting in first DOS, after I finally got it (with a little help from online tips).

        I feel that even though experimenting system makes for an incredibly cluttered inventory and is quite irritating, it also adds dimension to the game. I like the possibility, the very FACT that I can make a pizza, that a strong enemy might have tomato sauce with basil in its inventory, that I accidentally can make 20 lockpicks where I struggled to find only one, and that powerful scrolls can be if need arises made out of herring.

        And I also hope that, like in DOS 1, if I learn it well enough, I can make my own cool gear. It’s a little munchkin-like, but still I loved returning to the hub, to the same trusty anvil and crucible, and making the bestest staffs and swords for my characters.

        (I popped on to google to remind myself of DOS recipes, and damn… I have to try to combine half my inventory now in DOS2. It turns out you could stuff feathers and EYES in your helmets in the first one, and do immense amount of other stuff. I’ve never read the complete lists of recipes.)

    • bob27 says:

      I decided to do crafting on my second play through, because it seems like a game in and of itself.

    • yoggesothothe says:

      RE: the leveling gear comment — Hellgate London did that actually, but it didn’t really change anything because the raison d’etre of gear is to have stuff just out of reach to strive for. Hellgate offloaded that onto crafting mats you needed to level your gear, if my memory serves; the end user experience was essentially still the same.

      I believe the better solution is to minimize the impact gear has to begin with, as in Guild Wars 1, or to put a relatively low level cap for max gear, as in Elder Scrolls Online. Gearing (and crafting, for that matter) in ESO works quite well because of this; it makes very nearly optimal gear quite accessible without making it trivial.

      On that note, crafting is fine as long as it’s designed in such a way that it genuinely pays off early in the curve, and its not just another mandatory time sink / gear treadmill.

      AND games really need to stop doing that crap of having crafting dependencies, where you need to craft lower tier junk to craft the actual stuff you want. Just use up all the craft mats at once and stop wasting my time with blatantly fake “complexity” / stuff buried behind 12 menus. Everyone sees right through it, and it’s this fakeness that makes crafting seem so soul draining.

  4. Carra says:

    There’s a lot I don’t like about Mass Effect: Andromeda but I have to admit, the double jump was much fun!

    And I have no idea how to craft stuff in Divinity 2. I tried combining a knife + a long branch hoping to get a spear. Instead I made some arrow parts…

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    Don Reba says:

    Given that I almost always disagree with John’s game reviews, I’d like to present an opposing set of rules:

    DON’T let outsiders near your game until all features are well locked down and you are just ironing out bugs. Players will see through your focus group pandering and judge you for lacking vision.

    DO encourage tough moral choices, such as by letting players enrich themselves by breaking into NPCs’ houses and only be verbally chastised.

    DON’T shoehorn double-jumping and air control into every game. Real-world physics are actually plenty fun — just look at all the people doing sports for recreation. Don’t look for cheap cop-outs if you are having trouble replicating that fun.

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      John Walker says:

      Given that you appear to have misunderstood each of the three rules you respond to here, perhaps you’re not disagreeing with my reviews the way you think you are?

    • Babymech says:

      “just look at all the people doing sports for recreation” – those people aren’t playing video games. That should be a hint not to replicate what they’re doing, if you want to make games.

      • skyturnedred says:

        From my experience all “jocks” play on consoles. Except me, the lone PC gamer.

    • ooshp says:

      Oh you’re going to bring sport into it?

      Rocket League has pretty much the ultimate suite of double jumps. Case well and truly rested.

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    syllopsium says:

    I’m presuming the double jump is sarcasm, but it’s never possible to be entirely sure. Then again, now going to write a platformer text adventure, brb.

    Would agree with not shoehorning in crafting, I do like gathering herbs in Oblivion though

    • dahools says:

      If it is going to be a text adventure then double spacing between words and double returns between paragraphs will suffice.

      I stopped early as my mobile keeps putting full stops in when I double space ;

      EDIT

      ***FAIL***

      RPS formatting removes all double spacing. 5 mins of my life I will never get back.

      • bob27 says:

        Theres no such thing as a double space in HTML, it’s not a formatting issue. You’d need to manually insert non breaking spaces: (ampersand symbol)nbsp;

        Like    this    you    see!

        • Dave Mongoose says:

          You also have the options of an en-space   ( ) and an em-space   ( ). The latter is probably the closest you’re going to get to a double-width space.

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    subdog says:

    I hate it games when I walk into the underground home of a bunch of skeletons and they all attack me because I didn’t bother to knock first.

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    teije says:

    I like the way The Long Dark does crafting. There’s a very limited set of items to craft, limited ingredients, all take time to make (sometimes a fair amount of time for items like the wolfskin coat) and they all have a specific use, not just slight variations of another crafted item. Sensible. If the crafting system is too involved, and the game is not called “-craft-” I end up just ignoring it entirely.

    • Babymech says:

      I like the way Mega Man does crafting. You find an armgun to put on your arm and it makes your arm into a different kind of armgun than before. Sensible.

    • skyturnedred says:

      Baldur’s Gate II had perfect crafting – find a couple pieces of a weapon from a dragon’s lair and have a dwarf in the city assemble it. And there was only like seven things you could craft in the whole game.

      • GeoX says:

        There were more in Throne of Baal with that little imp creature with the rad voice acting.

      • Superpat says:

        Yeah I agree, that tends to be where crafting is the most well implemented. Crafting really has to be inherent to the game itself to be pleasant. For instance, magic systems that are entirely based on crafting.

      • Someoldguy says:

        I have to disagree here. If you’re going to offer a D&D style adventure where you are free to create the character of your choice, you shouldn’t hamper their playability. Only having a few select pieces of top-quality gear in your game really limits that versatility.

        Oh yes, you can have immense strength, but only if you’re a Dwarf because the only girdle of storm giant strength in the game is racially tied. Want to emulate a Roman Legionary? I’m sorry, we’ve decided all the potent short swords are focussed around sneaking and backstabbing because we intended them for rogues, not fighters. Blech. There was a lot of those problems in games like Baldur’s Gate where some builds were far better catered for than others.

        The only games where I’ve been free to try out oddball variations are ones where you can craft the gear to fit. That said, crafting absolutely should not be hideously complicated. By all means require the adventurers to slay a dragon or defeat a demon to obtain some loot or body part of unusual potency, but have the rest done by throwing gps at a true craftsman. We definitely don’t need to be picking up 1001 pieces of crap to combine just to be able to upgrade our gear.

        • skyturnedred says:

          I agree it can be limiting in that sense, but the limited amount of craftable items also made every one of them feel that much more epic.

          One of the first mods I install in my BG2 runs these days is the one that allows anyone to use any weapon/gear. Might get a bit OP in the late game, but I also hate finding all this cool loot and not having anyone that can use it.

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          subdog says:

          But that girdle *wasn’t* “top tier”, it was a crafting ingredient for a magical hammer that was arguably the best weapon in the game and usable by a wide combination of races and classes.

  9. lasikbear says:

    Important followup to double-jumping. Rolling/jumping should be faster than walking, especially if it’s some tedious “lookat my giant open world” fest.

    If I have to spend a bunch of time just walking, at least give me a button to make walking faster and more interactive.

    • bob27 says:

      Yes I think an amendment to that clause should be the inclusion of a dash.

      • mruuh says:

        And a dot. Everything is improved with the addition of morse code.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      No! Rolling or jumping everywhere all the time feels ridiculous and strong-arming the player into doing it by having the alternative be more time-consuming is a bad wrong.

      What you’re looking for is a “sprint” button. Or possibly a “jog”: A nice gentle acceleration to a traveling pace with some awkward momentum to make it hard to abuse in a non-travel context.

      • lasikbear says:

        I guess the ideal is unlimited, actually fast sprinting (looking at you, FPS-s with a zoom-in slightly and increase speed by 10% sprint), but after Morrowind made the fastest movement option getting 100 acrobatics and jumping around everywhere I cannot and will not stop trying to do so in every game.

      • elvirais says:

        Awkward momentum – every time I think of Geralt “the tank” of Rivia. Great stuff.

    • Ragnar says:

      No, no, no. What you’re looking for is a sprint button (or a grappling hook button if you’re awesome).

      Rolling everywhere is only acceptable if you’re playing as a ball or a hedgehog.

  10. The Lambton Worm says:

    Good rules. I will propagate them at once.

    I’d like to ask how you imagine double jump to work in games like Europa Universalis but if you can give me a working plan I’ll try to advocate for it.

    • Babymech says:

      “I’d like to ask how you imagine double jump to work in games like Europa Universalis” – basically you jump, and before (this is important) you hit the ground, you jump again. If you hit the ground in between it’s just jumping twice.

      • Asokn says:

        Good God, he’s cracked it!

      • Joriath says:

        Single jump: declare war on France.

        Double jump: declare war on France, Spain, the HRE, and the Ottomans.

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      Drib says:

      I basically want to play Total War: Warhammer War 2 and have all my troops just hopping, hopping again, and then landing, constantly.

      This is the future of gaming.

    • Minglefingler says:

      Everyone in your nation does a double jump when you’ve researched new technology. Eureka Universalis.

  11. Kefren says:

    Mmm. I hate double jumps. They make no sense.
    Usually you are all for choice, but this kind of mandate would stop me playing a lot of games.
    I went in the back garden and tried it. Nope, double jumps are impossible. You can only have them in postulated worlds that have physics that supports them.

    • BewareTheJabberwock says:

      If you want to have double jumps, there should be something to push off of, like a wall. The first (possibly others, I never played them) Devil May Cry did that, and it made so much more sense than just being able to jump higher while in mid air.

      • DrJ3RK says:

        Yes, but game developers are not trying to mimic your personal lack of dexterity in gasses. They’re designing a game. Take a double-jump in Castlevania. It’s granted by a magical item typically. There’s no such thing as a magical item either. Not to mention it’s added to allow you to reach things later that you couldn’t get to before. Kind of a barrier to entry to keep the flow of levels moving as they wished. There’s nothing about the mechanic that makes it inherently bad, and in all of the games I’ve used it in, it felt natural enough for a fictional environment. There are also magic boots in some Castelvania games that allow you to jump until you hit the ceiling, reverse direction, and jump back down again. Can you do that in your back garden? I thought not. However it’s cool as hell to do it in the game. Games are much better when they embellish on real life abilities to some degree than try to be a perfect replication. When I want to play in real life, I do. If I play a video game, it’s because I want to step out of those limitations for a while, and experience something a little different.

        You don’t have to like the mechanic. There are other mechanics that I don’t particularly like. However, basing that on the fact that it’s not possible in real life is silly when applied to games (in my opinion).

        I really can’t think of a game where it was used, and didn’t have a good feel to it, a purpose, a reason the character could do it, and a reason for it being in the game in the first place from a design standpoint.

        I vote for double jumps.

        • BewareTheJabberwock says:

          Then why not make a single press of the jump button go one higher?

          (insert “These go to 11” joke here)

          • DrJ3RK says:

            Some games do actually. Some require you to hold the button longer, some just increase the arc. Both of those are valid methods. However, IMO the double jump is actually tighter, and more versatile. You can time it very specifically to both reach a location, and dodge a lower and higher enemy in one compound move. I know that it must have initially started as a programming shortcut. (add one more jump to the existing one, rather than store two types in memory maybe) However, over time, it’s evolved and become a standard mechanic that I think most gamers (if I may be so bold) have grown to use to their advantage, and actually feel natural for more people than some elongated and possibly unwieldy in practice extend-o-jump. Just an opinion, but I definitely like the double jump.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            Dishonored 2 did that, and it caused me to die more than once from overshooting or hitting the ceiling.

          • Ragnar says:

            You can make 10 louder all you want with a skyscraper clearing single jump, just so long as there’s still a second jump that goes a bit higher so we can take it to 11.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Devil May Cry had a double-jump as an unlockable and it was pretty much necessary.

    • Ragnar says:

      If you only play games composed of the things you can recreate in your back garden, you either have the world’s most boring Steam library or the world’s most amazing garden.

  12. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    Tangential to the crafting thing: DON’T make me repair my equipment all the time. It’s really only an ordeal for low level characters, until someone in the party gets a Repair Equipment ability. Then it’s just a slog where everybody has to give their gear to the Repair Guy, then he repairs it, then gives it back. D:OS1 was really annoying with this, at least pre-Enhanced Version.

    • drewski says:

      Even worse than repairing in RPGs is repairing in action games. There is literally no point apart from making you take up time.

      I’m looking at you, certain Assassin’s Creed titles.

    • shocked says:

      D:OS1 was really annoying with this, at least pre-Enhanced Version.

      In the enhanced version you don’t have to give items to the “repair guy”, so that’s way better.

      But the whole mechanic now means that every half hour or so you have to manually check all the equipped items of a character, right-click them, click repair, wait a short time for a small progress bar to fill up and repeat that for four chars with 6 to 8 items each.

      It’s pointless busywork. I don’t get how stuff like that survives tests of a game design.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        Because if that pointless busywork wasn’t included, thousands of rabid “fans” would scream about how the game is “dumbed down”.

      • BewareTheJabberwock says:

        Something that could make the Repair mechanic somewhat interesting (and it would be a fine line btw interesting and just annoying) is to never give a party member a repair ability at all. You have to find a blacksmith (in a town or wherever) to fix your stuff. So you’re stuck in a big dungeon, and your bad ass Sword of Enemy Stabbing is getting to its low end of “repairedness”. Do you keep using it and risk it breaking, or do you use your much less fantastic Dagger of Poking Things until you get to the boss fight?

  13. bob27 says:

    Good rules. I’ll do my best.

    I especially like: DO have a double-jump in your game. I don’t care what sort of game it is, there is no game that isn’t dramatically improved by a double-jump.

    I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Double jumping feels natural, somehow.

    • bob27 says:

      I should have read the other comments first, turns out not everyone loves double jumps.

      • DrJ3RK says:

        Don’t worry, there are plenty of us around. :D

        “The Federation of Free People for Double Jumping”

      • Ragnar says:

        It’s okay. They don’t have to love them, or even use them, just as long as they include them in their games.

        I now fear that any text adventure I play will feel lesser for the lack of a double jump.

  14. April March says:

    I think that the problem with tutorials is investors/publishers/moneymen/Literally Satan/whatever wanting to make sure that people get the game.

    So: Oh, make sure that you explain that you use WASD to walk and mouse to look. What if our amazing marketing makes someone try this for their first game ever? We don’t want to leave them in the cold!

    And also: What if people don’t know about the snorp-plorp mechanic that we worked so hard to put in? People might play the game without snorp-plorping, and then think it’s just a boring generic game. Better to HOLD THEM IN FUCKING PLACE AND THROW A GIANT WINDOW TELLING THEM TO PRESS X TO SNORP-PLORP RIGHT NOW SO THAT THEY FUCKING FIGURE IT OUT.

    And you know what? They’re kinda right. Go watch one of the shoutier youtubers try a new game. (I don’t recommend it otherwise.) The game freezes to teach them to snorp-plorp, they do so in that moment, and immediately forget about it, then berate the game for the lack of snorp-plorp-like features.

  15. Papageno says:

    If most games stopped having mandatory crafting I would be a happier man. Why is it so de rigeur all of a sudden?

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      Because Minecraft, then Terraria. And then other games that introduced this like Skyrim.

      • plugmonkey says:

        Skyrim is a pretty perfect example of where it all goes wrong too. Remember how we used to explore forbidding dungeons for ancient weapons of legend that dripped with mystical energies?

        Well, in Skyrim you don’t need to. In Skyrim you can spend an afternoon making rabbit skin hats, thus transforming yourself into the greatest weaponsmith who ever lived and rendering all of that tedious adventuring redundant.

        Through the power of millinery, you can make weapons a mile better than anything born of legend anyway. Who wants to go on boring adventures when you can just stay at home and make hats?

        • yoggesothothe says:

          This is honestly no different than how alchemy has behaved in the Elder Scrolls games since at least Morrowind. Just sit at home squeezing juice into bottles and soon enough you’ll be literally breaking the game’s systems from being too overpowered. But that was fun, since the Elder Scrolls games (as far as the mechanical experience goes) are essentially all about breaking the game’s systems.

          Or, if your argument is that this destroys immersion, you’re playing reincarnated dragons and deity level characters in these games, whose progress to godhood begin with beating on some rats. It seems fairly reasonable that you could become a legendary craftsperson that betters the crafters of old just as easily by starting with the crafting of a hundred iron daggers.

          • plugmonkey says:

            I’m arguing that it replaces something fun and exciting with something boring and repetitive.

            If something boring and repetitive guarantees success then that’s what players will do – even if it means them having no fun – so it’s a game designer’s job to ensure that the most fun way to play is also the most successful way to play.

            Obviously different people have different ideas of fun, but Walker isn’t concerning himself with that so I’m also going to flat out state that fighting your way through a dungeon full of monsters is more fun route to a cool sword than repeatedly making the same hat. Official FACT!

          • yoggesothothe says:

            In that case, Skyrim (which really isn’t too far apart from the potion and spell crafting in Morrowind and Oblivion) is a really poor example to make this argument with, because the crafting systems in these games are actually far more systemically manipulable than games like Don’t Starve or Terraria, whose systems are strictly and suffocatingly linear, and generally segregated.

            I would also say that your arguments here are founded on the assumption that players somehow know the end results of Skyrim’s crafting systems before they even explore them–that they know it’s faster (for agency amassing purposes) to figure out the most efficient methods of leveling them and the means of getting the mats to do so a priori. But there’s actually zero guarantee that investing time or in-game agency (in the form of wealth) in them is worthwhile without doing the work–unless you cheated and obtained that solution from an outside source.

            So in regards to “If something boring and repetitive guarantees success then that’s what players will do,” even if we grant that this is true, this just doesn’t apply to these games in particular because how would players even know the efficacy of end tier crafting from the beginning without cheating? Where’s the guarantee?

            This sounds more to me like an argument that games shouldn’t provide methods of obtaining agency that ultimately prove faster than doing it in more immediately apparent ways. But all challenges in games become trivial once you learn the methods (in either knowledge or muscle memory) of overcoming them.

            Moreover, if you find yourself not enjoying dungeon farming because you know there’s a faster way to get the end result, what actually about the game are you even enjoying? As well, how other players chose to spend their time really shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of yours–its not a competition. If you want to be competitive, there’s always the puzzle of finding ways of being inefficient and yet just as effective, that’s fun too.

          • Yglorba says:

            Morrowind had a more interesting enchantment system, though. In Morrowind, I have fond memories of encountering a problem (eg. Cliff Racers everywhere), and going to the mage guild to make a custom item to deal with it.

            Skyrim’s crafting and enchanting was completely linear – you’d mostly just increase numbers and then cap it with one obvious enchantment that, by definition, you already had, just on a better or different item. It was the one thing I really didn’t like about the game. (Luckily there was enough other stuff that this didn’t really matter.)

            To answer why people like crafting in Terraria and Minecraft more, though: Those games are designed and balanced around it, which means that choosing what to craft often feels like an interesting decision (eg. where to spend your limited materials.) Skyrim felt much more linear – even if you theoretically had choices, they were often very obvious and amounted to just increasing numbers.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            What I meant by systemically manipulable is that other systems can impact a particular crafting line, and your craft choices can be integral aspects of your overall character build. (Could you fill me in on the Morrowind example you’re talking about? Is it materially different from fortifying particular skills and attributes over others, or selecting a particular set of resistances over others, that happens in Skyrim?) Sure, you can focus on a single craft and just increase numbers that way. But that was the same in Morrowind.

            For example, it makes a significant difference that alchemy can improve enchanting (or blacksmithing), which can in turn improve alchemy, etc. These are cascading systems with object oriented architecture, and that hasn’t changed from Morrowind.

            On the other hand Terraria is deterministically about what tier of mats you have. If someone simply hands you a stack of the highest tier mats, you’ve essentially reached the end of the crafting game. There are no systems to solve or manipulate there, as far as crafting goes, just material tiers to climb in the most linear of ways.

            I’m not especially an ardent support of Skyrim or anything, but the double standard strikes me as odd, that Skyrim is being singled out as _the_ turning point in bad design where Morrowind did very much the same thing years before, to nobody’s denouncement. You could, after all, quite easily break Morrowind, to the point of causing crashes, by reaching excessively high attribute and skill values using alchemy–and that was part of its charm.

          • plugmonkey says:

            I’m talking about me, and my own experience. I didn’t need to cheat, or tie myself in knots about how others were playing. I was the one who made hats in Skyrim, became a crafting demi-god, created a bunch of shit hot gear and then never, ever found anything better than the stuff I could make. This left me, all things considered, wishing I hadn’t spent all that time making hats after all.

            I explored a game system, even though it was boring and repetitive, and found it was so successful that it made something that had previously been fun – exploring dungeons – also boring and repetitive. No more giddy thrill of a kick ass loot drop. Every dungeon in the game is now entirely filled with worthless junk. That’s bad game design.

            So, when I realised this, I stopped crafting, right? No, because I couldn’t unlearn the fact that any given level of crafted gear was better than any given level of found gear. You can’t bring that excitement back. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it won’t go back in. So, I carried right on doing what would make me succeed while not quite enjoying the game as much as I enjoyed other games.

            Perhaps Skyrim wasn’t the beginning of this so much as the point in time I noticed it, but my recollection of Morrowind and Oblivion is of crafting unlocking qualitative differences rather than the quantitative maximums. I could make myself some clever shoes that let me run across lava, but the most powerful sword in the game was still to be found through exploration and adventure rather than obsessive millinery. That was important as it gave me my motive to adventure and explore.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            I get that, but I think then your experience has less to do with bad design and more to do with increased self- and systems awareness than you had during Morrowind. Because again, I would mention, if you spent about as much time crafting potions in Morrowind, you would have been aware how even leveling itself became an absurd farce when quaffing a potion or two could put your stats beyond the game’s programming’s ability to handle those numbers. (That is, magical crafting was just as broken then, and actually to a far more egregious degree.)

            Again, I would ask, “if you find yourself not enjoying dungeon farming because you know there’s a faster way to get the end result, what actually about the game are you even enjoying?” Of course if you base the worth of an object on the amount of time it takes to get it, it’s going to become meaningless when you find out that it actually takes (comparatively) very little time than what you had already spent. If you go back to Morrowind now and take the time to figure out alchemy, I’m willing to bet you’d be just as disappointed.

            I would once again submit that this experience has less to do with bad design and more to do with this _type_ of game itself no longer clicking with you the way it used to, because you’re more readily aware of the artificiality of it all. Perhaps Skyrim just happened to be the game that made you realize this, because its rules are more deliberately transparent, where Morrowind’s rules were about as obfuscated as its quest entries, maps and directions were. (It was easier to imagine self discovery with that game, because its information wasn’t as visual/visible due to hampered UI.)

            I think we’ve all been there at one point or another with games (and indeed, with other media too, where music, movies, books, etc that we enjoyed when we were younger seem immature or meaningless now). Earlier, when we were less exposed, that loot drop was a participation award that merely augmented our satisfaction at figuring out how to get there. Now all we care about is the end, because most of the novelty has long since been spent. But, structurally speaking, I don’t believe Skyrim’s rules are any less complex or imbalanced than Morrowind’s were. They just presents themselves far more obviously.

  16. Turkey says:

    Every game needs a dodge or a dodge roll as well, even point and click adventure games.

    • liquidsoap89 says:

      *A dodge roll that repeatedly using moves you moderately faster than if you were to simply run normally*

  17. liquidsoap89 says:

    I’ve always thought games like Minecraft and Terraria have come closest to making a genuinely “good” crafting system. There’s a certain amount of abstract thinking involved, with just enough trial and error not to be frustrating. Where those games fall apart is in all but requiring you to look online to see how some higher end things are crafted. It’s an absolute travesty that there aren’t in game ways of DISCOVERING how to do something, without feeling required to read exactly how to do it, or have an NPC tell you the specific details required.

    MAKE IT PART OF THE GAME!

  18. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    This is one for the adventure games designers:

    – Try, please try to make a game that has no puzzles that consist of animal cruelty. Please.

    • bob27 says:

      I am also on board with this even though I don’t know to what you’re referring.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        Heh, it’s something I noticed lately: all adventure games have a puzzle that consist of punishing a random animal. George Stobbart drowned a dog, Guybrush Threepwood poisoned, er, drugged a bunch of dogs and stole food from a gull, the guy from The Critter Chronicles enslaves a penguin and forces alcohol into another. It’s a common thing. I really thing adventure game heroes are bastards.

    • mruuh says:

      Right. Pixels have feelings, after all!

  19. geerad says:

    Sadly, trying out tutorials on normal people is EXACTLY why tutorials are they way they are. I say this from personal experience.

    When you focus test a game, a significant fraction of the players will say, “I know how to play games; I don’t need a tutorial.” Then they get stuck because they didn’t learn the mechanics we expected them to know, and they get frustrated and say the game sucks.

    And, no, putting in help in the parts where they get stuck doesn’t do much good. They ignore those messages, too, getting annoyed at the game telling them what to do every 30 seconds as they wander around for an hour trying to figure out what to do.

    And so the tutorial turns more and more into the kind where the player is locked in a tiny room and can’t move on until they do the thing the game tells them to do: the kind of tutorial everyone hates, and which makes us more likely to say “I know how to play games; I don’t need a tutorial” and then get stuck and frustrated and say the game sucks.

    • The First Door says:

      This is sort of the curse of any UX stuff, to be honest, especially when you’re doing research. There are a large number of people who will always claim they know how to do something because they don’t want to appear stupid in front of someone else. No amount of reassuring them that they won’t be judged helps either, because it’s a fundamental part of human nature to want to appear to fit in. The only small way I’ve found of alleviating it is to hide what you’re trying to test, getting uses to focus on a task you don’t care about but which requires them to use what you do care about, and observing where they get stuck without them realising. Sadly this only works in some situations, though!

  20. plugmonkey says:

    I hate double jumping almost as much as I hate superfluous crafting. This article has left me conflicted.

    • mruuh says:

      What about double crafting?

      • plugmonkey says:

        The horror. The horror.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Isn’t that when you have to craft your crafting ingredients?

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          I think it’s when you have to craft your jumping ingredients to jump your crafting if you want to jump. I may have missed a step. Or a jump.

    • Otterley says:

      Let’s hope someone makes a game in which the only thing you can craft is a pair of double jump boots. You’d be golden :)

  21. Freud says:

    If you are going to have an inventory system with carrying capacity, make it very generous. Nothing kills enjoyment as much as constantly having to prune your inventory.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Goes hand in hand with the crafting for me, that one. First the game tells me that I need to pick up ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING because it’s all vital crafting material, then it tells me I can’t move because my pockets are full of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

  22. ffordesoon says:

    Double jumps are the best and anyone who doesn’t like them is factually incorrect. Yes, not having them cuts down on button presses, but when the second press of the button magnifies the original effect, that is The Best Feeling.

    Other Best Feelings include: the charge shot in Mega Man X, completing a combo in Final Fight, launching so many missiles that the framerate starts chugging in Bangai-O, pulling off a triple jump in a Mario game, hopping from wall to wall in Titanfall 2, tricking someone into a room full of proximity mines in GoldenEye, gibbing multiple dudes with a single rocket in Quake III or Unreal Tournament, blinking up to a place where you’re not meant to go in Dishonored, melee kills in Halo and Destiny, leaping tall buildings in a single bound in Deus Ex…

  23. SuicideKing says:

    I really hate tutorials that are patronizing. I mean sure in some contexts (like Portal 2 – although Wheatly wasn’t patronizing) it can be funny, but most of the time it’s really irritating.

    Double jumps are cool and all, but you should try playing games like Arma that don’t even allow a single jump :P

    More seriously, might be nicer for the more “realistic” FPS games to have a vault/climb mechanic, instead of jumps. Doesn’t Far Cry do this?

    • AyeBraine says:

      Honest question: what is an example of a patronising tutorial?

      (I mean I play games for decades, of course they often say things that I already know, but mostly there are small differences, and I’m glad to reinforce what’s traditional and try to memorize what’s specific to this game, to save my self irritation later. So I can’t recall a tutorial that really irritated me itself. Even when it completely locks my actions – it DOES miff me a little, but it’s just 5-10 minutes, no big deal.)

      • Ragnar says:

        I can’t think of a specific game aside from Mario & Luigi Dream Team, but I can think of several examples that I think would qualify, and Dream Team is by far the worst at feeling patronizing.

        Not being able to shoot / jump / perform other basic function until the tutorial deems it time to introduce said function.

        Not being able to access a visible menu / function until it is introduced.

        Having to perform a series of steps exactly the way the tutorial requires when those steps are not necessary for progression outside of being forced by the tutorial.

        And the ones that Dream Team is particularly guilty of:

        Don’t “teach” me to perform a basic function, like jumping in a platformer, well into the game. Particularly if previous tutorials already did that.

        Don’t require me to perform the same lengthy action multiple times unless I ask for extra practice. If it’s simple, once is sufficient, and thrice is right out.

        Don’t interrupt gameplay to make me play through a tutorial unless I want to. Nothing kills immersion faster than being wisked away into tutorial land.

  24. Rince says:

    DO a game with lesbian characters, because they’re cute and I like them and I will be happy.

    If there are lesbians who can double jump it’s fine too.

    Even I will accept crafting lesbians… either if they’re lesbians which craft or you crafting more lesbians.

    • Yglorba says:

      “Lesbian Robot Factory”, where you use lesbian robots to construct more lesbian robots while trying to compete with “Gay Male Robot Factory” across the street to corner the homosexual robot market.

    • Ragnar says:

      Telltale and Bioware are leading the pack as far as including lesbian characters is concerned.

      Christine Love and Hanako Games are two good indie sources of games with lesbian characters.

      But crafting lesbians? Unless you’re making a game yourself, you have no business crafting lesbians.

  25. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    Another one:

    DON’T have me start the game where my character has *all* the powers/abilities/moves for the first 15 minutes of the game, and then take them all away via Act of God(s) or something, so that now I have an extremely weak (by comparison) character and know I’ll have to slog thru multiple hours to get back to anywhere near what I started with. God of War did this in one of its iterations, and so did a Star Wars game, where you start as Darth Vader, then suddenly become Joe Noob Jedi.

  26. Ragnar says:

    John, I love these Do and Don’t lists. Keep them coming. :)