I used to have a file wherein I'd track things I saw in games that really stood out to me as stuff I either LIKE or DON'T LIKE design-wise. Sadly, I lost it when a hard drive died a while back (yes, I hadn't gotten round to transferring that and a ton of other files to my Google Docs repository...) I figure an online topic on this community site won't get lost so easily so here goes.
Please feel free to add to this topic if/when you notice anything that stands out and can be broken down to a simple rule! I find this stuff really helpful to refer to when I'm working on a game design. Feel free to add-to/modify the rules as noted - I'm sure all our input could be edited down to a common set of rules eventually. My "format" (if you can call it that) is to note the 'rule' I've come up with (that I will inevitably change/streamline/clarify as I gain more understanding in that area of design) and then the example that made it apparent to me.
I think it's important to note that it's critical analysis - but, in the case of the 'negative' examples, not a criticism of the designers and creators responsible. I love many of the games where I noticed things I want to avoid in my own design and in those cases the positives far outweighed the negatives.
The Rule: set defaults to help direct the player; create the path of least resistance for the player or risk losing those with shorter attention spans!
Has anyone played Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet? It's a very impressive game visually - but you'd expect that from Michel Gagne. I've enjoyed the little I've played so far (still going...) on Xbox 360.
One thing that stood out to me immediately from the start was the fact that you have a whole bunch of 'appendages' for your craft and you can assign hotkeys to them - but there aren't any default hotkeys assigned to start with...
For a player like me who likes to have an experience that is easy to access and doesn't require excess brain matter for things like interface and admin (until I choose to engage them!) this is a problem.
Besides my sheer laziness, however, I think it's important to assign default keys when you have a system like this for some key reasons:
- ease of use: anything that slows a player down in the early stages of a game is not in your best interests for retention. Setup defaults for them so they don't have to think about it
- guidance: you know the game better than the player will by this stage so you'll have a better idea of what buttons to set for the more frequently used items, etc. An experienced, thoughtful player may be able to figure things out in short order but there's still a hit to the flow of the early experience that it pays not to have in a world where there are more games to play than there are hours in your life.
It's a minor thing and won't bother a lot of people - but the popular and most accessible games ensure there aren't any blocks - no matter how minor - to a streamlined experience for the casual player. For my personal goals, this is something I'd like to watch out for.
RPS "The complete rules for games" :P.
Build on the strengths of the medium. Interactivity, self inferred meaning, user created content, player interaction and relationships, dynamic evolving/reactive systems, exploration, living dreams etc.
Don't make me read blocks of text, if I want to read, I'll read a book. (Not to say they can't be good, just a personal rule. Braid is a good example here I think - those paragraphs felt so out of place - not that they wern't interesting.)
Don't make movie games, if I want a movie, I'll watch a movie. (Not to say they can't be good, just a personal rule. I loved ME3 in spite of this but more because of the relationships. "Seeing my friends again". ...That and INSTA-SHIELD-RECHARGE-BIOTIC-TELEPORT-FACE-PUNCH rediciouslessness :P)
Create meaningful experiences. No points, no meaningless leveling - just so I can level more rat wheels, no meaningless achievements, no unnecessary garbage. (Again not to say that breaking these rules means failure certainly not, just not what I'm interested in creating or playing.) :P
Just a quick one off the top of my head:
Tutorials that restrict controls while they try to teach you others is bad. During the tutorial phase players are learning strictly what they can and can't do. By having some buttons turned off that are later turned on lets the player learn that these don't do anything and can't be used. It's the wrong lesson to teach.
I forget what game this was from..
I like having the story match the player's experience.
Half-Life 2 forces the player along a fixed path, so the story was designed to match that lack of freedom, making it feel deliberate instead of like a limitation.
Prince of Persia (2008) got this wrong. It's a game where you can't die or lose, but the characters constantly say things like "I can't believe we made it!" and "I thought we were dead for sure!" It's jarring because the story is saying that we're in danger, but the rules of the game are telling me that we're not.
We need a "Like" button - nice one Matt, re: Prince of Persia I agree!
I dislike a sudden change of game play mecanics.
I don't think many games do this but I encounted this really badly in The Witcher 2.
The game has really cool combat, and you're taught to fight in a particualr style, very hit and dodge type of combat. You get some really helpful ablities too that start becoming more and more importat in combat as you progress through the game.
The combat is really fun once you master it. However there is a point about halfway through the game, just when you start feeling like you've mastered combat, that the combat suddenly changes. You loose all the abilities that you have come to rely on and your forced to fight in a totally differnt style, bacily with a differant character that is slow moving, can't dodge and has differant attacks then what you have been using for the entire game before. If that's not annoying enough the game makes you fight a mini boss like this.
It's not just that it was a difficult section of the game, its that the game is taking away something i really enjoyed... the combat.
Also... how do I edit my posts.
I have some shocking spelling mistakes
Re: editing - sorry mate - I'll check it out!
Hey man - it looks like you've got perms to edit your own topics (all authenticated users have) and usually the Edit button is right at the bottom of your post with Delete to the left and Reply to the right.
A few peeps have mentioned that they can't find the edit button though - maybe it's a browser thing? What browser are you using?
I use Chrome. But have just tried with IE Firefox and Opera and I don't see an edit botton with any. I see the Reply button and a Flag as Offensive button.
Thanks man - it's looking like something to do with Drupal perms and the Forum Access module - possibly a known issue; we'll look into it!
OK, that was weird. I did a permissions repair so the edit button should be available at least for previous posts, I'll check that it works for new ones.
Edit - It's working! At least for my account. Anyone else still missing the edit button?
The only thing that comes to mind for me is Random Encounters in RPGs and how much I dislike them. This might even be the main thing that separates Japanese RPGs from their Western counterparts, although I'm sure there is the odd exception to the rule (IIRC Grandia 2 didn't have random battles, although that might not even be classed as a JRPG). But I guess my philosophy when playing a game is "I'll decide whether or not I'm going to fight that guy". If I want to explore instead, I will.
I haven't played any Final Fantasies beyond FF7, however from what I've seen of the newest ones random encounters is still pretty much the staple and why I haven't bothered with playing them. Maybe I've just been spoiled by open-world RPGs and am missing out on something that obviously a lot of other people find immensely enjoyable?
@Alucard - is it working for you now sir?
There is the edit at the top of a thread to edit the first post IF its yours, as before.
There is no individual post edit (that I can find currently).
I know that you can't edit a comment if it's already been replied to, by default, just to ensure a thread doesn't become hard to follow but I guess we could trust authenticated users enough not to worry about them editing the real meaning out of their original posts/comments heh. Is this possible Earok?
@Damien Nope still no edit button
@Paul Catling I gota agree with you man.
Random battle encounters suck. I guess it make sense if you think of the era of gaming it comes from. A time when you could not get a lot of detail on the screen so switching out to a separate combat screen meant you could have more detail on monsters and characters because they had more screen real estate. Even makes sense in the early polygon days, remember the difference in detail between the game world and the encounters in FF7... massive difference. I think FF are trying to move away from the random encounters but I haven't played a FF game since 10 so I don't really know. Only game I liked random battles in was Pokemon :)
My pet design hate...when the world of the game simply makes no sense. I had a dabble with Gameloft's 'Chaos Online' on the iPad. First mission...go out and kill some wolves. When I get to the wolves they're standing around, evenly spaced, on grass that looks like a golf green. A duck-shooting game at the sideshow would be a more realistic interpretation of hunting than this. Unfortunately this kind of artificiality held sway through everything saw in Chaos.
If you're going to make a world, make one that doesn't look and feel like the set from a 60s musical!
I actually don't mind random battles - But I think you can do slightly better with them. Cthulu saves the world has a limited number of random battles per area (unless you turn it back on)
A 'hot-cold' probability meter could be on display, if you are stealthy it could go down, if you run/make noise it could go up.
I think there are some modernizers you could attach to the 16-bit style - If you were making that kind of game ;)
hey Damien thought I'd let you know that the edit button is working now. I noticed it was there a while ago. Thanks for that :)