Friday, October 19, 2012

Top 5 things that make a Bad Video Game

 (Sometimes Game Developers think they're making games for rats rather than Humans. We're quite a bit more pickier and are a little more complex.)

It's very hard to pinpoint all the reasons a game is good. Sometimes what makes it good for one person has no effect on another. It seems like the best way of figuring out how to make a good game is to look at the ways of ruining a game and then analyze how game designers can avoid such mistakes in an effort to create good games. This list could probably include more than 20 points but just to make it easier to digest and to start a conversation on the topic it's simply best to go over the top five. These are the best ways a developer can ruin their game:

Number 5
Too many Glitches

Sometimes gamers want to beat games or actually get past the first level. Pretty original idea right? :D . But seriously, why do game publishers have to apply so much pressure on game developers that they end up shipping games half complete. You can't expect gamers to enjoy a game that isn't smooth, crashes their console, kills them randomly, or stops them from completing the game because of a glitch.

All developers have to do is sit down and debug their software but sometimes the allure of money is simply too much especially when you're weeks away from completion and exhausted from the months or years of work you've done. Simply put, Game Developers, don't release unfinished games. Here are some funny videos with some of gaming history's best glitches.

Number 4
Bad Camera / Creates bad Camera angles

This issue is very reminiscent of the 1990's where developers had issues understanding how a proper camera should work and as a result, ended up failing miserably until they figured it out. While understandable back then, a long time has passed, and having bad camera issues today is completely unacceptable for any modern Game Developer.

Some games, especially platformers, require a precise camera angle so that the player doesn't fall to their death or encounter an enemy too suddenly. Given that, you can see how a bad camera can totally ruin a game.

Number 3
Artificial Difficulty = Lack of Checkpoints or saves, Cheap deaths, Not enough items / Actual Difficulty

Some games, in order to make themselves appear to be more difficult, implement game elements that frustrate the player. Games need to meet a happy medium where they balance the desire of a gamer to be challenged and feel accomplished versus being frustrated and upset.

Sometimes the cause of the frustration is due to a Game Developers need to create something I call Artificial difficulty. Artificial difficulty is created in a number of ways. The first is making it extremely hard for a person to save or creating limited checkpoints. A checkpoint is simply a place in the game where the player is allowed to retry. Some games save automatically and constantly but if you die they make you restart the whole level. The beginning of the level then is the start of the checkpoint.

If you spent half an hour to get to where you were, you now spend that half hour again. I understand making players play a portion of what they did, as a punishment, but there is a red line game developers should not cross. At a certain point the game isn't fun and you've created an artificial way of increasing the game time of a game by forcing replays. This is best experienced by playing Dark Souls or Demon Souls. The game saves frantically but you find yourself replaying whole levels simply because you died, something that can occur because of no fault of your own.

Another way to create artificial difficulty is limiting items essential for survival or not giving the player weapons that would be required to beat a certain boss.

On another note entirely a game being too difficult in general is also a red flag. Games like Superman on the N64 don't give you any room to succeed except perfection. You redo levels a thousand times because you were half a second away from reaching the finishing line. Games that don't give any mercy and leave no room at all for flexibility really take away from the enjoyment of playing. How can you expect perfection from a gamer and expect that same person to replay a level until they do it the way you want in a very short period of time?

Artificial difficulty and extreme real difficulty are two easy ways to tank your game and leave gamers never wanting to touch your creations again.

Number 2
Sloppy Controls/ Game Mechanics

If your game is an FPS shooter, than aiming and shooting should be precise. If it's a sports game then it should correctly allow you to control your player and represent the game. If you can't even dribble the ball right in a Basketball game and constantly struggle with controls, you're not going to enjoy the game.

Whatever the game is aiming to do and however it asks you to interact with the player, it needs to be solid. Game Designers need to allow a smooth interaction between the player, their controller, and the game.

Too much lag due to inputs, confusing button setups, or bad controls can easily destroy any game. A game is a game after all and if the player can't interact well with it, the game won't be enjoyable. Make sure the game mechanics are solid.

Number 1
A Bad Story

This isn't just some story you slightly regret or a game that had an ending you didn't expect. Having a bad story means you never feel immersed in the game, you don't ever get committed to the characters, and everything gets confusing when the plot is getting told.

This is why a lot of current day Final Fantasy's are suffering. Convoluted plots and complexity take the place of simplicity and a cast of characters you know and enjoy. The need to create drama or become epic stop you from ever immersing yourself.

A bunch of games get released with stories but games like Red Dead Redemption, Fallout, Kingdom Hearts, or Mass Effect become great because they slowly sing the gamer a small tale, introduce them to a grand new world, and allow them the freedom to move around it and experience it properly without being jolted by random plot lines and introductions of random side characters that mean nothing in the end.

There are a lot of games with great controls, great graphics, and millions of dollars poured into them. Why don't they become instant franchises? The bane of each and every one of these games is that their story is simply not compelling enough. What makes a great game, at the end of the day, is the narrative. The story, the characters, the world, the believability of it all, the immersion, and the experience makes a record breaking franchise.

And with that, this narrative comes to a close, hopefully giving game developers some hints on how not to shoot their games, and themselves, in the foot.