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The Autobiography of Russell
Life from a different perspective
Game Design Qualms

A few rules for game developers:

  • Don't offer a choice if you're going to force the player to pick a specific option. Look, if you're not really going to give the player a choice then don't waste their time answering the question. Just make it a personality decision of the character.
    • Super Mario RPG has several of these. For example, if you don't agree to help Mallow at the beginning he'll start crying until you talk to him again and agree. There's nothing else you can do to advance the story until you do, either.
    • Another, more recent, game that does this is Animal Crossing: Wild World. On Saturday morning a weasel named Lyle will follow you so closely you're very likely to accidentally talk to him. He'll ask you a few questions then, regardless of the answers, say you need "insurance". He'll ask if you want it and even if you say no he'll just repeat himself until you agree to the terms (paying 3,000 bells).
    • The only place I've seen this done tastefully is in Paper Mario for the Wii. At the very beginning the wizard asks you to save the world. If you say no three times the Game Over scene starts playing. It makes sense that if you don't save the world it's the end and it doesn't just keep asking the same question over and over until you agree.
  • Areas the player shouldn't go to yet should have a logical reason of stopping instead of just saying "You can't go there".
    • I was playing a flash RPG earlier that has this problem. No one was around the bridge but the moment I tried to go near it I would move back a few feet and it would say I had to finish the quest in te city first. Nothing was physically stopping me from crossing the bridge other than the game mechanics.
    • Kingdom Hearts II does this in a semi-reasonable way. If you're following someone it goes "So-and-so knows the way." If you're heading toward an event it might say something like "I need to save so-and-so." It might even have bars over the entrance and go "It doesn't look like it's open right now." Never does it just say "I can't go that way."
    • Metroid Prime does this very well. If you can't go a specific way it's because you don't have the method to access it yet. The door that once opened doesn't just magically go "haha, wrong way, idiot" and stay shut. On occasion a door will stop functioning due to, say, a power failure, but that's still reasonable.
  • It's becoming a big fad to make games sensitive to the user time. The problem with this is it forces players to adjust their schedule to play your game, which is more likely to lose players. If the player doesn't change their schedule yet attempts to play then chances are they'll miss out on all events happening in a specific time (e.g. while at work).
    • Animal Crossing is the biggest offender to this issue. For example, you can't get any music to play at home unless you visit K.K. Slider Saturday evening. Excuse me, you want me to forgo going out on a Saturday night just to get something in the game? I don't think so. The older version had no problem changing system time to match your own, but the DS version either has a bug or a 'feature' to discourage that (the Stalk Market screws up so the price to sell is never higher than the price to buy).

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: "The One" by Backstreet Boys

6 comments or Leave a comment
unspeakablevorn From: unspeakablevorn Date: December 8th, 2008 08:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Cave Story does the first thing right:
"You gonna fight me with that thing?"
Yes / > No
"...Oh. All right. See you, then."
zimzat From: zimzat Date: December 9th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Cool. I'll fight most people just for the experience, but sometimes there are people I don't think are worth fighting (like picking a side in an argument I don't care about at all). It's nice when I don't have to choose a side. (That's another bullet point I forgot above)
raist_ From: raist_ Date: December 9th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked how Assassin's Creed blocked off parts of the city:

"This area not part of the memory." while giving you a really fuzzy border area you can't cross into.
zimzat From: zimzat Date: December 9th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooo, interesting. I've never played it before but based on that it sounds like an interesting premise. I may have to see if I can play it.
From: better_angel Date: December 9th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm working on my PhD in Instructional Technology. The two areas (game development vs. learning) are very similar, for sure. And all your rules are applicable to both, I think. You're an insightful guy. :-)
zimzat From: zimzat Date: December 9th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Insightful, maybe. Mostly just lazy. :-P But thank you for the compliment (I'm still learning to accept them gracefully)

There is some benefit to interactivity in a learning scenario because it helps the user think about what is on the screen. I saw a brain activity image somewhere and simply watching TV had the lowest activity.

In games, though, if there's no choice of what can be done between two cut scenes (and no enemy encounters either) then the cut scene may as well keep spanning the change in location.

Another thing I don't care for is repetitive battles. Action games are decent because they mix things up a bit, but Final Fantasy style battles, especially during the grinding to level up, are often enough for me to abandon the game 75 to 90% of the way through. It's one reason I don't play WoW.
6 comments or Leave a comment