The science of sucking: game design crimes

A traipse through some of the industry’s less exalted moments with commentary from leading developers and journalists.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, January 22, 2010

“Ah,” says the bartender in response to your shocked indignation, “but you see – guessing where the licenses are located is part of the fun of drinking, isn’t it? It’s certainly a lot more fun than sitting down with your friends to drown your sorrows, or hitting on the barmaid. Or kicking the stuffing out of the Lord of Darkness, to bring us back to that thing you were talking about before this analogy commandeered your intro. Isn’t it?”

The joys of hindsight

I was hoping I’d undergone some critical maturation process in the years since Final Fantasy XII’s release, hoping that my experiences as a professional time-waster would help me learn to love its bizarre taste in bureaucracy.

And there are things to be said in the License Board’s defence, to be fair. It’s pleasantly open-ended, where most RPGs force-march you down one or the other scripted upgrade path. But the greater breadth simply isn’t worth the additional hassle. If I need a separate piece of paper for every single bottle behind the counter, I’ll just as soon stick to Stella, thank you kindly.

My own private vision of hell.

My own private vision of hell.

Good things have, however, come of the purchase. I’ve reacquainted myself with Square Enix’s wonderful feel for costume and architecture, for one, and got to grips with the ambitious and, in the long run, engagingly complex “Gambits” system, for another. And I’ve had an idea for a feature. A feature on rubbishy game design. This feature, don’t you know.

But there’s a problem. Having sunk my teeth into FFXIII and Fallout 3, committed to a replay of Mass Effect for kicks and begun my tour of White Knight Chronicles, I’ve got precisely dick-all time to actually write stuff.

Fortunately, Kikizo employs more than one wordsmith, and is owed favours by several others. Some of these writers are game developers, even, and at least one of them is Adept Games‘s Daniel Boutros. Dan has worked both sides of the press line in the course of his career, kicking off on such illustrious publications as C+VG but later departing the world of editorial to do PR for Sega and production for SCEE. His latest project, iPhone tile puzzler Trixel, is a class act indeed.

4 Responses to “The science of sucking: game design crimes”

  1. Shox says:

    gotta agree with the regen of health point.
    there is no fear of dying anymore. “sure i’ll just hide behind this here barrel, and i’ll be grand ina minute”

  2. tommy says:

    some crimes as old as time. (1) having to repeat too much when you die including parts that you actually did well (2) bottomless holes that make you die instantly (3) finite amount of lives before you are kicked off the game (4) not being able to set the difficulty to something super easy for people who don’t want to be in that loop of dying and repeating the same level but would rather progress

  3. Stuart says:

    Tommy – Don’t buy Demon’s Souls! I have replayed the first level loads of times, had to restart with a new character, and I’m hardly making progress! It’s guilty of 3 out of those 4. If you die repeatedly, it won’t kick you out of the game, but it gets harder.

    Still, even though it breaks 3 of your 4 rules, it’s an exceptional game. Tough as adamantium nails, but fair.

  4. tommy says:

    :-) Only if I think a game is really good will I step up to the plate and attempt a level as many times as it takes and try the harder difficulties. Most games I just want to keep making progress and don’t like to lose.


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