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

“Home gaming,” he opined over a pacifying pint, “is a more leisurely experience, with it being an activity you have to fit in your busy life. I cannot stand some designer telling me I have to play his f**king game for 15-40 solid minutes before I get to save it.”

Punishing checkpoint spacing is all the worse when coupled with a fondness for exposition and cutscenes. Such was the lament of Simon Barratt, owner of handheld developer Four Door Lemon (their last release was the highly pub-friendly iPhone app QuizQuizQuiz).

“The biggest annoyance for me,” he said, “is unskippable tutorials or cutscenes when you’re playing a game through again, or going back to a previous checkpoint because you just screwed up. Even worse is having to wait for the loading time for that particular segment on top of having to watch it all again!”

The Gears of War immulsion refinery opener ranks high among the most notorious unskippable sequences.

The Gears of War immulsion refinery opener ranks high among the most notorious unskippable sequences.

Next up on the hitlist was Critical Eye Ltd boss, Eurogamer ex-editor and FPS Gamer contributor Kristan Reed. In a potentially life-threatening move, Kristan took a contrary stance to Dan on the subject of saved games. He also didn’t swear nearly as much, thus marking himself out as this article’s Voice of Reason.

“As much as I agree with Dan about badly spaced checkpointing,” said Kristan, reasonably, “it’s got to the stage now where games are checkpointing every f**king heartbeat. If a game is actually any good at all, replaying the sections over and over again is actually enjoyable, not irritating. Demon’s Souls has illustrated this more than any game I’ve ever played.”

Endowing boss monsters with multiple forms is another painfully obsolete tactic, he went on. Anyone who’s fought Poison Ivy in Batman: Arkham Asylum will probably agree.

“Seriously guys, it’s not the 1980s anymore. The number of games that climax a section with a boss with three specific stages is hilarious. It used to be epic, now it’s just predictable and cliched beyond ridiculousness. I figured that Shadow of the Colossus would up the ante with regards to what we perceive as bosses, but apparently not. It’s still the formula.”

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.


Kikizo Classic: