Outdated game design we can’t stand

In an industry where technology marches relentlessly forward, developers that don’t adapt get left behind. A delicious new bit of tech comes along (like Rockstar’s Euphoria physics) and immediately makes the old way (like bodies that tumble as Tetris blocks) look positively antiquated. We admit, we’re spoiled, but who wants indestructible walls after playing Red Faction: Armageddon? Or invisible ones after Red Dead Redemption? Here are some examples of outdated game design we can stand for no longer.

Invisible Walls

Years ago in the 32-bit Stone Age, when the most detailed feature of a character’s head was its pointy triangular nose, invisible walls were a necessary evil. What’s easier to render than something that’s not even there, right? Now, however, we look upon the invisible wall (though we can’t see it) with scorn.

Far Cry 2 cleverly contextualized its need to keep you from seeing what’s behind the curtain with a dose of malaria for those who stray, and Red Dead Redemption gets around the issue by neglecting to give your character swimming lessons. Yet invisible walls remain a cop-out in sandboxes like Fallout: New Vegas, where shooting super mutants with mini nukes is nothing next to overcoming a metaphysical wall of nothing.

Indestructible Scenery

Look, we know not every game can be Red Faction or Bad Company – imagine how short Skyrim’s dungeons would be if you could shoot out every locked door between you and the loot – but we can’t help craving ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION.

Above: Sandbags…Well, it’s a start 

Next to other advancements – ultra-realistic textures, motion capture and *drools* cloth physics – a grenade exploding next to a wall and leaving nary a scratch just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sure, having the power to level everything would counteract developers’ hard work designing environments, but hey, we’re selfish.

Repeating Crowds

Score a touchdown in Madden, look up to your adoring fans for praise and what do you see? Eight identical lines of topless jocks hollering. Like other entries here, cloned fans obliterate immersion and render your heroic on-field efforts nothing more than pandering to computer code. Which, admittedly, it is.

We aren’t experts, but can’t developers use the same tools behind, for instance, randomizing your created Shepard’s face in Mass Effect to make thousands of unique fans? We wouldn’t even mind if they were all topless, standing in a line and hollering.

Loooooong Loading Screens

In the age of monster hardware power, on-the-fly streaming and installing to the hard drive, loading screens seem a bit primitive. With them, how can videogames pose an artistic equal to film? Imagine if Stanley Kubrick subtitled the bit in 2001 where the bone is thrown skywards with the words “now loading space.”

Above: These ones weren’t so bad 

Even 14 years after Resident Evil on the PlayStation it’s rare to see a character open a door and simply walk straight through it without several seconds of blackness and furious CD-whirring prior. Would it help if we went in through the window?

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  • Japanaman - July 10, 2011 3:24 a.m.

    I agree with everything, but ragdoll physics. I LOVE ragdoll physics. Flatout would have been a complete waste of time if it wasn't for ragdoll physics. Also, my biggest gripes... Repetitive plantlife. Flat plants. Flat textured grass. Blurry textures up close. (N64 had the ability to redraw textures when zoomed in on them), see around corners, floating feet above objects, poor animation, bad camera angles, and finally... Call of Duty (it's highly a outdated game design)
  • gilgamesh310 - July 9, 2011 8:24 p.m.

    Regenerating health. I am fucking sick of it. Devs should get off their lazy asses and find ways of placing health packs or their equivilant around the levels. Regenerating health leads to too many cheap deaths among a lot of other frustrations.
  • secretsearcher - July 9, 2011 5:30 p.m.

    The only thing more annoying than impassable invisible walls is impassable VISIBLE walls. Like in Assassin's Creed when areas of the map would be blocked off by giant walls of blue light until your character "remembered" enough for Altair to access it. Major cop-out, if you ask me. And, as an RPG gamer, I am no stranger to level grinding. The thing is, I don't mind it in most cases. A big part of the appeal of RPG games is training up your characters until you can FINALLY beat the boss/level you have been stuck on. It gives me a huge feeling of accomplishment. The key, I guess, is to find the balance between too much and too little level grinding...after all, if your character leveled up so easily you could just destroy everything in sight on your first try, RPGS wouldn't be nearly as engrossing
  • MaelstromKING - July 9, 2011 2:52 p.m.

    Lol more Duke Nukem QQ, listen I get the game had issues, but play the freakin thing on a PC FFS, it's meant for it after all. Finally an example of a port being shitty going the opposite direction it usually does... PC -> CONSOLE.
  • BLOODmuffins - July 9, 2011 3:07 a.m.

    Generic moral choices. I have no problem with the idea, but it needs to be deeper than just a good/evil meter
  • LTS - July 8, 2011 11:30 p.m.

    I agree with the looping music thing. Especially on sports games. EA Sports knows that if I'm playing Madden, I'm going to be spending a LOT of time in the menus & such doing stuff. Why does each version only have like 20 songs or so? I swear, I can sing every song in Madden 08 word for word now. It's even worse with stuff like Smackdown Vs. Raw, where it only plays like 10 songs in the menus, despite there being much more in the game. Also, DNF's textures only suck because of shoddy porting. If you have the PC version, and use flawless widescreen to fix the FOV & Bumpmaps it looks 100 times better
  • FoxdenRacing - July 8, 2011 7:50 p.m.

    The Unreal Engine, for all its qualities, is terrible when it comes to texture pop-in. Borderlands. Bulletstorm. DNF. If it's Unreal, it's not real for 30 seconds after loading (And if it took more than one shot, you weren't using a Jakobs). It's time we stop blasting individual games for the faults of the engine, and start blaming the engine directly. My annoyances in general: 1: Lovingly rendered in 4 shades of brown. 2: Lazy Achievement/Trophy design. 3: 'Ranked Multi Only' achievements. 4: Lazy game design / shamelessly ripping off the competition. 5: Photorealism as a crutch. 6: 'One true solution' level design. 7: Pacing has become a lost art. 8: Rigid, braindead AI in games it doesn't belong. 9: Rubber-banding. Reward me for getting better by allowing me to get a crushing victory. I'll eventually get bored and turn the difficulty up, I promise. 10: Forcing PC UIs on consoles, and vice versa. #5 probably needs explanation. Photorealistic games have their place, and I'm happy they've reached that point [F1 2011 looks *fantastic*], but a crappy photorealistic game is still a crappy game. Gameplay can save an ugly can't save a crappy game. #6 should likely get one too. Making a level unwinnable until you've lost [and ergo know what's coming, to anticipate it before it happens] is bad design. Demanding the player figure out the one true solution in a genre all about options is bad design. Operation Darkness is very guilty of the first; CnC3's got the second in spades. And for #8...there are times where old-school pattern-based AI is great. Front Mission Evolved did it well with the 'boss battles'. Blatant tells, limited pattern, but unforgiving damage. However, using braindead AI as the grunts gets annoying after the 500th one falls for the same trick in a supposedly 'realistic' game, or racing opponents that don't react to anything in the world around them except for the prescribed path.
  • eliguy83 - July 8, 2011 7:27 p.m.

    ...hmmm, my morphosyntax is off. I think I meant: "One thing that Shadows of the Damned didn't do that's pretty much de rigueur in 2011 was to have its cutscenes be skippable." I think you know what I mean. Ugh, what an awkward sentence -_-
  • eliguy83 - July 8, 2011 7:23 p.m.

    One thing that Shadows of the Damned did that I assumed was pretty much de rigueur in 2011 was to have unskippable cutscenes. I mean seriously, wtf. I often get miffed at cameras that follow too low or high behind you too so that you're constantly adjusting. captcha: josiah urtionte. sounds like a Stephen King character.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 8, 2011 7:23 p.m.

    PS1 had a load of RTS games that played perfectly. The first three C&Cs for example.
  • therawski - July 8, 2011 6:33 p.m.

    Consoles have usb ports and support keyboards and mouses at their main menu, why don't console games have an option to use them in the game? Some people might like that option.
  • Aletheon - July 8, 2011 6:30 p.m.

    Unskippable Cutscenes Loading Lack of New Game Plus modes
  • Hubadaeus - July 8, 2011 6:17 p.m.

    I remember back in the days of Tony Hawk's Underground and Underground 2 when you could use cheats or somehow glitch the level to get passed invisible walls (biggest probably being the NYC level). But on the other side of the wall was usually blue hell or flat buildings and views that made it seem like you were tripping your balls off.
  • Yeager1122 - July 8, 2011 4:03 p.m.

    Infintley respawning enemies i dont want to kill 100 guys before i move up to a certain spot then they stop coming and cutscenes you cant skip if its a hard part and you die a lot watching the same thing over and over is not fun especially if that scene is like 10 minutes long.
  • Bansheebot - July 8, 2011 3:28 p.m.

    If ragdoll physics can be called outdated, shouldn't we be giving Call of Duty a wave of the finger for still using Static death animations?
  • winner2 - July 8, 2011 3:06 p.m.

    Hearing over a hundred different NPCs with the same voice. Looking at you Oblivion. Still love you and will love skyrim though.
  • CitizenWolfie - July 8, 2011 1:45 p.m.

    This will DEFINITELY get me exiled from GR, but I think the loading times on Portal 2 are crap. And Rockstar games are pretty bad for pop-in too I've noticed (especially speeding through a city). Anyway here's some stuff I could do without: 1 - Level Grinding. It's the reason I haven't finished a JRPG in about ten years. 2 - Collect em all quests. Assassins Creed is terrible for this. 3 - Witholding DLC that was already on the disc. 4 - Not so much game design but releasing game updates that aren't actually sequels. Take SFIV - SSFIV - SSFVI Arcade Edition for example. 5 - Like above, but with yearly updates. I'd rather buy a great version of say, Fifa, and then maybe pay a fiver every year for kit, player and roster updates.
  • Darkhawk - July 8, 2011 1:22 p.m.

    One other: whatever happened to death animations? Dead Space did it right, giving us contexual animations based on who or what was killing us, but I find so many other games have just left them out completely. Nowadays, it's just the fadeout to "Game Over" screen, while in the meantime your character has just sort of ridicuously slumped over in the background. Red Dead, Mass Effect, L.A. Noire, the list goes on. It sure takes you out of the game when the death animation for being run over by a truck is to have your character just fall down in front of the (magically stopped) truck. I guess this is also tied into the overuse of ragdoll.
  • rabidpotatochip - July 8, 2011 12:29 p.m.

    @jmcgrotty "I am guessing you mean going back through past levels/situations more than once in a game, using for grinding or object collection. If that is the case, the problem with your position is that you are saying the game needs more content. The problem is that this could have a significant amount of new development needed for a game. Forcing higher prices." Uh, what? Four words: Devil May Cry 4. Literally the last half of the game is going through everything the main character did with a different character. Am I supposed to be thankful they "saved" my money by only charging me $60 to play half a game twice? Here's a better solution: make the damn game better, not longer. If that means making them shorter instead, so be it. I don't care that a game provides "over 9000!!!" hours of gameplay if that gameplay sucks, I'd rather play a game that gives me a solid 10 hours of entertainment and doesn't leave me feeling like the devs just ran out of stuff to add. If you want to make the game _feel_ longer add replay value with voluntary challenges or higher difficulty settings, though apparently silly hats work too. My game design pet peeves are both connected to having a kid, unskippable cut scenes and the inability to pause. As a gamer dad, that pause button practically melts from how often you have to hit it. FYI, you can pause The Witcher 2 with the "Pause" button on your keyboard. ;)
  • jmcgrotty - July 8, 2011 9:28 a.m.

    A few things... This article had a pretty big typo in it. You said "Bad Console RTS's" were outdated when obviously you meant to just say "RTS's" MankisFrorkYorgan said "Games such as Dead Space and Mirror's Edge have shown us that we no longer need HUDs." Gotta disagree strongly. First, HUDs are (usually) done using unobtrusive methods anymore. And I strongly disagree that they worked in Mirrors Edge (didn't play Dead Space). EnigmaSpirit said "Pretty much any backtracking. Don't be lazy, find another way to lengthen out your game" I am guessing you mean going back through past levels/situations more than once in a game, using for grinding or object collection. If that is the case, the problem with your position is that you are saying the game needs more content. The problem is that this could have a significant amount of new development needed for a game. Forcing higher prices. If that isn't what you meant, ignore me.