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The 10 most common game design mistakes

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Not every game needs a story. Left 4 Dead is a prime example. Some good characters and a simple situation is enough, and any more would be pointless. All we really need to know in a shooter or RTS is who we’re fighting, and why we’re fighting them. Any more and it better be worth our time.

It is worth our time in a lot of games, but in just as many others we really don’t care. We think we care, because we like the game, but we don’t. Halo’s story could have been drastically simplified and we still would have enjoyed it. We might even have enjoyed it more, because we wouldn’t have spent so much time picking apart its convolution.

We don’t need more “go rescue so-and-so” or “plant five charges” missions. They only exist because someone thought we needed variety (as if repetitive tasks are variety), and more convincing that there’s a story going on somewhere behind-the-scenes. Don’t bother! Give us a good reason to shoot the bad guys and we’ll shoot the bad guys. Offer challenges that weren’t contrived to make us feel all storied up, and we promise we’ll still have fun.


Ok, it’s time for a boss – now FORGET EVERYTHING YOU’VE BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST THREE HOURS.
What? We know bosses are supposed to be hard, but that doesn’t mean they have to completely discard the game’s established mechanics. Build on the existing mechanics - let us use what we’ve learned. Oh, and don’t think we don’t realize that the super-powerful mega-weapon you gave us earlier is suddenly inexplicably useless.

This also applies to those annoying-ass driving levels that developers love to slap into the middle of shooters. Why the hell are we driving when we’ve spent the last ten levels shooting?


I’m tired. I want to go to bed, and I don’t want to leave my stupid console paused all night. Why are some developers so terrified of letting us save our damn games? If you think being generous with save points will make your game too easy, you’re probably doing it wrong.

We don’t mind re-killing a bunch of dudes if we have to. What we want to avoid by saving often is walking through empty hallways and re-organizing our inventories. The difficulty of a game shouldn’t be entirely reliant on making us die and redo large, tedious sections of non-action. If we die in a big firefight, let us go back a little ways before that battle so that we can prepare a new strategy and jump back in. Don’t make us walk around for five minutes first.

We forgive you Capcom, but only because you’re so lovable.

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83 comments

  • john-hunter - September 10, 2012 5:40 a.m.

    apparently eternal sonata had a different story on the second play through
  • anduin1 - June 1, 2009 7:44 a.m.

    I dont know about the rest of you but quick time events get on my nerves this gen, RE5 is one of the top abusers of this. I always feel like that stuff pulls me right out of the game and back to button mashing, force unleashed is another one. Boss fights end in some quicktime event that has me not watching how the boss dies but watching what buttons I need to be pressing. I didn't buy into the whole GH/ rock band fad for a reason. STOP DOING THIS DEVS
  • pueojit1 - May 31, 2009 1:18 a.m.

    number one remined me of zelda credits, they take forever
  • kodesy - May 29, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    @GR I'm not saying that games don't withhold info, but about the RE5 thing..you CAN tell you're getting somewhere..While yes, it is repetitive what you're doing, the device on her starts sparking and making short-circuit kinda noises. With shortening intervals of time between them as you do the battle. Signifying that it's getting more damaged..
  • StonedMagician99 - May 29, 2009 6:14 p.m.

    The save thing is, IMO, easily the worst on here. Every game should have a save-anywhere ability, but nowadays, almost no games do. Play all the way through the Xbox 360/ PS3 Turok and you'll know what I mean.
  • ss11955 - May 29, 2009 2:36 p.m.

    Damm it --make SAVES available WHEN desired!!!!!!!!I thought i was only one who had to leave console on all night(with OVERHEATING DANGER) .Number 1 peave in my book.Jim
  • blademage20 - May 29, 2009 2:12 p.m.

    Here is a perfect example for the Unskippable Tedium. When you die in Too Human, there's a 30 second cutscene that you HAVE to watch. And when you die every other minute on the last two levels, half the gameplay is watching the same damn thing over and over and over.
  • AuthorityFigure - May 29, 2009 5:26 a.m.

    This is a nice concise list as to why hardcore games suck. Thank you for agreeing with me, GR.
  • killemall - May 28, 2009 8:14 p.m.

    lso and i'm sure its been said before, but the evil YOU ARE DEAD screen (ahem Ninja Gaiden 2) does not to be so intircate... i know i'm fucking dead, just ask me to save or retry, thank you.
  • Perfect_Insanity - May 28, 2009 11:49 a.m.

    Clueless AI in Oblivion is hilarious, you can start hacking some of the NPC's to bits and they will try to do the same to you, but when you talk to them - in the middle of this fight to the death- they act like you're their best friend. ROFL
  • jeit - May 27, 2009 11:54 p.m.

    haha i remember the unskippable cutscenes. id just leave the game on for like an hour and then go like leave the house or something, that only doesnt work when they force a crapload of action onto your face in the very beginning.... then it just kinda sucks (especially when you go back to the main menu and gotta start over again....)
  • Forsakenday - May 26, 2009 2:59 a.m.

    I think that GTA 4 did a great job with the saves. If you fail a mission or something once you get to your objective, you will often reset near the objective which is really nice. And I hate interactive "cinematics". I often put down my controller to watch then all of a sudden it wants me to push a button which catches me totally off guard.
  • CordedNX3 - May 26, 2009 1:53 a.m.

    SLOW PANS, I hate long ass cut scenes, oh and the cinematics in RE5 are RETARDED
  • Ckncakeee2 - May 26, 2009 12:31 a.m.

    along with the unskippable tedium, don't forget credits. They are the longest, boringest, most dragged-on event in a game.
  • Schmegeggi - May 25, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    The checkpoint save system is by far the most annoying thing in games. I know platforms have had this "feature" for years now but I was raised on PC gaming- save anywhere is in my DNA. It is so frustrating to play an initially fun game only to have the experience destroyed by no quicksave option. I'm looking at YOU Rainbow Six Vegas and Gears of War!
  • Fizzmonkey - May 25, 2009 5:05 a.m.

    u dont press x to win in resident evil, u have to press x and y.
  • cefriano - May 24, 2009 7:31 p.m.

    Personally, I disagree with number 7, at least for the examples you gave. I really enjoyed the insertion of story in Left 4 Dead. Unnecessary, sure, but it gave the game much more personality than other games like Unreal Tournament (which has some kind of story, I'm sure, but I've never encountered it) where I have very little if any motivation. It doesn't get in the way of the fun, so why lose it? The same goes for Halo. One of the reasons I was so intrigued by Halo was the degree of grandiosity present in the story. It felt very epic (if not wholly original) and made the game much more interesting to me. Shitty story can certainly hinder a game, but well done story elements can make it that much more fun to play.
  • caboose4400 - May 24, 2009 8:47 a.m.

    unskipable are the worst espechally when your not intrested in em
  • Red - May 24, 2009 4:26 a.m.

    I feel like a tool for admitting it, but I really do enjoy these top ten style lists you guys do. Since you said you could go into the 20's and 30's with this, why not a second helping, eh?
  • Spybreak8 - May 24, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    Good article. One thing I hate with Far Cry 2 is that you have to save so often. I probably spend half my gameplay running to my house and saving. Yea that is soo much fun, not. A little auto save here and there wouldn't hurt, same with Mass Effect. As for the complexity thing I thought of Halo Wars. So what there aren't a lot of units to chose from, they're all unique and have neat special abilities. Non the less, they are fun to use.

Showing 1-20 of 83 comments

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