The 10 most common game design mistakes

“Depth” is not the same as “put a ton of shit in it.” If you’ve got to toss in 500 guns, cars, units, or unlockable whatevers, you’re taking the brute force approach to complexity, and it won’t work. A deep experience results from having a great variety of possible interactions between a limited number of variables.


If there’s too much stuff, we’ll only get frustrated. We can’t possibly remember the details of everything you crammed in, so we’ve got no idea what is better than what. The result is that we ignore half of it, and all that hard work goes unseen. Instead, limit the number of weapons, upgrades, and whatnots, and make them more interesting. Give them more attributes, make them more fun, and make us want them.

Perhaps the only exception to this complaint is MMOs. MMOs can get away with having tons of stuff, because you’re meant to play them for a billion hours.

If you’re building strategy game, let us have a skirmish with any combination of variables we want, even if it breaks the “universe” you’ve established.  If you’re making a multiplayer game, don’t force us into gimmicky modes. It’s fine to include them, but we always need the standard Free for All, Team Deathmatch, Survival, and Capture the Flag type stuff - don’t force us to play the way you want us to.

This is also true of many RPGs. If the main quest is over, but the story doesn’t involve the main character’s death, why can’t we go back and do the side-quests we missed? We just want to explore the world a bit more. Instead, we have to either load the save point before we “finished” the game, or start over from the beginning.


Granted, it would take some extra work to make sure the world still makes sense after the ultimate evil is defeated, but it just seems silly to load an old save just to go back and run through some completely unrelated quests.

Oh, we were supposed to jump onto that platform over there before the invisible “giant falling rock that crushes and kills you” timer that we had no way of knowing about ran out. Splendid.

Games are leaving out information – vital information – all the time. Part of it is the modern desire to do away with HUDs and interfaces that conflict with “immersion.” This leads to stat based games that never let us see the stats. The other part is just bad design. You do have to let the player know what they’re supposed to be doing, otherwise it’s all frustration and thrown controllers.


Resident Evil 5 doesn’t do this so much that it becomes un-fun, but it’s still guilty. A boss battle with a certain lady has you continually repeating the same action with no sign of progress. We need an indication that what we’re doing is working – something, anything! We can’t see the code, we can’t read the designer’s mind, and if what we’re supposed to be doing is completely arbitrary, then how do we know what it is?

This is the absolute worst.

Every cut-scene must be skippable every time. We don’t care how proud the animators are of them, or how important they supposedly are to our enjoyment. We’ll decide how to enjoy the game. And what if we’re playing it a second time? We still have to watch say... this?


Unskippable tedium isn’t just cut-scenes. It’s any repetitive task that could have been automated or eliminated. Don’t make us sell every bit of ammo we have one at a time with three prompts in between each transaction. Don’t stick locked doors all over your levels and then expect us to wander around trying each one until we find the one-in-one-hundred that’s unlocked. (Silent Hill: Homecoming, you scoundrel.) And definitely never make us grind for ten hours and call it “gameplay.”

May 22, 2009

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  • Ell223 - May 22, 2009 9:23 p.m.

    trying to go all the way to one out of two hundred just because the merchant doesn't have enough gold on my xbox version of oblivion is the worst! it takes forever!
  • RebornKusabi - May 22, 2009 9:29 p.m.

    Number 5 annoys me, no **** that- number 5 pisses me off so much that I have quit playing several recent games completely because of not being able to quick-save or hard-save at any time.
  • NeoKef - May 22, 2009 9:32 p.m.

    GD!!!!!! Those worms in Lost Planet were hell! And to start back to spend five minutes to get ready, just to die under 2 minutes is horriable. Great feature, GR
  • Corsair89 - May 22, 2009 10:03 p.m.

  • Ninja-KiLLR - May 23, 2009 2:02 a.m.

    i really hate non-skippable cut scenes. that urks me so much im looking at u BLACK even though it is like 4 years old i remeber trudging through poorly made cut scenes and pressing ever button to make it stop
  • Koouunn - May 23, 2009 2:20 a.m.

    lol "push x to make win happen" that is an epic win right there
  • Skykid - May 23, 2009 3:05 a.m.

    Wow, you speak truth. Are you guys prophets? :)
  • xXD0min8oRXx - May 23, 2009 3:17 a.m.

    So true, but meh, games can't be perfect. reCAPTCHA: short coming ( I dunno.. )
  • Technodragonslayer69 - May 23, 2009 3:54 a.m.

    great artitcle, it's about time someone complains about that ridic boss fight in res 5. Like seriously i had no idea that what i was doing was how i defeated her and kept restarting and killing her.
  • vitoruss - May 23, 2009 3:56 a.m.

    For 'withholding information', how about the first chainsaw manjini fight in Resi 5? You keep running back and forth shooting the guy in the face with the sniper and punching him for a half an hour which left me to pause, go on the internet to see what to do, only for it to say to keep on doing what I was doing. Also, the boulder falling and chasing Leon in Resi 4's first quicktime event was like, "WTF? How was I supposed to know there was quicktime events right now?"
  • ranzatsu - May 23, 2009 4:40 a.m.

    To hell with unskippable cutscenes. Thanks to that, I memorize the entire script for Crisis Core!! Damn them.
  • garnsr - May 23, 2009 8:25 a.m.

    How many people actually played Shenmue, the originator of QTEs? Why did so many developers decide to take that from an underappreciated game? ReCaptcha: lechery Friday Woohoo! I'm off for some lechery right now! These ReCaptchas are getting better!
  • Selectedpayload - May 23, 2009 11:28 a.m.

    If you want unskippable tedium, try splinter cell CT, the opening cut scene was unskippable to a certain point where if you were quick enough with the right timing you could stop it and get to the main menu. If you missed then you'd have to watch the rest, thats like 3 mins of video every time you get that disc spinning, even if you want to play the MP.
  • RedOutlive10 - May 23, 2009 1:56 p.m.

    To be honest these go through the vent moments were awesome to me in HL2, and even nostalgic. They aren't hard to see, heck the game points at the path to you all the times.
  • bamit11 - May 23, 2009 2:31 p.m.

    one of the far crys is really annoying when ever you start the game or quit a mode you have to watch that stupid unskipable cutscene
  • charley235 - May 23, 2009 2:35 p.m.

    this article made alot of sense...except for #3. if you beat the game, what if someone dies, or what if the storie continues in the second game right from that point? #3 is bullcrap, otherwise i liked them all...its been 2 hours, where the hell do i go next!!
  • dtzulu - May 23, 2009 3:02 p.m.

    and a note about shenmue. i had that game for my dreamcast. the concept, great. the problem? I WAS TOO BUSY LIVING MY OWN LIFE TO LIVE HIS!! ie, go to work, buy this, buy that, be at home by 11:00, man!
  • ssj4raditz - May 23, 2009 4:16 p.m.

    "You win! Now get out." LOL As much as I love Eternal Sonata, those damn cut scenes were soooooo long.
  • GoKanuks - May 23, 2009 4:39 p.m.

    You are right. Wow, I never really thought about that before! RT
  • Hunter2458 - May 23, 2009 7:23 p.m.

    The unskippable tedium bit about selling ammo is one of my favorite parts of MGS4, once you have too much of something it's auto sold.

Showing 1-20 of 83 comments

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