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Great Game Design Evils?

July 16th, 2006 @ 8:25 am
by Dr. Zaiss

When you hear the phrase “Great Game Design Evils,” what do you think of? When I first saw the article, Three Great Game Design Evils, I thought one such evil might be creating a point of no return in a game far away from a save point.

Now admittedly, the article contains three designers’ opinions, but I was surprised with what they said: A balanced game, stealth in a game, and cut scenes comprise three great evils. OK, so I agree with the cut scene idea. I haven’t actually played Metal Gear Solid 2, but I heard it’s a movie occasionally interrupted with that annoying game play stuff.

While an unbalanced game might be interesting (I don’t disagree with the designer on face), but is a balanced game truly a “Design Evil?” And what about the presence of stealth? That sounds like more of a preference than a line between Design Good and Evil.

Let’s start a list. Readers, what do you think are the greatest game design evils? And what can we do to avoid them? I think some of the Twelve Interviews here mention them, but I’m sure plenty are out there. Discuss!

3 Responses to “Great Game Design Evils?”

  1. Jason Uher Says:

    Stealth makes games totally awesome. I’m completely dissapointed in the game industry’s seeming lack of ability (motivation?) to make a game where stealth is useful. All of EDIOS’s Thief games were crazy fun.

    Often, I think stealth is like a “its here, but we dont expect (or require) you to use it in anyway. A good example is the “Knights of the Old Repulbic” series, which is a real-time turn based strategy. Stealth exists in the game, but in no situations is it either useful or required; its just there, wasting your character’s skill points.

    Stealth is hardly an evil, it just needs to be done with a bit care. It should be integrated into the gameplay and useful, not thrown haphazardly into game as a feature.

  2. gnome Says:

    To be honest, I can’t speak of inter-genre applicable design evils. Things like the irritating and un-approachable (for everyne outside the US) Larry 1 age verification thingy, might have been quite a frustration, but was also memorable and actually interesting.

    Same thing would apply to lenght or level of difficulty. A game might perfectly well be designed for a quick story driven playthrough, or as an epic. As long as its done correctly, I’d be a happy punter. I can’t compare a short story to an epic.

    As for cutscenes Warcraft 3 showed the way. ’nuff said.

    I could go on you know, ad nausem, but I’ll just stick to something that always irritates me. Bad pathfinding. I bloody hate it….

  3. Vince Twelve Says:

    I can’t agree at all with any of the evils listed in this article. I wouldn’t define any of them as “evil” as I believe that any of them can be good in some (or even most) cases.

    Balance? Come on. If a RTS wasn’t balanced, it wouldn’t be fun. Same for a fighting game or any multiplayer game.

    Stealth? Byron sounds like an idiot when he talks about stealth. I get what he’s trying to say about it’s more fun to be moving and blowing stuff up than sitting still in a dark corner, but in a game when stealth is done right, the most exciting parts are when your holding your breath and hoping that the guard doesn’t see you lying in the bushes right at his boot. I agree that adding stealth to your game just so that you can add it as a bullet point on the back of the box is bad design, but the same can be said for any game mechanic.

    Cutscenes? This shows some bias in the types of games that Molyneux plays. Some people like cutscenes. I can name bundles of games in which I loved the cutscenes. In the Final Fantasy games, the beautiful cutscenes aren’t getting in the way of rewards, they ARE the reward. After beating a difficult boss you are rewarded with an awesome cutscene. Definitely there’s a line that can be crossed (coughXenosagacough), but it all comes down to player expectations.

    None of these can possibly be considered “evil” but I’m guessing that that was the hyperbole of the article author rather than the three designers interviewed. (“Excuse me, can you tell me one thing that you don’t like in games.” “Yeah, I’m not a big fan of cutscenes.” “This just in: Molyneux thinks cutscenes are the fruits of the devil!”)

    So, what is “evil” in game design? I’d vote for tacked-on stories. “Dude, let’s make a game where you have a bunch of guns and you can blow shit up!” “What’ll the story be about?” “I dunno, aliens or some shit… We’ll figure it out later. First let’s program the bump mapping and pixel shaders!”