Binning Bad Design: Gaming Tropes that Should be Forgotten
I love video games, that should be plainly obvious. My spare time is taken up by either playing games, watching games or writing about games. But just because I love something doesn’t mean I can’t see room for improvement. Throughout all genres of games, there are design staples that seem to solely exist to annoy gamers. Why designers and programmers feel the need to include these frustrating tropes is a mystery only the gods can answer. I decided to list out some of the most frustrating game design tropes that gamers everywhere would be happy to never see again. Be warned the following may bring back memories of frustration and rage.
Mash “X” to open
I don’t know which game decided that mashing “x” was the best way to open something first but we probably have Kratos to thank for its popularity. Soon after the first God of War game was released it seemed that every action game was including quick time events, and the worst of those QTEs was mashing a button to open a door or chest. I guess the intention behind this mechanic was to make the player feel like they were in control of the open action but all it did was wear out controllers and frustrate players. Some excellent games have included this stupidity too. Gears of War, the Uncharted franchise and Darksiders are just some of the games that have thought this mechanic was a great idea. Developers out there take note, it is in no way, shape or form a good inclusion in a game.
You know how it goes, you are just cruising along playing your favourite 3d action game, killing enemies, solving puzzles that sort of thing, when all of a sudden the game throws a curve ball at you. The dreaded escort mission. Quickly the game turns from a place of joy into a hellhole of swearing, anger and despair. Being charged with looking after an incompetent AI controlled character is one of the worst experiences in gaming and it is sure to sour even the best of games. The idea of an escort quest isn’t necessarily a bad one, it is just that it is very rarely implemented well. Gaming giants such as Zelda, Mass Effect and Fallout are a few of the big names that have been tainted by the poor escort quest curse. Frankly, the entertainment factor of these style of missions is so low that they should be relegated to the bin of bad design forever.
Rubber Band AI
This is a design philosophy that used to be much more common but still persists to this day in specific genres. You are beating the computer in a game/race/match when all of a sudden the computer can do no wrong and you can do no right. Your massive lead is trimmed to nothing and all of a sudden you are pipped at the post and lose the contest. Controllers get thrown, bad words get yelled, tears are shed. This sort of AI is a remnant of the Arcade scene when many games used this tactic to force players to pump more coins into the machine (NBA JAM was notorious for it), but sadly it has found a home in console gaming. Racing games are particularly susceptible to this type of bad design, with many a Mario Kart, Need for Speed or Wipeout race being lost because of it. The idea behind this choice is clearly to create a challenge for the player, but it is a false challenge that only makes players feel cheated and not like they have achieved something. Once again the solution is to create more challenging AI competitors, not cheating ones.
Thankfully this is a mechanic that seems to be slowly dying but it still pops up from time to time. Save points are a relic of yesteryear when memory and HDD space was at a premium. In this day and age however, there is no excuse not to have a better implemented save system in place. Some games choose a save point system as it becomes a part of the gameplay, Dark Souls for example, but generally speaking there is no real reason a developer should choose this route. People are busy these days and life gets in the road of game time, so no one wants to spend another 30 minutes playing just to get to a save location. It is frustrating and has caused me to leave a game in my pile of shame on more than one occasion.
This is something that has recently begun to bug me in a large way. You know the type of RPG quests I am talking about. Collect 6 useless items, kill 10 annoying bugs, deliver a message to a boring NPC. Quests that a designed to simply pad out playing time with meaningless activity. The reason this is becoming such an annoyance for me is because thanks to The Witcher 3 I know that side quests need not be pointless time wasters, but can be essential parts of the whole game. Something I wish games like Final Fantasy XV, Dragon Age: Inquisition and the Assassin’s Creed franchise knew before they were released. This style of quest became popular in MMO’s but somehow, against all logic, made their way into single player RPG and Action games. Game time that is inflated by these sorts of quests is not something that developers should be happy with. I am begging developers, make quests meaningful or don’t make them at all.
So there you have it, just some of the gaming design choices and tropes that make my teeth itch. Each one of these should be relegated to history but sadly I feel they will probably hang around for years to come. We can only hope that devs get the hint sooner rather than later.
Is there a bad gaming trope that sends you into a rage? Did I miss any obvious ones? Lets us know in the comments or on social media.