Not all is fun and games in the land of interactive entertainment. Every gamer has a special pet peeve that see some wild climbing up the wall action. Everyone has a weakness, a special gaming form of kryptonite that makes controllers fly to the floor. What’s adding insult to injury in the most cases is that either those things are just sloppy game design, or the designers hanging on to tradition for all the wrong reasons.
Sure, bossfights are a staple trope of video games. So are cutscenes, so is video game logic. Yep, just like in real life, the final boss does get a whole lot stronger in the punching department when he’s been severely wounded. Every game of the year 20XX needs the fad of the year mechanic - this year it’s AI partners and bows. This is a place where we list our personal top ten pet peeves, the top ten things that make us really lose our cool. But this is just us, feel free to contribute your gaming pet peeve in the comments below!
Nothing is more frustrating than a mission where you have to babysit an idiot AI that does everything it can to get killed over and over again. Bonus anger points if the game features friendly fire, and the AI runs into your attacks all the time. This is all down to AI scripting. Some games can pull this off nicely without it being a horrible, horrible chore. And by some, I mean few.
Most escort quests are horrible. And the games this year that were basically built around them, did good by making the escorted AI mostly invincible and invisible to the enemies. I do not want to imagine how many controllers I would have wasted, if The Last of Us’ AI would have had to be stealthy too.
Being Forced to Backtrack Through Areas
Again, some games can pull this off and get away with it, some games, hell, entire genres are based on this idea. But in most cases, backtracking just plain sucks. Bonus anger points on the hatescale if the enemies respawn. Yes, thank you, I would have been bored otherwise. Metroid does that, and that works most of the time.
But other games that are not Metroid (or Castlevania), don’t even try. Chances are, your bluff will be called. You liked those levels so much, you just had to show them to us twice. Or more than that. But we don’t care, we want to move on. Unless of course, you are Metroid and there might be a health tank hidden somewhere here.
Seriously, what’s up with those? The 90s are long gone. Boss fights are something of an anachronism. And usually bad game design. See, a boss fight, by definition, violates all established rules of a game up to this point. A normal enemy AI will die after a few hits. But not this guy. Oh no. This guy needs to be tickled five times at the blue spot, then hit with the red plasma beam three times in the yellow bulb under his chin. And THEN you can blast away until his five health bars have been whittled down.
Extra points if there are no mid-fight checkpoints, or if there is no special trick, no weak spot, no nothing to a boss, but pure bulletsponging. Quad damage anger points if the boss has a one hit kill attack. Boss fights are passe, the only game that is still allowed them is Metal Gear Solid. You know what’s a good boss fight? A tough and fun final level that really test the player’s mastery of the mechanics. Not some arbitrary bullshit thing that throws around train cars.
This is really, really simple to fix, dear developers. Press A to skip the effing cutscene. Just do it. Bonus angry points if it’s not a cutscene but an in game conversation that cannot be skipped while the character walks slower towards the next piece of the action. Double bonus anger points if the end of the cutscene is a badly designed QTE with instadeath. Ugh. It's easy to get so angry just thinking about it. No cutscene is so good that you cannot allow us to skip it. Unless if you are David Lynch. Who you are not. So let us skip your god damned stinking cutscenes. Especially we are going through them a second time.
Not every game needs a stealth section. Really, I know this is a shocking revelation. But not every game even has mechanics necessary to make a stealth section fun. So, unless your game is designed around being a sneaky dude, don’t do it. If your game is about shooting guys in the face, then that’s that. Don’t get cocky and insert a stealth section ¾ths of the way in. And even if you do, do not, do not have me “die” if I fail to stealth (and extra anger points if stealth fail means death and I have to sit through a cutscene again!). But really this is not just stealth.
Basically, every game has a main mode of operations, a cruise altitude, at which it is good, which it is designed for. Stray from that place too far mechanically, and things start falling apart. This works in reverse to stealth as well. If you build a sneaking game, don’t suddenly turn it into an all out shooter. Don’t try to do things with your game mechanics that you didn’t design them for initially. It is. Not. That. Hard.
Suspiciously Good AI
Worst offender in any GTA chase mission. No matter how well you drive, you just cannot get any closer to the vehicle you’re after. That guy is just not impressed by either your driving style, or by the established game world physics. And why is that? So that the cutscene that plays when you get the guy makes sense, because you just can’t catch him before. Can’t shoot his tires. Can’t damage his car. If you catch up with him, WHOOOOO see him rush away. This is called “rubber banding” in racing games, and it means that an AI is impossible to catch up with.
Strategy games to do that too, when suddenly you start losing battles at impossible odds, just because the AI ignores the game rules. Or, and those are especially hideous cases, the AI is just too good at the damn game, because it doesn’t have to open menus and give orders manually. Sometimes that is a design feature of tough strategy AI, all too often though, it’s more of a bug. Add extra anger points, if there is no decent difficulty, either the AI being dumb as a brick or smart as Sun Tzu himself.
You know, the idea of expansion packs isn’t all bad. The developers can churn out just a little more content for the passionate fans of the core game. That is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing, is walling off parts of the main game for people who preordered the game the day the lead developer had the idea for it, five years before release. Walling off parts of the game for customers of certain retailers, thereby creating a situation where a gamer has to chose either where to buy the game, or if the game is supposed to be “complete” at launch, to buy the game several times.
Bonus points for timed preorder DLC, for on-disc DLC, and for special edition bullshit, that basically dumps the god mode on you without asking if your preorder, thereby ruining the experience. Just ask those who got that shit with a Dead Space game.
Random Bullshit Collectibles
Game mechanics pandering to “completionists” are the hate. Seriously. Riddle the world with shiny, blinking, singing McGuffins that some poor OCD gamers have to compulsively collect like a squirrel on speed is not good game design, it adds nothing meaningful to the game. There are good collectibles, but those are not random 500 flags of the assbutts scattered across all maps.
Either your collectibles reveal bits and pieces about the game world and the story, or they have meaningful mechanic consequences. If neither is the case, if each collectible is self serving bullshit to pander out the playing time, then please dear developer, do not include it. Games with great collectibles are Crackdown. Seriously, hunting orbs to ever so slightly boost your jumping power? That was awesome. Or The Last of Us, where each collectible tells a little story. Or somehow has an actual place in the world. Most anger points? Assassin’s Creed. So much bullshit to collect. Ugh.
"Kill X monster" Quests
Unless your epic RPG involves a plot about a rat plague or something similar, I do not wish to see any quests that involve genocide-by-the-numbers on any creature. Not because I am a preservationist of virtual wolves, but because those quests are usually boring, tedious and only in the game because they are simple to write and easy to explain. Help us, oh mighty hero! Rats have infested our grain silo! Kill X of them to earn five thousand XP! Yeah.
If I have to kill X amount of creatures, make those encounters memorable. Kill the five elemental dragons. There. Now we’re talking. The exeption to the rule is, if the quest is cool enough that you could base an entire game on it, then you might ask the player to kill x amount of y. If not, then you better go back to the drawing board and come up with a quest design that doesn’t bore the players to death.
Seriously, quit this bullshit. Especially, doubly, triply so if the game itself is skill based. Times ten the anger points, if the game awards bonus points for not getting killed, and is otherwise skill based. I’m looking at you, Bayonetta! Seriously, what were those guys smoking. You make us watch a lengthy cutscene and to make sure we were good cookies, paying proper attention, you insert a test if we’re still there? Seriously. Why the fuck? Cutscene QTEs do not add anything. Just as do regular QTEs. God of War’s finisher QTEs? They were all right. Mostly well done. Everyone else copying that style? Yo, your stuff doesn’t have the same brutal heft.
Also, instantkill QTEs of any kind are a horrible idea. Unless the entire game is QTEs. In which case, it is probably horrible. Or made by David Cage. Which means it is probably horrible as well.