Me? I made a resolution 10 years ago never to make another resolution. I’ve yet to break it.
So in lieu of resolutions this year, I propose we announce our regrets. In my case, I’ve compiled a simple list of things that game developers do that kill players... sometimes literally. Developers, there is a goldmine of original resolutions you might consider here: Find your sin and promise not to do it again. Actually, just don’t do it. I don’t really care if you promise or not.
- I regret that many game developers still refuse to let me save anywhere.
Seriously, it’s not game balancing – it’s just lazy game design. (I’m looking at you, Silent Hill.) There are plenty of ways to screw with me without making me leave the Xbox on all night because my kid got out of bed, and doesn’t need to see Pyramid Head... well, you know, do that voodoo that he does. Hell, I don’t think I needed to see that. And I’m not 5 years old.
- I regret timed missions.
Another mortal enemy of the busy gamer. Not only do you have the basic nuisance of beating the clock, but you have to have enough real-life time to practice and get good enough to actually beat the timed mission. Plus, I bet there’s not a parent out there who hasn’t had a child awaken from a nap during a timed mission. Sure, you can pause – but once you get the momentum going, it’s kind of hard to go take care of junior’s needs and then come back six hours later to save the squad. Speaking of which...
- I regret every escort mission I’ve ever had... especially in Portal.
Ah, the much-maligned escort mission. This should really be number one, as I can’t think of one that I didn’t dread and regret. (And yes, Gamewatcher, that includes a certain someone I “bought” in Fallout 3. She’s a pain in the ass.) So why isn’t it number one with a bullet? Because these are never going away. It’s simply too easy – dare I say, “cop out?” – to throw a brain-dead character at you to drag from point A to point B. As for that Portal companion... well, it broke my heart.
- I regret that Mario games still have some of the worst camera angles in the world.
Sure, there are plenty of candidates in this category. But I’m calling out the Italian plumber himself because he’s driven my aforementioned 5-year-old to tears of frustration. On a related note, I regret that I often have to pick up my son’s game to play him out of bad spots. It’s not like the camera angles are any easier for me.
- I regret Wii accessories.
Nothing says “tendonitis” like trying to wrap already shot hands around a Popsicle-stick Wiimote. And where the hell are the buttons on this thing? But on the plus side, at least the Wiimote doesn’t call me obese. I knew better than to plug my real height/weight into that damn Wii scale, but I did it anyway. And it turned me into a giant purple blueberry. That pretty much sums up what I’d like to do to a certain part of the designer’s body. And I’m NOT the only one who has had this experience. Wii Fit called me fat? I ain’t down with that.
- I regret the many final boss battles I never completed.
I know, I know... the world’s smallest violin. But there are numerous games that I’ve never finished because the final boss battles were just too damn hard. I spent four weeks of fairly intense, daily head-banging trying to finish the final battle in Condemned before cheating. I then spent another two weeks knowing EXACTLY what to do before finally giving up and cheating to find out what happened. (OK, bad example. From what I read, I’m kinda glad I didn’t see it.)
- I regret that writing is still an afterthought at many studios.
Two words: Story matters. Five years ago, this would have been at the top of my list, having suffered through some truly horrible plot developments. Or worse, game adaptations of licensed material that somehow lose the magic of the original property. Harry Potter games, anyone?
This is one area where progress has been made, however. Resident Evil 4 presented a nice twist on canon, while Dead Rising had some pretty decent story twists, if you could deal with the aforementioned timed issues. Grand Theft Auto IV, Half-Life 2 and Fallout 3 are all stellar examples of great game writing. And bonus points for hiring people who could actually act. Hell, even the more recent entries in the Dead or Alive series showed signs of… well, not brilliance. But a plausible storyline. And when a T&A fighter can take five minutes to bring gravitas to the “she-kicks-high” action, you know story is at least on developer’s minds.
To quote the invisible referee... FIGHT!