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What Are Some Fatal Design Flaws In Modern Video Games?

April 21,2018 00:17

As a result, there was a long period of time where you couldn't start playing a game until you'd sat through an introductory cinematic. These days you're lucky if you get to play before you've sat through 5 to 10 minutes of cinematics. That's not what ...

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What are some fatal design flaws in modern video games? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by David Fried, Game Designer, Designer Dave, on Quora:
There are some egregious design flaws that I’ve seen in modern video games, and it’s been going on for some time now.
Excessive delay until first being allowed to play the game.
Games have long been striving to break the stranglehold of Hollywood by pushing ever more epic stories to the front of games. As a result, there was a long period of time where you couldn’t start playing a game until you’d sat through an introductory cinematic. These days you’re lucky if you get to play before you’ve sat through 5 to 10 minutes of cinematics. That’s not what games are supposed to be about. Story can be related through mechanics and during play. Games [1] are bigger than Hollywood now, and everyone in the game industry (more specifically AAA) needs to take a step back and remember why people choose to play games instead of watch movies.
Loot boxes, egregious DLC, and season passes.
There was a time, believe it or not, where a game was released as a complete entity. It had a complete story, sometimes multiplayer, or was otherwise something you could play repeatedly without having to download anything. At some point Day 0 patches became commonplace for fixing last minute bugs, and it wasn’t long after that when DLC became an obvious thing to add to get extra money from players. DLC wasn’t too far off from expansion packs, which were essentially complete games in their own right, building on the engine and assets from the original game, and usually sold at a slightly reduced price. Then it went too far.
Pay DLC became things like horse armor (Bethesda is the whipping boy for that one), additional bonus levels, new weapon or item types, and so forth. These added in the need for season passes, which were a one time fee to get all future content, but then it took a sharp turn for the worst.
The loot boxes came. Originating from the gacha mechanics of Japanese games (which came from their gacha toy machines where you can get prizes of various rarities), everyone started adding loot boxes to their games because you could get people to pay for the SAME content over and over. All in the desperate hope of getting that one thing you wanted, but it has a 0.001% chance of dropping. This was gambling, and it was egregious. With DLC you could at least pick what you wanted and ignore what you didn’t. With gacha mechanics, you might get stuff you don’t want every time you open a loot box. This design flaw was so egregious that we’re in the midst of legal actions by various countries trying to shut it down as gambling for children [2].
Loot boxes are not just a fatal design flaw, it’s a potentially lethal design catastrophe. Now we have various governments swooping in to inspect games to see what else might be wrong. It could very well cripple certain games and studios, and could outright prevent new ones from being created. That said, in this case it’s not undeserved.
Dishonorable mentions.
Over the past 2 decades I’ve seen a number of flawed game design mechanics and systems pass through the industry. None so egregious that I’d call them “fatal” like the above two, but certainly they needed to be kept in check before they got out of control.
Quicktime Events: These became a short hand way of putting mini-cinematic moments into games without completely taking away player control. When used sparingly they weren’t terrible, such as mashing a button to get out of a grapple with a monster. However, they were used so frequently that some games were little more than running from one QTE to another. Thankfully things have mostly calmed down, and now it’s a proper tool to be used in specific situations.
Pre-packaged DLC: DLC that’s built into the release version of the game that is unlocked for additional money. It’s a pretty obvious money grab that looks horrible when people figure it out.
The death of expansions: This was actually a great model for games that everyone appreciated. Effectively a new game built on the old one. Not quite enough to be considered a sequel, but a completely new story and enough additions to the old game to get people to come back for more. It’s the completeness of the package of the expansion that made it superior to DLC in every way. Though DLC could be done in the same manner, it hasn’t been.
Sequel-itis: Something that has plagued the movie industry as well. Companies become obsessed with churning out newer versions of the same game, to the point where they flood the market with their own vomit . Sequels need to be well thought out, and in the past, they were usually only created when there was an innovation in gameplay or technology that was befitting a sequel (e.g. anything Nintendo). These sequels take almost as much time as a regular game to create, and there’s a serious amount of stagnation that has come as a result. New and innovative titles with new IPs are lacking, and I feel like the industry as a whole has begun to rest on its laurels as a result. Hopefully this will change as people clamor for something new, different, and exciting…
But it’s hard to beat the nostalgia hype.
[1] Newzoo: Game industry growing faster than expected, up 10.7% to $116 billion 2017
[2] How the legal battle around loot boxes will change video games forever
This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:
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