Things We Don’t Need in Video Games
As gaming becomes a more popular and mainstream activity, there’s been a lot of things added to them to make them tailor to the greater market and to those who haven’t played many games before. Getting companies to create their games with every person in mind has certainly helped get a greater majority of people interested in gaming, but there’s a point where some things seem to just be hindering our ability to play the games at the best of our ability. Sometimes it’s just outright annoying and, while there may be some kind of way to change the setting of whatever may be bothering you, these are just some personal gripes that I wish weren’t so prevalent in modern games.
Many of these complaints will consist of things that I feel make gaming easier, which in itself isn’t a bad thing. Casual gaming is a huge market and there’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to be a casual gamer. I have a problem with making games that are really supposed to be tailored to more core gamers tailor to that same casual market. If you go back to a game like Mega Man, you’ll find it to be incredibly difficult and if you want to get good at it, you’ve got to invest the time and learn the skills. The same goes for most fighting games. Button mashing is fun for mindless entertainment, but if you want to get good at the game, you need to learn the combos. These are things that seem to be detrimental to the development of good gaming skills and learning abilities.
It seems that this mechanic would have been implemented in order to help non-shooter players learn to play the game and enjoy the story of whatever it may be that they’re playing. Being able to just hit the left trigger to go into the iron sights and automatically have your enemy pinned between them seems like a luxurious ability. For myself, however, I find it extremely annoying to be already accustomed to having to do the aiming myself, looking down the sights and continue to move as if I were going to in a shooter that didn’t have auto-aim. This essentially undoes the whole idea of auto-aim as I move the iron sights away from the person and shooting a wall instead of the person. This is why I take Auto-aim off with shooters.
Perfect example of this is Call of Duty. It has Auto-aim turned on as the standard and it makes it almost mindless to play the game because you can literally just go in and out of the iron sights and change your targets without much movement on the part of the player. On the opposite side, Halo has consistently kept iron sights out of their games as well as auto-aim. There’s lock-on, which can be seen as a similar gimmick, but it requires you to first put the enemy in your crosshairs and in some cases, start shooting, which means that you need to have the skill to get your opponent in that position. Now there are some cases where auto-aim does seem to be necessary. The first game I can think of is Max Payne. All you’re given is a tiny little dot as your reticule and that in itself doesn’t do a whole lot, but again, Max Payne requires you to hit the target with that dot before it locks on, and to that degree I can be okay with the mechanic.
2. “You’re hurt! Get to cover!”
How many times have we had to see this reminder come up on screen? This kind of reminder system has become much more prevalent in modern games where if you’re stuck for more than 10 seconds or if you get hurt a lot, the game feels the need to remind you of how to play the game. Mass Effect 3 was a big violator of this whenever you’d try to use biotic powers when they were recharging. I wonder how many times I had to see “Biotic powers cannot be used when recharging” because I was frantically waiting for that earliest moment that I could use it again and just kept hitting the button over and over in preparation.
These constant pop-ups, which is exactly what they are, unwanted pop-ups, not only take your attention and distract it, but they cause every one of us to feel like we’ve somehow done something so dumb that we need that kind of assistance. I don’t need a reminder to get to cover when I can clearly see that my screen is turning red and running with blood from being hurt. I realize that I’m hurt. Yelling at your screen “Yeah I already know!” seems to be the common response to these annoyances. These, again, may have a setting to have them taken away but it’s this principle that they should be left in as a standard that bothers me. It’s as if the developers believe our attention spans are that of a gold fish and after 5 minutes of playing, we’ve forgotten how to do simple tasks that we learned before.
This once innovative part of gaming has just become mundane and boring. Back on the Dreamcast when Shenmue came out, QTE’s were a really fun way to engage in the cinematic moments of the game and feel like you were changing the outcome of whatever would happen. As we’ve become more advanced in our gameplay development, QTE seems less and less appealing, instead opting for actually doing the action somehow on the controller that seems more enthralling. At this point, just hitting a randomly chosen mess of buttons does nothing for me.
Going back to shenmue, the thing that made it seem a little bit more innovative then was the fact that whatever button it had you push was actually tied to the same kind of move you would have in regards to the fighting mechanics. To better explain, let’s say that X on the dreamcast controller (similarly the Xbox controller’s control scheme) was a strong punch and that Y was a strong kick. In a QTE, there would be a directional sign to the left, which would cause Ryu to move left and dodge his opponent, then an X would appear and he’d do a strong punch followed by Y and a strong kick. Each QTE button corresponded to a particular, actual fighting button. This trend seemed to quickly die and now a lot of times everything is “Press X” to do something, making it just that much more mindless. I believe we can move past the QTE into something that actually causes us to interact more with the title than these once engaging actions now turned mundane.
4. Yearly Installments
I’m sure we all have suffered from wallet burnout when it comes to buying games. I know I reserve myself to trying to purchase only one game on day one per year (Although I’ve broken this trend as of this year) and it’s getting more difficult to try to keep that going with yearly installments to some of our biggest franchises. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with bringing a new game out every year to a franchise, it does lead to certain limitations. It’s pushed out at a rather fast rate, making it possible to lack depth, story, development and other key elements to what is now considered an art medium. Now that is not to say that all games need to have deep character development or introspection. Just like many Hollywood blockbuster movies, there’s a market for mindless action and entertainment in video games. That’s practically what they have always been seen as from our peers and elders. Mindless entertainment. But at the same time, there are a lot of great franchises out there that are making it very taxing and demanding on their fans to keep up and in some cases, it seems like they are trying to make more money on these yearly installments rather than making one game that could be much more massive and contain more content.
Assassins Creed will be my example here (Though in full disclosure, I’ve not beaten the second title as of this publication). Every year there’s a new title, but for the past few years it’s all be part of Assassin’s Creed II (Brotherhood and Revelations were just a continuation from II) and now they’re finally releasing III. Now while I have not played Brotherhood or Revelations, the fact that it’s a continuation of II seems to make it seem like they could have taken some time to perhaps add all of that into one, much more gigantic title that would more than certainly be worth the $60 of admission. This would also give their fans a breather to get their wallets prepared for the next title.
The yearly installment also seems to deter wanting to break into new graphics engines. Call of Duty again is a perfect example. It seems that since Modern Warfare, the Call of Duty franchise has tried to run on the same engine for years. Call of Duty 4 was released in 2007 and now, as of 2012, it still appears to run on the exact same engine it did back then. In 2007 it was a beautiful engine that looked amazing. As of 2012, it’s one of the engines that has fallen behind modern graphics and it doesn’t not have the same appeal that it once did. Having yearly installments surely hasn’t helped to get that changed and it might be time for a break.
5. The opposite side of the release schedule spectrum
Now there is a balance to be maintained when it comes to how soon you should release a game and how long you should wait to release a game. Diablo III, Duke Nukem Forever or Half-Life 3 are perfect examples of taking too long in between titles to release another one. There are many titles that don’t see the light of day for years upon years and it starts to make the general audience begin to question it’s existence. At the moment, The Last Guardian is a big wonder as to whether or not it will be released because it’s been so long since anything has been announced for it. It’s time lengths like these that make people as angry, if not more angry than those who are upset about yearly installments. We understand taking time to make everything as perfect as possible but there certainly is that window and balance between not taking enough time and rushing out a product and taking too long to perfect a product that by it’s release things may not be on par with current graphics, the gameplay might suffer or other numerous issues that we’ve seen occur with a title like Duke Nukem Forever.
I asked a small group of gamers their own thoughts and ideas on things that aren’t needed in today’s video games and here are some of those answers.
“I think the whole “follow me while I walk impossibly slow” is incredibly annoying. We could do without that. Also: online passes and server-side single player.” – Ethan Fiset
6. Escort missions or Follow missions
I can completely agree with what Ethan said, and on top of it, I will include escort missions as well. Though most games have gotten rid of escort missions entirely or made it so that the person being escorted isn’t as easy to die, they’re still very annoying. Having to wait for an A.I. Character to move to whatever place they need to or having to follow someone who is walking at a brisk pace rather than full out speed like the player themselves is something that I think we can all agree annoys us to no end. If you’re going to have a follow mission, make the characters’ running speed the same as the character you play as. It may not be as realistic, but video games are meant to be an entertainment medium and not an attempt to bring us back into reality. We play them to get away from reality. Speaking of which…
7. Trying to make games like the real world
Graphics. Improving them and making them more “realistic”. It’s what every generation strives for and each iteration seems to get closer to it. At this moment, games like Battlefield 3 and Crysis lead the pack as some of the most realistic looking games ever made, but do we really want games to go that route? I would contest that we don’t. As stated already, we play games to enjoy them and to immerse ourselves in a world that is outside reality. Just like movies and books before them, we’ve desire to escape the real world for a little time in the imagination and things that aren’t supposed to be realistic. Making graphics that look more realistic isn’t exactly a problem, it’s whether or not they’re used to make a game that is almost like a real life simulator. The unreal engine is a great look at making something that looks realistic, but it’s over the top and almost too perfect to be realistic and that’s something that I personally enjoy. So, in retrospect, making games look better is fine, just don’t try to make games mimic real life.
“The empowering at beginning of games only for them to take them away.” – Daniel Hamilton
“I really hate starting out full powered and then losing everything. primarily because it takes all the fun and surprise and discovery out of getting them in the game.” – Walter Eadie
8. Super powered introductions
Again some comments I can agree with. How many times have we played the beginning of a game and seen how amazing our character CAN be and then have everything stricken away from us? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metroid, God of War in recent generations as well even falls into this category. It’s cool to see what we can become as a character, but it’s downright cheap to take it all away from us after the opening scene of the game. Having all of those powers at the beginning and being able to use them throughout the story would be amazing and just having developers work around making it more difficult or having to innovate on those tactics or abilities rather than just giving them back at specific parts of the game would be really rewarding. You’d feel like you were really learning the ways of the game in a very intricate way, much like learning devastating combos in a fighting game. They’re all there from the beginning but it’s up to you to master the techniques.
“Silent protagonists” – Ethan Fiset again
9. Silent Protagonists
I personally don’t agree with this comment, but to each his own. I can see how having a silent protagonist might make the story less engaging because when people talk to your character, he/she remains quiet and that kind of seems to be ridiculous. I realize that the purpose is that you are in the shoes of the protagonist, but it’s not too hard to feel like you’re the character when they have a different voice from your own. You’re still controlling their movement, their actions, their decisions and strategies in any given moment, so having to deal with a different voice isn’t a big deal.
“snarky protagonists” – Daniel Hamilton again
10. Snarky Protagonists
For me it depends on the game and how the atmosphere is, but Daniel brings up a good point. We see too much now characters that seem completely full of themselves and their abilities. We don’t see enough of characters that have problems or need to become the great hero they’re intended to become by the end of the title. Everyone seems to have this great amount of self confidence that allows them to overcome any odd and brush it off with a smooth one liner. While this can be entertaining in some degrees, there needs to be a balance of character and confidence built into the story arc. At the same time, we need to make sure that if there’s an internal conflict, that the game and story fit with that conflict. Daniel added “Same with brooding protagonists when the story doesn’t fit”.
So these are just some of the problems that I and a couple other gamers have with modern gaming. To see some of these things either disappear or get toned down would certainly increase our enjoyment of titles, but feel free to add any things you wish you could have removed from video games in the comments below. Let’s tell developers what we want to see changed… critically and constructively, of course.