Thursday, 6 June 2013

OPINION: Five Gaming Innovations I Wish Were Never Innovated

As the years go by, games tend to get better. The programming becomes more advanced, the graphics become more photo-realistic and new innovations are introduced that are quickly adopted into the next generation. 90% of the time, these innovations are welcome additions, yet occasionally we’ll get a particularly nasty one that for some reason will stick to the games industry like a dog turd to your brand new sneakers. Here are the top five things I wish developers would just lose their boners over already.

1.      Regenerating health
The third world war has broken out. I’m fighting the Russians/Koreans/generic Arabic terrorists and they have me and my squad pinned. I step out to try and offer some cover fire and I get shot in the face with a shotgun. It’s K, though, because I can just hide behind this wall for a few seconds and I’ll be fine. While health packs aren’t any more ridiculous of a concept (heal gunshot wounds with bandages and painkillers), they at least had the benefit of adding a sense of urgency and care to your gameplay. In the days of Half-life, I couldn’t just stay behind a wall as waves of bad guys slowly got closer. If I got shot, I lost health, and I had to go and find myself a med pack or a HEV battery. I’ll add regenerating ammo to this point too, for the same reason. You have no idea how relieved I was that Team Fortress 2 decided to stick with health packs (and the medic). 

2.      Knee-high walls
I’m playing an action-RPG/third person shooter. The very first room I enter is littered with these pissy little knee-high walls. ‘Whelp, guess it’s time to hide behind cover until bad guys stop running at me.’ This is almost exclusively tied to my first point on regenerating health, but it seems like a game these days isn’t complete unless you can duck behind a knee high wall and blind fire over the top. Gears of War is the main source of this grievance, and while it actually did the cover system pretty well, other games are so intent on copying it that they will occasionally forget that they are supposed to be a different kind of game.

3.      Open-world sandboxes
Don’t get me wrong. I like sandbox games. I’ve always been a GTA fan, and Sleeping Dogs was one of my favourite games released last year. It’s just; sometimes you don’t want to play in the sandbox. Sometimes you want to play on the jungle gym. Sometimes you want to slide down the slide. I really liked the first Red Faction game, but the sandbox of Guerrilla just turned me off. Similarly, I’m not looking forward to Prey 2, because I actually enjoyed the linear FPS plot reminiscent of Doom and Quake that the first game offered. “Linear” has become a dirty word in the games industry, and developers are constantly scrambling to throw together a “sandbox-world” to avoid it.

4.      Quick-time events
You all knew this one was coming. The famous ‘press X to win’. Quick-time events are a crutch used by bad developers, who make cut scenes that are either too long, too frequent, or too boring to hold the player’s attention, and they are thrown in to offer the illusion of interactivity. When designing a cutscene, all developers should ask themselves: ‘Does this cutscene need a quick-time event to make it work?’ If the answer is yes, then scrap the cutscene and start over. 

5.      Games being designed around Easy mode
Hey, you suck at video games. That’s ok. There are video games I suck at too. I’m really bad at fighting games, for example. I don’t have a problem with people sucking at video games, and don’t get me wrong; they should have the ability to make games easier. What I’m complaining about is games being designed around the Easy mode. Games used to be designed to be grueling and tough, and if it was too much, you could make it easier tweaking elements of the game – lowering enemy health bars, giving yourself infinite ammo, reducing the amount of enemies and so on. These days, it feels like most games are designed to be played on the easiest setting, and players wanting an extra challenge can turn the difficulty up and increase enemy life bars and damage numbers or whatever. The problem is, just making things harder doesn't make them more challenging. You understand? The game is obviously not designed around enemies having the extra health they have in hard mode, so there are times that it becomes frustrating rather than challenging. It also leads to developers giving enemies abilities that feel ‘cheap’ (such as instant auto-aim) in an attempt to ramp up the difficulty.

So these are my five biggest peeves of the games industry right now. Most of them add nothing to a game's design, and actually detract from it at times. What do you guys think? What gaming innovations do you hate?

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Editor's Note: Thanks for reading guys. I'm trying to get back into writing a regular weekly feature. It's hard to dedicate time to these kinds of pieces on my blog that don't earn any money when I know I can just crank out another Escapist news post and actually get paid for it, but I think it's really important to hone my writing by writing various different styles. I don't want to become known as the guy who can only write news, I want to do reviews, opinion pieces and features as well.

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