The Cardinal Rules of “How not to piss the player off” part 1

Posted: October 3, 2015 by ryanlecocq in Uncategorized

Since developers seem to have a really hard time understanding player feedback, I’m working on a solution.  It seems human intelligence has plummeted to the point where only listicles can be understood by most people.  So here you go cavepeople, here’s you list.

Do not take control from my hands for at least the first 10 minutes.  Period.

No tutorial, no long narrative, no anything that arbitrarily forces me to to make my first impression a certain way.  Do like the original Silent Hill; dump me in the game immediately after a brief cinema (which should happen while the game loads) with no idea what to do, then throw examples of what the game will be like in my face.  Once you have my attention, THEN throw out some hints and gameplay advice, maybe an annoying character or two who will drone on and on about my objectives.  This one is aimed squarely at you Rockstar.  I seriously almost uninstalled GTA5 from my PC and refused to play it, because it makes me so angry when developers hold my hand and force me to complete lengthy tutorials before I can even enter multiplayer.  Honestly I wish there were laws that involved you being tarred and feathered for this.

Do not take away an essential character or class for a large section of the game.

Anyone who played pretty much any of the Final Fantasies up to XII will remember that taking away your white mage for a large chunk of each game used to be a thing.  Or your summoner, or whatever.  That essential person in your party that made everything awesome would get taken away for some stupid plot reason for way too much of the game.  I get that Aeris had to die, that is part of what made FFVII famous.  That is just one of the excuses to gank your white mage over the years though.  It’s not just Final Fantasy.  Many games will use the tactic of taking away some essential character or mechanic, that you have invested hours into developing, right when you need them the most.  Like in *spoilers* MGSV, it often involves a moving and tragic death that serves the plot.  Please don’t do this if it affects gameplay.  If you have to kill the hero’s lover in the name of the plot, go for it, but immediately follow by introducing a substitute character or something.

If the genre or plot allows it, let the player continue playing after the credits roll.

I remember fondly when Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out on N64.  I loved that game so much, I didn’t just play it for the next several months like everybody else.  I played it for the next several years, modified it with a gameshark and a serial cable, even later made an N64 Master Quest cartridge for N64 by extracting it from the Gamecube disc and loading it on a flash cartridge.  Long story short, I loved that game.  The one gripe I always had was that you couldn’t play after the credits.  You can continuously play from right before the final battle, but Ganon’s offensive smog will always deny you the satisfaction of knowing you defeated him.  Not only that, but you can never see all of the townspeople happily back in their homes and shops.  That would be way more satisfying than a cutscene of the whole country having a barbecue (sorry for that OOT ending spoiler if somehow you haven’t played it).

Do not EVER make a game that pretends to be about player decisions and then ends with a “3 Choice” ending.

It’s ridiculous that this specific gripe could even exist, yet in video games, it does.  The original offender was Fallout 3.  The game made it seem like all of the plot choices you made would change the ending, but at the end you just chose what would happen.  Then Deus Ex: Human Revolution did it.  Then, in a move I still can’t even believe happened, Mass Effect did it.  After 3 games, plus DLC, expecting players to have invested between $180-300 in the series on the promise that every choice would change your final fate, Mass Effect 3 ended with a 3 Choice ending.  The backlash was insane, but justifiably so.  Bioware had made millions, likely billions of dollars on this franchise and this promise of player created gameplay, then copped out at the climax.  Other similar offenses include the way Fable 3 handles the conclusion of its plot.  The game makes it seem like you have the freedom to rule, but unless you specifically focus on making money from early in the game, a large portion of your citizens will die at the end.  The game basically punishes you for being idealistic and trying to keep money out of politics.  The only way to create a perfect file is to take over the economy early on by buying every house and business, then raising the rent, so you can later save the world with your wealth.  Then you can give the people back their land, lower prices on everything and create perfect happiness and prosperity.  Because that makes sense and is totally how politics work.

Don’t over use a gimmick that isn’t functioning by launch.

This is an offense that is as old as video games.  I think we can all name some game that had a central game mechanic that was totally glitchy or broken when the game was released.  One of my favorites is the enemy targeting in the original release of Phantasy Star Online.  You used the same button to pick up items, read descriptions or unless changed, use your basic attack.  The game would often decide that you wanted to do the least useful of these things for the situation.  It was also almost impossible to line enemies up with some weapons.  Considering killing monsters is what you do in this game, it was an issue.  An issue that fortunately got better in later versions.  Not all games can say this and there are many games I fondly remember where the basic thing you did worked worse than the swimming in Super Mario Galaxy.  Developers, if the game is close to launch and a core mechanic is still broken, you just have to scrap it or simplify it.  It can make a great game have a huge wart or a decent game completely unplayable.

Whenever possible, release cut content at a later date, even if it must cost more.

Games have gotten much better about this, but it still needs to be said.  If a relevant part of the game needs to be cut to get the game ready by launch, try to release it later so the players get to experience it.  Some games, like the aforementioned Zelda OOT, had so much cut content it could have made a trilogy of games.  It’s like the opposite of the Hobbit movies, where you have enough for 3, but only make one.  Now that DLC is so prevalent anyway, try to include all those features you wowed the public with at past trade shows, but didn’t deliver at launch.  We would much rather have that in the game than a badly implemented PVP mode, or side missions with a character nobody likes.

 

That’s it for part 1.  I’m sure more will come up over brews with the boys.

 

 

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