How Not To Make A Game
Like most games, I seem to find the time for them after the craze has faded. In many ways I like to be late to the party because it helps me enter the game with a clean palette. My opinion is not immediately salted by partisan reviews of perfect 10's and 1's. My latest endeavor was a trip down the rabbit hole that is titled Resident Evil 6, or as I like to call it, a relentless exercise in patience.
Patience is a virtue some would say, and it is a very important trait to have if you plan to play Capcom's Resident Evil 6. From the frustrating controls to the poorly designed encounters, this game is a must-play for any game designer. This game is a perfect example of how not to design a game, a lesson that many of us should take to heart. Below are some tips to help your game execute on equal ground with this tent-pole for bad game design.
Use Contextual Input, But Only Sometimes
Be sure to use as many button combinations as possible. Also do your best to teach the player the language of the game and then break the rules as often as possible. Have lots of tables to jump over, but only sometimes. Be sure to include crates you can break, but only certain ones. Other crates of shoe box size should be enough to hold the player back even if he is capable of leaping across building tops when the context option is available. Make sure you have lots of bodies laying around to trip on that can't be disposed of. Make those bodies such that the player can't interact with them from afar, but then have them leap out and kill the player when he gets close. It's also a good idea to have many special-case interactions for the most simple things like entering a crawl space or stepping up a 6" incline. If more than 20 minutes have passed in your game and you aren't forcing the player into a context sensitive situation then you are doing it wrong.
Make Your Reward Screen As Illegible As The Reward
Show lots of medallions and shiny things on the screen but never explain them. Put lots of numbers up on the screen for those motivated enough to dig through forums to figure out what they mean. Can these medallions be earned on any stage or campaign? Are there more or am I seeing only what I've earned? What is that weird green medallion, is that supposed to be bronze or did I just not achieve that objective? How do these rewards effect my rating or the story? These are the kinds of questions you want your players to be asking themselves as they quickly skip past the collection of random empty compliments on screen. It will be well worth the engineering and art budget to make this happen.
On the topic of user interface, it is important that you have the player run through as many pop-ups as possible to get into the game. The more the better, you can never have too many pop-ups.
Progress Is For The Weak
Be sure to give your player a false sense of security with that classic "saving..." in the corner. That way when they exit the game and return to continue their session later it will force them to replay the entire mission. Also make sure that you lose any content that may have been collected along the way such as hidden items, rare drops, and most importantly all of the cut scenes that can't be skipped. A true fan of your game is willing to watch every cut scene as many times as it takes before your save system actually saves their progress.
Animation Is More Important Than Player Input
If you have a quick-time event, make sure that the player must not only watch for which buttons to press but also they need to follow the animation sequence. If the animation is not complete and the player begins their action for the next button in the sequence, penalize them as severely as possible. A good example might be to force them to climb a rope for 10 minutes, forcing them to fall a good 10 feet if they break the sequence or interrupt the animation. It is also suggested that you play the animation as slow and methodical as possible while being chased by something at least 4x faster than you. That's not frustration you are feeling, that is fear! Can you feel it?!
Have the Avatar Reflect Your Feelings
It is critical that you drag the player through a series of meaningless trials and puzzles that are too easy to be called a puzzle and just difficult enough that they question why you didn't just let them walk through the door. To add insult to injury, make sure the player's character is constantly moaning and groaning at the idiocy of the puzzles. That way they know that you as well know that these puzzles sucked when you made them and they still suck now.
Cut Scenes Are Not Just For Story Kids
Why stop at just telling the story when you can do everything with cut scenes? Need to walk through a door? Cut Scene! Need to pull a lever? Cut Scene! Need to hitch a ride through the city? Cut Scene! Need to swim across a small body of water? Cut Scene!! Seriously! Don't limit yourselves people. The potential of cut scenes are immeasurable.
If you do use cut scenes, there are some rules you need to follow.
- Be sure to keep the enemy AI active and targeting you. This way they can continue to beat you to death while the camera is on the other side of the map.
- Be sure to face the camera in the opposite direction from the point at which you took control from the player. This will ensure they know what direction not to take once control resumes.
- If you activate a cut scene that requires both players, prevent the first player from breaking out of the animation to help the second player who has just been taken down and is bleeding at their feet.
It's important that you take the best elements of every game from the past 10 years and jam them into one game. More importantly however is that you do them all half-ass. Have a navigation system like Dead Space, but no exactly. Have a cover system like Gears of War, but not as stylish and not nearly as useful. You can't forget the epic moments like a shoot out on a passenger plane from Modern Warfare, but less awesome. Make helicopter crashes so awesome that you have to play them twice to appreciate it's awesomeness! You also need a health system like Halo but make sure that the enemies take at least 1 whole bar so that you have no hope of ever healing back to full health; especially with non-intractable zombies that suddenly come to life before your slow-as-molasses character can react. Playing Resident Evil 6 felt like I just watched Lost In Translation, cast with Chuck Norris, with the plot of 28 days, and it was filmed as a documentary by David Schwimmer. You need this kind of forward thinking in your games.
Boss Like A Boss
A boss fight is not a boss fight unless you fight 4+ frustrating incarnations of the same enemy. After blasting their head off with a shotgun, running them over with a train, feeding them to zombies, frying them with lightning bolts, then blowing their second head off with a rocket propelled grenade, trust that they are dead when a tiny metal spike pierces their abdomen. It's important that the player understand that a metal spike protruding from a harmless courtyard centerpiece is far more dangerous than the armory of death-dealing mayhem they carry on their back. It is events like these that make the player really feel like it was all worth while.