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The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! XIV
by Ernest Adams on 12/21/13 01:42:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Happy solstice! It's time to celebrate the return of the light, the changing of the seasons, and the reintroduction of the Twinkie, which was nearly rendered extinct by the bankruptcy of Hostess Brands. And while we're letting in the light, let's shine a little on bad game design practices...

Out-of-Fantasy Exploit Prevention

I’ll start with one of my own. I prefer to play solo in MMORPGs because I’ve already had more than enough experience with letting a team down in high school gym class. However, the solo player is at a disadvantage in many situations, and has to learn how to optimize his chances. I play by two sets of principles: those of Sun Tzu from The Art of War (which can be summed up in a nutshell as “be strong where the enemy is weak” and “don’t go where the enemy is stronger than you”), and those of single-ship naval combat (it’s all about range, speed, and firepower). To put these principles into practice, I play powerful archers who can run fast, and I try to find positions of maximum advantage to myself before engaging the enemy. As combat tactics go, this all makes perfect sense.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when the first time I climbed up to the top of a cliff to shoot down at an enemy in The Lord of the Rings Online, the game stopped and put up a popup box telling me that I was being naughty and trying to exploit it. The AI couldn’t work out any way for the enemy to get to me, so I was cheating. Of course it wasn’t able to get to me! That’s why I took the trouble to climb the cliff. Sun Tzu would have been proud of me, and I felt as if I had been punished for using my brain.

I realize the point of this rule is to prevent exploits, but I really think there’s a better way to handle it than shaking your finger at the player. What does any real-world combatant do when it’s outmaneuvered in this way? It retreats out of range, and that’s what should have happened. If the LOTRO enemy did that, I wouldn’t get the kill, so I wouldn’t get the experience points, but at the same time I would drive it off, rewarding me—in a small way, and only temporarily—for doing something smart. Once I climb down from the cliff, it could come after me again. The problem is solved within the game world, and as a natural part of it, rather than in an artificial, fantasy-killing way.

Forcible Gameplay Style Changes

Part of the point about role-playing games, and massively-multiplayer ones in particular, is that they let players play in their own preferred style. The games are full of technology trees and personal traits and customizable weapons and so on that the player can spend endless time tinkering with and refining. As I said above, I'm all about long-range firepower. If I were a ship I'd be a guided missile cruiser.

Unfortunately The Lord of the Rings Online (which, don't get me wrong, I really like most of the time), sometimes decides that it's time for me to play a different way. As part of the epic quest chain I am occasionally obliged to assume the persona of some heroic figure from the game world's past and experience an adventure that he had. If I don't do this—and succeed—I don't get to go on with the quest chain.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time this heroic figure is a big dumb galoot with a sword. I have very little experience with this style of play and usually end up being clobbered. Repeatedly. What's more, there's no opportunity to learn—I just get dumped into an instance with a new user interface and a lot of options that I know nothing about. This is roughly equivalent to being yanked out of a soccer game and made to play American football instead. If I had wanted to play a hack-n-slash type, that's the kind of character I would have created in the first place.

It's OK to change environments, enemies, and other kinds of challenges—though as I've said in earlier No Twinkie columns, you shouldn't make mandatory wildly atypical levels, nor bosses that are so different that nothing the player has learned is of any use. This is a related error.  Bad game designer! No Twinkie!

Unclear Reward Thresholds

This one comes from Derek Manning of ORCAS. He writes, “[Something that] has really bugged me about Angry Birds, especially in Star Wars, is the absence of any indication of how to reach the next star at the end of a level. There have been multiple times where I’ve gotten done with a level after thinking I’ve done really well only to find out I’ve only gotten two stars, and I’m not told what the threshold is to reach the third star.”

This one doesn’t apply to all genres, since in some of them we don’t want to ruin the player’s immersion by dumping numbers on her. But Angry Birds is not L.A. Noire. It’s a heavily score-based game that offers its replayability by challenging you to do better. Most games that use a lot of numbers, such as CRPGs, are quite clear about what you have to do to get to the next level—indeed, in a lot of the casual free-to-play games it’s the whole point. “Be clear about short-term goals” is one of the bedrock principles of video game design, and making the player try the same thing endlessly without any idea of what he’s aiming for is a Twinkie Denial Condition.

No On-Demand Input Device Help and

Tutorials Widely Separated From What They Prepare You For

This is actually two gripes in a single message. Elvira Björkman of Futuregames writes to say that Jak II (from the Jak and Daxter series) taught her how to use a hover-board in a tutorial, then didn’t let her use it in gameplay until hours later—by which time she had forgotten the controls, with no good way to learn them again. Games really do need to provide on-demand input device help, ideally in the pause menu. A lot of games permit players to reassign the controls (and ideally, all should). The control-reassignment screen, which should be available from the pause menu as well as from the shell screens, is an obvious place to let the player see what they are as well.

Also, the point at which you learn a skill should be shortly before you need that skill—not several hours earlier.

Obscuring Critical Information Behind Visual Effects

Kitsune Magyar writes, “Guild Wars 2 has excellent little circles showing you where not to be during boss fights and large encounters, and then drowns them in a billion visual effects to the point where they could have just skipped them completely. Some enemies in GW2 also have special animations to show the player they’re going to open up a can of wipe-your-party, which are then drowned in visual effects too. I remember me and my band of merry friends trying to take down an optional boss (thankfully) only to be completely murdered in a one-hit-KO. (Don’t have one-hit KOs either, please.) It seemed to happen at random. Upon reading the wiki-article for this encounter it turns out he did a special animation before wiping the team that was extremely subtle and similar to any other attack animations he had, and just to make sure it was extra hilarious the spell effects of five people attacking him made this even harder.”

It’s another bedrock rule of game design that the player needs to know when he, or his party, is in trouble. If the game screen is so filled with fireworks that he can’t see the essential clues warning him about this critical fact, you’ve overdone your visual effects.

Saved Games That The Player Can’t Manage Properly

This one is actually more positive than negative, with several suggestions about how to do it right.

I’ve already come down firmly on the side of saving the game—to those players who want the thrill of knowing that losing means starting over from the beginning, I say, “either play arcade games or never hit save.” But there are better and worse ways to implement the game save screen. François-Xavier Quencez sent me a screen shot from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, demanding, “Why does one of the best games ever created have such a basic and ugly system of game save? I happened to create another character and then overwrite my first character by mistake. Of course, in order to avoid this and to see easily where my old saves are, I should rename my file, but in this game I can’t! And it’s even worse if a friend wants to play on my computer. The best way I found to preserve my files is to find the folder of the saved games in Windows Explorer and create a backup.” I agree: If the player has to go out to the file system and hunt around to find the save files, you’ve screwed up.

Save game screen from Skyrim

He also sent a screen shot from Go Go Nippon, showing a much better system. The color scheme is a bit garish, but the functionality is great. He wrote, “As you can see, each file has its own buttons and we can store five files per folder. The information is correctly classified and players can organize their saves as desired. Even quick save and quick load have separate files.”

Go Go Nippon save screen

This may all look a little to computer-y and not enough like the fantasy world that you’re creating, but let’s face it: Saving the game is outside the game world. You’re never going to preserve full immersion when the player is intentionally keeping a snapshot of the world for future use. (Single-button quick-save helps, though.)

On a similar topic, Harley C writes, “My kids and I have been playing through Disney Universe. This is a fun game for all of us, but it doesn't allow for multiple sets of save games to exist on the same machine. If I want to play through a part by myself, this progress will be reflected in the family's save game. There are other games for the Wii that do the same thing. They put all save games in a single place, instead of allowing players to tie the saves to their avatars.” We never considered this in the early days, but now that consoles routinely allow players to keep separate profiles, games ought to make use of it. Windows PC games should do the same thing: store game saves in a directory associated with the logged-in user, not in the application’s directory.

Finally, Stéphane Bessette writes to point out that the “Exit game? Any unsaved progress will be lost” warning message is annoying if you’ve just saved a second ago. Even the BIOS in Windows PCs offers you a choice: Exit Without Saving (with warning) and Save And Exit (which works silently). If the BIOS can do it, we can do it.

Build a save system that offers the players flexibility. Let different players keep their saves separate from one another, and offer them delete and rename functions so they can mange them properly. Compared to all the effort that goes into a large video game, this is trivial.

Poor Buying and Selling Interfaces in RPGs

The constant buying and selling in CRPGs harms their heroic quest feel, so the least you can do is make this more efficient so that the player doesn't have to waste a lot of time on it. It’s not fun to have to click the sell button 100 times to get rid of 100 Vegetable Peelers of Unusual Bluntness looted from hapless kobolds. Stéphane Bessette suggested a set of qualities that a good loot-selling interface should have:

  1.  Players need a way to be able to buy stuff back that they’ve sold by accident, at least within the context of the current transaction. The opportunity doesn’t need to last forever, just long enough to be able to correct clicking on the wrong thing.

  2. They need a way to lock items so they can’t sell them unintentionally.

  3. It’s nice to be able to get rid of low-level junk without having to schlep it all the way back to the surface. Torchlight offers this.

  4. Let players buy one item, a specific quantity of items, or a stack of items.

  5. It would be good to be able to sell quantities of identical items that don’t stack.

Having complained about The Lord of the Rings Online above, I have to say that it does most of this stuff well, except #3 and #5. It even lets you automatically fill stacks so that you buy just as much as you need.

Games You Can’t Quit Out Of

Someone calling themselves Tvwxyz wrote, “I play lots of Xbox games and many of them don’t even have an Exit option! With such games, you have to click the System button to return to the dashboard (This also happens with PlayStation games.) Come on—just give me a Quit Game button on the main menu. And when I click it, just let me leave without banner ads or videos. I am willing to accept this behavior with trial/demo games but not full games that I've already paid for.”

I don’t play enough different kinds of Xbox games to verify this for myself, but making you watch an advertising video in order to leave a game that you’ve paid for is crass. There really ought to be only two kinds of games that you can’t get out of: arcade games, and games in a machine with no other operating system to speak of (dedicated, single-game handhelds or cartridge consoles). It shouldn’t be necessary to press the Big Red Switch (or equivalent) just to leave a game. A game is a computer program; just as it needs a way to save the user’s work, it needs a way to exit quickly and cleanly.


And speaking of exiting quickly and cleanly, that’s the end of this year’s Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! column. See you next year! Be sure to send your own gripes to

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E McNeill
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Great stuff. I always enjoy this series!

For those who, like me, were looking for the previous articles, here's the official No Twinkie Database:

Luke Mildenhall-Ward
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Tvwxyz doesn't seem to fully understand the Xbox interface. That Xbox button IS your Exit out of a game... It takes you where you want to go and it's universal across all games. It's actually better design than putting a redundant Exit option in every game. It's the same with iOS apps... no Exit option because you can just hit the home button. That's great design!

Steffen Itterheim
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Agree. The actual problem here is that Microsoft allowed Arcade games a "quit" button in the menu. I haven't noticed a "quit" option in any disc based game I played.

The arcade games often use this to advertise their full version or other games. Haven't seen one that doesn't allow you to immediately skip through the screens though. Of course the "go to Dashboard" functionality is global built-in way to quit any app.

However it does have the "you'll lose any unsaved progress" popup flaw regardless of whether you have just saved or not.

Axel Cholewa
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I disagree. On iOS, it is really nice, because the Home button does only that. On Xbox 360 though I the Home menu does lots of things, among them quit the game.

Plus, if a player chooses to exit a game from inside a game, the game can ask the player to save or just autosave, while quitting the game via Home button just tells you that "any unsaved progress will be lost".

What's more, most games offer you to quit to the main menu, and e. g. Assassin's Creed 2 and 3 save if you do that. But why would I go from the game to the main menu? Not once I found that useful, in AC2&3 I just did that to make sure the game is saved. It'd be much better if there's an option to save and quit the game from inside the game.

Andy Lundell
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This combines with the previous Twinkie Denial Condition, however.

The XBox menu doesn't have knowledge of the game state, so you wind up with the warnings about save-state, even if you're just idling on the main menu.

Believe it or not, these messages scare and confuse people who aren't used to them.

Nathan McKenzie
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"I prefer to play solo in MMORPGs because I’ve already had more than enough experience with letting a team down in high school gym class."


"I’ve already come down firmly on the side of saving the game—to those players who want the thrill of knowing that losing means starting over from the beginning, I say, “either play arcade games or never hit save.”"

My favorite part of MMORPGs is the save anywhere button.

Oh, what's that? Instead of allowing you to save anywhere MMOs are forced to rely on competent game design to achieve fairness, pacing, and a lack of tedious replay (in so far as they are successful)? Well that can't be right. It's a well known fact that players only like games where they can, and must, creep save every 5 feet, with the save key being the fifth in a holy pentagram of input, along with a, s, d, and w, an input design scheme of such obvious elegance that the ghost of Steve Jobs is left to writhe eternally with envy for having not discovered it. No, it's impossible that any players, let alone famed design consultant Ernest Adams, could ever find MMOs appealing to play.

Thus, there must be a mistake in the first paragraphs of this article, that is the only conclusion that can be drawn. I refuse to believe that Ernest Adams would lower himself to endure, let alone enjoy, an MMO and their mistaken lack of saving, which, as we all know, should be relegated to arcade games.

Oh, one can only sigh at the missed opportunity of such wisdom being applied to a title like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, marred, as it was, by its innovative time rewinding mechanic for managing player errors, a sorry example of game design and mechanics acting as a poor substitute for the much more fun design of actively mashing the save key arbitrarily in the middle of play, a process, we can all agree, that is much, much more immersive and tactically fascinating and certainly should be at the forefront of a player's attention every single second of every single interaction during play.

Why, just yesterday, I was playing through the Stanley Parable, a game that is tightly paced and structured in an innovative fashion to ensure a fascinating player experience, and its wonderful design was providing me a consistently fascinating time. But then a voice, in the back of my head, began nagging me (and calling me Stanley). I was navigating, but... I wasn't saving! What if something happened, and the game forced me to replay content tediously! It was an abhorrent thought, nearly ruining my entire experience. Needless to say, venerable design consultant Ernest Adams would not approve of these heavy-handed game designers, the thugs! Fortunately, the smart design ensured that I did not, in fact, have a boring time... but what if? What if. That's not a chance I'd like to take. No, the Stanley Parable should have had me stabbing that save key every five seconds, rather than it arrogantly deciding that the game designers somehow knew better than me about what would make for a good play experience. I mean, even though, you know, they were right.

Of course, some might argue, the cretins, that saving anywhere is a valuable tool in a game designer's tool belt, appropriate for some designs but just as often an active hindrance and crutch in many, many, many others, to be understood and appreciated but also approached warily because of the trade offs, some quite negative, that it introduces to a player's experience... but some, clearly, are wrong. Regardless of context, there is obviously one way to make games that is best. Also, going forward, all recipes must include cilantro, all songs must include double bass, and all movies must include buddy cops.

Maurício Gomes
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What the fuck

warren blyth
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by your logic, certain movies should be able to disable the pause button when they want. because the convenience for the consumer is a distraction from the author's supreme know-how.

plus, people will just be mashing that pause button every 5 seconds.

Christofer Stenberg
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Perhaps you're on to something there, how about when you press paused during a movie it will pause during the next scene cut. A countdown could be shown in the top-right corner, and pressing pause again could force pause anyway for those urgent moments.

Not really disagreeing with you, just thought that there are solutions to non-issues if you look for them. But things like this usually fall into the category of "Don't fix what aint broken".

Randall Stevens
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"Instead of allowing you to save anywhere MMOs are forced to rely on competent game design to achieve fairness, pacing, and a lack of tedious replay"

You and I must not be playing the same games, or even genre.

Also, way to misinterpret his statement and then completely overreact to it.

Theresa Catalano
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Obviously you can't have a save scum system in online games, but I hate the idea that all single player games should have them. Being able to save anywhere is fine, but being able to load previously saved games and fix any mistake is absolute poison to immersion and a sense of tension. This is one reason why Dark Souls was so refreshing.

Maurício Gomes
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I am currently playing Dark Souls, and...

It has NONE of those issues! Awesome!

A half exception is that you must seek a certain character to "sell" stuff, but since you have infinite inventory anyway, this is not really needed (also you don't need to return to surface to delete items, or store them in a out of inventory storage).

Michael Stevens
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Dark Souls gets around the arrow issue by
1) having a physics engine with arrow drop off in a way that MMO's can't usually manage
2) being the sort of game that (almost exclusively) rewards tactics like that, though there are still a handful of situations where it doesn't let you and it's then confusing. Dark Souls is mostly about situational awareness, which is thrilling but not something every game benefits from.

Playing DS on my Xbox via Games on demand, there were a couple times where I definitely missed something that I should have seen in a manual that just didn't exist on download. I forget what it was now, but something unexplained in the controls really frustrated me during Sen's Fortress. There are a lot of tiny controls like jumping and kicking (and maybe parrying) which aren't fully introduced in the game itself.
Full manuals just need to be standard menu options in download games.

Maurício Gomes
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The thing that it 100% never tells you, and you might seriously need, is jumping (for PS controls: hold circle, run toward ledge, release and quickly hold circle again, while maintaining your direction).

And another that I figured only now (I already killed half of the post Sen Fortress bosses) is that you can aim magic without R3 (you hit roughly the center of your screen, and you can use a bow aiming interface to see the exact place where you will hit with magic). Since discovering that magic became MUCH more useful (or rather, miracles, my character cannot use magic at all, only miracles).

But in those case, even saying all buttons you can use, (one of the issues on this article) would not fix it, it is other problem entirely.

Josh Smillie
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I agree with most of these points but...

You're basing this article on a game designer getting to actually make the decision on implementation and integration, which if you've ever worked on a console game you'll know is not always up to them. Having a team of 80 to question your every choice, having clueless executives who think they know how everything should work and force you to change what you know is right is the real game designer job, not deciding on user friendly design tactics.

Also, quit trying to fatten us up with twinkles!

warren blyth
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loved this article. would like to see an entire website devoted to just this sort of thought/discussion. (is there one?)

Christian Nutt
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Well, you can read Ernest's prior 14 BGDNTs, at least:

Ernest Adams
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Try the No Twinkie Database, which contains almost all of the items in one place:

Matt Ponton
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Here are two of my recent twinkie denials:

First, (and this was talked about in this article already) like Jak II, I had an issue with Red Dead Redemption. It taught me how to perform a duel shootout with a challenger. However, during this mini-game the controls change from the default normal-game controls in how you tell it to "start shooting". This issue applies to all of Rockstar's mini-games also. I was shown ONCE how to perform the mini-game, and then two or three hours later I'm playing the mini-game for the second time, and I don't remember how to play it. In the end I died, and I still had no way of knowing how to play the mini-game, and I had to wait around for 1-2 hours until another AI challenged me for me to trial and error it.

Second, controller/input configuration. I'm appalled at some games' take on how a player should be able to alter their controls. Most of the time I'm playing a game that even gives you the option for alternate controls, I get one of the following: (1) Select preset layouts as designed by designers, and (2) Highlight the button you want to alter, then scroll through an un-viewable list of "functionality" in hopes the player finds the function they are searching for. If you ever seen someone try to configure their controller/keyboard in method 2, it's hilariously embarrassing. You'll literally see them struggle for 15-30 seconds as they (1) look at their controller to see which button they are highlighting, (2) search for the function they are trying to select, (3) go through each button, and (4) make alterations because they scrolled too far when selecting. Sometimes you can set a function to muliple buttons, which is always a plus.

Now, me personally, I favor fighting games, so its even worse when you are using someone's personal arcade stick where they don't have the buttons labeled. You're practically just guessing and hoping for the best. What a config should be is listing the function, then asking you to press the button you want that function to be assigned to. You tell the player, "Hey, what button do you want to press to do [this]?" and they simply respond with "[this] button." by a single button press, and they don't have to even look at the controller/arcade stick/keyboard to figure out which button as typically it's where their fingers already are or within easy reach. You successfully take a 5 min process and knock it down to 5 seconds, maybe 10 seconds if they need to verify.

Nick Harris
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I can pause a movie, song, or even live television. I can do the same with novel, or a website, with the aid of a bookmark. Why then can I not pause a videogame at any point that suits my convenience? Why do I have to sit through an interminable unskippable cutscene if I find myself wanting to urinate? Indeed, there is no real reason why I shouldn't be able to pause multiplayer if it suicides my player and gives me five minutes to resume or find that my server slot has been given to some late joiner (but my XP in the match hasn't all been discarded). Why are iOS games able to remember where you were with them as you switch to another App via the dashboard by pressing the Home button and back again, but console games require you to have reached the next checkpoint and know then that you won't want to continue further when dramatically the narrative is structured to make you want to at exactly this juncture?

Chapters and Checkpoints make sense as a place to resume from when you die, but an alternative is to support a single savepoint on exit from which to resume, permadeath and a rewind mechanic like Forza 5, or respawning in some previously visited safe zone oriented in a sensible direction.

Adam Bishop
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I strongly agree that games should let you pause at any time, including cut scenes, but most consoles have some way of forcing a pause even if the game isn't designed for it. On the PS3 or 360 most games will pause or lock if you hit the Xbox/PS button in the middle of the controller, on the DS or 3DS you can pause games by closing the system, etc. Not an ideal solution, but helpful to know at times.

Theresa Catalano
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"Indeed, there is no real reason why I shouldn't be able to pause multiplayer if it suicides my player and gives me five minutes to resume or find that my server slot has been given to some late joiner"

How is that a "pause" feature? That doesn't make any sense. It sounds like you're describing an option to *quit* multiplayer.

Obviously multiplayer games can't have a real pause feature. I'm not sure what you're asking for here.

Michael Stevens
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Save game management was especially a problem in Capcom's PS2-era games. A bunch of their games had unlockable alternate modes that needed their own save files but didn't share data with the main save but *did* share real estate on the save screen with them. They've mostly dealt with it now that system files are common.

Kyle Redd
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Another point on the topic of buying/selling equipment in RPGs - item stats need to be as clear as possible on their stats and abilities, and on how they compare to the equipment you're currently using.

You mentioned Torchlight as a good example of being able to get rid of junk equipment easily, but it also does a poor job of explaining item stats to the player. For example, if I loot a rare sword from an enemy and examine it in my inventory to see how good it is, it will say something like "17 damage," "fast speed," and then something like "25 damage per second."

So far, so good. But then below those basic stats, the special attributes are listed - one of which will be something like "Damage +5" - and that leads to confusion. Is the +5 damage already factored into the Damage and/or the DPS, or is it a +5 bonus? There's no way to know within the game, and even on the internet I had trouble finding the answer.

I used Torchlight as an example, but many, many games have problems like this. The Borderlands series is absolutely terrible at letting you know how good a weapon is without having to equip it and fire a bunch of times first, especially in Borderlands 2 with its more bizarre guns that have vastly differing types of handling and bullet behavior.

Ernest Adams
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Interesting point. I have to give LOTRO credit on this one: when you put the mouse cursor over an item of equipment (even if you don't yet own it, such as a promised reward for a quest), a popup appears that shows the details of the item side-by-side with what you already have equipped. You can see in detail what effects it has, or, if you're not that into optimizing your gear at the fine scale, you can simply check to see if it's worth more money than the one you've already got.

Steven Christian
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Indeed, I remember downloading "EquipCompare" in WoW back in the day.
I think it's automatic in WoW these days as it is in many other current games.

When I play a game without it, it is quite annoying.

However, my pet-peeve is having a game with multiple characters who each have their own ragdoll and individual inventory, where you can't access more than one character at a time.
Trading between characters becomes a nightmare.

The recent XCOM strategy game is a prime example.

To switch an item from one character to another at the 'hosting/launching' screen, pre-battle, I need to remove a player from my squad, add another, search his items for the one I want, remove him from my squad, add the next member in the queue, search his items, etc. until I find the item, remove it, then remove the character, add the squad member I actually want to take, then go back to the items panel for that character and equip the item.

And this is with a shared inventory!

I'd prefer a list of all characters with their skills, status and equipped items, with the whole shared inventory on the side of the screen.
The character list can scroll, but the inventory should not (unless you have an obscene amount of items).
I can make an informed decision about which members to take and can easily customize their individual load-outs with the least clicks possible.

But then the game couldn't have the pretty character models center-stage (unless you add 2 more clicks and make the list a pull-out menu, which would be ok).

Neo Scavenger has a similar problem, despite only having a single character.
You have a backpack slot and can equip a backpack there, which shows the backpack inventory in the same view (and the contents are fully interactive).
Also backpacks can be equipped in the weapon slots as well with the same effect.
The items on the ground in the current area are also shown on the same screen.
So far, so good.

However, there is a separate screen for vehicles (these basically expand your carrying capacity: trolleys, sleds, carts and the like).
These too show the items on the ground, but this is where it starts to fall apart.
Switching an item from your vehicle to your person requires putting it on the ground from the vehicle tab, then switching to the character tab and picking it up again.

It gets worse.
You can store backpacks in your vehicle which give you more storage room than the space they take up (I guess the rationale is that they allow goods to be piled higher).
However the contents of these backpacks is not shown or accessible from the vehicle screen. Sure you can mouse over the backpack to see what's in it via tooltip, but this does not actually allow you to interact with the contents.

You actually have to take the backpack out of the vehicle, place it on the ground (where you still can't interact with the contents) and select "empty out" from a right-click menu, which of course empties the entire contents onto the ground, from where it all need to be picked up again.
This is made more annoying by the "Tetris minigame" required to put everything into the bag (the items are all different sizes you see; players of classic RPGs will be familiar with this).

Thankfully, Neo Scavenger is still in Beta (though for a game with 'scavenger' in the title, you would think that item management would be a priority, and yes, the game does revolve around scavenging an inordinate amount of items, that are mostly consumables - item decay is a big factor).

When inventory management is involved, I prefer a wide interface to a deep one, as the frustration is multiplied by the amount of items that require processing (and most games have a LOT of items).

Kevin Bender
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"However, my pet-peeve is having a game with multiple characters who each have their own ragdoll and individual inventory, where you can't access more than one character at a time."

I'm currently playing through the baldur's gate series and this is driving me crazy as well... I think its one of the things that the more modern iterations of bioware RPGs do away with for good reason... sure it's more "realistic" but i want to play a game, i don't want to have to play inventory memory match