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21 tips to keep game not frustrating to a player according to real gamer
by Gera Hmurov on 12/22/12 07:55:00 pm

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.

 

Every game even favorite one sometimes brings some frustration to a player. It may be very hard boss or glitch or something else. I’ve tried to bring together in one place everything that makes lazy and unforgivable gamer (like myself) angry. Some points have large IMHO alarm on their top so discussion is welcomed! =)

Note: Please be aware that as I write about hardcore games there will be examples of gunfighting with enemies. I know there is a lot of buzz about violence in video games last days, so I decided to make this note. I do not support shooting and killing people in real life at all (even for bad guys). And I don’t believe that video games support it too. I believe that in this case games are just a kind of entertainment like laser tag and believe me that I never thought about going to street to shoot people because of video games (only because of bad guys, but I prefer pacifistic silent hate to agression). And I know that I love video games where you could gunfight your enemies and a lot of people love them too and they also don’t go to street to shoot people. And I guess the industry will continue to make cool games with a complex story and memorable characters like Halo, GTA, etc. I just hope that someday we as a human culture will stop blaming other people every time we (humanity) fail and instead we will look into ourselves to pacify aggression, solve social problems, stop wars and finally explore the space. End of note.

Note #2: If the game mentioned in example as bad one it doesn't mean it's overall bad game. Even if it is mentioned not once. Every game in examples is more like great game than bad. It just lacks that one point in its design. IMHO.

So the angry gamer rules for not frustrating a player are:

1. Love your work and love your game and always try to make it better. Thanks to last scene of Serenity movie for this inspiration.

2. Pay attention to details and overall design (game-, level-, graphical-). Thanks to divine design of Dead Space game series and very undivine design of Dragon Age game series for this. And all games from Remedy also should be mentioned as good examples for detailed carefully created game worlds.

3. Keep simplicity, logic and consistency in UI. It's important. Thanks to goddamn peculiar button mapping of Dishonored for PC and some dialog boxes of XCOM for this.

4. Say NO to countless or immortal\invulnerable enemies. Player should be able to kill all. It may be hard, very hard, damn f-g impossible to perform BUT player should be able to kill all. If you consider adding countless enemies, please add instead 300 (or 1000). If by any means player kill them all so be it. Cool, he's a champion. Give him achievement. If you consider adding immortal enemy please change it to a natural disaster. Besides, immortal enemies isn't interesting until they are 100-meters tall adamantium giants. That way player may consider it as natural disaster. Thanks to Dead Space (again) and many others for this.

5. Cut-scene should not change current weapon after it ends, should not place player’s avatar under immense danger, should not let player’s avatar decide to do thing that no one gamer on Earth will ever consider to do. Thanks to Max Payne 3 for this.

6. Use at least three slots for autosave instead of one. And please make clear when autosave occurs. Thanks to XCOM autosave system for this. And many others.

7. Always save the game after cut-scene, not before. Especially if it is many-minutes lasting cut-scene before final boss. Thanks to Mass Effect, XCOM and many others for this.

8. Do not send player on other side of city through three load screens and 10 min of walking only for one phrase in dialog. Ever. Thanks to Deus Ex 2 and many others for this.

9. Do not give player new +0.2% gear. New cool gear should feel as new cool gear. Give him +5%, give him +50%. Let him kill that impossible-to-kill black troll with new sword. Yeah! Every bonuses <1% isn't felt like bonuses. Thanks to good Gothic series, not that good Dragon Age series and Torchlight for this.

10. Do not level cup. There is poor exploration if there is no experiencing. Even if you afraid of one-shooting the final boss by a fully experienced player – let it be. If the player solved every quest in the game let him be the local god. It's a single-player, baby! It's all for fun, not balance! Thanks to 20lvl cup of Fallout 3 for this (it really can be achieved by exploring less than half of wasteland).

11. Every damage to player should be avoidable if player is careful and agile. Going for death only to know how to kill "that one enemy" every time is such a pain in the ass. Thanks to some EA guy for pointing this out in an interview. Good one!

12. Games are fun. Games should be fun. Emotionally, mind-puzzling, heart-breaking, difficult but fun in the end. Pursue your player, press him, make him take hard decisions and make him feel losses through game. Anything for the sake of fun. But no matter how you understand “fun” don’t do repetitive and boring elements of gameplay to ensure game lasts long enough just because you can. This includes Infinite random-generated side quests. Boring isn’t fun. It looks like easy one. Thank goes to Mass Effect 2 because of planet scanning mechanic. It’s the only one thing that prevents me from replaying overall excellent game. They even reduced the amount of mining time required to acquire all upgrades in a patch.

13. If you consider adding a “don’t kill an enemy” achievement to a stealth\action game – make some levels where player still could kill everything without violating this rule. It may be some robot-enemies or REALLY stupid bad demon-guys. Remember that you are manipulating the player’s behavior by giving him achievements. There is no reason to deprive all gunfight fun from player only for achievement’s sake. Also please make a various stealth weapons in that case. There is no fun in walking around with the one and only shocker from the first level and selling tens of different models of SMGs, shotguns and pistols to vendor. Thanks to Deus Ex Human Revolution for this one.

14. Don’t implement time-pressing missions in otherwise not time-pressing game without clear note about time-pressing. Game is a simulation and player abilities are simulation too. Player learns how to behave through the entire game. And if you want to change his behavior only in a couple of places – notify him. If there is a timer, place a timer on screen, make alarms and make dialog “If you don’t be in time you will lose, yes, really lose, it’s not a usual story bluff”. There is no more disappointment then one because of loss due changed rules of the game while playing normally. Player won’t understand why the game always waited for his move before and why the game doesn’t do it now. Thanks to Deus Ex Human Revolution (because of first mission) and Mass Effect 2 (because of kidnapped team mission) for this.

15. Make more unique powerful items. Exploration isn’t only about experiencing. It’s also about finding new gear. I don’t want to make a cool daedric full plate armor in the second city, put it on avatar and understand that exploration is ended now. If I know that every other armor in a game even unique one will be worse than mine, I just won’t go to that far away cave for finding Cool Magic Wooden Plate. When you play a game for a while you will eventually know what you can expect from gear. And if you couldn’t expect much then why bother yourself about it. Thank goes to good Fallout 3 (because of special weapons and T-51b Power Armor) and not so good (in this case) TES: Oblivion and Skyrim for this.

16. Don’t make long lasting cut-scenes for a simple game (or game that looks simple). Simple games used to be simple, quick and just fun. Long story cut-scenes make game not so simple. And if simplicity is a good side of your game why should you sacrifice it? Also please don’t make hour-lasting cut scene at the beginning of the game before showing some gameplay especially if you have small budget at hand. Don’t get me wrong – intro is an excellent entry point. But when I installed a game I’d like to taste it as fast as I can and by “taste” I mean play. After gameplay was introduced and conquered my attention - cut-scene and story are warmly welcomed. And it would be much better if you can show me story in gameplay not in cut-scene. Thanks goes to lots of JRPG for mobiles, Torchlight 2 (bad examples) and Braid and Limbo (good examples).

17. Controlling your avatar should be comfortable. Player doesn’t want to win controlling scheme and illogical limitations of the game, he want to win game. If there is low obstacle on the way player wants jump over it, not run half of the level back to choose another road. If darkness and zombies surrounds him he wants to be able to shoot, light up zombies and move simultaneously. And the player wants to control game camera fluently to see danger around him. Player really doesn’t understand the reason why he can’t do it. Thanks go to Doom 3 and Silent Hill 2 and 3 which try to be scary because of bad controls (and I love these game nevertheless) and Dead Space with fluent controls that is still scary as hell. Ubisoft’s control scheme for Prince of Persia games is another example of fluent controls (even if sometimes camera gets really-really wrong).

18. Enemies should die quick. If it takes full ammo clip in the head to deal with an easiest enemy then something is definitely wrong with your ammo. Why not make a powerful but slow gun instead? The most cool gunfighting I experienced was one in a Mafia series where you could deal with a pack of gangsters in one careful burst from tommy-gun. Thanks to Clive Barker’s Jericho and Bulletstorm for this point.

19. Player should be able to finish all quests before turning point in the game. Don’t suddenly hasten him to the end of story quest if he have unfinished side quests. Unfinished quests are the reason of disappointment. Quest should be unfinished only if player decides to abandon them. If there are two doors and one door ends level – mark that door clearly. Thank goes to Alpha Protocol and Mass Effect 2 kidnapped team mission (again, I still remember how I lost all my crew just because I decided to finish companion quest for Legion first).

20. Ending should be long and detailed. I’m not writing some whine about Mass Effect 3 now. I mean the situation when you've just finished last level on the 30th hour of gameplay – full of joy and proud of yourself you relaxed in chair to see the ending of this f-g hard and excellent game – and all you see is a 1-minute-last clip that don’t make sense. Please pay more attention to the ending. It is the final award of the game and it should be important. Also if player met some memorable characters through game please tell him something about fate of these characters. Thank goes to Mark of Ninja (this one has really short ending movie) and Deus Ex Human Revolution (I’m still curious what happened with Faridah after she escaped crash and I hope to meet her again sometime).

21. Exploration should be awarded accordingly. If there is a long cave full of goblins without treasure chest (or with a treasure chest full of fresh apples, yes, Skyrim?) at the end there is no good. If there is even longer cave then the treasure chest should be bigger. It is really boring to walkthrough big empty spaces without award. Thanks to Fallout New Vegas (which has three empty LARGE houses before entrance to Vegas – it takes about 20 minutes to walkthrough every side of them just for nothing) and Gothic 2 (which has a chest with cool staff on the top of large forbidding rock near city – it really seems like abusing a glitch when you make your way to the top at first and then you find such precious award – my sincerely gratitude for this moment to level-designer).

I hope some of these points will help make games even cooler than they are now and sometime I play that one fantastic game I dreamed about. Or better those two =)


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Comments


Matthew Burns
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Gera, this is a good list and every game developer/designer should keep these points in mind (along with others of course).

I especially like point 12 "(B)oring isn’t fun." There is nothing more disappointing than an uninteresting and repetitive game.

Gera Hmurov
profile image
Thanks Matthew. The point of this list is showing gameplay moments which frustrate an end-gamer. I’m not trying to start discussion about advanced game-design technics – there is a series of good articles ‘The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie!’ from Ernest Adams – last one is here http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/183979/the_designers_notebo
ok_bad_game_.php.
I’ve just made a simple list of bad ideas or bad implementation of good ideas which frustrates user during play session. Some points may seem a little obvious but there are examples from 'last-gen' games so points aren't outdated yet. And I think due to complexity of development processes it is always good to make a simple list so people will be able to avoid such things at an early development stage of future games.

Matthew Burns
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I agree Gera. A simple list should be made by designers/developers (who are also gamers) "so people will be able to avoid such things at an early development stage of future games." I will keep your list in mind (along with additions of my own) as I develop my next game.

Thanks


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