Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! IX
View All     RSS
August 1, 2021
arrowPress Releases
August 1, 2021
Games Press
View All     RSS
If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 

The Designer's Notebook: Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! IX


October 9, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

Obvious and Cheap Reskins (also known as Cookie-Cutter Games)

Patrick Perrault of Airborne Entertainment writes, "It's common practice in the mobile space [i.e. cell-phone games] to take an existing engine (or entire game) and reuse it to do another, usually branded, game."

"While some companies (like Gameloft with games like Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia, and all its platformers) do a good job at adding new functionalities to each iteration, other publishers will stop at loading different graphics and modifying existing levels. Some really, really greedy publishers will even stop at changing only the game's title and splash screen."

"But if you want to be greedy, at least be smart! If you are reskinning a game, making sure you remove all mentions of the old title in the credits is smart. And so is making sure the characters from the original game do not appear in the new game. Failure to be smart is sure to result in players not buying any more of your games."

Leaving old characters and credits to turn up in the new game is one of the funniest screwups I've ever heard about. It doesn't get much more sloppy than that. Alas, if this were only a new problem.

Certain companies in the early '90s were infamous for turning out cookie-cutter platform games on the Genesis and SNES. And it's hardly confined to the mobile space these days; there are plenty of clone shooters around. I think the FPS is the side-scroller of this generation: there are way too many of them.

Computer Crashed While Saving? Game Over!

Someone named Ilya writes, "If you save and the game crashes while it's saving, your game's corrupt. Why not save a file with a .sa2 extension if there's one with a .sav one and delete the .sav when you're done?"

Ilya's right -- this is freshman year computer science. Unless storage space is limited, basic caution says you don't overwrite someone's old data until you know their new data has been safely stored away. (If there is a shortage of space, you can warn the user that their old save is being overwritten -- along with a "don't show this warning again" checkbox, of course.) The implementation is trivial, so get it right.

Friendly AI Characters That Do More Harm Than Good

I've often complained about stupid AI wingmen in flight simulators -- they're supposed to be watching your back, and instead they get killed in the first ten seconds of battle. Steven Taylor points out that this can be generalized to include escort missions in which the character you're escorting is an idiot, and in fact I think it really applies to any AI-controlled ally character.

He writes, "If the person being escorted simply followed the main character, or stayed in one place, this wouldn't be a problem. Instead, the escorted character runs around unpredictably in such a way that the player loses control over the situation and instead has to react to whatever nonsensical move the AI makes. Tactics are thrown out the window as the escorted character runs into the next source of gunfire."

Shawn Lucas independently offers a good example from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: "I remember a quest where the player was tasked with rescuing a peasant girl who had been kidnapped by a group of cultists. After journeying to their hideout and freeing the girl from her cell, I attempted to flee with the prisoner. However, it seemed that the girl was more interested in attacking the hostile cultists than she was in getting to safety. The second she spotted one of the cultists she attacked him and drew other enemies to our position. As it turned out, she was no match for them, nor was I. After numerous deaths and reloads, I was able to take out the cultists one by one, by means of cheap tactics, but it put me off from playing the game."


Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

And he had another example as well: "There was one mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that required the player to follow alongside a train on a dirt bike while shooting enemies who were riding the train. The dirt bike was driven by the player and the friendly AI sat on the back and had to shoot the enemies. However, the friendly AI would often choose not to shoot at the enemies, despite having a clear shot. There was also a time limit for this mission, which made my partner's lackluster performance all the more aggravating."

You occasionally see this played for laughs in movies, where our hero is stuck with an ally who is more trouble than he's worth. (Indiana Jones's sidekick Wilhelmina "Willy" Scott from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a good example.) But a movie is different -- it goes forward no matter what.

As a player, if I'm constantly being held up or killed on account of my moronic companion, I'm strongly tempted to shoot him myself. I object to confronting stupid enemy AI (Stupid Opponents is a Twinkie Denial Condition too), but I really object to having to cooperate with, and compensate for, bad AI that's supposed to be on my side. If you can't make your AI NPCs smart, at least make them cautious and predictable.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Related Jobs

Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank, California, United States
[07.30.21]

Character TD
Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games — Burbank, California, United States
[07.30.21]

Combat Designer
Bytro Labs GmbH
Bytro Labs GmbH — Hamburg, Germany
[07.30.21]

Lead Game Designer (f/m/x)
Bytro Labs GmbH
Bytro Labs GmbH — Hamburg, Germany
[07.30.21]

Senior UI Artist (f/m/x)





Loading Comments

loader image