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Defending Design: Part 1


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I’ve read four articles this week about “annoying” game design choices, and it’s about time I wrote one to defend them.

We all get irritated by some of the things game design puts in our way. Detective vision in the Arkham series can interfere with the gorgeous world around us, “Start Game” might be the first choice on the first menu instead of “Continue Game” and unskippable
cutscenes on any game you’ve played once through can be justified irritations. Others are based on limited resources or prioritized goals.

And dammit, they are smart choices!

Invincible Story Characters

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Skyrim is one of the better examples of this design choice: an open world game with thousands of NPCs wandering the square miles of terrain. As YouTube has shown us for some time, it can be way too much fun to brings towns to ruin by using magic and other things that go boom, as most of the NPCs are perishable. At least until you meet one of the invincible story characters like Ulfric Stormcloak. No arrow to the knee, or face for that matter, can kill him. Player choice is in jeopardy, right?

You’d think so by the articles I’ve read, but no, it’s actually the only way to preserve the story from serial killer wannabes. If you killed Ulfric, there would literally be no main quest left. Who’s gonna take up the rightful claim to the throne? Some bastard son no one knew about that randomly pops up? Sorry, Elder Scrolls already did that.

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Sure, it takes away from the realism of a game to throw a Hellball at a character and have it do little more than drop them to a knee because they’re flagged as “essential,” but what’s gonna make you angrier; a character that is immortal, or never getting to continue your questline because you torched the guy that gives you the final mission at the end of the game?

Realistically, there are only two ways to make essential characters mortal and not create the Instafail problem that is also complained about. You either keep the character in the shadows until killing him doesn’t destroy the game or you only see him through bullet-, arrow-, magic-, explosive- and glitch-proof glass/bunker/facility. And that just won’t do for the leader of the resistance.

Ammo and Other Pickups

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Ah, the peanut butter in the chocolate. The cheese inside the Juicy Lucy. The apple in the pie. Ammo is both entirely necessary and excessively plentiful in games where guns are the weapons of choice. Now, the articles I read bring up a good point against it: why bother with having to pick up ammo when it is so plentiful in the game?

Well, on higher difficulties it’s still everywhere, in slightly lesser amounts, but here’s the real issue: which guns do you get the ammo for? Answer is the crappiest ones. Yep, the ones every enemy carries.

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Here’s why this design choice works. You as a player have make a choice: do you hold onto that shiny, powerful shotgun/sniper rifle/rocket launcher, knowing the power it contains, when it has run dry? Ammo for that dinky single shot rifle is everywhere, but will another shotgun? And in games like Bioshock, where money can be used for upgrades, health and mana (we all know it’s mana) is it worth taking money away from those things to be able to use said weapons?

And honestly, if too much ammo is a problem, there’s always a harder difficulty more than willing to take away your lead.

RPG Elements in Everything

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This complaint really perplexes me. I understand the feeling of wanting to be a god and controlling everything, but there are games for that and they’re all made by Will Wright. Games like Far Cry 3, God of War, XCOM and even GTA V are about a character or characters that start off as weak and basic but through action, gaining experience and earning it, they become an unstoppable engine of destruction. What fun is it when you overwhelm everything from the beginning?

In addition, there should be a learning curve to games. If I can do everything right from the start, there’s nothing new to look forward to. Even if it’s just a prettier way Kratos spins his Blades of Chaos or a more vicious-looking disarm, these are reasons to keep playing the game. Why wouldn’t you want that?

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Upgrades for equipment go hand in hand with that. When you have limited resources, you choose the way that fits you best. Playing Far Cry 3, you may want more weapon options and focus on holsters. Other players may want to maximize profits and load up on rucksacks and wallets. The best part is, with RPG elements you can do that.

You can choose your path. You can decide what your character will be. You don’t just get a new sword that’s more powerful when you just got comfy with the axe, you can decide to say screw the sword, I want to be a lumberjack. I want to use magic because I don’t feel the gun. I want to use stealth because it’s more thrilling than breaking walls with my fists.

RPG elements let you be who you want to be. This design element shouldn’t be taken away, it should be built upon and let us be everything we want to be.

What do you folks think of these game design elements? Drop a comment below and be the discussion! And check back soon for Part 2 soon!

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About RedGuinness

Andrew Shortall (RedGuinness) is the Writer, Editor, Administrator and founder of Stay-At-Home Gaming. He also suffers from sleepless nights, summer new release withdrawals and trying to behave himself in front of his new nephew.

One comment on “Defending Design: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Around the Web – 6/29/14 | The Credible Hulk

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This entry was posted on June 24, 2014 by in Editorial, Gaming Non-Fiction and tagged , , , , , .

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