Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The 10 most common mistakes made by Game Designers - Part 4

Welcome back for this our last in a line of the top 10 most common mistakes made by Game Designers. Part 1, part 2 and part 3 can be found here, in which we detail the good and the bad. But this week, we're rounding up the list with the ugly. The top two most embarassing mistakes made by everyone, Game Designers included. This week we look at the silly mistakes, the ones that break a game, that seem so minor when you're making the game but stand out so obviously when your player gets their hands on the finished product. Let's roll up our sleeves and dive right in to:

2. Bugs, Glitches and Typos
The game starts. A man named 'Sir Charles the Nite' appears, instructing you to "hant down teh Goulden Mask fo Power". You hop on your trusty steed and head into the dark forest, where you encounter horrible Blood Spiders who aren't so horrible when they just stand there like that or bump into each other. You can just walk right past them! You find the Golden Mask of Power and return it Sir Charles, who takes it gladly then asks you to 'hant' it down again.

"Hant it down and brung it bak too me!"

High-profile sinners:
Zero Wing, Max Payne

Why it happens:

Making a whole game takes a lot of time and effort and it's a nightmare working with a deadline looming and your publisher screaming for a finished product. It's amazing that through all this a game gets made at all, so you can forgive the little typos that manage to sneak their way in here and there, right? Of course, it's not only games that fall victim to this. I've submitted many a uni essay, last minute, without bothering to check for typos in the important things, like the heading.

You don't notice it, and frankly you're glad to see the end of it. But your player does (or in my case uni professor). They see these silly mistakes and it's all they can think about. The game itself could be amazing, but somehow your game Dwarf Spelling Forterss has lost some of its glamour. Or maybe it's not spelling, maybe the terrifying Nightmare Guards of the Beyond aren't quite so nightmarish considering they keep bumping into walls and keep getting stuck in invisible holes in the ground.

How to avoid it:
When it comes to avoiding spelling errors, bugs and glitches, the simplest and least helpful response is don't make them in the first place. But not only is that impossible, it ignores the important role of testing your game. Sure, you might be the only person designing or building your game, but you shouldn't ever be the only one testing it. Grab your friends, your parents, your neighbours. Show your game to everyone who will sit still in front of a computer screen long enough. Make them play your game again and again, until they're dead bored with it, and then make them play it again. This isn't about showing off, this is about ironing out the bugs and getting everything absolutely right. And to be honest, it's exactly what professional Video Game Testers get to look forward to every single day.

1. Hogging all the fun
You turn a corner in this dank cave. The sound of dripping water echoes unseen from deep within. Tiny yellow eyes watch your every move from the shadows. You push on, unafraid, towards the mysterious green glow that pulses and hums in the dark. You take one step, then another, and another. And then you might as well put the controller down and make a cup of tea because the next fifteen minutes are going to be dedicated to one long cutscene. Don't get me wrong, this is one incredible cut scene. There's explosions and magic whizzing through the air, and there's a dragon! But the question remains - if this is so cool, why can't we be playing this?

"Hey, I've got this awesome new game, it's called DVD!"

High-profile sinners: Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Why it happens:

What is a game if it's not letting you have any fun? It's not a game anymore, it's a movie that stops running if you stop moving your thumbs. Suddenly your player feels a bit like a mouse on a wheel, running round in circles, disconnected from the game. As a side note, these obtrusive cut scenes at their worst dump the player right into the middle of some huge boss fight and expect you to sit through the whole overblown, dramatic fifteen minutes again when you lose - which you will, again and again.

How to avoid it:
Less is more when it comes to cut scenes. There should always be an initial cut scene to quickly introduce the main characters and show off the world. After that cut scenes are handy to show emotional interactions between the heroes and the villains, and that's it. Anything more exciting should be gameplay. It's more engaging and more rewarding and your player will end up caring more about the story when it is shown (through gameplay) and not told (forced down their throat by awkward cut scenes).

And there we have it, the top 10 most common mistakes made by Game Designers. I hope you've enjoyed it, and maybe even learnt something. Next week we'll be looking at how to turn a good game into a great one. Looking forward to seeing you all again next week.

Stay tuned!


1 comment:

  1. Zero Wing has made such things famous, hasn't it? The posterchild of bad translations.

    And that #1 problem? This is why developers should think about embracing "Excuse Plots" once again.