18 Dec 2013

Top 10 Things I Hate in Video Games

I've realised that since starting this blog, I've barely given any attention to the topic of video games, and the [very few] people who read it must wonder why I list it as one of the three main categories in here if I don't [seem to] care too much about them. And yes, my devotion to video games have most definitely decreased since my childhood and teenage years, but I still love it, even if I don't spend as much time on it as I do on fandoms and table top gaming. I do still frequent the local gaming stores, my default channel choice when I don't know what I want to watch (or I just want some background noise) is Ginx, and my 3DS and my whole game library for it have a permanent place in my purse. So, as an attempt to rectify the severe lack of video gaming entries, I want to list what I personally love and hate in video games.

Since I ended up with a pretty solid list on both sides, this will be divided into two separate posts, starting with the things I hate. But, instead of just making a top ten countdown of this, I will first address a couple of items that I've chosen not to put on the list for the simple reason that I avoid purchases that feature these mechanics. I still heavily dislike them, and thusly they do belong in a blog post such as this one, however, I do recognize that I have the full power to avoid them, thereby they get their own separate mention.

Honourable Mentions

First Person POV

Now, I understand that it's supposed to be realistic and immersive. But to me, I just feel like I'm playing as the weapon and not whoever is holding the weapon. The few times I've tried it, it's just really bugged me. Also, the motion end up coming off as either unnecessarily shaky or unnaturally smooth. At least with a third person point of view, it makes sense that the camera motion is smooth, because you see the person moving ahead of you. And personally, I really like seeing the character I play.

Turn-based Combat

The first (and only) time I played Final Fantasy, I was really looking forward to it, as I had heard so much about this game. I was even playing a fan favourite instalment, namely Final Fantasy VII. So I wandered about the game map, and finally when something happened... I couldn't move my character. Couldn't do anything to prevent this sudden monster from dealing damage. And then a menu opened, and gave me a list of attacks... I turned the game off there and then, even tried taking it back to the store and ultimately ended up selling it off for little to no money. Since then, whenever anyone has recommended a game to me, I've asked them specifically if the combat is live-action or turn-based. Because I don't want to spend my gaming time picking options off a list. I want to press a button and see the character make some kind of movement. If the character do different things if you press a different combination of buttons - even better. I want to be able to dodge or block attacks. I want to know that if my character gets hit or heads in the wrong direction it's because I accidentally steered them that way.

Pointless DLC

I'm not the biggest hater on DLC, although I do see the problem with them as one day the console support will be non-existent and if you buy a game after that, you risk buying a to a degree incomplete game. I don't agree with holding parts of a game hostage unless you pay up, and I definitely have no plan whatsoever to purchase weaponry, clothing or any other trivial DLC. If it's a bonus area, bonus mission (as in not directly related to the main story, but fits in with that game's specific world), then fine. If I enjoy the game, I am likely to purchase new areas to explore, new sideline missions to take on. So, my main grief with DLC is when they don't make it worthwhile for us to purchase them. Give us a decent add-on and we'll gladly buy it, but don't try all these bogus attempts to churn money out of us...

My top 10 things I hate in video games

Turns out, it's actually quite challenging to just narrow the list down to the ten most important points, and I might have cheated by combining things into a single point. And even then there were a few things that fell off the list (invisible walls, bad lighting), but most of them were just smaller annoyances anyway, so they're not all that important to mention. So, let's just start off the list:

10) No choice in save system / bad checkpoints

This is not a major thing, at least not compared to some of the other things I will bring up, but it is annoying when you don't have any say in how your game is saved. I know some people swear to the auto-save, and I can recognize the merit in that system, but I personally like to have the option to do things differently. I like being able to create new saves, or maybe copy existing saves in certain places, so that I can replay my favourite parts without having to start from the very beginning (as that is the part of the game you will tire off most quickly due to always having to play through that to get to the rest).

I haven't had a lot of experiences with bad checkpoints/saves (thankfully), but there was one game that really drove me insane on that point. Now, I'm a big fan of the exclusive Buffy game that was released on the original x-box. It was a great, fun game to play, so naturally I was looking forward to the more widely distributed sequel, Chaos Bleeds. Now, the game does have its good points, but one really fatal flaw to this game is that it puts the boss fight at the very end of the level (unlike its predecessor that split the boss fight levels away from the regular exploration levels). If you die in the boss fight, you will start at the last checkpoint in the level, so it's no big deal, and you may try as many times as you'd like to beat the boss... unless you decide to stop playing and try again some other day. I was stuck as Xander on the Sunnydale High level for ages, because he's an incredibly weak character to play and he was up against frickin' Anyanka. I really, really hate it when I have to replay a whole level from the start just to even get to the boss fight I have yet to beat.

Also, the overzealous auto-save system on Fable III almost resulted in a game-ending glitch, when my character fell below the ground and was left dangling in mid air. I immediately rebooted the game, only to find out that because of the game's auto-save system, my character had been saved in that exact position, and if not for a lucky break of having a secondary character accidentally triggering a cut-scene, I would have had to start from the beginning.

9) Stamina Restrictions

Not a major issue in the games I play (hence its low placement), but there's one notable exception, and that's Skyward Sword. I absolutely loved that you finally got to actually run as Link, but having to collect berries to keep your stamina meter from reaching zero, that was a bit annoying. It got especially bad when the stamina meter also affected things like climbing. Suddenly, you were forced to take breaks between climbs - and considering this has never been an issue in the games before, it just came off as artificial and was detrimental to the game. Now, I'm okay with health restriction, and even power/mana bars. They make sense, but stamina bars just don't.

8) Motion Controls

This may sound a bit weird coming from someone who owns and plays Wii games, but I'm not the biggest fan of motion controls. I'm not denying that there are venues where they can work well, like with controlling a sword or a wand, and may even add to the gaming experience when used correctly. But motion controls are a very flawed mechanic, and you often find yourself waving the controller frantically hoping the protagonist of the game will act the way you intend them to and not the gazillion other ways they could act. Like, I love the Harry Potter games, especially because at times the controller really feel like you are waving a wand and casting a spell - but there are just some spells that the game just refuses to recognize at times, and you find yourself getting up-close-and-personal with the Wii bar, just so that the damn bush will catch fire already.

Similarly with the two Legend of Zelda games to be released with motion controls on the Wii, there are just these frustrating moments where you are shaking, twisting and turning the controller, swearing at the TV, wondering why on earth Link won't do the move you intend him to do. In Twilight Princess, the main issue was that the game was originally developed for the GameCube and the motion control scheme was just something they had added as an afterthought. After I finally found myself a copy of the GameCube version, the game's enjoyment factor went right up as I suddenly had a lot more control over Link. In Skyward Sword the motion controls were there from the start, and for the most part they work well, but there are bits where the controller falls out of sync with the console and even though you are moving the controller just the way you need to in order to make that move to deflect Girahim's attempt to grab your sword, Link still ends up doing the complete wrong move.

7) Forced hand-holding, interruptions, and non-skippable information/cut-scenes

Yes, that was quite the compression of factors, but I personally feel they all relate to the same thing: slowing down and interrupting gameplay. When I say hand-holding I am, of course, talking about in-game tutorials that are shoved down your throat no matter how many times you have played the game. Unfortunately, one of my favourite gaming franchises, Legend of Zelda is guilty of this, especially with the newer titles. Now, I have nothing against the concept of tutorials, but for goodness sake, give us a way to opt out if we either want to figure it out on our own, or we have already played this game a gazillion times. We don't need Navi or especially Fi to tell us the obvious. We are actually capable of observation.

The same franchise is also, unfortunately, guilty of the non-skippable information. Kaepora Gaebora is a big example of this. This owl-like creature would interrupt you at random intervals and unload a long speech on what was lying ahead of you, and you would just continuously press the A-button to just get through it, and then when you did, and it asked you if you had understood the message - the default option was set to no... When it comes to cut-scenes, it doesn't bother me as much if there's no way to skip it, but at the same time, if you are playing a game for the fifth time, you might just be sick and tired of some of the cut-scenes, so having an option to skip them is definitely preferred.

6) Out of proportion difficulty settings

With this I am talking about both sides of the scale. If a game is way too hard from the very beginning, it will come off as inhospitable, and you are likely to be turned off before you even get started. Adventures of Link was majorly guilty of this. Not only do enemies kill you before you have a chance of dealing any damage to them, but if you get a game over you go back to the very beginning of the game. A couple of rounds of this, and I just called it quits, which is a shame, because I quite enjoy side-scrolling games, and this was the only side-scrolling instalment in the Legend of Zelda series.

Going to the very opposite spectrum is also bad, as you end up feeling patronised by the developers. I see it as a bit more forgivable, as at least this way you are actually able to play the game, but not by much. Fable III had some of this problem. It wasn't that there weren't challenges within the game, but if you failed - nothing happened. Because in this game, you are actually physically incapable of dying. If you fall in a battle, you faint, and then you wake up, mid-battle, all ready to continue. How are you supposed to care how well you do when you can just wake up in the middle of a boss-battle, all ready to continue? Sure, the more you fainted, the more scars your character would get, but still. Taking death out of the equation made the game into a joke. I do still play the game occasionally, despite this gigantic flaw (and several others), but honestly, I was majorly, majorly disappointed with this instalment for that very reason.

5) Cloned gameplay

No one likes to do the very same thing over and over and over again, especially not me. Whether it's repeating yourself in a boss battle (like with button-mashing), repeating an area or repeating a task. Sometimes this can be something that leads you to putting the game down and never picking it up again. One example I have of this is the Silent Realms in Skyward Sword. I have no problem admitting that those areas really, really creep me out. I feel like my heart is stuck in my throat while I frantically try to make sure I have a tear drop nearby to collect so I won't suddenly be chased by the giants. I hate how the mood suddenly changes if the time runs out, or you accidentally thread wrongly - from serene to downright stressful.

But, although I didn't particularly enjoy that bit of the game, I wouldn't have much problem doing it over in a potential replay of the game. However, when I realised I would have to do the same task, only in two other areas, I just put the game down. As much as I would have liked to see where the game would take me next, it's not worth it to do more Silent Realms.

4) Stealth-elements in non-stealth games

There's a reason I don't buy stealth games. I don't enjoy sneaking around, worrying about whether I will be seen. That was one of the things I didn't enjoy in the Harry Potter games (which I otherwise love very much), there was always that obligatory stealth portion. I get it, when it's a vital point to the game (like going to the restricted section in the library), and even though I don't particularly enjoy sneaking around, I understand why it's a vital part of that game. But when they have to put in a similar section in virtually every game, then it gets annoying. There was no part in the third book that had them sneak past security trolls (sure, trolls were mentioned, but not once did the students have to sneak past them). If the story doesn't demand a specific mechanic, it shouldn't be forced upon the player.

3) Interactive cut-scenes

The only reason this is only on third place on my list is because I have (thankfully) only encountered this idiotic feature in one game, but that was one game too many. Now, I enjoy the Tomb Raider games, have been since the original one came out on the original Playstation. When they decided to remake the original game, I was really looking forward to playing it... at least until I reached the valley of the dinosaurs. In the original game you encounter a couple of velociraptors which you kill, and then you move further into the valley only to suddenly have a tyrannosaurus rex come around the corner. This was an eerie moment in the original, one that always had your heart jump up in your throat (thanks to the dark setting and how parts of the valley would only materialise for you as you moved further in).

This was ruined in the remake, which instead featured a cut-scene of the tyrannosaurus attacking. What made it worse was that the cut-scene was made interactive, meaning you were required to press certain buttons at the right time in order to make Lara escape the dinosaur's jaw. Not only do I hate the way that moment was ruined by a stupid cut-scene, but the forced step by step button-pressing just added insult to injury. If you're going to have a cut-scene, give it a story, present a character or a monster, but don't add an interactive feature that leads to the character's death unless you follow the very precise instructions...

2) Impossible motion/button combinations

Just an illustrative example
One of the reasons I don't play the newer Harry Potter titles on the x-box is not because I enjoy the motion controls so very much (as you can probably tell from what I wrote further up). It's because the spells require some insane analogue stick movements that not only are hard to replicate, but also just plainly make your fingers hurt in the attempt. Sure, some spells are pretty alright, even some that are a bit problematic with the motion controls, but others are just downright impossible to do, like wingardium leviosa. You have to rotate halfway one direction, then half-way the other direction and then back again. You almost never manage to do it, and by the time you get one correct attempt your fingers are sore from trying.

But also combat and trick-taking games (like skateboarding) can sometimes present you with some impossible button-combinations in order to complete certain moves. I get that it's supposed to be challenging to complete, but holy hell, sometimes there are just too many arrow rotations and button combinations to get in the exact right order, and don't let me get started on the moves that can only be activated after you have done another move first.

1) Time constraints in non-platformer games

This is my biggest gaming annoyances. While I recognize the need for timers in platforming games, especially the retro ones, it's an absolute pain in other games. I understand if it's a critical moment in the game, like a house is burning down and you need to escape, and things like that. But having timed missions, timed dungeons or timed games, then I'm just not onboard. It's the main issue I have with Majora's Mask, because the whole game comes with a three day time constraint. Sure, the game's story makes sense with that constraint, and you can rewind time with a song (but losing money and progress in the process), but it just ends up stressing me out. Unless it's just small things where a timer makes sense, don't put that restriction on us, find other ways of making a task challenging instead.

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