Posted on March 26, 2008,

Features Games Should be Required to Have

crackdown.jpg

I posted recently about a so called “Co-Op Bill of Rights,” which was a concept inspired by Penny-Arcade and then run with by Microsoft employee Ozymandias on his blog. He threw together a list of features that co-op games must have, and then ones that would be ideal but aren’t necessary due to the time/effort/technical requirements they require. It’s nothing official of course, and it’s likely never going to be something that impacts how developers spend their time. More recently, he posted up a more finalized version with the help of various comments from around the ‘net that his initial article called for.

This got me thinking about features that all games simply must have. It irritates me to no end to go pick up a new game, assume something about the game and then come to find out that a blatantly obvious feature or option is nowhere to be seen. I asked for feedback from readers and friends, and I’ve come up with my own Bill of Rights. It’s not necessarily focused on features that have to be included, but more often functionality and design choices in games. Some of it will overlap with Ozymandias’ list, but that’s only because these are things games absolutely must do.

I’m looking for feedback, so if you think I omitted something or something made the list that shouldn’t have, share in the comments. This is by no means intended to be a finished piece, but more of a building block. And, as long as I’m admitting my faults, this doesn’t apply only to games, but game-related things, as well.

And just to make sure things are clear, I’ll give out examples of games that did it either well – guised as a Dick Vitale “That’s awesome, baby!” – or poorly – a Charles Barley “That’s turrible.”

General

  • Do not force gamers to play co-op in a game in order to unlock things. Sometimes it’s not an option to play co-op.
    • That’s turrible: Guitar Hero 2, 3
  • Do not ever charge money for cheat codes.
    • That’s turrible: Any number of EA-published games
  • Allow gamers to customize controls however they see fit. If I want to shoot my gun with the right bumper on my 360 controller, let me.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Most PC games
  • Don’t charge for “gamerpics,” which are nothing more than little JPEGs I can find millions of on Google Images.
    • That’s turrible: Xbox Live
  • Release system updates more often than twice a year.
    • That’s turrible: Xbox Live
  • Don’t release system updates too often, particularly when they take a long time to install.
    • That’s turrible: PlayStation Network

Multiplayer

  • Do not force a multiplayer into your game if it doesn’t make sense. BioShock did just fine without a multiplayer, and the extra development time that was spent on crafting the single-player really shows. Tacking on a multiplayer component just for sake of doing it is usually a mess and only hurts the overall package.
    • That’s turrible: Stranglehold, The Darkness
  • On the flipside of the aforementioned “don’t force us to play co-op,” do allow gamers to unlock things in co-op without needing to play single-player. Sometimes we want to play with a friend or simply play online with others without having to force ourselves through a campaign all on our own.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Crackdown, Halo 3
  • Give us matchmaking.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Halo 2, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4
  • Give us the option to browse custom games (which have been designated as “public” by the leader) in addition to matchmaking.
    • That’s turrible: Halo 2, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4
  • Do not split parties up when using matchmaking. We take a group with into matchmaking so that we can play against others, not so we can be arbitrarily split up between two teams.
    • That’s turrible: Call of Duty 4
  • Allow gamers to play through the single-player game with a friend(s) in co-op unabated. We don’t want to play levels here or there, or have an experience that is otherwise diminished by not taking co-op into account when the single-player game was being developed.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Crackdown, Halo 3
  • Allow more than a single player to play online on a single console, whether in co-op (for games that support more than two players in co-op) or any other mode.
    • That’s turrible: Call of Duty 4, Forza 2
  • Co-op games should support the ability to save and pick up your progress later.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Army of Two
  • Players should be able to join in and drop out of co-op games without ever kicking the group back to a menu.
    • That’s turrible: Halo 3
  • Allow gamers to try out downloadable content before they buy it, provided they can join the game of a friend who already owns it.
    • That’s awesome, baby!: Crackdown

Game Design

  • Stop using artificial arrows to tell me where to go. If you need to slap a line of arrows on the ground in order for us to figure out where to go, you’ve failed as a level designer.
    • That’s turrible: Perfect Dark Zero
  • Quick time events. Kill ‘em. I’ll let Yahtzee take this one.
    • That’s turrible: God of War, Uncharted
  • Do not force motion control on us. This hasn’t been a major problem as of late, but it’s already ruined a potentially fun game by being the only way to play a game.
    • That’s turrible: Lair
  • No more overly-simplistic co-op puzzles like two players standing on two different platforms at the same time.
    • That’s turrible: The Simpsons Game
  • Let us swim. Water shouldn’t be a toxic substance that kills characters upon touching it.
    • That’s turrible: GTA 3, GTA Vice City, Assassin’s Creed
  • Figure out a way to do away with binary good/bad choices.
    • That’s turrible: Most everything BioWare has developed
  • Don’t be afraid to rip off a logical feature just to avoid “being like them.”
    • That’s awesome, baby!: GTA IV (GPS from Saints Row)

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21 Comments on Features Games Should be Required to Have

erathoniel

On March 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm

The definitely two on one console. At least make an alternating turns mode for two players, or even better, split screen. If next-gen is next-gen, you can make splitscreen. HECK I can make splitscreen games.

COL James Slate

On March 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm

You can bloody make splitscreen on PC if you really work at it, and in retrospect, it isn’t that hard, I don’t play 360, because of no splitscreen action, that’s why I have a console, or used to, is so I could play with friends at my house.

Chris

On March 26, 2008 at 6:36 pm

The story’s been updated to look prettier, and I’ve also added a video reference to the “turrible” thing.

Jonathan

On March 26, 2008 at 8:16 pm

also don’t force players to play through the single player to unlock things in multiplayer

weclock

On March 27, 2008 at 12:07 am

Let us use user generated content on our games.

Game mods are fan-ing-tastic, it’s what kept Half-Life alive for years, and could have quite easily kept Half-Life 2 alive, if it weren’t for the constant Episodes coming out.. still a lot of sweet mods for Half-Life 2.

Even Unreal Tournament 3 on the PS3 allows for user generated content.
DLC I want UGC!

Creating you own game modes, creating your own levels (sorry ’bout Forge, that’s some right thurr), creating your own characters, your own story, etc, those are all fantastic! but don’t make the game reliant on it (rpg maker, fighter maker, etc).

User Generated Content is the wave of the future, look at Audiosurf, it’s taken off like nothing else, and why? because you listen to the songs YOU like.
If there were more games that allowed for User Generated Content, we’d all be in a much happier gamer world.

Fadeaway

On March 27, 2008 at 12:44 pm

“BioShock did just fine without a multiplayer”

Not from where I’m standing. It was a short, condensed version of System Shock 2. Believe it or not, there’s a difference between spiritual sequel and cleverly disguised remake. Multiplayer would have been interesting considering both the engine and some of the environments played in, especially in team games where both sides can have any combination of plasmids, tonics, weapons and ammo types. There are some games where the lack of multiplayer seems like a strange way to go.

“Figure out a way to do away with binary good/bad choices.”

I’m almost in agreement with this one. Problem is that binary is one of the only ways to do it in a game (often because the AI isn’t as advanced, existent or persistent as the developers/publishers said it would be). It’s also sometimes the most dramatic when it comes to being forced to make a choice. Being able to overrule text decisions with actions (i.e. double crossing someone asking for your help in ambushing a convoy) might be a good way to take it instead.

Aside from a couple of pet hates (I’m probably going to get hammered by everyone else for hating on BioShock, the revered prodigal son of all single-player adventures), I concur with this article.

havoc of smeg

On March 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

there are two rules i think should be added.

1. skipable cutscenes
these can be annoying when replaying a game for a 2nd or 3rd time, when you already know whats said, you just dont care ETC.

2. monologues that never end.
you know what i mean.
the bad guy or whoever is prattling on forever, all the while keeping you from proceeding.
for me the prime example of this is bioshock, like right at the end when tanenbaum is ranting away, and you have to wait for the little girl to let you through the big door.

RP

On April 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Great list! If you like this list… check out ListAfterList.com.

http://www.ListAfterList.com

There are thousands of lists just like it there.

It is a great new Web site where YOU can find and create lists about anything and everything!

Post your own version of this list or something similar! And then let people add to to it and edit it by making it a wiki list.

Robin

On April 11, 2008 at 9:36 am

I’d also add “let me save when I want to”. I hate savepoints, I bought the game I’d like to play it how I want and save it *when* I want.

evan

On April 28, 2008 at 1:17 am

Hey Yahtzee says he hates quicktime events when they make no sense / aren’t a large part of the game. God of War’s make sense and are a very big part of the game and he even said he had no problem with God of War’s quicktime events.

Kamo-Cobra

On April 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

As a left handed gamer, the lack of fully configurable controller button-mapping is a real bugbear of mine. I’ll never understand why all games don’t include this as standard. If I can’t switch ‘look’ and ‘aim’, I’m screwed.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve downloaded a demo of a game I was thinking of buying, only to realise I can’t customise the controller to my liking. Instant lost sale right there.

It’s not so bad with one-player games like Bioshock, where you have the time to adjust your tactics. But with online multi-player games like MGO, Gears of War or Ghost Recon I just can’t aim as good as all the righties, and get totally owned.

Resistance: Fall of Man is a perfect example of the correct way to implement button-mapping. You’ve got a picture of your controller with all the button functions laid out. Click on a button to change it’s function and it will be swapped with the function of the next button you click. it’s all so simple, and could be written into ANY game at all (and barely take up 1/2 an afternoon for 1 programmer).

I thought the 360′s gamer preferences would eradicate this problem for me once and for all, but it seems not too many devs use this feature.

Good Bad

On April 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm

“Figure out a way to do away with binary good/bad choices.”

How about multiple endings? Chrono Trigger anyone? Although they only had 13 endings and it all ended basically the same way (same last boss). I want to see 100+ paths I could take throughout the game with 20 different endings (including a wide variety of end bosses). Choices in one area affects the later game. The result would be extensive replay value. If you only have one ending to a game, it severely limits the storyline to that one ending. The end result is linear gameplay with limited replay value.

The “Achievements” systems developers are adding to get people to play more than once is not a good substitute for developing multiple storylines.

Lewis

On April 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Couldn’t agree more Re. customisable controls and the above comment about skippable cutscenes. It seems like sheer arrogance on the part of game designers to force you to sit through “dramatic” sequences that you’ve already watched many times and which, in terms of acting and script writing, are almost invariably of risible quality anyway.

Anonymous

On April 29, 2009 at 10:47 pm

The problem isn’t really designing AI when designing non-binary decision making. After all, look at something as simple as pathfinding. Pathfinding, in no way, is a binary decision. It’s usually a very costly decision that goes through many branching paths.

No, it’s a simple matter of time and development costs and making players feel like they get the most bang for their buck.

Let’s assume that you have Studio A and Studio B. They both have the same amount of time and money to work on stuff. They’ve both been able to create a number of “scenes” (to borrow theater terms) and now they need to connect them.

Studio A, fed up by binary decisions in games, gives the player 4 options at each scene. In Scene A1 you can go to B1, B2, B3, or B4. At each of those you can go to C11, C12…, C21, C22…, etc. They now have 17 “scenes”.

Studio B goes with the tried and true binary decision. In Scene A, you can go to B1 or B2. At those you can go to C11 or C12/C21 or C22. Then you get D111, D112 etc. They now have 15 “scenes”.

Joe Gamer buys both games. He goes through Studio A’s game in a couple of hours and doesn’t bother replaying it (he was happy with all of his decision) and feels a bit ripped off about how short the game was. He goes through Studio B’s game in several hours, again not bothering to replay it, but he doesn’t feel anywhere near as ripped off because the game seems longer to him.

Basically, what I’m saying is that without some sort of algorithmic way of dealing with player decisions, developers are forced to spend time and money creating options that won’t be visited by most players and releasing a game which seems a lot shorter than it really is.

Ed

On April 30, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Very console-centric list… you’ll find all of your ‘awesome’ and little of your ‘turrible’ on PC.

Mayor McCheese

On April 30, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Make Splitscreen an option for Co-op play. I don’t wanna have to not see my friends to enjoy a game with them.

Something I’ll always want and never get:
Allow online multiplayer to cross systems. I like my friends with their ps3 and we own the same games so why can’t it work?.

Big Bird

On May 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

“Do not split parties up when using matchmaking. We take a group with into matchmaking so that we can play against others, not so we can be arbitrarily split up between two teams.”

Have you ever played with a group of random people against a clan in matchmaking? It may be fun for the clan but for everyone else it just makes you want to give up playing…

Bobby

On August 23, 2009 at 11:39 am

I am so sick of first-person shooters.

Monkey Pants

On October 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Dialogue subtitles for deaf/ hard of hearing gamers! wtf Assassin’s Creed part 1??

troll bead

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