It’s 2021, we all know what year it is (I hope, I know time is getting fuzzy), video games have been around for decades and yet there are still features kicking around that we all thought would be gone by now. Frankly, I thought some of these things wouldn’t have to be said, I thought it would be self-evident they were terrible and would fade away into video game history. But here we are, year after year, dealing with the same frustrating ‘features’ in Triple-A video games that make us want to snap a controller. Sometimes these bad features are done out of greed *cough* microtransactions *cough* while some are done for inflated play time, and others are done out of pure stupidity. So come with me on this journey of playing a game and yelling “OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE STILL DOING THIS!”
DEDICATING A BUTTON TO PICKING ITEMS
Picking up items is the most common thing in video games. Whether it’s ammo, health, grenades, rakes, or every item in the room in a Bethesda game it needs to be picked up. But it doesn’t need a dedicated button or a dedicated animation. I’m tired of spending half my gameplay time pressing the same button to loot a corpse, or watching the same ‘opening a chest’ animation. Unless inventory management is a gameplay mechanic then nobody cares. I have the option of pressing a button to pick up handgun ammo, but if that doesn’t affect how much of another item I can carry then OF COURSE I WANT THE DAMN AMMO! Why wouldn’t anyone want the damn ammo just pick it up!? All items should be magnetically drawn toward the player character and enter them. I don’t care if it breaks immersion I want loose rags and bottles to fly toward Joel and Ellie as their bodies envelop items like Clayface.
MULTIPLE ITEMS THAT DO THE EXACT SAME THING
We all need a healing item from time to time, so we pop open that item inventory to have a quick look and see… 200 different items!? There are only 12 effects so why are there so many items? Because most are doubles. Variant items are an absolute plague on inventory micro-managers like myself. I want my inventory functional, neat and tidy. But at some point game devs decided that if there’s a 5% health boost drink in the game there should also be a lemon version, and a grape version, and a diet cherry coke version for some reason. But they are all the same 5% boring health boost, just filling different inventory slots. If an item is functionally the same, then it’s the same. Because it’s an item not a character, it doesn’t have a personality, it’s just there. Say it with me, clutter is not world building.
BUSTED 3D MAPS
Remember the craze of 3D from the early oughts? Everyone was seeing Avatar and spending too much on 3D TV’s and glasses for their home because the future is 3D! Thankfully we all came to our senses and got over it, everyone except for James Cameron and video games that insist on impossible 3D maps. Nobody can read this nonsense. This might be the most ‘old man yells at cloud’ I’ll get in this list but if you can’t print it in a physical strategy guide that sits on the counter of a Gamestop collecting dust then it’s not a real map. Maps in real life are in 2D, that’s how every map in the history of maps have worked. Then some games have the AUDACITY to make the 3D map transparently overlay the environment. Because that… helps?
Every company, every damn developer, has some idiot working there who thinks an underwater level is going to help. First of all, Sonic had an underwater level so good we never needed to do underwater levels again, and not just because the music traumatized us all. Yes I know that’s young in the history of gaming but water levels peaked in high school. In no way, does anything about a water level enhance any video game. Fluid mechanics are the most difficult and machine intensive thing games can do so water levels are challenging on any hardware running the game. Then you have a game that is operating in 2 or 3 dimensions and you want to add a new axis by being in water, completely changing the controls and making the camera a nightmare. Saying “this game has water levels” is like saying “this game has parts that are slower, dimly lit, and run poorly, have fun.”
THE REAL GAME DOESN’T BEGIN UNTIL NEW GAME+
If the intended version of a game doesn’t begin until NG+ then the game sucks. We’ve all been there, it’s hour 100 of playing a game, you’ve just unlocked the weapon/feature/spell that makes the game fun, you’re ready to rock the rest of this game hard aaannnnnnnd roll credits! That’s bullshit! Having a progression system is an important characteristic of most games, but all gameplay features need to be fully unlockable by the 2/3rd mark of a game at the latest. A New Game + mode should be a fun and rewarding re-visit, perhaps with a silly modifier that changes the gameplay, not defines it.
MEANINGLESS RPG NUMBERS
Congratulations for making it this far into reading the article! You now have +2 reading. What does +2 reading mean? I dunno, it has no real effect on you reading this article. But it sounds nice doesn’t it? It’s a number, and numbers are good. At least that’s the approach of most modern video games. Every game needs RPG mechanics that make it important to level up, grind, and find modifiers to add numbers to your numbers. Even shooters need you to find and grind for special gloves that make bullets 1% more… bullety? Why? It’s a bullet! A lot of lazy games don’t even tell you the base number you’re adding to. These special shoes give you +3 speed… Okay, but +3 to what? Why? How much faster is that? This goes back to the simplest frustration I have, if it doesn’t affect the game then it’s not a game mechanic.
HIDING DETAILS PLAYERS WILL JUST LOOK UP ONLINE
Developers know we have the internet right? I’m not talking about every detail. I’m not talking about story spoilers or major reveals, I think it’s okay to assume we’re not actively going out of our way to ruin a game. But if a game hides something essential they must know we’re just going to look it up. If an item description in the inventory is “A mysterious liquid, who knows what effect drinking it might have” then the item description might as well say “Look It Up”. I’d frankly have more respect if a game had the honesty to just put “Google this” as item descriptions. If the game hides key information like a skill tree, I’m googling it. If the game wants me to go to a vendor and buy an item that marks locations on my map, you better believe I’m just googling those locations. If I can spend 100,000 in game currency for a mystery upgrade on a weapon, I’m… well you get the idea.
Are we making video games or a Death Star, because if falling is a concern you need to build a damn railing. Fall damage sucks all the fun out of video games. Nobody cares about your laws of physics Newton. If there are dangerous ledges just make railings, real or invisible, that make it impossible to fall. If falling results in instant death games just reload to right before the fall occurs, so why do it to begin with? There are only two ways to make a game, either I am a god who can fall from the literal moon and take no fall damage, or I’m a little baby and all ledges have been baby proofed to keep me from falling.
TOO MANY IN GAME CURRENCIES
I know we all hate microtransactions in games. It’s brutal but I try to be realistic to the fact that microtransactions are here to stay, especially in free to play games. But can we settle on one in-game currency per game? I don’t want to have to figure out how many gems make a diamond, which can be exchanged for fun bucks, which in turn can be turned in for wishes, and all are purchasable with real world dollars. Add to that the fact that these in-game currencies are usually sold in U.S. Dollars, and I’m in Canada, so I have to convert CAD to USD, to gemstones, to wishes. THAT’S TOO MUCH MATH!
Having a plethora of currencies has become so prevalent in the gaming industry that games without microtransactions mimic that economy. You can pay full price for a Triple-A game with no online microtransactions, but it will still have 9 different in-game currencies to figure out. A video game only needs 2 currencies, one for buying stuff at shops, one for upgrading items you own, that’s it!
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