I’ve been playing a lot of games the past few years, probably more so than when I was in high school and college now that I don’t have to do things like “study” or “read.” Wow, I sound like a dumbass.
But anyway, I’ve noticed a lot of trends in games, both new and old, over the years, and some mistakes just keep on being made.
This is not a list about SPECIFIC moments in games that were annoying (OMG Water Temple, and all that), but rather the TYPES of moments that often produce frustration in games. You’ll see what I mean.
1. Follow the Ridiculously Fast Thing
This sort of mission has repeated itself in many, many games throughout history, and it only gets more frustrating as the years go by.
Usually, it’s just some speeding car or truck you have to follow and can’t lose, but inevitably do so when you happen to clip that streetlight at the wrong angle and plow into a storefront. Naturally, in the two seconds it takes you to get back on the road, you’ve already lost.
But sometimes it goes to a new level, like in GTA San Andreas where you have to follow a train, which is incredibly damn hard since you’re on a bike with the power and steering capability of a lawnmower. Also, I was recently playing Infamous when I had to follow a damn helicopter on FOOT which resulted in many restarts and much frustration.
2. Escort the Idiot
Who here loves escort missions? Raise your hand.
And naturally I’m staring at an empty room. Despite escort missions being universally despised, there is a propensity for games to keep doing them over and over regardless. There would be no inherent problem with this, but AI programming is still such where more often than not, you fail the mission not because you’re doing something wrong in the protection department, but that your protectee is doing something idiotic like wandering through the open street during an automatic weapons fight instead of, I don’t know, laying down under a car.
These sorts of missions were actually the reason I ended up quitting Dead Rising the first time through, as save points aside, the AI in this missions were the most frustrating thing in the game. People wouldn’t just get eaten by zombies, they would lovingly thrown themselves into the arms of the zombies like they were reuniting with a long lost flame.
3. Fly through the Rings
Yes, I know we’re all thinking of Superman 64 here, as the rings mixed with poor flight controls made this absolutely one of the most maddening games ever played. I have no idea how that game ever came out. It’s like they made it, then didn’t have time to sit down and play it even ONCE before shipping it to stores. Or maybe they did and they all hair karied themselves out of shame for what they created.
But the ring plague isn’t just limited to horrible Superman titles. The rings pop up in a lot of games with flight, and are often some of the most maddening parts of the game. Once again, my mind goes back to San Andreas where the hardest mission in the game had nothing to do with gunfights or car chases, but rather flight school, which I failed about 50 times before correctly getting through all the rings in my Dodo and landing the plane in one piece.
4. Follow Without Being Seen
What’s worse than following something fast, as mentioned in item one? How about following something slowly?
These types of missions are thrown into games for “variety,” as game designers think that the player needs a break from all the action every so often. They usually have you tailing someone in a car where you must keep a certain distance, or worse yet, trailing someone on foot.
Why is this worse? Because I don’t know of any human being alive that walks somewhere and routinely stops and does a complete 360 survey of the entire area every ten seconds. At a certain point I just wanted to run up to them, stick a gun in their mouth and tell me where the hell they were about to go.
5. Where the F*** Do I Go Now?
This is a problem that didn’t used to be an issue in games, because they were so linear, it was almost impossible to not understand where to go next. Right. The answer is keep moving to the right.
But not, today in this landscape of open worlds and complex environments, nothing is more aggravating than a game that sucks about telling you where to go next. It might be Uncharted waiting for you to find the exact ledge that isn’t in fact wallpaper, or it could be Dragon Age Origins only deciding to use objective indicators on questions half the time.
To me a good game is one that challenges a player on finding out what to do or where to go next, without having it take so long that it leads to frustration and a YouTube walkthrough. This is the advantage of extensive playtesting, something you can see in Valve games, which usually have a perfect balance of what I’m talking about.