Ten of the Worst; Ten Video Game Cliches That Need to Die

For the most part, games have been pretty good to us for the last few years. From Super Smash Bros to Mario Maker to Luigi’s Mansion 2 and A Link Between Worlds, there have been many bonafide classics that were just incredibly fun to play and all sorts of interesting in terms of their ideas.

Unfortunately though, even the best games have issues (and that’s saying nothing of the worst ones!). From a lack of quality control to bad design decisions done to exploit players or artificially extend the play time beyond belief, it seems a lot of the same issues come up over and over again, and often wreck even the best quality video games in the process. So here are those very issues or annoyances, in the form of the top ten video game cliches that need to die. They concern different genres, different types of games and even business models, but they’re all equally infuriating none the less.

So let’s begin, here are the top ten video game cliches that need to die already!

10. Timed Missions

So let’s start the list with an obvious one. Timed missions. Why are they here?

Well, because 99% of the time, timed missions just suck.  Yes, there are exceptions (Wario Land 4 and Shake It have an amusing ‘race back to the entrance gimmick’ for example), but the vast majority of them just don’t work in the slightest.

For one thing, there’s no real reason for a mission to be timed in most games.  Sure, it makes sense in Metroid where the planet is likely to explode if you take too long, and the odd game tries to justify it with other obvious reasoning (like in Majora’s Mask with the falling moon), but most times, the timer just seems to be there for the sake of it.  Take a Mario game for example.  Why does Mario just drop dead if he takes too long?  Is he plagued with some sort of virus that kills him after about two minutes in any one location?

Ilpiantissimo

Above: You may remember this guy from Super Mario Sunshine. Every time you lost to him, Mario would literally drop dead on the spot for no apparent reason.

Oh, and it gets worse.  You see, in a well designed or somewhat merciful game, the timer tends to stop when the main character is in the middle of a cutscene or talking to someone.  Cause you know, he or she can’t actually do anything in those situations, so the character being killed there just seems unfair.

Above: Steam Shovel Harry is an amusing parody of this, where the tutorial takes so long the timer runs out in the intro

Unfortunately, there’s a sort of ‘trend’ where gamers keep the timer going right through any and all cutscenes you encounter.  Like in Wario Land Shake It, where the timer for the final boss missions continues right through the cutscenes in the middle of the battle.  And through just about everything else for that matter, since the entire fight is about 90% waiting for the enemy to let you fight back.

Or how about in Yoshi’s Island DS? Now that’s a real jerkass about this whole ‘timed mission’ thing.  The optional time trial mode literally lets nothing stop the clock, to the point the messages are replaced with comments mocking how much time the player is wasting:

And there’s one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!

Lost time!

Timed missions and timers in general suck in video games, and they suck even more when the game itself mocks you for its own amusement.

9. Missable Content

Next on the list, a flawed video game ‘trope’ that’s basically as old as the medium. Found all over the place in bad adventure games and eight bit RPGS, missable content is where an item, character or even entire game can be rendered unbeatable due to your actions beforehand. Like where the best sword in the game is only accessible by completely ten seemingly random tasks in the right order and with every single one being impossible to complete once you reach a different point in the main storyline.

Or where making a small mistake early in the game means your save file is as good as bricked. Yeah, that happens in quite a few video games, especially Sierra era adventure games.

As you may have figured, this sort of thing is a right in the proverbial. Especially when you have such over the top crap as this (taken from TV Tropes’ page on Unwinnable content in Sierra adventure games):

For those trying to get 100% completion, there’s a truly evil bit with the “Unstable Ordnance”. When you pick it up, the game warns you that it’s dangerous, but you receive points for it. When you fall into the sewers, it goes boom. So you decide not to pick it up next time, and beat the game. You failed 100% completion. Okay, you then pick it up after you get back out of the sewers instead. You get unavoidably lasered when trying to leave the area by Schroedinger’s Enemy (he doesn’t show if you didn’t pick it up). Okay, try again. You pick it up, then put it back. This yields a profit in points, and accounts for your missing points — but you still get zapped by the same enemy! To get 100% completion, you must pick it up and then put it back before entering the sewers. Every other choice either blocks 100% completion or makes the game unwinnable if you save after it.

King’s Quest V: Absence Makes The Heart Go Yonder! has the infamous mountain-climbing sequence, where the player must traverse a treacherous mountain. During the journey, Graham will get hungry, requiring the player to eat and letting the player choose between eating a pie (which can be gotten, and eaten, very early in the game) or a piece of meat (which the player could possibly not have gotten at all). There’s also a starving eagle the player meets later on at the mountain, who you have to feed to survive later on in the game. What the game expects you to do is eat a piece of meat yourself, then feed the eagle the rest, and the game never specifies that the meat makes for two servings, as the pie is required later on. Eating the pie, feeding it to the bird or letting the bird starve all make the game unbeatable.

Pretty annoying isn’t it? You play through a game, make one little mistake (because you’re not psychic) and then have to do the entire thing all over again to reach the ending.

Oh, and it gets worse. That’s what happens when this ‘unwinnable’ thing is done on purpose by a sociopathic video game designer. If the game is broken as well? Then you get a game that can be made unplayable by accident, like The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess and the bug where you got stuck on the wrong side of a bridge. So even when the game isn’t intended to be like this, it can still end up being so due to a lack of decent quality assurance.

Try and avoid letting your games become unwinnable please. It’s just infuriatingly bad game design.

8. Unexpected Gameplay Changes

A quick word or two for game designers: When someone buys a game, it’s usually because they like playing that type of game.

Do you know what they don’t like?

When a game turns into something completely different for no damn reason whatsoever. Seriously. If you buy Super Mario 3D World, you want to play a platformer. If you buy Mario Kart, you want to play a racing game. If you buy say, Call of Duty, you want to play a first person shooter.

What you don’t want is to play through said game and have it suddenly become something else. Imagine if real life games worked like that. If suddenly after four rounds, chess turned into connect 4. Or if football had one third of the game use ‘soccer’ rules, one third use NFL rules and one third play like rugby. It sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?

Because that’s how a depressing amount of games seem to work nowadays. For example, going from a ghost hunting adventure game to a shoot em up where you’re heading down a mine shaft in an exploding sleigh:

Above: This is so contrived and out of place.  Especially with motion controls.

A normal game is not Mario Party or WarioWare. Find one gameplay idea/genre that works, and stick with it throughout the whole game please.

7. Air Meters

In the old days of gaming, there was a pretty simple way to handle water levels.  You swam forever, and you never ran out of breath.  It was very simple, it worked rather well, and it kind of made underwater levels somewhat bearable.  Indeed, with the exception of Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s actually quite tough to think of any NES or SNES era hero that could only stay underwater for a limited amount of time.

But then… ‘realism’ came in.  So because some developers were absolutely in love with the idea that ‘games had to mimic reality as closely as possible’, we got these as a way instead.  Annoying bars or timers that count down til the player character dies, and sometimes get refilled whenever they collect an air bubble or coin in the water.  And oh boy, they are absolutely terrible.

Why?  Well for one thing, they turn water levels from an already tedious exercise in bad physics to an equally. tedious exercise in bad physics… where you have to go as quickly as possible to avoid drowning.  Or in some cases, find those tiny holes and openings in the roof that let your character breathe for air for a few minutes.  Which is often even worse, since the actual underwater sections are usually made much longer to compensate.

Forget air meters, let’s just go back to the Super Mario Bros way of never having to breathe underwater.  It’s much more fun.

6. Knock Back

And now, perhaps one of the most infuriating video game cliches of all time due to how stupidly thought out it is and how obnoxious it makes games.  Knock back in video games (especially platformers) is a terrible idea.

Why?  Well, not only are you usually thrown to your doom by way of a nearby bottomless pit (just count how many times those damn birds or medusa heads have killed you in Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania for example), but it actually makes no sense in the slightest.

Think about it for a minute.  In real life, do you get chucked across the room the minute a gnat decides to bite you?

No?  Good, cause physics doesn’t work like that.  The distance something throws someone backwards depends on its velocity and mass.  Small objects (like bullets) make holes in the skin due to their quick speed and tiny surface area.  Large objects (like a speeding bus) send you flying through the air because the force of impact is spread over a larger area.

So in any realistic setting, most of these tiny enemies shouldn’t really do anything as far as knock back is concerned.  I mean, how big is a medusa head for example?  Maybe the size of a football?  The result should be someone like Simon Belmont basically shrugging off the hit, or maybe just falling straight to the floor.  Not him careening across the screen like a pinball before plunging into the abyss ten feet away from where he was originally standing.

Above: This theme shouldn’t ever play in those circumstances.

What’s worse, this cliche is just as bad when you can’t die.  Remember Wario Land II and 3?  Great games, with the rather unfortunate design choice that any damage merely knocks you back rather than killing you.  The result?  Every boss may as well have a one hit kill move, since being hit and flung out of the area means starting the entire battle again.  Which reminds me, remember this guy?

Yeah, Moldorm (and its spiritual successors) were absolute hell to fight in the Zelda series because of this knockback thing.  You took one hit, bounced out of the area, then had to climb all the way back up and start the fight from scratch.  Which, like in the Wario Land games, meant these bosses could effectively one hit kill you.

Just stop putting this in video games. It’s not realistic, it’s not fun for the player and to be perfectly honest, it just reduces the player character to a one hit wonder for most of the game, since being knocked off is often effectively a loss even without a bottomless pit there.

Continue Reading…

Dead or Alive Extreme 3 is Japan Only Because of SJWs

In the last couple of weeks or so, we’ve seen a rather depressing amount of censorship in the video game industry as a result of the worrying ‘social justice’ trend and its proponents hatred of freedom of expression. From Xenoblade Chronicles X losing character customisation options to Bravely Second having a class swapped out to ‘avoid offending’ people, it seems like gaming is getting closer and closer to the bad old days of the 80s and the ‘video games are evil’ panic.

But now, it’s gone ever further. The new Dead or Alive game is literally not being released in the West because of these people and their complaints about content in video games. As said by Koei Tecmo on Facebook:

We do not bring DOAX3 to the west and won’t have any plan change in the future. Thank you for asking.

Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.

In other words, because of the complaints of ‘sexism’ in video games and the reactions to the recent GamerGate controversy, a whole game from a popular franchise is now not being released outside of Japan. Which to be honest, is a complete disgrace, since it means that companies are now scared to release games that offend a whiny minority that uses the media to attack and bully anyone who disagrees with them.

So yeah. If you wanted this game and you live outside of Japan… congrats, you can now blame the idiots on sites like Tumblr for forcing you to import it from Japan.

Source:

Dead or Alive 3 Isn’t Coming to the West Because of Social Justice Warriors – Player Essence

Kunkel Video Game Journalism Awards Announced

Annoyed at clickbait or gamer hating posts in the gaming media?  Want to support sites that don’t think Nintendo is doomed every time a new smartphone game becomes popular?  If so, you’ll be happy to know that the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) has just announced the start of the Kunkel Awards for gaming journalism.  Judged by Michael Koretzky and open to submissions until February 2016, these awards are meant to promote high quality, ethical gaming journalism.  They’re open to all sites and sources (including ‘professional’ news sites, personal blogs and video channels), and include the following five categories:

Excellence in News Reporting

One story, or up to three stories on a single topic. News can be breaking (reporting on something that just happened), in-depth (studying a topic by surveying all sides), or investigative (digging into a topic by uncovering previously unknown facts). No one kind is considered superior by the judges.

Excellence in Feature Writing

One story, or up to three stories on a single topic. A feature can be a profile (an in-depth look at one person), a Q&A (a verbatim interview with one person), or a color piece (a descriptive put-you-there story).

Excellence in News Video/Streaming

One recording of no more than one hour. See description above. Can be edited down from a longer stream. As with written submissions, judges expect multi-sourcing

Excellence in Feature Video/Streaming

One recording of no more than one hour. See description above. Can be edited down from a longer stream. As with written submissions, judges expect multi-sourcing

And

Excellence in Photography/ Illustration/ Infographic

One photo, original illustration, or infographic. Visuals are a crucial part of journalism. Submissions should stand alone as visual elements but also complement any text surrounding them. Submit with any supporting text and as a separate file, so judges can focus on both elements.

So there’s plenty of room for all kinds of content, regardless of whether you’re a blogger, traditional journalist or video creator.  What’s more, all categories are judged based on things like accuracy (whether sources have been properly verified and facts are correct), balance (whether all sides have been covered in the article or video), clarity (whether the work is easy to understand), ‘verve’ (aka whether it’s interesting or ‘fun’ to read/watch) and whether the piece adheres to the society’s code of ethics.

Above: Descriptions and titles for categories from the SPJ website.

In other words, they want real journalism, not clickbait nonsense, rumours and personal attacks.  They want submissions that adhere to these guidelines and that try and give a balanced view of the story that takes into account different viewpoints.

Either way, it’s pretty impressive, and a real help for turning video game journalism into something of a more respectable field. We’ll be nominating our own favourites soon, and if you’re interested, you can find them here:

Excellence in News Reporting

Nintendo Force Magazine. The fact these fans and writers have come together to make a full print magazine about Nintendo (and entirely on their own dime, without publisher backing) is truly incredible and should be celebrated whenever possible.

Excellence in Feature Writing

Any of Emily Rogers’ works on Dromble (and past sites). I think her Star Fox article could be a good choice.

Excellence in News Video/Streaming

Maybe one of the Nintendo Direct streams, like GoNintendo’s. We haven’t thought much about this one yet, since we don’t get much news from fan made videos (and we doubt Nintendo Directs can be nominated)

Excellence in Feature Video/Streaming

Unseen64’s Project HAMMER video, no question about it. Both videos are amazingly well done, and give a ton of insight into the development of the game and the challenges within Nintendo as a company.

Excellence in Photography/ Illustration/ Infographic

Nope, we’ve got nothing here. Sorry.

But those are our choices for nominations, and we’ll be sending them in to the SPJ in the near future. So what do you think about the Kunkel Awards and their effect on video game journalism? Are we going to see more interesting, well written articles now that there’s actually an award to honour the best examples of the genre? Could this finally be the point at which the ad click chasing, bottom of the barrel scraping tabloid media gets replaced by a respectful gaming press that actually knows what it’s talking about?

Source:

SPJ Announces Kunkel Awards for Video Game Journalism – Techraptor

The Future of Video Game Journalism

As many people know, gaming journalism is an industry that’s going through a bit of crisis at the moment. With AdBlock doing a huge amount of damage to revenue (up to 50% of gamers use Ad Blockers when browsing websites), competition getting fiercer by the day and events like GamerGate doing serious damage to its future sustainability, there are very real worries the field might disappear within the next few years or so.

So what’s the future of this somewhat turbulent industry? What’s going to replace the Kotakus and Polygons and IGNs of the world in the few years? What will change going forward? Well, quite a few things, and that’s what this article is about.

Either way, let’s start with the obvious prediction:

Videos and Let’s Plays Will Replace Traditional Gaming Media

It’s already started (what with popular gaming channels racking up millions of subscribers on Youtube and live streams on Twitch becoming near global phenomenons), but it will only get more and more obvious as time goes on. Text articles are on the way out, video coverage is in.

So why is this happening? Well, ignoring the obvious (the move towards user generated content and its many positives, as discussed later in this article), it’s because videos are simply better for showing how games work than other mediums.

Need a good example of what we mean? Well, go to GameFAQs or some other walkthrough site, and download a text guide for a game you’re playing. Now, go on Youtube and find a Let’s Play of the same title.

Above: This is easier to follow than the GameFAQs equivalent.

Which one is easier to follow?

It’s probably the video. Because in the video, you can see for yourself just how the game works, how someone gets through the levels and how things like the enemy AI and special attacks and game mechanics work. In a text walkthrough, you just to have to try and read between the lines and figure out what to do based on a vague description.

And reviews are better for similar reasons. When a text review says the graphics are good, you just get a few screenshots as proof. And for anything else, you have to take their word for it, since things like music, game mechanics and game difficulty levels are not well illustrated in a text and screenshot review on a web page.

Video reviews let you judge everything for yourself. Oh sure, the video commentator says the graphics or music are good, but do you agree with him? He or she says the game’s engine works well and the levels are well designed, but you can be your own judge of that too. Need an example? Well, which of these reviews makes it more clear how bad the game is?

http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/superman-review/1900-2545277/

Above: Superman 64 Reviews by Gamespot and the Angry Video Game Nerd.

But now that the obvious is out of the way, how about non video content? What’s the future for written articles and news in the industry?

Well, it’s hard to say. But…

User Generated Content Is the Way Forward

Which again, is already pretty clear if you’ve a hardcore gamer. You’re probably getting more of your news from gaming forums, Reddit and social media anyway. But in the near future, it’s pretty much going to become the norm for everyone; all gaming news and articles will be written and posted by unpaid fans and amateurs rather than ‘professional’ journalists.

Continue Reading…

The Video Game Voice Actor Strike; Our Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, there has been… a bit of tension between voice actors and the video game companies that hire them.  Basically, the actors (under the union SAG-AFTRA) want more transparency (knowing what game they’ll be working on), residual pay for when a game is successful (so a bonus for every 2 million copies sold), stunt coordinators at sessions for motion and performance capture and ‘stunt pay’ for vocally stressful roles.  Meanwhile, the companies themselves are less keen, with the likes of EA, Activision, Disney and Warner Bros (among others) not being able to come to an agreement on that stuff.

So there has been talk of these actors going on strike.  Apparently they’re opening the votes until October 4th, and have gotten quite a bit of support for it on Twitter:

But while in principle I do agree with the SAG-AFTRA and their demands for both transparency and better pay, I have to wonder how much power these guys actually have here.

For one thing, how relevant is voice acting to many games? I mean, it’s certainly important for your big triple A Hollywood blockbuster style games and script heavy ones like Metal Gear Solid, but for various others? To be honest, probably not that important. What does a platformer need for voices? A couple of grunts when the character jumps off the ground or dies? The most voice acting a Mario game has ever got has been the intro letter in Super Mario 64:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLA30ii-DTQ

Freemium mobile games? Yeah, as if Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga needs much of a voice acting team.

And puzzle games? The only thing Tetris needs is an iconic soundtrack:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmCCQxVBfyM&gl=GB&hl=en-GB

Even story driven stuff like RPGs doesn’t usually need a lot of voice acting, depending on the direction. On the one hand you have stuff like Final Fantasy and Xenoblade, on the other hand… how much voice acting exists in Pokemon?

Either way, video games are not like film or television. Acting is important in some cases, but is honestly completely irrelevant in many others.

So perhaps on that note, any strike might actually get us more platformers and less first person shooters and ‘movie’ style games. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all…

But even for those games that do need voice acting, there’s one other issue that people seem to forget…

Most companies do not use ‘professional’ voice actors.

Okay, some larger ones have huge budgets and hire Hollywood type talent to voice their characters. Like say, the Arkham series. But a lot of other games have a couple of other options, ones that don’t really involve the SAG-AFTRA in any way whatsoever. Namely…

1. Using their localisation/development staff as voice actors

It’s certainly the standard practice in Nintendo and Rare after all. Ever wonder why the WarioWare voice actors don’t seem to show up outside of Nintendo games, like most voice actors? Because they’re not professional actors, they’re members of Nintendo’s in house staff. Same deal is true of the Star Fox series, with recently fired localisation member Chris Pranger having lent his voice to the first boss in the upcoming Star Fox Zero game.

Above: It can work quite well.

And sometimes, even the game’s producers and directors are involved in this. Like how Masahiro Sakurai voices King Dedede in the Kirby and Super Smash Bros series. Or how for a Rare example, the voice of Conker the Squirrel is provided by Chris Seavour, the project lead and game designer for the entire Conker series (he also voiced many of the other characters in the games).

Now admittedly, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, we have companies who cut costs so badly that they literally hire anyone they can to voice the cast, ending up with something like Chaos Wars.

Yes, the publishing company’s CEO got his kids to voice the main characters (presumably because of the shoestring budget the game was localised on), ending up with some of the most hilarious voice acting this site of Mega Man 8.

But it still provides at least one route a company could go if they don’t care to provide what the SAG-AFTRA demands. And given that it could sometimes lead to worse quality voice acting… do we really want to give the companies an incentive to do this?

And even if they want something a bit more professional than the WarioWare method of voice acting, there’s still an alternative there, because…

2. They can use non-union actors and actresses

Which unfortunately for anyone in the voice acting world, is much easier in video games than it is in Hollywood. Many video game voice actors don’t belong to any unions, and it’s not particularly hard to find an equivalent if the actor in question is part of one.

Or to quote a Simpsons joke:

Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!

Smithers: He’s unavailable.

Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!

*cut to Señor Spielbergo*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWxcnl8PL_o

Above: Joke from A Star is Burns

But there’s also another source of labour out there…

  1. They can use the fanbase

Seriously. It sounds a bit silly given that you’re asking people on the internet to do stuff for free (or out of their own pocket). But look at recent history. Games are being funded on sites like Kickstarter, by the fans and buyers. News is being written and distributed for free by bloggers and people on social networking sites.

People are queuing up round the block to go for talent shows and to submit their works to sleazy self-publishing houses.

Now imagine if voice acting also gets out sourced to the fanbase. There are certainly enough great voice actors out there willing to provide their talents for free (just see the efforts provided for various game based cartoons, machinimas, fan games, etc).

It would be all too easy to skip the ‘professionals’ and the pesky ‘wage’ thing and just get people from sites like Youtube to voice the cast.

But even without that, there’s the question of whether voice acting will even be relevant in the future. Why? Well, in one word:

Computers

Computer generated speech is only getting better with time, and given that video games are already a near 100% computer generated medium, replacing the human voices with artificial ones doesn’t seem like a hugely futuristic thing.

And even before that’s possible, something like Vocaloid could work well too. Take a few voice actors, record a bunch of samples, then robotically string them together when you want the character to say something. It’s not perfect yet, but give a few years or so, and it seems possible that many characters (especially ones of few words like Mario) could be entirely voiced by archived samples and speech generation.

So while we do sympathise with these people and see their attempts to get pay and working conditions as admirable, we also wonder how much of a future the whole profession even has, or whether any union conditions will just be avoided by out sourcing and finding people with less of a need to make money.

And all bets are off when automation and AI comes in.

But what do you think? Do you agree with our thoughts on voice actors, strikes and unions, and the future of the profession as a whole? Or do you think they could completely succeed with their goals?

Source:

Voice Actors Voting on Strike Action – Gamesindustry.biz