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1 Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! Ernest W. Adams a.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! Ernest W. Adams a."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! Ernest W. Adams ewadams@designersnotebook.com a member of thedesign group

2 2 Twinkie Denial Conditions n Bad Conceptual Design n Bad Game Mechanics n Bad User Interface Design n Bad Programming n Bad Level Design n Bad Content Note: These are design errors, but they dont always make a game bad! Many good games contain errors.

3 3 Bad Conceptual Design

4 4 Adolescent Armageddon n Conquer the world! Save the galaxy! n Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can we have some games that arent teenage power fantasies? n Better:

5 5 Kill Monster/Take Sword/Sell Sword Buy New Sword/Kill New Monster n Im supposed to be a hero, so why am I spending all my time bargaining with shopkeepers?! n Im not a hero, Im an itinerant second-hand arms dealer! n Robbing corpses doesnt feel all that noble, either... n RPGs need to break the Monty Haul cycle.

6 6 Conceptual Non Sequiturs n Anything that a normal human being (not a gamer) would say makes no sense. n Medical kits hidden inside oil tanks in FPSs. n Half-naked women who, when killed in RPGs, drop suits of plate armor. n Ordinary people moving 20-ton stones in action games.

7 7 Bad Game Mechanics

8 8 Deadlocks n A situation in which a process cannot continue without the resource that it produces, or two processes are each waiting for the other. n All games need a mechanism for breaking deadlocks – an additional source of the resource.

9 9 Too Much Randomness n Random bad luck that makes a long game unwinnable. n Poker is highly random but each hand is short. n Over time the better players win. n Constant, irritating random encounters that add nothing to the plot.

10 10 Bad User Interface Design

11 11 No Save or Pause Game Feature n Often used to make games more difficult without any work by the designer. n Saving is cheating attitude is a sign of a weak design. Saving isnt cheating in Monopoly or baseball. n Its the players machine, not ours. Its not fair to punish her just because its her little brothers turn to play.

12 12 Games Without Maps n Games dont offer the same visual cues that the real world does. n Getting the player lost is a cheap way to lengthen the game. n Better:

13 13 Bad Programming

14 14 Games That Run Too Fast n If an old game runs too fast to play on new machines, its sloppy programming. n All game events and animations should be based on timers. n If you have spare cycles, use them intelligently, on AI!

15 15 Stupid Monsters n Hear player. Lumber mindlessly towards player. Get shot. Die. n Its time for some smarter monsters! n Better:

16 16 Bad Pathfinding n Nothing makes an otherwise smart game seem stupid than a unit who cant find his way past his own comrades! n Groups should stick together walking around large obstacles (hills) but split up among small ones (trees).

17 17 Bad Level Design

18 18 Difficulty Moving in 3D Spaces n Locations in 3D games should either be clearly accessible (floors) or inaccessible (walls). n People can climb very steep slopes if they try, so let them! n Give players a little slack about where they can stand and jump from.

19 19 Boring and Stupid Mazes n Any maze that has to be solved by brute force is a boring and stupid maze. n Mazes need to be fun and clever, organized according to a principle that the player can deduce (with effort) and then follow easily. YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE. – a maze in Adventure

20 20 A Switch Opens a Door Miles Away n Another time-waster, designed to slow the player down without challenging his mind. n In the real world, doorknobs are usually in the door (!). n If you want a door to be locked, then lock it, and store the key somewhere reasonable.

21 21 Many Combinations, No Clues n A puzzle in which the solution is one of a large number of combinations (with no clues about which one) is a trial-and-error time-waster. n Infidel ended with one of 24 possible choices and each time you died and had to reload!

22 22 Extreme Lateral Thinking Required n Use the lampshade with the bulldozer? n This is OK as a joke. Maybe. Once. n Other than that its just a designer playing rather mean tricks on her audience.

23 23 No Lateral Thinking Allowed n I can kill stone trolls with my axe, but I cant break down a wooden door? n With todays deformable environments, we should allow more lateral thinking. n Better:

24 24 Obscure Knowledge Required n Unless it is a trivia game, all the information needed to win a game should be contained within it. n When localizing, beware cultural differences! Q: WHAT IS THE AIRSPEED VELOCITY OF AN UNLADEN SWALLOW? A: AFRICAN OR EUROPEAN? – a Monty Python joke in Haunt

25 25 You Have 30 Sec. Before You Die n Puzzles that kill the player with an extremely short time limit are just another sign of designer laziness. n If the player will have to reload the whole game, one-third of the possible solutions should lead to safety.

26 26 Bad Content

27 27 Not Enough Voiceover Clips n Players get bored and turn the sound off. n This was often the case with cartridge games, but theres no excuse any longer. n My rule of thumb: no fewer than 5 audio clips for any given situation, even the rarest.

28 28 Fantasy-Killing Elements n I just saw my father murdered and now Im supposed to solve other peoples problems?! n Anachronisms, bad writing, inside humor, and irrelevant mini-games all help to destroy a fantasy. n Harmony is a key quality of the best computer games.

29 29 Pointless Surrealism n Surrealism is not just weirdness for the fun of it! n True surrealism has an underlying point, to cause the viewer to think. n Better:

30 30 Poor Acting (and Writing) n Bad acting destroys suspension of disbelief. n It ruins emotional tension. n Good writing is cheap, so theres no excuse. n Better:

31 31 Neat, Tidy Explosions n If the game industry has anything to learn from September 11, it is that explosions are not good clean fun. n Bombs ruin things: buildings and lives. Lets tell the truth about them. n Any explosion should leave some wreckage.

32 32 Low-Poly Trees (and other things) n A good-looking sprite is better than a bad 3D model any day of the week. n If you cant do something well, dont do it at all. Dont ask me to pretend that some weird blocky green umbrella thing is really a tree.

33 33 Huge Breasts & Other Juvenilia n Yes, it makes money. n But it also gives normal people the impression that games are only for drooling adolescent morons. n Juvenile content hurts the entire industry because it discourages non-gamers from starting to play.

34 34 Twinkie Denial Conditions Redux n Challenges solvable only by trial and error. (Not to be confused with exploration or practice.) n Non sequiturs and pointless illogicality. (Not to be confused with necessary simplification.) n Designer egotism, vanity, or showing off. n Confusion between hard and enjoyable. n Laziness: making the player work so you dont. n Sloppiness and inattention to quality. n Deliberate, needless offensiveness.

35 35 Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! Ernest W. Adams ewadams@designersnotebook.com a member of thedesign group

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