(inspired by the cadence "I wanna be an Airborne Ranger")

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On poor game design: choices should be noticeable and actually do what they’re intended to

Wow, that title was a bit… long.

I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to format my game reviews and ended up focusing on a negative point about two of them, Dragon Age and Elven Legacy, that I thought warranted a post of its own.

In Dragon Age, as you level, you get points you can spend to shape how your character plays (it’s been years since I played so the terminology may be off, but the point is still the same).  In every fantasy game I come across I always go for a Ranger build (focusing on ranged combat with a bow).  This aspect of Dragon Age’s combat was in a poor state when the game was released.  The friend pointed me to a hot fix from a dev the week it came out (first sign that this aspect of the game wasn’t ready) that tried to buff ranged combat.  It wasn’t enough.  If you spent heavy into ways that seemed to buff ranged combat you did little to make your character stronger.  It was just a poorly designed system at launch.

A year or so later I came across an article online where someone showed how you could make ranged combat work.  The trouble was… it was horribly unintuitive and required DLC NPCs to work.  IOW, it was still broke but if you were willing to spend enough time to get a PhD in bad game mechanics you could’ve figured out a way to play the way I wanted.

No thanks.

In Elven Legacy the issue was a bit more straightforward.  As your units gained experience you could spend those points to give them abilities, bonuses, etc.  The problem was… those upgrades did nothing.  You get all excited, upgrade the unit, see it still struggles in combat, and dies because the level designers rushed out the content at the last second due to deadlines or their own or the manager’s ineptitude.

The lesson in all of this is that if you’re going to have a development/upgrade system in a game it needs to actually do what it claims to do and the results need to be noticeable.  If it’s not, don’t leave it in the game.  Delay the release till it’s done right or (more realistically) pull it out of the game till it’s ready and throw it in later in a patch.  It’s never a good thing to release a product that appears rushed and/or poorly thought out.

No comments:

Post a Comment