‘Super Mario’ celebrated his 25th birthday recently and video games, as we know and love them, have been around a good deal longer than that. So how is it that they still do silly things that have us gnawing our joypads and slapping our foreheads in frank disbelief? Put another way, aren’t they old enough to know better by now?
You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But even the very best games are not beyond moments of downright dumbness. Here, then, is a list of our (least) favourite things that games do that they really shouldn’t, and a few guilty parties. See if any of these sound familiar:
Characters that drown in a puddle
The gaming universe is populated by big, tough guys who think nothing of taking on entire alien races with nothing more than a peashooter. Sadly, many of these hardcore heroes are oddly inadequate when it comes to crossing even the merest hint of the wet stuff. J’accuse, Bionic Commando.
This is in the same category as waist-high fences preventing movement of characters who can not jump. Lazy game designers limiting the playing area in a way that breaks the immersion.
Games that don’t require your participation
Four words – Alone in the Dark. The next-gen version of this game includes a feature allowing players to effectively forward-wind past the tricky bits. Other games include sharp-shooting AI allies that will happily do all the blasting if you let them, as players of Halo Reach may be discovering right now. The opposite is also true...
AI allies that make no difference
Your artificial squad buddies are tooled-up, talking the big-talk and are fully ready to jump into the full heat of battle. Pity, then, that their efforts make no actual difference to yours. We guess it’s hard for developers to get the balance right, but that doesn’t stop this being very annoying. Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and too many other shooters do this.
Balancing issues and examples that AI coding is not exactly a piece of cake to do. In addition, it's even harder to code AI that can present worthwhile help for experience players but don't do everything for a noob player, and in contrast AI that can present a credible threat to experienced players while not being impossible to deal with for the newcomers.
Games you can’t play in daylight
Some titles are so dark and dingy that they’re practically impossible to play during daylight hours unless you draw the curtains and turn the TV contrast right up. Alan Wake and Halo: ODST have had us squinting recently. Our PlayStation Move didn’t seem to like being played in strong sunlight either.
Limitation of form, not the art. Displays have a limited contrast ratio, and playing in strong sunlight is just stupid considering the fact that a monitor can only emit so much light - in a sunlit room, ANY scene will look darker than it's designed to. It makes no sense blaming the games for the shortcomings of the hardware.
If the game is too dark, adjust the gamma setting - usually games have this option. If you play in direct sunlight you deserve to squint your eyes at the monitor - it's like you would rip the roof off a film theater in the middle of the day and expect the audience to have the same viewing experience when the silverscreen is exposed to 50 thousand lux.
Aiming is slower with zoom
Think about it – using your gun’s zoom scope should amplify your every movement, thus making aiming super-sensitive. And yet the opposite happens in most games that boast such a feature, leaving you open to unseen enemies as you slowly draw a bead on your zoomed-in target. Like, why?
I don't get this. This is dumb. It sounds like the writer WANTS a more annoying game mechanic.
There are many reasons this is done as it is. First of which is that at normal field of view, the pixel width at the monitor is much larger than the actual accuracy for an experienced shooter would be, even at standing position. In prone position, an experienced shooter can keep the weapon almost stationary, and zoom-in is required even with iron sights to model the full accuracy of the weapon. Optical sights enlarge the image, and an experienced sharpshooter can and must have very good control over the direction the weapon is pointed, which means they must be able to change the direction of the aiming in controlled motion.
If the aiming stayed at the same angle per movement of mouse, use of any zoom-in for iron, holographic or optical sights would be completely useless since it would require insanely small movements of mouse at zoomed in mode and be so sensitive that probably the mouse accuracy would be limiting factor of performance even if people could move the mouse accurately enough, or alternatively in non-zoomed mode you would be required to do insanely large motions of the mouse to turn your character's aim point for a few degrees.
In other words, this game mechanic simulates how actual weapons' accuracy is affected by using the sights (either magnifying or non-magnifying) as opposed to aiming by the barrel of the weapon, which is a valid technique at short ranges.
TL;DR - the games simulate the skill of the shooter, which means when you aim through the sights, you get more control over where the bullet goes.
This should be a no-brainer...
Rival drivers with superhuman skills and magical cars
You have earned what you believe to be the best, fastest car in the game and are giving your in-game rivals the beating they deserve, only for one of them to overtake like you’ve just slipped into reverse. To make matters worse, he’s driving the same car as you! Does this ring a bell with any Split-Second drivers?
Oh, rubber banding. Or AI cheating to offset their incompetence by superior performance. IL-2 does that, it's annoying as hell and the reason why most people just play in multiplayer.
Even when this technique is used for introducing dramatic effect, it can be a bit jarring. However, as far as the example goes, clearly the writer is not aware of how much little differences in the cars and drivers' skill and knowledge of the track can vary the relative performance.
There are some equally annoying things in some RPG's like the first KOTOR - when I first encountered Malak, I could beat his ass from here to saturday already, yet he had plot powers that prevented me from ending the game then and there, and instead the game continued on a predetermined path... It was sort of annoying.
Restarts that put you too far back in the game
If we had a Pound every time we died ¾ of the way through a level and were restarted right at the beginning – minus any weapons or power-ups we’d earned – we would have, ooh, several quid by now. This one’s as old as the hills, and is a favourite tactic of old school shoot ‘em ups like R-Type.
There is a simple answer to this. Unlimited saves, or even unlimited saves while not in combat. This limitation actually is one of the things that were an annoyance in FreeSpace and FreeSpace2, as in other space sim genres - in-mission saves were not possible.
And those are just the examples that spring immediately to mind. Give us another five minutes and we could probably reel off as many again, but we thought you might enjoy the opportunity to share a few of your own greatest gaming frustrations. Over to you then...
Some of these I find agreeable, others not so much.
I myself am more bothered by impossible physics or improbably physical capabilities of the player character, without plausible explanation. Assassin's Creed comes to mind first and foremost. Leap of faith, anyone?
Or games where the whole premise is basically impossible. I'm looking at Assassin's Creed again - DNA does not work like that!
Or game mechanics that are put in place just to artificially limit the player. If you have a hammerspace inventory, why would they limit the amount of items you can carry (as in Dragon Age and Mass Effect) or make it so that the weight of the items put into the hammerspace storage still affects you and you can only carry a set weight (Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)?
If they give you a hammerspace inventory they should keep it unlimited, damn it. Or actually measure the actual storage capacity in volume and weight, if they really want to limit the amount of things you can carry, but amount of things you can store
should be another thing. Hell, in Dragon Age you have a whole camp site, why couldn't you just put the extra stuff on some carriage or something. At least in Oblivion you could hoard your extra stuff in a house once you bought one, and same was possible in Baldur's Gate 2 - you could save the stuff you didn't want to sell but couldn't carry by putting it in a pile on the floor of the house that you got as part of your class quest...