By Daniel Shaw:
It really is indicative of how powerful these gripes are, as well as how easily they crop up, when I just barely get done with my first list only to be visited by the next set in my nightmares. Some of these are admittedly pet peeves, but some are true problems in need of serious addressing. I’m not a fan of wasting time, so let’s get right to it.
These are my Twelve Gaming Gripes of Christmas: Part 2!
8) Horde Mode
Anyone who has ever been ganged up on at school will immediately know this one. Differing levels in difficulty are a staple of gameplay. With each progression, the difficulty is raised just slightly and maintained in order to create a balanced experience. Can this be screwed up? You bet it can! In an industry that has featured aliens, robots, zombies, orcs, or alien-robot-zombie-orcs, you can be certain there has been more than one instance of “horde mode.” Recall how we observed that an enjoyable gaming experience requires careful planning and balance. In the hands of a lazy developer, that essential law is entirely forgotten. In order to artificially raise the difficulty level, some developers (DEVs) will force the player to contend with a sudden massive wave of enemy combatants. This will often come when the player has encountered an obstacle, like a locked door. Perhaps another rubbish NPC is trying to open that door and you’re left having to defend them against Sauron’s entire army. This cropped up to an annoying degree in Bungee’s Destiny. Time and again, the player was forced to defend their robotic counterpart while wave after wave of enemies were poured into the stage. You’re not clever DEVs, you’re lazy and you know it.
7) Season Passes: The Gateway Gimmick
Let’s think back to a time when the internet was not as prevalent in our lives as it is today. For some, that will be difficult, perhaps impossible. Bear with me, because the practice of “Season Passes” is inextricably linked to the World Wide Web. Back in caveman times, when a game was purchased, it was contained within a plastic cartridge or even on a compact disc. I once found a Big Trouble in Little China game on a cassette tape; that’s how far back this business goes. In any case, when a game was purchased, the purchaser was able to find a then-taken-for-granted feeling of solace, knowing they now owned a full, complete game.
Oh my, how things have changed. The primary objective for the larger publishers has inevitably shifted from presenting a full, complete game to increasing profits as much as possible. Lately, this has been accomplished by introducing season passes. Simply put, season passes are chunks of the game and story that are sold separately at a later date, or doled out over a period of time. There are instances in which separate content is just meant to add to the game and supplement the completed story. However, most of the time, it really is just a matter of a publisher chopping the game up and selling it in pieces. It’s not only obvious when this is done but extremely infuriating. The message this sends to gamers is that big publishers can water down the soup, sell it for the same cost, and we’re too stupid to notice. This tactic also has the downward effect of leading to another insidious business practice that is far worse. However, we shall have to save that for another entry.
6) “How Do I Save?”
I can’t believe this is actually an item on this list. It goes back to our little rant on the lack of a pause feature. Some games can be completed in one sitting (perhaps too quickly, more on that later), but most of the time it takes a few days or even a week. This concept is supposed to be basic, thus needing no explanation; but I did promise I would be mean-spirited about this. So here we go! It can be a little difficult to run a game’s entirety in a single attempt, especially if the challenge is . . . well, challenging. In order to finish a game over a period of time, without starting from the very beginning, there should be some sort of feature that allows the player to log their progress and save their place in the game. A sort of, “saved game,” if you will. Based on that gravy boat of condescension, I’m assuming we’re all now on the same page. So then, why do some games make it so hilariously difficult to find the save feature? It’s not in the main menu, not in the options menu, or even brought up by pressing any number of button combinations. Why the hell is this so complicated?!
In Vandall Hearts 2, you had to transition from the main menu to a town setting, go outside the town to a world map, click on an empty space which brings up another menu, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list, and THEN you can save.
5) Short Run Time
Here’s a gaming problem that I’m also going to tie into a concept that I call the “Theme Park Syndrome.” You spend half a fortune just to get through the front gate, the other half of that fortune on food and drinks, and then you spend all day waiting in line for an attraction that’s over in thirty seconds. I’m excellent theme park company, if you can’t tell. What it boils down to is an experience punctuated with lots of money spent for something you wish lasted longer. So imagine a hopeful, wide-eyed gamer’s disappointment when they realize the game they just bought for over $60 is over in five hours or less. That may sound like a long time, but you need to shift your focus from movies to a medium you’re supposed to interact with. Now it’s understandable that a game shouldn’t last forever, despite Square Enix’s best efforts. However, there’s a certain expectation that, having spent so much money, the customer will be given a satisfying gaming experience that they should want to play again; i.e. “bang for your buck.” I mentioned in an earlier entry that Sony’s The Order: 1886 was a measly four hours long. It could be argued (and has) that being a launch title for the Play Station 4, the game primarily served to show off what the new console was capable of delivering in terms of graphics and controls. Well if that’s the case, then why was the game sold for a full purchase price of $60?! If it’s just a demo title then knock off twenty dollars and be done with it. Way of the Samurai 2 clocked in at an impressively low run time of two hours, but seemed to make up for it by offering the player fifteen different endings. That sounds impressive, until you imagine replaying to the same key moments over and over and over again for a slightly different result. It doesn’t matter how much polish something has if you don’t give the customer enough time to appreciate it. You just leave them feeling robbed and unfulfilled. I think the reviews for Infinity War would have been decidedly less favorable if went like: “Thanos be bad! Oh SNAP, we lose!” The End.
Things are getting exhausting here my friends, but rest assured I’m gonna finish what I started. We have four remaining gripes to address, and they shall not escape our judgement. See you all next time for the final four Gaming Gripes of Christmas!