Why your game turns me off

Because it might work with other people. But me? I’m old, weathered and sometimes cynical, and I can see right through your paltry deceptions. I’ve seen a lot, and that lot includes people just like you, trying to pull the same stunts you’re pulling. As a developer, of course it’s expected of you to piss off your playerbase. It’s implicit in the unspoken sort of “social contract” between you and your players. But… you’re not supposed to piss them off too much. When you do, you’ve gone to the other end and people are gonna start to, well… you know, not play your game.

You still do make games for people to play them, don’t you? Good. Since we’re on the same page, here’s a few sure fire ways of turning me off your game. Not that you have to cater to me by doing the opposite, of course. To the contrary, feel free to use this as a roadmap to deliberately make sure I won’t play your game. Or at least that I won’t play it with a smile. Up to you.

1- Stupid little achievements turn me off. No, it’s not “content”. It’s only content for OCD players, and I’m not. So when you put in a thousand irrelevant achievements, half of which don’t really matter and the other half are at the end of a huge grind and then they also don’t matter, you’re not giving me content. You’re only telling me you can’t/won’t put in real content, for real men with hair on their chests and you’re just trying to artificially extend the playspace of your game with this horsecrap because your crack team of well-paid designers couldn’t think of anything better to put in during months of brainstorming (in between Rock Band sessions, of course).

2- Forgetting about content turns me off. Don’t put in something to tease your playerbase and then forget about it for years and years. Don’t say you’re putting it in the backburner when you know full well you have zero intentions of ever finishing it properly. I’m looking at the Irvine area, where the reigning champions of this category hold court.

3- Putting the walls of your design right on my face turns me off. No design is limitless and boundless, but you could at least have a minimum of artistry and try to camouflage your limits. Or at least put them far away and out of sight, for Romero’s sake. When I hit invisible walls, try to jump and I can’t, or when your windows and interfaces have usability problems  that can be pointed out by a 7-year old (true story), or when you cockblock an encounter you’re basically telling me you don’t give a flying fjord and your game starts to suck at that precise moment. Like the intro to Mission: Impossible, we just lit the fuse and it’s only a matter of time until the shitbomb depth charge detonates.

4- No variety turns me off. I don’t care how much sense it makes in your head to limit the available selection of (x) because of whatever. People are quite probably not like you, and they would most likely enjoy being able to use twenty swords instead of three. I’m not asking you to provide an infinite selection, because I know you can’t. But that’s a far cry from just putting in only a handful of weapons and making damn sure they all have the same stats. Oh my god, they killed Variety. You bastards. Etc.

5- Designing for the 1% turns me off. When you put in content that can only sensibly and reasonably be enjoyed by the 1% of your playerbase (and you damn well know this, don’t say you don’t. you designed it that way) you should consider the advantages of joining the Witness Protection Program. Because people will hunt you down and make you squeel like a peeg. And if they don’t, they should. Not I, because I’m a man of peace, but I’ll be cheering them by the sidelines. You’re not making it epic. You’re not making it enjoyable. You’re not making it challenging. You’re just acting like a legendary dick who thinks players should make an inordinate time commitment for the priviledge of accessing that content, and to top it off they should thank you for it. Don’t bring up Diku. Don’t even dare. I don’t care how it’s always been. People are looking at you to bring them something good they can enjoy, and you’re failing them. Meditate on that in between Rock Band sessions.

6- Bland and derivative writing turns me off. The only time I enjoy the killing of ten rats is when I come here. Not when I go to your game. I want to be impressed. I want to be amazed and dazzled by the quality of your writing. Don’t tell me it can’t be done or it won’t “fit the context” of a game. Braid did it just fine and it was just one guy, damn it. I want to be engaged by what you’re trying to tell me. I want you to wean me out of this addiction I have to the “accept quest” button. I want to want to read your texts, not skip them. Don’t sell me a sweeping, epic and bedazzling tale of legendary adventure that consists basically of getting some fur and taking it to another place. What the hell is wrong with you?

That’s it for now. I gotta go yell at the kids on my lawn now.

8 thoughts on “Why your game turns me off”

  1. … Yeah, well. War Walls suck, but they seem to be a limit of the design.

    … soooooooo. Architect is coming live next weekend or so. Want an invite back in?

  2. this pretty much sums up my gripes about just about every MMO in existence. Thank Julian for helping my inner grumpy old man to vent. ;)

  3. I do have slightly mixed feelings about achievements… in theory, they can provide incentive to explore, since you know there’s something out there. This only works if the journey to the achievement is in itself interesting, as opposed to a pointless grind, and if the achievement has some merit or application besides feeding your OCD. E.g. titles in CoX can be fun to pursue, and the WAR Tome of Knowledge was sometimes fun to muck about with. I do agree though that achievements for their own sake aren’t content, and if they require grinding, they’re really annoying.

    As for the rest… damned straight!

  4. I think the best kind of achievements (for my taste) are the ones that just happen and you get as you’re doing something else.

    Congratulations, you just killed your millionth kobold. Here’s your commemorative keychain. See that kind of thing, I don’t mind. I even like. Happened as I was doing something else.

    I do take exception to the purposeful breeding of OCD-ness in gamers, first by providing a list of achievements, and second to make damn sure they are either cosmetic, or they provide a bonus so miserable that you might as well not get it (see: killing 720 or so wyrmythingamajigs in Angmar for a microscopical morale increase).

    That’s just being a dick.

  5. Julian, that’s a bookmark for reference. Either for future discussion or for when I get to show it to some MMO devs. It’s a great list, thanks for writing it up.

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