Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below.
Buckle up. This is gonna be...
As a reviewer at GameRevolution for over six years, I've met my fair share of terrible ideas and the worst part is getting hit with those ideas over and over again. No matter how many times critics rail against some of these awful trends, they just don't want to crawl into a bush somewhere and rot. Here are only ten of today's worst trends in gaming whose headache-inducing stench still lingers with the power of a thousand rotting skunks.
What lazy programming? It isn't rocket science to allow players to push any button to skip a cutscene that they have already watched a million times over. And not just on a second or third playthrough, but especially if a player dies after a cutscene but the save point or checkpoint occurs before the cutscene. Darn you, Lady Yunalesca!
I also believe there should be a button for replaying a cutscene as well. Sometimes, a cutscene can be so vaguely presented or so full of information that's it's difficult to follow. Or maybe the cutscene was so amazing that it deserves an encore. Just a thought, developers...
DLC That Should Have Been In The Main Storyline
Downloadable content that players pay for should be additional content and not pieces of the story that have been cut from the original story. Mass Effect 3 commits this offense numerous times. Asura's Wrath had its ending dangling for DLC. Assassin's Creed II had memory sequences 12 and 13 locked behind DLC. They might as well have made us purchase a 1,000-piece puzzle set, given us 900 pieces instead, and told us to pay more for the rest.
Luckily, publishers have been learning over the years, and developers are making sure that at the very least, DLC takes place in an alternate, self-contained area that doesn't fill a hole in the main storyline that should have been there in the first place.
No More Prequels, Please
Prequels just don't do well, critically or economically. Last year, there were two video game sequels that arrived after their trilogies ended: God of War: Ascension and Gears of War: Judgment.
Both of them weren't terrible by any means, but they felt like rushed cash-ins and because they were prequels, the endings of the plot didn't have as much tension. And there's plenty of other reasons why fans didn't react as well to them. Then the Batman Arkham series tried to end the trend by releasing Origins, but even that didn't do well either due to the ho-hum multiplayer mode and a forced premise.
If anything, developers, if you're going to do a prequel, it's best to go the route of a full-on reboot, like DmC or Tomb Raider. At least that way, you'll have a shot at doing critically well...even though the sales numbers may not meet expectations. Sad but true.
Digital Game Prices = Retail Game Prices
For publishers, the draw of digital distribution is that they don't need to front the cost of creating the plastic case, printing the paper-thin manual and cover with ink, distributing the copy to retailers and consumers, and creating the discs in the first place. So why haven't these cost-cutting measures trickled down to consumers?
Most of us know better to purchase a digital game at full price, and we'll either wait for its price to go down or purchase a retail copy because then we can share it with friends, sell it back to pre-owned stores, and display it within our shiny collection. But maybe that's the point.
Retailers certainly don't want the digital versions of games to be lower, so in all likelihood there's a hidden deal to make sure that retail versions can at least compete with its digital versions on launch day. Besides, publisher marketing teams love to proclaim just how many copies their games sold during launch day, launch week, and launch month.
So long as there are a few people willing to purchase a full-priced digital download for day-one access, there's little reason for publishers to start at a lower price when they can drop the price or have it go on sale sometime later.
Regenerating Health Without Context
Unless your character is Wolverine, a cyborg with healing nanorobots in the bloodstream, or a Fantastical character enchanted with Regen, then regenerating health doesn't make sense at all. Sure, games don't need to be realistic, although many games that use this mechanic like to tout that its guns, environments, and missions are realistic, but it's a matter of in-game logic within the context of the game world. Did you get shot in the head? Twice?! Just crouch it out, dude... huh?
Halo's regenerating shields make perfect sense because they're made of energy and can be restored, unlike health that can only be restored at a station. On a larger scale, regenerating health is just a cop-out to get players through the single-player campaign and a way for developers to make enemies as unfairly damaging or placed as possible. With a checkpoint system and infinite lives, any player is bound to get through the game with enough attempts.
This is an issue with perception. The reason on-disc DLC is such a bummer is that it's content blocked by several lines of code. So after you've already paid premium price for a title, they have the audacity to hide content that's already on the disc behind another paywall. Do you have a face? Well, here's a slap.
But if we think about it. Would it be that much better if was off-disc DLC? I mean, what we want is equivalent to saying, "When I download something, I want it to download slower from the internet and for it to take up space on my hard drive, damn it!" Alright, alright, I can still understand the sentiment of why on-disc DLC is such a vile practice. Don't be hatin'.
DLC Exclusive To A Retailer
The pre-order madness before triple-A titles is already out of control, and with GameStop employees judged by how many pre-orders they can twist out of people, it's never going to stop. But retailer-exclusive DLC should drive you bonkers.
People are simply going to pre-order from the store that's closest to them, anyway. Only a spare few will go out of their way to get a pre-order from a store miles away just so that Batman can be in the costume that they want for multiplayer.
At worst, this practice makes you think that perhaps you aren't getting the full game. I mean, if certain unlockables are cool enough to be divvied between different retailers, then doesn't that mean you're not getting the best experience? How long will you have to wait before the retailer exclusives become available to everyone? Just how many pieces are you missing?
Season Passes Are Traps!
You know how it goes. The season pass just looks so tempting. 20% off for all of the DLC? Feels like savings. All right, why not? Clickedy-click. Purchase.
And then several months later, you find that the DLC isn't as good as you thought. The developer is taking too long to get the next part out. They already have your money so what are you going to say about it? Maybe you want to sell the game, but you've already purchased all the DLC.
If there's just one piece of content that you wouldn't have gotten without the season pass, then the cost of season pass isn't worth it. You've trapped yourself. Why did you do that?
Continual Online Authentication
The requirement of a constant internet connection for games don't require one at all is a form of DRM that's obnoxious. The point of purchasing a physical copy of a title is so that you can play it offline and enjoy it without having to login into every account known to man.
And then if the game's authentication servers need to be maintained or come crashing down, that means you can't play the game at all. And if you don't have a stable internet connection or are in the middle of switching internet providers, then you're cut out of your own game. The hoops that consumers need to go through for the company to make sure there's limited piracy unfortunately makes piracy look that much more appealing.
Indestructible, Obviously Placed Cover
The only moments in The Last of Us (or Uncharted or Gears of War or Mass Effect 3) that blatantly took me out of the immersion were areas that had strategically placed cover. Is this a relatively open environment with boxes, wall edges, crates, and jutting air ducts all at one height smack dab in the middle of the field? How very fortunate for Joel and Ellie that the apocalypse didn't destroy lucky object placement.
All those assets lining up perfectly at right angles to each other is one mighty telegraph to a battle sequence. Well, there goes the surprise... On top of that, most of the time the cover is neither destructible nor movable, which tears at the game's suspension of disbelief. If this crate can absorb an infinite amount of damage, why can't my armor be made out of the crate?