Zileas' List of Game Design Anti-Patterns

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WhattayaBrian

Engineer

11-30-2010
155 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by RocketSlug View Post
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I'd like to start by saying that I think Accessible Hardcore games and Hostile Hardcore games both have their place in games. That is to say, there's a difference between "poorly designed" and "niche".

I've played quite a bit of Spelunky, and I'll agree it's an Accessible Hardcore game. But the problem lies with how Spelunky removed its hostility. I agree with the point of the videos; it comes down to 3 things:

1. Lack of the "waste of time" factor by having short games.
2. Lack of repetition/memorization through randomly generated content.
3. Bright, happy, cartoony graphics.

Honestly, I think #3 is the most important in this specific instance. I truly believe that if Spelunky were dark and gritty like, say, Demon's Souls, people would feel the same way about it as they would other "hostile" games.

Take shmups for example. They follow a very similar design. Unless you're infinitely looping Gradius V, games are at most an hour (and generally much shorter, depending on the shmup). And shmups are about 50/50 between rote memorization and random bullet patterns (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil is extremely random, Imperishable Night is very deterministic), so, besides enemy spawn locations, there are shmups where, in order to simply play and succeed (not score), you don't have to memorize nearly anything.

But then we have point number 3. Far, far fewer people play the CAVE shmups than they do Touhou. I firmly believe it's because it's "Hey, you play young girls and you fight young girls!". It's accessible from a visual standpoint, and that's why it's **** near taken over Japan.

And hey, Death Smiles was successful enough that CAVE made Death Smiles 2.

But even then, though I admit the existence of Accessible Hardcore games, I still want my Hostile Hardcore games, because for every concession you make, that's tension lost. I don't want to say that people aren't allowed to make hardcore games if their game takes longer than 2 hours; that's just silly. Nor do I want to force them to have random elements if that's not the way the game should be.

Sure, Spelunky takes about 20 minutes, but it was fashioned after roguelikes like TOME that can take around 20 hours to beat with permadeath.

Bunny Must Die is, I think, a good example of a Hostile Hardcore game. Save points aren't rare, but aren't common either. But when you get to the end of the second story, you have to fight a boss with 9 different forms, 1 of which only has instakill moves. But finally beating that boss felt amazing, because I'd legitimately achieved something. It wasn't handed to me, and I had to repeat content over and over again, and that's why it was great. If I had a checkpoint in-between each of those 9 forms, I'd have finished it my first try and it wouldn't have meant anything.


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Venguy

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Senior Member

11-30-2010

this game's burden of knowledge is still pretty bad. it's just much lighter than dota. imagine if their was bounty text when you clicked champs, towers, dragon, etc. the number of level 30s that have been level 30 for months but still underrate dragon control to a dangerous level might decrease. imagine if tooltips displayed more information like if they can still be blinded, cleansed, and so forth but were still concise.


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Ahsas

Junior Member

11-30-2010

I've gone skimming through the pages upon pages of comments and am surprised that no one has brought up Udyr's Tiger stance.

I'm not sure if this would fall under any one of your patterns or if it'd fall under a new one, but the stance's "split the attack into 3 attacks at 1/3rd damage, on-hit effects only proc on the first, other effects like lifesteal proc on all attacks" is frankly terribly designed. It appears to be a purely aesthetic design choice that results in confusing mechanics and awkward gameplay. Many Udyr's complain that it makes last hitting much more difficult for example.

The very nature of the split attacks results in a situation where it is always equal, if not worse, to the base case of a single attack. Flat damage reduction like Amumu would be a case in point. If thise feature is meant to be a balancing act to counter-act the raised attack speed, like being unable to crit in Turtle Stance, it might make more sense. Even then though, there are much easier ways of balancing a stance, so I hope that that isn't the case.

I guess my question is: Is Udyr's Tiger Stance a design anti-pattern? If so, which one? What was the reason for splitting the attacks?


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Ragura

Senior Member

11-30-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
Actually, I think that BG 1 and to a greater extent BG2 are much stronger games than dragon age. The reason is that while the writing of Dragon Age is much better, BG2 gives a lot of very satisfying spells and items, while DA just has occasionally satisfying spells.

Additionally, BG2 has only a few 'screw the player' situations, while DA is stock full of them with stun locking NPCs and really out of control dynamic difficulty scaling. So I would say that the things that make BG1 and 2 great are in fact areas where t hey don't have many anti-patterns, and mostly are a good game ;p Dragon Age, to me, is a major step back mechanically vs BG2 in most cases.
You seem to have misread what I meant to say. I fully agree that BG & BG2 are infinitely better games than Dragon Age. However, looking at burden of knowledge or complexity, Baldur's Gate takes it to the extreme on many levels. Unless you would say Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition is a simple ruleset :P It also had a bazillion ways to handle situations strategically and although I never played D&D nor did I understand all of the mechanics (took me 2 playthroughs to understand what THAC0 meant), I could still very much enjoy the game and never felt like the game eluded me somehow.

What I'm trying to point out, is that simplifying games and making them easier in general is a trend that caters to a "starter" gaming crowd, wouldn't you agree? I mean, I bet when you started gaming games were difficult yet still very fun. Now they're still fun, but not as satisfying anymore because there's little challenge remaining in many cases. Look at Kirby's Epic Yarn. Very fun game, but not challenging in any way. Now give me Epic Yarn where I can actually die and have to replay some parts (not the NES/SNES way of the entire game obviously, which is bad design in a modern gaming world I agree).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zileas View Post
That's not true, and this flies in the face of everything that has ever been learned about marketing. While everyone would LIKE to sell an 'all' product, aside from a few very narrow things usually involving monopoly power, this just isn't possible because different customers have different requirements, and the more educated the customers become, the more discerning and 'nichey' they become. I think that gaming audiences are one of the most discerning of all.

Ultimately, broad appeal doesn't mean all appeal, and you are vastly over-simplifying here by equating 'casual' League of Legends users to 'general' casual users -- like farmville users. A "casual" league of legends player probably has played WoW and would be playing the latest Metroid or Call of Duty or whatever if they weren't playing LoL. Most people would call that a hardcore or mid-core gamer. It's possible to be a bit broader on a hardcore concept and still be hardcore -- with millions more users. But your argument seems based around this fallacy that there are two users -- 'hardcore' dudes like you, and a giant rabble of casual gamers who seek to destroy your fun through their market economics... when in fact, there's a tremendous number of types between.

Anyway, go look up some of the market sizing on this stuff. Casual games are not where the majority of game industry money. Sure, Facebook games make a lot. But compared to hardcore games in general? Compared to hardcore online games? Not as much...
I admit that I don't have any knowledge about marketing in the game industry, but as a gamer I notice changes in trends first hand. I can see consoles like the Wii doing well, games getting ridiculously easy, storylines being dumbed down to the extreme, bad design covered up by a low learning curve, ...

From what you said I can see you prefer games like Baldur's Gate over Dragon Age. Yet, to Bioware Dragon Age is a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate and they don't see it as a different genre or a spin-off genre or whatever. It's the same genre, same structure, updated graphics. But to many gamers including myself, it doesn't even feel the same. It lacks challenge (even on nightmare, seriously), it lacks plot depth (seek out allies, oh wait I don't even need them in the end fight), has bad itemization, unclear game mechanics, MMO type sidequests that really don't belong in a plot-driven world, ... The list goes on.

This can be applied to soooooooo many games I've played in the past three to four years. It started sometime at the end of the PS2 era I think. PC games were traditionally harder and more complex, but in a world where many PC games are ported over to consoles or the other way around, this distinction is fading fast.

DOTA was the base for the whole MOBA genre. I never played it online, because I felt it was too hard to get into. That's why I was looking forward to League of Legends so much and that is why I still play it daily. But the barrier of entry for me wasn't the heroes of DOTA, it was the lack of a MM system that matched me with equally noob players. I didn't get the time to learn the game on my own pace. There were no bots to play against (there are now I think?), so the only way to learn was to submit yourself to being flamed over and over and over until you'd either given up or get better and join the flamers to keep the cycle going.

LoL doesn't have this problem (as much). The MM is decent and there's 30 summoner levels to get through before being considered an experienced player. Champions rotate, runes/masteries are unlocked sporadically, summoner spells are gained on a per level basis. There's also a good tutorial in place now to teach players the basics (WATCH OUT FOR THE TOWER).

Anyone who's now starting LoL has all the tools they need to succeed and champion complexity is not a burden this. If you'd play with 4 champions simultaneously and had to control all of them and make sure you pull of clutch combos then I'd say this game needs some serious dumbing down. If a new player plays until level 10 and still thinks the game is way too hard and complex, the game will always be too hard and complex for them. They might like how it looks or they might think playing the game is cool, but it's not the game for them. And there's plenty of other games out there for them to play.

But right now you have a good current player base. This player base is telling you what they want, which is more interesting abilities and to not be treated as players with the capacity to only remember one thing at a time. To be fair, there ARE still original and interesting abilities being introduced into the game, but they're few and far between. With new champions being released, a short learning process every two weeks would probably be considered fun by most of your playerbase. Learning process is probably the wrong word. Adapting to new possibilities and functionality would better describe it.

And this is what keeps a game with additional features/content being patched in interesting in my opinion. New art, albeit usually very cool, does not bring much new to a game if it doesn't have the gameplay to support it. And nobody really likes recycled gameplay, in this case abilities. It's fine to have a few cloned abilities with slight alterations in it for new champions if it fits their kit. But aside from a role definition, a new champion should also have some sort of defining ability. Looking at it from this point of view, many of the older champions are more unique than the new champions, because they didn't have the problem of other champions existing before them. And yet, the new champions are still fun to play, but only because they take these already existing abilities or mechanics and improve on them. That's why the forum constantly refers to Tristana 2.0, Yi 3.0, etc...

I'm not defining a casual gamer as someone who plays Facebook games and Farmville. To me, those players can't even be defined as gamers in the original sense of the word. To me casual gamers are the people who would like to get into gaming, but want to do so while turning off 70% of their brain functionality and just have fun. You won't hear me say having fun is a bad thing at all, it's the most important thing for any game. But, developers are now making sure games are fit for the regular gaming crowd (I call this the hardcore gamers, not hardcore as in people who love Gradius at the highest difficulty level) as well as the casual gaming crowd. And unfortunately, these two are not compatible at all. A regular gamer can enjoy a casual game, but it's not their preferred type of game. Unfortunately, this constitutes a large percentage of all games being released because I can only assume it's the wisest thing to do from a business perspective. Again, I can't say for sure this is the reason, I can only observe from the gamer's point of view.

As far as farmville players playing League of Legends, I doubt there's many players like this. I doubt there's even less farmville players that are financially benefitial to you. So I think it's fair to say they can be discarded from the target audience. Casual players in my sense of the word, people who like a fun game without too much thinking or challenge involved, are probably well represented in the current player base. But as I tried to point out by taking the example of WoW raiding before, these players will also have evolved by level 30. Else they wouldn't have reached level 30 to begin with, it's just that kind of game. That's why I think the player base of LoL can't be split into casual/hardcore the same way it can be split for a general gaming audience, because we're already talking about dedicated gamers. In a sense, most of the LoL players are probably "hardcore" in my eyes. Again, this does not have anything to do with time investment, mathcrafting or tryharding to the extreme. It has to do with accepting that a game takes at least some dedication to get good at and this in turn will also translate into a reward for the player when he or she reaches this point.

I hope I got my point across this time, even though you probably don't agree with most of what I said :P In any case, continuing in the current trend in LoL's case will not make it a worse game I believe. I just think it could be improved by taking some "risks" and trusting the player base's capabilities some more

PS. I hope my English doesn't sound bad or is full of grammar and spelling mistakes, which I realize would make my post excruciatingly annoying to read... I'm from Belgium and I try to do my best to get my point across on the internet even though it's not in my native language


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RocketSlug

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Senior Member

11-30-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by SelimBradley View Post
But even then, though I admit the existence of Accessible Hardcore games, I still want my Hostile Hardcore games, because for every concession you make, that's tension lost. I don't want to say that people aren't allowed to make hardcore games if their game takes longer than 2 hours; that's just silly. Nor do I want to force them to have random elements if that's not the way the game should be.

Sure, Spelunky takes about 20 minutes, but it was fashioned after roguelikes like TOME that can take around 20 hours to beat with permadeath.

Bunny Must Die is, I think, a good example of a Hostile Hardcore game. Save points aren't rare, but aren't common either. But when you get to the end of the second story, you have to fight a boss with 9 different forms, 1 of which only has instakill moves. But finally beating that boss felt amazing, because I'd legitimately achieved something. It wasn't handed to me, and I had to repeat content over and over again, and that's why it was great. If I had a checkpoint in-between each of those 9 forms, I'd have finished it my first try and it wouldn't have meant anything.
Well I'm glad we're on the same page. Personally, I hope that Spelunky isn't considered accessible because of its cartoony graphics alone. In my personal opinion, the "minimal wasted time" factor is the most important. I think a good example is N by metanet. Levels ranged from fairly simple to very intricate; easy to fiendishly hard. Each level takes no more than maybe 30 seconds to get through, but I've been stuck on a single one for weeks before. When I completed a set of levels, man was that a feeling of accomplishment. I think it was the excellent level design that ratcheted up the tension so you're constantly flying by the seat of your pants. Even though death was cheap, I don't think that making it any more hostile would've increased the tension without putting in a heavier dose of anti-fun.

I'm rather curious as to how much tension you think is lost when a difficult game strives for "player empathy" as Anthony Burch calls it. I hope you can find some time to look at VVVVVV or N and see if you think it would've been a worthwhile shift in the accessibility vs. hostility scale if there was a harsher punishment for death.

As for Bunny Must Die, it looks very interesting. Reminded me of another game, Holdover. Come to think of it, what do you think about non-punishing "punishments?" Did you see the Rev Rant where Anthony Burch mentioned Queens (The Epic Fail video)? It was about how we can induce a "punishment" to the player without interrupting a player's progress or flow through a game. I think in this respect Holdover does it well. Every time you die, you leave a bloodstain on the ground, similar to Demon's Souls. It acts like a psychological incentive to not die, even though checkpoints are fairly tightly clustered. Again, I think this game is an excellent example of having strong, satisfying tension that is maintained well throughout the segments between checkpoints (like N).

EDIT: The further the point, now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm curious about your Bunny Must Die example. Where was the save point before the boss? Was it right outside of his room or maybe 5 deathtrap-laden rooms away? You see, I'm perfectly okay with punishing your progress, but only if I'm not repeating bullsh!t. Take Bunny Must Die. If I were to die to one of the boss's insta-kill moves, and the save point is five deathtrap-laden rooms away, I feel as though i would be more frustrated by the thought that I'd have to traverse five deathtrap-laden rooms to fight the boss again than the insta-kill move. Having me redo this arbitrary tedium neither puts me in the frame of mind to bring all my learned skills to bear nor does it bring the cost of death low enough for me to experiment with different strategies and tactics. I feel like these kinds of super-hard bosses are all about pattern memorization, and that if you can't immediately figure out the proper strategy to fight him you're going to be spending the next hour or so frustrated. This is one instance where N may be a bad example because there is a hard division between levels, but games like Holdover and (presumably) VVVVVV do this well in that they place checkpoints right before difficult sections so as to avoid repeating the tedious parts if you die and then it respawns you right before the skill-intensive section.


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WhattayaBrian

Engineer

11-30-2010
156 of 282 Riot Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by RocketSlug View Post
Well I'm glad we're on the same page. Personally, I hope that Spelunky isn't considered accessible because of its cartoony graphics alone. In my personal opinion, the "minimal wasted time" factor is the most important. I think a good example is N by metanet. Levels ranged from fairly simple to very intricate; easy to fiendishly hard. Each level takes no more than maybe 30 seconds to get through, but I've been stuck on a single one for weeks before. When I completed a set of levels, man was that a feeling of accomplishment. I think it was the excellent level design that ratcheted up the tension so you're constantly flying by the seat of your pants. Even though death was cheap, I don't think that making it any more hostile would've increased the tension without putting in a heavier dose of anti-fun.

I'm rather curious as to how much tension you think is lost when a difficult game strives for "player empathy" as Anthony Burch calls it. I hope you can find some time to look at VVVVVV or N and see if you think it would've been a worthwhile shift in the accessibility vs. hostility scale if there was a harsher punishment for death.

As for Bunny Must Die, it looks very interesting. Reminded me of another game, Holdover. Come to think of it, what do you think about non-punishing "punishments?" Did you see the Rev Rant where Anthony Burch mentioned Queens (The Epic Fail video)? It was about how we can induce a "punishment" to the player without interrupting a player's progress or flow through a game. I think in this respect Holdover does it well. Every time you die, you leave a bloodstain on the ground, similar to Demon's Souls. It acts like a psychological incentive to not die, even though checkpoints are fairly tightly clustered. Again, I think this game is an excellent example of having strong, satisfying tension that is maintained well throughout the segments between checkpoints (like N).

EDIT: The further the point, now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm curious about your Bunny Must Die example. Where was the save point before the boss? Was it right outside of his room or maybe 5 deathtrap-laden rooms away? You see, I'm perfectly okay with punishing your progress, but only if I'm not repeating bullsh!t. Take Bunny Must Die. If I were to die to one of the boss's insta-kill moves, and the save point is five deathtrap-laden rooms away, I feel as though i would be more frustrated by the thought that I'd have to traverse five deathtrap-laden rooms to fight the boss again than the insta-kill move. Having me redo this arbitrary tedium neither puts me in the frame of mind to bring all my learned skills to bear nor does it bring the cost of death low enough for me to experiment with different strategies and tactics. I feel like these kinds of super-hard bosses are all about pattern memorization, and that if you can't immediately figure out the proper strategy to fight him you're going to be spending the next hour or so frustrated. This is one instance where N may be a bad example because there is a hard division between levels, but games like Holdover and (presumably) VVVVVV do this well in that they place checkpoints right before difficult sections so as to avoid repeating the tedious parts if you die and then it respawns you right before the skill-intensive section.
I've played quite a bit of N (though not N+, sadly). I think I beat the first 70 levels? To be honest, if we're talking about frustration, N blows. Demon's Souls. Away. It is legitimately the worst feeling in the world when you get stuck on a level and want to take a breather, but you can't because it's the fifth in a set, and the previous four were insanely difficult as well. Jumper never pulled that garbage. Putting it in perspective, if other "hardcore" games make you play through 10 minutes of garbage if you game over, N makes you play through potentially hours' worth of levels you've already beaten if you decide you don't want to play any more for whatever reason.

I've been wanting to play VVVVVV since before it came out, but I can't really afford frivolities like that right now. As soon as I can, as it looks (and sounds) amazing. I'm fairly certain I've heard of Holdover before. To be honest, I kind of blew it off since the people I was hearing about it from kept harping about how the main girl is (or starts?) completely naked. I don't know if that's true. But maybe I'll give it a shot. I could use a break from La Mulana.

With regards to BMD. Yes, the save point was directly before the boss, but, before you go "Ah hah!", let me remind you of something that many people seem to forget. As you play through Demon's Souls levels, you unlock shortcuts that allow you to get to the bosses extremely quickly. This is not true for every area (4-2 aka path to the Old Hero), but it is for most. It's no exaggeration to say that, once you've flipped the right switches, you can get to the boss in less than 2 minutes. Sure, 2 > 0, but it's not nearly as heinous as people make it out to be, yet DS is the poster boy of hardcore games for this generation.

With regards to non-gameplay consequences for death, I have to say I'm skeptical. With your specific example, I think it's important to describe myself somewhat. I hate generic characters, and by that I mean characters that the player himself creates and is supposed to personify. WRPGs are notorious for this. They have this story they want to tell, but in every cutscene there's this robot (the player) just standing there. Sure, sometimes you get the chance to choose from a few scripted lines in an effort to define yourself, but it's all incredibly shallow and in no way helps the story. But that's only if it's a game with a legitimate story. If we're talking about a storyless game, then I would say I just don't care. Why would I care about a character (the queen) completely devoid of personality? If Spelunky RNG'd the guy you control, it wouldn't change the game for me one bit. I can't feel empathy for a robot.

But say, in a magical world, we have game with a story with an infinite number of awesome, well defined, deep characters, and each time you die, you pick a new one, but that old character is dead, for reals. And this game is so magical, that the story changes fluidly depending on who lives and who dies. Would I feel empathy then? Probably. But it's irrelevant. Because what's actually going to happen is that I (the player) am going to play through the first time without caring, trying my best, but not sweating a few deaths here and there. And then, once I beat it, I'm going to start over and do a perfect run, letting no one die.

In this situation, what was supposed to be a non-gameplay punishment turned out to be worse than pretty much anything other hardcore games throw at you. I'm not blaming the game for that, mind, but that's just how I work.

I think the problem with most games these days is that they don't have deep and fulfilling scoring systems. Scoring died with the death of arcades, but a few games still use them to great extent: shmups and rhythm games. For rhythm games in particular, it gives a really interesting dynamic. You now have two "paths" you can flip-flop between at will. You have the songs you're currently trying to beat, and the ones you're currently trying to score well on. I've beaten a few 11s on IIDX, but my highest FC is an 8 (maybe there's a really gimmicky 9 in there), and my highest PC is like a 6. Scoring gives a widespread, easy to implement replayability to levels you can finish easily. Honestly, most shmups can be beaten pretty easily. Touhou in particular just inundates you with lives and bombs all the time. But scoring in the Touhou games is a monster all to itself, with pattern-by-pattern milking techniques crafted over years.

But, in the end, I grew up with games, and I'm fine with losing small/medium amounts of progress in gameovers, especially if it's because I was just dumb. Maybe I'm just conditioned, but it seems like the natural way of things. A game like Prince of Persia is nice every once in a while, but when you fall off the bottom of the screen in SMB, you start at either the beginning or the middle of the level (unless you're in a castle, then there's no midlevel checkpoint), and you may have to make the same running triple jump 20 times in a row, but that's life.

Well, that's death, actually.


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Mistjaymes

Senior Member

11-30-2010

"Fun Fails to Exceed Anti-Fun"

let me show you a skill called Undying Rage.... the most anti-fun skill you could possibly put in this game.


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Azyral

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Senior Member

11-30-2010

I loved this post. I am myself studying game design at the moment.


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TEEAHMAT TOOSDEY

Senior Member

11-30-2010

What is your opinion on Cho's ult?

The damage makes it a great initiation, but is also a strong finisher.
The HP bonus promotes tanking, but tanking usually results in death, and death can result in a large HP loss, hindering your ability to tank.


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ArborBarber

Senior Member

12-02-2010

With regard to "False Choice", how do you feel about Mercurys treads being the right choice on almost all characters at almost all times? Feels kind of stagnant, and it really is not exciting to be building them every game, I would prefer to find myself in more situations where Mercury's treads are not clearly the only smart choice to build.