Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dying (No it is not emo, shut up)

Dying in video games is common place in our experience. Back in the 8-bit era you would die almost constantly for clearly outlined reasons. "Oh you didn't jump there, or Oh yeah that guy does a special move on his 4th move that kills you if you don't move out of the way." Arguably, I would say that it is a good thing that gaming has moved beyond the punitive memorization era. However, it seems more and more common that games today are just frustrating and do not offer a clear definition of player failure and player death.

First and foremost, it is true, no one likes dying in a video game. On that same vein, no one enjoys failing and having to re-invest more time sinks into a game. On par with that concept, that idea of difficulty and how often you die directly correlates with how much fun you have with a game. Which creates this question of difficulty. Why does it really need to exist? Why do developers need to infuriate their players to a point of frustration just to make their game? Are they so sadistic and cruel by nature?

Well of course not, or I would hope not as the situation may warrant. Difficulty needs to exist to add gravity to a players actions and add to his overall motivation for playing. If you were essentially steam rolling content, you wouldn't have fun for very long now would you? However the alternative proves itself even worse off. By creating experiences that are simply cheap and frustrating to a player, you create an alienation and complete disregard for your game altogether. While you as a developer believe you are hiding behind the concept of "challenging" the player.

Players should only fail because of his or her own skill level and understanding of the game's logic. Failure should never be related to a technical mishap that the programmer couldn't accomplish. These things should never happen or occur.

There should always be a clear outlined reason and purpose for why you failed. This gap also shouldn't be hunkered down by a long wait period either. There should be a instant and immediate response time from the point of where you failed and the time it takes for you to retry essentially. No one wants to spend two hours attempting to break your crappy game design in addition to watching that same unskippable cut scene fifty times in a row.

"Oh my god, my game is so difficult, I'm a cutting edge developer because I present challenge in my games. My games is sweet." No it ceases to become challenging, its just poor level and game design. Stop that, stop it now. Dying should be the means of failure in a game, not the adjective that describes your game experience.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on most of your points. Dying from some cheap bullshit is frustrating, but dying has to exist to provide an incentive to not fail. Games that have no penalty for death like Bioshock tend to lose their challenge, because you don 't lose your progress when you die. The best strategy to use is to run out and beat down enemies with no regard for your own life, get killed, and repeat, which in my opinion is less fun than having consequences for death.

    I like games that make you repeat parts of a level when you die, but not replay hours of gameplay again. I think having to repeat 10-15 minutes of gamplay isn't too bad, but it really depends on what type of game it is. I've been playing Splosion Man on Hardcore a lot, and it is really frustrating to have to repeat the entire level when you fail at the end. I think for fast action games like that, frequent checkpoints work the best.