Monday, August 08, 2016

What Can We Learn From Bad Games?

Some games are made to be bad. Some are projects looking for a quick cash grab and fail at plot, characterization, and are full of technical issues. And some games just suck.

But with failures come learning experiences for developers, publishers, and gamers alike. While it doesn't stop the cash-cow of Ubisoft from pushing out new Assassin's Creed games every year, can we agree that Unity was a disaster that needed to be put into the grave asap? While Syndicate was far from perfect, it made up for the shortcomings of Unity with more engaging characters and fewer glitches.

Ars Technica took it upon themselves to play some of the worst rated games on Metacritic, so you don't have to! And in the process they came up with some interesting results.

The biggest takeaway is that if you are going to make a video game, do it well. You don't have to have the flashy graphics of a Triple A title. But you do need to make it as bug free as possible, and have a story that is compelling enough to keep people interested. Five Nights at Freddy's is far from a visual feast, but it is so well designed that we can ignore it's graphic shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is.

Aside from the obvious, it's apparent in the article that the lack of a proper control scheme spelled the end for these bad games. Even the most complicated of designs still require a simplified controller so that users can pick up and play with little instruction. But when every button on the keyboard is programmed and we don't which letter should be used to move? That's a sign to stop playing and walk away. The controller IS the game. Without the proper interface or design scheme, people will no longer invest the time into playing.

But equally as important in the immersion factor are the digital characters that create the world that the gamer plays in. In every game the NPC's matter. What good would Fallout be if you didn't have the chatty shop keeps that make you question your game-life choices? As Ars Technica found out while playing Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny, which sounds like a bad DnD rip-off:

"The game’s NPCs are stiff, awkward, and all seem to be voiced by the same voice actor, regardless of gender or appearance. They also don't offer much help explaining the obtuse game mechanics, which would have been useful in terms of combat."

While the hayday of quick, cheap games to make money is far from over, we have been seeing a surge of independent games that look and play wonderfully. The follies of the past are being taken to heart with the new generation of developers.

What lessons have you learned from playing bad games?

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