1. Never make me watch a cutscene more than once.
We’ve all been there – you’re stuck behind a particularly frustrating checkpoint, only it’s not frustrating because of the gameplay. It’s frustrating because you have to watch some inane 30-second bit of action every time If this happens in a game, it’s not a design decision, it’s a straight-error.
2. Never end a game with a QTE Boss if you don’t think a classic boss fight fits the encounter.
You get to the end of the game, and you find yourself facing down the main baddie. Rather than fighting him with some actual piece of gameplay, you find yourself hitting random buttons every few seconds to make your character punch the guy until you’re allowed to stop. This is awful. t think a classic boss fight fits the encounter, just play a cinematic. Don’t make me hit X every once in a while to advance your damn story. Worst case scenario, I fail your QTE event, and now I have to watch the ending of the game twice, making me hate not just your game, but you, and everyone you love.
If your cinematic is interesting, you don’t need to make me cram X to keep me engaged.
3. Don’t cram boss fights in where they don’t belong.
Here’s looking at you, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Here’s a hint – if you’re making a quasi-realist game that purports to offer a range of choices between nonviolence and shooting, don’t throw me in a room with an armored mech capable of soaking up 20 shotgun blasts to the face. Boss fights can be great, but we’re way past the time when they need to be in every game — it’s time for developers to realize this. Hats off to Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which manages to combine an unnecessary traditional boss and a QTE boss into one boss.
4. Never tell me exactly how long your game is.
We can look at the Assassin’s Creed games for examples of how to do this wrong, but there are plenty of others. At the outset of the game, these game tell you exactly how many mission groups are in the game, immediately plotting a straight course to the game being over. Now, you’re not merrily skipping your way along an exciting and unfolding narrative, we’re grimly predicting what’s going to happen between now and the inevitable conclusion. Leave a little mystery.
5. Never include collectibles with no function.
This might have flown on the NES, but long gone are the days where human beings will do more or less anything just because they want to. All systems of a game should tie together in some way, even if it’s just that they all give you the same currency. Otherwise, being the obsessive gamers that we are, we’ll still hunt your collectibles down, we’ll just resent you while we do it.
6. Never make me escort a fragile moron.
It never ceases to amaze me that here in 2013, 16 years after Goldeneye and Natalya, developers still fall prey to this simple mistake. We don’t want to spend an entire mission running in circles around some blithe bullet-seeking fool. This is not fun.
7. Never insert pointless morality.
You come to some moment with a low-level villain, and you find him lying on the ground in an interrogation room, or something. Kill or spare? Game-wise, it makes no difference – this is just the developer going with the flow. Morality systems can be great when they’re used well, but too many games fall into the old binary trap. A or B? Inconsequential good or inconsequential bad? Bioshock: Infinite made a little comment on the nature of choice an inevitability with a moment like this, but that game still irritates me.
8. Never necessitate grinding.
I do not want to perform menial and boring tasks hundreds of times in a row to achieve some notion of progress in a game. This should be a given, but unfortunately, grinding away at game progression remains a core function of many, many games today. Skyrim, includes whole sets of skills that basically can’t be leveled up any way but grinding — crafting, speech, sneak, things like that. Other games feel like the only wy to progress is to fight the same enemy in the same way 100 times. Here’s a hint — if it’s not fun, don’t make the player do it.
9. In a stealth game, make two guards talk to each other at the beginning of a checkpoint before walking away on their patrols.
This is sort of like watching a cutscene twice, but I thought this deserved its own bullet. Because oh my god, this is annoying. I just want to try this room again, I don’t want to listen to thee two idiots talk about how hot it is for the 20th time.
10. Never release an unfinished game.
This shouldn’t need to be on the list, but yes, it does. I remember playing Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, finding myself falling through the bottom of the world and up into the sky in an infinite loop, wondering how in hell that game ever made it to publication. This happens too much in the gaming world. Release a game that doesn’t work, and not only will it not sell, your reputation as a developer will suffer.