The Game Mechanic Gripe List

Whew! It has been a busy few weeks, mostly working on the generation engine for Omega Connection, but I also got to spend some time with John Cole working on some more concept art (I really need to put up an image section). If you are a follower on Twitter then you might have seen the progress updates for the procedural generation (aka procgen aka generation engine), if not, you will have to wait until I get around to a full post about that. In the meantime, I had promised a list of game improvements from back in the Anatomy of an Indie Game Developer post. And, so, here is my list:

1. Artificial Intelligence. This is obviously my biggest pet peeve as I have spoken about this topic everywhere I can. I have even started a personal campaign “against” nVidia (I use quotes around against because I really love nVidia, but just like poking the bear as it were) for the fact that they are promoting and contributing to deep learning / machine learning AI development for every industry BUT game development. They make their billions off game video graphics but only give back to philanthropic missions (all good, no gripes on giving to curing cancer and world peace), but I have yet to see a single article on donating anything to a game developer that knows how to use deep learning (say someone who wrote a neural network in 1989 while still in high school in single threaded Pascal maybe?). My actual campaign “against” nVidia (quotes again) revolves around nVidia’s news releases as compared to the old 3dfx commercials, but you’ll have to follow me on Twitter to see more on that.

Anyway, when it comes to a single or small multiplayer games, AI is lacking, albeit only a bit and I already spoke on the single player topic in the post Game Artificial Intelligence. However, when it comes to massive multiplayer online games, or what we are now calling online cooperative strategy games (or some other such thing, we will settle on a term soon), game AI is EXTREMELY lacking. With a typical first person game, the AI developers are limited to around 20% of the fps processor cycles, but for massive multiplayer online games, companies effectively have unlimited resources for AI. For some strange reason they continue to limit everything to the same processor cycles available on a game console, as opposed to a complete server farm. Beginning to understand why this is a pet peeve of mine?

2. Monster Spawns. This is once again a subject more closely related to MMORPGs (going to start using the acronym OCSG) than anything else, but the idea of playing such a game, RPG or OCSG, is to immerse yourself in said game – to become part of and interact with the world. Creature spawns are these magical spots where stuff just comes into being, ruining the immersion aspect, but, thankfully, some companies have taken note of this. Destiny, as an example, attempted to paint a more vivid picture of their universe through the use of drop ships and non-enterable areas pouring out enemies for players to attack. Granted everything underground in Destiny is just an obvious spawn, but they tried at least.

3. Item Spawns. Actually far worse than the magical appearance of a creature ten steps in front of me, when I just killed that SAME EXACT CREATURE ten steps in front of me, is when items just appear for no good reason. I open the barrel and there is an apple. I come back an hour later and there is a cabbage in that barrel. Another hour passes and, low and behold, a gold coin has appeared in that barrel. You know what game I’m talking about and if you don’t, you obviously did not “used to be an adventurer.” I can sit beside that barrel for 24 hours straight and not see a soul in sight, but something will still appear in that barrel. Worst part is: I can’t take that barrel home with me to have a magical item spawn in my house.

4. Item Fade. Along the same lines as item spawn, is when items just disappear from the world. Generally, you have moved on and some vague story has happened behind you that allowed that item to just disappear but, if you sit and watch, there really is no story. No sweet roll maniac has run up and swiped the tasty treat you left on the road side – it just vanished.

5. Load Screens. Mostly something seen in RPGs, but when you open a door to go into a house or cave there really is no reason for having to load more of the game. You are loading this huge outside area dynamically already; a small room or cave should be nothing. Well, that’s the gamer gripe on it. The reality is that most of the time the terrain was created with some sort of procedural generator and then tweaked. Caves and buildings are added separately because the world uses a height map instead of voxels (which admittedly are a pain in the butt to do right). Also explains the lack of cliff overhangs.

6. Player / Monster / Item Identity. Simple enough one, if you haven’t met someone or something you really shouldn’t know who or what they are. Even a simple interaction or having seen the monster in a book is fine, but don’t display what it is to me if my character shouldn’t know.

7. Thieves & Player Killers. Another one on my list that is mostly for OCSGs is the lack of love, or downright hatred, from game companies for player killers and thieves. Generally, games start off with full PvP going on, but then a few farmers (take that for either meaning of the word) die to a PK and “the game is ruined for them,” so the developer starts punishing bad people and ultimately finds ways to all but eliminate it or at the very least make over 50% of the world a PK/Theft safe zone.

8. Repercussions. Death needs to have consequences. Failing a quest needs to have consequences. Sometimes those consequences should be game changers.

9. Player Stats. It would be lovely if every time I was in a meeting and someone asked for ideas we could go around the room and before anyone made a suggestion they pulled up and displayed their stats. “Oh, you suck at economics, sorry, next.” “Huh, your marketing skill is 5 out of a 100. Moving on.” Or is that not a good idea? Yea, not so much. Not in games either.

10. Rare and Uncommon. Creatures and items that are rare or uncommon should NEVER become common. I know people like being a god in game, but after they become that god they stop playing the game. People need challenges, especially gamers. Keep it challenging, including the challenge of finding a rare and powerful monster.