The vestigial organs of video games

Out of anthropological curiosity, I recently acquired and played a bit of the original Monster Hunter for PS2. As a relatively recent fan of this long-running series (I was/am completely engrossed by World and Rise, but bounced off of every prior demo with alarming velocity) there were enough little gameplay and design oddities about these games that I was interested to learn more about their nascent forms. Although quite a lot has changed (e.g. the right analog stick based attack commands, which I found just about as fascinating as they were impossible to wrap my brain around) it's amazing to see how many vestiges of this original game remain. For example:

  • - Although the last two games have had continuous maps, they remain subdivided into discrete numbered areas, which would have previously been separated by loading zones. The numbers remain as a convenient way to refer to different sections of a map, but this is a feature that seems a bit unusual compared to other games featuring large, non-linear open environments.
  • - The portable musical BBQ pit is a fun little way of preparing some cooked meat while out on a hunt that I almost never need to actually use and always seemed like a frivolous inclusion until I realized it's been a mainstay since the very beginning!
  • - The seemingly arbitrary process of capturing monsters using a trap and exactly 2 tranq bombs has remained basically unchanged.
  • I'm sure there a plenty more examples (which true veterans of the series could probably write volumes about) but its fascinating to see little unintuitive quirks carry forward from generation to generation and contribute to a game's unique character. The series that probably exemplifies this even better would be Pokemon, which, despite appearances, does not differ a heck of a lot from its original Game Boy incarnation at its core. All you need to do is hear those original lo-fi creature noises or agonize over what move to forget to stay within the four-move requirement and it's pretty apparent that this would be a totally different game if it were designed from the ground up today. I'm hesitant to even touch upon the controversial reused or gently modified 3D models/animations (which, for the record, I am 100% OK with), but that also kind of falls within this category.

    I'm curious to hear about any other vestigial gameplay, audiovisual, or even hardware/console features that come to mind!

    I really like this idea but am having trouble coming up with concrete examples so I'll post a couple that lasted for a while after they were needed but eventually phased out.

    I suppose the concept of lives (or tries, or men depending on who you talk to) is vestigial. It comes from a time when game operators wanted you to put all your quarters in a machine so giving you a set number of tries was a good way to do that. Then on consoles it was a way to inflate difficult so you'd play the game longer and in the case of certain games so that you'd have to keep renting it from Blockbuster. The only reason this doesn't fit here perfectly is because developers are finally starting to do away with lives and just letting the player retry as many time as they like.

    The jump sound! Not sure there's a "why" other than "just because". When games had simpler graphics and concepts, you had to telegraph its actions however you could and having an exaggerated jumping noise was one way to do that, Sonic's being the most egregious, IMO. I can remember being surprised that Sonic Adventure had the classic jump sound, and then just as surprised when SA2 did away with it.

    Oh and save points. You don't really see manual save points anymore now that constant, automatic saving is a thing. This can be kind of frustrating though... I'm playing through the FFVII remake and I guess I was expecting save points. They served as a physical in game reminder to save or else I just might forget, and even though the game is constantly saving, if you lose a battle and want to reload, it'll start you from the last time you remembered to open the menu to save which for me isn't that often.

    These are all great, and are exactly what I'm talking about! In particular “lives” and “points” as a concept seem to persist largely because of their legacy with arcade and score-based games. Watching Nintendo navigate this with the Mario franchise has been really fascinating, to the point where, by the time we get to Odyssey, coins are finally functioning as actual currency…you know, for like buying stuff!

    This is tough to answer but really interesting. You‘re specifically looking for things that are now somewhat redundant but there out of tradition, right? So (small c) conservative series like Dragon Quest, where the whole design is traditional yet coherent, doesn’t count?

    There is certainly stuff like this in FFXIV, though that's just in relation to previous versions of the same game. For example, all the jobs from the base game have you change from a basic class (gladiator/conjurer/thaumaturge) to a _job_ (paladin/white mage/black mage) at level 30. The quest to unlock the job stone makes it out to be a big deal, but in practice (with one exception) it's just your class changing names at lvl 30. This is because of a now ditched crossclassing system (itself an old FF mechanic) that had you level up a second class to 15 to unlock your job: paladin was gladiator/conjurer, black mage was thaumaturge/archer etc. All classes since are just a job from the level you unlock it. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples like that but that's a big one.

    @christoffing#28139 Yeah, that‘s definitely an example of what I’m getting at! I apologize that the concept is a bit nebulous, but to be honest this thread idea came from a pretty nebulous feeling to begin with.

    There are a couple different ways I might think about it. For example, the idea of some facet of one individual's or one group's lifelong work that seems totally natural to the people who have been creating it for years and years, but to an outsider might seem totally unintuitive or unmotivated. Language and linguistics is another area that almost seems to consist entirely of these odd vestiges--I'm far from an expert in this regard, but one only needs to look at the English language with its confusing phonetics and abundance of redundant words.

    Anyway, this is all to say, feel free to riff on this however you want! I was considering making this into a podcast question like "What is the appendix of video games?" but I would feel bad doing that to the IC crew. If @Jaffe disagrees, though, there's a freebie for you!

    @christoffing#28139 Another weird FFXIV quirk also related to this, have you been playing long enough to remember cross class abilities?

    It used to be that each sub-role (the three main roles are tank, healer, DPS, the sub-roles are, well, tank, healer, but then it further distinguished between ranged physical DPS, ranged magical DPS, and melee DPS) had a little suite of abilities that could be shared to different Jobs, usually among the sub-roles. So for instance there was an ability called Swiftcast that was technically a Thaumaturge (prereq for Black Mage) ability that let you cast your next spell instantly on a small-ish cooldown. But you could use it as a Summoner or I think even a healer like White Mage.

    Seems useful, right? Well, there was a catch. You had to level the Job the ability technically belonged to in order to use it on the other Jobs. In other words, if you wanted to get an incremental optimization, or actually in the case of Swiftcast in particular, a very useful skill for anyone who could use it, you had to spend dozens of hours leveling a completely different class that you may or may not have even enjoyed playing at all, in order to use it on your primary Job.

    On one hand I like the idea of giving players an incentive to try out other classes, which is why I still have an affection for the job requirement system even if at this point you can probably get to level 15 in a base class in one or two sittings, or even probably like a few hours if you get a friend to power level you, so it makes me wonder how much you're really actually experiencing about a different class. On the other I'm glad they got rid of this because for people who don't enjoy the classes they'd have to play to get access to some minor improvement in functionality, it was a real drag.

    @Syzygy#28146 I wish I could go back in time and tell my young self to not do any of the Guildhests past the first two, so that I could get faster queues in the Guildhest Roulette while ensuring I will still only get the two Guildhests that take under a minute, for speedrunning the weekly Challenge Log XP bonus for doing Guildhests lol. It's 10% of the XP for your current level until level 60!

    Tangential to the thread topic and FFXIV, I appreciate how the game has put in a decent amount of work into keeping old content at least on life support by giving all players an incentive to do, or, at least, be randomly assigned to do, older content. Even Guildhests!

    Title screens with no option except for “Press Start” sure seem like attract modes that don't need to attract anyone anymore.

    @MichaelDMcGrath#28153 https://youtu.be/wgPcl1WJ98Y sure attracts me tho