What, exactly, is bad game design?

Listening to an old episode of Insert Credit (ep. 64 - Sexy 2DS and Naked Chess) and the first question was “Does the intended commercial reach of a game have any meaningful impact on it as a creative product?” They didn‘t dig too deep into this question, but I think it is a very interesting one, perhaps now more than ever, and it brings me to a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately.

What exactly constitutes "bad game design?" I wonder this because I think there is a tendency sometimes to look at something in a game, a mechanic for instance, that does not seem to have a very broad appeal and to see that lack of broad appeal as it being a poor design choice. Obviously I don't think this is necessarily the case, though I think you could argue that it is if you know for a fact that the developers wanted their game to have more broad appeal.

Now, I play a lot of indie games and recently I played through Eastward. That game has some absolutely amazing aspects, but I also have some significant criticisms of it. There are some aspects of it that really disappoint me and lower my enjoyment of the game and I have seen a lot of other people with the same or similar criticisms. However, I have also found a few people who adore everything about that game. To them it is an perfect 5/5 game. To them it is not poorly designed at all.

Personally I think it comes down to a lot of this stuff just being subjective. It would be more accurate a lot of the time to just say that we don't like the design of a lot of games, but not that the design is necessarily bad.

But this is a rich and interesting topic and I really want to know what you guys think. Where do you draw the line on what makes bad game design? What, if anything, could you call objectively bad game design?

I’d say bad game design are decisions or implementations that go against the player’s understanding or appreciation of your goals when designing the game.

The recent discussion on tertiary systems made me think about this too. Personally the weapon degradation in BotW is what makes that game for me. It keeps combat from getting stale and there‘s plenty of ways to abuse the breaking points, but I know a lot of people truly hate it. Similarly got in a discussion about combos in fighting games and a lot of my friends said that long combos make them not want to play fighting games at all because they get frustrated being juggled for 15 to 30 seconds with no control, while they’re the number one thing I look for in a new fighter. It's difficult to draw objective lines around what is good or bad design outside game breaking bugs or gatcha stuff

I get the sense that people tend to think of game design as more of a math/science exercise than they do, say, literature or film - and to be fair, there is clearly a lot more math and programming involved in its creation - but like those “softer” mediums, the line separating “good” from “bad” probably isn’t as clear-cut as we tend to assume, with the existence of polarizing game mechanics being testament to that. Chazumaru’s definition seems to me like a good one, but it requires a more abstract framing of what game design is all about. Is the game designer’s highest priority building a comprehensive system with certain characteristics, or pursuing a more fluid experiential goal for the player by means of a system? Obviously I - and probably most people here - tend to lean more towards the latter…

Zoned out on the point I was, uh, trying to get to here.

I'm wondering how useful a design critique is I suppose bc I tend to think about games as aesthetic objects rather than engineered software with a defined user expectation experience. Sorry for using dork words. I get a little frustrated when I encounter the backseat designer style of criticism rather than a consideration of saw/did/felt. The critical writing about pathologic 2 for example is kinda shallow in many instances bc of this tendency to measure the experience against what you think the developers meant to do. The new RPS review of Jett does the same darn thing. I like the obnoxious weapon degradation system in BOTW better if I think the world is just full of shoddily made swords rather than think about what kind of experience the designer is compelling me to have- that line lf thinking is just imagination poison to me

@“yeso”#p44806 I feel like I understand you and some of your posts better now!


@“yeso”#p44806 I like the obnoxious weapon degradation system in BOTW better if I think the world is just full of shoddily made swords

I love this. I totally agree with this way of thinking. If we think of games as an object of "play" (in the most abstract sense of the word) it only makes sense that the enjoyer has to bring with them a certain amount of imagination and creativity. Building blocks are most fun to a kid who, rather than contemplating what the designer wishes for him to build, realizes that he can smash them on the table and make a noise. Art is not a one-way street whereby a creator forces a system or message upon the enjoyer.

(I feel like every time I post on this forum I edge closer and closer toward becoming that _Homo Ludens_ guy so maybe I should read that book, lol)

Personally when I think of "bad" game design, I think of compulsion loops. I think that kind of addictive-on-purpose design mentality is a bit sick. Feeling that pull where you "have" to play a game is so exhausting and draining. The opposite being the feeling when you wake up in the morning with new ideas about what you might want to do / what might be possible in the game you're playing, excited to try them out.

FWIW most words will be bent, blunt or broken after going through one or two high-pitched battles.

@“yeso”#p44806 I think ideally it’s not one or the other, but a synthesis between these two that makes good game design. BotW’s weapon degradation is mechanically good because it compels the player to interact with the game in a certain way (proactive and adaptive, considering each combat scenario independently rather than sliding into a one-size-fits-all formula). It’s aesthetically good because it’s incorporated into the representational aspects of the game in a way that effectively conveys an experiential idea about the fictional world the player interacts with. It’s an elegantly designed system that, in its implementation, creates a distinct aesthetic experience unique to this medium: the “video” and the “game”.

By contrast: I _admire_, but don’t much LIKE _Silent Hill 2_. What it’s going for, experientially, is remarkable; but interacting with its mechanical systems is so dismal and frustrating, in a way that I’m not at all convinced is vital to the experience, that I really don’t feel the game on the whole is a success. Fans of the game claim the mechanical “flaws” _are_ vital to the experience, but I don’t buy that things like the repetitive, shallow combat and unresponsive character controls truly _produce_ the game’s better experiential qualities so much as players who like those qualities will themselves to tolerate the poorer aspects of the game system as part of an experience they otherwise appreciate. _Xenogears_ chases really ambitious ideas in story, themes and visual language, but its mechanical language is largely a middling genre system copied from other games with minor iteration and mostly treated as just a requisite vehicle for cutscene delivery. “Walking simulators” and “VR experiences”, I would argue, tend to create mechanical systems so thin they only loosely qualify as “games” at all (which is neither a good or bad thing, but largely removes them from the conversation of “game design” imo).

I think trying to make the player have motion sickness is morally bad game design, though it is not objectively bad game design.

To me, objectively bad game design is when the result of the design goes against the designer‘s goals. A common example I’ve witnessed is a horror game monster ending up funny instead of scary. As we rarely know a designer‘s original goals it is difficult to judge a game’s design as bad or good.

To me, bad game design is any game design decision that appears to have been made in bad faith. I think this manifests in mandatory (non-optional, non-sidequest) gameplay mechanics that seem to come with an implicit “this doesn't really matter to the experience” tag attached to them.

Example of this phenomenon from a recent game: In Tales of Arise, you'll find the typical, repetitive (almost entirely) unchallenging battles you'll find in any JRPG, and a whole lot of them! Sometimes, you'll (theoretically) reach a spike in the difficulty where the most palatable solution is to just _grind it out_. That by itself is kind of lame, but some people enjoy The Grind, so okay! Where it gets toxic is this: you can pay real-world currency for a DLC that lets you gain way more experience from each battle, which in theory means you won't have to fight as many repetitive, unchallenging battles in order to arrive at the same net result.

Now, to me, this feels like the design team admitting, "Yeah, the number of encounters is a bit silly, isn't it? But we're just going to leave it the way it is instead of trying to do something more interesting/different. You can, uh, pay us more if you want to experience less of this product, I guess?"

Does this resonate with anyone else?

@“whatsarobot”#p44879 I wanted to write something similar in my original reply but couldn't articulate it in my head beyond the phrase “Double XP Weekend Game Design.”


I'd put forward that something can be objectively bad design, but I'm struggling to come up with a way to substantiate that view.

A lot of this is hard, because, given that video games are a medium that exist and have only ever existed within an environment where mass media is the law of the land, and whether we like it or not something does need to pass a baseline of quality to become known outside of the personal connections of its creators. And even that is a tricky thing to talk about, because it would be a total cop-out to just say something is "badly" designed if it is basically non-functional, like if an amateur game developer creates a hazard that is literally impossible to navigate through because the jump height isn't high enough or something.

I think to answer this question I'm going to refer to or rather info dump about something that's been percolating in my head for a while, so if I come off as vague or unclear since there's a lot of thought behind it I'm not trying to overwhelm with, ask me some questions.

I think perhaps we don't talk enough about how a Game is something the player Plays. There has been a lot of talk especially over the past decade or so about how video games are "interactive experiences," as in, the audiovisual experience is also one where there is the expectation of audience interaction in order for the experience to happen or make sense. To make an insane follow-up argument, though, you could say the same thing about a choose-your-own adventure novel, or a [Viewmaster](https://images2.minutemediacdn.com/image/upload/c_fill,g_auto,h_1248,w_2220/v1555156096/shape/mentalfloss/iStock-458545531.jpg?itok=j4WOL90K), or a DVD with a menu and special features, yet no one is talking about my insanely clutch speedrun of 17776 (Any% so PageDown is allowed). Is walking around a sculpture and viewing it from different angles according to your whim not an _interaction_ with a statue? Also, before you ask, No, _Dragon's Lair_ is not a videogame, it's a DVD menu with an interface that has been rendered intentionally inconvenient to use (if not, originally, monetized!), and the interface intentionally mislabels the interface options for navigating between its main viewing experiences and its lacklustre suite of special features (the death scenes)^1^, and pretends that that's "gameplay".

^1^ - Intentionally provocative statements^2^
^2^ - But not dishonest, intellectually or otherwise!

The main difference between, say, a DVD menu and _Super Mario Bros. 3_, then, is that the interactions one has with a game have an element of _play._ Gameplay is differentiated from mere interaction by how it is more than just purely functional to select your Audio and Subtitle Track, or recontextualizing the visual experience one is having with a sculpture by changing one's viewing angle, or how, weird left field example I just thought of, the _Pirates of the Carribean_ ride at Disney World is a dark ride and not a role playing game, is that the interaction is itself engaging in some way. We aren't just executing rote joyless commands into a controller to play out the interactive play-in-a-movie purely audiovisual experience known as _Super Mario Bros. 3,_ the sequence of events of which is open to interpretation, we feel immersed in the experience of manipulating a little guy to run and jump around in a simulated physical space, because manipulating that very famous little guy itself feels good.

_Super Mario Bros. 3_ is a example of game Play in a way that I guess I would describe as tactile. It's fun because through interaction with the controller you feel... in control of a little audiovisual thing, your intention is being translated into movement and the manipulation of said little guy feels intuitive. And you can feel and understand how to navigate and interact with that simulated physical space, and thus engage in play, because of its good design. There are purely intellectual or even social forms of play too, of course. The act of playing chess, for instance, has very little to do with how one picks up and places or removes pieces on the board (not that that should be ignored, but more on that later), but the way the introduction of competition as well as game mechanics (the rules of chess, how pieces move and how to capture pieces, how to win through checkmate, etc.) turn that physical and perhaps purely mechanical interaction of moving a chess piece into one where you are playing a game because you are attempting to fulfill a win condition that a competitor is also trying to do and also undermining you in doing so. The competition, of course, need not be a human, either... all the AI needs to do is to maintain the illusion of the player being competed against while following all of the rules of the game. There is also an exploration and imaginative element to play, which is, say, more than the imaginative element of interacting with a novel, in the sense that a novel, even, say, a choose-your-own-adventure one, has a predetermined sequence, and offers the chance to speculate and expand on its narrative and meaning through one's own interpretation, but does not allow the reader to _author_ the text itself in any way. Something even like _Zork_, for instance, is a videogame and not an interactive novel, because it still expects you to engage in discovery of how to read it and progress through it (well, maybe I'm coming around now to the idea that a choose-your-own-adventure novel being a game). The imaginative element is the heart of roleplaying games too, in the sense that most roleplaying games don't just allow you but expect you to take some degree of authorship over the way the narrative plays out. I guess you could say it's why positioning a figurine of Doomguy and Dante from _Devil May Cry_ in front of you is an act of appreciating or even simply curating the display of sculpture, but _playing_ with them would mean you've positioned them to hold hands, and out loud you've said "By the love that has brought you here today and by the vows you have pledged, it is my great honour to now pronounce you duly married, you may now kiss your life partner," and then position them into kissing, you're now playing rather than just "interacting."

I'm laying all of this out for my own masturbatory fulfillment but also because I think it's helping me figure out what "bad" design could be, as well. I think what I mean to get at is that the core of bad game design is either an interruption or a failure to even initialize that sense of play, that is significant or regular enough that it hampers or prevents that feeling of play altogether. It's that feeling of first controlling a little guy on screen, moving around in a physical space, making strategic decisions, making discoveries or deductions, or authoring a narrative, which perhaps gets suddenly interrupted with the need to instead navigate a DVD menu, a functional input to achieve a desired result in a way that feels no bueno to have to execute in order to continue watching the choose-your-own adventure interpretative dance audiovisual movie experience of _Uncharted_ or something. Of course, games almost always need at least one menu (Press Start to Play, at least, or maybe we can count turning the console on too), and lots of games are heavily menu based and rely on picking menu actions to produce desired outcomes, that's not the issue. The issue is when that sort of thing breaks up an intuitive or immersive or engaging experience, or when an aspect of the design feels rote, unengaging, sticky, finicky, monotonous, clunky, obscure, whatever. It could also be an unexpected, unwanted, or displeasurable feedback, like, say, a bad feeling jump, or even something that breaks the spell of an immersive atmosphere or the logic of roleplaying, which is I guess also unexpected, unwanted, or displeasurable feedback. With that in mind, I think there are design choices that lead to those interruptions or nonstarters to the sense of play in a way that is more than just subjective. As in, something about the design makes more people more often feel that sense of play being interrupted or undermined, or, since we all play and move and interact and react to videogames differently, I think it's fair to say that something is badly designed if there are at least a somewhat noticeable number of people who are not able or willing to ignore it. As in, I think something is objectively badly designed if there are enough people talking about it being aggravating, and maybe the subjective aspect of it is how willing one is to adapt in how we are interacting with the game, or how able one is as well.

I'll try to bring up some pigeonholed, cherrypicked examples:

Here's an easy small one. An example of bad game design is to be found in _Mario's Game Gallery._ Released in 1995 for home computer systems and the debut of Charles Martinet in the role of Mario Mario where he speaks _a couple dozen_ complete sentences (don't worry, it's not enough that you won't end up hearing the same ones over and over again), _Mario's Game Gallery_ is a _Super Mario_ themed collection of classic card and board games; checkers, backgammon, Yahtzee but renamed yacht probably to avoid copywright, dominoes, and Go Fish. I'll refer specifically to a design element of its adaptation of checkers. In this version of checkers, the pieces are Baby Yoshis and Koopa Troopas, which, when turned into a King, turn into... Weird King Adult Yoshis and Bowsers, respectively. Now, checkers is also a badly designed game and no I won't be answering questions about this statement, but a design choice made here was to have little asinine and of course unskippable animations that accompany each move and even longer little asinine animations that accompany each piece being captured, where a Baby Yoshi or King Yoshi will eat the Koopa Troopa/Bowser, and the Koopas for some reason magically trap the Baby Yoshis in bubbles and then kick them which makes them and the bubble disappear (???) and even more strangely Bowser ALSO does this instead of, I don't know, breathing fire and burning up the Yoshis like he has been doing since his very first appearance but _whatever._ The already bad game design of checkers with an already paper thin and boring strategic design has a video game design element that is just a really obvious shorthand for so much of what bad design choices boil down to when you think about it--its the interruption of play with something annoying, distracting, frustrating, or just unnecessary monotony or tedium. In mentioning that when moving a chess piece there was no excuse not to make it feel good, I was initially just thinking about tactile and visual things like the size and weight of pieces, their material and how it feels, the size and visual design of the board, the visual design of the pieces especially with regards to how visually easy it is to differentiate both the side of each piece as well as what type each piece is, for more complex or particular things we could think of stuff like whether or not the board has markings for the rows and columns for those who use those as comprehension aids or as an accessibility aid like if a sighted person was playing with a blind person, the intangible feeling of placing a wood piece on to a raised board that doubles as a storage compartment for the pieces and hearing that tiny hollow _thud_ or the _clack_ of a glass piece on a glass board, and so on. But then I thought of _Mario's Game Gallery_ and how it takes the one saving grace of checkers, which is that it can be over quickly and often moves are not complicated so they can be executed quickly, and replaces that with an animation you will be tired of seeing halfway through the first time. That feeling of intellectual and strategic play is cut off, not to mention control of the situation, by the monotony of the animation lock.

If this sounds obvious and I'm overthinking it, I mean, of course I'm overthinking it and definitely overexplaining it, but I think this is something extremely fundamental to what makes game design what it is. It's that feeling of being immersed into the game as an interactive object and having your intentions translated into desired outcomes in a way that feels good, keeps pace with the incredible capacity the human brain has to crunch through its expectations when it comes to motion, patterns, abstract logic, that sort of thing. I really often feel that the best designed games are the ones I can feel that I am _playing_ rather than interacting with or crudely manipulating in order to produce a desired computation or physics engine generated motion or object manipulation. I also ended up thinking about _DOOM (2016)_ when I thought of what bad design is, because that game has extremely good design as well as extremely unbad design. On a certain spectrum of my own forcible creation, the adaptation of checkers found in _Mario's Game Gallery (1995)_ and _DOOM (2016)_ are on total opposite ends of a spectrum of the translation of player intention being translated into player character or gameplay action. Playing checkers in _Mario's Game Gallery (1995)_ makes one feel every drag of your crappy 1995 ball mouse, makes one feel a shock of depressed rage every time you accidentally click on Mario's Bowser piece since it's so large it's making the space behind it less visible and Mario says "Whoops, You clicked on one of Mario's pieces," and downright punishes you for making better moves by rewarding you with a longer more tedious string of the same dumb little cartoon animations for it. _DOOM (2016)_ on the other hand feels like, to me, currently the closest thing to a neurolink to an actual unstoppable violencefreak megabadass who would not once even think about even the idea of joking about the hypothetical possibility that he would be even trivially distracted by ripping and tearing demons by the act of chewing bubblegum (yet he still has a sense of humour folks). And I don't just mean that with regards to it having good controls and good audiovisuals, meaning one's movements are translated into movement on screen intuitively and we can trick our senses better than usual into thinking we are in space/hell. So much of the game's design is tailored toward putting the player into a game mechanic induced blooddrunk trance where one can only think about perpetuating a blazing fast sequence of uninterrupted cartoon hyperviolence against the hordes of Hell while your life is in constant danger too. It really does make you feel like an unstoppable force colliding into a whole bunch of movable objects just to watch 'em die, and if there is anything in _DOOM (2016)_ that is even a little bit like DVD menu shit happening, it's the upgrade system which you don't wanna be screwing around with in the middle of combat anyway, and weapon switching, which, first, you can use the keyboard number row for to do so satisfyingly nigh-instantaneously just like in the original game, or you are completely overwhelmed by a pack of demons and you need a fraction of a second in a DVD menu just to survive. Both of which feel good for different moments, somehow.

An inverse example tailored to this forum. The use of gross, wet, splatty-splorty, slicky-icky sound effects, in certain contexts and assuming the execution is acceptable, is _good_ design. If we are talking about a game with, say, gory, graphic violence, or grossout weirdo creatures, or whatever it may be, audio is obviously going to be a big factor in the ol' audiovisual immersion department. If we're talking about _DOOM (2016)_ again, and while I am unashamedly giving it to myself I don't turn down opporunities to talk about _DOOM (2016)_ very often (_DOOM (2016)_ FUCKING RULES), you're just not chainsawing a demon in half without the metallic scream and roar of the chainsaw, the horrific crunch of bone being torn apart, and the disgusting splat of an obscene amount of blood and guts falling to the ground all at once. The subjectivity of this aspect of design here is, hopefully obviously to everyone here on Insert Credit, a player's personal comfort with this intense level of aural commitment to gore. As I'm sure we all know many people have misophonia, or an above average aversion or pronounced stress reaction to certain sounds or certain sounds in certain contexts (like repetitive sounds). In that case, perhaps, then, we could also say that good sound design should be complemented with good accessibility features.

Speaking of accessibility, _Demon Souls_, the _Dark Souls_ series, _Bloodborne_, and _Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice_ intentionally implementing limited methods of adjusting mechanical difficulty is objectively bad design. The effect there is that it creates play conditions in which gameplay challenges require some combination of all of the following: above average understanding of the game mechanics, above average reflexes or hand-eye coordination or whatever, a certain specific attitude towards the act of playing it, an internet connection, and so on and so forth. The artistic motivation for this is for the game to be able to encourage more often that player interaction with the game will result in a certain kind of emotional response to it. It accomplishes this by limiting the sequence and intricacy of inputs for the DVD menu interactions, and demands a certain sort of level of dedication towards it, which will allow one to experience the totality of it in that intended way. You see, when inputting the DVD menu inputs you're supposed to experience a feeling of danger and tension, followed by a feeling of relief and accomplishment when you do the right DVD menu inputs.

To be less obtuse, it seeks to obsessively author the way a player experiences it. To be clear, almost all games do this, but few do it in such a way where, by design, it attempts to author that experience in some players by refusing concessions to others, making that experience exclusive to the ones who can manage to be good enough at the DVD menu parts. This is objectively bad design and limits play for no real reason beyond feeling an entitlement to authorship over player experience. The subjectivity involved in the critique of From Software's 3D action adventure games, though, is how well the game does instill that desired emotional response in players when it does do so, and how much each individual person from their own positions, where they do have that personal right to make a subjective assessment, is willing to feel stress, tension, frustration, fear, and so on. It's no question that that desired emotional response is produced through the incredible atmosphere, the lonely yet nerve-wracking exploration through dangerous and forboding locales, the exquisite audiovisual design and art direction, the often very intuitive and tactile feeling of controlling the little guy on the screen, those barreling, shrieking T-bone steak/car crashes of hilariously orchestral music that accentuate the action against the most powerful foes... now, damn, that is all obviously all extremely _good_ design.

Still, in the context of the question of "does 'bad' design exist," those are more reasons for which players subjectively put up with, are able to ignore, perhaps engage in zealous apologism for on the internet no less, with the simply bad design compromise of rigidity in its approach to difficulty. Never mind that there will always be players on the margins of the acceptable level of skill to experience the game who are going to experience more frustration than others without necessarily stopping, and perhaps even also players on the other extreme who are just such freaking epic gamers that they don't get all that much of that sought after emotional experience either.

To cap off this overly long even by insert credit standards post, I think I'll wade into the repeating topic in this thread and say that I think the weapon degradation system in _Breath of the Wild_ is............. drum roll please............. objectively badly designed or at least mediocre! I will power through this chorus of boos to explain why I think that. Although, I should preface it with the statement that I don't like the melee combat in _Breath of the Wild| much to begin with. Something about it feels so floaty, nothing seems to do quite enough damage to feel good, the weapon types in general don't feel different enough in general, and boy, pressing that button feels like swingin' a big hunk of sharpened metal at something. You know what two games _do_ have a basic attack button that feels like you're swingin' a big hunk of sharpened metal at something? _The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time_ and by extension _The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask,_ so no excuse for _Breath of the Wild._ I mean, those games don't have amazing combat but at least swingin' that sword feels good.

Anyway. Usually I'm of the opinion that the weapon economy would be much better if they dropped half as often but everything had double durability, but for the sake of discussion more in line with what everyone else is talking about, It's not necessarily because I'm against it as a concept, and @"yeso"#385's interpretation of how that fits into the setting is actually an excellent point. Immersively/narratively speaking though, there are just way too many parts of it that are totally incongruous with the idea of being a scrappy scrounger in a high fantasy post-post apocalypse trying to pre-vent the suspended apocalypse who needs to continually replace their weapons. For one, you can hold way, way too much shit, and, even worse, each of those shits you can hold has its own durability metre. That scrappy scrounger narrative sounds great, until you've upgraded your weapon inventory space enough that the risk of not having a weapon is almost nonexistent. Instead, you have a chore, a resource you need to manage, but with no real stakes involved since it eventually becomes so easy to amass a stockpile. Eventually it just becomes a process of picking your strongest available weapon of a suitable type, or a weaker one for easier enemies, it's management but with no risk. Worse than that, though, is the DVD menu feeling of it. Interrupting already kind of tedious melee combat to pick out another weapon of an appropriate strength level for the encounter while pressing (or holding? It's been a while) a button (or a button combo? Either way I remember not liking this overall) to to open a DVD menu with a whole lot of redundant menu options (I still think being able to upgrade it was the admission of guilt here) to be able to continue the tedious melee combat without interruption. This really quite often sucked the life out of combat, there is really just so much pausing in the middle of combat because of this. I think that's the big thing that got really fatiguing for me. On top of that, making weapon durability low wasn't the problem, communicating it, however, feels like a missed opportunity. Having it have a sound effect and blink and stuff when it's about to break really sucks the tension out of that situation. You're just waiting until you can throw it for a enhanced damage ranged attack at that point.

I think to really get at why I think it's not a well designed system, that, just to be sure, I don't see a problem with people subjectively enjoying it or interpreting it or just being able to tolerate it more than me, I want to propose an alternate system that captures the spirit of the original one but with better design. First off, Zelda, the protagonist of the Zelda games, needs some unarmed combat skills, or something that I should only really be using when I'm desperate and out of other options. More on that in a bit Second, one main type of primary combat equipment to have to be constantly maintaining a collection of is almost more than enough. Permanent bow, _maybe_ permanent shields but at least shields should be far far more durable. For shields there simply wasn't nearly enough difference between them to warrant such a wide variety and having the shields break so quickly. The bow is a tricker problem because the different bows were definitely different, but really, we could solve that by letting you collect and configure the bow using customizations. Balance it by making the customizations not hot swappable, and that plus the different ammo types I think the bow has more than enough variety. From there we can start something more exciting if you ask me. The main thing that I think is missing from the weapon economy in _Breath of the Wild_ is what the risk of not having a weapon really looks and plays like. In the game's current system it's an unthinkable catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs since you don't really have a primary, basic combat ability without one. Instead I think there should be some more enticing options for you. One is perhaps an unarmed moveset that has particular features that make it dangerous to rely on as a primary damage dealing option but mean that you have some unique options. If we want to be focused on the idea of Zelda always having some kind of weapon, the way to go is simple--unarmed mechanics that focus on movement, dodging, physically manipulating enemies, stunning or incapacitating them, maybe going for high risk high damage moves, and, the ideal being of course, disarming enemies! If we want to have a system where we're always hoping to be procuring a long string of shoddy weapons, how the game works now, I am most interested in being able to make better use of the weapons I can wield that enemies are bringing straight to me in their hands. Think of a _Breath of the Wild_ where unarmed Zelda could tackle enemies and send them flying (into each other!), or wind up a drop kick that will leave him vulnerable but will do a lot of damage if it connects, or, most delicious of all, replacing that stupid dodge Flurry Rush thing with a way to knock the weapon out of an enemy's hand so you can run and grab it (maybe a better version can snatch it right out of there directly). How to establish that in fiction? Easy, Sheikah martial arts. Zelda doesn't need to be Jackie Chan by the end of the game but the idea of having a lack of weapons be tied into the system of getting weapons seems like a natural fit to me.

Next. Instead of a big pile of relatively interchangeable weapons you can pause to reach into your voidpocket to retrieve, let's try something like 2-3 weapons to start with and that's it. One or two slots for a one handed weapon and one slot for a 2 handed weapon, done. Put them graphically on Zelda's body and replace that weapon swapping pause button with a very quick hot swap to draw whatever else we got with whatever means we can think of to choose between, say, your one handed club and your short sword if you've got two. Of course, let us upgrade that, maybe 1-2 large weapon slots and 2-3 one handed ones. I'm actually thinking of _The Last of Us_ here, which is funny. It's basically exactly that where you have a sidearm slot for handguns and a slot for 2 handed or heavier guns, with upgrades in the form of 1 or 2 extra holsters for each type for easier hotswapping. Just for Zelda you replace the ammo collection with brand new sword collection. On top of that instead of my easy fix of doubling durability, I think we can figure out something way more fun--much, much more delicate weapons, approaching realism, but their damage relative to enemy health is much higher. As in, more delicate but much more deadly weapons. If I'm going to have to bust a whole lot of weapons all over the place it should feel meaningful as well as more routine. Oh, I just thought of something else that might be even better than just a significant flat durability cut! What if durability didn't reduce or didn't meaningfully reduce when you get clean hits on an enemy? Hitting a shield, armor, or their blade would mean normal durability damage but it might also contribute to the overall feeling that engaging in combat is just by default needing to pay the Weapon Durability tax with every swing which is not a good feeling in a game where the more beefy enemies take dozens of hits to defeat. It would mean you couldn't rush in with your sword swinging or it would definitely break, leaving you vulnerable against a more patient enemy It could also solve the problem that still exists in the game right now where the game always has to have armed enemies around so that you can always procure weaponry off of them. If hitting a giant spider with a sword didn't ever damage its durability that would be less of a problem.

Oh, one more thing there--make remaining durability less visible, but give us that double damage bonus on throws _and_ normal attacks. Why this isn't the case always annoyed me. Zelda can definitely swing a sword harder than he can lob it. Saves me the trouble of gingerly using a weapon until it has a sliver of durability left and then backing up and chucking it, which is the intent I guess, but I hate it. Maybe also make throwing a weapon break and do that double damage so long as the weapon is even half broken. It should be a calculated risk you do because you need to.

Other than that, just give us a button to pick up and immediately wield a nearby weapon even if it means dropping the one I've currently got equipped and I think we would have something a lot more fun and a lot more thematically appropriate to the setting. Take a bit of _The Last of Us_ and really get your scrappy scrounging survival-adventure on.

...Unfortunately, though, I think that there is one final problem with the weapon durability system in _Breath of the Wild_ that I have been intentionally ignoring. It sticks out like a sore thumb, I absolutely hate it, and for this reason alone I really am just hoping that the direct sequel to _Breath of the Wild_ has either completely overhauled or just removed its weapon durability mechanics, I'd accept the former if it was done well enough but if not the latter is preferable.

This is the problem posed by setting an iteration of _Zelda_ in a world full of dilapidated and near dilapidated high fantasy weaponry and expects you to engage in a whole lot of armed high fantasy combat: in this world there exists a legendary weapon, a sword which repels evil, a sword that has, like, canonically survived the end of the world a few times probably, a sword that is central to the mythology, a sword with an iconic reputation, a sword that is always powerful and dependable, a sword with an associated locale and a ritual for being able to wield it, and a leitmotif that plays in the act of doing so, and it has a mysterious and enticing home in _Breath of the Wild,_ and it literally kills you if you try and retrieve it before you are strong enough to do so, and it makes a big deal out of the act of you doing so, and **then it slaps a goddamn durability meter on THE MASTER SWORD!!!!!!!!**

Narratively speaking nothing in this damn game is done dirtier by this weapon durability system than the Master Sword. And not just because it was a real frustrating bummer for me to see something that seemed to offer a sort of way to circumvent the weapon durability system, but then it ends up having this bullshit attached to it. I really see this as an issue of wanting the gameplay mechanic cake while narratively eating it too. The Master Sword is another admission of guilt kind of like the expansion of the inventory slots--it's like, the game can't not have The Master Sword, but a legendary sword that repels evil, seals the darkness, and has survived the apocalypse several times having some convoluted in story reason for why it has a goddamn mobile game stamina meter, except instead of breaking it just Sucks, is so frustrating. Maybe I have a big emotional attachment to The Master Sword (the sacred sword that repels evil) but then again it also creates a situation wherein you can use it to greatly reduce wear and tear on your other weapons, making the weapon scarcity problem even more trivial. The highest value weapon narratively ends up having a dissatisfying outcome mechanically. Argh!

Anyway I spent most of my free time today writing this half-of-a-short-novella length post which ended up repeating a lot of what was discussed throughout the day! But I had fun writing it so here you go.

@“wickedcestus”#p44915 I think that's a good name for this phenomenon!


This is exactly what I was going to say, as far as objectivity goes. When the designer has a clear goal for how they want the player to experience the game but miss the mark in its execution. Like a platformer with sloppy controls or an open world game with a boring open world. This could be because of indirect or unclear messaging within the dev team or the dev team just didn't care to put much effort into the ideas.

@“chazumaru”#p44793 An interesting perspective! But what about subverting a player‘s understanding or expectations? And surely a player’s understanding or appreciation of your design goals would be different for different players, so how do you account for that?

I think the reason that weapon degradation is the best idea that BotW had is that without it the inventory system it had would be objectively bad. This is a problem with countless rpgs but the loop of I have a sword that does 3 damage, I find a sword that does 4 damage, I open a menu, I do a lot of cross checking on everything in my inventory to find “the optimal one”, I equip the 4 damage sword, I either drop the 3 damage sword or hold on to it to sell later for one (1) dollar, this loop sucks. It‘s hiding a level up behind the most tedious book keeping imaginable. And it’s in nearly every rpg. Weapon Degradation turns that slog into a meaningful choice while allowing the narrative space to give you more than one weapon. It makes every weapon you find valuable. It adds tension to every battle, no matter how small. It gives the open world stakes. Without it the game would be yet another mediocre 3d zelda. It's literally what makes everything else in the game work.


@“TheBeigeKnight”#p44941 But what about subverting a player’s understanding or expectations?

Well subverting expectations would be your goal in the first place, no? As I see it, bad design is something that goes against what you intended in the first place, without realising it (or without giving yourself the time / budget / skill / technology / necessary staff / all the above to make it happen properly). A growing part of my daily job is about correcting this issue with video game projects.


@“TheBeigeKnight”#p44941 And surely a player’s understanding or appreciation of your design goals would be different for different players, so how do you account for that?

Yep! That’s what makes it hard!

My advice for most developers would be to pick your battles. You can’t take into account everyone’s tastes and needs, so go for the specific audience you had in mind in the first place, or pick a different audience altogether if the current one comprises not enough people to recoup vs. your budget.

@“2501”#p44835 yeah I'm probably being a little too strident, but I do think that considerations of design only go so far in thinking about games, mainly those with I guess literary or cinematic aims, but also things like oikospiel that have video game foundations but have a different set of priorities

@"Gaagaagiins"#p44919 about my BOTW comment: didn't mean I literally thought hyrule has a sword quality control problem- more meant to illustrate the transition between having an experience embedded in fiction context vs knowing you're engaged with a game design system. Sure the latter can be fun and worthy of thought and critique but at least I personally have a hard time synthesizing these experiences

@"TheBeigeKnight"#354 btw just want to clarify I don't mean to dismiss the thread topic, I think it's real interesting. Just sayin in case I came across as dismissive- apologies if so


I was watching the Netflix choose-your-own-adventure Black Mirror Bandersnatch thing last night and I was having similar thoughts as your DVD menu comparison and wondering if it really counted as a "video" "game".

Edit: if it does count as a video'd game, you could make the argument that Netflix's entire interface counts as one