What, exactly, is bad game design?


@“yeso”#p44953 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.

Then I'll take credit for wanting to have seen _Breath of the Wild_ commit to that far more than it did, because it's an interesting idea!


Sure the latter can be fun and worthy of thought and critique but at least I personally have a hard time synthesizing these experiences

Setting aside the regrettable truth that heavily corporatized game development surely scatters the floors of cutting rooms with the great ideas of many designers and design-minded people both big and small (not because that isn't worth talking about but because it's not the subject of this thread), maybe the problem is that often designers/developers don't often go far enough in making these two aims cohesive rather than at odds. To go back on my word immediately, a lot of systems surely get cut or watered down out of a desire to make a game more widely and generally recognizable to the detriment of good ideas.

...and, to be generous to _Breath of the Wild,_ maybe it's not realistic to expect a mainline entry in one of the most well known franchises in the entire medium to get even moderately experimental. I often forget to put myself into the perspective of people who are less videogame literate than myself.

Oh no. We're talking about ludonarrative dissona-* * **klaxxon blares** * *

@“yeso”#p44953 I also have difficulty sometimes reckoning with systems that are so in the face of the fiction of a game. Shoddy weapons indeed! that‘s much better. I’d be cool if they were like ‘no new weapons have been made for 500 years y’all"


@“Moon”#p44959 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”.

Once you strip down the fluff, I think the three essential components of a game are:

  • * at least one participant.
  • * a set of rules.
  • * a losing condition.
  • You might argue the interface and script of Bandersnatch act as a set of rules, but (I ask candidly because I don’t remember) can you “win” or “lose” at Bandersnatch? Is there a definitive good ending or bad ending which Netflix intends you to reach? That is what would separate pure interactive fiction from a video game in my book. I think the authors intend you to check several of not all variations of the story and don’t consider that you have “lost” when reaching a specific conclusion, so I’d tag it as a pure exercise of interactive fiction. Meanwhile, the dreaded chapter 14 of most game-books turn them into games being played. _You_ the viewer could however turn Bandersnatch into a game by fixing yourself some specific goals (find all the endings etc.).

    The “video” part of “video games” for me is trickier to define and limit. It’s really just a fancy term for "electronic games", so it doesn’t really matter that much, but the term implies some visual transmission even though some software we implicitly consider as video games rely purely on sound.


    @“Moon”#p44959 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”.

    Hmm... I'm flip flopping again, or maybe I was never sure.

    For simplicity's sake _Bandersnatch_ doesn't seem to have all that much that differentiates it from a choose-your-own-adventure novel besides that it's a live-action film, so I'll just ask that question again. And at least today how I feel is that if you're not authoring the narrative in any meaningful way and just choosing a different sequence, even if that can change how you're experiencing the narrative it's not a game, because you could argue that it's an experiential difference rather than an insertion of authorship. Example that comes to mind, it's sort of like reading a longstanding novel series that is set in a shared setting and timeline of events, but without direct sequels. The example that came to mind was the _Redwall_ series of young adult anthro woodland critter books. They were about a shared setting, connected by a shared history, and the events of chronologically adjacent books occurred either on a sequential event timeframe or after a generation or two had passed. They weren't written in order according to in-universe chronology (at least while I was a young lad reading them) and you really could read most of them in any order you liked. You could, say, read a specific sequence to explore a certain location or historical throughline, but it's not like you're authoring a new story out of doing that, just changing your own interpretative or emotional response to the story.

    Doubly so if there's no real difference in character between choices--just choosing which portion you're viewing next or the order of a set of them is different from, say, the act of choosing having a more intangible effect on the results. As in, with _Bandersnatch_ the choices seem to only be between which scene to watch next, as far as I know it seems like it will change future choices based on past ones but it's not like you're racking up Paragon points for it and unveiling some sort of secondary mechanic that is going to modify which choices are put before you. It's just sequencing what is already there.

    I think if _Bandersnatch_ was a game rather than an interactive film, it would have something which places you in a role beyond just sequencing. Something I found interesting while reading a bit about it was that you had a limited window of time to enter your choice, and if it ran out, a sort of predetermined "default" choice among the available choice or choices was made. Something that would inch it closer to being a game that occurred to me would be if, say, somehow, the idea of letting it passively play or making decisions was itself a sort of secondary choice that was being kept track of, which would have implications later on in the process. Now we're getting somewhere closer to an FMV game where the actual way in which you make choices is mattering. I mean, Brooker used to be a games journalist, I bet earlier concepts for it had stuff like that.


    @“Gaagaagiins”#p45003 Something that would inch it closer to being a game that occurred to me would be if, say, somehow, the idea of letting it passively play or making decisions was itself a sort of secondary choice that was being kept track of, which would have implications later on in the process.

    My memory is fuzzy on the details because I played this almost a decade ago but one feature I found interesting about the famed visual novel Steins;Gate is that the few branching pathes in the fairly linear narration are decided by when the player as the protagonist decides _not_ to answer their phone when prompted on the screen, which means you impact the course of the game by interacting _less_ with it.

    the thing that makes me feel the most friction, in a “this does not work” sort of sense, is when…

    in a spooky game like _Little Nightmares_, you have a set piece like a chase or something, that is also a time-sensitive challenge/puzzle that you have to overcome before you die and get sent to the start of the set piece again. if you fail repeatedly, you're trapped in a loud abrasive time loop that has long been drained of any emotional impact. the whole purpose of The Bit fails. i guess this applies to any bit of any game that tries to mix cinematic bombast, high emotion and some game play.

    maybe it's just trying to square a circle and it's best to just separate the "modes". resi 8 seems to do this quite a lot, a baddie will just grab you and chuck you about, while you have no control, which is stressful. you're stalked around an environment by an unkillable enemy, stressful. you finish a combat encounter first try with your last shotgun round, stress and release.

    @“yeso”#p44953 oh no worries at all, I often feel similarly, that's why I bring the topic up. I play a lot of indie games so I play a lot of games that a lot of people dismiss as being of low quality or poorly designed, but I try not to think of them that way and just try to take them for what they are and enjoy them if I can.

    When I play a game like Eastward though, which has so many good elements but also has some serious downsides for me, it's hard not to imagine how they could have designed the game a little differently and potentially have created a game that would rank in my top 10. In times like that it can be tempting to think of the things they did that I find disappointing as "poor design" but then I have to wonder if it really is just my personal expectations or preferences or what.


    @“whatsarobot”#p44879 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.

    While I agree with this, I think the core problem with Arise's battle system specifically is that they have too many systems interacting at the same time that progression is not easily quantifiable. Playing through Final Fantasy game at any point I could tell you roughly how much damage casting Firaga would do, but I have zero idea how much damage Alphen's Dragon Swarm did even though the game tells me I used it 2000 times.

    There are so many modifiers to how much damage a character does (lvl, equipment, accessories, skill panel, arte proficiency, buffs, enemy armor, enemy stance, penetration) during a frenetic 4-person battle sequence it's pointless to pay close attention to the numbers. So instead the player judges a party's strength based on how relatively _quickly_ fights last.

    And because time == strength, the game buffs the bosses with ridiculous levels of HP so that each boss battle is at least 15 minutes. But the actual mechanics of the fight could largely be ignored as long as you could dodge counter and spam healing artes. I realized this between the 4th and 5th towns, that I could be 10 levels under a boss or mini boss and have no problem. By the end of it I was grinding for gold to stay stocked up on Oranges and Pineapples for healing, not EXP.

    All that being said, I don't think this is a _bad_ design, but it's overdesigned and as a result the developers overcompensated. To me the game almost feels more like Hyrule Warriors due to the flashing lights, repetitive patterns, and dodge counters, then it does a more strategic Tales game like Tales of the Abyss. The sensory overload feels nice, but it's not deep.

    I would actually be interested to know what it was like to pay the microtransactions to level up their character, and if it actually made any meaningful difference to the difficulty of boss fights. My hunch is that the fights would play out the same only take maybe 10 minutes instead of 15 and the player feels stronger because they don't have to use as many orange gels.

    I‘m not so sure that bad game design can be objective. Sometimes what we experience as ’bad game design‘ or ’good game design' is rather a rationalization for our feelings about a game.

    I just played Silent Hill for the first time, and while there's a lot to love in the game, I'm not a huge fan of certain design elements|| like the ending system.|| This is because I perceive 'the point' of that game is its aesthetics || - this is a game about how it might feel to go to hell, like how a journey from this plane to another could be like. One day, you slip in-between the cracks of this reality, and are spirited away to a place that first appears unsettling, but reveals itself to be openly hostile to not only your presence, but your very soul.|| It's a spooky game, right? But in the end ,the game is really not about that at all - it's|| about performing a specific and inscrutable set of tasks that are deemed worthy of a good/bad +/- on the end of game score sheet. I suppose this|| an example of that 'DVD Menu' experience, which I agree is bad game design.

    However, if I think of this game as an experience meant to be replayed and mastered, then I can better appreciate it. || The 'bad' ending is somewhat unsatisfying because there are many unresolved narrative threads. This indicates a fail state - if this game is a mystery game then unanswered questions mean there's something the player missed. After experiencing this ending, the player might be compelled to replay the game and explore the town more thoroughly, which not only requires good understanding of the game's mechanics in order to survive, but also is required for the good ending. From the 'good' ending, I think there's a natural progression to the 'good+' and 'bad+' endings, if the player is inquisitive and curious.||

    So then why don't I appreciate the game in this way? Because I don't want to! ||Because I think the story sucks! I think the bad ending is better than the good ending because it actually corresponds to an experience of playing the game that is intuitive to me, and being told that this is 'bad' in some objective way is irritating!|| I don't feel like re-interpreting a game in a way that I find unconvincing, through a lens contradictory to my emotions and experience. Ultimately, what I call bad game design in this instance is just a gut reaction to decisions I disagree with.

    And it gets worse! In this case, I gave a game the benefit of the doubt and constructed an interpretation that would justify aspects of a game's design that I didn't like. Its going to be hard in general to do this because if the player doesn't already like a game, why would they bother to spend the effort to find a way to like it?

    It's like in Dark Souls. I enjoy the atmosphere, the feelings of loneliness and danger, but I often find the combat intensely aggravating. I tell myself that it must be possible to create this kind of feeling in a game without the combat being quite so fucking hard, but there's a good chance I'm wrong about that.

    @“recorder”#p45070 I suspect it helps to contextualize that Silent Hill was conceived right smack in the middle of a huge battle between Japanese publishers and second hand resellers like Book-Off – if I remember correctly, it was Capcom and Konami who (unsuccessfully) led the charge to get the buying and resale of used video games banned in Japan. It was therefore probably important to KCET to limit the early resell of the game with this sort of system. Obviously, we don’t need it as much today.

    Sometimes bad design becomes bad in a different context, just like humor.

    Playing through Dread and fairly early on there‘s a bit where the only way to proceed is || shooting at an unmarked wall in a room that has no indication on the map that it holds a secret || and I feel like Metroidvanias are so often doing that kind of shit and I can’t for the life of me understand what anyone likes about it.

    was thinking about the old PS2 The Thing game which had an accidentally good busted game mechanic: it was a squad-based game in which you could recruit party members from NPCs found throughout the game. keeping with the theme, they‘d generally be too paranoid that you or another squad member were secret “the things” so you’d have to give them weapons and ammo and perform blood tests to earn their trust.

    If you tested an NPC and the blood test came back positive, they would as in the film, do a gnarly transformation on the spot. HOWEVER for whatever reason, on rare occasions even negative squad members would turn out to be infected and turn at random times, which made an otherwise rote mechanic yes, busted, but just dialed up the paranoia because you were actually not sure you could even trust the game itself. It was kind of neat even though/because it made no sense. Tom Chick wrote about the idea of games being interesting when they establish a rule, but then break it.

    Also I watched some gameplay footage and lol I didn't remember that JC is a squad member and you can give him a submachine gun

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    “This game is a bad” is something that people often say, but what does it actually mean?

    There are lots of games which are popular on Insert Credit that are definitely regarded as bad, and it's quite easy to dismiss entire platforms as having nothing but bad games.

    Nostalgia often factors into discussion of older games, where people insist that this was 'never good' but others can talk about the great time they had with it. Is Robocod a bad game? The level design isn't tight but it is very expansive and discovering secrets is incredibly satisfying, and its cartoony characters have plenty of charm. It's also a relief to play a less game! How much can we applaud the absense of something?

    Meanwhile modern examples like Balan Wonderworld are easy to qualify as 'bad' on plenty of basic levels, but they succeed at being very interesting and therefore actually quite good.

    I've often said that I'm a fan of bad games, but that doesn't mean I engage with them in the same way. I think it's pretty fantastic that we can cater to more types of players than ever, but its also important to consider where games have shortcomings.

    Here are some factors that may make a bad game.

  • - Feedback and telegraphing are poor in ways that destructive to player interaction.
  • - Controls are sufficiently unresponsive that they compromise interaction.
  • - It criticises the player for having accessibility issues.
  • - It judges player actions without telling them it was a test. "That's a D rank! You suck!"
  • - It endorses and celebrates hateful content: homophobia, racism, etc.
  • - It fetishises the military/police.
  • - It fails to present any reason to continue playing.
  • Most of the best games in the world are bad by plenty of these definitions, so it's clear that it's more complicated. How do you decide whether a game is bad or simply something you don't enjoy?

    I'm with a lot of the discussion here that often times, bad design is subjective, especially as how a great many games bear very little resemblance to classic board games or miniature games where the fundamentals of game design were conceived.

    HOWEVER, I can give you two diamond tipped examples of bad game design. These both come from The Last Of Us and represent terrible game design.

    The Last Of Us is a game about scarce resources, especially ammo. But that is completely ignored when the player encounters a specific set piece. Joel is caught in a noose trap and hangs upside down shooting at zombies. During this set piece, since the player is a turret, they can't find more ammo out in the world. The designers know that the player shouldn't be able to run out of ammo here otherwise they will just have to hang there while zombies attack and they'll have a bad time. So Ellie becomes an infinite ammo dispenser. She keeps throwing you ammo. Endlessly. That is bad game design. A piece of level design is at odds with the mechanical design so instead of treating the mechanics as sacred, they disregard them for the sake of a not that interesting anyway moment.

    Later on, you have to creep through a snipers alley, working your way down to a house with a sniper in. Joel has Batman vision and can see people through walls using his hearing (hecking games man, if you're going to do something like this, at least realise the absurdity of it rather than making it this stupidly grim game). You can see all enemies through walls using your ears except for the sniper. This is because they trigger a scripted melee cutscene QTE thing when you walk through the door into the sniper room. They don't want you to be able to see the enemy through the wall because that would ruin the surprise you can see coming three miles away. Again, the scripted set piece was designed without regard for the mechanics and the mechanics were again thrown away to achieve another uninteresting moment.

    So I guess the point is that bad game design is game design where player trust isn't considered and players cannot invest in a game because the mechanics they are forced to adhere to may be disregarded when it suits the designer. But then again, a great number of people think that it is the best game of the PS360 generation. It obviously isn't but despite having objectively bad game design it is still subjectively highly regarded so whatevs.