Ten things I hate about games
Games are great, really, they are. They offer us experiences unlike any other entertainment medium out there, while continuing to improve and evolve at a staggering rate. However, they aren't perfect, there's plenty of things about this most rewarding of hobbies that frustrates and annoys even the most seasoned gamer. I'm not talking about specific problems with specific games here, instead I'm talking about those things iwe tend to accept without question because that's just the way games are rather than questioning if they really need to be that way at all.
What follows is by no means a complete or definitive list; instead it's just ten of the things that annoy me, an otherwise enthusiastic gamer, about the state of games today. You may well disagree or have more to add, in which case go for it, that's exactly what the comments thread is for and it'd be good to hear your views.
Fixed save points
I'm a grown up (despite what my wife may say) and as such I think I'm capable of deciding when I want to save my in-game progress. Game designers however clearly disagree as I'm more often than not restricted to saving my game at set points. With storage space now measured in gigabytes there's really no logical excuse for games to be so restrictive about this anymore. Sure such freedom could be abused by those who'd save every five seconds and reload after the smallest mistake but really, if you want to play like that why shouldn't you be able to? JRPG's are by far the worst offenders; the whole genre seems to have decided that save points should be hours apart leaving gamers to decide at each one if they've got the time to risk playing until the next one. It's not only action game and (J)RPGs that could do with taking note though, sports and racing games are as bad. Why can't I save and quit in the middle of a game of FIFA, or half way through a race in DIRT 2? If nothing else such freedom would be better for the environment as it'd stop me leaving consoles on overnight so as not to loose hard won progress.
There's nothing that wrenches me from whatever spell of immersion a game has cast over me than realising the character I'm controlling can't do something he obviously could in real life. There's simply no reason that things like a few trees, a waist high fence or in the worst cases absolutely nothing visible to the eye should be able to stop my walking, talking killing machine of a hero from seeing what lays on the other side. Obviously I know the reason games do this, and to ask for a 100 percent fully explorable world in each game is a tad unrealistic, but it'd be nice to see developers take a bit of time to make the technology required restrictions a little less obviously unrealistic.
Full price digital downloads
With the emergence of the Xbox 360's Games On Demand service and Sony's PSN offering more and more in the way of full price downloadable games, not to mention PC services like Steam and GoD, it's becoming easier and easier to buy your games as downloads rather than physical boxed products. The flaw in this digital utopia is that there's really only one up side, convenience, and that's far outweighed by the nagging sense that gamers are actually the ones being screwed here. While the digital download model works fine for things like XBLA and smaller PSN titles, games that'd never be published the traditional way, it becomes a tad murkier when applied to full price games. Thinking logically these titles should be cheaper to download than buy elsewhere; no cost for producing disks, manuals and boxes, no distribution charges or retailers wanting their cut at the other end. Instead we find digital downloads generally costing the same, if not more, than their boxed equivalents. As if this wasn't enough to turn your smile upside down there's also the realisation that you'll no longer be able to trade in or sell any purchases at your local games shop or on eBay. Do you realistically want to spend 30 GBP upwards on a game you'll be unable to recoup any money on when you've finished with it a few weeks later? There's nothing at all wrong with the idea behind digital downloads, but until they're priced to reflect the limitations of the format I'd much rather have something physical in my hand to show for my money.
Release day patches
It wasn't so long ago, only last console generation in fact, when you'd slip a game into your console on release day safe in the knowledge that it'd work right away. Jump to the present day and a world full of consoles permanently online and all of a sudden most games seem to require you to download and install a patch of some sort before you're able to play even on launch day. Obviously these patches are designed to improve the experience in some way, and for that I'm grateful, but I do wonder what's happened to the idea of actually ensuring the game was as bug free as possible prior to unleashing it into the world. Yes games are bigger now and thus more complex but really, if the developers found and fixed bugs in the few weeks between the game going gold and its launch then perhaps it really should have had a few more weeks polish before they signed it off at all.
Poorly written and acted dialogue
While game visuals improve seemingly by the month one thing that remains stuck in the past is the quality of the dialogue you'll be subjected to while you watch the pretty pictures. From horribly clunky phrasing and poor translation to wooden delivery and dodgy accents game dialogue appears to be one of the most unloved aspects of a title's design. Even those boasting Hollywood script writers or big name authors rarely end up being much better than the rest and it's really about time someone sat down and had a good hard thing about why this is. Games are admittedly a different beast to write for than other mediums, what with their ever branching conversation trees and fluid plots, but you only have to spend ten minutes with games like Uncharted 2 to see that it is possible to produce something suitably impressive.
Suspiciously young, scantily clad, female game characters
Its not that I'm a prude, however, at a time when gaming is moving slowly but surely towards the mainstream it's becoming increasingly hard to ignore the fact that nearly every female games character wears clothes that only cover about 12% of her body. Add to that her general role as either sex object or helpless damsel in dire need of rescuing and it becomes clear why the Daily Mail thinks we're all perverted crazies with the sexual maturity of a thirteen year-old boy. Of course there's an element of the sweeping generalisation to this, there are strong examples of positive female roles in games, Uncharted and its recent sequel (and yes I know that twice I've used Uncharted as a positive example. I can't help it, it's fantastic) being perfect examples, but it'd be nice to see that kind of thing become the norm rather than standing out so obviously.
The sudden absence of multiplayer bots
It was only a couple of years ago that any self respecting FPS would give the player the chance to enter its multiplayer component alone and compete against AI controlled opponents (bots) rather than real people. It was a seemingly small thing but one that offered many significant benefits to gamers. Chief among these was the chance it gave less experienced players to hone their multiplayer skills, to get to know the maps and generally practice without the stress of having to do all that in the harsh public glare of real online multiplayer. It also allowed anyone unable to play online a chance to still experience the multiplayer component of games they'd bought rather than having a large chunk of the code of the disk rendered sadly redundant. So, with multiplayer becoming ever more important it's baffling why this fantastically handy idea has fallen by the wayside. Bring it back. Please.
Being unable to change difficulty levels mid-game
I'm not generally someone who picks the easiest difficulty setting in games, I'm also not a gaming ninja. A combination of these two factors have been known on more than one occasion to result in me getting completely and utterly stuck in a game to the point where I give up and move on. When this happens I find myself wondering what I'm missing, what fantastic gameplay experiences I'll never have, was there a shocking plot twist I'll never discover and more importantly how much money have I wasted on a game I'm never going to finish. If only I could dial the difficulty down a notch or two for a bit to let me get past the sticking point, then I'd be able to see the rest of the game and get maximum value for money. Yes it smacks a little of cheating, would require a degree of willpower to stop you using it too early and play havoc with some achievements and trophy systems but really, does that matter? Shouldn't games (and their developers) want you to see everything they have to offer and be prepared to give you a helping hand when you're genuinely stuck.
Being forced to watch every single cut-scene every time
I like a good cut scene as much as the next man and generally I do actually want to follow the plot of games even when they're a turgid mess but sometimes it's handy, especially when you're playing through a section for the second time, to be able to make them go away. The same goes for games that force little in-engine interludes upon you, the kind of hard coded animations you see time and time again when performing actions like unlocking and opening chests or picking up collectables. They get painfully annoying after the first ten or so times you watch them and get no more fun the longer you play. While we're talking about complete cut-scene freedom it'd also be nice if there was an option to require confirmation of cut-scene skippage, this would avoid those times when you are actually interested in the story but the cat's jumped on the controller and made you miss a vital plot development.
Game worlds that don't follow a consistent set of rules
Nothing frustrates me more than having access to a veritable arsenal of weaponry, enough to settle a small scale civil war in some parts of the world, only to be forced by lazy game design to spend ten minutes hunting around for the key to a door that looks like it's made of plywood. Likewise if I'm crashing a supercar into a tree at over a hundred miles an hour lets have the tree show damage from the impact as well as the car. We all know that with games we're playing in someone else's make believe world and not everything is possible, all I'm asking is that the world we're given to play in makes sense. If I can do something one minute but can't the next there needs to be an obvious reason. If you're going to hide treasure in locked crates while providing me with weapons capable of downing helicopters then it's surely not out of the question for me to wonder why I need to play lock picking mini-games to get inside them.