4 Ways to Turn Me Off Your Game Immediately

in Advice

Every time someone plays your game, a lot of their opinion is going to be formed within the first few minutes of play, and since we are drowning in media options, it may be the ONLY opinion they will develop of your game. Having played a ton of games in the last month during contest judging, I got a lot of chances to think about what gives me a very sour initial impression of a game, so I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Introduction Length

I know I’ve talked about introductions before, mostly to complain about scrolling text, but there are way worse sins in an intro than scrolling text, and the two biggest ones are in being TOO LONG, or TOO SHORT.

When the intro is too long, I start getting sleepy, just want to mash the buttons to make text go faster, and miss out on information because I feel like it is being fed to me by having it dumped on me like shovels full of manure. Get in there, tell the information you need, then start the game already!

But then people take that advice way too far. And we end up with a game with an incredibly short, or even NO intro at all. I played several games where I was just dropped into a situation, no dialogue, no context. I not only didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, I didn’t know why I was supposed to be doing it. I just had to wander around until I hopefully figured something out.

The Game That Gets It Right: Final Fantasy VII

4waysYou see a few quick cinematic scenes that set the mood, then BAM, Cloud is jumping off a train and the game is on. This is an intro.

2. Not Teaching Me To Play the Game

Look. Everyone hates tutorials when they know how to play, but don’t go too far the other way either. Tutorial levels exist for a reason. And with PC Games? It gets even more important. With a controller, I only have so many buttons to try out to experiment with how to do things.

But seriously, when I’m playing on the PC and you don’t even give me an option to look at the control assignments? You are failing at your job. A standard keyboard has 101 keys. Then I have a mouse and 2 more buttons on that. I don’t have the time to hit every one trying to figure out what works what. You have to TELL me somehow.

The Game That Gets It Right: Mega Man X

4ways2The intro stage to Mega Man X is probably one of the best Intro stages ever made. It teaches you to play, and it does it fast. Everyone should play the first stage of this game just to learn from it.

3. Spelling and Bad Grammar

Nothing, seriously, NOTHING turns me off to a game faster than it being obviously written by someone with a terrible grasp of the English language. (Obviously, if the game is meant to be in English. If not, I couldn’t tell you if it was bad anyway).

EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT.

I know that in the RPG Maker scene, we come from all around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with people from all the permanently inhabited continents, and with English being a second language for a lot of people, their grasp is not perfect, and that is NOT their fault. Learning a second language is not the easiest thing.

BUT, that isn’t an excuse for releasing a game with bad spelling and grammar. If you can’t edit your game FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN. Search the forums, make friends. Find someone who can write English well.

The Game That Gets It Right: Pretty Much Every Modern Pro Game

Outside of the Classic days (Hi, Zero Wing). This just isn’t something that happens in modern pro gaming. And it shouldn’t happen in amateur game making either.

4. Where’s the Gameplay?

Every single time I sit down to play a game… I want to play a game. Now yes, there are other considerations. I love good stories. I love good art. I love good music. But I can experience all of those things in movies. The difference in playing a game is that its a GAME. I want gameplay.

And I don’t want to play through a lengthy portion of walking around and talking to people before I even get to it. Introduce your core gameplay early and regularly. Don’t save it for after you’ve established the setting, characters, backstory, motivation, etc. Get that gameplay out there so that the player can actually tell what kind of game they are playing!

The Game That Gets It Right: Resident Evil 2

4ways3

Short cutscene and then BOOM, right into the fire. You start off dodging zombies before you even know what is going on, and after you get to the police station, the puzzles start up immediately.

So what turns you off in games? Ever been guilty of any of mine? Join us in the comments section below.

18 comments… add one

  • Regnum Gaia August 13, 2014, 3:36 pm

    Great list!

    The main important points have been highlighted. I got to say I’m weird in that aspect, but, games that have too many side quests or too much farming to do turn me off instantly. I love to play a game as if I am reading a book, so, I do the journey and call it quit or if I love it so much I’ll probably go as far as trying to get the most out of it (secret ending FFX-2 for example). However, playing a game that is too lengthily easily makes me reticent at the idea of wanting to do the journey. Although I am a big RPG fan and played and finished most RPG classics back on PSX and PS2 times, I must say I’ve grown tired of spending too much time in one place.

  • Bradley Morris August 13, 2014, 6:58 pm

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more with these. Another major turn off for me is overly-cinematic battles. I don’t want to watch a 40 second cut-scene every time I want to cast a spell. More often than not it becomes an instant deal breaker!

    • Nick Palmer August 15, 2014, 2:31 pm

      As much as I didn’t really like FFVIII I thought the options for doing “short” summon scenes after the first time a summon was used was pretty brilliant.

  • TheDanGG August 13, 2014, 11:41 pm

    I agree with pretty much all of these except, to an extent, the first. I feel like no intro IS in fact better than a short intro, and that a game should introduce it’s setting and context through the gameplay.

    • Nick Palmer August 15, 2014, 2:32 pm

      I like some kind of setup. Something to tell me what the game is supposed to be. This can be done during gameplay, or with a short pregameplay scene. I was mostly complaining about games that just throw you into the middle with no explanation and don’t seem to interested in offering one.

    • Outcry313 August 18, 2014, 1:05 pm

      We can’t say that “every game” has to have no intro. Or that every game should have a little something. It all depends on the game itself. While, as designers, we have to take into account someone disliking that there is an intro at all, we also have to decide ourselves whether the experience of the game we’re planning for needs an intro or not. There can’t be a rule like: No storyline in a fighting genre game, there has to always be a decision. Just a little something I’ve learned from college is all ;).

      • Nick Palmer August 24, 2014, 7:43 am

        Even if its a single screen with a bit of setup, there should be SOMETHING that is telling me what I’m doing.

  • Stephen August 14, 2014, 3:22 am

    I agree with Megaman X being the example, this video explains it well.
    http://youtu.be/8FpigqfcvlM

    • Nick Palmer August 15, 2014, 2:33 pm

      That is actually a very good video (though, I don’t agree with Egorapter in all cases, when it comes to Mega Man X he is spot on).

  • SOC August 14, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Yeah, you pretty much listed most of the stuff that kills my mood. But nowadays even petty things like bad frame rate early on can kill my mood depending on the game. If the game is made to be next gen and supposed to be visually stunning, but still has flaws like bad optimization/wrong focus on frame rate then it can kill my mood, too. I mean even FF7 and Super Mario 64, the pioneers of next gen graphics had great frame rate.

  • Companion Wulf August 15, 2014, 7:16 am

    I have to agree with you on all these points, particularly about spelling/grammar. I recently played a fan-made Phantasy Star game where spelling was so bad I couldn’t even get past the intro. I like the kinds of games where tutorials are not long and boring, or condescending, but it’s a good point of reference to have some kind of note (in the Inventory) for easy reference, especially if some of the default keys have been remapped. To me, though, that entire first portion of Final Fantasy VII IS the intro, where you get an initial “feel” not only for the controls but a brief back-history as well.

    • Nick Palmer August 15, 2014, 2:35 pm

      One game I mention is great at both intro + tutorial is Saints Row the Third. The whole initial part all the way up to getting to Steelport is perfectly done to both introduce characters, story concepts, and gameplay through a series of gameplay and cinematic scenes that are so awesome you don’t really want to skip them.

  • Doko August 17, 2014, 9:45 pm

    Hello.
    How many games from this contest do you estimate to have gone through? Must’ve been quite a few.

    • Nick Palmer August 24, 2014, 7:44 am

      I personally played, at least or some amount of time, nearly 300 games. Not all of those were full hour plays though, some were screening plays. I did full hour plays on around 130.

  • Karter Saint August 18, 2014, 7:27 am

    I suddenly realised two of examples you mentioned are games of old Capcom….

    ;sigh; What happened to them now. It’s not like old any more.

    • Nick Palmer August 24, 2014, 7:43 am

      I agree, Capcom used to be a lot better than it is. :|

  • Jay August 20, 2014, 4:03 pm

    One major turn off point which wasn’t mentioned is lack of knowledge and erroneous information about things that show up in the game and junk psedoscience that makes my eyes roll.

    Examples:

    If I’m making an RPG that lets me find a Colt M1911A1 and I has it as being a 9mm and even have a weapons note page that says that it is a “common” 9mm my eyes are going to roll as this gun is one of the most famous in the world and it is not a 9mm. It fires,.45 ACP. (I won’t go into details on conversion kits to allow the use of other ammo.)

    In a 1920s game having characters talk about DNA and other scientific things and getting the information wrong and not even taking into account when certain things were discovered. I’ve seen professional writers who even teach writing do this one.
    Using nonsense tech sounding words to make something seem like it science based doesn’t work. This is something that is pointed out in numerous books and articles on writing scifi but any TV shows, books, etc. Just because a popular TV show or game does it doesn’t mean that you ought to.

    In addition to bad science and history you also get bad fantasy research.
    Many mythological creatures that show up in games are based on myths and have developed a certain way they are portrayed over the years because of pop culture etc.
    If you are going to deviate from the norm you want to have a reason for doing so and explain it in some way.

    If I make a game and orcs are a refined cultural peaceful race that live in harmony with nature and are allies of humanity and that elves are a war like race that have no respect for technology I want to explain that. at some point early on.

    Just making stuff up about a creature because you are to lazy to do research is bad way to get me to no play your game too. I’ve seen many games done using the Samurai materials in which the designer did no research into the various enemies depicted in the batters and tried to pass off the game they made as being a representation of mythic Japan and had no basic knowledge about the various enemies they had in the game.

  • amerk August 21, 2014, 11:33 am

    For all the faults Final Fantasy VII had, I have to agree with your point of view in its opening. In a very short span of time, you got to see setting for what it was and tossed right into the action. You quickly understood what you were (a terrorist group called Avalanche), what your goal was, and why. You didn’t have to sit through long moments of filler. Throughout the mission, you picked up clues through brief cut scenes and NPC’s, and you were able to understand the background fairly quick while playing through the game.

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