But Game X Did Y!

in Design

I write a lot of tips on designing games on the blog.

We have an entire forum of people who also have a lot of tips on designing games.

Now, we aren’t always right. And sometimes, we are just talking about from our own perspectives. But there is one defense that I think needs to die.

That defense is “But [insert super popular game from a high-end studio here] did [idea being criticised here] and it did great!”

Castlevania: SotN started with a giant scrolling text!

Castlevania: SotN started with a giant scrolling text!

Ok, well, maybe it did! Maybe it has a legitimate reason why it worked in that game. And if that is so, tell me WHY it worked, and why you think it will work in your game. It isn’t a good idea because x game did it. Try to understand why it worked in that game. Then look if that reason is the same reason you want to do it in yours.

And you know, sometimes, IT DIDN’T WORK in that game.

A specific example of this is Dragon Quest VII. I would suggest you always try to get to the action in a game as early as possible. Dragon Quest VII instead had a several hour prologue with no combat. You just walked around and talked to people and found stuff. And it was slow and boring. And the only reason I ever got through it was that Dragon Quest means a lot to me and I knew once I got to the actual game, it would be good.

But you don’t have the pedigree of Dragon Quest to fall back on. I don’t have the investment in your game that I do in that series. If the beginning of your game was super slow and boring, I’d probably quit.

And low-key stealing the title won't help you.

And low-key stealing the title won’t help you.

On the other hand, there are games with slow beginnings where it DOES work. The slow buildup at the beginning of Persona 3 is a great example. This works because the story itself is captivating enough to carry it, and it regularly drops hints of the supernatural weirdness throughout to draw you in.

If someone says: Don’t do X. Don’t just use a game that does X as your defense. Tell them WHY it is going to work. Don’t just mimic a game you like, understand why you would want to mimic it.

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