The Latest Scourge of AAA Game Design

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The Latest Scourge of AAA Game Design

Time events in AAA games, either quick or slow, are becoming a nuisance to an absurd level. Press F to Pay Respects for example ...

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"Press E to interact" in the 2010 AVP game was annoying. Because, for the alien or predator, "interact" usually meant "hit the thing". It's a combat game, there's already options for hitting things, but we are supposed to hit the thing the right way, presumably. Especially noticeable in that you hit similar sorts of things the other way anyway. Right click to hit a fuse box, press "E" when prompted to hit a computer.

Though, minor example in the scheme of things.

My first instinct when I saw press -- I think it's the square button on PS4 -- was that it was a joke. I was actually eating at the time (to relieve the boredom) and that coupled with being a former XBOX 360 player and not immediately knowing which button the "square button" is, leads me to believe that's exactly what the jokester had in mind.

TheArchbishopJubilee:
My first instinct when I saw press -- I think it's the square button on PS4 -- was that it was a joke. I was actually eating at the time (to relieve the boredom) and that coupled with being a former XBOX 360 player and not immediately knowing which button the "square button" is, leads me to believe that's exactly what the jokester had in mind.

I almost wonder if the mindset was "oh shit, we actually have a serious moment without explosions. We gotta do something!"

Who knew a QTE/STE could prompt more critical thought than 'press X to jingle keys.'

I still think it may have been invented by comity to be the fluffy white rabbit they can point to in case the media got offended by the violence. "Look, you don't just shoot people, you can pay respects too." Or maybe they called in that Heavy Rain guy (Cage?)on this one.

Oh this isn't a new thing. It's been around for years. It's just so much more noticeable when CoD does it because their writers are shit and their game design is even worse.

As someone who hasn't played the game I can confirm. With no context that "Press 'F' to pay respects" screenshot is hilarious.

I wonder what happens if you don't? I would purposefully hold back and be deliberately disrespectful just to be awkward.

I really hate it when a cutscene has prompts like these (or it rumbles the controller) to remind me that I'm playing a game. I'm sitting back to get another slice of the story. And if the story is shit, and they do not have an option to skip the scene, they have failed as game designers. The only button I should be pressing is the confirm button in a text only game.

If I'm interested in the characters or the narrative, making me press things, or reminding me I've got a massager in my hands, breaks the immersion far more that it could add to the experience. If they want me to control a character during a major plot point, go the Half Life route. (And if I waltz away from the action because I went looking for ammo/secrets, that is my own fault.)

I'll be the odd man out on this and say that not all QTEs are bad if (and only if) the action happening in the QTE event is awesome or cathartic in some way. Asura's Wrath and the boss fights in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games (yeah, I like Naruto, is that a problem?) have amazing QTE segments, because the action that occurs in those QTE segments are off-the-wall levels of crazy.

I honestly think QTE's can be done well, but most of the time game devs fuck them up. Or in the case of Advanced Warfare's "Press X to pay Respects" debacle, miss the point completely.

Press button to do thing reminds me of one of my complaints about Bioshock Infinite: The skyrail kills. You just point at the guys on the ground and hit the "kill" button to win. Game design used to make it where you had to detach from the rails, and then hit an attack button when the foe was in range. Thief 1 and 2 did this when you were falling from the rafters to KO an unsuspecting guard, and you felt SO AWESOME when you pulled it off right. The single button approach kills that feeling entirely.

It's like the appartment ending of the Stanley Parable.
Press G to watch TV. Press Z to be at work in the morning. Press N to question nothing.

Good gameplay is about establishing a set of rules and teaching them to the player just enough that they can intuit the next solution, one not so obscure as to be frustrating but not so obvious as to kill their sense of achievement. The moment you need to flash up a caption instructing the player of what button to press (at least, past the point that the standard controls have been tutorialized), you have failed.

I'm taking this to the grave. It's one of the main reasons I love Half-Life and Super Metroid.

I've always hated quick time events, in almost every form. Hated them in God Of War and other popular games. Heavy Rain even cracked me up during it's most dramatic scenes because of the colourful goofy looking button prompts.

The only quick time events I like (if you can even call it that) is the single button KOs like in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time.

Yeah, I didn't really think this one was that bad. CoD's STEs are the way it's always handled scripted moments, and it seems like a perfectly cromulant way of doing things - by pressing the button, you're acknowledging that you're handing over control to the plot for a moment, without having it snatched away from you like games did in the oldern days (and without leaving you free to jump around the plot and teabag the coffin).

It's not like it's cramming the need to pay respects into the multiplayer - it's confined to the campaign, and it's not completely unreasonable to expect CoD to show you a story when you elect to play Campaign mode, is it?

Maybe I'm in no place to argue, though - I didn't pick up on the moon dust talk in Portal 2, so was totally puzzled by that final encounter, until my girlfriend, who'd been playing on her own PC and had just done that section herself, pointed it out. It's fair enough, as an ending, but I think people would be a lot more bothered if every problem in every game had to be solved with the same basic left click standard attack.

I remember one STE that worked quite well that sticks out in my memory.

From the Darkness- Move sticks to save Jenny. (The bit in the church uses it well as well)

Kolyarut:
- by pressing the button, you're acknowledging that you're handing over control to the plot for a moment...

What control? These games are so scripted that you're reduced to just an actor in a war movie. That STE is pretty much the director giving the cue with his megaphone.

Well this was better put together than Movie Bob's rather immature response to the Press F To Pay Respects.

Also, I do remember QTEs being described as not as awful if they're part of the core gameplay: See Hitman: Absolution's melee system. It's the same QTE every time.

It's like that part at the beginning of portal 2. Stand in front of the art. Listen to the Jazz. BZZZZT. You have now been mentally revitalized. Go back into stasis until we have need of you. Press F to pay respects. You have now mourned. Resume mass slaughter.

CaitSeith:

Kolyarut:
- by pressing the button, you're acknowledging that you're handing over control to the plot for a moment...

What control? These games are so scripted that you're reduced to just an actor in a war movie. That STE is pretty much the director giving the cue with his megaphone.

You have control over the protagonist during gameplay sections, and it's frustrating to have that yanked away from you, for the mouse and keyboard to stop accepting input, without any warning. The on-screen prompt is your warning - pressing the button is simply saying "yes, I'm ready for the cutscene now". If the director calls the cutscene and you're not ready for it, it's jarring and annoying (in any game).

Good gameplay is about establishing a set of rules and teaching them to the player just enough that they can intuit the next solution, one not so obscure as to be frustrating but not so obvious as to kill their sense of achievement. The moment you need to flash up a caption instructing the player of what button to press (at least, past the point that the standard controls have been tutorialized), you have failed.

See also: Games that feel the need to give the player explicit instructions on every single action they need to take via support characters. After playing BioShock for about the third time, I realized that the game was loaded down with "puzzles" which Atlas kept telling me the solution to instead of letting me figure anything out for myself. Granted, the puzzles were kind of obtuse compared to the ones in, say, Half-Life 2 (dump magma into a flooded room to boil off the water?), but that's probably only because they weren't made to be solved by the player; they were made to be direct instructions for them to follow. But then why have them at all? It's just another arbitrary delay between one action scene and another.

Wait, being told exactly what to do at every single turn is the entire Call of Duty franchise in a nutshell. Though I guess it makes sense because that's also pretty much what it's like to be a soldier IRL.

Kolyarut:

CaitSeith:

Kolyarut:
- by pressing the button, you're acknowledging that you're handing over control to the plot for a moment...

What control? These games are so scripted that you're reduced to just an actor in a war movie. That STE is pretty much the director giving the cue with his megaphone.

You have control over the protagonist during gameplay sections, and it's frustrating to have that yanked away from you, for the mouse and keyboard to stop accepting input, without any warning. The on-screen prompt is your warning - pressing the button is simply saying "yes, I'm ready for the cutscene now". If the director calls the cutscene and you're not ready for it, it's jarring and annoying (in any game).

That control over the protagonist during gameplay sections isn't control over the plot. Even during the gameplay sections, the control is limited to the corridor. And if you stray from it for more than a couple of seconds (ignoring the warnings), you die without a logical cause (it's pretty much the director head-shooting you for trying to escape from the movie set during the filming session)

PS: The STE appeared at mid-cutscene. You didn't had control over the character and were prompted to start the cutscene. In fact it was totally the opposite.

Isn't this whole thing just a devolved version of hitting the button on games with text to move onto the next bit of exposition?

Hero in a half shell:

I wonder what happens if you don't? I would purposefully hold back and be deliberately disrespectful just to be awkward.

Presumably nothing.

Portal 2 at least had the self-awareness enough to script jokes in if you refused to acknowledge Wheatley's prompts at the beginning of the game, but I imagine the writers/designers for CoD didn't view the picture big enough to implement awkward shuffling and coughing and the crowd looking around and whispering to themselves about how rude you're being by not paying respects.

But I haven't played it either, so who knows?

There was one time when I saw an STE done well. (Possible spoiler) At the end of Metal Gear Solid 3 when you defeat Boss and have to execute her. After being told that everything you were fighting for was a lie and that she is nothing but a willing pawn sacrificing herself to save the government's global reputation, she asks Snake to finish the job and shoot her, and the game won't continue until you, the player, press square to pull the trigger, placing the guilt of it on your shoulders.
Sure, you have no choice in the matter, but it would have had far less of an impact if the whole thing was just a non-interactive cutscene.

CaitSeith:

Kolyarut:

CaitSeith:

What control? These games are so scripted that you're reduced to just an actor in a war movie. That STE is pretty much the director giving the cue with his megaphone.

You have control over the protagonist during gameplay sections, and it's frustrating to have that yanked away from you, for the mouse and keyboard to stop accepting input, without any warning. The on-screen prompt is your warning - pressing the button is simply saying "yes, I'm ready for the cutscene now". If the director calls the cutscene and you're not ready for it, it's jarring and annoying (in any game).

That control over the protagonist during gameplay sections isn't control over the plot. Even during the gameplay sections, the control is limited to the corridor. And if you stray from it for more than a couple of seconds (ignoring the warnings), you die without a logical cause (it's pretty much the director head-shooting you for trying to escape from the movie set during the filming session)

Sure it's not, but who goes into a CoD campaign expecting to exercise control over the plot?

The issue of getting killed because of straying in the wrong direction certainly annoyed me about Ghosts (it generally wasn't too bad but there were a few moments where it was really obvious and annoying), but it's kind of off topic to the issue at hand.

CaitSeith:
PS: The STE appeared at mid-cutscene. You didn't had control over the character and were prompted to start the cutscene. In fact it was totally the opposite.

Fair enough - I haven't played this one in particular, I may or may not pick it up when the sales hit (not that you ever get really deep discounts on CoD games), but if it's an interruption that happens mid-cutscene then I agree that does sound unnecessary. It still doesn't sound that risible to me that paying respects to the fallen would happen during one of these stories, though, and the Press F method is entirely in keeping with what the series has always done since forever, so I never really found the funny when people were passing this screenshot around in the first place.

sageoftruth:
There was one time when I saw an STE done well.

The reason it works here is severalfold:

There are very few game mechanics which I think have literally zero merit (binary good/evil systems, maybe). Much like most everything else, it's just a matter of putting it in the hands of competent writers and designers. Before putting any game mechanic ever invented, three questions need to be asked: What purpose is this meant to serve, does it effectively serve that purpose, and does this actually benefit the game as a whole? If you can't answer these questions properly, you probably shouldn't be putting a mechanic or system.

P.S. Thanks

It's been around for ages and it't just as pointless now as it was 5 years ago. I really hope it goes away, i can't see how it adds anything to the experience. It's not gameplay or storytelling, it's just pointless interactions added because they are afraid that someone will complain about long cutscenes (Or whatever...). I can't figure out why it's there, most often it would work better as a cutscene and it really feels like something added just because games have to be interactive at all possible times... Worst of all, these crappy cutscenes can't be skipped, which is probably the worst offense of all.

I wish we just had an interaction button, that worked back in the old days. If you need to do something that doesn't involve shooting? Press space...

Covarr:

sageoftruth:
There was one time when I saw an STE done well.

The reason it works here is severalfold:

There are very few game mechanics which I think have literally zero merit (binary good/evil systems, maybe). Much like most everything else, it's just a matter of putting it in the hands of competent writers and designers. Before putting any game mechanic ever invented, three questions need to be asked: What purpose is this meant to serve, does it effectively serve that purpose, and does this actually benefit the game as a whole? If you can't answer these questions properly, you probably shouldn't be putting a mechanic or system.

P.S. Thanks

Well said. This should be entered into a textbook about game design. So many developers seem to throw stuff in without thinking about why it should be there.

MrBaskerville:
I wish we just had an interaction button, that worked back in the old days. If you need to do something that doesn't involve shooting? Press space...

We do... it's "F".

Unless I'm missing some sarcasm here?

The problem, I think, is that the developers and script-writers were so convinced of the emotional weight of the scene in question that they figured that allowing us to participate in the funeral in the shallowest means possible would actually foster some sort of engagement from the player.

I watched a friend play through the funeral sequence and was all "Okay... So you pressed F to put your hand on an ancillary character's casket. An ancillary character whom you were TOLD is your best friend, but with whom you've had precisely zero opportunities to socialize."

Friendship requires character buildup. Games that go "OKAY HERE IS THIS GUY HE IS YOUR FRIEND BUT NOW HE IS DEAD SO BE SAD NOW" aren't just missing the point - they're sailing past it like the basketball-throwing dude from that one side-mission in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

It's not just poor mechanics, it's poor narrative design. If this trend catches on any further, I'll be sorely disappointed.

Kolyarut:

MrBaskerville:
I wish we just had an interaction button, that worked back in the old days. If you need to do something that doesn't involve shooting? Press space...

We do... it's "F".

Unless I'm missing some sarcasm here?

I meant, i wish we just taught people which button was used for general interactions, so they didn't have to write it on the screen. If the interaction isn't intuitive for the player when the scene happens, it's probably pointless and therefore it should be removed or automatic, The best solution though, would be to either do proper interactive storytelling or just use skipable cutscenes^^.Instead of this pointless combination.

Maybe that explains what happened to Kevin Spacey in that game: he pressed 'F' to turn into Cobra Commander.
And this is why I don't play the CoD games, because of crap like this.

sageoftruth:

Covarr:

sageoftruth:
There was one time when I saw an STE done well.

The reason it works here is severalfold:


That's the way you do it! It looks to me that CoD's designers did with Metal Gear what the comic book writers of the 90's did with The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.

There are very few game mechanics which I think have literally zero merit (binary good/evil systems, maybe). Much like most everything else, it's just a matter of putting it in the hands of competent writers and designers. Before putting any game mechanic ever invented, three questions need to be asked: What purpose is this meant to serve, does it effectively serve that purpose, and does this actually benefit the game as a whole? If you can't answer these questions properly, you probably shouldn't be putting a mechanic or system.

P.S. Thanks

Well said. This should be entered into a textbook about game design. So many developers seem to throw stuff in without thinking about why it should be there.

Adding to the list of clues from which one can infer the final solution to Portal 2, just as player agency is returned after being knocked to the ground by an explosion*, part of the ceiling, in full view as the player is on her back, falls away, revealing the moon. What I find impressive is that this is arguably the most overt clue of all, but would not suffice without the previously mentioned, more subtle hints.

I have to agree with Yahtzee. The buttons are for the gameplay and I want to decide how to use those buttons to win, not have it told to me. When the writer uses cutscenes to tell a story, I want to watch that story and the buttons just get in the way.

Oh joy.

Portal 2 was next on my list of (long-running) backlogged games to play. I'm SO fucking glad this article/thread showed some awareness of the fact that some people who WANT to play the game still haven't done so.

Fucking fuckity fuck!

Nazulu:

Good gameplay is about establishing a set of rules and teaching them to the player just enough that they can intuit the next solution, one not so obscure as to be frustrating but not so obvious as to kill their sense of achievement. The moment you need to flash up a caption instructing the player of what button to press (at least, past the point that the standard controls have been tutorialized), you have failed.

I'm taking this to the grave. It's one of the main reasons I love Half-Life and Super Metroid.

I've always hated quick time events, in almost every form. Hated them in God Of War and other popular games. Heavy Rain even cracked me up during it's most dramatic scenes because of the colourful goofy looking button prompts.

The only quick time events I like (if you can even call it that) is the single button KOs like in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time.

I also hated QTE's especially in the GOW games for some reason. The button mashing, tug-of-war QTEs felt more like an endurance test and some of the more extended sequences were just lazy excuses for player interaction in completely automated sequences. The last Boss fight of Space Marine, imho, is one of the worst examples of QTE boss fights in the last decade.

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