Our game design pet peeves

Ladders, boats, combat music and more things which drive PC Gamer’s writers nuts.

From escort missions that are the equivalent of trying to carry bone china through a live fire exercise to inventory management as designed by Satan’s own Feng Shui consultant, as gamers we are united by the things we hate. But as individuals, we also have our gears ground disproportionately hard by some idiosyncratic pet peeves. For this feature, PC Gamer’s writers were asked to pick the things that they loathe most in games, which other people might not feel quite so passionate about. Let us know what piece of design you personally can’t stand in the comments. There will be bonus points for anyone who really loses their mind over bad minimaps.

Getting Into boats 

Honestly, has there ever been a game which has handled the transition from lovely land to small seafaring vessel in a manner that was anything less than awful? I’ve been playing a ton of The Witcher 3 recently, and the boats are classic bullshit. Try to casually saunter aboard and Geralt invariably slips betwixt dock and hull. Try to jump instead, and the animation—which is clearly inappropriate for safe boat embarkment—sends him flying clear over and into the drink. Once soaked, you face trying to shamefacedly clamber out, character model bucking wildly as it transitions between swimming and walking modes. Anything but pixel perfect alignment results in the kind of thrashing that would usually see Chief Brody clear the beach. From GTA to Assassin’s Creed, small boats are an absolute blight on open world games. Big ones aren’t much better either, as is any obstacle you end up having to swim slowly around looking for a point of ingress. See also: mountaintop markers, minimaps, and slopes that seem to have been smeared with butter.
— Tim Clark

Adventure games that make you watch the character walk across every screen 

Adventure games would probably be my favorite genre if it weren’t for this one time-consuming flaw. I don’t mind watching my dopey pixelated avatar mosey through an intricately detailed mural depicting a shipyard or haunted house or magical Russian forest, but good God, if I mash the mouse button just let me transition to the next scene right away. There’s a lot to soak in, sure, and spending time on each screen means a puzzle solution or item might catch my eye, but if I know the solution to a puzzle or want to check out a specific panel, let me go. Pajama Sam taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark, but it also taught little James to look inside and see the void.
James Davenport 

Combat music that is the same no matter what you’re fighting 

I get the design impulse for exciting music to play when entering combat: it’s cinematic. But in cinema, combat music is specifically scored depending on the scene, whereas in most games it’s the same track no matter what. Entering combat with a dragon calls for a certain amount of gravitas. Entering combat with a slightly oversized rat or a crab? It probably doesn’t call for the same degree of pomp as the dragon fight. It’s hard to not feel a little silly cutting down a large bee with one lazy swipe of your axe to music that sounds like it was scored for the climax of 300.

Worse still, combat music will begin not just when you decide to fight, but when something decides to fight with you. In some cases, the thing that has decided to fight with you is a spider that saw you sprint past its nest a few minutes ago and now is slowly scuttling toward you completely unseen through dense underbrush. Meanwhile, you’ve heard the music and have stopped sprinting and are just sort of looking around, wondering where and when this exciting bout of combat is supposed to take place. Just keep waiting! Like in all the best action movies, sometimes our hero has to stand there craning his next around for several minutes while some pitiful monster slowly trundles a few hundred yards to experience the honor of being instantly killed.
— Chris Livingston 

Games that begin with two minutes of unskippable logos 

I just want to play your game, why do you make that so hard? I understand you are very proud of your logo, and your publisher’s logo, and the logo of the engine you use, and oh hey look you worked with Nvidia on this one too, but for the love of god I want to get off Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride and just play your damn game. And heaven forbid I finally get to the menu only to discover that changing graphics settings requires a restart. Then finding that subtle balance between quality and FPS becomes a long, drawn out process as I read that massive wall of disclaimer text you put up between the engine logo and the final loading screen for the fourth time. You make me want to never turn your game off again, but in the worst way.
— Tom Marks 

Next page: Ladders, stats, inventory management and more.


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