Ridiculously long to-do lists
This morning over breakfast my personal assistant unrolled a map of my town and marked off 36 locations—one was the bank, where I needed to get a document notarized, while the other 35 were good places to find rabbits. I cannot understand why he did this, or why he continued to text me throughout the day, "Got another rabbit sighting for you." It took me four hours to find the bank because of all this, and I don’t even need any rabbits.
I get it: The world is big and wide open and rather than shuttle me between vital tasks you’re hoping I’ll stop and enjoy the scenery, maybe kill a rabbit and make a wallet out of its skin, which is one of the many distractions available to me. But for crying out loud, I don’t need every possible thing I can do screaming at me from an eternally unfinished to-do list. I don’t want a rabbit skin wallet.
I know everyone doesn’t experience open world games like this, but I can’t stand leaving even mundane tasks unfinished before moving on, and so ballooning to-do lists stress me out. They seem important because they’re on the map but they often aren’t—get a new sea shanty, air assassinate an ocelot, whatever. I would rather not know every single thing I can do to check off an achievement or earn a small sack of gold coins. I don’t mind if I miss stuff because of it—it’s more exciting to discover experiences I could have missed than to walk between icons for hours.
— Tyler Wilde
Inadequate stat tracking
Having already denounced as a crouch button, I turn my attention to the awful implementation of personal stats in most competitive games. Dota 2 seems to do an OK job of it, and Overwatch, even though it denies you any kind of insight into your match history, at least has an API for third-party websites like to pull data into. But otherwise, the big competitive games of our time do a miserable job of quantifying your performance.
CS:GO, the biggest FPS of our generation, is especially bad, burying a paltry handful of vanity stats in its “Awards” menu section. There’s nothing given to help me diagnose my strengths and weaknesses as a player. After four years, it doesn’t even display the number of bullets I’ve fired correctly. If any game deserves a heatmap to help you understand what areas of the map you’re succeeding and struggling on, it’s CS:GO. I understand that this is stuff that a game has to be built from the ground up to support, but it’s amazing how little effort is made to represent data in competitive games that ask players to play the same handful of maps hundreds of times—iterating, learning, and breaking bad habits is a core aspect of these games. Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, and others should take a page from StarCraft 2’s treatment of stats.
— Evan Lahti
Failing to consider the variety of hardware configs
I realize the ‘average’ gamer currently runs something like a Core i5 with a 1080p display, a single moderate GPU like a GTX 970 (or lower), 8GB RAM, etc. But after decades of progress, it’s still appalling how many games fail to consider some of the popular alternatives to the ‘everyman’ PC. Widescreen gaming is old hat, but what about ultrawide or triple monitors? Overwatch effectively penalizes anyone with the audacity to run a 21:9 aspect ratio. For shame, Blizzard! And don’t get me started on frame rate caps or assuming no one runs more than a 60Hz display.
Most of the time, you can get around these limitations via hacking or mods, but that shouldn’t be necessary. We still have many games that don’t support multiple graphics cards as well—a niche market, yes, but a market that spends shloads of money on PC gaming is important. Someone needs to think of the poor children sitting at home with their 3440x1440 100Hz displays running on dual GPUs, 10-core processors, and gobs of memory. I’m happy to be that man.
— Jarred Walton
You gather a lot of tat in your average RPG. Clothes, weapons, magical amulets, random bits of cutlery. They all go into the long-established inventory grid, a mysterious menu screen that holds more rubbish than any ordinary human ever could. My Grim Dawn character currently carries around a helmet, some gloves, two maces, a sword, a primitive shotgun, a shield, a grimoire, two evil hearts and dozens of magical artifacts—and all that in addition to the heavy armour he’s already wearing.
Inventory grids are wildly unrealistic storage solutions then, so why is space so limited? Many games give you an infinite storage box separate from your character’s personal inventory. How many thousands of hours have players spent collectively shuffling items between these two arbitrary inventory menus? I want one huge searchable box with the following features: search, filter, ‘sell junk’ and ‘merge trinkets’ to autocombine gems in action RPGs.
Games even build terrible systems around inventory expansion. In Grim Dawn you collect extra bags, which become tabs on your personal inventory. In Deus Ex you have to spend Praxis points to carry more stuff. These upgrades aren’t giving you fun new abilities to play with, they’re removing an inconvenience. If your upgrade system is geared around making the game less annoying to interact with, the upgrade system is bad.
Climbing down ladders. And sometimes up ladders
In one of GTA Online’s heist missions that I played last year, I accidentally fell off a ladder to my death while trying to climb down from a building where I’d been providing accurate covering fire. It was probably my fault for not checking the controls properly, but the process felt more fraught and punishing that it had to. Couldn’t my guy just have grabbed onto the ladder automatically as I walked towards it? I’m not a fan of climbing Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s ladders either. They’re too slow! I haven’t played Mankind Divided, yet. I hope they have faster ladders.
Going towards a ladder in a game feels like a gamble. You wonder if a button might speed up your descent down the ladder, but no: it made your character jump off the ladder, take damage at the bottom, and die. I wish ladders in games were a little stickier to initially grab onto, and then smoother when it came to using the ladder itself—Mirror’s Edge uses pipes in a way that I feel ladders should be used. You’re always sliding down them quickly by default. You know intuitively what button does what. Who wants to wait while your character slowly steps down from a ladder?
Let’s get this over with. Make all ladder usage near-automatic and fast, whether you’re climbing or sliding. There’s no skill in using a ladder in a game. A ladder is just a thing keeping one place from another place. I don't think they're a real disaster in terms of game design, but they are annoying.