ImaJAN Media Network
MeltedJoystick Home
   Games  Members
Search +
Searching... Close  
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
  Login Using Facebook

5 of the Laziest Game Design Techniques Devs Should Avoid

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 03/17/19 at 03:36 PM CT

As we all know, game development, like any form of media and art creation, can be a lot of work. While Indie development studios typically make due with a small team of dedicated folks with a lot of passion for the project, big “AAA” corporate developers create games with credit rolls that sometimes last longer than the actual gameplay (I’m looking at you, “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale”!). Regardless of studio size, however, developers can – and do – fall into a number of game design traps; shortcuts that will ultimately pad-out their project’s runtime, without providing any real value to their potential players or to the gaming medium as a whole.

Here are 5 of the most common laziness-induced missteps that can ruin a game, with examples of (fairly) recent good-ish games that could have been better without these shortcuts:

5. Arbitrary Performance Grading

So you finished a stage and beat the boss at the end? Good for you! Now, let’s see how well you did: D-rating.

What? But I won! Isn’t winning the point?

Sadly, no, thanks to arbitrary performance grading, which is largely a symptom of mobile gaming (thanks to the fact that earning 3/3 Stars is bog standard in that arena), but actually has its root much further back in time. Arbitrary performance grading first became a big thing in Japanese game design, and with the entirety of mobile gaming ultimately arising from Japan’s smartphone-loving spawning bed, it’s no surprise that it became the apex predator, devouring all Fun in its path.

Few things are quite as irritating as pushing through a tough stage and defeating a tricky boss, only to be told that your performance sucked, with no real guidance in what the grading system would have liked to see in order to grant a better rating. As a result, players who obsess over these grades will find themselves playing and replaying the same content over and over in a vain attempt at earning a higher grade, trial-and-error and all.

Example: “Valdis Story: Abyssal City”

4. Grinding/RNG

Originally a symptom of subscription-based games, where the developers wanted to keep people playing for as many months as possible without having to generate tons of new content for them to experience, grinding and RNG are essentially two sides of the same coin.

With grinding, you do a task to get a reward, but you need a large amount of said reward in order to do anything with it, so you repeat the task over and over and over until you have enough.

With RNG, you do a task to get a chance at a reward. You only need to hit the jackpot once, but, like with all gambling mechanics, the odds of winning are remarkably slim.

As a goal-oriented person, I find straight-up grinding to be far more tolerable than RNG, since the result is guaranteed after X repetitions of the task at hand, whereas the 0.000002% drop rates involved in RNG-based activities can stretch the repetition beyond all reasonable levels. But you can’t argue with statistical marketing, and the statistics show that there is a huge portion of the human population that enjoys the “thrill” of wasting tons of time and/or resources to have a chance at winning something “for free.”

Example: “Dungeon Defenders 2”

3. Boss Rush

Dev 1: Well, the writers just quit.

Dev 2: What do we do? We don’t have an endgame yet!

Dev 1: Why don’t we just reuse some of the stuff we already have? We could make the players go through it again.

Dev 2: Ooh! Ooh! Yeah, we already made the player fight all these boss enemies at the ends of appropriate story and exploration arcs, how about we just smash them all together and make the player fight them in a row without the ability to save or heal-up in between?

Dev 1 and 2: BRILLIANT!

Example: “Octopath Traveler”

2. Procedural Generation

As mentioned in the intro, making a piece of art is a lot of work. It’s creative work that typically relies on a variety of different strengths in different areas of excellence, hence why there are very few one-man projects that garner a significant amount of praise. No, instead of a lone Renaissance Man, it typically takes a team to make a game, with an artist, composer, and writer driving the parts of the game people actually engage with, while a programmer or two is required to put the correct pegs into the correct holes to make everything actually work behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, many wannabe game developers are just programmers, who typically lack in creativity, artistry, and eloquence (no offense intended, Nick). The thing programmers are the best at, though, is efficiency. Why bother hiring a bunch of flakey, uppity, artsy types to make the fluffy aspects of your game when you can just write a program to do that for you?!

Hence, procedural generation, where a bare minimum of artistic assets are mashed-together over and over by an algorithm in order to “create” “new” content. At best, procedural generation produces a lot of mediocre, iterative content that feels either very generic or very aimless. At worst, procedural generation produces broken content that is literally unusable, perhaps because the start point or end point of a game zone is completely walled off and unreachable; or because an item intended for one type of character was generated with stats for another type of character.

Example: “Adventurer Manager”

1. PvP

Game developers, and computer programmers in general, are struggling more and more with artificial intelligence. As gamers become more experienced and skilled, they quickly learn to exploit flaws in enemy AI in order to “cheese” their way to victory, or just win with little effort. For a long time, the only solution developers could come up with was to allow the AI to cheat: classic RTS games typically gave AI opponents more starting resources than the player, and classic Fighting games were infamous for allowing the AI to read the player’s control inputs directly, giving them preternatural capabilities in countering everything the player did before it even manifested on-screen.

Today’s developers still haven’t managed to make AI much better, but instead of cheating, they use the power of the Internet to be even lazier: They make players fight each other. Why bother making AI better when you can have a real, analog human intelligence behind a game enemy?

Unfortunately, this ability to pit players against each other requires devs to put effort into matchmaking systems based on skill level (which they never actually do). None of the players involved in a PvP matchup are going to have a good time when a low-level player is pitted against someone who practices 16 hours a day, which leads to games with compulsory PvP being the absolute worst offenders. Games that blend PvP (Player vs Player) activities with PvE (Player vs Environment) activities perpetually fail to strike a balance of “fun” and “fair,” as gimmicky PvE items are typically neutered to make them “balanced” for PvP. These blended games also tend to gate at least some desirable content behind PvP participation, which naturally results in a lot of begrudging fodder for PvP fanatics, as players who would otherwise completely avoid the competitive mode are forced to participate.

Honestly, I can’t see how a player who is so skilled that cheating AIs no longer challenge them can get any enjoyment out of curb-stomping a player like me, who is far easier to defeat than a cheating AI.

Example: “Destiny 2”

MeltedJoystick Gaming Blog RSS Feed

Avoid spam Captcha: Sign Up + or Log In +   



Previous Blog Posts


All Posts

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

Log In
For members wanting to use FB to login, click here
remember me

What Members Are Doing

Comments about...

New Game Reviews

Strange Brigade game review by Nelson Schneider
Metro Exodus game review by Nelson Schneider
Evoland Legendary Edition game review by Nelson Schneider
Metro 2033 game review by Chris Kavan
South Park: The Fractured ... game review by Chris Kavan
Sundered game review by Chris Kavan
Bloodstained: Ritual of th... game review by dbarry_22
Bloodstained: Ritual of th... game review by dbarry_22

New Game Lists

Games I Want To Play by Shaneo99
Games I Own: PS4 Digital by dbarry_22
Games I Own: PC by Nelson Schneider
Top Nintendo DS / DSi Games by Megadrive
My Backlog by Chris Kavan
Ranking the James Bond Video ... by SIngli6
Backlog by Matt
Top GameCube Games by Batgirl1979




Contact Us Public Relations MeltedJoystick Friends    

Advertise and Business

Contacts Us


About us



Support Us

FAQ and Help

News and Press

Terms of Use


Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Are you sure you want to delete this blog?