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Sick To Death: Five Game Design Cliches We Can't Stand!

Jonathan Lester
Cliche, Convention, Crysis 2, Flaws, New York, Pet Hates, Poor design, QTE, Rant, Zombies
Crysis 2

That's it! We've had enough.

Whilst we're convinced that the quality of games has reached an all-time high, there's no denying that design cliches are starting to completely dominate our medium. The same tired old gaming conventions appear over and over again, aggravating us to near insanity every time. In order to get some of the angst out of my system, I've decided to shift my frustrations onto the internet - and you guys - instead.

Here are five of the biggest offenders, and I hope you'll agree that it's time to make a change!

5: Quick Time Events

bulletstorm qte

I know you're as bored of reading about how much we hate QTEs as we are of writing about how much we hate them. Bizarrely, though, developers have proved strongly resistant to the idea of scrapping them regardless of how many times we criticise QTEs in reviews, previews, commentary and angry forum posts. They're like a bad rash, and the infestation is only getting worse.

For those who don't know, Quick Time Events were an attempt to make storylines more immersive by providing interactive cutscenes... but in reality, displaying button prompts on the screen forced players to suspend disbelief by constantly reminding us that we're playing a game. The concept could have just been dropped years ago - but no such luck.

QTEs should only be used when they mark a branching point in the narrative or gameplay experience. Heavy Rain is an excellent example of this in action, as failing at one of its numerous events doesn't always result in death and failure. Rather, the story shifts in a new (and usually worse) direction. Unfortunately the recent examples of Bulletstorm and Crysis 2 demonstrate how not to include them, as the actions of crawling across the floor, grabbing a pipe or otherwise moving around could have just been handled by a quick cutscene or, you know, left out in favour of more combat. To add insult to injury, they ultimately create unskippable cutscenes! Which is another deadly game design sin that I'll have to leave for another rant.

We fervently hope that developers start to take the hint. Especially since us gamers, reviewers and pundits have been banging on about them for years.

4: Arena DLC

pinnacle station

Downloadable content takes many forms: from the loftiest expansion packs to the rattiest collections of weapons and outfits available at launch. To be honest, we're sick to death with the whole DLC culture that pervades gaming these days, but there's one type of content pack in particular that we'd like to focus on.

When designing DLC, it's very difficult to create meaningful singleplayer content that genuinely expands on the original game. However, it's much easier to shoehorn your mechanics into a pointless selection of recycled arenas that are entirely separate from the canon and the rest of the experience itself. Mass Effect's Pinnacle Station, Borderlands' Underdome, BioShock 2's Protector Trials and Painkiller: Redemption are all reprehensible examples of this cash-grabbing tactic in all its cynical glory - and fail to reward their players with persistent experience, items or even much in the way of fun.

Click here to continue reading our angry sack of shameful sins >>

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Preview

Neil Davey
Activision, Comic-Con, Games previews, Marvel, New York, Shattered Dimensons, Spider-Man

spiderman shattered

Platforms: PS3 | X360 | Wii | NDS

The Spider-Man gaming franchise has been as mixed a bag as a bag can be mixed. When they’ve been good, they’ve been free-ranging delights. When they’ve been bad... well, then they’ve been Web of Shadows.

Even then, while the execution wasn’t great, clumsy controls could send you unwittingly from red suit to black suit 27 times in every fight, and the action became dully repetitive, it at least had a decent idea at its heart. Will you play as good Spidey or bad Spidey?

The same can be said of the next game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Will it be as promising as it looks, with its multiple time periods, different Spideys and, in a particularly nice touch, voicework from four different actors who’ve previously played the character? Or will it be another misfire? Well, happily, the signs are good. First of all, Activision’s CEO has admitted that their “Spiderman games have sucked for the last five years,” so at least they’re aware of that. And, judging by my early look at Shattered Dimensions, that awareness has translated to considerable extra effort.


First of all, for inspiration, they’ve gone back to the comics. The result is four Spider-Man Universes, and four different Spider-Man characters to play. The story, as has been publicised elsewhere, sees a mysterious artefact, The Tablet of Order and Chaos, breaking into four pieces and causing assorted ripples in reality / the time and space continuum etc. Really, if you owned something called The Tablet of Order & Chaos you’d keep it in a sponge-lined room, wouldn’t you?

Click here to read the rest of Neil's preview...