Game Mechanics That Developers Need To Stop Using


Over the course of the long history of video games, many game mechanics have stood the test of time and been used consistently throughout decades, agreed upon as being reliable design principles for making your gameplay fun. In some cases, however, we absolutely have no clue why developers keep sticking them into games, because they're nothing but awful tropes that you often see reviled in gaming communities.

What are the worst game mechanics that just won't go away? We'll take a look at 10 of them, and try to decipher why they didn't go the way of the dodo.

Forced Vehicle Sections

Picture this - you're playing a great FPS, or TPS or even an MMO (yes, really) with a nice gameplay flow, the gunplay is smooth, you're clearing out encounters of opponents by the skin of your teeth, frantically switching out the right weapons. It's tough, it's thrilling, and you're having fun. Cue a cutscene, you get to catch your breath after fighting through a base or a city or whatever.

Then your character approaches a mech/tank/boat/car/helicopter/horse/some other form of locomotion other than your own two feet. Despite your enthusiastic objections, your character promptly enters or mounts the vehicle in question, and it begins - the reviled vehicle section.

Everyone hates the walker sections in SWTOR.

Sure, we'll give the mechanic the benefit of the doubt and assume that there exist, somewhere out there in the vastness of the medium, forced vehicle sections that don't suck - we can't think of any, but we'll assume they exist. Not only are these exceedingly rare, but they're pointless to begin with.

What might be envisioned as a change of pace, or a way to shake up the gameplay, are usually poorly implemented afterthoughts that clearly didn't get as much attention as the main mechanics did, and it always shows. In the end, these are just dreaded transitions players try to get through as soon as possible to return to the fun bits. If your main gameplay loop is good enough, you won't need to "shake things up" with a vehicle section; if it isn't, a forced vehicle section won't help.

Bonus (negative) points if they're on the rails, and start over from the very beginning if you die or fail.

Forced Stealth Sections

A close cousin of the forced vehicle section, the forced stealth section that is shoehorned into the middle of a game that otherwise doesn't rely on stealth is nothing but a source of frustration. No doubt forced stealth sections lead to several instances of players just quitting on a game halfway through - if we want to play a stealth game, we'll play a stealth game! They, without exception, pull off stealth better than a non-stealth game having a swing at it midway through.

Changes of pace are sometimes good and needed, but a sharp swerve into a completely different style is almost never well executed, and only serves to shatter immersion. If you've been a power-tripping badass exploding your way through henchmen, it'll take some awfully contrived reason to force you into sneaking for the sake of one mission.

Force Rail-Shooter Sections

The third member of this unholy trinity of forced gameplay changes, the rail-shooter is, from a purely technical standpoint, entirely reductive. All this achieves is relieving the player of a dimension of control. We have yet to encounter any forced rail-shooter sections that didn't detract from the overall experience, and these are the hardest to decipher.

No, Bulletstorm, the massive death-wheel won't make me forget that you glued my legs to a train.

Since they generally appear in shooter games, you're not actually doing anything different. If it is a method of padding, you could still implement a section that takes a fixed amount of time to complete without removing control from the player. It makes the least amount of sense of the forced-trifecta, and should definitely be abandoned first.

Quick Time Events

Quick time events, as a whole, are not necessarily a problem. Sticking them where they don't belong, however, is. If we want to get down to it, all rhythm games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band revolve around an extended quick time event sequence, and we love these titles - because we know what we're getting into.

Often, quick time events are thrust into situations and contexts where they are annoying or just plain lazy. When you whittle down a boss' health bar, utilizing the skills that playing the game up until that point has taught you, it is nothing short of jarring to have to also clear a quick time event in a "cinematic" scene to progress.

Press X to purge the heretic.

Even more egregious is when important moments of the story get stinked up by QTEs - or revolve around them. Looking at you, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - finishing off the final boss with a QTE was a low blow, and an exceedingly anticlimactic end to an otherwise visceral game.

Inventory Limits

In some, rare cases, like survival games, inventory limits have a place. However, in the grand scheme of things, the mechanic lives in contradiction with itself. Games that impose inventory limits still do not place any measure of realistic limitation on the amount of items you can carry, so obviously immersion isn't the point - sure, my character can haul around 45 potions, 10 scrolls, 4 sets of full plate armor, 8 swords, 200 arrows and a bow, but picking up just one more battle axe will be too heavy. Totally relatable.

Remember, if you eat 400 entire loaves of bread, your character will be able to run again. Realism!

Imposing inventory limits and then offering ways to unlock - or, god forbid, buy - more inventory space is a poor way to offer incentive of progression. Rewards should be something you feel like is a bonus as opposed to an underlying convenience. Every time we start playing a new RPG, our first step is to look for an infinite inventory mod.

Health Regeneration (Where it does not make sense)

One of the worst tropes in modern video games has to be the health regeneration mechanic. The whole process of watching our character apparently projectile-bleed out of their eyeballs upon suffering damage, only to magically heal back to perfect health after cowering behind a chest-high wall or something is neither fun, nor immersive. Game mechanics usually have to be at least one or the other to be a logical choice to implement.

He's fine, actually. That's just strawberry jam on his goggles.

The whole realism argument flies out the window with the whole thing - sure, miracle health packs that instantly heal any and all injuries are also not realistic, but add an extra layer of strategy and difficulty. That covers the fun part, and since humans are unfortunately very fragile beings, "realistic" health mechanics wouldn't ever be quite fun now, would they? Call of Duty would be a wholly different experience if taking a single shot to the chest would cause your character to collapse on the floor in shock as a wheezing pile of pain and misery.

Now, when we're dealing with fantasy characters, or bring fictional technology into the mix, then regenerating health can make sense - it still won't be fun, though.

Invisible Walls

We understand a need to set boundaries in maps and open worlds. Be it at the edge of the game world, or cordoning off areas that players shouldn't be able to access until a later point in the story, there are plenty of more elegant ways to set up borders.

Mountains, walls, impassable shrubbery, fatal falls, locked doors - all of these methods are vastly more immersive than simply hitting an invisible wall, staring at the character's walk cycle repeat in one place as they jog without actually moving.

You can get creative, too - Spore memorably has your poor little alien eaten by a sea monster if you swim too far out, while Prototype launches an infinite stream of knockback missiles at you if you fly or swim too far from Manhattan.

Different Walking Speeds For NPCs

We were this close to adding "escort missions", but unlike the other examples in this list we could actually think of some inoffensive examples of them - so instead, let's take one of the mechanics that can make an escort mission an utter pain. The Assassin's Creed series is a notable offender of this issue.

While you're busy doing this, the person you're escorting will just keep walking, so hurry up with the murdering.

Few things are more annoying than NPCs having a walking speed that is faster than your walking speed, but slower than your running speed. This way you'll spend the entire mission awkwardly jogging a few steps, then walking a few, then jogging again like some Ministry of Silly Walks reject.

Annoying Checkpoint Placement

Breaking the flow is a major pet peeve of ours, and poor checkpoint placement is the epitome of this problem. Difficulty can be great in games, throwing yourself at an impasse until you finally find the solution can make for the most memorable gaming moments.

Having to trudge through the same lengthy, but not challenging portion of game because the checkpoint was placed an hour of progress back is less memorable, and more of a deal breaker.

Lives

Lives are an inseparable, classic conceit of the video game medium that have become a universally recognized symbol - at this point, everyone knows phrases like "one up" even if they've never touched a game controller in their life.

However, they're also an outdated system reaching back to the Arcade era designed to rob teenagers from their quarters, and really have no justifiable place in video games these days, unless it is a deliberately retro title evoking that era. There are better ways to add difficulty and represent character "health".

What game mechanics would you prefer to never see in a title again?

Aron Gerencser
Gaming at least as long as he's been walking, Aron is a fan of all things sci-fi and lover of RPGs. Having written about games for years, he's right at home reporting most of the breaking news in the industry and covering the happenings of the e-sports world. When not writing, editing or playing, you can find Aron on Facebook.