<< Portico: What makes a game bad?


What makes a game bad?

Check out this piece and the associated comments on Scott Miller's Game Matters blog.

Tough question, since every bad game is bad in its own way. Since I know strategy games better than any other genre, here's a quick and dirty guide to making a bad strategy game.

1. Bad interface - this is the real killer. A good UI can pass by almost unnoticed - look at the elegance of Rise of Nations, for instance. A lot of strategy games confuse complex with complicated and make an interface that tends to the latter.

2. Backwards priorities - Think about this year's Superpower 2. Deep and complicated domestic model with a lot of detail on social and economic policy. Now look at the foreign policy/military model - terrible. People play world politics sims - mostly - because they are interested in wars and diplomacy and all that stuff. By putting more energy into how many options were open to a player who liked variable tax rates, Golemlabs completely missed the boat. The result was one of the most disappointing games of the year.

3.Quick copies - no game can become a success without seeing a spate of copycats in its wake. Soon after Civilization became a hit, 4x games were all over the place. One of the most ignominious was Activision's Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires. It had research, city building, warfare - all the stuff that Civ had. But it had only two sides, terrible graphics and no real sense of discovery and expansion. It short, it was Civ-Lite. Look at all those Tycoon games. How many are actually any good? Two? Three? Even Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and Railroad Tycoon 3 were middling games - and they have real legacies behind them. National Lampoon's University Tycoon? Rarely have I needed to play a game less to know how much it stinks.

Feel free to contribute more suggestions. This list is hardly exhaustive.


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