辩护理由：你认为这是rubberbanding，但我们把它称为“动态游戏难度平衡”。我们已经玩过大量在30秒的时间里就可以把AI甩在5英里之外的竞速游戏。这有什么乐趣呢？通过 这种方式，我们至少可以保证你在没段赛程中都可以体验到竞速的快感。我们当然应该受到奖赏，因为《马里奥赛车》系列游戏已经有所演变，我们对固有的rubberbanding依赖性 已经减少了。
被告：《Metroid: Other M》
再犯可能性：5/10。幸亏这种做法已经大量减少，但是《Samurai Warriors 3DS》依然是挑战人们忍耐力的典型案例。严肃地说，玩家根本不需要那么多的过场动画和剧情来激发 他们畅玩游戏。
尽管事态与旧时的《King’s Quest》（游戏邦注：在这款游戏中，有些道具的高和宽只有1个像素）相比有所缓和，但是在《逆转裁判》中，你也需要走过3到4个场景才会发现装 着道具的包裹。
被告：这难道不算是主观意见吗？对于其他人来说，BOSS战是游戏的亮点，Boss Rush模式的流行便可见一斑。它们扮演着守门人的角色，标志着游戏中某个章节的结束，在继续进 行下去之前先测试你学到的技能。如果游戏移除所有BOSS的话，你们难道不会说我们单调乏味吗？
Gaming’s most frequent design crimes
Part 1: Cut-scenes, blind jumps and AI…
Well, we’ve had enough of these crimes against humanity, particularly as some of them have already shown their face on 3DS, mere days into the new console’ s lifespan.
So court is now in session! Over the next few weeks we’re going to take to task 12 of the most commonly repeated design faux pas seen in today’s games. We ’ll hear the cases both for and against, and then we’ll decide on a suitably ironic punishment.
But remember one thing: in these courts, we’re the judge, jury and executioner, and defendants are always found guilty…
Defendant: Mario Kart Wii
The charge: Fixing the outcome of races by implementing a mechanic known as rubberbanding. That is to say, no matter how well you race, your biggest rival will always be lodged up your exhaust pipe, ready to fly past you at a preposterous speed on the final corner.
Case for the prosecution: There’s a long history of chequered flag-thievery in the defendant’s family, your honour. Rubberbanding cheats the player and completely neuters any underlying element of skill or technique the game might possess.
Case for the defence: You call it rubberbanding, we call it ‘dynamic game difficulty balancing’. We’ve all played a racing game where you’re five miles out in front of the dozy AI pack within 30 seconds. Where’s the fun in that? At least our way, you’re guaranteed racing thrills and spills from flag to flag. And surely we deserve time off for good behaviour – as the Mario Kart series has evolved, we’ve become less dependant on natural rubberbanding, with the items serving to level the playing field.
Judgement: Although Mario Kart’s crimes are heinous, the jury acknowledges that we’ve repeatedly had to adjourn court for multiplayer sessions and this does stand in its favour. Rubberbanding in itself is not a bad thing in moderation. As the defendant states, it keeps races fresh and exciting and if used judiciously can greatly benefit a game.
But it cannot be allowed to run unchecked, and for this reason we sentence Mario Kart to 300 hours hard labour, during which time an ape in high heels will repeatedly tread on the defendant’s ankles.
Chances of re-offending: 9/10. Rubberbanding is a popular developmental shortcut, and its use is on the rise, particularly in arcade racers and sports sims. Sure beats all that laborious playtesting and balancing palaver, right?
Defendant: Metroid: Other M
The charge: Forcing the player to sit through an endless procession of interminable cutscenes.
Case for the prosecution: Oh look, it’s Samus! And here she is again, being all introspective and angsty! And now a panoramic sweep of her metallic buttocks! And now it’s time for another unintelligible internal monologue! And now… OH GOD MAKE IT STOP!
Look, we understand some people play games for the story. That’s their prerogative. But objectively speaking, 99.999% of gaming scripts would get laughed out of an amateur dramatics theatre, and we can’t bypass them quick enough. Either way, there’s really no excuse for developers not putting in a skip function in this day and age.
Case for the defence: Look, buster, we’ve spent a lot of time and money rendering Samus’s crevices, so you can bloody well sit there and watch our cutscenes. And anyway – you only have to endure them the once. On the second playthrough, you can skip away to your heart’s content. You big babies.
Judgement: But that just makes it worse, doesn’t it? You were aware that it was something that sane people might want to do, and yet you deliberately withhold it from them. Tsk. We were going to let you off with a slapped wrist, but then we noticed you didn’t even put in a pause function, so in light of this new evidence you’re sentenced to watch the entire 121 episodes of Lost in one sitting. With the director’s commentary turned on. And the large print Estonian subtitles.
Chances of re-offending: 5/10. Thankfully this practice is in sharp decline, but there are pockets of resistance Samurai Warriors 3DS is a topical case in point. Seriously, how much context does a player need to have before they’re sufficiently motivated enough to slice a feudal warrior in half?
Leaps of faith
Defendant: Rayman 3D
The charge: Forcing the player to take a leap into the unknown. What awaits them down there? A nice, comfortable ledge, or a stalagmite up the unmentionables? Thanks to shonky camera work and/or poor design, it’s impossible to tell.
Case for the prosecution: When you think Rayman, your honour, two things spring immediately to mind: violent murder, and leaps of faith. The GBA’s Rayman Advance is currently serving a life sentence for its crimes.
As the court might recall, unforeseen insta-death was so frequent, and so indiscriminately applied, that several members of the jury openly wept as the court played footage of the Mr Skops level. The transition to 3D has done little to satisfy Rayman’s bloodlust.
Case for the defence: You know what your problem is? You just don’t get Rayman. You don’t get my awesome character design. You don’t get that I’m the perfect blend of Snoopy and H from Steps. You don’t get that the Rayman Advance port was so mind-bendingly authentic that we didn’t even attempt to scale the visuals down from the original.
Where’s all the praise for the DSiWare version adding a mini-map, which all but took leaps of faith out of the equation? That’s right – because it’s Rayman, who you don’t get, there is none. You lot can go jump.
Judgement: Defendant is found guilty of 1,047 counts of being Rayman, and several lesser charges of leap-of-faith-facilitated mass murder. Life imprisonment is the only suitable course of action. Also: we’re going to occasionally hide goliath bird-eating spiders in your porridge. Good luck with that, you hateful freak.
Chances of re-offending: 4/10. This was more often a problem with 2D platformers. Rigorous play-testing means that nowadays, it’s relatively rare (if not unheard of)
On Part 1 of our crusade to take gaming’s most frequent design felonies to task we took a look at Rubberband AI, as seen in games such as Mario Kart, unskippable cutscenes a la Metroid: Other M and Rayman 3D’s Leaps of faith.
This week we’re holding court for game’s that make you look silly in public, leave you high and dry without a clue and force you to babysit. Court is in session…
BLOWING INTO THE MIC
Defendant: Diddy Kong Racing DS
The Charge: Making it mandatory to huff and puff into the DS’s notoriously unresponsive mic, when a button press (or in this instance, doing absolutely nothing) would suffice.
Case for the prosecution: Diddy Kong Racing DS begins life as a pretty awesome port of the N64 classic. Each level is faithfully reproduced, there’s a reasonable sense of speed, eight players can race each other locally and Banjo is nowhere to be seen.
Then you unlock the second world – and the hovercrafts – and your world caves in around you. To boost-start these cretinous devices, you have to blow into the mic for three solid seconds. That’s long enough to leave even a professional trombone player gasping and panting in a blue-hued heap on the floor.
When, after much CPR, you’re finally able to continue with the game, you’ll find that your DS’s touch screen is now coated in a permanent haze of disgusting mist. Rubbish!
Case for the defence: We’re only trying to make good use of the Nintendo DS’s unique features! That’s what we – Rare! – do! Innovate in irritating ways! In mitigation, we’d like to point out the other ways in which Diddy Kong Racing DS innovates.
There’s the ‘furiously rub the touch screen with the stylus to boost’ mechanic (which is doubly engaging because you then have 0.1 seconds to find a home for the stylus before the race starts), some first-person shooting sections that are in no way tedious, and yet more blowy bits, this time in the main hub.
Also… ah, my lawyer has advised me to never, ever speak again.
Judgement: So very, very guilty. We’ve been forced to replace your car’s gas pedal with a giant toy windmill. Good luck getting to work tomorrow, you blowhards.
Chances of re-offending: 6/10. Even the likes of the mighty Zelda fall for this one. Cute when used as a novelty, mind.
VAGUE PLOT PROGRESSION
Defendant: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes Of Light
The charge: Not making it clear where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to be doing next.
Case for the prosecution: The 4 Heroes Of Light shows reckless disregard for its victims’ mental well-being, and there is evidence of premeditated malice, your honour. Our detectives poked around its CPU and found evidence it had researched archaic torture methods as used by the RPGs of old – including this sadistic device from the brutal 8-bit era.
When you arrive in a brand new town, the defendant forces you to knock on every door, open every hut and chat to every single boring NPC to hear their stupid, obvious advice, until you finally find the one guy capable of giving you the information you need to press forward with the storyline.
Case for the defence: I’ve chosen to represent myself, your honour. Here goes: Potions can restore your energy! Potions can restore your energy! You can buy new items from the village shop! Potions can restore your energy!
Each time you use a move in combat, you use up Action Points! Potions can restore your energy! The developers just didn’t use their brains! Potions can restore your energy!
Judgement: This is a really cynical trick RPG developers pull to make their games feel more like an adventure, and allows them to add another five hours or so onto the already monstrous run-through time on the back of the box.
Their sentence: to be dropped off in a random location in rural Russia, a mere 40-50 hour’s walk away from Moscow airport. Ask the locals for directions.
Chances of re-offending: 2/10. This is a pitfall that modern day developers are anxious to avoid. They go to great lengths to clearly signpost where the player should go next, either overtly (waypoints) or covertly (clever use of lighting to draw the player in).
Defendant: Dead Rising: Chop ‘Till You Drop
The charge: Teaming you up with some of the most incompetent, directionally challenged halfwits, and then expecting you to nurse their worthless behinds to safety.
Case for the prosecution: Time hasn’t been kind to Dead Rising. Take away the joy of a hundred shuffly zombies on-screen at the same time and you’re left with a gruelling gauntlet of exhausting escort missions. Their path-finding is pathetic, their will to live non-existent.
Case for the defence: While the defence concedes that escort missions that have been crudely crowbarred into any old game are annoying, we don’t know why you’ve decided to single out Dead Rising for criticism.
The entire premise of the game is that you’re a regular schmoe, trying to help other regular schmoes make it to the safehouse. It would seem incongruous, to say the least, if the defenceless granny you’d just rescued from a shoe store suddenly started kung fu kicking people’s heads off…
Judgement: …but not as incongruous as the sight of her wading her fists into a sea of zombies when the coast is clear. Escort missions are designed to give the player a sense of responsibility and culpability, and to make them care about whether the NPC lives or dies.
Dead Rising certainly achieves this. But by making them so inhumanly stupid you are actively pleased when they cark it. A fitting punishment is for you to spend the rest of your life shackled to a needy poodle. A needy zombie poodle.
Chances of re-offending: 10/10. Escort missions. Will. Not. Die.
Check back tomorrow when we’ll reconvene to dish out some more punishments to gaming’s biggest offenders.
So far we’ve called out rubberband AI, unskippable cutscenes, leaps of faith, blowing into the mic, vague plot progression and escort missions – and we’re far from done. Court is in session again!
Defendant: Sonic Unleashed
The charge: Treating the player like they’re some kind of cack-handed idiot from the year 1833 who has never so much as seen a joypad before.
Case for the prosecution: Alright! New Sonic game! This is going to be so frickin’ fast. If this doesn’t melt our faces off, then with God as our witness, our faces will just have to remain a melt-free zone. Here… we… GO! *Action immediately grinds to a halt* “You can press the A button to jump (press the A button to continue).” *Action resumes* *Sonic jumps over a couple of tiny cliffs. The level ends* Hnnnnng.
Well, at least it’s a one-off, and it won’t be followed by an endless succession of similarly patronising tutorials, each one onerously explaining a basic, widely used gaming concept to the minutest detail? Right? Sega? You’ve gone awfully quiet over there.
Case for the defence: Yeah, but you’re a load of battle-hardened old hacks who’ve played through thousands of games in your lifetimes. I mean, look at you! Even your clothes have been forged out of old DS cartridges. Developers have to cater for the inexperienced too, you know – especially on the grandma- friendly Wii.
Judgement: Then make them optional, or at the very least unobtrusive. We welcome tutorials that seamlessly blend into the action, but when they disrupt the flow of the game? Well, then you’ve crossed the line of decency. Your punishment: to be fitted with a neural implant that blurts ‘Press A to snore!’ at random intervals during the night.
Chances of re-offending: 10/10. They can’t be stopped. They’re maniacs. Even more so now paper-based manuals are on the way out…
Defendant: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (& Sons)
The charge: Hiding narrative-crucial items in a cluttered area and then forcing the player to get down on their hands and knees and DIG FOR IT.
Case for the prosecution: Anyone who’s played a point ‘n’ click adventure before will be instantly familiar with this howler of a gameplay ‘feature’ – the fruitless search for a hidden object that, critically, you don’t even realise you need until you’ve found it.
While things have got a little less oblique since the bad old days of King’s Quest (where you’d be expected to notice an item that was only a single pixel high and wide), Phoenix Wright is not above making you traipse around three or four screens until you finally discover the sweet wrapper (or whatever) that was preventing Phoenix from just getting on with his life.
Case for the defence: OBJECTION! Ahem. You’re supposed to be a detective, aren’t you? Go do some detecting, you bum. Games get accused of hand-holding all the time, but as soon as we ask you to do something, it’s all ‘wah, wah, wah, I don’t want to root around in a bin’.
Judgement: The problem here isn’t that we have to go looking for something – it’s that we have no idea what we’re searching for in the first place. It’s a sign of sloppy scripting and it’s disappointing that even mighty point’n’click heavyweights such as Phoenix Wright fall into this trap. We’re going to let you off with a warning though, ’cause you’re so damned funny. One thing though: we’ve hidden the key to your handcuffs somewhere in Portsmouth.
Chances of re-offending: 7/10. As long as there are point ‘n’ click adventures, this flaw will continue to resurface – but many contemporary PC games now include a key that highlights all the interactive objects on the current screen. Much better (well, a bit better).
Defendant: All the DS Castlevanias
The charge: Rounding off an easy-peasy level or chain of events with a cement mixer-hard boss fight.
Case for the prosecution: Your honour, the prosecution would like to put forward to the court that the Castlevania games would have been far more enjoyable if they’d abandoned the boss fights altogether. We’ve got nothing against boss fights per se, but there is no reason for them to be this much more difficult than the platforming sections that precede them. Instead of being excited to see what was around the next corner, we spent our time in a constant state of dread, waiting for the next progress-ruining impossi-boss to rear its head.
Case for the defence: This is subjective though, isn’t it? For other people, the bosses are the highlight of the game, as evidenced by the popularity of the Boss Rush mode. They serve as narrative bookends and gatekeepers, closing one chapter of the game and testing you on what you’ve learned before allowing you to progress. And if there weren’t any bosses, you’d have a pop at us for being one-dimensional and samey, wouldn’t you? Hmpf. We can’t win with you games
Judgement: The only sulking you’ll be doing… is in JAIL! Ha! We should totally have become crime drama writers. But anyway: although the defence makes a solid case, we’re going to have to side with the prosecutors here. When the boss fight difficulty levels are as poorly judged as they are in Castlevania, they throw a cloud over the entire game. You’re sentenced to four years of eating delicious sugary treats – and one year of painful dental surgery.
Chances of re-offending: 6/10. This is a common ailment among Japanese games (Konami and Capcom are the biggest repeat offenders), although crimes have been reported worldwide (A Boy And His Blob Wii, we’re looking at you).
Check back tomorrow when we’ll reconvene for our final session of punishing gaming’s biggest offenders.