Over the last four decades, video gaming has gone from a niche hobby to a mainstream form of entertainment that’s enjoyed by people from all different walks of life. Playing video games is fun, varied, and packed with excitement thanks to the fact that they are interactive, giving you control of the narrative.
When you account for retro games, mobile apps, browser-based options, homebrew, and the AAA titles released to consoles, gamers have several million different titles to choose from. But not all games are created equally. Some are disappointments from start to finish, while others are instant classics. Here’s what separates the good from the bad.
Squash the Bugs
Developing software is hard. There are often hundreds of people involved in it, each working on different elements. When they combine all of their work together, there are always going to be bugs in the code that can cause glitches and crashes.
In the run-up to a game’s release, this can result in what’s known as a “death march”, where people work round the clock, sleep in their offices, and do nothing but finish the project.
Even with this though, games can be released with bugs that haven’t been found and fixed. In the past, this led to unplayable games that couldn’t be fixed. In 2004, Driver 3 was widely criticised for countless errors that came from it.
The same happened with the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077, leading to the game being removed from sale by some companies. The only saving grace for the game’s developer, CD Projekt Red, is that it can push updates to fix these, but in 2004, the same couldn’t be done for Driver 3.
Video Games : Tell a Good Story
Games shouldn’t just be looked at as pieces of software that have people control a character or vehicle. They’re more like books or movies, providing a medium for writers and other creatives to tell a story.
Some of the greatest games ever made have immersed the player in a narrative that could rival a Hollywood blockbuster. Take Call of Duty, for example, since the original Modern Warfare game was released in 2007, players have been placed front and centre in a story that usually involves them saving the world in one way or another.
End the Story Properly Of Video Games
A good story needs to have a good ending too.
The TV show Lost is notorious for its poor ending that leaves more questions than answers. War of the Worlds isn’t much better with its infamous ending where the aliens get killed by Earth’s microbes. These endings leave viewers feeling pretty aggrieved, especially if they’ve dedicated years to a particular show. Writers need to always be conscious that they need to tie up all the different storylines as they bring a show or film to a close.
The same applies to video games. In fact, it may be even more necessary than with a film as a gamer may spend hundreds of hours grafting to complete a game, emotionally attached to the characters and heavily invested in the storyline. So to leave it on an unsatisfying cliffhanger or fails to explain longstanding questions about a protagonist can leave players very upset.
We saw this in Final Fantasy VII, Halo 5, and the Batman Arkham series, all of which are games that are widely considered to have some of the most disappointing endings of all time.
On the other hand, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Vice City both did great jobs at rounding out the narratives, with some humorous surprises and some happy endings.
Developers can forego a good story, provided they can offer players incredible gameplay instead. Angry Birds has practically no story at all, apart from the green pigs apparently stealing the birds’ eggs.
Yet, it has grown into one of the most downloaded games of all time because it offered a simple but incredibly fun gameplay mechanic that people enjoyed playing for hours.
The Pokémon franchise is another example of this. Its popularity comes from the collecting element of the game, which can be incredibly exciting when you find a particularly rare Pokémon.
Good gameplay can be very repetitive, take Candy Crush and Farmville as examples. These are games that have developed cult followings with people committing hundreds or even thousands of hours to playing them. It can also be more varied, such as what we see with Fortnite and PUBG, where each game can be very different depending on the players, map, and weapons.
Overall, there are several factors that make good video games stand out from the crowd. A good story and good gameplay are important, but it’s also vital to not ruin these by shipping a bug-infested product that will turn players off playing.