I agree with a lot of other people’s pet peeves, it would seem.
Too many skills or traits. It can end up with every choice just being about trying to figure out which ‘choice’ matches your stats, rather than a real choice. I’m not saying that every choice should be equally available to every character. That would be pointless and make character development redundant. For instance a character who is weak physically, shouldn’t expect to be able to pick up a half ton weight. However too many stats, or stat checks with too high a requirement, turn many otherwise good games into a ‘guess which choice relates to which stat’ quiz. The worst are those where 2 or more stats/traits are required for each choice.
Choices where it isn’t clear which stat or trait is required. This tends to be worse in games with a lot of stats and traits. Especially those with a whole long list of personality traits. It doesn’t have to be blatant but a reasonably clear indication is appreciated.
Most, if not all, personality traits. Many are really hard to define accurately and many overlap, or have similar meanings. The worst is where certain traits are taken to be good or bad. I remember one game where ‘obedient’ was classed as good and ‘rebellious’ was seen as bad. I thought, ‘hang on. It depends on the situation’. This was true for this particular game world too, not just a general philosophical point. I think that for a lot of games, personality traits are unnecessary, even detrimental, but are included because it’s expected. If they must be included, only include those which are directly related to major plot points, clearly define them and make them distinct from each other. Have 3 or 4 maximum. Maybe 6 or 8, if they’re opposed pairs. If they’re not really necessary, don’t include them and let the reader’s choices define the pc’s personality.
The lack of chapter saves or a back button. Even if they aren’t available on a first playthrough, it would make subsequent playthroughs much less of a chore. I’d personally prefer save points at the end of each chapter. A ‘back’ button could be overkill.
The lack of cheat codes for most games. I don’t think they should be available on a first playthrough. It could even take a few playthroughs to get them all but they can definitely make subsequent playthroughs more fun, as long as they don’t make you stupidly overpowered. ‘God Mode’ like cheats kill my interest pretty quicly. Then again, others may enjoy it and I wouldn’t have to choose that cheat, so perhaps it wouldn’t be so terrible.
Games where there’s been little to no proofreading and/or testing. Especially when it’s obviously sorely needed. This one speaks for itself.
A lack of meaningful choices. I don’t mind flavour choices but games where virtually every choice is a flavour choice, seem to contradict the very fundamentals of what real interactive fiction should be about.
Lack of choice over character. I love reading novels, so I’m quite happy with set characters. With a CoG game however, I expect to be able to choose a few basic things about my character. It’s fine for games to exist that don’t give me those choices but I’m much less likely to play such games myself.
Games full of ‘in’ references to anime, manga, a particular game/novel or other niche references.
As people mentioned before, the way stats are defined is something tricky with opposing pairs. There’s logical pairs like impulsive versus calculated, but why that works for a game like say…Samurai of Hyuga is it doesn’t present any one personality trait as superior to the other. They’re all treated like valid interpretations of the character and it’s never really presented as “wrong” for the character having personality even if it proves problematic for a particular scene, it’s still never made out as they’re good or bad just based on whether or not, they smile enough.
On the one hand, blank slate MC’s are a little tiresome and seeing some quirks is nice to set them apart from standard stock characters, but trying to avoid having them contradict how a player wants to play can be difficult.
It can be kind of bothersome when some games want to present “evil” options just as…being kind of rude to someone or voicing objections, and the “good” answer is to be blindingly supportive. You certainly can have good and evil characters in a game and provide the player plenty of capacity to do malicious things, but a player should never be vilified for not wanting to behave in a certain way.
A character can be faulted for their actions. Other characters can react as not liking someone based on the player character’s personality, and you can certainly have “evil” and “good” variable meters, but the core ideas of morality should never be based on ideas like only evil people can ever be emotionally distant and you’re a bad person if you’re not willing to entirely trust someone you’ve never met before.
And at it’s core, much of morality can simply be defined as your choice of axioms. What’s a virtuous and likeable trait to one person, can be looked at as a negative trait by others. That’s a whole other discussion, but I will say there’s more than a few stories I read where the main character’s actions are allegedly sweet and likeable, but they just come off as selfish and unconcerned for the people around them, but the narration seems to insist that other people are bad for not being completely supportive of their selfishness.
Apart from the problems around accurately defining traits and the false dichotomy of good-bad traits, the main problem I have is how shallow and unrealistic they make MCs. Even the most hardworking person wants an occasional lazy day. The most placid person can sometimes get angry or upset. The most tolerant of people can get jealous, offended etc. Even cruel people are capable of acts of kindness. Yet with personality traits you’re locked in, kept one dimensional. If you act differently you’re usually punished in some way. It’s very limiting and very unrealistic, psychologically and socially.
I feel that personality traits can work as long as they’re only used to describe how other characters view the MC. If you always act in one specific way, then people will react to that, but you the player should still be free to act however they want without any consequences for deviating. (Obviously, consequences from the MC’s individual actions are still fine.)
The problem arises when personality traits are used to force the player to make decisions, either by taking the choice away from them, or by penalising “acting out of character”; by treating personality traits as trainable stats, which they really shouldn’t be.
I am a staunch believer that personality stats should mainly be used to personalize the flavour text, make the narrative and characters react to who the PC is persistently, and not just their latest choice.
The game reacting to a PC acting differently than usual is awesome, and you should have the option to do just that, instead of being restricted from choices because of your personality.
A personality trait (or challenge, advantage, or whatever you want to call it) that restricts your choices, or drastically changes how the game responds to your character, should be an opt-in thing, not an opposed stat.
(But I love them, and more author’s should have them in their games.)
Second-person POV. I’m already used to it, but games with first-person POV will always be favored by me.
MC is completely ordinary and leads an ordinary life, until suddenly they are thrown into a magical, amazing world, meet a group of amazing ROs and it turns out that the MC is also extraordinary and has powers and must save the world or something + Being ignorant, while everyone around knows the truth.
Starting the game with: MC being in some creepy, weird situation where they fight for their lives, get excruciating pain, eventually get killed, and it turns out to be a nightmare. MC wakes up terrified and panicked.
It doesn’t mean that these things bother me a lot. Some games have a great story and are well written (Wayhaven which I absolutely love). I’m just a person who gets bored quickly when something is often seen in interactive games. I have a great need for something unconventional, original… something that will surprise me or even embarrass and confuse (in ‘positive way’ ).
ROs that hate MC because MC exist. Haha. Ok… Some authors come up with pretty good reasons. Unfortunately, often RO is written in such a way that they are incredibly annoying to me. They behave immaturely, reminding me of a pouting child…They are rude to MC even though they have known them for a few minutes. I have no patience for such characters and striving for this thing “from enemy to lover”.
When the game forces me to be nice, noble and play the hero.
Pointless bad endings. I’ve seen something like this recently (although it wasn’t a CoG game). At some point, MC will find himself in a situation where they must be saved by one of ROs. If MC has no relationship with anyone, they will die because no one will come to save them. WTF? I was pretty pissed off after that. I understand the game is mostly about romance, but why can’t MC have a chance to survive by relying on their own intelligence and cunning?
When I have to ask all available questions to go ahead and there is no option to get past it.
I have to choose an option that doesn’t fit MC’s personality to develop romantic relationships. For example, MC overly admires RO’s looks (They are obviously above average beautiful) becomes shy or unnaturally flirty etc. Or something else: I used to play quite a flirtatious MC and chose these options on a certain RO a few times (because their reactions were funny), and shortly after it turned out that MC is in love with this RO and is starting to have serious intentions towards them. They didn’t even know each other for too long!
Imposing on a player things like name or gender because the MC is based on existing character from books, movies, stories. It’s not actually a big thing and sometimes it probably has justification, but I have to admit it - stings me a bit.
The author of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - An affair of the heart did a good thing. We are still a brilliant detective, but we are not forced that our name be Sherlock Holmes.
I feel that while all skills should stay roughly as equally as useful…I don’t really like the idea that all skills work in all possible situations. Feeling the motivation to write again, I’m working on the narrative with that in mind, that the idea is that while the player can be good at some things, not everything should universally function as a “I win” button under all possible circumstances.
Like what…do you intend to seduce the lock to open it? There’s a horde of skeletons demanding a virgin sacrifice? Don’t worry, I know how to knit! This guy’s bleeding to death? What if I punch him like really hard?
Maybe it’s just my own thoughts and other people don’t agree, but I feel like there’s a lot of people who want stats to actually just make sense instead of they somehow always succeed and equally successful to each other even when they really, really shouldn’t.
One thing to remember is that while no skill should fit every individual challenge, every MC should have a way to get through the story.
Like you can’t seduce a lock, but you can seduce the guy with the key. And maybe you can knit a fake virgin to distract the skeletons. And this guy’s dying? Well, just wait for Death to show up and then punch him instead. (Or more seriously, maybe if you’re better at fighting you can save him before he’s wounded.)
I think the takeaway here is that you need a cool story that happens when you fail to get the lock open, or if the guy dies, or if you fail to teach the skeltons to knit, and so forth. That’s the important bit there–that way, the pressure to make every skill useful fades away.
It’s loads more writing, of course, but a vastly improved story, and much more interesting in terms of character building, because it makes low stats valuable (because then you get story you wouldn’t otherwise instead of just being told you can’t do something).
I think it’s fine for the mc not to succeed at everything, provided that losing a specific challenge isn’t going to result in instant death. It should always be possible for the mc to at least make it to the end, even if it’s not to the best ending of a route(Assuming the game in question has branching endings, Ideally I want my project too anyway.)
It’s okay for the mc to lose at some things provided that
A. If it’s unavoidable the have to try doing it, then there isn’t a too serious penalty for failure. Nobody wants to go through a story that just kills you halfway in the middle because you didn’t raise your magic the right way. Maybe they miss out on a item that would’ve helped later, but the mc shouldn’t be killed or suffer a stat penalty to make it even harder to succeed later.
B. Failure and penalties are fine as long as it’s a choice and nobody forced the mc to do it, but again…I honestly am aiming to avoid stat downs because that’s just annoying. If the mc had to go out of their way to pick it when it was something the player definitely knows shouldn’t have worked…that’s different. But still, I dislike instant death as a penalty in games as a whole, IF and others alike.
There should always be at least more than one option to succeed a certain check, I feel, but it doesn’t always need to be too apparent what the other options are. Maybe picking up a certain follower they actually do something for once instead of just being background noise. Or maybe an item you compulsively stole turns out to be helpful if you thought to pick it up. Maybe NOT having the item actually means they can’t find it when searching you, so therefore they can’t prove you actually did anything. There’s a number of non stat ways to approach challenges.
I feel probably you can get away with the first four-to five being one way solutions being like that when it sets up what the character is good at and all, but most games you can’t actually fail those since it’s just showcasing what the mc’s actual skills are.
My personal feelings is what I’m aiming to do with my next project that’s probably too ambitious for my own good is, I want to make it in such a way that replayability is focused on actual branches and decisions rather than what stats you had to progress through the game. Stats being relevant to succeed at things, but the idea that actual decisions are what presents any replayability.
@Gower, @Hex: Yeah, I do agree that you shouldn’t always need to succeed if failing can be just as enjoyable.
I would say not to do this. If success makes the game easier then you’re punishing players for being worse at it, by making it more likely that they’ll fail at a later (and probably more critical) time. And if this happens a lot then you’ll have some players essentially stuck on the “failure path” with no way to get back to winning. And even if failure is interesting, the player should be able to stop failing at some point.
Games that punish the player for not playing the author’s favoured path. Like, MC and their friends are sneaking through a spooky castle and the author REALLY wants them to get into a certain room. But there’s options to NOT to go into that room. But instead of these options providing a good continuation of the plot, nope, player is being punished (be it belittling by the narrative text, loss of stats, both, etc) and forced into the room.
Like, heck, at least either give a damn good reason to go into the room after all, or don’t make it a choice.
Most of the things I don’t like are probbably mentioned but there is something recent in the game I’m currently playing: Have intercourse with your chosen waifu to unlock the best of your abilities for plot reasons.
Generally speaking, I’m not fond of sexual encounters in games (especially romance games)but this one…is extra.
I think my life changed for the better when I realized that Indiana Jones failed all of his skill checks. Failure after failure, but he looked great, had great heart, and advanced the plot while doing so. It was one of the traits that appealed to me in Jolly Good, and other massive, ambitious games like Fool! and Tower Behind the Moon (though I am a bit biased in those regards).
Wow, I genuinely thought for a while that I was the only person who got annoyed by ROs whose personality is “asshole for no reason,” because it seemed like that type of RO was the one everybody wanted to go after. It’s pretty refreshing to see somebody else say this, gotta say.
The main thing I dislike is when there are those 50% personality stats and they have an impact on the choices you can make, just because I’m being polite to the random people doesn’t mean I want to be unable to act harsh to the characters that deserve it