Leave this out of your game

That went in a different direction.

You move sixteen tons, whaddya get? Another day older and I’ve made a lot of gil off the Market Boards.

Guys?  We need to have a talk.  You’ve been making video games for a really long time now, and I’m not going to pretend you aren’t good at it.  I wouldn’t have a job or one of my major hobbies if you were.  I like video games!

Please stop making me regret liking video games, though, because you thought that in the middle you would be so clever by including these minigames.

Let’s not mince words.  These are not clever additions.  At best, what you’re accomplishing here is padding out the length of the game through a horrid minigame that no one would ever want to play.  At worst, you’re making Animal Crossing, a franchise of games that is literally nothing but these minigames strung together.  Or, if you’d rather, it is every tedious part of every MMO ever, but without the part where after all the tedium you get to stab orcs in the head.  So when you’re approving your final design documents and such, if these minigames show up?  Send that shit back, because it’s not done yet.

“Hacking”

What in the hell, guys?  You made this game on a computer.  You know how computers work.  Why can you not design a hacking minigame that’s about, y’know, hacking?

I can’t even pretend that these minigames are loosely related to hacking.  They’re barely even games.  “Click on these colored panels in order” is fine and all, but it’s not hacking.  Hacking implies, like, entering command lines and running scripts and taking advantage of the fact that most people can’t make a strong login check if their lives literally depend upon it.  At least some of Mass Effect 2‘s incredibly stupid non-hack minigames involved segments of code, and while they were about as connected to hacking as dancing in the streets is connected to crime, it was an effort.  There was some loose attempt to connect the game to actual computer code, so bully for that.

Why is there even a function to shoot electricity at someone?  You know this isn't right!

Then there’s the part where you think that this is something you can do by hacking consoles. I don’t even know where to start explaining how that’s wrong.

When Enter the Matrix has a better hacking minigame than anything that designers have tried to produce lately, it might be time to just give up the ghost of the minigame altogether.  Something clearly is not working out.  You might point out that actual hacking is slow, boring, and not particularly based on anything other than exploiting poor personal decisions.  But if you find all of that boring, why are you making that a central mechanic?  You could leave hacking out altogether.  You could make it a progress bar.  You could do lots of things other than putting in a silly minigame that’s wholly unrelated to actual hacking.

I keep feeling I'm not quite pro enough for Monaco yet.

The game even has a locksmith. Yes, with a useful ability.

Lockpicking

Games have somehow managed to go backward on this one.  In Morrowind, I’m told that the minigame for picking locks involves taking a lockpick and making a skill check.  That’s it.  But now it seems like every game willing to let you pick a lock has to have a fuzzy few moments where you move a cursor around and slowly tilt one thing or another, trying to pick the lock, making you feel the tension of trying to get into something that you’re not supposed to access!

Except I’m pretty sure that everyone knows that tension by now, whether it was because you were trying to pick the lock of a friend’s locker in high school or just trying to guess the neighbor’s Wi-Fi password.  News flash: if I were actually any good at picking locks, the game I would be playing would be something more like Steal All Your Fucking Shit Offline.  I don’t want to pick locks.  That’s why I started playing a video game wherein my ability to pick locks is not judged upon my ability to actually pick locks, just like my ability to drive a car around really fast is not based on the driving of a man who notices the speed limit.

If Monaco – a game all about stealing things and picking locks – doesn’t require me to play a minigame to do so, you should not either.

Never been my jam.  Call me when you can start a cockfighting ring.

I guess this is still a franchise thing?

Farming

There was a great PartiallyClips strip back in the day wherein a farmer noted that he didn’t see the point of online games when he logged in and found that for fun, everyone wanted to be a farmer – something he did for pay.  Sucks to be you, farmer, I’m happy not to be farming for my entertainment value.

Some great games are focused around farming and the associated tasks, but whenever farming exists as a side hobby, it’s basically a matter of “plant these things and wait for them to grow.”  Those of you who have been around the block a few times will recognize that this is a Facebook game.  The whole reason most people who avoid Facebooks game do so is that there’s not really a game involved, just minimal clicking along with time.  There’s no slow cultivation, no carefully measuring out which crops to plant, just dropping things in the ground and then waiting.

This is not gameplay, it’s a chore simulator.  I’m pretty sure no one is lining up for Vacuum the Downstairs IIDX Championship Edition.

Fishing

Fuck you.

Fishing is the lowest form of gameplay.  You are recreating an activity that is used for idle leisure time as a means of relieving boredom, which is the entire purpose of a video game.  If I’m bored in your game, putting in a boring side activity is not helping.  “When you’re bored, be bored in a different fashion!”

It would be bad enough if fishing were left on its own, but every single game with fishing seems obsessed with the idea of showing off how well the designers have modeled a battle of wits between a sapient creature and a tube of meat so blindingly stupid that a lot of vegetarians have decided “eh, close enough to a plant.”  Nothing gets me thrown out of a game faster than being told that I need to stop axing the hell out of monsters for half an hour so I can catch some fish, because this is what I came here to do.  And there is always at least one mandatory bit that requires me fishing, usually several sidequests that require fishing, and then I find out that the best ending requires fishing for some goddamn reason and I’m throwing this game in the fucking garbage.

Again, this is an activity with ample opportunity to perform it in the real world in the unlikely event that I cared enough to do so in the first place.  Every time you ask me to go fishing for some mandatory element, I grind my teeth until the sound of shattering molars can be heard from orbit.  Let me get back to playing the game I’ve actually been enjoying up until you decided what I really wanted was to catch some fish.

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About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

2 responses to “Leave this out of your game”

  1. Tyler F.M. Edwards says :

    I actually rather liked the farming mini-game in Mists of Pandaria.

    I’m with you on fishing, though. 100%. I have a long list of things I’d rather do than fish in a video game, including “grind broken glass into my eyes” and “attempt to impregnate a light socket.”

  2. K (@urbanspacesquid) says :

    And then there’s the horror of the “simon says” style minigame that MMO designers seem to love beyond all reason.

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