What We Can Learn From "Bad" Games
This thought was sparked by playing Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut recently for reviewing purposes as well as for the fact that I loved the original. I started to realize that there is a lot we can learn from playing unsuccessful or broken games that then can be applied to games in the future so we can learn from these mistakes.
I want to look at a few games in particular to see what made them endearing despite having issues and look at why I personally enjoyed them despite the negative marks against them.
Let's lead off with something fresh in my mind:
Originally releasing on Xbox 360 version for a mere $20, this game caught a TON of attention from the internet. With a combination of a lovably campy story, Twin Peaks inspired story and the many quarks that come with being a game canceled numerous times, it was instantly loved by Jim Sterling, played by Giantbomb in an endurance run.
Having played it myself, it did suffer from MANY issues. It was a budget game that was trying to reach for the stars in it's scope and while failing to meet those expectations.
What we can learn:
Sometimes the weird and awkward things in a game will make them way more interesting then the over all product. The characters made this game for me. It really seemed like they tried to make a small American town with each character having their own demons and vices. This stood out and kept me going even when stuff seemed ridiculous or out of place because it remained a constant.
Also, set an appropriate scale to the game you want to make. Sometimes you need to step back and take a good look at what you are trying to accomplish. The ability to grow a beard in real time is funny and novel but if that time to make that could have been used to make a better combat system, maybe you should just drop the beard growing till that more important aspect is hammered out.
Frivolous things can bog down the game you are trying to make. While adding charm, they should be something added after the main game is functioning properly.
While the game did not do well in the journalistic reviews, many people found a hidden gold mine of depth below the surface of this game. The "Make your own combo" system was something that people really seemed to find a great deal of fun to tinker with. Also, the game could be blisteringly hard and sometimes one sided feeling in it's fights. The humor was somewhat crass and really dry at times, so even that lead to some segregation in the marketplace.
This meant a pretty clear line being drawn on the ground. Either you liked it or you didn't.
What we can learn:
Creating a game for a niche market is a perfectly fine just know what to expect. Clover made mostly games they seemed to enjoy themselves. If they enjoyed making and playing God Hand, couldn't there be others as well?
Demon's/ Dark Souls is the same way. While more mechanically sound and properly built, it shared a common view of reaching for those people that enjoy a rough challenge and a good hidden depth to the mechanics in play.
After 3 years of development, this game came out with little to no fanfare and has been receiving some of the lowest scores of any game on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
With its horrid gameplay--that was completely unresponsive and felt like you were controlling a brick--the fighting felt like a choir task unto itself just to even attempt to make it through a fight. Not to mention the terrible graphics that look like they belong in an early low budget PS2 game. Also, Double Dragon Neon did a better job at trying to breathe life into this genre and even that game felt flawed and took less time to make.
What we can learn:
Some things don't need a sequel or a retelling. The nostalgia and fun you had with a former game(s) sometimes should stay that way. There really is not much more to say about it.
Good Lord... Just, watch this trailer:
The game was not even out and it was already claiming to be the savior of the survival horror genre. I remembered seeing this ad and just thinking about how it is going to be one of two things:
- It will be an engaging and fun experience with a good sense for survival horror.
- The hype train will ride this game straight into the sun.
Not surprisingly, it was the latter. However, the surprising part was how absolutely AWFUL the final products reviews were. It wasn't just bad, it was broken and just plain not entertaining.
What we can learn:
Don't get ahead of yourselves.
The fact that some websites and writers got excited about your games does not mean you should plaster their words all over a game that is going to be coming out the gate completely broken, not fun and mechanically awkward. You are lying to your market and this will not sit well with anyone next time you are making a game. How can I trust a company when they need to sell me this piece of crap so badly that they will go so far as to more or less call their game the revival of survival horror?
I know this is not uncommon for games to hype up a game that is not that good but when you try this hard to get people psyched for a game that is this awful, it should at least have SOME redeeming qualities.
A common thread I have noticed through all the "good" bad games I have played is that if the game has personality, many of its faults can be forgiven.
I personally am willing to put up with some wonky controls, terrible voice acting or terribly implemented mechanics if the game provides me with something that is wildly entertaining. Whether it be outlandishly wild story, sporadic or out of place characters or even just an interesting world that has enough lore for you to continue exploring it.
Passion speaks louder then any budget amount, studio size or time in development. Put your all into it and something good will come from it. People can see that love through your work as long as they take the time to look for it.