There is one thing I cannot stand in video games. Bad UX, or more specifically, wasting time. Some might say video games themselves are a waste of time, but I’ll have you know there’s a large difference between a 2 hour raid and spending 2 hours opening 100 loot boxes, which I’d like to showcase in some of my biggest pet peeves in this category.
Limited Save Systems
You are an adult with responsibilities? Too bad! If you had purchased the Save Potion™ you could save right now, but since you didn’t bring any you’ll have to continue playing and hope there’s a checkpoint within the next hour.
Don’t get me wrong, there are games where a limited save system makes sense. Say roguelikes or games with a hardcore mode. But using it as the only option in a story heavy game? That’s nothing more than a pretentious designer trying to impose an ideal way to “experience” their game.
This is what happens when a designer spends too much time thinking about what should happen if the player fails. Usually it means getting booted back to the menu and having to reload an earlier save. Some like being a bit extra and have you go through an elaborate, unskippable ending sequence first.
Having to sit through a scene knowing it will lead to a game over screen is not fun. Neither is repeating an hour of gameplay retracing your exact steps just to get it right at the end. We aren’t making arcade games where the whole point of a game over screen is to get another quarter out of you anymore.
Imagine navigating to a sub-menu, selecting your desired option, pressing A and being done with it. Now imagine that same UI, but you have to confirm every A press with another A press, with an unskippable intro in every new UI scene and artificial loading screens in between.
UI mishaps are usually minor annoyances, but they really add up over time and become absolutely infuriating. Speaking of which…
In this case, stilted trips to the menu are replaced by fully animated and equally annoying character actions for the sake of immersion. Ever wonder why stuns rarely last more than a second? Because losing control of your character while you’re actively playing is not fun.
I like good animations. But they should always prioritize function over form and never get in the way of actual gameplay.
Useless Travel Time
If the game is not designed around exploration, encounters or some other feature that makes physical travel interesting, why have it in the first place?
Not every game needs to be open world.
Can we talk about the abysmal movement speed in some games while we’re at it? Why does it take me minutes to get to the next quest marker? And why are there areas that prevent you from running completely?
Honorable mentions go to pointless backtracking, replacing difficulty with an HP sponge, fetch quests outside the context of a meta loop, and walking simulators.
Bad UX can happen everywhere. Sometimes it’s a fix to an edge case, a design oversight or stems from an incompability with a feature that was added late into the production cycle. But when it comes from a certain a mindset with a disregard for the player experience, no amount of time and talent will make it go away.
I would know – I’ve had it myself. Over time, I learned to honestly ask myself just how much I would hate this stuff as a player, instead of brushing it off to “preserve the integrity of the design” or some other crap. At the end of the day, if you’re not making sacrifices to your designs, you’re making sacrifices to the player experience. And that’s what your game will be remembered for. Let’s do better.