As a developer and gamer, I usually get bored with some problems of designed games. Here is my list:

1) Games that cannot be paused;
2) Games without sound volume control;
3) Games with long opening videos but without a feature to skip the video (especially on RPGs);
4) Long games without "save states";
5) Games without key customization;

What's your list?

32 accepted

From a Programmers point of view:

  • How much Multithreading - While all new PCs are at least dual core, there is a HUGE existing installed base of Single Cores around. Take a look at the Steam survey and keep in mind that Steam users are generally more "high end" users already.
  • Pause functionality - usually not that hard to implement, but usually boring and mundane if it was an afterthought
  • Graphic Card Compatibility. Ahh yes, the glorious field of incompatibilities and manufacturers trying to "optimize" their drivers (aka. cheating).
  • Localization. Have fun with your hard-coded button sizes, as soon as the German Localization will need to change the "Minor Health Potion" to a "Schwachen Trank der Lebensenergie-Wiederherstellung", either you or the customer will suffer. (Luckily for the programmer, usually the customer suffers)

From a Gamer Point of view:

  • Renting Games instead of selling them. EA is a big offender here, with Red Alert 3, Spore and The Sims 3 not available for sale but only for a very expensive rent thanks to DRM.
  • Messing around in "My Documents". Dear Developers: Application Data belongs in %APPDATA%, not in my Documents. And that includes Savegames. Include a "Back Up Save Games" option in your games rather than filling My Documents with random crap.
  • Difficulty based on repetition. Hint: Difficulty does not mean that you have to die 5 million times in order to memorize the level. Very Skilled players should still be able to beat a level in their first try, yet you can still make it difficult.
  • Interrupting the game flow. I ranted about this already. Interrupting the game every 30 seconds for a modal dialog or cut scene does not add fun. Good Storytelling does not require interruption except possibly between large blocks of gameplay.
  • Quick Time Events. Aww, come on, QTEs may have some use, but even Resident Evil 4 and The Force Unleashed would have worked without.
  • Localization. I grew up in the C-64 era of largely untranslated games, but I also grew up with the German Lucasfilm Games Translation. The German Monkey Island is in my opinion still the pinnacle of good Localization. Sadly, (German) Localization Quality these days is not really good but just "Okay" usually. After seeing abysmal localizations like "Schw.Tr.d.Le.En.W." once too often, I only play in English nowadays. We need more Boris Schneider-Johne's in this business...

Games that insist on making you play through the tutorial, even though you might have already played it. (I remember Black and White annoying me a lot with this).


Not sure if these are really design problems - more like implementation problems.

  • Alt tab broken / working poorly
  • No multiple monitor support (some games even crash)
  • Saving takes too long (Seriously, why not instantly? How long does writing 100KB of data take?)
  • Poor support for non-QWERTY keyboards (Fable would always crash at one point with a Dvorak layout, regardless of the custom control settings.)

Check out the Twinkie Denial Condition Database. I suggest reading all of the columns, including the newer ones which that page doesn't link to.


Games with cutscenes I can't skip drive me crazy. What's worse is when the cutscenes contain crucial information that you don't learn anywhere else in the game when skipped.

The least painful cutscenes I've ever dealt with are the interactive integrated ones in Half Life.


When license validation fails...

On that note: why has noone developed an optical mouse that can read the barcodes on the product keys??? I mean seriously. Often the mouse and keyboard are bundled, so how hard would it be to have your mouse scan the bar code, and input the text. Just annoys me every time, (I've memorized my windows keys).

Ohh, and having to back track.

  1. 'Reload until you get it right' level of difficulty for any task.
  2. DRM that interferes in any way with legitimate use.
  3. Save points (rather than save-at-will).
  4. Forcing me to sit and watch anything.
  5. Implying that any starting ability is fit for a particular purpose, when as an advanced player you will find it useless.

Speaking as a gamer:

Other than those already listed:

Depth - older games that I enjoy often pay a lot of attention to detail that seems lacking in the newer games (especially the newer rpgs). Also, randomly generated exploratory zones which are just rehashes of a few texture base with no uniqueness is boring.

Voice - Understandable due to budget concerns, but at least hire someone that doesn't sound like they are reading from a phone book.

Character Impact - a hero that saves the world should at least leave some form of impact on the world in npc interactions or such.

AI - Alien #1 rushes at you blindly, you blow his head off. Alien #2 does the same.... repeat for every alien you meet. Sooner or later you'd think they would learn to dodge or something? Throwing quantity does not solve this problem especially when pared with...

Toning down stuff - Already discussed briefly, but DO NOT TONE DOWN DIFFICULT GAMING CONCEPTS TOO MUCH. When you dumb down things too much, you alienate some gamers seeking a challenge. Simply throwing in more HP/Damage on enemies does not solve this problem, it just detracts from the realism of the game when you have to empty half your arsenal to kill 1 grunt.


By the way, this is not really a design issue but a recent peeve (and a funny one): lingerie.

Too many games seem to find an excuse to represent women in lingerie. Fallout 3 is just one recent example, but this was in Bioshock, mass effect, etc.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind seeing it in the appropriate context in real life...

However, unless your character model has enough polygons to warrant said apparel (e.g., Tomb Raider), just skip it. Otherwise, from quite a few angles it looks either horrible or extremely funny once the texture is mapped.

If your character's cleavage appears on her right shoulder, then there is a problem.


Games that require fifty hours of gameplay to reach some sense of completion or closure.

(And now, a big shout-out to Portal, a great short game that's worth more than ten long ones.)


I would say that the worst problem in game design is the need to "stretch" the game to meet some metric of "not being too short" and thus a waste of money. In order to accomplish that, designers ramp up the difficulty, add side missions, remove save points, etc.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you "stretch" a game, an X amount of content and novelty would only get you this far.

What ends up happening is that there are so many games coming out, that enough people will abandon your game once it becomes repetitive.

This has happened to games like Assassin's Creed that was supposed to be a great new thing, and everyone complained that was too repetitive. I admit that I eventually skipped most of the side quests in Mass Effect when they added very little. I was getting very annoyed with Bioshock towards the end. I also left GTA4 very early though at least there each side mission has a lot of humor and banter. I am probably close to my breaking point with FAllout 3.

I'd rather enjoy every minute of a 10-hour game (Halo 3), than spend 50-hours doing the same thing over and over again with different textures, especially as enemies become stronger while my weaponry becomes stronger.

In addition, if you're looking for specific annoying thingS: - Game without subtitles are bad. Games without option of skipping (and repeating) speech sequences are bad. Games where you can't skip the speech and every answer is like listening to John Kerry are also bad.

  • Too much stuff to pick and no convenient ways of "auto picking" everything on the screen. This happens with games like Fallout a lot. I spend half the time feeling like someone picking up trash on the side of the highway looking for what is a good skill book among tons of ruined boosk, for example.

  • An AI that is still to freaking dumb or that can be easily brought into dumb states.

  • "Nonlinear" games with a lot of side missions where there was an expectation of a certain order to said missions. Fallout 3 is case in point. Since it is fairly random when you encounter side-quests and locations, you can very easily end up in places that are above your skill level (frustrating), or way below your skill level (frustrating).

  • Non interruptable movies (intro's of all EA games...)
  • Intro menu of games being 'slow' due all the graphical effects. GTA4 screen is white with 4 options, after that 2 youtube movies appear. C&C3 slow sliding buttons.
  • Movies with crucial information. I prefer reading what to do instead of listening and forgetting when I try the game again in a few days/weeks.
  • Focus of the game more at the 'wow' factor than at the playability.
  • Savepoints instead of save when you want.

Consider the non-game parts of the user interface as well, because most game developers do not!

  • Dialog boxes should be used sparingly, and should appear instantly! Far too many games have fancy dialog boxes that scroll lazily into view and then don't actually let you choose any options for another half-second.
  • Think about the workflow of the user who is using your application, um I mean, playing your game. I don't need/want to save my progress if I choose a New Song in Quick Play in Rock Band (what progress?). If someone doesn't care what name is listed in the high score list, don't force them to type AAA! Don't force the user to create a profile on first game launch, what if they just want to check the patch version or change video settings?
  • Use loading times intelligently. Why can't you start preloading the new level while you're waiting for me to kit-out my character, or even while displaying the stats after I finished the previous level?

My list of problems with games?

OK, downvote away ...

  • The preponderence of combat games, encouraging a generation of "gamers" worldwide who think combat is fun.

Maybe it's a function of age. I remember when "freedom fighters" were laying waste to Nicaraguan civilians. The CIA assasinated Salvador Allende, democratically elected president of Chile. Numerous wars going back centuries, which were only possible because of a supply of people, mostly young men, each thinking they are immortal, each fervently wishing for a "cause" in which to exercise their hubris and their trigger-fingers.

These games always put you (the "good guy") in the role of shooter, seldom the "shootee", merely having instant non-elective surgery done to randomly selected parts of your anatomy, or merely paralyzing the lower half of your body for the remaining 60 years of your life, or putting your temporary friends in temporary agony.

Ask someone who's been in combat if combat is fun. They change the subject, because they don't want to talk about it, and if you haven't experienced it, there's no way you can begin to understand.

Sometimes combat is necessary, but never fun.


Not enough missions. (I'm looking at YOU, Unreal 2.) Even if the visuals and gameplay are great, I still feel ripped off when I'm able to finish a game in a single weekend. Maybe everything just seems short after Half-Life ...


Forgetting that FUN comes FIRST. That's it in a nutshell. All the other complaints are just symptoms of the forgetting to make the game fun first.


AIs that get "harder" by ganging up on the human player. If you are writing your AI to defeat the human rather than to defeat the other "opponents" you are doing it wrong because while opposing the player is easier once you get ganged up on, the game ceases being fun.

Whiz-bang eye-candy with no substance.


In this order:

  1. "important" Bugs (such as not viewing building in warcraftIII)
  2. Lag (When it lags, it's just not fun anymore)
  3. No history / Bad history (I don't like to play a game for playing a game.. I like when there's a good storyline)
  4. As the author said, I hate not being able to stop the cinematic.. especially if it`s the second time I see it!
  5. Automatic view control screwning the game play.. like in "Mario galaxy".. where sometime you run and "paf" the view changes for no reason and you get killed.

Games with unclear objectives, leaving you running around aimlessly at the beginning of the game.

If a game requires an "objectives list", it's a bit of a "code smell" indicating that their actual design needs work. Voice overs or "guide characters" are one step up from this, but still probably indicates your game is overly complicated, or not very clear.

Use colour, lighting and clear visual and audio indicators to guide players to their objectives. Team Fotress 2 uses colour cueues and well defined character silhouettes to make it easy to identify where objectives lie. Left 4 Dead uses minimal, but strong lighting cues to indicate the direction the player should travel ("go towards the light").


I find that lack of keyboard support, i.e. having to use the mouse all the time represents a serious problem in game design, as indeed it does in any software design.


Too much overhead when starting or leaving the game. This includes the "too many movies" thing - yeah, I'm sure they get money for showing adverts for hardware companies, but I paid for the damn game so I don't want to see them, thanks.

But also when quitting - Assassin's Creed is the worst offender I've seen for this. I bring up a menu and choose "quit", then have to do the same again from the metagame. Then I'm taken back to the front screen, where I have to select my "user" before I can quit. If I want to quit, it's because I've got something else I want or need to do - cat needs feeding, dinner is on fire, etc. I don't want to be slowed down at this point. You should only be allowed up to 3 button presses for this - it's not hard.


Another one for your list. Games that are not easily localizable or dont allow for easy adaptation to non-US keyboards and input methods.

Developers really need to understand how to create global products upfront and not after they have finished the English version when it's usually too late.


Another is behavioral composition problems. Often in games, behaviors are applied to objects to make them do stuff - like wander, shoot, etc. It gets hard when these behaviors need to interact with each other. It becomes a explosion of interactions that is impossible to predict up front because all the behaviors don't exist yet.


I hate games that get crazy difficult as you go on. There are so many games where I have just enjoyed the first few levels and just left it after that cause it got so tough. Playing games is about having fun, and repeatedly dying or getting stuck in a level is not fun at all.


It really bugs me when new games start up full screen but don't detect your desktop resolution so they end up using a really low resolution like 800x600.


Pathfinding. These days in general the computer does fine when ordered to move a unit to point X. However, when a group of units is ordered somewhere the behavior is very often atrocious. If I grab a group of units and order them somewhere I expect them to get there. If they had to go through a bottleneck I'll accept them ending up in a line but that's about it.

I don't want to find that half the units got left behind along the way because they had to skirt some impassible terrain and units kept getting stuck between the terrain and the moving mass of units and deciding they had no way to reach the target and stopping. A simple fix: When a unit gets hemmed in like that tag the blockers with a notation that they are blocking it. If a blocker moves then the unit should re-evaluate the situation. It's even worse when they were automated units that are normally left to the AI and you aren't expecting them to show up somewhere.

Related to this is threat zones. I have yet to encounter an AI that could evaluate the concept of dangerous places. It doesn't seem to me to be that hard a concept--no unit should enter the known weapons range of a detected enemy unit unless specifically ordered into danger. Simply treat such threat zones as impassible terrain and go around.


Not enough standardization in design practices. It is hard to to be a freelance designer because every company has a different opinion about what design entails and how it should be formatted. I think game designers, in some regards, should learn from film script writers.

  • useless, shiny, unintuitive menus; does anyone really profit from the stupid menu with a movie in the background? Just use a god damn windowing API where all the work is already done for you and it works 500x better
  • splash screens / intros / disclaimers & legal crap that nobody cares about making the game take about 1-2 minutes to start
  • blocking socket calls in the GUI event loop
  • spawn protection; never works, no matter where you are, enemy spawns in front of you and is invulnerable for x seconds and you can't shoot him so he kills you... some games take it even further and make you die if you shoot them
  • broken, ad-hoc ways to find LAN games (spamming UDP broadcast packets, spamming netbios, who knows what else?) and have no direct IP connect option; the discovery protocols are almost always broken as !@#$, so you end up reverse engineering the game and spoofing a discovery response so you can join your friends game who is sitting 1 meter from you
  • using D3D over OpenGL even though OpenGL is free/open and better (at least was until 99% of people decided to support D3D for some reason)
  • developers coding in C++ even though they don't even know how to code C (proof is when they can't port the game to x64 easily)
  • trusting the client
  • trusting the server (Unreal Tournament '99 will happily download and execute DLLs from any server, then again, every game is full of binary vulnerabilities so UT99's choise isn't that bad ;)
  • third person shooters where everything is unresponsive (weapon use, movement, etc)
  • dumbed down everything
  • Steam
  • Reinventing the wheel but making it rectangle
  • Reinventing the wheel but making it triangle
  • Reinventing the wheel but making it square
  • Reinventing the wheel

Incredible difficult last level (last boss-fight etc.). For some reasons, game designers simply don't want me to finish their games (after spending many hours coming that far). Of course it should be a challenge, but in some games, it's way more difficult than anything before.


Most of my big gripes have been addressed here, but I've had another one for a while that I didn't see come up: Games that support gamepads/joysticks/what-have-you on only some of their screens. I love it when I can use a 360 pad for my PC games, especially platformers or the like, but when I have to drop the controller and grab the keyboard and mouse to navigate menus because the developer didn't feel it was important to support the gamepad for anything but the core gameplay mode, that gets to be real aggravating REALLY fast. (Audiosurf is a wonderful game, but is incredibly guilty of this, especially because the game forces you into a menu every five minutes or so!)