Four Gaming Clichés That Absolutely Need To Die

Mandatory Success

Press the Win Button!

One of the reasons why the Wing Commander and, to some extent, Freespace franchises were so great is that both of them allowed you to fail. They handled the concept differently -- Wing Commander had a "Losing Tree" of missions that was separate and distinct from the main game, while Freespace handed you difficult mission objectives that you could fail without losing the game. Both approaches created uncertainty and left the player wondering if better performance in-mission would change elements of future missions.

In contrast, virtually every game today demands uniform success. Fail an objective and you die. Success becomes something scripted rather than one option out of several, and the fact that the gamer knows there's no other possible outcome takes away from the fun of playing through a second time. Every now and then, a game like Call of Duty will throw in a mission where failure, is inevitable, but these are so obviously scripted that there's still no question as to whether you ever actually had a chance.

Obviously it's not possible to create an alternate outcome for every mission or scenario, but even a handful of alternatives goes a very long way to keeping a title interesting. Deus Ex: Human Revolution offers a great example of this sort of structure. At the beginning of the game, you've only got a certain amount of time to start the first mission. If you dawdle, a group of third-shift workers being held hostage end up dying. Later in the mission, there's a woman you can save—if you talk down the man with a gun to her head.

Meet Josie: MIddle-aged, a bit stout, and terrified.
Her reaction to her husband's death made me replay the mission to see if I could save him.

You know what happens if you let either the group or the woman die? The game, like life, goes on. People express reservations over whether or not you were ready for the job, and there's some discussion of your methods, but the player is left wondering whether you could've changed things or made different choices that resulted in a happier outcome.

Creating replayability is as much about offering different, legitimately interesting outcomes as it is about good AI or well-implemented difficulty. If you want people to come back for a second-helping of single-player, offer them a character that evolves into one type of person if he wins, another if he loses.

Tags:  Gaming, graphics, cliches

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