What makes a game boring even if it follows successful formula?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by watermark, Sep 16, 2019.

  1. watermark

    watermark Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    546
    Likes Received:
    481
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    So these aren't RM examples but I think the concept is the same regardless of engine.

    Anyway, I recently played Axiom Verge, which is like a Metroid clone. I really wanted to like it, but found it VERY BORING. It's strange though, because it's very similar to Metroid. i.e. you have cool abilities, you run and shoot like Metroid, and you get new stuff every 5~10 minutes. It's evident that the creators of Axiom Verge know the Metroid "playbook" very well and copies it perfectly. Yet Axiom is boring (to me anyway. I'm sure there's people who love it.) and Metroid is not. Another example is I played Hollow Knight. And that is very interesting.

    But what I can't explain is why are Metroid and Hollow Knight very interesting while Axiom is not? On paper they all seem to follow the same formula and mechanics.

    What do you think makes a game boring even if it follows a successful formula?
     
    #1
    Wavelength likes this.
  2. Aoi Ninami

    Aoi Ninami Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    410
    Likes Received:
    503
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I haven't played Axiom Verge myself, but I know the game through Alex Diener's Let's Play. So my opinion is largely coloured by his -- he found it pretty boring as well, but not enough to give up on it. I think the main problem is the level design: most individual rooms don't have you doing anything especially interesting. There is exploration and uncovering new areas, but if the moment-to-moment gameplay isn't enjoyable, then reaching new areas isn't going to make you excited about what new challenges might lie ahead.

    A staple of metroidvanias is the door you can't pass through yet, which you have to remember (or map out) and come back later when you have a new power-up. In Axiom Verge, beyond that door is most likely just another range upgrade that makes you a little bit more powerful. In Super Metroid, beyond that door would be a missile capacity upgrade at the other end of a grappling challenge. The upgrade isn't the exciting part. It's the challenge of reaching it. Seeing your missile capacity get really high in the endgame is immensely satisfying, because you earned those upgrades.
     
    #2
    Wavelength and watermark like this.
  3. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

    Messages:
    2,197
    Likes Received:
    1,255
    Location:
    Fiore
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I've had this with some RM games I've played, where technically they were really well made, polished and all, and still something felt off about them. It's hard to say what exactly it is when it comes down to just a feeling, rather than seeing obvious bad design choices.
     
    #3
    Umbreon and Wavelength like this.
  4. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    5,146
    Likes Received:
    4,290
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    You also have to remember that Metroid/Hollow Knight engage in a LOT of "environmental storytelling". The player can physically see how rooms connect to each other and how it makes an internal amount of sense. They can piece together the mysteries of areas they are in and moving through by looking at the environment around them.

    From the gameplay I've seen of "Axiom Verge", there is very little, if any, "Environmental Storytelling". This is the main reason I haven't picked it up despite much of the positive reviews.

    In a Metroidvania, the world itself needs to do the job of telling the story for you. Of pushing you forward without words. Of linking each individual room together seamlessly in order for it to make a logical and coherent amount of sense to the player. You are actively piecing together the world of a Metroidvania as you play it.

    Think about that for a moment.

    If you've ever played Metroid 2, there are lots of great moments of Environmental Storytelling in it. You run across "ruins" early in the game. Weird beaked gun things on the walls. Defensive equipment. It all seems to face the same direction. Inwards. You may not notice it immediately, but you will on subsequent playthroughs. You notice areas that look distinctly like "laboratories" or "cages". Later, you find what appears to be a giant wall underground. You can pass through it, sort of (it's very difficult to do at the moment you arrive), or you can climb up and over it. The final areas of the game have the ambient enemies become fewer and fewer. The world is actively getting emptier as you get closer to killing all the Metroids. You even find a smashed Chozo statue with an "Ice Beam" pickup on the floor. You climb the cavern into what is obviously a lab with a lot of glass jars everywhere. This is where you fight the Metroid Queen. She's turned the lab into her nest. This is the source of the Metroids. It's heavily implied that these creatures were either made in this lab or stored here from some other planet (unless you've played the remake or all the other games, that outright tell you the Chozo created them... which was something fans had always speculated on, but had little evidence to work with except the environmental storytelling).

    When you play a Metroidvania, this is what you are subconsciously looking for. Interesting level design that helps build the story. "What is this place? What was it used for? How is it related to the room I just came out of? What is the origin of this giant boss monster I'm fighting? Is there a reason these powerups are laying about where they are?" This is something the player does as they move through a Metroidvania world.

    Metroidvanias that do not engage in this design philosophy often have boring world design. The gameplay suffers as a result. The player is less engaged with the game itself, and only engaged with the limited mechanics of the world. What is fun about a Metroidvania is not the combat. It is the exploration and Boss Monsters that require you to use your equipment to beat them in creative ways that is the fun part. If your environment doesn't tell a story, help you piece together the puzzle of the place you're exploring, and allow you to use your powers in interesting ways... the game falls flat.
     
    #4
  5. BlueMage

    BlueMage Slime Lv99 Veteran

    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    129
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVX
    Is there a successful formula?
    If i follow it, my game will be ensured to be a great one, right?
     
    #5
  6. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,379
    Likes Received:
    3,654
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    All of the advice given so far on this very hard-to-quantify topic is good - I especially like @Aoi Ninami's challenge-reward explanation and @Tai_MT's point on environmental storytelling.

    I feel that "high moments" are an important key to making sure your game transcends mediocrity and becomes great.
    • That moment you feel insanely overpowered, even though the designer planned for it and designed the game to be balanced around it
    • That moment you create something really, really cool through item creation, and you feel like your ingenuity, skill, or luck helped you create it
    • That moment your own decision, and its consequences (especially its positive consequences), made you feel a strong emotion
    • That moment you (in a team game) or your favorite character (in a solo game with a party) carry the team through a tough battle
    • That moment an enemy, or a new skill you learn, does something undeniably cool that you didn't even realize was possible within the game engine
    • That moment a character says exactly what you're thinking, but says it better than you ever could
    • That moment when it becomes perfectly clear how your skill in one activity/mechanic is giving you advantages in the others
    • That moment something you've been planning for ten hours finally comes to fruition, and the payoff is even better than you expected
    • That moment you win a completely fair and challenging contest for the first time, because you played out of your mind
    • That moment an NPC that you care about recognizes how awesome or how kind you are
    • That moment you're tested to your absolute limits (without the test being too frustrating), and you find a way to overcome it
    • That moment you're absolutely convinced you're living in the game world
    There are dozens more types of magical moment you can provide your player. But if your game structure and your attention to detail come together to create these high moments frequently, your game will be beloved. If you almost never create these moments, your game will bore people, even if it's competently put together.

    Another important concept to learn and master as a designer is Flow State. You always want the player to feel challenged, but not overwhelmed. If you keep asking the player to do the same thing, they will become bored. But if you overload them with too much at once, or if you throw a challenge at them that they are not skilled enough to overcome (and can't build up enough skill to overcome), they will become frustrated.
    [​IMG]
    (The X-Axis is the player's skill level at a given point in the game. The Y-Axis is the level of challenge presented to the player at a given point in the game. Note that some models use an entire Flow "Channel" from bottom-left to top-right, but I feel that this model more accurately captures how challenge and skill must be at least moderate before Flow can really be achieved.)

    Level Design is a big factor in inducing Flow State, especially in action or platformer games. (It's good to use in RPGs too, but System Design is even more important there.) For a masterclass on Level Design, read Reverse Design: Super Mario World.

    Finally, there's something intangible - a sense of tactile feel - that can draw the player into the game more, even beyond its design and its "heart". I really like this Game Maker's Toolkit video where Mark calls it "Juice" and gives great examples of games with and without Juice.


    There's a lot more to it, but if you get High Moments, Flow State, and Juice right in your game (and those all feed into each other to a certain extent), you'll already have something very, very good on your hands.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
    #6
    V_Aero, ekhartpl, Aesica and 7 others like this.
  7. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

    Messages:
    12,079
    Likes Received:
    12,256
    Location:
    USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I think it also helps if you feel that what your characters do matters. I found Trails in the Sky SC boring as I felt like nothing my party did in Chapters 1 - 5 and 7 made any difference whatsoever. Oh, let's go investigate what these guys are up to *find out what they are up to* bad guy gets away, plan is completed, repeat. After a while I felt like it made no difference what I did as the bad guys were just going to succeed and get away for the 9275th time.

    Took me two years to beat that game as I had to work up the interest so that I cared enough to continue as the game failed at making me care.
     
    #7
  8. Marquise*

    Marquise* Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    4,650
    Likes Received:
    7,994
    First Language:
    French-Canadian
    @Wavelength Hope you don't mind that I saved your graphic ^^;
     
    #8
  9. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,379
    Likes Received:
    3,654
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    You're good - it's a Wikimedia image that was released into the public domain by its author Oliverbeatson (not me) so do what you like with it!
     
    #9
    Marquise* likes this.
  10. Raizen

    Raizen Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    205
    First Language:
    Portuguese
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    Wavelength gave an awesome answer to this haha, but I'll put also some inputs here.
    What I do know and was mentioned here is the Flow State, that is also talked a lot for other activities like, sports or work. The flow is when your mind is 99% focused on what you are doing, when a game gets that from the player, its most likely he will spend some hours on it. Usually the skill level grows on that state, so if you can make the player get in the Flow State, you can also raise the difficulty of the game. Having that balance of challenge is also what makes him continue playing. I think to get there you have to present the player with something he didn't experience before, be it story, gameplay or visuals, and from there keep on releasing different challenges at the correct time, knowing when to make the player rest and when to present him with those challenges.
    I got this below from wikipedia, but its exactly what it is:
    Games and gaming
    Flow in games and gaming has been linked to the laws of learning as part of the explanation for why learning-games (the use of games to introduce material, improve understanding, or increase retention) have the potential to be effective.[52] In particular, flow is intrinsically motivating, which is part of the law of readiness. The condition of feedback, required for flow, is associated with the feedback aspects of the law of exercise. This is exhibited in well designed games, in particular, where players perform at the edge of their competency as they are guided by clear goals and feedback.[53] The positive emotions associated with flow are associated with the law of effect. The intense experiences of being in a state of flow are directly associated with the law of intensity. Thus, the experience of gaming can be so engaging and motivating as it meets many of the laws of learning, which are inextricably connected to creating flow.

    In games often much can be achieved thematically through an imbalance between challenge level and skill level. Horror games often keep challenges significantly above the player's level of competency in order to foster a continuous feeling of anxiety. Conversely, so called "relaxation games" keep the level of challenges significantly below the player's competency level, in order to achieve an opposite effect.[citation needed] The video game Flow was designed as part of Jenova Chen's master's thesis for exploring the design decisions that allow players to achieve the flow state, by adjusting the difficulty dynamically during play.[54]

    It improves performance; calling the phenomenon "TV trance", a 1981 BYTE article discussed how "the best seem to enter a trance where they play but don't pay attention to the details of the game".[55] The primary goal of games is to create entertainment through intrinsic motivation, which is related to flow; that is, without intrinsic motivation it is virtually impossible to establish flow.[56] Through the balance of skill and challenge the player's brain is aroused, with attention engaged and motivation high.[53] Thus, the use of flow in games helps foster an enjoyable experience which in turn increases motivation and draws players to continue playing. As such, game designers strive to integrate flow principles into their projects.[57] Overall, the experience of play is fluid and is intrinsically psychologically rewarding independent of scores or in-game successes in the flow state.[53]
     
    #10
    Wavelength likes this.
  11. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    620
    Likes Received:
    316
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    The others give fantastic answers, but I do want to give a very direct answer; Following a successful formula without knowing why it works is going to fail. As an easy example, I've seen tons of pokemon fan games. Many of them are considered good or even great. But many, many of them fail to understand what a pokemon is and how pokemon game design works. The second one especially because many makers go in with the mentality to make a pokemon game while knowing they want a different result, but don't seem to do the work to find what parts they feel need to change and which don't.

    This doesn't just apply to video games. You could be handed a food recipe with instructions on it, but if you don't know what you're doing or what any of these things are or why they are there, it just won't turn out as well as someone who does, even though you literally have a step-by-step formula.

    Also, a successful formula isn't perfect. If you change nothing about it, the literal best product you can make already exists (the game in question). If all I did was mimic the formula found in metroid games, I'd end up just making a metroid game that likely already exists.
     
    #11
    Wavelength and watermark like this.
  12. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    798
    First Language:
    Spanish
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I guess the TLDR answer would be "when the player doesn't feel any sense of accomplishment"
    having been playing Rimworld lately, sometimes I enter that state, of not being able to do anything..... anything I manage to get done, is immediately toppled by a disaster, "Oh, so you've managed to build a shelter.... great... here, have a heat wave for your troubles.... have fun being cooked alive in there!"

    now, compare that to Planetbase, which gives you a little more flexibility to take care of emergencies: you see the problem coming, there's indicators for power, weather and supplies; you see the supplies running out, you see the batteries draining, you can anticipate you're about to face a crisis so you prepare for that, you can shut everything down and basically Apollo-13 your way through it. And then when you come out the other side, there's the "all clear" music that takes you through the next phase: now you know where the problem is, now you can fix it.

    Planetbase rewards management.
    Rimworld punishes ignorance and neglect.
     
    #12
    Marquise* and watermark like this.
  13. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    5,146
    Likes Received:
    4,290
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    @gstv87 The problem I tend to have with games like Rimworld is the lack of actual feedback, or requirements for solving issues.

    "There's a psychic drone attack!" Cue about a third of my populace suddenly going insane because I lack the equipment and items necessary to keep them happy most of the time and a negative 20 penalty to sanity pushes so many over the edge. Dwarf Fortress doesn't require this massive level of micromanagement.

    "People are getting sick from eating rotting food". Why? WHY? Can they NOT tell the difference between the massive storage of fresh food I have that isn't spoiled, and the spoiled crap that I can't find an easy way to dump?

    There's a certain level of feedback a player tends to expect from a game. If I do something, I need time to see the result, or a hint on a particular problem I might have. Rather than just tell me, "Hey, this guy has a low mood and is about to psychologically break", why not give me the means to manage that happiness much better?

    It only gets worse when the player must start in a "deficit" state. "Rimworld" does this. "Need Shelter" is the first thing requested. Happiness falls pretty harshly for every day without a shelter they have... and every time they sleep on the ground... and every time they eat without a table... and then food spoils pretty quickly without refrigeration… Oh, and it takes about 3 days to get your first shelter up as it takes your newbie colonists forever to build wooden walls. And it takes them forever to plant and harvest seeds... I've never had a start in the game that didn't take at least 5 days to get a shelter, a few beds, and a basic crop growing... then it took another 10-12 days to build a freezer for my food.

    Just... don't start players in such a huge hole. Don't expect them to "mad scramble" their way to solutions with such undue pressure.

    I tend to prefer "base simulation" type games that actually let me learn the mechanics as they're required... instead of requiring mechanics I don't have access to in order to solve required problems. I need escalation instead of deficit gameplay.
     
    #13
  14. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    798
    First Language:
    Spanish
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    @Tai_MT exactly.
    it's like the colonists suffer from some severe brain damage that prevents them from applying basic common sense.

    .......to be fair tho, they did plummet from the sky after their ship exploded, so.... there's that.
     
    #14
    bgillisp and Tai_MT like this.
  15. CraneSoft

    CraneSoft Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    33
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I'm curious in that what exactly defines a successful formula though? Commercial success? Or just about creating great games in general?
    There are so many aspects that can affect a game's enjoyability yet different people with different expectations are still going to have different experiences, especially when it comes to non-linear games.

    There is also a problem when it comes to games with gameplay that are mechanically identical to each other, since more often than not you end up comparing them - then all the difference comes down in the execution of how the actual game plays out based on your previous expectations (challenges, explorations, and whatnot) as well as world building. This is especially true for RPGs.

    I've played one that is literally a parody of Persona 4, while an extremely well-polished game in its own right and has decent success on its own, it utterly fails to keep me interested in continuing after I literally swept through the first few dungeons and bosses without facing any real difficulty, but then again, others may find it more tolerable or enjoyable, so personally I feel it's also have to do personal preference where one can get bored when the game fails to deliver what they'd expect.
     
    #15
  16. FluffexStudios

    FluffexStudios Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    102
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    For me what make it boring varies depending on genre and games. The breakdown is something like this:
    - Grinding is too much time wasted for too little rewards
    - Story doesn't have a good hook to keep me interested past the first 30 minutes
    - Story doesn't have enough mystery to keep me going
    - Characters are badly written in the game
    - Puzzle or level design is bad, no originality and a lot of what I've already seen
    - The game is too difficult that I died too many times and have to repeat the same thing over
     
    #16
  17. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    620
    Likes Received:
    316
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    That is definitely part of the issue. What makes a Mario platformer a mario platformer? What make a Metroidvania game? It's definitely not the surface things (genre, appearance, etc).
     
    #17
  18. ShadowHawkDragon

    ShadowHawkDragon Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    469
    Likes Received:
    836
    First Language:
    English
    With this whole emphasis on how a game must 'follow a winning formula' there one thing I have to add.

    Most of these games we use as our examples of what we're aiming to make didn't actually follow any 'formula' themselves. Why? Because there was no formula. The first Metroid had nothing before it to follow, same with Legend of Zelda and Mario and many others. And while you could argue that all the sequels followed their first game's formula they still tweaked the recipe: altering, removing and even adding features. These formulas as we know them were made through constant trial and error evolving over the ages, much like a living being does.

    While a little off topic, when creating artwork for my battlers sometimes I get too focused on trying to closely reproduce monsters from other games/artwork, but in doing so the designs come out feeling stale and lifeless. However, when I let go of these rigid designs and let my hand wander just a little from the goal, the results start to flesh out in ways I never could have imagined.

    So if you ask me; its that raw 'life' in a project where its not entirely sure of itself but still tries to do its best to stand out, constantly being improved with iteration after iteration that forms the true 'formula to success'. The more you try to box an idea to be an exact replica of something else the more you lose what made the original feel alive.
     
    #18
    BlueMage and kirbwarrior like this.
  19. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Manga Maker Veteran

    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    56
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    We have very good examples in various markets today, why do you think we have LoL vs Dota, CSGo vs Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite vs PUBG vs APEX, Tekken vs Soul Calibur, Girls Frontline vs Kantai Collection, God Eater vs Monster Hunter, Metal Gear vs Splinter Cell... Marvel vs Capco- wait...

    All of the above are the best examples to study for the case in point, as all the vs'ed games mentioned (and many more) follow the same formula/genre and sometimes both, but each add their own flair or flairs to it, be it memedancing on fortnite vs squad gameplay on apex, classical fps gameplay on CSGo compared to the tactical gadgety approach of R6, ship waifus on Kancolle vs gun waifus on GF.

    Take a look at Candy Crush, it was a boom for casual players when it was out, it was very colorful, successful and friendly for a puzzle game...
    then the knockoff nation attacked between playing a "candy crush like" game and the original many people will choose the latter, its not always true as some "inspired on" games can take over the original.

    It can even fall on within same franchise as every game iteration tries to add/change/improve over the previous one sometimes with good effects and sometimes failing at it like Mass Effect 3 vs Mass Effect Andromeda, the ME formula is a successful one, and they somehow changed little bits of it that resulted in an inferior product even if the base formula was the same.

    Some people love Metal Gear Solid/Twin Snakes and consider it the best kojima has made, while others treat MGS3 as the superior one because of the story alone, others prefer MGSV for the awesome gameplay, while some hate on MGS2 thanks to the bait and switch of the protagonist but love the first section.

    Its all a matter of opinion, and even if games share the same genre and some or even all aspects of gameplay, people will have varying tastes and oppinions and even something as little as making Final Fantasy 19 vs FF19 with crafting can twist reviews, ratings and sales by a lot.
     
    #19
    watermark likes this.
  20. Dirtnap

    Dirtnap Villager Member

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    B.C. Canada
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    I agree with Fluffex, especially in the grinding department, no one wants to spend 80% of their time fighting randomly generated monsters just to level up enough to fight the next boss. Eventually the player will lose that sense of immersion, and that is a formula for boredom, which means a formula for esc/quit.
     
    #20

Share This Page