If there's one thing standing between us gamers and good games, it's game companies. Especially the so-called "AAA" ones that end up trying everything they can to make their cookie-cutter sequels and remakes seem different. Sometimes this leads to breathtaking innovations in gameplay. Too many times though, all we see are rehashes of formulas that have worked in not-so-similar situations, hoping to latch on to a previous success's coattails. Sigh. Take any iteration of the Call of Duty games or the ever-saddening additions to the Assassin's Creed series and you'll know exactly what we mean.
Sadly, once something hits big, either out of sheer lightning-in-a-bottle coincidence or because of sheer hard work, publishers will milk it dry. This can vary from recycling mechanics until we can't stand them anymore, or in a more insidious fashion, locking content behind a paywall. There is nothing worse than discovering that something that should already be in a game has been removed to increase a corporation's bottom line.
But we're not stupid. The gaming community knows when you're taking a leak on us and telling us it's raining. That's probably why a lot of these concepts feel completely overplayed at one end, and evoke complete and eye-crossing, fist-flailing fury at the other. So strap in and prepare your facepalms, 'cause it's gonna get cringy.
15 Amiibos: Cute Plastic Extortion
Yeah, I've talked about them before, and will continue to rant about them — get used to it. If Nintendo hadn't created such a crappy economy, rife for scalping and third-party resellers, they might have drawn less ire from the community. But unfortunately, they're just cool little pieces of meaningless swag that end up giving you exclusive stuff if you scan them into a WiiU, 3DS, or Switch. In a way, it's downloadable content that you get a little consolation prize for. And even in-game, these bonus don't amount to much. All for thirteen bucks or your regional equivalent. That is, of course, if you can find the damn thing in-store (you won't). If not, be prepared to pay up to almost ten times that on Amazon or Ebay.
14 Loot Boxes: Lotto Exploitation For A New Generation
Lotteries have been decried as a tax on the poor for a very long time now, and thanks to the introduction of loot boxes in games like Overwatch, Counter-Strike, and League of Legends, there's now a tax on those with more money than time on their hands.
You know, like most of us.
Thankfully, in cases like Overwatch, they're only for cosmetic items. But in the case of Heroes of the Storm, their newly-implemented loot box system contains not only cosmetic stuff, but actual heroes you would need to pay actual money for otherwise. So it gives players the fantasy that their spending real money on a loot box is a better prospect than just paying for what they want in the first place. And with all of the characters and unlockables you can find in the boxes themselves, it truly is a fantasy.
13 The Death Of The Beta Test
According to Google, a beta test is "a trial of machinery, software, or other products, in the final stages of its development, carried out by a party unconnected with its development."
Somewhere along the line, the beta test has been warped by marketing to mean absolutely nothing. Games that severely need beta testing, like the barely-functional Pokémon GO, are released with tons of bugs and game-breaking problems.
On the other hand, Rust has been in alpha (aka Steam Early Access) for four years. Alpha is an even earlier version of beta testing, but you can buy Rust for $20 and can also purchase its full array of cosmetic DLC separately. How is a game that's not even out of alpha asking for money when it doesn't even have a release date? Because nothing means anything anymore, just as long as it makes someone a quick buck.
12 Console Online Multiplayer Only: Paying Double For Couch Co-Op
Back in the day, there were these things called LAN parties. People who really liked to play games like WarCraft 3, Counter-Strike, and dozens of other old-school games would grab their computers and haul them to a big room where they could play together. This happened because the technology back then wasn't good enough to get everyone on the same game any other way. But now, thanks to Steam, voice-chat, and high-speed internet, PC gamers can play with each other over huge distances without breaking a sweat (literally — those old-school gaming PCs were HEAVY).
However, the LAN party has seen a resurgence of sorts, and this time it's due to the greed of the console industry. Multiplayer-only games like Star Wars: Battlefront are creating situations where people who want to play the same game in the same room have to bring their own $X00-dollar console and their $60 game so they can play together. Why is this even a thing?
11 Choice-Driven Gameplay: "Choice" Driven
Just to preface, there are more examples here other than what I'm going to talk about. I could talk about how the choices in Mass Effect 3 didn't amount to much, or how Fallout 4's dialogue "options" didn't change squat. There's a bunch, but I'm going to focus on the ending of Fallout 3.
Spoilers for a nine-year old game here, but what the crap, Bethesda? In our travels throughout the Capital Wasteland, we've proven ourselves time and time again as a person who can change things for the better, and that's just when we're trying to find our Dad. Imagine what we could do when our character actually focuses on making the Wasteland a better place! So stop making me feel bad for sending a tertiary NPC into the Wrath of Khan death chamber just because I feel my character will make much more impact alive than martyred.
10 Weak Single-Player Campaigns: Press "C" To Cop Out
Just because a game ends up finding its audience in a waiting room for an online deathmatch does not mean that the game should solely focus on that and let the single-player campaign die. After all, the whole reason you're charging players sixty bucks is because your game is the total package: a great single-player campaign coupled with awesome multiplayer functionality to keep you playing after you've beaten the solo content.
Wait... do you hear that? It's the development teams from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Battlefield 1, and Ghost Recon all laughing their asses off as they're forced to work solely on multiplayer functionality and spend little-to-no time on their single player stuff. Because the gaming public (read: the publisher) needs these new releases every year, they keep churning out the same tired crap and not innovating to bring in a new audience or to surprise its current one.
9 Stupid Effing Buzzwords: STAAAHP
You can throw in all of the "My body is ready" memes you want, but at least that's actually been part of a successful system. It seems that every E3, there's a ton of meaningless buzzwords that pop up. Still (somehow), the people presenting them believe that they're the second coming. That's how we get terms like "Levolution" from Battlefield 4, which when decoded, basically boils down to "interactive multiplayer maps with varying functionality."
Other stupid fail terms include "CaRPG," which stemmed from marketing departments desperately trying to make their racing games feel like they're more meaningful than they are. More recently, we've seen the highly misleading "Heroes 2.0" update from Heroes of the Storm, which sounds like a whole new game, but is in actuality a streamlining of the game's in-app purchase system.
8 Roguelike: Everyone's Favorite Masochistic Skinner Box
This is at the bottom of the list because it's a core mechanic that some players actually enjoy. However, if there's one thing those who love it can agree with, it's that in the community, there are tons of them. The roguelike game features permanent character death. A lot of newer 'roguelikes' give players rewards for each run, making subsequent runs easier and easier. The appeal is that you end up killing off hundreds of characters, and hopefully get enough benefits to reach the end of the game (if there is one).
It's a refreshing twist that has us poor experience into one singular character to create an unstoppable killing machine as the game progresses. Here, the game is going to destroy you, and it's your job —over dozens of characters— to get good enough to finish the game. It's not bad, but when dozens and dozens of games end up using it just to stay on trend, it gets super old super fast.
7 RPG Elements: The Skinner Box NO ONE Asked For
Full disclosure here, guys: I am an avid RPG fan. I grew up on Dragon Warrior, Ultima, and Final Fantasy VIII. I love them, but I have to acknowledge the grind these games were. In order to get to the story, I had to wade through seas of repetitive fights and quests just to progress. It added hours to my game timers, and I never thought twice about it.
But somewhere along the line, Pandora's box was opened. Game developers realized that the extra hours added to the game could translate into more money for them. Hence, "RPG Elements" began to creep their way into games that had no business having them in the first place. The new DOOM, essentially the greatest FPS of the last five years, couldn't escape them. They didn't hold the game back from being awesome, but still, it didn't need it in the first place.
6 Season Passes: Pre-Order Your DLC!
You know what's better than pre-ordering? Paying almost the price of a full-blown game that hasn't been released yet to make sure you get all of the downloadable content that hasn't even been announced. What a great idea! There's no way this can backfire in your face, can it? No one knows if this game is going to be successful, so why don't you throw money at the stuff they're doing that's apart from the original release?
Except it totally does, all the time. From games that go nowhere to games that just deliver crap DLC, pre-ordering a game's downloadable content is something only fools do, and only the game companies can profit from. So please stop doing it. It's just a way for people to prey upon your hype before anyone has to prove anything to you. Because once they have your money, it's all over.
5 Mobile Cash-Grabs Of Popular IPs: Who Cares if It's Good?
Oh look, Pokémon GO got into two entries on one list! Hooray!
When considering garbage titles that are nothing more than shameless cash grabs using a popular intellectual property, POGO is one of the best examples around. Of course, with its pay-to-incubate system and insulting way to make money which only gives a tiny sliver of the Pokécoins needed to buy anything from the in-game store. Also, let's not forget the new cosmetic items that also cost Pokécoins!
But there's also games like Super Mario Run, which starts asking for money before you even get to the second world, or Pokémon Shuffle, which was a standard match-three game that ended up being ridiculously pay-to-win as the game wore on, with levels being impossible to beat without a boost.
I know it sounds like I'm just bagging on Nintendo products here, but I assure you I see all of the lame match-threes from properties like Dragon Ball Z and Marvel Heroes.
4 Pre-Ordering: Throw Your Money Into A Trash Can
I've been ranting on its lesser forms, but now I'm finally going to address the main offender. Pre-ordering is one of the biggest, most horrendous problems the games industry has today, and it all boils down to hype culture. It goes like this: make a game so anticipated that people will have no choice but to throw their money down on this amazing spire built on promises and not-in-game cutscenes, and as long as people give us their money, our job is done. Who cares if the final product is actually good or not?
We've seen gamers get burned time and time again. Games like Evolve, No Man's Sky, and so many others are stolen cash from millions of gamers. Game developers give you lame pre-order bonuses to get you to buy into it, and it never ends up being worth it. The sooner we as gamers stop pre-ordering, the better it will be for all of us.
3 Kickstarting As Proof of Concept: Give Us Money To Get Us More Money
Speaking of things that burn the hype-prone among us, Kickstarter has given us awful examples of what happens when people decide to make games with their fans' money and screw it up. The most recent example may be the Keiji Inafune-led train wreck Mighty No. 9, which ended up grabbing around four million dollars, and then the team behind it used that money to secure extra funding from other investors.
Now, the problem there is that games produced in this fashion end up getting a little muddled in the process, especially when the people who funded it end up getting something less than what they thought they paid for. If there isn't a solid idea to bring it to life, it falls apart fast and messy. That being said, I really hope Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does well. It's certainly taking long enough...
2 Microtransactions: You've Spent Money, Now Give Us Money
Oh, look. It's Dungeon Keeper Mobile. Maybe it should have been in the cash-grabs entry, but this is the perfect example of how microtransactions are sucking the life force of most games in the free-to-play category, but are slowly finding their way into the mainstream in games like Dead Space 3.
The idea is simple: give us a tiny amount of money in a game you've already paid money for to get little bursts of power or influence to help you play the game better, or more to your liking. In more egregious examples, the original Dragon Age ended up throwing in a DLC salesman of sorts in your camp, who would end up giving you quests. Their objectives, of course, were to buy the game's DLC. It's just another blatant attempt to suck money from gamers who just want to play their damn game in peace.
1 Pay-To-Win: Cash Is The Ultimate Cheat Code
Where microtransactions typically aren't vital to completing a game, pay-to-win mechanics exist solely to get people to spend money by locking away what makes a game satisfying (like winning and any sense of progress) behind a paywall that can cost anywhere from pennies to hundreds of dollars.
Of course, the biggest offenders here end up being games like Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and Candy Crush Saga. They got their start in Facebook games that used "energy" to limit the amount of time a player could play, but the modern age of mobile gaming has brought a whole new generation of children and adults into credit card debt by giving them more pointless things to throw money at.
So there we have it: the most rage-inducing, cringeworthy mechanics yet devised. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!