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I think I've seen "questions" like this on stackoverflow but sorry if I'm overstepping any bounds.

Inspired by my recent question and all the nice answers (Checklist for finished game?) I think every gamedev out there has something he/she thinks that almost every game should have. That knowledge is welcome here!

So this is probably going to be an inspirational subjective list of some sorts and the point is that anyone reading this question will see a point or two that they've overlooked in their own development and might benefit from adding.

I think a good example might be: "some sort of manual or help section. Of course it should be proportional to how advanced the game is. Some users won't need it and won't go looking for it but the other ones that do will become very frustrated if they can't remember how to do something specific that should be in the manual".

A bad example might be "good gameplay". Of course every game benefits from this but the answer is not very helpful.

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19 Answers 19

A clock. Really, if your game starts in fullscreen by default (which far too many games do, but thats another show) it needs to have a wall-time clock (as opposed to game time).

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wouldn't this risk to interrupt the immersion for the player? –  Phil Jan 4 '11 at 16:54
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Depends on how you do it. For example, in Titan Quest if you hover your mouse in the top right corner (which is unlikely to happen by accident, there are no buttons or other UI to interact with up there) it shows the current time. This interrupts immersion a lot less than Alt+Tab or fumbling for your cell phone. –  coderanger Jan 4 '11 at 17:38

My wish list contains:

  • Dynamically adjusting difficulty. In most genres it's the easiest thing to implement. And nothing is more depressing, than paying 60 bucks for a new game and not getting past level 4, because meanwhile you got a life and have become a casual gamer ;) Also, it's depressing to have to select "very super dummy easy" ;) However, this should always be an (defaulted) addition to standard difficulties, because in first-person shooters it kills off comparability to others.
  • COOP, It's awesome to dive into a overwhelming, exciting fantasy-RPG world, but what's with being king of the hill, if no-one knows about it? ;) Oblivion and Two Worlds are good bad examples of this. Same goes for first-person shooters. Remember Counterstrike clan wars? Well guess what, that was a crippled self-made COOP variant of the game. IMHO, COOP should be in every 21st century game. Why do you guess the Wii boomed so much, apart from the controller? Certainly not because of good graphics or physics.
  • Remotely referencing Wight's post: Non-linear gameplay. Admittedly, if done very very well, a linear story can work. I guess Mafia II roughly did okay, because they had a dense story. But still: We should be way past the days where "COMBINE glue WITH stick" wouldn't work while "COMBINE stick WITH glue" did. I don't demand complete diversity like Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy stood out with (mainly because it's hard to continue the story with a follow-up, and it vastly challenges the ratio of gameplay length to game design effort (and thus financial spendings). Still: Every alternative makes the game more vivid and less "gamey" ^^
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Regarding dynamically adjusted difficulty: it doesn't have to be automatic or a choice the user makes before they start playing. I really like the way Revenge of the Titans implemented this - on any given level you can select "Make This Level Easier". –  i_grok Feb 19 '12 at 5:33

Sixty Frames Per Second!

If a game contains any form of action, it would benefit greatly from running at 60fps*, vsynced, without tearing.

This can be the difference between an OK game and an awesome game.

I expect that several uninformed newbies will now respond 'but the human eye can only see 25-ish'. That's nonsense. (Someone needs to write a nice little test program to demonstrate the difference, maybe split-screen 30 and 60fps)

As developers we've got very sloppy about performance recently, in the push to add 'more stuff' and 'bigger stuff' to games. It's not uncommon for games to drop to 20fps or less, which is really quite poor.

Back in the early-mid 90's, maybe even before, 60 frames per seconds was the very definition of 'Arcade Quality'. All those lovely smooth 16bit platformers and shooters. And remember games like Daytona and Ridge Racer? Early, groundbreaking 3D titles - that made the (correct) decision to run at 60fps, rather than add more visual detail.

These days everyone's competing on screenshot quality, and making games 'bigger'. Gameplay has really suffered, particularly in certain genres, such as racing games, where 30fps or less feels terrible to play once you've had a taste of 60fps

(*Ok, there's nothing magic about 60 as a number, but to look good, a game should by synchronised with the refresh of the screen, at a constant framerate of 50 or more. And use of lower framerates for cutscenes, for a 'cinematic' look is perfectly acceptable)

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+1 So agreed on wanting this and the polish and feeling it adds but I don't think the majority cares anymore. Today's expensive digital billboards flicker, tear and stutter and people don't even seem to notice. The same seems to hold true to games. Perhaps if you get someone to drag a window back and forth on a 60Hz and a 120Hz TFT screen and experience the magical difference they might start to care, but I doubt it ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Jan 3 '11 at 23:13
    
Tearing is bad and distracting, yes (but even then is less problematic in some genres, eg racing), but I think 30fps vs 60 is more of a taste issue. Some people prefer the higher fidelity and immersion that can bring that is only possible at 30fps. –  tenpn Jan 10 '11 at 9:39
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I'm absolutely shocked that this is being downvoted! Is this really how 'modern game developers' think? I'm not arguing for 60fps at the expense of detail, just saying that 60fps is clearly and very significantly better than 30fps! –  bluescrn Jan 10 '11 at 11:03
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The 25fps myth is easily demonstrable as nonsense, too: buy your favourite Arduino clone and make an LED flash at 25fps. Ask the person if it's flashing or constantly lit. At 25fps it's obviously flashing. At 35 it's less obvious. I stop seeing the flashing at about 43 flashes per second, unless I move my eyes. Only at around 100+fps is the flashing hard to see even when motion is involved. –  romkyns Nov 10 '11 at 23:02

A release.

Many games that have great potential on the indie side of things never get this.

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This is so sad and true. –  Phil May 16 '11 at 17:26

Easy to learn controls.

This means I don't want to spend the first 3 hours of 'gameplay' doing frustratingly dull tutorial levels. I want to play (even a very easy level) of the game now.

FPS games are by far the worst offenders here.. 'go hit this moving target', 'run over here', etc. Very boring. If I want to learn the basic controls then I'll check the controls screen on the menu. Or the manual.

If I absolutely must learn one or two things to be able to play the level I'm on, then as long as they are introduced the first time I need them that's OK, but it shouldn't feel like a chore to learn to play the game!

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Autosave. I hate playing through the first chapters of a game just to realize that I have to do the beginning tutorial all over again when I die.

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NO CHECKPOINTS. Let me save anytime I want. I paid for the game and I have a life I need to get back to quickly sometimes.

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Is there a risk that you'll save the game at some point of no return where there's no way to win? For example, right as you meet an enemy your character cannot defeat or escape? –  BlueMonkMN Aug 11 '10 at 10:52
    
Have more than one save game. ;-) It's a game after all, not a Pandora Avatar Simulator. –  JustBoo Aug 11 '10 at 13:17
    
That would work -- maybe one "auto-save" slot that saves exactly where you are, and a number of "safe" save slots where the game certifies that you are saving in a safe place. –  BlueMonkMN Aug 12 '10 at 11:16
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@BlueMonkMN The verification of safe places to save are what we don't want. We want to be able to save in the middle of a fight if we want to. It wouldn't be a bad thing for the game to roll back our saves to just before we entered the fight in those cases though (such as to the start of a boss fight) There does have to be a limit though; if a user could just save-reload-save-reload his way through bosses then what's the point in the boss? :) –  adamk Jan 3 '11 at 2:09
    
I'm not saying you shouldn't be able to save anywhere you want, just that you shouldn't be able to overwrite a game that was saved at a confirmed "safe" place with a save that you are saving whenever you want. Otherwise instead of buring an hour to get from your save point to where you were, you burn a month playing the whole game over again because you (or someone not as sensible as you) save at the wrong time overwriting the safer save you had. So to get the best of borh worlds there should be different storage for non-safe saved games. –  BlueMonkMN Jan 3 '11 at 18:34

Can't believe no-one has added the ability to rebind keys!

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I use a DVORAK keyboard layout and this drives me mad - everyone has different preferences for keybindings. –  i_grok Feb 19 '12 at 5:35

IMHO every game should allow for a certain number of play styles. (I.e. Deus Ex and Way of the Samurai for RPG like games and Card games like Yu-gi-OH or Magic the gathering, Scribblenauts as well did this very very well with multiple ways to solve a puzzle the way you want to.)

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That's a bit ambiguous isn't it? How many play-styles are there in Call of Duty single-player? Does that make CoD rubbish? –  tenpn Aug 9 '10 at 9:37
    
Sniper, defender and assaulter are play styles that are usual to FPS games. –  Wight Aug 9 '10 at 9:40
    
There's no way to replay a CoD level with a different approach. They're rollercoaster rides. –  tenpn Aug 10 '10 at 12:37
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At least in multi-player it does allow for player to do so. –  Wight Aug 11 '10 at 1:14
    
+1 for Deus Ex. –  Devdalus Aug 2 '13 at 18:49

If you have multiplayer, you should do your best to offer some kind of local multiplayer (co-op is usually easier to do than local versus). This seems to be a dying art, especially among console titles.

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Leaderboards, lots of them. Not arcade-style top-10 lists because those get dominated by a handful of people quickly. Fastest time to completion, high score, most damage dealt, whatever, for all-time and the past week. Ideally every player should feel like they could get to the top of at least one if they tried.

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Most games would benefit from having some character.

Good games have a core of solid gameplay. Great games combine solid gameplay with character. Here's the checklist we use:

1. Iterate until the high concept is remarkable.

The process here is straightforward -- wrap the damned game description up into a single sentence. Speak it to a bunch of people. If they smile and say "yeah, that sounds cool," scrap it, and think about what really makes your game unique. After a while, you'll sum things up right, and they'll laugh, or they'll yell, "Holy crap, I have to play it!"

Our last game's high concept was "BASE jump off of a perfectly good building, create your own stunts, and flip people off for points." It's simple, but it worked really well for us at conventions/conferences.

2. Make unexpected tidbits remarkable.

When you repeatedly clicked on your Starcraft pieces, they started saying some crazy shit. Players didn't expect this, yet that tiny thing (how long did that take to write and record?) is something people still talk about today. This is really low-hanging fruit; go through your design, piece by piece and add the quirky bits.

We added a guided meditation to our most recent game. It gave something for reviewers to talk about. People kept commenting on how they sat through it, waiting for it to start screaming at them.

3. Make boring things interesting.

Game installers are typically boring. Setup menus are typically boring. Sit down for a half hour, poke at all these boring places, and see what comes out.

Playground slides are typically boring, but they don't have to be (http://www.foundshit.com/elephant-playground-slide).

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So you're the guy that made aaaaaaaaAAAAAaAAaAaaaaaAAAAaAaaaa!!! –  RCIX Aug 3 '10 at 8:02
    
+1,000,000. I'm going to print this and stick it to my wall. –  Andrew Russell Aug 3 '10 at 14:44
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+1 for "Make boring things interesting" –  Jonathan Fischoff Aug 7 '10 at 23:55

The ability to suspend play at any time. A pause menu option that quits the game but takes you back to the main menu. You can resume the game from that point but only once. This restriction stops you turning it into a quicksave system, but still allows you to exit whenever life demands it. It would probably be in addition to some checkpointing system.

A fair number of games already do this, but I can't think of any examples off the top of my head!

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This would be my answer as well. In this day and age, there's no excuse for a game holding the player hostage until the next save point. One example of a game that does this is Breath of Fire:Dragon Quarter. (Of course, some games can handle quicksave systems too, and if you can do that without totally breaking the balance, more power to you.) Other examples would be retro arcade type games, which don't need no stinking save system :) –  Ian Schreiber Aug 2 '10 at 15:32
    
"there's no excuse for a game holding the player hostage until the next save point..." unless you're making a DS game (or a Wii game and don't want people frustrated at the size of your save games). –  user744 Aug 7 '10 at 22:48
    
You only need one save - as soon as you load the game, the save is deleted/invalidated and can be re-used. If you didn't do this, you could exploit it like a quick-save system. –  tenpn Aug 9 '10 at 9:30

Pausable and skippable cutscenes. In my opinion both should be in the TRCs for the major consoles.

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Skippable is already almost always the case, pausable is unfortunately rather rare. –  Bart van Heukelom Aug 2 '10 at 9:24
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Yes and you can't press start to find out if it's pausable, because most of the time that will skip it! –  tenpn Aug 2 '10 at 9:52
    
Thats so incredibly annoying I don't know what to do –  Oskar Duveborn Jan 3 '11 at 23:04
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Add "Replayable" as well. I hate having to go to YouTube all the time I want to rewatch a cutscene, either because it was awesome or because I haven't played for a few months and want to catch up. –  Michael Stum Mar 28 '11 at 12:05
    
Best solution would probably be to add a 'cutscene library' sort of menuitem to the main menu where you can go and (re-)watch all unlocked movies and/or cutscenes. What absolutely needs to be skippable are the intro and dev/publisher logos before the main menu. I wish every game had an option to disable them after the first viewing and skip directly to the main menu. –  sarahm Nov 29 '11 at 20:47

If your buttons are mostly just graphics, not labeled by words of what they do, there should be a way to find out exactly what that button does without clicking it. An effective way to do this is with tool-tips.

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Not a lot of people will play a game if they have to read 10 minutes worth of instructions first. I think it's important to have the user actually participating in the tutorial, and have the tutorial advance based on the user's pace (f.e allow them to skip certain parts that they might already know how to do (because they've played other similar games)).

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Something I like is when games make the beginning a natural tutorial (like gears of war 2) and then highlight stuff later on in the game. Stuff that requires a certain button or activity that the player might have forgotten about. –  Phil Aug 20 '10 at 19:17

Replayability.
Some games you play once through, and then that's the end of it. Something like Portal; there's no replayability in it.
On the other hand, a lot of the non-linear RPGs - Fallout 3 and Oblivion, for example - have huge amounts of replayability.
Not just from going 'I might play this kind of character next time' or 'I will be friendly to these people', but also to 'I haven't been to place X, I wonder what's there'.
Second point is more of plenty to do, but still adds replayability.

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Your examples are totally backwards. I never replayed Oblivion; I sunk 150 hours into a single character, did every quest once, and never felt a need to play it again. The same with Fallout, except I did the ending twice - maybe 10 minutes of replayability. Portal on the other hand lends itself to multiple paths through each level and speedrunning. –  user744 Aug 7 '10 at 21:53
    
Hmm. I found myself having replayed Oblivion and Fallout at least 3 or 4 times each, not as far though, trying to be magic based/ranged/good karma/etc. –  The Communist Duck Aug 10 '10 at 16:25
    
Well, the examples will clearly be subjective but the point is good. Every game would benefit from having playability. It's just hard to prove without getting subjective. –  Phil Aug 20 '10 at 19:09

Personally I think nearly every game should have some way for you to challenge other gamers, whether it be directly in multiplayer or in some sort of highscore boards. Recently I have noticed a lot of (mainly mobile) games with great potential ignore this which brings down replayablity.

also -cough- dedicated servers -cough- ¬_¬

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+1 for dedicated servers –  sarahm Nov 29 '11 at 20:49

People always like achievement/trophies, and they're really easy to make.

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Easy to make ineffectual achievements, but good achievements like Geo War's famous Pacifist achievement, that make you look at the game in a completely new way, are really hard to come up with. –  tenpn Aug 1 '10 at 20:27
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Before you go and add achievements to your game, at least read up on Chris Hecker's excellent achievement talk - destructoid.com/gdc-10-are-achievements-harmful--166646.phtml . He makes a good argument that achievements can easily turn a good game into a terrible game. –  ZorbaTHut Aug 1 '10 at 22:56
    
That SMB3 speed run was a fake though =( He should know this ;) –  Nailer Aug 10 '10 at 14:06
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I hate to respond to myself here, but naturally, two days after I made that post, Chris Hecker put his entire talk up online. chrishecker.com/Achievements_Considered_Harmful%3F –  ZorbaTHut Aug 13 '10 at 2:49

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