Game design goofup: goodbye, Devil May Cry 3

game_design_DMC3Game design has changed from the Dark Ages of arcade development.

Back when arcades ruled the roost, a game designer could assume a few things about his* audience.

They were under 18. They were male. They were playing in a movie theatre lobby or arcade.

And they were really freakin’ bored.

The classic arcade audience — the kids who played Battlezone, Pac-man, and Robotron — didn’t have all the distractions of the modern console gamer. And today’s gamer is older, too, with all the distractions, responsibilities, and competing entertainment forms that come with that demographic.

So that’s why Devil May Cry 3 is a sack of offal.

I paid real hard cash for this game at Circuit City, thinking, “Hey, I deserve a little treat.” This happens more rarely than you might think, and it sucks doubly when I find that the game in question is designed with that old-school, ball-busting aesthetic. DMC3 is really hard, and I’ve played my share of games, obviously. It’s also the worst kind of hard, burdened by the usual crap Capcom fixed camera angles (mostly) and camera-switch triggers that cause you to be headed left before you cross some invisible line, and then suddenly right as soon as you hit that border. You know what I mean.

The worst part is that the game looks good. Intricate environments, fantastic bosses (oh, those bosses), variety, upgrades, vicious melee and range weapons, nice blend of action and puzzling. If I were to draw comparisons, I’d have to pick a blockbuster classic like God of War. It even throws in three different playstyles and a main character who transforms into a demon for heavy combat. That’s a lot of goodness.

But then some blockhead game designer at Capcom decided to make the game ridiculously hard. Each mission — 45 to an hour of exploration and combat — must be completed in one sitting with one character. If you suddenly have to fly to Quebec or something, or the power goes out, your save file will put you right back at mission start. If you reload in any way, you’ll be at mission start. If you die fighting a boss or a gaggle of enemies, and if you have a “continue” gem, you can keep trying from mid-mission, but you respawn outside the room, so the baddies are back to full health. And did I mention how the health and continue gems get a lot more expensive every time you buy them? That’s right. You need them, but every time you buy them the price goes up. Sky high.

And of course the game writing is ridiculously convoluted and pompous. It makes William Shatner’s early acting look like Shakespeare. (Oh wait. He did do Shakespeare but it probably didn’t look like Shakespeare. Anyhow.) Game writers, avert thine eyes.

And so will I. This game writer is ditching this game ASAP. Game design goofups… so avoidable, so deathly.

* Usually I would say “his or her,” but when we’re talking about game designers from the arcade era, the female game designers were even rarer than they are now, and they usually were transsexual if they were female. Little-known fact. Also, some of those transsexual designers were damned good at game design. Some of your favorite games were probably designed by a transsexual.

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