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Game Design Trends That Need To Die

As we all know, the games industry is largely beholden to trends; Battle Royale is the most obvious recent example, but there are many more examples throughout gaming history. Trends aren’t always a bad thing, particularly when it comes to games. What begins as a good idea and becomes a trend can end up becoming a full-blown genre – the MOBA being a good example.

However, trends often wear down novelty exceedingly fast, ruining intriguing ideas before many gamers get a chance to fully explore them. Not only that, but the financial incentive usually attracts mountains of shovelware and substandard games, fracturing the playerbase and ruining the reputation of what might have been an otherwise great idea.

In most cases, however, I think many design trends need to end purely because we’re sick of them.

It’s done! Innovate! The PC Gaming Golden Age of the late 1990s shows us what can happen when game developers truly throw conventions out the window. So, here are a few trends in game design that I think we could do with a break from.

Open-World Games

I love open-world games.

They are unparalleled when it comes to immersion and giving a genuine sense of player agency. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt Red, 2015) is one of the finest examples of this, and The Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda has long carried the torch of open-world games. These days, it seems that almost every release is competing for the biggest, most immersive world.

I get it. But I’m sick of it.

Whatever happened to tight, focused narratives? Some of the best games ever made are quite linear, and while choice might be restricted, they are able to use that lack freedom to maximum emotional impact.

Survival/Crafting

I keep getting sucked in by survival/crafting games, yet time and again I am disappointed.

At first, they seem fun, and between the few that I own I have dozens of hours of playtime. But there always comes a point where, standing in a dark room for five minutes waiting for the imaginary sun to rise, I realize – what the hell am I doing? Where am I going with this?

The gameplay loop is exceedingly simple and addictive, but ultimately unrewarding. It reminds me of all the worst parts of grinding a trade skill in an MMO like World of Warcraft, without the ability to zone out because a dinosaur might come out of the bushes at any moment and kill you. I understand the appeal of the genre, but it is so incredibly overdone that I have simply blocked both terms in my Steam Discovery Queue.

Zombies

This has gone on far too long.

Seriously, unless you’re announcing Left 4 Dead 3, I don’t want to hear about it. By this point, zombies are so overdone they have lost almost all of what made them interesting and exciting adversaries to begin with. The thing is, there are so many more possibilities when it comes to a zombie-type enemy. Hordes of bugs in a new Starship Troopers game maybe (someone do this, please).

The zombie game has become so by-the-numbers, I don’t even pay attention to them anymore.

Loot-Shooters

While the recently announced Borderlands 3 was met with huge excitement (and then huge backlash thanks to the exclusivity deal with Epic Games), the fact remains that the genre is losing its luster, as many gamers are beginning to recognize what is a relatively simplistic game loop reminiscent of a slot machine.

These are games that primarily consist of recolored assets, bullet-sponges and shameless use of microtransactions. It’s a genre that could have so much more depth and innovation, but developers have found a profitable formula and have no incentive to experiment with it.

I say, let it go.

Battle Royale

What started as a mod became a game, which became a global sensation.

While I personally find the entire game mode quite boring, I understand the appeal, and there is obviously a reason for the rampant success of battle royale. But I draw the line when developers left, right, and center start trying to shoehorn the mode into their established series as a transparent attempt to cash-in on the trend.

Battle royale has found its way into Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Planetside, among others. The genre fanbase is beginning to split across the numerous options, while the lack of new ideas is testing the longevity of the genre. If you’re a game developer considering chasing the Battle Royale Boom, think again – it’s a genre that is about to go bust.

Microtransactions and Lootboxes

Stop it. Just stop it. Seriously.

Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed the article! If you’d like to see some related content, and support Exclusively Games in the process, click on our Amazon Affiliate links listed below to find related products. – EG Staff

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  1. Loot/Gamble Boxes and XP Boosts need to die. I’m fine with selling things in a store. I pay X I get Y. No mystery, just an open transaction. If you price something too high no one will buy it and the price will adjust (supposedly) to where the market will accept it.

    • elijah.atherton on May 16, 2019 at 3:42 am said

      I’m apprehensive about outright banning any practice, since I don’t like the precedent it would set for lawmakers to make things worse in future. A better approach might be to require that games are rated for the impact of their microtransactions, kind of like how much countries require an age-rating to be applied to products, or how the ESRB does their thing.

      I would rather see things changed as a result of incentives being restructured instead of being flat-out banned. We could give each game a scaled rating based on objective criteria for the impact of it’s microtransactions, and do something like labeling a game as 18+ (or whatever that countries’ legal gambling age was) the moment it includes random-chance microtransactions.

      That would mean consumers are warned about microtransactions before putting down money, and companies directly feel the consequences of their actions in terms of using these practices. You can’t get publishers using weasel words to escape a rating that is determined by objective criteria.

      • Glongdor on May 19, 2019 at 1:14 am said

        I dig, and share, this perspective Mr. Atherton

      • Ranek Eisenkralle on May 19, 2019 at 11:39 pm said

        While I can understand the sentiment behind that post, I have to disagree, because of one little problem: Once a game has received a given rating, nothing is keeping the developers from patching in lootbox-galore and microtransactions out the wazoo. A downright ban may seem like a drastic measure, but in terms of consumer protection I think it is the only viable option to have any hope at reining in the worst excesses of corporate greed.

  2. Keyto.Shuichi on May 15, 2019 at 9:38 pm said

    Paied early access games too

  3. Najushua on May 15, 2019 at 9:53 pm said

    Note* I haven’t touched Overwatch in about 1-2 years

    But I do remember it being the only game with loot boxes I really didn’t mind, I never felt compelled to purchase any (I did get very lucky during seasonal events and got the skins I thought looked good) but even then I never spent any money other than the initial purchase of the game. Getting the loot boxes as a reward for each level up gave a feeling of progression and I really didn’t care what I got it was just nice to get some reward for the time put into the game.

    Easily obtainable (emphasis on easy, no 30 hour grinds) through gameplay, bonus points for having it be linked to player achievement, play well level up faster etc. without purchase for loot boxes that provide pure cosmetics seems fine to me, allow the whales to support the game further with over indulging spending without ruining the game experience for others.

  4. Fucking loot boxes.

  5. The only one I agree with is microtransactions and loot boxes. I don’t mind games of the mentioned genres existing since I can simply ignore them, but the mentioned business practices actively break the meritocracy of gaming and can creep into games that I would otherwise enjoy. I simply refuse to buy any title that features them like Devil May Cry 5 or Mortal Kombat 11.

  6. haydenblackwell96 on May 16, 2019 at 12:37 am said

    Type text here…While there is nothing truly wrong with all listed except for loot boxes, it is refreshing to see any game without it. I have been thinking about ways to fix them. While an open world is fun, it’s also boring after a while, plus they also detract from a story. Ace combat 7gave you an open level with side objectives.
    The BR craze is a bubble that is going burst soon, just like in crafting mining games did a while ago. While some games like Space Engineers are great, it stands out by being a space game. But for every SE, there are a dozen more rip-offs of Minecraft that never left early access.
    Zombies have lost their shine of the years. They are such an easy obstacle to put into any medium, not just games. This is why The Walking Dead focuses on the characters instead of the zombies unless they need to kill someone but no bad guy is around.
    Looter shooters are games that I can’t really find myself enjoying without friends playing along. I love Warframe but I just can’t do a mission unless it’s with a friend.

  7. jigom11791 on May 16, 2019 at 1:12 am said

    I love open world games, but the older I get and the more time becomes scarce, the more i appreciate short linear games (or just short games in general).

  8. Justin J Martinez on May 16, 2019 at 1:49 am said

    Man what I wouldn’t give to see loot boxes die off and microtransactions disappear

  9. 100% for removal of loot boxes from every game of any genre when I buy a game I want to play when I want to gamble I go to a casino where I can win actual money(probably not but you get the point) not a costume or other item that should be included from the start or as an unlockable item for a challenge or something.

  10. I think games as a service has completely changed the terrain of the gaming sphere. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, obviously tons of people are enjoying these games, and when done right they can actually offer a longer lasting experience for people who like to get hooked on one game. I just wish game companies wouldn’t take advantage of their customers through exploitative micro transactions like loot boxes and battle passes. In-game purchases are great when they take the form of things like skins, and when you can clearly see what you want purchase it. I don’t know, maybe we’ll see things level out as gamers become more privy to these things but with the overwhelming majority actually being quite ignorant to these problems is a bit scary.

  11. Reaperose on May 16, 2019 at 2:39 am said

    Wish they would get rid of pre order bonus and also no more loot boxes

  12. Kingable on May 16, 2019 at 2:50 am said

    I’m glad they passed a bill to limit microsransactions it shall hopefully save us from some of these companies acumy money making tactics.

  13. Carlos Cintron on May 16, 2019 at 3:08 am said

    I actually agree with open worlds, survival crafting, zombie games, and the dreaded microtransactions and lootboxes. But not in the way you think, these particular genres definitely need a break or a steady pacing in the industry, or an injection of variety and novelty if there are a lot of a particular genre above.
    Microtransactions and lootboxes of course hurt the most in its systemic takeover as a “What in the flying pig fuck?” business practice, I would add DLC into the mix for companies going as far as intentionally slicing games into multiple content packages, instead of polishing the shit out of a game and marketing/selling it as a finalized product. I do like DLC done right tho.
    Battle Royale is still in its infancy so we still could get some more creative takes on the concept, but I do agree with the trend in itself as a bubble, though healthy competition has almost always wielded some serious out-think( somehow I just made up a word or meaning?) But if a game like Apex got me into the BR world a little I don`t mind observing to see what happens next in the genre.

  14. Tired of seeing bland open world games with loot boxes and microtransactions all just a cash grab.

  15. joeshortall on May 16, 2019 at 9:37 am said

    I completely agree with a Starship Troopers game, I remember playing an Arma mod that was incredibly fun. The only good bug is a dead bug… would you like to know more?

  16. Amen , count have say it better

  17. I dont think Battle Royale needs to die. Still having lots of fun with the genre. Micro transactions on the other hand should die.

  18. minionembraced on May 16, 2019 at 10:18 am said

    While I do agree that some trends become tiresome quickly, (some more than others) My list would include some from yours and more including:

    DLC at launch, exclusive digital content for pre-orders or per seller, single player games requiring internet connection to play, and games launching in an obviously incomplete state, requiring a massive patch within a day of release.

    Thanks for the opportunity to read your opinions, and to share mine!

    • theamethystman on May 16, 2019 at 6:44 pm said

      Everything in the second paragraph is so true, I forgot about all those types of games as well. That how you know the game industry fucked up badly when you can`t actually get an actual, finished game, except maybe a few notable exceptions and the indie game scene. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Adrian Rivero on May 16, 2019 at 10:51 am said

    Loot boxes ruin the feel of progression for me

  20. The battle royale list misses its inclusion even in non FPS titles like Black Desert Online and even Ashes of Creation releasing a battle royale as a showcase of their future MMO’s combat mechanics to fully lay out how much the companies are chasing it.

  21. loot boxes don’t belong in games that you pay for. For free games i can understand to keep servers running and such, but still kids play these games so need a age restriction on them that contains loot boxes.

  22. Loot Boxes should definitely die off soon. I also agree about survival games. I play them for a while and learn the system to level up but then I have no idea what to do from there. At a certain point there’s no motivation to grind anymore.

  23. The zombie genre is seriously overdone and it needs to die.

  24. yes, yes, yes, Thank you, oh voice of the voiceless!

    Crafting, open world and loot obsession are such weird little creations I have no idea how they got beoynd being a quirk in more than a few games .(ok, I sorta get open world, but still)The perfect example is Witcher 3 which was a snoozefest if I ever seen one. All those ingame resources just collapsing under their own weight. Horrible waste.

    Besides those has anyone noticed how pacing in games has become severly overlooked?
    Anyone remembers Dead Space 2? Does anyone realize that it wasn’t (just) about monster designs and gore? It was about creators telling a story with surprises, turns, mood and stuff.
    Now everyone think it’s all about graphics and mechanics. But ITS SUPPOSED TO BE AN EXPERIENCE. A GUIDED EXPERIENCE. So guide me and not give me “heh you can spend 300 hours just modding your one handgun” like it’s a good thing.

    To me the games I scored 10/10 were the ones I was playing and thinking to myself “man that’s sweet. If they did X I’d be over the moon” and in that precise moment they did X. And Y. And Z and I was like “ooohhhhhh shieeeeeet” . Surprises I mean. Playing with expectations.
    Back to Witcher 3 – how stupid do the devs have to be to tell the player from the very beginning what skills will he be able to learn? What about building tension? What about mystery? Couldn’t they reveal the skill tree gradually? Not to mention not overburdening the player with 123112 mechanics from the get go?

    Go back. Play some Disciples 2, play some American McGee’s Alice, play some RE4, Portal 1 or 2 and see how you can make a MASTERPIECE without bajillion polygons and realistic fart particle physics you fucking hacks.

  25. Tb0neguy on May 16, 2019 at 8:11 pm said

    I think our mistake was letting Battle Royale become a genre. It’s great as a game mode, but not as a whole game. Mordhau does it well. They have several different game modes, including BR, and no loot boxes. They have unlockable cosmetics with player level and in-game currency. Super refreshing to play.

  26. could not agree more with this list and some of the other comments about early access

  27. Imo forced politics and pandering can be included in this list, all developers should (be able to) make what they want to make regardless of public perception and without publishers or outrage mobs forcing them to change stuff that didn’t fit their original vision.

  28. Stephen R on May 17, 2019 at 3:01 am said

    I agree with a few of those but i will never get tired of open world games or zombies or looter shooters

  29. Cameron Wallace on May 17, 2019 at 7:26 am said

    I agree with pretty much this entire list except for Looter Shooters. It’s not that Looter Shooters are bad, its just that pretty much almost every single Looter Shooter on the market is boring and uninteresting (minus Borderlands, which I will always find enjoyment from). I have yet to see one other than the BL series that really keeps my attention. Destiny I found boring, plus an extreme money suck if you want to get the full experience by constantly buying DLCs, and The Division is just really bland in my eyes. Does anyone know of any other looter shooters that are good?

  30. ムーシイ on May 17, 2019 at 12:56 pm said

    I’m with you on the loot boxes and pay to win stuff, but I don’t want to see game diversity disappear just because it’s over done and constantly shoved down my throat.
    Example; I’m Beyond done with battle royal. I’d even say that I’m currently so burned out with it that I hate the genera.
    But I want it to continue to thrive and advance because I know that one day in the far, FAR distant future, I very well may want to play one again. Most of us have gone back to a game type that we left hating.

    And while I still love linear side scrollers, I would hate to lose open world games where I can completely ignore the developers story and make my own.

    In closing, chill my dude.

  31. For the open world games: I really have to say I am so completely burnt out! Honestly i am quite burnt out on gaming in general right now.
    We talk about escapism, but it really doesn’t feel like it anymore. I try and immerse myself in these games and always get pulled right back out when all they throw in here in politics, micro transactions and real world bull crap.

    Why is it so hard to just throw a game together with an amazing story line, no extra BS and no money grabs. Can we get the old gaming days back! Where 6 of your buddies come over with their own tv’s and consoles and we spend a couple days forgetting to eat and pee! Sadly, the only reason anyone talks about games now a days its because how garbage it is.

    Time to look for a new hobby? Back to painting minis maybe?

  32. Gambling… lootboxes… p2w… “live services”. All these trends need to die. Some microtransactions are OK, but randomized content with various rarities, are NOT. Chances to get a good item after spending 80$ equals like 1.2% or so. How this havent been banned yet or demand AO rating is beyond me!

  33. Yes i agree loot boxes need to die, and also the 3$+ skins in any game, a visual skin for your character in games like Fortnite, Fallout 76 and other dont need to cost more that 3$ and no game breaking bufs that you can buy whit real money.

  34. Critical Equation on May 17, 2019 at 8:31 pm said

    In the last few years I couldn’t be happier that Nintendo is still making amazing games that avoid all these horrible trends that have come into games. For all the AAA games on PC, Xbox and PS its just meant not getting games at launch and just waiting a few months to see if they’re are actually good or not.

  35. Whiskycat on May 17, 2019 at 10:19 pm said

    Amen to Survival/Crafting. It’s the worst of them all. I absolutely hate the system. They just artificially increase playtime while providing zero content.

  36. Christopher on May 18, 2019 at 12:56 am said

    I enjoy the Survival/Crafting single player, but I am looking to play a game just to unwind after a hard day. It is hard to turn on a game with a strict story when I just want to go farm materials knowing that I have no need for them yet. Sometimes a pointless game is nice spend an hour doing nothing and not feel like you have done nothing.

    I don’t understand First Person Shooters. “Call of Duty” It is the same map and your a person with a gun looking for others people with a gun match runs like 30 min (not really sure don’t play them) then start over with nothing again.

    I don’t want the First Person Shooters to go away people like them.

    Loot boxes and Pre-order buffs need to stop, but that would require that developers Sell a Complete game like they did with Saga. You bought a game and you got the whole game. It seems that people are happy to pay $60+ for a game that is not complete

    In 1980 game cost $59.99 for Super Mario Bro’s 3 New and I got the full game.

    2019 Same price for part of the game until DLC is given then More money is required. It might take a few years before full game is released.

    The developers/publishers will keep doing it as long as we are willing to pay. If we really want Loot boxes to end we need to stop buying them.

    Parents Please Raise Your Kids. Video Games Should Not Be Censored So Your Kids Can Play Adult Games.

  37. sciencemile on May 18, 2019 at 5:26 am said

    What is the game that you used the picture for for the survival games segment?

  38. Dreadjaws on May 18, 2019 at 9:55 am said

    I would have agreed with the zombies thing a few months ago, but I think Resident Evil 2 went a long way into revitalizing them. They’re no longer easy early-game cannon fodder, and they’re now a major, ever-present, powerful threat that’s ridiculously hard to get rid of.

  39. Definitely agree with you on the loot boxes. Those nnpeed to die a sudden death! FPS games have never been my thing so Battle Royale style means nothing more to me than a mild annoyance same with the zombie obsession.

  40. greatoni3 on May 22, 2019 at 12:42 am said

    I feel that there may be some nuance on the microtransaction issue. I feel that if it’s a free game than microtransactions and loot boxes may be acceptable. However, I do have an idea. Why not release two versions of a game? A free to pay one with microtransactions and lootboxes and a full version where both are disabled and can be earned easilly in game. Would it be more ethical than putting micros on a 60$ game?

  41. ivanantic76 on May 22, 2019 at 1:03 am said

    You forgot to mention DLCs and seasonal passes. They also plague the gaming world.

    • vjason937 on May 22, 2019 at 2:59 am said

      It really does damage the whole market by Separating the communities it to people who got the seeasonal pass and those who didn’t

  42. ParadoxInRaindrops on May 22, 2019 at 2:56 am said

    While games like Apex Legends shows there is still room for improvement within Battle Royale, I can’t help but lose my luster for it. If I’m playing it it’s an extremely brief segments, same goes for viewing.

  43. Elmegalodon2003 on May 22, 2019 at 2:59 am said

    I disagree on the open world games, Open world games in my opinion is not that saturated yet and amazing games came out of that style of game. The Zombies and Crafting survival games point… it depends on how the game plays out and what it tries to do differently from other games of the same genre. Loot-shooters and Battle Royale games in my opinion, should become a different way to play a game and not be the main selling point of it. Microtransactions and Loot Boxes should have never been a thing in the first place and I completely agree with you.

  44. Never seen linearity in terms of game design to be a good thing. That’s how games were made before, yes, but we quickly came long away from that even back in the day. We began giving players choices in how we want to play through the game. However, I agree that the open world map design has gotten oversaturated for the most part. The problem is that a lot of developers can’t live up to the potential the open world setting promises. These games end up being mostly non-linear in appearance and not so much in terms of actual gameplay. A lot of times even more linear than back in the day. Linear map design is not a problem as long as you still have multiple ways of playing through the game by pure player input.

  45. Andrewgoodrich80 on May 22, 2019 at 4:19 am said

    I personally don’t mind most of of these trends, love open world cause I like exploring. But I can only play a survival/ crafting game for so long before i get absolutely bored out of my mind….oh great need more grass..ok..let me go get some..crap..wild vicious animal..need a weapon..damn…need to make one ok then ill…well shoot need more rock..rinse and repeat. I guess one would say about any other game trend. I don’t out right hate that genre but I can only take so much of it.

  46. blackbird42 on May 22, 2019 at 11:34 am said

    I disagree about total removal of lootboxes. I am against paid ones but thrill of opening the present is always fun. Or at least as long as there is chance of getting something nice. I like the Overwatch type of boxes – with decent chance to catch legendaries, relatively low duplicate rate and cosmetics only.

  47. troyboy007 on May 22, 2019 at 7:06 pm said

    Remember when you bought a game you got a finished product? I wish we could go back to those days. If a pizza place charged me full price for a pizza and when it arrived half of it was missing I would be pissed.

  48. Great article!

    I’m with you on everything except for your Battle Royale take. It’s a baby genre that needs to be allowed to grow and benefit from great ideas.

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