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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.

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