If you are employed in the gaming industry: LISTEN UP!
A recent article reminded me of all the little things that annoy me in new (and unfortunately, some not so new) games. During an IM conversation with a friend yesterday, I realized that I would not buy a game if it or its company's games did these following practices incessantly. Most of these points I pounded out in a rant of Mass Effect 2 when I finished it over a year ago, and things haven't completely changed for the better yet.
Unskippable startup videos
Forcing me to watch it once is completely understandable, but every single time afterwards makes me that much less to start your game again. Do it again and I will go in and delete video files, but it should not have to be this way. The first time is fine (and it might be entertaining), but every other time I don't give a crap. Hell, LoadingReadyRun has made an entire series around this stuff.
I know you are a corporation that wants your and your clients' logos prominently shown on every visible surface, but for the love of the gamer, please restrict yourself to the menus. I already have an nVidia card, I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOUR LOGOS IN MY GAMES AGAIN!
Offenders: Borderlands, and everything from EA
Ideally: StarCraft, and almost every PC exclusive game
Press whatever to start
No, I don't want to start because your unskippable startup videos have pissed me off for the last time! I don't want to play anymore. I need to start (even though I do not want to), then select exit. What is this? Windows? This relic should have died with arcades over 20 years ago. I'm surprised that you don't ask me to insert my quarters. I can think of no conceivable purpose for this crap, and is completely detrimental to usability. If you need a title screen, that's what your main menu is for!
This nonsense belongs with the "special" people in the looney bin. Do you think I'm retarded or accidentally started your game? Wasn't the double-click enough? If you're worried that grandma will turn it on, know that she will be wondering what this is and call someone during the intro videos long before it gets to the menu to delete your saves. I want games that don't think I'm retarded and they just assume that I want "to start" and do not force me to arbitrarily press a key (aside from skipping intros) to even see the main menu.
It's like going to lunch: you want to get your food in as little time as possible then eat it. At the EA restaurant you have to watch the mandatory video with logos and slogans of the restaurant (including the construction company's, oven manufacturer's, and beverage distributor's logos/slogans), and that's before the outside door is unlocked. Once inside, the menus are only on pamphlets, and you have to consciously take one, fumble with, and look at it, and you aren't allowed to take one with you. Most everywhere else, there's no funny business at the door (can just go straight in), and the menu is mounted in plain sight. Where would you rather go in a hurry on a rainy day? Even Solitare and Minesweeper get it right (games designed for, played by, and enjoyed by the vast masses of "casual" gamers), but not a single EA game. Inexcusable I say!
Offenders: Everything not designed for PC (Borderlands, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect series) Ideally: Oblivion, Supreme Commander, StarCraft, Sins of a Solar Empire, Half Life 2, Portal, Call Of Duty 4, and every PC exclusive ever
Not updating the noob messages
This mostly applies to PC games. When I change a keybinding, any messages that refer to it need to be updated as well.
Example: I was on some ship, I had completed the mission, and choose the "stay" option to pick up the loot I had left behind. I did, then wondered how do I leave? The mission began by welding open some vent, and that had mysteriously sealed up. The message "Press and hold (F) to leave" came up several times while running around the place. I pressed F. Again. I held it for 10 seconds. And I was still there. I looked in the keybindings and I saw a "return to ship"-esque command, but it was in the Vehicle section. By this point, I had run around the entire ship about twice, and I was positive there was no vehicle around, but I tried to use it anyway. Nope, nothing. After poking around, it wanted me to melee attack (and means 'leave' in what universe?), which I had mapped to mouse button 5. You could have just said what you wanted me to do (melee) instead of just giving me some static text (F) that immediately becomes obsolete.
Offender: Mass Effect 2
DRM AKA Devil's Revocation Mechanism
Of this list, this is probably the most heinous. It's like those unskippable FBI warnings on movies that (oddly enough) are not present when the content is pirated AND ALLOW YOU TO GET ON WITH IT. I haven't had problems, but I've heard it's like getting a car, and not being able to park it near your house without being able to unlock the doors.
The very people that are not supposed to be playing the games play it anyway without this crap. It's just who they are. Meanwhile YOUR CUSTOMERS cannot play what they paid for, and become a pirate.
Offenders: Ubisoft, and almost everyone else
Ideally: Indie games
If your game design entails some menu, video, or selection between levels, have the level load in the background while the selection is being made. In today's world of multicore CPUs there is just no reason not to, no matter what media you're loading off of.
While you're at it, make your load time scalable, i.e., throwing faster hardware at it makes load times go down. A machine in 10 years should not need to take as much time to load today's games on today's machines.
Offenders: Mass Effect 1 (elevators don't move faster), anything on Source Ideally: who knows, because you can't tell their load times!
I could go on about how games nowadays are shorter, and/or/because content is being moved to DLC. I don't buy every game that comes along, simply because I do not want to invest that much money/time into it, and end up getting about 6 'AAA' games per year. If I like a game and feel it's a good value, I will get its DLC. I generally liked Oblivion and ended up getting all of its DLC (Horse Armor was on the Knights of the Nine disc). Even after ragging on Mass Effect 2 here, I got all its mission based DLC, appearance packs can get thrown out the airlock. Borderlands... maybe someday.
When I plop 50 bucks down for a game, I generally make sure that it's a good investment beforehand. Is the gameplay good? Is the single player engaging? Will I like the multiplayer environment? Would my friends be interested?