Experienced Points: Shut Up and Let me Shoot Stuff

By Shamus Posted Wednesday May 22, 2019

Filed under: Column 109 comments

In the past I’ve lamented the terrible state of writing in some games, claiming that for the same money, the developer could have made the game drastically better. In my column this week, we have an even more extreme case where you could vastly improve the quality of Rage 2 by spending less money. Just cut half these cutscenes and you’d have a better game.

In the column, I mentioned that there is ~3.5 minutes of gameplay in the first 23 minutes of the game. That’s actually me being a little generous and counting the tutorial where it locks you in a simple cube room and makes you dash 3 times as “gameplay”.

There’s a lot more to criticize. So let’s do that:

  • The default controls on the PC are atrocious. The layout makes no sense, and multiple unrelated items are unified under the same binding because they must be shared when using a controller. For example, the “tap this button to dash” is always the same input as “hold this key to gather all XP orbs”.
  • The key bindings don’t work correctly. I somehow wound up with two unrelated bindings to the same key, and the game didn’t warn me. The same key was assigned to dash, and also to some power I didn’t know about because I hadn’t unlocked it yet. As a result I couldn’t dash. The tutorial still TOLD me I could dash using that key, but I couldn’t. I had multiple problems like this where key bindings didn’t work or worked unexpectedly. Did anyone test this?
  • As much as the intro of this game loves talking, it loves its popups even more. The game will interrupt dialog for various tutorial notifications, which pause the game and silence the dialog, and which can only be dismissed using enter on the other side of the keyboard. Again, if the developer cared so little about the story that they were willing to trample all over it with popups, then why did they write so much dialog?
  • Your talking car doesn’t have very many voice barks. It only took a couple of minutes to get sick of hearing the same two or three messages.
  • I  suppose this goes without saying, but the plot itself is horrendous. It suffers from characters reading the script, payoffs for things that weren’t set up, lack of stakes, lack of protagonist agency, and a bunch of other indicators that nobody involved really understands how to make a story.
  • The level flow isn’t great. It’s not as bad as New Colossus, but it suffers from a lot of the same problems. The levels are dull corridors that aren’t good at guiding you through the space. There’s no attempt at telling a story through the environment and not much variety between rooms. The spaces don’t seem to make a lot of sense and they’re bad at drawing the eye to the next point of alleged interest. I’m still disappointed that we’re now 15 years past the release of Half-Life 2 and developers still haven’t learned the lessons that game had to teach.

I know people think that story doesn’t matter, but I’m telling you that story is the secret ingredient. That’s the spice that takes a solid game and makes it into a legendary one. That emotional connection is the force that makes the game stick with you after you’re done playing. Show us a world and use characters to make us care about it. Give us a villain with an interesting hook and then give us a reason to want to kill them. Foreshadow stuff so we feel the impact when you pay it off later. Then let us defeat the bad guy and save something we’ve come to care about.

I’ll admit it’s not as easy as I make it sound. Good writing is hard work. But that hard work acts as a multiplier for all the other money you’re pouring into the production. Given what games cost to produce these days, it’s madness to cut corners on the writing like this. The salary for a single writer is basically a rounding error in a project this size. There’s a reason people are still talking about Handsome Jack 7 years later, but nobody remembered the name of Commandant Steele ten minutes after beating the first Borderlands game. Writing really does matter, even in genres where “it’s not about the story”.

This sounds pretty negative, but I want to stress that I don’t hate Rage 2. I would say that it’s just underwhelming. People seem to like it, but I predict that in 2 months the world will have forgotten this thing exists.

 


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109 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Shut Up and Let me Shoot Stuff

  1. PPX14 says:

    Gosh, that is sad considering it’s coming from *id* of all places! When I think of id I think of gameplay first, PC first. Not extended cutscenes and forced walking!

    1. Lars says:

      Well … It’s from Avalanche first. id provided advice for shooter gameplay. And that is the part where Rage 2 succeeds.
      Avalanche on the other hand is known for good eh… not bad sandbox chaos. See Just Cause, Mad Max.
      And they are also known for repetitious gameplay, bad performance, bad storytelling and bugs. See Just Cause, Mad Max, Generation Zero

      1. Redrock says:

        As far as I remember, Mad Max had absolutely fantastic performance on PC. It also had some pretty great gameplay, visual design and what I’d call franchise-appropriate storytelling. What I mean to say is, Mad Max was great. Just Cause, on the other hand, is all over the place as a franchise, I have to admit.

        1. PowerGrout says:

          I’ll second that about Mad Max, wrung a lot of performance out of not very much metal and scaled really well when I eventually threw more talented beef at it. Didn’t have any bugs either end to end.
          True, I didn’t enjoy e v e r y step of the journey – it really was a bit lacking in a few places but if all you wanted was to blast around a post apocalypse dust bowl having feels about cars, the horizon and where they might meet…
          I also wouldn’t say the story got in the way too too obstructively – sure it wasn’t great or even good but eh, anecdotes ? data…

      2. PPX14 says:

        Oh I see, I just assumed it was id, sorry!

    2. TLN says:

      Man idk, even if it was all id, what does that actually mean these days? It’s over 5 years now since Carmack left the company entirely, I don’t think there is anyone left at the company now that would give a reason to be more hype for an id game than any other studio.

      1. Taxi says:

        Well Tim Willits is still at id. I still have no idea how important that guy has been to the success of id, but he’s definitely always been the most annoying and least interesting of the id illuminati. But maybe he’s just the silent genius…

        Regardless, yea, even Rage, which had the best shooting gameplay in a decade and was completely in line with the id legacy, was overall half-assed as a game. I’ve not played Doom 2016 but overall there’s nothing left of id to be interested in IMO.

  2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Aww you didn’t talk about the fact taht hologram lady apparently anticipated that only the player character would survive or had a specific hologram for every survivors configuration! I know it’s a tad beside the point, but it made me laugh when you mentioned it in the podcast.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      Moral of the story: Hologram ladies love combinatorial explosions. Might be useful once the singularity hits.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      She just has a copy of the script.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    People seem to like the it

    What?

    1. methermeneus says:

      The game/it? I’ll admit it’s a little ambiguous without an anaphor.

    2. Shamus says:

      That claim was based on the hard-hitting research of going to Reddit and Steam, spooling through the threads, and noticing that there wasn’t anything particularly negative.

      1. Hector says:

        Well, nobody has anything that *bad* to say, but check out what people are rating it on Metacritic. 5.5 so far, compared to critics gushed with a glorious… 7.5. Nobody Hayes the game, but its basically identified as blandness incarnate.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think this was typo patrol rather than questioning the statement.

      3. Ninety-Three says:

        I was confused by the grammar of “like the it”. There appears to be a word either missing or added.

        1. Sniffnoy says:

          Huh, I had assumed it was a reference to this (note that this is just one example, you can easily find this elsewhere), but given Shamus’s response, I guess not.

          1. methermeneus says:

            I may have confused the issue by being overly-technical about the grammar mistake. For reference, that was a linguistic anaphor (the noun referenced by a pronoun) rather than a literary anaphor (emphatic repetition). I don’t know why, I just thought it was funny to talk that way.

  4. Dreadjaws says:

    People seem to like the it, but I predict that in 2 months the world will have forgotten this thing exists.

    Sounds more or less like the first game. I’d like to think about other examples but, well, I’ve forgotten.

    1. King Marth says:

      At least hated games are remembered.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Indeed. Nothing worse than mediocrity.

  5. Redrock says:

    Over the years I seem to have less and less patience for games that waste my time with an, at best, mediocre story before letting me get to the gameplay. Must be one of the reasons why I’ve finally managed to get into FROM Software games and beat Sekiro, Dark Souls Remastered and almost beat Bloodborne. The time between booting up the console and stabbing someone in those games is ever so short.

  6. Grey Rook says:

    Very true, Shamus. Damn shame, too, when the previews seemed so promising. I really appreciate that you’re willing to suffer through bad writing for the purpose of warning the rest of us. :)

    …I wonder if it would be rude to mention a game that I thought had great minimalistic writing and level design.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Is it Inside?

      I mean, the game features no dialogue, but it has great visual storytelling, which never gets in the way of gameplay.

      Except perhaps for the ending, which is a bit too ambiguous for my taste, but your mileage may vary.

      1. Grey Rook says:

        Actually I was thinking of DUSK but sure, Inside works too.

  7. Hector says:

    This is pretty sad. I haven’t seen a reviewer I respect who didn’t say that they loved the combat, but that everything around it was so draining. Its clear they all loved the gameplay when they actually got to play it. Its also telling that the midgame is a massive length-padding grind.

    1. Geebs says:

      A look at the DLC roadmap would seem to support the hypothesis that Bethesda have cut out most of the actual gameplay and story from Rage 2 in order to drive live-service-esque “engagement” by gradually putting the “game” back into the game over the next year.

      Looks like they screwed the whole thing up. The GOTY edition might actually be a complete game worth buying, but from what I hear, nobody who actually bought the game at launch is going to be playing it a week from now.

      1. Hector says:

        Even that sounds awfully thin. Most of it is minor or cosmetic addons with little or no gameplay.

  8. Syal says:

    Replaying through Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, I’ve come to the conclusion that most story games would be improved by having a toggleable Caveman Mode, where every conversation is replaced with a two-word summary on both sides. In JPM’s case it was because I already knew what people were saying, but it would also improve the first run of a game like this where everyone’s a windbag.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Another feature that would work (especially for replays) was something I found in an old PS2 Tenchu* game: When I looked up the audio settings I found 3 options: English, Japanese, and B-side.

      ‘B-side’ turned out to be the voice cast just messing around, adding their own dialogue to the cutscenes Samurai Pizza Cats-style.
      And wouldn’t you know it, but the ‘B-side’ story in which the two main characters tried to stop toilet paper being invented by violently murdering everyone involved – was better by far than the original story about…I don’t even remember, but I think a princess got captured at some point?
      (She always did. It was literally ALL she did in those games.)

      The overarching plot was better mapped out. The voice actors gave better performances, even sounded like they might be having fun. Character motivations were more coherent. And so on.

      *Tenchu 3, Google tells me.

      1. tmtvl says:

        It’s like the dev notes in HBS’ Shadowrun series, and idem in the Caldecott Caper mod for SRHK. Or like the director/cast comments for movies. Alwaysoften fun and interesting.

    2. Asdasd says:

      But wouldn’t the elitist language-graduate gatekeepers complain that they’re reading for the challenge, and if you add in a caveman mode they might be tempted to use it?

      /runs

      1. Duoae says:

        I know this is a joke but it saddens me that this is probably a thing somewhere…

        I should clarify (the sentiment was what I was speaking about… not gatekeepers).

        I’m also sad about the gate keepers but they’re pretty out in the open :)

    3. Karma The Alligator says:

      Dammit, now I’ve started doing just that for the game I’m hoping to make. The bright side is that it won’t take too long to write.

  9. Ashen says:

    I started skipping every single dialogue in the middle of the tutorial and never looked back. In fact, not knowing what’s going on made the game more interesting, although that’s probably not what the developers intended.

    That said, 8 hours in I’m burned out. It’s such an extremely generic open-world game, it feels more Ubisoft than Ubisoft games do nowadays. It’s got every single thing you’d expect. 5-ish different “activities” copy-pasted throughout the open world map that reward several generic abstract resources that you use to upgrade your stuff. Shooting feels pretty good (apparently that’s the thing that id software helped with), but the enemy variety is very limited and level design nonexistent, which means it only checks 1 out of 3 boxes for good FPS combat.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I started skipping every single dialogue in the middle of the tutorial and never looked back. In fact, not knowing what’s going on made the game more interesting, although that’s probably not what the developers intended.

      Heh, I found that works well with other games too. Shadow Of Mordor was a lot more fun when I skipped all the cutscenes and tried to make my own story about how Talion the Gormless ended up wherever he was.

      “Wait, so at the beginning of the scene I was talking to an old lady – now suddenly I’m in a cave surrounded by Ghuls. Huh.
      I know! She had one of those secret buttons that causes the a hidden panel in the floor to retact and drop Talion down a pit. She was also laughing maniacally as she did it.”

  10. GoStu says:

    People seem to like it, but I predict that in 2 months the world will have forgotten this thing exists.

    … and that right there is a terrible omen. Think of all the aborted IPs that never saw a sequel, because they make less of a splash than a sneaky otter in the middle of the night. A lot of money and time and sweat go into making these things and “forgettable” is worse in a way than “endearingly terrible”.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Well I don’t care at all about Rage 2, but I definitely want to hear more about this sneaky nocturnal otter.

      1. modus0 says:

        Probably best to wait for the Young Adult Abominations of Nature Ronin Otters (Vol. 1) trade paperback though, for the “complete” story.

    2. Thomas says:

      Hey don’t worry, forgettable games can sometimes get a sequel. Look at Rage ‘2’

  11. Gurgl says:

    There’s something that has been bothering me for a while: how come editing the default keybindings is so wrong to some people?

    It might make sense from casual players, but even very experienced players seem to think so. I always figured that most regular players had a sort of universal control setup that they try to stick to from game to game, which means they would edit the settings immediatly and not even notice that the default got anything wrong. Most WASD control schemes are very close now, many of these players wouldn’t even need to change more than the handful of keys that are in the wrong place, with maybe some additional back-and-forth depending on specifics and gimmicks.

    I’ve always considered customization as just something you do, a natural part of starting a new game, something so obvious and universal that you don’t even register it or speak of it ever. To me it sounds as alien as complaining about the initial position of your rearview mirrors when you buy a new car.

    1. Agammamon says:

      Most WASD control schemes are very close now, many of these players wouldn’t even need to change more than the handful of keys that are in the wrong place, with maybe some additional back-and-forth depending on specifics and gimmicks.

      There is no ‘most WASD control schemes’. There’s like, at most, two. And those two have been around for 20 years. And are the default control schemes in all *PC-centric developed games*.

      For some reason though, NOT. A. SINGLE. CONSOLE. DEVELOPER. in history knows about this 20 year old control scheme and so does their own thing. Horribly.

      We don’t fiddle with keybindings because for the vast majority of the time, on a PC game, its already the default. You might have one or two keys set differently but otherwise we’re all on the same page. Its an effective setup that has been developed and honed over 30 years of PC gaming.

      Little QoL things like ‘esc backs out of menus’. ‘Shift for sprint, CTRL for crouch’. ‘Use is always the same key’ – not ‘e’ sometimes, ‘x’ other times and occasionally ‘r’. ‘Don’t make the player take his hands off the M&KB more often than necessary’ – hence no need to constantly hit ‘Enter’ or use the arrow keys.

      So yeah, we’re going to scream bloody murder when console developers put out M&KB control schemes that assume 6 fingers on your right hand, a third hand, and all your fingers have an extra joint in them. ESPECIALLY when they also prevent you from using some keys or force bind multiple contradictory actions to the same key and won’t let you unbind them.

      1. Gurgl says:

        I’m glad this is a futile hill to fight for, because that answer is so awful I can’t even tell whether you’re pulling my leg. We’re talking about an amount of fiddling so trivial most PC players might do it accidentally next time they sneeze.

        Don’t get an aneurysm next time you want to change your desktop wallpaper.

        1. Crokus Younghand says:

          I think the problem is not that sometimes keys need to be rebound (I do that when starting the game anyway). The problem is that the available commands that can be bound to the keys are all sorts of broken. Instead of having one use command, they might give three, meaning three keys around WASD keys are now used up. Trivial commands (like pulling out grenades) might get ots own keys instead of using the standard command (next weapon). And so on.

          1. Agammamon says:

            Oh, its worse than that – the available commands aren’t consistent from game to game. Every one of them will bind a different set of actions to a single key and they won’t let you break that up. Hence FO4’s ‘touch the quick-melee key for .1s too long and you toss a grenade at your feet’ problem.

            FO76 binds *TWO KEYS TO THE MAP* – but they can’t space the ESC key to access the options menu.

            1. Karma The Alligator says:

              The keys aren’t even consistent within games, sometimes (look at FO4 base building which refused to acknowledge that people might be using a keyboard other than QWERTY).

        2. Higher Peanut says:

          It sounds bad but it is truly infuriating to have a primary controller control scheme forced poorly onto a keyboard. You’re going to have to interact with the controls 100% of the time you play the game, if the UX feels off or wrong and you can’t change it it can throw the whole game off.

          Default keybinds being weird is one thing, but only if they can be fixed. Control schemes ported to M+K tend to have various functions hard coded even if you can change the keys. You can have excess functions from controllers that demand to be bound that aren’t commonly used in a M+K set up or worse, one button bound to a multitude of contextual functions that you can’t split up. We had a period of terrible “Awesome” buttons that never quite did what you wanted them to. Menu design and control reverting away from WASD to arrow keys is pain in games with a bunch of menuing in them.

          Just as Shamus laments the fact that people still haven’t learnt from basic designs of Half-Life 2 I lament the fact that others haven’t learnt about, or bothered to design around the basic controls of the system the game is to be played on.

          1. Liessa says:

            My personal ‘favourite’ is in-game menus that don’t allow you to use the mouse. >:-(

            1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

              My favorite are controls that forcefully combine the in-game controls with the menu controls. And don’t use the WASD keys for movement. So now your menu controls are some weird arbitrary combination of keys that are impossible to remember or use.

        3. Agammamon says:

          An amount of fiddling that means dealing with needing to open the map and hit the ‘z’ key to get to an options menu. That’s the ‘standard’ that isn’t standardized across console games.

          Its not a trivial amount of fiddling. Its rebinding half the keys with every PC-port. Each port has a different PC key-scheme. Each PC port changes which things can and can’t be rebound. Each PC port insists on using the fucking Enter key or switching the effects of keys depending on how deep in a menu you are. Take FO4 for example. Crafting menu. Key ‘A’ is ‘craft’, key ‘B’ is ‘go back up a menu’. Except for the top level crafting menu. Then ‘A’ is exit the menu’. And then they want you to hit ‘Enter’ to confirm you want to leave the menu. Despite this not being an action that has consequences worth a confirmation box.

          1. Gurgl says:

            No arguing here: you always fix everything if you give people a choice. I’m surprised when experienced players complain about remapping, but at least they complain and do it, instead of having to fumble basic 101 controls every time they switch games.

            Controller users really got the short straw: this is [current year] and we still take it for granted that you cannot edit your controller keybindings. Maybe if you are lucky you will get a few presets to pick from.

            Fully customizable controller buttons are so rare that you can remember the few individual games that allow it. Imagine it being so uncommon that you remember the few restaurants that don’t burst up in flames in the middle of the main course.

            1. Taxi says:

              Indeed Resistance 3 for PS3 stood out by not just allowing you to rebind your controller buttons however you like, but also to create your own ‘presets’. That should be the gold standard, not a special snowflake.

              Actually PS3 games were generally terrible with presets since most shooter/action games would force aim/shoot onto hand-cramping L1/R1 instead of perfectly available, and analogue-capable L2/R2.

              I think games like Watch Dogs, Destiny, and GTA4/5 are among my favorites on PS3 simply because of that, while everything by Naughty Dog and AssCreeds may be nice but I just don’t want to play them.

              And then there were retarded examples like Wolfenstein 2007 where you could change the shooting onto L2/R2, but then jump was triangle (Xbox equivalent of Y). OMG.

    2. Dragmire says:

      Oh come on, don’t you just love using ‘Home’ and ‘End’ for horizontal menu navigation and ‘Page Up/Down’ for vertical menu navigation with no way to change it?

      I remember using ‘F1’ and ‘F2’ for cycling through menu headings as well.

      I wonder what the worst keyboard layout was that was made that way accidentally.

  12. Nessus says:

    Hokay, gotta get this off my chest…

    What THE FUCK is it with developers who think the “enter” key is ever appropriate to use for ANYTHING in a game. Best explanation I can think of is you’re dealing with developers who’ve somehow gone their entire lives/careers without ever played any game without a controller, but even that doesn’t explain the stupidity. Even if you’ve literally never played anything wit WASD before, The tiniest speck of thought should tell you never to put anything on the right side of the keyboard.

    HEY DEVS:

    1)Though shalt not use the right side of the keyboard. No, not even for that thing you’re thinking of right now. No, not that one either. Never means never. WASD is the right-hand home row, TGB is The Wall, beyond which lie White Walkers. And even TGB is “special use only”: you should strive not to go beyond RFV if you can help it. If you run out of keys west of TGB, your controls are very likely unnecessarily granular, and you can stand to crunch some down into context-sensitive keys. Just make sure your context sensitive functions aren’t ones that can situationally step on each other: none of this “awesome button” horseshit, none of this “the interact button is also the melee button” or “the sprint button is also the jump button” fuckery. Use your common sense, or give the job to someone else with actual WASD experience.

    The only exception to the above would be for a “left handed mode”, wherein the same logic applies, just mirrored to the right side of the board.

    2) ANY time you’re thinking “enter” is the right key to use, you are wrong, no exceptions. 99% of the time the correct key for that is whatever the default “interact” key is in your game. If “E” is what’s used to open doors and examine items, then “E” is what you should be using to confirm menu selections and ANYTHING else that you’re thinking of using “ENTER” for. Even in left-handed mode, where “enter wouldn’t conflict with #1 above, it still represents an unnecessary and confusing splitting of functions.

    3) Key functions are not phonetic, they’re ergonomic. There is a hierarchy of key positions based on frequency of use and ease of reach, and the functions you assign to them should follow that. “G” is not the standard “grenade” button because “grenade” starts with “G”, it’s because “Q” is often already taken by something the player has to do more often or under more twitch conditions where easier finger proximity matters. If you have a flashlight, DO NOT bind it to “L” because “light starts with L”: that’s not how keyboard controls work.

    If for some magical reason you think none of the above applies to your unicorn ass, please allow players to rebind multiple functions the same key. None of this “that key is already in use” horseshit. Yes this can allow the player to bork themselves, but that doesn’t matter, because they can always just immediately revert and try again without losing anything. But if you deny them the ability to fix your terrible bindings, they’ll be borked for the entire game, and it’ll be 100% YOUR fault.

    1. Nessus says:

      Erg, that’s what I get for posting in incognito mode where I can’t edit. Typo city, and I can’t do anything about it.

    2. Decius says:

      Enter is fine for games where both hands are on the keyboard.

      Like…

      Like…

      Like Typing of the Dead.

      But frankly, if I have to reprogram my Razer Orbweaver to allow your controls, you have poor controls.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Dark souls?
        I play that with a keyboard, but only because the mouse controls are even worse.

        1. Decius says:

          Dark Souls’ poor controls can’t manage to overshadow its poor design.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        Enter is fine for exactly one thing: starting the ingame chat.

        – It’s out of the way of the other keys, which is good because entering a chat is extremely disruptive and not something you want to do while trying to throw a grenade at someone.

        – It’s easy to memorize as a “special” key, while Y, N and M kind of blend into each other.

        – If your chat emulates IRC and has a “press enter to send” feature (and if it doesn’t, you’re an ass), then “press enter to open chat” is nicely symmetric, which makes it easier to memorize.

    3. tmtvl says:

      Unless you’re making one of those massively extensive space sim games like Egosoft’s X series (KB+M best space flight controls).

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        In which case you need an extremely good control scheme regardless, so I’d hope they avoid these screwups in the first place.

    4. Distec says:

      Yo, where can I sign up for this newsletter.

    5. Shamus says:

      *nods vigorously with approval while reading*

    6. Higher Peanut says:

      You just gave me a terrible flashback to all the old games I played where “I” was for inventory.

      The “this key is already in use” problem is uncommon, usually I can send bindings I don’t use beyond the wall. I do remember at some point having a game with tons of useless keybinds cluttering up the place that not only couldn’t be unbound, the game wouldn’t accept most non-letter keys or any mouse buttons beyond the primary 2 as valid. I dropped it so quickly I don’t even remember what it was.

      1. Nessus says:

        With the “this key is already in use” problem, I’m not talking about dumping useless redundant keys*. I’m talking about things like fixing the “enter” problem mentioned in my post by rebinding what they have on “enter” to “E” so “E” works for menu selection and the like as it should. When they’ve split “interact” and “menu selection” into two functions, and don’t allow me to rebind them both to the same key because the “interact ” key is “already in use”, that’s what I’m talking about. This is almost always the case with games that use “enter” like this.

        Also for games where there’s vehicle sections and on foot sections, and the controls in the vehicles don’t match the on foot controls. So like, on foot “sprint” is shift as it should be, but in vehicle mode they have “turbo” or “afterburner” (the “sprint” equivalent for vehicles) on “F” or somesuch rando nonsense like that. So I can’t rebind turbo/afterburner to “shift” without being blocked by ‘this key is already in use” because the devs didn’t properly separate the vehicle and on foot bindings. IIRC this sort of thing was a problem in Mass Effect and Borderlands.

        *I still see the “I for inventory, J for journal” thing a lot, but thankfully it’s been common practice for a long time now to also put those all in a unified meta-menu accessible by Tab, so that’s what I always use. Occasionally (rarely) I’ll still encounter a game that doesn’t do the “Tab” thing though, and that’s really annoying. That one’s worse than “enter”, because with no meta menu present at all, it can’t be fixed with rebinding if the other keys west of the wall are already taken.

        1. Olivier FAURE says:

          Eh, I think ‘I’ for Inventory, ‘J’ for journal, ‘M’ for map is fine in most cases, because you’re rarely going to need to use those in the middle of a firefight, unlike, say, opening a door, so it’s okay if they’re a little out of the way.

          But yeah, I hear you on the tab thing. The fact that The Witcher 2 had, like, 4 different menus, each of which was needed for gameplay, with no way to switch between them and no way to remember which is which (and no way to rebind them ingame) was easily one of the biggest reasons I couldn’t play the game more than a few hours.

    7. Shas'Ui says:

      So, are the RAGE2 keybinds better or worse then the ARMA3 keybinds, which violates every rule but the post-script?

      Rule 1: Pretty much every key is taken, from the left-control (yes, side matters) to the backspace, even reaching beyond into the forbidden realms of the numpad-enter. The amount of different binds is so bad, one of the most used mods has the Windows key as a default bind for the majority of interactions. At least the game is good about blocking said keys from triggering outside functionality.

      Rule 2: Enter is your select key for the context menu, but at least in 3 it’s shared with spacebar and middle mouse (2 didn’t use space by default. It also had left-shift move you to walk speed, rather then sprint, which has also been made more user friendly in 3). However, the only way to access said context menu is via scroll-wheel. Good luck, track-pad users. (Also, numpad-enter is used for third person view, because having “enter” bound to only one thing would be too easy)

      Rule 3: In case trying to remember an entire keyboards worth of binds was difficult, they keep most things phonetic. Like K, for compass, because C was taken with Standing (vs prone, crouching); O for watch, because it looks like a clock, maybe? ” ‘ ” for “sit cross-legged in a non-tactical way” (a subtle indicator to other players that you have been playing long enough to know most, if not all, of the keybinds)

      Unwritten rule 4: If you have different controls for different activities (walking vs driving vs flying) try to keep them identical where possible.
      I can’t even recall the default bindings for helos vs jets: all I can recall is that Q&E were used for primary turning on one, while A&D was used on the other. Also, the mouse was also incorporated into the steering (Nope, not for me, don’t care if it’s smoother, I need freelook). The sheer amount of categories means you are unlikely to learn them all, as is quickly found by those who venture out in submarines. “Why won’t it go up?”

      If it weren’t for the ability to rebind, completely unbind, and multi-bind keys, and its recognition of modifiers and multi-key presses, it would be a nightmare. As it is, it’s only a scooby-doo villain: intimidating at first, but mostly harmless once you pull back the layers of obfuscation.

      1. Agammamon says:

        Something like Arma (and most serious flight sims) gets a pass simply because with the dedication to ‘realism’ they are going to need aaaaaaaallllll those keys. And each one really does something distinct.

        Going in the opposite direction, I like to point out Force Unleashed as a game that does a really good job of pairing down the things the character can do to a small number of distinct powers and then utilizing*short* button combos (not like Warframe with 12 button combos) to mix and match where if it had been developed with a PC focus, every power and every combination of powers would likely have been a separate key because the gamepad imposed a discipline on them that the keyboard doesn’t.

      2. Taxi says:

        I remember trying to map Arma 2’s helicopter controls to match Enemy Engaged’s (helicopter sim) controls.

        Which was rather hard to do since modded EE uses every key on the keyboard several times over (with ctrl/shift/alt modifiers) while Arma also has… controls for other aspects which might conflict with those.

        BTW I think using the numpad, especially the numpad Enter, can be beneficial since it’s easily reachable with the right hand. I believe I played KOTOR mostly with only the mouse – with mouselook and the mouse’s side buttons bound to ‘walk forward’ and something else important, with the numpad Enter, Plus and Minus for some other things I’d use often.

        Now on the other hand, good thing the era of ‘Caps lock to always run’ is gone.

    8. Mephane says:

      Key functions are not phonetic, they’re ergonomic.

      This reminds me of the often repeated complaint in the Anthem subreddit, why in the mission screen accessing the Forge is bound to R and marking yourself as Ready is bound to F. But it makes sense because F is the key for interact/accept/continue/etc, and R is used for reload primarily and secondary interactions otherwise. That doesn’t excuse how the UI as a whole is rather terribly designed with little regard for PC users, of course.

      That said, let me add to your list of issues, not specific to Rage 2 (because I haven’t played the game) but games, especially shooters, in general:

      4) Let players use function keys. In particular, the Alt key is unavailable in some games even though it is so perfectly located that it is extremely useful for often performed actions. (At the same time, the game shouldn’t perform the action bound to alt when the user alt-tabs, for example by reacting to the key-up event instead of key down.)

      5) Allow the use of key modifiers if the game has lots of possible key bindings. Instead of piling a dozen functions on the same handful of keys, or hiding common functions between cascading levels of on screen menus, modifiers can double or triple the amount of available keys. A positive example here is Elite Dangerous. Stupendously complex key bindings, but the devs had the presence of mind to let you both use keys like Alt as standalone key bindings, and as modifiers in other key bindings, and even as modifiers on mouse buttons.

      6) No hardcoded, unchangeable key bindings except for widely accepted standards like Alt-F4, Ctrl-V etc. And these keys better behave in the way expected from other applications. I am speaking of generalized, almost operating system level functions only. Stuff like mousewheel up/down to rotate through guns does not qualify for this, such a function absolutely must be a regular key binding that users can modify.

      6.1) This is the one and only exception for rule #2. When you present the user with a typical dialog box with an Ok/Cancel prompt, Enter definitely should trigger Ok (and Esc should trigger Cancel).

      7) If you have some sort of aim/scope/zoom etc. mechanic on some of your guns, there should be a separate mouse sensitivity slider that applies when aiming. A notable positive example for this is Overwatch.

      8) You are free to include sprint toggle, crouch toggle etc. features, even make them default if you so wish, but there must be an option to set these to activate only while holding the key.

      9) Invert mouse X and Y axis, seperately, is a must have feature in anything where the mouse directly controls a character, vehicle etc.

      1. Decius says:

        6.1 And those should be IN ADDITION TO the keys bound to ‘accept’ and ‘cancel’.

        Which means you absolutely must prohibit binding ‘accept’ to ESC and ‘Cancel’ to ENTER.

  13. Decius says:

    Every time that all one character needs to tell another character is something the audience knows, do it off-camera. Movies and comics can do a jump cut; if your style precludes doing such a cut, find some other way of doing it: Either the two of them leave the room, one of them has a written report or other item that communicates, or some other non-repetitive way of doing things.

    1. Urthman says:

      I know why this is a good rule, but wow do I wish there were more script writers who knew when to break it.

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve been watching a movie or show and thinking, “Oh man, I can’t wait to see how character X reacts when they tell her about Y,” only to be disappointed because of course they always come to the moment of revelation and then jump cut to the next scene because writers think you’re never allowed to watch a character tell another character something the audience already knows, even if it would be a really great scene.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        The solution is to cut the recap and jump to the reaction.

        1. Decius says:

          THIS.

          Write the entire scene the way you would if the audience wasn’t there, and then remove the cuts where someone says something that the audience already knows. Keep a sentence of audio if needed for context.

          The final scene is almost entirely reaction cuts. Find an actor who can sell that scene well enough to have it, or cut the scene entirely.

        2. Urthman says:

          Yes, but even then I feel like there are a lot of times that how a character tells that information and the conversation that results would be one of the dramatic high points of the story, especially if it’s something shocking or unbelievable or shameful, a secret being revealed or a lie confessed.

          I totally agree that you don’t want to just be redundantly recapping the plot. But if the conversation would obviously be an important moment in their relationship, or if how the information is told would reveal something important (or even amusing) about the person telling it, then it seems like a cop-out to skip over that scene. I often feel like maybe it was a hard scene to write well and so the writer just punted. Either that or it was misguided adherence to a “don’t ever repeat anything the audience already knows” rule.

          Spider-man: Homecoming (SPOILER) ends with Aunt May shouting, “What the f-!” when she walks in on Peter wearing the Mark I compromise suit that Stark left for him when he turned down the Join the Avengers Spider Armor. But we’re never gonna see that conversation. And as much as I never ever need to see Spider-Man’s origin story again, I’d love to see what those to characters had to say to each other. Especially since Tomei’s Aunt May was such a good fresh take on the character. I loved how her jokes and advice were able to be both the embarrassing/annoying parent to Peter while still being genuinely funny and wise.

      2. Taxi says:

        This is a two-edged sword.

        I used to be always annoyed by situations such as:
        *Character A tells something important/shocking to character B*
        *B looks dumbfounded*
        *C enters the room, looks at A and B, sensing something is off*
        *A leaves, throwing an ‘important’ look at C*
        *C asks B what’s going on*
        *DRAMATIC MUSIC, ZOOM ON B’S FACE, JUMP CUT* (Alternatively, B tells C: “You wont’ believe this”, “I don’t know…”, “I’m not sure…” etc.)

        It’s just so artificial and movie-like.

        Later in the early 2000’s, film makers realized this is stupid and started having B explain at least the main points to C. This makes the characters feel real until it goes too far when we have everything explained again, verbatim. But honestly I still prefer it to the DRAMA of the shocked look and jump cut.

  14. Agammamon says:

    we have an even more extreme case where you could vastly improve the quality of Rage 2 by spending less money

    I’m just starting Metro 2033 for the first time (yeah, I’m locked into the culture and on top of everything) and I feel you. I’m just at the start of the game so hopefully this changes soon, but FFS, I don’t think I’ve gotten more than 75 whole seconds of being in control and *playing the game* yet. Every minute or so I get jerked into a cutscene, an ‘ingame cutscene’ (a cutscene where you have to pay attention an operate the controls but have no control), or a ‘setpiece’ where people blather on while you’re on rails waiting until you can make a gameplay decision.

    This isn’t the first game like this, of course – XCOM and, especially, XCOM 2 are fething annoying with the way they constantly, through the whole game, keep jerking control away from you – and my takeway is either give me a long cutscene with all this stuff in it that I CAN SKIP or . . . just skip it altogether. Don’t keep jerking control away from me just as I get into a groove.

    1. Duoae says:

      I don’t remember that in the xcoms. Do you mean where they highlight an enemy or objective in a mission?

      1. Agammamon says:

        In the remakes, but yes. Including everytime someone speaks. So many times I’ve had to listen to Bradford tell me to hurry up and do the thing I’d already be done doing if I hadn’t been stopped and forced to listen to him tell me how important it was to do the thing right now. And the WoTC makes it all worse because it stops the game at the start of every mission and every turn to make you listen to those morons.

        1. Duoae says:

          I can understand it. But I don’t feel it happened often enough to ever bother me. :)

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Oh, yes. XCOM’s Central Officer Bradford really is the King of Redundant Information; my personal favorite being the terror missions. We start with a briefing – the aliens are slaughtering civilians! We have to stop them!
          But then, whenever a civilian dies, here’s what happens:

          1) Camera pans over to the enemy currently taking its turn. We see it take a shot at a civilian. Civilian screams horribly and falls over. HUD icon indicating Surviving Civilians in the corner goes down by one; Dead Civilians icon goes up by one.
          2) Pause. Camera then pans over to the body of the dead civilian for a couple of seconds. The player has no control and can’t mover the camera while Bradford shouts at you that the aliens are ignoring your troops to target civilians, we have to stop them!
          (This commentary is unskippable, identical for every civilian death, and of course takes three sentences to relay information that could easily be fit into one.)
          3) Camera then returned to player control. Your turn.

          Every. Single. Time.

          Needless to say, one of the most popular mods on the Steam Workshop just stops this from happening, and a load of other such things.

    2. Lino says:

      This is the main reason I never finished Metro 2033. I watched a Let’s Play of it when it came out, and when they announced Exodus a year or so ago I wanted to play it to get up to speed. But BY GOD the amount of railroading* there is in this game! I think I got more than 2/3rds of the way to the end, and for 90% of the time the game just HAD TO HAVE an NPC guiding me by the hand at all times!

      * pun not intended

  15. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Every time you bring up the “story is not important” argument I’m reminded of the small but occasionally vocal minority of MtG players who argue that the art, lore, flavour texts and storylines are unnecessary and only make the cards more expensive because the game is all about the mechanics and would be just as popular without all the “fluff”… needless to say Wizards of the Coast appear to disagree.

    1. Agammamon says:

      1d4chan wiki talks about the difference between ‘crunch’ and ‘fluff’ and illustrates the importance of ‘fluff’ – without it all table-top wargames are variations on chess.

      1. Mephane says:

        Heck, even the very names of the pieces in chess could be considered fluff.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      A more sound argument might be that the cards need SOME KIND of design to them to be a fun game, but the specific design on them isn’t really important. Which I agree with, otherwise when they reissue old cards with different art, it could be a major disaster (because they altered a key component!) but by and large people go “Cool, new art.”

  16. Kdansky says:

    Weird how a significant portion of people always shout about how writing does not matter, and then Game of Thrones has a shitty final season (and the three before aren’t good either), and the whole internet is up in arms about how writing IS important after all. Turns out that unless you’re doing an abstract point scoring game like Tetris or Beat Saber, you probably have some sort of story in it, and it probably should be decent.

    Why are there people making STORIES who do not understand the importance of WRITING?

    If the car industry was like the AAA video game industry, they would try to make cars without understanding the concept of wheels.

    Turns out the indie scene has this figured out way better than the AAA industry. Titles like Hollow Knight or Ori and the Blind Forest have decent writing, told in only a few minutes of cutscenes and a few lines of dialog here and there – and I wager it massively contributed to their success.

    1. Mousazz says:

      For the car analogy, I would probably compare a game’s story to necessary “luxury” functions of the car like proper ventilation.

      Sure, you can technically drive a car without an air conditioner… But would you want to? Especially in scorching summer heat, or freezing winter cold? And likewise, how annoyed would you be if your Avalanche Rage 2 coupe’s ventilator was broken in such a way that it would always blast on full, spinning and buzzing so loudly you couldn’t even hear yourself think for the whole trip?

      1. pdk1359 says:

        I was going to compare the story to the seats and the steering wheel; where your butt is and where your hands are. If you took apart a Lexus and gave them a wooden bench to sit on and a bicycle wheel to steer the car it doesn’t matter how good the gas mileage is, how good the car looks or how responsive the steering is; it’ll feel like a chore.

        Basically agreement with you, just a different luxury.

  17. manitoba says:

    Devs trying to tell a story, here goes a single tip: watch John Wick.

    Take notes while your watching if you can, but if not just watch and try to understand why it works and how it work. That will do wonders for your games. Believe me.

  18. Dev Null says:

    I’m still disappointed that we’re now 15 years past the release of Half-Life 2 and developers still haven’t learned the lessons that game had to teach.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally with you – but unlike a bunch of the other things you mention, level design isn’t necessarily easy. Call it 50% science and 50% art (those of you with actual artistic skills may feel free to tell me that all art is half science…) It should have been obvious to them in testing that they hadn’t hit the mark, which I imagine was your real point, but it’s not as straightforward as “You idiot! You calculated the tensile strength of the bridge foundations wrong; _this_ is the correct answer.”

    On the story front, I’d love to know what you think of the RPG Tyranny. Been playing it off-and-on for a few weeks now, and the story is actually quite interesting. Suffers from a bit of railroading in places, but I’m genuinely interested in the world and some of the characters. But even when the story is good (so far…) there’s still such a thing as too much talk. The reason I haven’t got further through the game is that I keep having to pop over to Warframe to get some action in; the game has all the mechanics of an RPG, but you almost never get to use any of the fighting. It fills more of the “read a book” niche than the “video game” one in my day. I’m 20 hours in, and according to GOG I’m only 10% through the plot, but I can’t even remember the last time I got to kill something; I’m reasonably likely to level up from story progress and get a new skill before ever having used the one I bought last level.

    1. Dev Null says:

      Hmm. Re-reading this after the edit deadline, I’m not sure I really made the point of why I brought up Tyranny in a thread about Rage2. You mentioned too much talk in a game primarily about the action, where the makers didn’t appear to care about the story much and the story is (therefore) no good. Tyranny, for me, is a game primarily about an at-least-reasonable story, where the makers appear to care about it very much; there’s still too much talk.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        To give another example of a game with too much writing for it’s own good: Pillars of Eternity.
        That game was stuffed to the gills with dialogue, descriptive text, lore, and heaven knows what else. It threw textbooks of made-up history at you every time you opened a dialogue window.

    2. Duoae says:

      …but shouldn’t foundations be operating under compressive forces? I’m not an architect so maybe my understanding in incorrect but I thought foundations were there primarily to stop subsidence. That’s why they’re usually concrete/stone whereas vertical struts (which provide stability against lateral movement) or (and I don’t know the technical term) tension cables are steel as that has a good tensile strength.

      1. Shas'Ui says:

        It depends on the type of bridge. Usually it wouldn’t be that much of a concern, but in a few types it would matter. Consider a draw-bridge: when it splits in the middle and the roadway is lifted up, this will put significant leverage/torque onto the foundation, in an outwards direction. While this is ideally held with other parts of the bridge, the tensile strength of the foundation itself may be relevant.

        1. Duoae says:

          Thanks for the info! I’d never really thought about it before. I thought drawbridges operated on counter weights (like swing bridges).

  19. Mr. Wolf says:

    It’s more a Bethesda things than an Avalanche thing (because who cares about Rage in the long run?), but I’ve wanted to stage a protest that involved sending their UI designers new keyboards, on the grounds that they clearly don’t have any.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      Most content creation tools make heavy use of keyboard shortcuts, so they clearly have some. Might be more useful to take away their gamepads so they are forced to use keyboards in game.

      1. Duoae says:

        Yeah, but that would require breaking and entering. Sending keyboards through the post is less illegal. ;)

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Less? What kind of keyboards have you been sending?

          1. Duoae says:

            (Poorly) refurbished Dell keyboards sourced from the finest Comcast call centres that still have all the human detritus and calcified sweat and tears between the keys.

            Muahahaha!

            Ahem…

          2. Mephane says:

            The part about taking away their gamepads might be considered theft. ;)

            1. Karma The Alligator says:

              My question was more about what part of sending keyboards is illegal, to be considered ‘less illegal’ rather than ‘completely legal’… Which I admit was worded pretty poorly.

              1. Duoae says:

                Sending unwanted items could be considered harassment. I understood your sentiment perfectly. ;)

  20. Taxi says:

    Gee Carmack will never, ever take a break from that thing he said about stories back in the early 90’s…

    Do you know that during the development of Doom 3, he also publicly said he was wrong?

    It’s funny how everyone remembers the first quote but not the latter…

    And besides JC had nothing to do with Rage 2 anyway (or much to do with the original Rage besides the engine), so I don’t know why even bring it up…

  21. @Shamus “Did anyone test this?”
    Not all of it. Fr example Gopher on youtube encountered the joy of remapping the WASD keys, which worked fine…. util he tried a motorcycle in which case (i think) it was the D key (right turn) that didn’t work, or rather right turn worked if you pressed the “D” key, for some reason it was not remapped.

    As a programmer I’m gonna guess that for motorbikes the right turn mapping line is commented out (or just missing).

    But this clearly shows a issue with QA. As control input should have been tested at least once with remapping and with all vehicles in the final build (aka the “gold” or shipping build).
    I suspect this remap bug must have existed from way earlier and they only tested gamepads and the default WASD configs on PC.

    Ah, here’s the video I mentioned RAGE 2 : Key Bind FAIL!

    PS! GTA V does things pretty well in regards to remapping, it also allows using gamepad and keyboard at the same time (though it does annoyingly shift ingame icons/symbols from keyboard to gamepad, wish there was a way to lock symbols to show for keyboard only all the time)

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