Game Design Tip

So… in between writing projects and talking with my kids and chatting with my wife, I decide to unwind from a busy day by shooting down some planes in the latest Ace Combat game.

I’ve always been a fan of Ace Combat games, despite their lack of realism. Sorry, modern fighters don’t get to carry 200 missiles.

But this… this isn’t unwinding. This is winding me up to a rage.

I cast “Conjure Sukhoi, Rank 5”

Video game developers, please take note. Conjuring Su-27s in mid-air right over my airbase each time I shoot one down is NOT the same as making a challenging level. A four-ship formation of Su-27s can’t simply appear behind the transport I am required to protect. In real life, they have to come from somewhere, and we’d probably have indications of that long before they are 100 feet off the tail of the transport.

That’s actually how it went.

I shot down the two or three fighters that were chasing my ally.

A fighter magically appeared behind my aircraft to chase the transport.

I shot him down. Another Su-27 appeared to my right.

I shot him down. Another appeared off the transport’s nose.

“He turned me into a fireball!
… I got better.”

I was shooting him down when the transport landed, and the process repeated itself from the beginning, as I now had to save a second transport.

Then a third.

Then a fourth… but this time it was ground forces that popped up out of nowhere.

There’s no reward in this kind of game design for doing well. I don’t get a breather from constant attacks by killing everyone. They just regen right in my airspace, like some horrible Weapons School exercise.

That’s not challenge. That’s punishment.

And while I’m ranting at video game developers (who I know will never read this–leave me alone, this is cathartic), here’s one more tip:

Ground forces also don’t just rise up from the dirt a thousand feet from the base border… unless I’m actually fighting the zombie apocalypse. I don’t remember the cutscene that came before this mission, but I’m pretty sure there were no zombies.

Ace Combat: Bath Salts
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