Kind code

Before talking about attrition or how I would design a Home Alone videogame, there’s a subject that I must get out of my head first: Kind code.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me give ya a quick explanation: Nintendo has a new patent on a design that is supposed to let the casual players play hardcore games. How? Well, by letting them start at any point in the game and if that wasn’t enough then they can just watch and let some AI play the game for them (or watch a video of someone playing, I’m not sure). Basically it’s the designers saying: “Hey, you can’t get past that huge boss battle? No problem, let me do that for you… there, see? You have to use the light arrows on the eyes and then whack it with your sword until it dies. Simple!”.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be the first game to implement Kind Code. Why? Beats me. It's suppossed to be a 4 player cooperative/vs game, kinda like Four Swords...  why would it need Kind Code? Does it let you play levels that aren't unlocked? Because that would actually be pretty awesome (hint: leave unlocks out of my party games, ya hear that Brawl?).
New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be the first game to implement Kind Code. Why? Beats me. It's supposed to be a 4 player cooperative/vs game, kinda like Four Swords... why would it need Kind Code? Does it let you play levels that aren't unlocked yet? Because that would actually be pretty awesome (hint: leave unlocks out of my party games, ya hear that Brawl?).

As you might imagine, every single person in the blogosphere was appalled by this patent/design/feature/philosophy. “The game plays itself! What’s the point?!” is the common response. And you know what? My first thought was “… interesting, I might use that”. Then after noticing it, I was quite upset about the patent abuse but that’s a whole other issue.

After thinking about it for quite some time,  I discovered the reason behind my slight delight at the idea: I hate difficulty spikes with a passion, especially those that don’t let me enjoy the game until I get through them. So if every game had Kind Code built into them, then I could just ignore every cheap boss battle and continue to enjoy myself. You know, design mistakes are a lot more forgiveable when I can just ignore them completely or if they last for a very short time.

…. and there we hit the problem: if Kind Code is implemented into a game, then that implies that said game is badly designed and therefore needed a patch. Because that’s what it is, a patch. Kind Code is a patch that doesn’t address the core problem of designing a good, accessible game, it just patches over the issue.

Then again, there’s the other side of the coin: No matter how well the game is designed and how intuitive the controls are, someone, somewhere is going to get stuck at some point or other in the game. The more inexperienced people try to play the game, the more likely this scenario is. So in the case of Nintendo, the casual powerhouse, this scenario might happen a little too often. If they want to grab a greater portion of the average joe market then they need to design their games with those people in mind. What then? Make the next Zelda a one button game where all the enemies die after three hits? … I don’t even want to imagine the possible reaction from every single nintendo fan. So what do they do? They compromise: They can’t downgrade Zelda, but they surely can implement Kind Code as an option and satisfy both markets at once: the average joe and the zelda fan.

It’s quick, it’s dirty, it’s only patching up the core issue and it succeeds at its goal. I don’t like it, it rubs me the wrong way and I’m quite sure that I’d never use it in a Nintendo game, but I can see why they are going to implement this “feature”. It just … feels wrong.

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3 thoughts on “Kind code

  1. Very interesting read. I’m kind of split on this one, I can see them trying to satisfy the casual gamers market. But on the other hand I really don’t see the point. I imagine it will just ruin games, much like the way using cheats on a game seems to strangle the joy out of playing it. I’m afraid I’d give up too easily and skip all the hard parts.

    Wait a second, what’s wrong with the way most other games are made? Simply add a few cheats that way the player can cheat through any hard parts and still get the punishment of feeling a bit guilty for cheating.

    Sure they might get some more casual gamers but it seems to me like they might lose some serious gamers.

  2. Diego Doumecq

    You know, it’s an option. It doesn’t mean that you HAVE to use it. If you don’t like it, just ignore it.
    It’s exactly like having cheats in the game: they are there and you can use them whenever you feel like it. If you use them then all semblance of challenge is removed from the game so think before using them.
    But why add cheats if they remove challenge? Because not all of us play for challenge. Some of us even enjoy games more with cheats (although it depends).
    Kind code can be considered as a visible cheat system. A very specific kind of cheat, but a cheat nonetheless.

    In other words: I fail to see how this is bad for hardcore gamers. It’s like saying that having cheats in a game ruins it.
    My point in the post still stands though: It’s a patch and I don’t like the thinking process that lead to it.

  3. Interesting. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this “Kind Code” earlier. I guess I’m not sure how to feel about it – I’d certainly have used it on games like Eternal Darkness for that one boss battle that prevented me from seeing the rest of the game.

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