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!”.
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.