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July 14, 2007

I Like The Way Snrub Thinks!

Man, was I pissed. So much time invested, only to be thrown away because of an infuriating game design choice.

My kids and I have been playing Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for the past few weeks, and we've enjoyed the hell out of it. It's been our default game that we play after I get home from work and before they go to bed.

But this post is about a phenomenon that really grinds my gears, and I'm using Paper Mario: TTD for illustrative purposes. I'll review it in more detail in the next couple weeks, so my apologies if some of the details here are little confusing.

I was methodically making my way down the Pit of 100 Trials, in order to level up a few times, and just as importantly, to get the ability to carry 20 items instead of only 10 (see? confusing, right?).

I was doing this myself because there was no place to save along the way, which meant that I couldn't share the "heady" experience of the Pit with my kids, who had long since gone to sleep. I was working my way through one of the more repetitive and tedious parts of the game alone, so that the next time we played together, we could spend more time on the fun parts.

I was on Trial 92 of 100. I had 96 Star Points, and you level up (and more importantly for this post, refill all of your health, attack power, etc. Did I mention that you refill your health?) at 100, which meant that as soon as I won this battle, I would level up and refill every power/ability that could be refilled.

Of course, I wasn't really worried about my health, because I had done a good job of using my health items to heal up during the battle. Also, I wasn't worried about whether or not I'd win the battle, since I was ONE MOVE from putting my opponents away for good. But first, the bad guys got to attack, which seemed like a minor nuisance, a mere formality on the way toward a glorious victory and a lovely level up.

Then, out of freaking nowhere, the bad guys unleashed holy hell on me, Mario slumped to the ground, and the wonderful words, "GAME OVER" filled up the screen.

And that was that. It meant that I had to start again from the very first level (EDIT: the first level of the Pit of 100 Trials, not the first level of the game) the next time I booted up the game. All that time I had put in was gone. And like I said up top, man was I pissed.

So yeah, about the title of this post:

A few weeks ago, Chris "Snrub" Taylor of Gas Powered Games wrote a "My Turn" guest editorial for GameDaily Biz about this exact subject. In the editorial, he wonders why game designers punish players instead of rewarding them (in fact, the title of the piece is "Reward Players, Don't Punish Them!").

Why indeed?

Why #$@%*&! indeed?

What's interesting is that I was planning to write about Chris's editorial a couple weeks ago but hadn't gotten around to it yet. And had I written about it earlier, I wouldn't have had this wonderfully convenient experience to so perfectly illustrate the point that he was trying to make.

So what do we learn from this experience? Besides procrastination FTW!, that is?

Well, one thing I learned is that while I still may be a noob as a game designer/producer, there are a few things that I believe that clearly conflict with many game designers more experienced than I. But that doesn't make them right and me wrong.

So I join the esteemed Mr. Taylor in imploring game designers out there, while challenging players is great, punishing them sucks.


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