The following is the original version of the article that I emailed in.
There has been a bit of talk about Quick Time Events in the inbox lately, which has got me thinking about the various poor design decisions that seem common in games today. Most of these will be about story sections, but I find that it is in this area where game designers regularly display their inability to make good decisions.
1) Unskippable cut-scenes
Not everyone wants to watch the cut-scenes in a game, especially if they are replaying the game, and yet we are often forced into watching them for no apparent reason. It is understandable if the cut-scene uses the game engine, but if it is pre-rendered there should be no excuse ? even if it is used to load the next section of the game, we could surely cope with seeing the loading screen.
2) Unpausable cut-scenes
I can pause a game during game-play. I can pause a DVD while watching it. Why can I not pause a cut-scene? If I get a phone call, or need to leave for a short while for any particular reason, then I have to restart the game and replay up to that point. Admittedly, the Wii and probably the 360 are immune to this, but only due to the console programming, not the game.
3) Sound mixing & Subtitles
Have you ever noticed that in some games, when there is some plot exposition, there is often too much noise in the background to hear what is being said? You can turn the music down, but the sound effects are often too loud, and turning down the SFX volume results in the dialogue being too quiet as well. Even if the SFX and dialogue need to be connected, it really would not be too hard for the game to reduce the volume of the ambient sounds, or to even not play them during dialogue. If you pay a voice actor, you might as well make their work noticeable by the player. This problem would also be solved if game designers would include subtitles in the games.
I hate these. As a gamer with mild dyspraxia and mild dyslexia, I find that pressing a randomly chosen button at arbitrary points to be very difficult and time consuming. One particular section of Resident Evil 4 took me over 50 attempts to complete, and it was only a cut-scene! They seem to be just another way to force the player into watching the cut-scenes, but in the end it just makes the game a frustrating test of reaction speed rather than skill.