Gaming Magazine

(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game

Posted on the 07 February 2013 by M00kyst @mookyst
Creating a video game involves a lot of complex planning, but there are a few things that can make or break any game, regardless of genre. Here is my take on 5 things I think can make or break a game. For the record; I avoided going for directly obvious choices, such as 'Gameplay' because it is such a vast genre to include. Instead I've singled out more specific issues.

(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game

Audio Quality

Sound is as, if not more important, than graphics in a video game. It is often, wrongly, underrated when considered, with other aspects being put first, when in reality it should be near the top of the list of necessities. Audio quality is of the utmost importance.                                                                                   
(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A GameMany games have hollow sound that lacks good meat and bass and it can pull you out of a game in an instant. This is especially relevant if you use a headset or headphones, because when using normal speakers the sound simply goes out into the room and drifts to your ears, whereas when using a headset it goes directly to them, giving them the sound right from the core. There is no sound loss here, as it is on a one-way trip through the cable and to the receiver's ears. This means it can be incredibly easy to pick up on poor audio.

There are plenty of culprit games here. Red Dead Redemption had mediocre sound quality, as did the likes of games like Enslaved: Odyssey To The West and Fallout 3. It doesn't matter if the games are made by big or small developers; poor audio is a much too common issue.While the sound effects might actually sound good, it can often be the actual dialog that sounds particularly poor. The actual quality of the talking may be shallow and echoey and unenjoyable on the ears, often sounding like it has been recorded in a big, crowded room with a £20 microphone.

(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A GameIf a game does have good audio quality, I guarantee immersion will increase by a large percentage. Games like L.A Noire, Halo 4 and Far Cry 3 have great, if not, in some cases impeccable, audio, and it does wonders for the involvement.

Story and Characters
Not all games are story orientated, so that part of this section may not necessarily completely and directly apply to all games, however a lack of story can still result in a poor and not that enjoyable experience, regardless of what the game focuses on. What's more, characters are essential too. Bulletstorm, despite being a generally awful game and having too many other faults to count, also had a God-awful story and characters who you just wanted to punch in the face.  
The whole plot was a shambles and even if the dialog hadn't been full of excessive expletives, most of the characters would still be as unlikeable as they were.
I'm not saying had it had a better story it would have naturally been more enjoyable, but it would've helped a bit with the 6 hour slog that was the campaign.

(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game
A game has to have something interesting to play for in the story as well as a good cast. Alan Wake, Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption, Catherine, even Gears of War, all had interesting plot lines and characters. Sure Gears of War wasn't as dedicated as Uncharted in terms of really hammering home the story, but it had a great cast and the plot was definitely interesting and involving enough to be sustained throughout three (soon to be four) games.
When it comes to games like Uncharted itself, then you have a series really focused on making everything story related truly work and it helps a ton with how fun the overall game is. It's so important for games to have more time for the story because not having something deeper than just gameplay to play for easily makes the experience more boring. 
Some games actually suffer from poor characters too. There are a fair few games that include almost no likeable or involved characters leaving you wondering why exactly you're playing the game. If there is no one to like or miss when they die, what is the point?
While not as much of a focus for all games, story and characters don't have to be, they just have to be portrayed well enough to involve the player. Whatever you do devs, don't, and what's more, stop, getting lazy over these things.


So you probably thought of your own list of things that can make or break games the moment you read the title of this feature, and I'm also guessing it didn't feature controls - after all, it's not the first thing that likely pops to mind. Controls are so vital to the enjoyment of a game that it really baffles me when a developer screws it up. Some games naturally have more complex controls because they are of a different kind of genre than usual, but even then it is ridiculous that some games get released with awkward, weird and borderline broken control schemes. 
Sometimes the variant, replacement, control layouts are just as rubbish too. 
Having to click an analog stick to gain access to the ADS (aim down sights) action is outrageously annoying for almost any game. Halo focuses almost entirely on hip fire aiming with only a few weapons utilising the use of aiming down the sights, so it just about gets away with it. But in many other games it is one of the worst control decisions ever.                                                                          
(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game
There are tons of control problems games can have. Non moveable camera or poor camera control (for third person games mainly), stupid crouch and go prone buttons, awful accelerate, break, gear up/gear down controls, rubbish get in cover button (I'm looking at you L.A Noire), poor aiming, sensitivity that still sucks when turned up to full, terrible sprint button too and a host of other ridiculously common design flaws. And they are design flaws. There are no 'we were just experimenting' or 'it compliments the style of the game' excuses here: poor controls are stupid, avoidable, practically game breaking flaws. 

Oh I forgot the stupid button combinations too, and no, I'm not referring to fighting games (I'm looking at you, Enslaved. Take a good hard look at yourself. I hope you're happy. What the hell was up with those awful button combos? Really? REALLY?) 


If there was ever anything that made me get bored of a game, it was pacing. Poor pacing is not only an issue in itself, but when a game has bad pacing it highlights other issues with the game too. For instance, in the case of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the game had pretty bad pacing, to be frank, and when it started getting boring due to this, I found it hard to keep playing because it highlighted how there was little else in the campaign to keep me going either. With poor pacing, which makes it tiresome to play anyway, and a mediocre story it became a chore more than anything.                                          
(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game
Pacing really is make or break. Gears of War 3, Final Fantasy XIII and Spec Ops: The Line are great examples of games with bad pacing - especially Spec Ops. The game started off pretty slow, and then it included a couple of fight scenes before going quiet again. Sounds OK right? Not really; it soon swung the other way. The more you got into the game, the less breaks there were until it got to the point where it was basically fight scene after fight scene with one cutscene or remotely quiet patch every half an hour. 
It got to the stage where I started dying in one section and just walked away from the game - not because I was angry, but because it was so wearying. Luckily the game had an incredible story so it balanced itself out in the pros and cons department. 
Pacing can easily destroy a good game, though. The games mentioned above were all really good in other ways so it wasn't completely one sided, but when a game lacks the finesse in its story, gameplay and other attributes and overall isn't as high quality, then bad pacing can make it far from worth playing.
It doesn't really matter what form of poor pacing a game might have, whether it be too many fight scenes or not enough; in the end it still makes it become a tiresome to play, so it's a lose lose situation. Having well laid out action and cutscene/quiet time pieces are essential in making a game as good as it can possibly be and avoiding these all too common issues.

Lack of Co-Op

I didn't really want to make this article about multiplayer because unless a game is multiplayer only or completely focused on that part of the game, it isn't really relevant to making or breaking a game. That said, a lack of offline and online co-op can be a killer for good games. 
Games that don't offer good or even any cooperative play should take a good, hard, look at themselves. Not that all games need co-op, but many game that should offer this sort of feature but don't suffer as a result.
(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game
Offline split screen co-op isn't catered for as much these days, which is baffling given how useful it can be. There is nothing like playing with a family member or friend and having a great time. Yes, online co-op and multiplayer is the focal point of many games and gamers but split screen should not be ignored, at all.
Unbelievably, most of the recent Need For Speed games lack split screen, which is a total shambles because pretty much every racing game should offer this ability. That is what makes racing games so enjoyable to play with other people. Having a laugh with a mate while playing on the same console is rarely replicated in the same way online. It's unique really and needs to be included.
Games like Gears of War, Halo, FIFA and Call of Duty don't cut any corners when it comes to this area of co-op and they do well from it. It adds so much to a game when it includes split screen play or/and online co-op and definitely increases the length of time you may spend with it.
(Feature) 5 Things That Can Make Or Break A Game
If games don't feature split screen when it seems pretty necessary, if not essential, it doesn't effect the overall enjoyment of the single player; but a lack of added modes for two players can really bring it down. I've abandoned plenty of good games early because after finishing them there is just little to do. 
Aside from their stupid reluctance to offer split screen, some games still lack online co-op too, which is just as absurd. In the end, regardless of whether it is offline or online cooperative play, it is necessary and developers need to learn this.While it may not determine if the game is actually good or not, lacking this feature certainly can cause issues.
So there you have it. What are your thoughts on what can screw games up? Give your opinion in the comments!

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