Design Death via The Monster Truck Minigame

Video Games

One of the aspects of my job is to think about video game design, which has made playing game work instead of play. Not entirely a bad thing, really, as there was a period of my life where getting Achievement Hunter carved into my tombstone was a life goal. However, when you start paying attention to design, bad design can really sour your experience. Case in point: Duke Nukem Forever.

Somewhere in the first half hour, you have to pick up a little remote control device and pilot a tiny monster truck around a room, knock over some obstacles, and drive it along a series of shelves until you can push a energy core off a shelf and out the slot at the bottom of wall panel. Your basic time-suck of a puzzle. The problem was that you were navigating this truck around the edges of a square room on a narrow track from a fixed point, the truck’s navigation was somewhat squishy, and if you fell off, you’d have to start all over.

You could not move forward in the game until you solved this puzzle.

To this point, also, all I’ve done is wander around the kitchen–emptying out the dishwasher–while laborious cutscenes have been playing, practicing pushing the ‘X’ button to interact with objects and incrementally–very incrementally–increase my EGO level. I had, in the previous room, finally be allowed to pick up a weapon.

A half hour. And I’ve barely been able to shoot any aliens. And now I’m stuck driving this damn truck with shitty steering around a room that I can’t rotate a view on to ensure that I’ve the wheels pointed in the right direction.

After the truck fell off the shelves about the 8th time, I quit the game, popped out the disc, and put it back in the sleeve to go back to the rental company. Thanks, Gearbox. FAIL.

Which is too bad. Gearbox did Borderlands a few years ago, and I enjoyed that immensely. Bought it on a couple of platforms actually. Still pull it out once in a while. Because the design is invisible. You get into the thick of things immediately, and it is fun. It revels in how much fun it offers you.

Duke is DOA, in my opinion.

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