The single worst design feature in a video game ever

Battlefield 1942, specifically the desert combat mod, is probably my favorite game of all time. I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into it. So I should love BF2 - it’s essentially a professionally developed, more advanced, bigger version of desert combat.

But it has an easily correctable but gigantic completely game-breaking flaw that has inexplicably gone unfixed: the voice comm system is designed to drown out all other sounds and drive you insane.

First, there’s a commander position whose job it is to use his recon assets to identify enemy units. Every time he does this, a unit appears on the minimap, creates a vocal message that everyone on your team hears, and creates a text message in the games chat area. If you get on a server with a lot of players, the commander essentially spends the entire game spotting enemy players. That’s his job. But they don’t just silently appear on the map - each one of them comes with its own spam. So what you hear all game just from this one person is a non-stop


You have about 50-100 of those messages in any given one minute period. I am not exaggerating at all. It is constant. It is loud. It drives out all other sounds. Not only does it drive out the sound, but it actually creates the text of the message in the 4-line chat area, so anything anyone actually types to communicate with their teams is immediately scrolled off the screen.

The information is also useless. When you are literally hearing these messages dozens of times a minute, you can do nothing but tune them out. They do not warn you or aid you. They overwhelm you. They actually harm you, because you might’ve actually heard that tank coming up around the corner if it wasn’t for the fact that all other sound was drowned out by ENEMY INFANTRY SPOTTED ENEMY INFANTRY SPOTTED.

Now that’s just the commander alone. The players themselves do these spotting messages regularly. There are other messages, like “I need a pickup” if someone nearby has a transportation vehicle, or “I need a medic!”, etc. Now, with the constant baseline spam from the commander, it’s easy for those messages to get lost. So what do players do? Spam them. You need a ride? Well, you’re the most important person in the universe, so clearly other people will have no problem when you hit the key for “I NEED A RIDE! I NEED A RIDE! I NEED A RIDE! I NEED A RIDE!” 4 times in a row. After all, you’re competing with the other spam.

And not only that, but routine actions that no one really needs to know about also create voice and text spam messages. For instance, when a medic revives or heals someone, it says to the entire team both in text and in audio “Okay, you’re good to go” - since there may be 20 or 30 people on your team with a few medics, you get to hear that constantly too. It never provides useful information, and it’s usually not even something that happens near you - you get to hear the chatter between a medic and someone they healed across the map.

As a result, there is no communication in the game. You can’t use the VOIP communication because it will be drowned out by the voice message spam. You can’t use the text chat, because all of the text messages immediately push it off the screen. The game has a constant output of useless communication that drowns out both useful communication and pretty much all the other game sounds in general. It’s incredibly annoying, like nails on a chalkboard, to hear “ENEMY INFANTRY SPOTTED” for the 1000th time in one gaming session.

It serves no useful purpose. It would be easily corrected (for instance, by making commander spotting make things appear on the map, but not issue a message), by preventing players from spamming the same message 5 times in a row for no reason, or by adding a client option to lower the volume or mute these things. In fact, they actually implemented it on a technical level - there’s a “voiceover volume” adjustment slider in the options panel. Except… it does not actually affect the in game voice binds, it only affects the tutorial voice level. So they actually implemented a feature where by you could control the voice volume level, but then refused to make an equivelant for the constant voice spam. It’s almost like they’re taunting us.

They actually released a patch a few months ago, a patch that people had been waiting for for 3 years, to fix some issues. In this patch, they did not think to include a fix for any aspect of the spam. I thought they might’ve, so I reinstalled the game, looked through the options, joined a server - and within 3 seconds of me picking a team and spawning, I heard “ENEMY INFANTRY SPOTTED” 7 times. I quit.

They managed to take what should’ve been my favorite game of all time and completely ruin it with a pointless, easily correctable “feature” for no reason. I don’t know how people can stand to play that game with that giant flaw. I’ve only managed to stomach about 10 hours of play for the game in 4 years.

Same thing happens in a lot of other FPS-I’ve edited my Unreal Tournament (99) voicepacks to eliminate just this kind of annoying and unhelpful “warning.”

Not the same thing, no. For one thing, most FPS games don’t have 30-64 players. And they don’t have a dedicated person whose job it is to basically spam as much as possible. The spam in BF2 is probably an order of magnitude greater than anything else I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately you can’t modify the sound files - punkbuster would detect the modification to the game files and assume it was part of a hack.

You must gather your party before venturing forth.
You must gather your party before venturing forth.
You must gather your party before venturing forth.
You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.You must gather your party before venturing forth.


There was a fan mod that removed that (from the Baldur’s Gate games, if the above does not bring back any horrible memories).

Also, jump puzzles in all games, but especially Ultima 8 and any other game where jumping was not normally much of a part of the game, was kludgy, and served no purpose. Including and double-especially D&D Online which includes both hand-eye coordination and your character’s skill in order to determine when you fall screaming off the ledge. Damn it, make it one or the other!

Yes. There are a couple (pretty easy, yes, but dammit I don’t want to do them AT ALL!) jump puzzles in World of Warcraft and it drives me crazy whenever I have to go through those zones. I tend to whine bitterly about how if I wanted to jump, I’d be playing Super Mario Bros.

There weren’t actually jump puzzles in Ultima 8, but I can understand why you’d think there were: There were some things that looked an awful lot like jump puzzles, and I wasted a lot of time on them before I realized they weren’t. If you want to jump to a particular small rock in the middle of a lake, you don’t have to precisely time your jump at precisely the right speed; you just put the cursor on top of the rock you want to jump to and click.

I love Half-life 2 and all, and I know they fixed it in Ep2, but what lobotomized monkey thought it was a good idea to tie your flashlight to your sprint/oxygen meter?

As I recall, that was after a major patch. In the original release, you had to time it right or you’d fall in a hole and die.

Hmm, you might be right about that. I have vague memories of downloading some sort of patch at one point.

Yep, it was all regular timing puzzles before that patch with shoddy perspective killing you over and over again.

I have to go with games where not only is saving restricted to locations but is a consumable resource. It’s bad enough to punish the player for having to stop. Saving your progress should not be part of resource management.

Fortunately this “feature” seems to have died. I just ran into it recently with a game and it stirred up my hatred all over again.

I lost the chance at a job due to that feature.

Years ago, I tried to get a job at Origin as a playtester- I wanted to get my foot in the door as an artist. I pulled a few strings, and got an interview.

One of the questions was, “What Origin games have you recently played, and what did you think about it?”

My reply was, “Well, I’m currently playing through Ultima 8. I was having fun with it until I got to the jump puzzles and got really frustrated. Luckily, I found a mod someone wrote that let me skip them.”

I could tell immediately that this was the wrong thing to say. The interviewer asked me, “Where did you get this mod?”

“From your FTP site. Uh… it was *supposed *to be there, right?”

The interview went downhill from there, and I never got a call back.

froths at the mouth

I still play Baldur’s Gate 2 now and then, and that mod is among the many that I happily use.

That wasn’t Baldur’s Gate’s most wall-punchy feature for me. However, instant game over the second the protagonist dies ? Oh yes. Nevermind the fact that you can resurrect dead NPCs in town at the drop of a hat, or hell that your party’s cleric might have the spell ready to fire RIGHT NOW. Nope, game over.

Not much of a factor when you’re playing a dwarf barbarian, but forget about playing a pure mage. Even more so in the first game, where you start off with 4 hit points and a magic missile. Wee, a kobold looked in my direction, load screen time !

Any escort mission where the follower does not duck/dodge adequately…or follow properly.

Refresh my memory… Did Baldur’s Gate also automatically put your leader character on the front lines of your party? I usually played a fighter-type (who would be in front anyway), so I don’t recall.

When EverQuest 2 was released, one of the big talking points was about how each NPC had real, actual voice recorded audio to go with them! The CEO had insisted it be done, and now, each and every NPC you encounter will talk to you! Really talk! To you!

Unfortunately, most of us can read faster than people talk, so long after you were done reading a quest or whatever, the NPC still went on talking. And all that “ambient” chatter in your chat log as you run past people in towns and stuff? Yep, there was actual voice recordings for those too. The game sounded like every freaking NPC was talking all the time at the same time.

I mean, the rest of the game sucked ass too, but that part damn near drove me crazy(er), and I only played for about 2 weeks.

I think that was the default, but - at least in Baldur’s Gate 2 - you could drag the character portraits around to reconfigure who was standing where.

So…any escort mission, then?

I always thought Resident Evil 4 handled this well. Ashley would stick relatively close to you at all times unless you told her to stand still and she would even duck out of your way if you were aiming at enemies behind her.

That aside–yeah, most escort missions blow.

Alone in the Dark remake. The whole “you must kill all the zombies with fire” thing. They don’t stay knocked out long enough for you to get them ignited. First of all, you can’t heave the bodies, only drag them. And walking into fire will hurt you, so good luck dragging them into a fire. Instead, you need to find a burnable thing and ignite it, and then position it just right against the knocked out zombie to burn it. Of course the controls for igniting objects are a bit wonky as well, and usually by the time you’ve gotten everything set up, the Zombie has woken up. Requiring you to beat it up yet again and the process repeats.

Yahtzee was spot on with his observation on this fire mechanic: “It could have made a good game fantastic. As it stands, it just makes a bad game pretentious.”