When I got access to every NES ROM ever dumped, I began to play more Nintendo than previously thought possible, studying how games squeeze every last ounce out of the hardware. I noticed a few annoying design flaws repeating themselves; some are so common that they're almost clichés.

Climb a ladder to the top of the screen, just so much that a new map section loads. You'll end up one measly pixel above the bottom of the screen. Now jump off to the side. Because the map sections are linked only by the ladder object and not by physics, you fall to your death. Guilty: Super Mario Brothers 2; Ninja Gaiden; Vice: Project Doom; Donkey Kong Country. Not guilty: Cat Nin (NES).

Inconsistent water. Unless you're in a swimming level, you can't swim and touching water is fatal. Guilty: Bucky O'Hare; Super Mario Brothers; Pinocchio. Not guilty: Contra; Super Mario Brothers 3. lordaych points out that one of the early levels in SMB 3 world 8 appears to let you swim in lava, but that's mud.

In a minecart (boat, raft, ostrich, etc.) riding level, if you jump off your ride, even onto a previously safe type of floor object, you die. Guilty: Mickey Mania; The Lion King. Not guilty: Kirby Super Star.

Areas that are impossible to escape from without pressing the reset button. Guilty: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 if you start going real fast and hit a slope or corner just right; Super Mario Brothers's minus world; many independent games with lower quality control standards. Not guilty: Crystal Mines/Exodus, Super Mario Brothers 2, or any other game that has a button to commit instant suicide and revert to a safe starting spot.

You're not carrying any weapons, but if you miss a jump, you cannot grab the platform and pull yourself up. Guilty: Super Mario Brothers; too many others to list. Not guilty: Prince of Persia; Aladdin for Super NES; Pinocchio; Super Mario 64; Tomb Raider; Metroid Fusion.

If you even touch something moving, even from the back, you die because the programmers forgot to put in an animation for (e.g.) "turtle bites player's head off" or "enemy soldier knifes player." Guilty: Super Mario Brothers; Contra; Sonic the Hedgehog; too many others to list.

Kill an enemy, move a few game meters, and come back to where the enemy spawns. It will have respawned because of the healing power of offscreen. Especially annoying if the enemy knocks you back a meter, you kill it, and you scroll back. Guilty: Mega Man/Rockman series (thanks Koutetsu); Ninja Gaiden; Super Mario Brothers 2; Kirby series.

If you break things that hold up other things (e.g. the sides of bridges), the other things don't fall. Guilty: Super Mario Brothers 3; most Tetris clones; Sonic the Hedgehog. Not guilty: Dr. Mario; freepuzzlearena Tetanus; Mega Man X; Boulderdash

See also: Nintendo Logic | videogame cliches
I don't want this to turn into a "getting to know you" node. If you only have one addition, /msg me instead of adding a writeup. Of course, if you have several, that would be worthy of a writeup. But if this node gets too long, I will add the information in the weaker writeups to my own and have them nuked.
(I famously ignore Anti-GTKY signpostings... but seriously, I want to refute a couple of yerricde's observations as well as add some of my own).

Inconsistent water is something I've thought about at length (pity me). I guess that it stems from developers wanting their bottomless pits to be more interesting. The other two popular methods are lava and spikes (lava being the run-away favourite in modern games). But I would argue that usually, at least with later examples, there was some feeble attempt at rationalising this. Take Alex Kidd In Shinobi World : on one level, you can swim around freely. On another (the dock) contact with water means death. But notice that the enemies that jump out of the water are wearing full-body wetsuits. Maybe the water is too cold or toxic (it's irrelevant anyway as Alex wouldn't be able to jump back up to the platforms even if he could swim here).

The famous Jet Set Willy problem : games where you respawn immediately over where you died. Usually, the developer remembers to alter this behaviour for bottomless pits (or you'd just die repeatedly). Not always though (guilty : Jet Set Willy ; innocent : Streets Of Rage)

Anti-stockpiling levels : to ensure you don't get loads of 1ups before a particular juncture (e.g. a boss), there will be a short, ludicrously hard level requiring a feat of god-like reflexes just beforehand. (Guilty : Quackshot, Llamatron, Metal Slug 2nd Mission's second bastard evil fucker of a minecart level).

The 'no climbing up' and 'killed by contact' flaws are more a case of limited resources than deliberately inconsistent game worlds, IMHO. Another one that seems popular is that any weapon with a close range effect is unimpeded by walls (so your sword / punch works through platforms). (Guilty : Metal Slug 2nd Mission, loads and loads of others)

Flaws of this kind are alive and well in games today. Severance requires you to complete your entire "climbing up" animation before it deems that you are not still standing on the ground (causing lots of unjust rising acid deaths). It also treats "block" as deflecting blows from any direction (woo, magic shield!). Even the mighty Warren Spector isn't immune. There are areas in Deus Ex that require a lock-pick or multitool to exit (tip : don't quicksave when inside one).

There is a bit of crossover with videogame clichés as well...

Object permanence and object placement in video games is weird. One second, weapons your avatar carries are mysteriously absent; the next, they are blazing a path through an army of ninjas. Rarely do heroes have no bulk or weight limit. Even less common is a hero whose actions are affected by addition weight or bulk.

A few classic examples... Solid Snake and Duke Nuke'em switch between bazookas and shotguns in seconds. I don't know about you, but I probably couldn't hold a rocket launcher upright much less drag it around. One scene in Chrono Trigger, Crono is imprisoned. He escapes by smashing his katana's pommel into a guard's head that he lured into his cell. A believable escape plan, except for the fact that he has a katana in his jail cell . How did that get it there? The heroes of the Phantasy Star series have items that, when used, allow them to jump inside vehicles and cruise their planet's many surfaces. Strange that a LandRovr (a treaded tank-like vehicle that five people fit inside) takes up the same amount of item space as a Potion. The absurdity is astounding. For example...

A glance at a well known hero's inventory:

  1. A sword
  2. A shield
  3. A bow
  4. A quiver full of arrows
  5. A bag full of bombs
  6. A bug catching net
  7. Bottles with various things inside
  8. Flippers
  9. A really big hammer
  10. Books
  11. Medallions
  12. A hookshot
  13. Musical instruments
  14. Lots of Masks
  15. A bigger sword
  16. A hat
  17. Iron boots
  18. Some gloves
  19. Triforces
  20. The biggest sword
  21. A boomerang

Yet... We readily suspend our disbelief. Even games that strive for reality are blatantly nonchalant about it. One of the most hilarious/ridiculous/stupid scenes in Final Fantasy X is when Yuna pulls a staff almost as tall as her right out of her wedding dress .

One of Sierra's good old quest games, Space Quest 6, satirically addresses this phenomenon. The hero, Roger Wilco, and the nameless narrator exchange witty banter throughout most of the game. In one episode, Roger goes to pick up a huge wooden plank about twice the length of his body. The conversation that ensues went something like this:

Narrator: "Roger, you can't carry that with you. It's too big."

Roger: "Ha! Just watch!"

Roger proceeds to pick up the long wooden plank, open the front of his pants, and drops the entire thing in.

Narrator: "..."

Narrator: "......."

Narrator: "You must have a lot of free space down there."

Thus, one theory is that most video game characters have a mystical portal to Al's Storage Bin somewhere around their crotch. All the swords, bombs, money, pistols, infinite ammo, bazookas, and vehicles are stashed in their pants.

On an ironic note- The games that actually try to employ a realistic item limit or weight system are usually annoying. In the Breath of Fire series, the penalty that lowers agility for wearing heavy equipment adds little to the game except headaches. Not being able to hold more than 4 Cups of Life in Secret of Mana is a damn nuisance. Late in Earthbound, the group of heroes is so laden with weapons, armor, and vital items, players are often forced to discard things they would have otherwise kept. Various times I've gone to my filled up inventory in Super Mario RPG to find most of my space taken up by unnecessary healing items (which I promptly begin to drop). With these kinds of annoyances, I wonder if gratuitous disregard for the physics of carrying things in video games should continue to be ignored.

Modern video games, especially in this day and age of the MMORPG, are no less subject to this failing of physics. Take EverQuest for example: as one of the most popular games on the market, one would think that extra time and effort had been put in to making EQ a far superior game, but quite the opposite is evident only a few moments into playing the game.

EQ, while purporting to be a "realistic" first-person POV game, falls short in the physics department with walls that you can see through because your avatar is a different shape, nearly-sheer cliffs and trees that monsters can walk straight up, while players are (frustratingly) stuck at the bottom, and the ever-mysterious magically-sized equipment.

Of the major flaws, the equipment flaw actually has two sides. First, there is the magical-resizing effect: When a large person (such as a Human or Troll wields a weapon such as a longsword, it appears to be about three to four feet long. Hand that same weapon to a Pixie, and magically, it shrinks to a toothpick-sized six inches! Rather than deal with the logistics of differently-sized weapons, the EQ designers decided to simply scale weapons to match the size of the avatar.

The second interesting effect is the "bottomless sewing kit" effect. Everquest utilizes containers of varying sizes, from tiny wrist-pouches, to gigantic haversacks. Each container has a limitation to the size of object that can be contained within (containers cannot be nested, however), and in general, these make some amount of sense: small containers can only contain small items, large containers, large items, etc. It gets weird when dealing with tradeskill containers, however. Things like mixing bowls, spits, and the ever-popular sewing kit, are designed to allow players to put the items that are part of a specific recipe into them, and click a magic "combine" button which somehow simulates the actions of actually creating an object, in the hopes of succeeding (a random event, at best). Since some recipe items are of "giant" size (notably, animal pelts), these containers have to be able to hold giant-sized items. Unfortunately, the programmers didn't look far enough ahead to realize that players would happily abuse this by carrying around the much-lighter sewing kits (as opposed to heavy, bulky backpacks), since each sewing kit could hold up to eight gigantic items.

Ever wanted to stuff a halberd in your pants? In EverQuest, you can.

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