About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Do it again, stupid

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 24, 2006
Filed under:
Game Design


There are some games that really, really annoy me. Popular games. Games that have sold well and are beloved by millions. Some of these games I hate with such intensity that it’s difficult to talk about them without employing profanity. I find myself shaking my head at these games thinking: Why did they MAKE it this way? And who PLAYS these games, anyway?

I’m noticing that there is an important distinction between the games that I like and the games I hate. In games I like, the appeal is a steady march to the end of the game. There is no failure (or failure is rare) but only minor setbacks. The very best ones are self-balancing. Barring that, they should at least allow the careful and thoughtful player to proceed through the game with minimal use of the “reload” and “retry” options.

The OTHER type of game, the kind that has always perplexed me, is something my brother and I refer to as a “Do it again, stupid” game. The game will pose a challenge, and the player is almost certainly doomed to fail on their first attempt. And the second. And maybe a few subsequent attempts as well. Usually we’re talking about a “mission” of some sort. As in, “do something quite difficult before the time runs out”.

If I have to do the mission twice, it must be twice as fun, right? So if I have to do the mission ten times…

It becomes clear when you do this that the designers never intended for you to succeed on the first try. They intend for you to do the mission over and over until you meet some arbitrary goal or time limit. Often the mission with have some sort of surprise “gotcha” moment that foils you. You must then remember this and plan ahead on your next attempt. An example: In Grand Theft Auto you have a street race where on one particular corner a car will ALWAYS jump out from a side street and pull in front of you. Once this happens a few times you realize it isn’t a fluke: It’s scripted, and you need to avoid it by driving on the sidewalk in that area.

I cannot describe how much I hate this. Every failure feels like wasted time to me. As in, “Hey, I’m doing this mission again. I’ve seen the cutscene. I’ve heard the dialog. I’ve seen it. Now I’m done with it and would like to move on. The Tony Hawk, Jakk, and Grand Theft Auto franchises all come to mind. Too hard. Too frustrating.

But other people love this sort of game. I’m guessing that for them the appeal is the thrill they get when they at last beat the mission. The harder the mission, the more rewarding it is when they at last pull it off. They seem to dislike the “steady progress” games that I love, because to them victory is inevitable.

For me, the do it again stupid (DIAS) games are horrible. I don’t get any sense of satisfaction when I beat a mission. I’m still ticked off that I just spent twenty minutes replaying the same three minutes of the game over and over. I resent the wasted time. I think to the one attempt ten minutes ago when I almost beat the mission but missed the goal by a quarter-second, and I’m even MORE bitter about the time spent re-playing the mission since then. More importantly, the misery I get from my half-dozen failures far outweighs the pleasure of the one final success.

Some examples:

A while back I picked up Starfox Adventures, which is supposedly a kid’s game. At one point there was a challenge I couldn’t beat. I’ve been playing video games for a quarter century, now. I’ve beaten my share of video games and proven myself to be an above-average player, but this mission was beyond me. I couldn’t do it. I got sick of trying. I never beat the game, and took it back to the store in disgust. Nothing like being beaten by a “kid’s game”.

Jakk II did this to me as well: The game came highly recommended and had fantastic visuals, but there was a “race over here real fast” mission about an hour in, and I couldn’t even come close to beating it. I realized that I was still in the early “easy” part of the game, and that the difficulty curve was only going up from here. I quit playing, and in the end I saw less than a tenth of it. (Luckily Jakk II was borrowed so at least I didn’t waste my money.)

That’s right, I’m wasted. Just like the last twenty minutes.

The thing that annoys me with these games is that there is no fail-safe. No matter how many times you fail, no matter how badly you fail, and no matter how long you remain stuck, you are never any closer to beating the mission than you were the first time you tried. There is no system to help frustrated players along or let them skip after so many attempts. There is no consolation prize. You have no new items or stats or experience to show for your work. You’re in stasis until you can jump through these hoops. It really is time wasted.

If every mission takes an average of 4 attempts for every success, then to me 80% of my playing time is being wasted. It also seems arbitrary: Like, if they want to make the game more “fun”, why not make it twice as hard? Why not just have the whole game as one long confusing mission, and every time you fail you go back to the very beginning of the game? Just think of it! Hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay! Think of the thrill when you at last beat it! Yay!

It sucks, and games like this need a warning label so I know to avoid them.

Over the years I’ve grown more and more wary of these sorts of games. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and I’m not as sharp or a quick as I used to be. Maybe it’s because I have less time for games than I did when I was twenty-two, and I’m more careful about how I spent my limited gaming time. Maybe I’m just cranky. :)

Just for fun: List any DIAS games that really ticked you off in the comments. What games were the most heartless and frustrating when it came to wasting your time?

Comments (173)

1 2 3

  1. Shamus says:

    I’ll start: Abe’s Exodus was so amazingly hard that I doubt very many people ever beat it. I saw less than half of it before I just couldn’t go any further.

    • Matthias the Elf Jedi says:

      Assassin’s Creed for XBOX 360. I had the second Assassin’s creed, and this was my brothers, so i decided to try the first. I actually couldn’t beat the tutorial for “gently pushing” civilians. I tried, and everyone- about 50 people- dropped their jars. I tried dozens of times, but failed. It’s not mine, so i don’t have to worry about wasting money. I stuck with game #2.

      • WaysideMaze says:

        You hold the ‘Gentle Push’ button down whilst moving. You don’t just keep pressing it.

        In fairness you saved some time, AC2 was a massive improvement on the ‘just do the same mission 9 times, cheers’ gameplay from the first game.

      • Whither Canada says:

        I did the exact same thing. So don’t feel bad.

        • Ben says:

          I did the same thing too, although to be fair, I feel like this is more an issue of misunderstanding the controls than it is railroading. In the actual game you don’t need to kill your targets in a specific way, you can assassinate them from stealth or you can just draw your sword and hack at them etc. The game may get a bit repetitive, but it doesn’t force you to restart every time you’re detected or a guard jumps out in front of you.

          PS I love this article, and don’t care how old the original comment was.

    • TheUltimateD says:

      Of those small amount of people that have beaten it is a blind man named Terry Garret. I was just amazed at this accomplishment and he has done it several times to boot.

      You don’t have to take my word for it just check it out here.

      I won’t say everything about the guy and how he did it. I’ll just leave that to him, the article, and for you to check out yourself.

    • Paul says:

      I think I know which challenge you’re talking about in Starfox Adventures. The trials of speed and strength, right? I only beat the speed trial because the game let me move around for about half a second after the time expired, then gave me credit for winning anyway.

    • lethal_guitar says:

      Well, I beat Abe’s Exoddus a few month ago. ;) I didn’t play it continously, though – there were sometimes weeks where I didn’t touch the game at all before I got back to it.

      I can only agree, it is often extremely hard. In some sequences I had the impression of eventually succeeding out of sheer luck. Nevertheless, I found the first Oddworld game (Abe’s Oddysee) much, much more frustrating as it had a checkpoint based save system.

      Imagine Exoddus without the quick save feature! Everyone attempting to play that would surely turn into a madman and kill any living being in sight. After having destroyed his computer/console with a chainsaw, that is.

    • Sydney says:

      Why not just have the whole game as one long confusing mission, and every time you fail you go back to the very beginning of the game? Just think of it! Hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay! Think of the thrill when you at last beat it! Yay!

      NetHack was the first thing I thought of.

      • Phantom Hoover says:

        Even a year after you said it, I still feel the need to point out that you don’t restart the game if you die in NetHack, you start a new game, with different dungeon layouts and item drops and monster spawns.

    • juanguy says:

      Complaining about a roguelike with permadeath is like complaining about a racing game that has cars. Not every racer has cars, but there’s a better than average chance.
      On the other hand I lol’d.

      • Corrodias says:

        I don’t see it as a complaint, but it is a very apt description of the genre that takes that approach to design to its logical conclusion. :)

      • Corrodias says:

        And then I come back to change my mind. A later comment wrote,

        “Nethack isn't DIAS anyway. The essence of DIAS is pre-scripted sequences that the player has to learn with events that they can't reasonably react to, and must anticipate. This isn't what a roguelike is about, even if their “learning by death” style is superficially similar.”

        And I suppose I have to concede to this.

  2. DVS says:

    As a young kid: Ninja Gaiden

    More recently, but not that recently: Return to Castle Wolfenstein


    Also, Nethack (and other Rogue variants) need not be a DIAS game, in most personal computer implimentations.

    You can copy your saved game before starting to play, giving it a different name. Then if your character dies, which erases your “official” saved game, you again duplicate the backup you made and rename it back to whatever the “official” saved game is called. On DOS/Windows machines, batch files were often made to do this automatically, asking you after the game ended if you wished to update your backup file or restore your character from the backup.

  3. Pixy Misa says:

    Not that anyone would ever do that. ;)

    Nethack is in a DIAS category all its own, of course, since (a) it’s always different and (b) 80% of the time you had the solution to whatever killed you only you didn’t know it or didn’t think of it.

  4. . says:

    Well, what one person considers DIAS largely depends on their gaming skill.

    I know many people who thought Grand Theft Auto was too easy. I personally thought it was absurdly hard, and often had a hard time beating it even with cheat codes.

    On the other hand, I love to play Halo on Legendary difficulty. Even though I frequently die, I love the tactical play that such a difficulty requires of you, and it really does feel like you accomplished something when you succeed well. (Note: I’d already played through the game on an easier difficulty level, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t access later parts of the game/story. Obviously if there were ONLY the one difficulty level it would be extremely annoying.)

  5. Dan says:

    I’m with the mysterious person named . It depends on what kind of game you naturally tend to be good at. I myself found the Jakk series of only moderate difficulty (the third ones a breeze).
    GTA games don’t give me to many problems, but they can be real inconvenial sometimes. On the other hand I can’t even begin to play most one on one fighting games (Super Smash Brothers is the exception). Wresteling games give me the most problems. While Eric will chew you up and spit you out and then do something vagualy homoerotic to you. Shamus has a tendendcy to make you cry at first person shooters. Pat rocks the sports games and comprehends them in a way that i could never understand. Bogan will just beat any damn thing you put in front of him, esspecialy if you’ve been having problems with beating it yourself.

    Grand Turismo races and driving tests make me want to strangle the life out of all that are near me. Oh! and Mega Man (as much as i love the little jerk in blue underpants) those games are pure madness.

  6. Dan says:

    Your follow up post should be about all the controllers you have maured mutilated and massecered due to these frustrating games

  7. Matt says:

    GTA: San Andreas did it for me… stupid missions where you can’t change into a more suitable vehicle for no readily apparent reason, stupid controls which clearly hadn’t been playtested on the PC version using a mouse and keyboard, impossible-to-fly model aircraft… Why should I need to invest hours and hours to learn how to fly a plane, when the driving came in minutes? Especially when planes make up such a minor component of the game’s playtime (discounting the endlessly repeated missions).

  8. Mark says:

    I always thought the GTA games were a mix between DIAS and genuinely fun play. I’d say that at least 50-75% of the time, I was able to beat a mission on the first try, and most other times I could beat it on the second or third. However, I agree that San Andreas is a lot more than annoying. Not only are the missions more DIAS, but they also included all of these lame, repetitive functions like eating and exercising (exercising!) To me, the game reached it’s zenith with GTAIII. Besides, the fun of GTA is that you really don’t have to play the missions til the end – you can do anything you want. Like load up on weapons and ammo, go to the casino and start taking out people and police helicopters until you can steal a tank.

    Return to Castle Wolfenstein was relatively fun and short, but I can see the DIAS aspects. However the game’s biggest plus was the beach multiplayer map. It’s the best multiplayer map I’ve ever played. Awesome. It’s a shame that the other maps stunk…

    It seems to me that a lot of earlier games were DIAS, but I think that was more because of the limitations put on developers. Today, these games should be less common, but I guess not…

  9. Shamus says:

    Prince of Persia was also very nasty about this, but the more recent iterations have used the “rewind the last 15 seconds” as a brilliant and elegant way around the challenge vs. retry issue.

  10. Bogan says:

    For me since I can apparently beat anything you put down in front of me is Grand Turismo. They are the ultimate dias games. To actually play the game you need to pass a driving test to earn a license. Sure the first one isn’t so bad, but by the third license level it is just sit in front of a tv screen for an hour per obstacle figuring out how to turn just a second later here than a half second later there so that you could make the time limit. All so you can just earn more money by getting harder races that you don’t use your new found skillls in anyway. Your reward for doing this through all the licenses….racing cars that you have no ability to control with a controller and you sit there watching to computer do it for you.

  11. retinaburn says:

    Along the same thread the first computer game I really remember playing was a pirate copy of Kings Quest (I) that my dad had brought home for our PC jr. We would play that game over and over and over again. Why? Because we didn’t know there was a save button. I specifically remember pounding the keyboard in frustration after dying yet again not typing swim fast enough when entering the lake, and loe and behold a save dialog appeared. We had thought the designers expected us to finish the whole game in one shot. I remember reaching the end of the game with an ogre or something and dying, only to have to restart at the very beginning of the game :)

  12. Shamus says:

    KQI without saving? I wouldn’t try that with the walkthrough right in front of me.

    That is, as the young people say, hardcore.

    Please tell me you eventually beat it…

  13. Will says:

    The one that caught me off guard until I realised it was scripted was the beginning of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault. You just manage to get off the LC and under the pier when Japanese soldiers come swarming down the beach killing everything in sight. For a minute I paused and checked the difficulty setting just to make sure I hadn’t stumbled on some super-secret “big eyes gots to die” setting. I died a few times and instead of just waiting to see what happend I kept reloading. Finally I got sick of it and let the bastards bayonet my corpse for a while. The screen fades to black and suddenly I’m flashing back to boot camp. God I felt like such a tool.

    On the other hand, I’m just like Greg Dean. I had relatively little trouble with the license tests in Gran Turismo. Of course, I also refuse to drive analog, preferring instead to mash the directional buttons at various tempos to achieve the desired turn rate. I get strange looks from friends when I drive like that.

  14. Patrick says:

    I cannot even begin to count how many controlers I’ve lost due to sports games…. mostly because of what my lil bro said earlier…I’m really friggin good at em. So much so when i don’t WIN by as much as I THINK i’m supposed to….well…. lets just say that they really need to come up with titanium controller technology. As for the DIAS games…well… i suppose some people enjoy them, personally I wonder why these people don’t save themselves the money and go buy an old 70’s simon says (you know… four colored buttons? red yellow blue green) cause thats really all DIAS games are…memorize the pattern of obstacles from repeated failures, and win by avoiding these obstacles in an predetermined path/pattern. Personally…. I don’t feel satisfaction… no randomness, no REAL skill involved ( an expert gamer my be able to succeed only slightly sooner than a 8 year old kid, theres no substitute for repetitions) AND MOST OF ALL they make these nissions to try and pressure you into buying their FRIGGIN FRACKIN PIECE OF &$)@$*(@@_*$(_%$_(*@ HINT GUIDE!!!

    I DON’T WANT YOU’RE FILTHY HINT GUIDE BOOK!!! IF I WANTED TOP READ I WOULD HAVE GONE TO COLLEGE!!……..losers….. oh…. ang GTA San Andreas could have been great… instead, they added to much DIAS, and it sucks simply becuase it COULD have been the greatest game ever. Rockstar jabronies…

  15. Patrick says:

    And you need to add a spell check button….homo

  16. Pitfall II: Lost Caverns…

    Without a doubt, the greatest game ever made for the Atari 2600 was Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. A review and lots of screenshots of the game….

  17. God of War…

    For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing the PS2 game God of War. It’s quite good, though I’m not……

  18. Miko says:

    It’s kind of off topic but I have a game called Wheel Of Time and I could never figure out how to get out of the first room. Had it for years, still can’t figure it out. It makes me feel bad.

    • jon says:

      Is this in any way related to Robert Jordan’s series of books of the same name?
      just wondering.

      I had the same experience with some N64 game, tower-of somthing or another. I wish I could remember the name. I got out of the first room, only to get stuck in some godforsaken sewer.

      As for repetitive gameplay tony hawk pro skater 4 was a bit annoying in that regard. I could never enjoy it without cheats.

  19. Selene says:

    FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus does DIAS in an interesting way. It’s mission-based, and some of the missions are pretty tough. Fail, and you start over from the last save point. However, based on how well you’ve done within the level, you gain experience or money, and when you die, you get to cash those in. So failing is not a *complete* waste of time.

    Still, experience/money is based on how well you do. If you’re doing really badly, it’ll take forever to build up enough to make up the difference between your skill and the game’s difficulty. And it’s still pretty frustrating to keep on failing.

    There’s a pretty awful DIAS mission early on, where you need to shoot down a bunch of hidden snipers before they shoot you down. And they’re much better snipers than you are. I really don’t see how someone could do that mission on a first try. Some of those snipers are pretty hidden. I ended up using the strategy guide to figure out where the snipers were, and even then it took me several tries to get them all.

    As far as I know, the game doesn’t have a mode easier than its “Normal”, which I think it really could have used. After all, the target audience is people who really liked FFVII. Most of them don’t play shooters at all, and they’re used to the self-balancing gameplay of the FF series.

  20. Kris says:

    Enter the Matrix: The airport car race made me give up. Goddamn.

  21. Yunt says:

    Resident Evil II…

    My brother and I rented it and the Playstation to play it on. Since we didn’t own the system we also didn’t own a save card.

    We played for more or less 2 days continuously before running one bullet short on the very last boss monster.

    I’m not very good at Resident Evil to begin with, those 2 days were excruciating, and to end it all with a loss to literally the last monster was terrible.

  22. ravells says:

    The Lord of the Rings Text Adventure game of circa 25 years ago. You had to re-load the game using audiotape (that took at least 15 minutes)everytime you died. And there was one point where unless you worked out what you had to do (I never did), you got killed by the Black Riders and it was back to reloading the game from the tape to play again. No internet in those days to look for hints either.

    My friend and I must have spent days in waiting for that game to re-load, trying to work out how to get past the point at which we always died (if I remember correctly we had barely made it out of the shire and were under a bridge). The fact that computers were still so new (and we were in our early teens) meant that we somehow had the patience to sit through that frustration for so much longer than anyone would now.


  23. RHJunior says:

    populous:in the beginning. The thing has not one, but TWO levels with beat-the-clock missions. In the first your shaman is captured by an enemy tribe, locked away and completely powerless, and you have to orchestrate a rescue mission with your other tribesmen from an entirely separate island.
    No magic at your disposal, and when the clock runs out your shaman dies and you lose.

    In the second, your tribe is literally getting the ground blasted out from underneath its feet in the very beginning of the level. you have to evacuate as many tribesmen as you can into boats, raise a lost continent, and then stage a counterattack from the lost continent before the time runs out….

    Even in GOD MODE those levels were almost impossible. It took a half-dozen tries each just to figure out how i was SUPPOSED to beat them.

  24. Miral says:

    To this day I’m still only a few missions into GTA:SA. I hit a race I just couldn’t beat (I can consistently come in second, but no matter how many times I try I just can’t make first), and you have to beat that race in order to get any further in the main storyline (and get out of the first city).

    So the game has now been sitting on the shelf for several months, after probably only having done 5% or so of it. Yeah, that’s good game design. Not.

    • Sojiro says:

      I know what race you are speaking about. I was stuck for a while until I realized I should get myself a slightly slower but much more maneuverable car.

      Eventually I reached the “flying school” part at the 2/3rd mark, and there was ONE trial I just couldn’t pass. I didn’t ever even come close. I ended up just plain giving up on the game, despite loving pretty much everything else about it.
      About a year later, one of my friend (who didn’t even play any GTA at all) passed that one trial for me and I was on my way to finishing the game.

      • Corrodias says:

        Here’s a fun part: Playing the GTA 3 based games on PC with the frame limiter off messes with the physics. As I recall, some of the license trials in San Andreas are nearly or literally impossible if the frame limiter isn’t on, because of the wonky flight physics. The game does nothing to warn you about this, of course.

  25. Vice City was the top of GTA for me.

    I have San Andreas, but my problem is that I don’t even know if I’m good at it. I don’t mind repeating a mission once or twice, but when it costs me two or three minutes to drive back to the place where I got the mission, then two or three minutes to drive back to the mission, and even if I know exactly what I’m doing, two or three minutes to gear up for the mission that I failed last time (possibly due to lack of gear)… I bailed.

    Who’s bright idea was it to drop the “taxi back to the mission after you fail” from Vice City???

    And I can’t dump it because it’s the “Hot Coffee” version and the stores can’t buy it back, not that I’d get much for it. Bleh.

    Oh, for extra double bonus, the mission that I’m thinking of, the first couple of times I failed is because despite playing all the way through GTA III and Vice City, I still can’t really use the stupid targetting controls. I finally passed that on about the fourth try, then I got inside this building that’s on fire, and you’re supposed to navigate around the flames to save somebody (did I mention you’re the reason the place is on fire? in game this struck me as very out-of-character for CJ to suddenly care about one screaming person in a game that you can’t hardly help but murder people by the thousands…)… but we still haven’t worked out how to actually move around in 3D.

    GTA:SA uses the “spastic camera” approach to blundering through its 3D space, which is when “UP” is always in the direction the camera is pointing, but bearing left or right causes the camera to move. Therefore, when moving around on foot, it is borderline impossible to correctly judge a turn. Normally this isn’t a problem because the game developers, intentionally or otherwise, don’t penalize you for blundering around the world. Nobody even makes fun of you for being unable to move around your own house without using the walls for support while turning. But this does not go well with a fire.

    Put it all together, and it’s one game I’ve shelved. Probably ought to just trash it; anybody who’d be interested in it probably already has it.

    • Andrew says:

      I could’ve sworn there was a back-to-mission taxi in San Andreas; they just didn’t do anything to draw attention to it, so it was easy to overlook.

      • Sojiro says:

        Yeah, you could press L3/R3 to do just that, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any part of the game itself mentioning it, so i only learned about it by pressing it by accident.

        A major feature to reduce frustration for the less hardcore players being so well hidden? Whose idea was that?

    • lucky7 says:

      I managed to get my uncle past the DIAS part of Vice City (car races) by suggesting he bazooka the opposition before he started the race. And it WORKED!

  26. Patrick says:

    I think the ultimate in DIAS games was E.T. for the NES.

  27. Daniel says:

    Ok, so this whole article reminded me of Simpsons: Hit and Run. And enjoyable GTA clone and one of the few good Simpsons games.

    But in my opinion, it has some things that are sorely missing from it’s inspiration GTA. You can choose “Restart Mission” at any time, and you go back to the start of the mission. Also if you fail a mission, you are immediately offered a chance to retry right away. Finally, if you fail a mission like 5 times or something, you are given an opportunity to skip the mission and move on. It really was a great system.

  28. Katy says:

    Ooh, someone mentioned Prince of Persia. I LOVE the new games! The first one was actually rather short if you sat down and thought really hard about the puzzles. On a second try, it took only 16 hours.

    I really love the sand powers. They make it easy to go back however many seconds you need to fix your mistake and if you end up failing many times in a row, your re-upped character usually starts relatively close to where you died. (I’m sure y’all knew this already, though.)

    The only bitch of the game sometimes is figuring out where you’re supposed to go to next, but puzzles and DIAS are two totally different breeds.

  29. sleepyfoo says:

    In relation to adventure/platformer games like Jakk and such, I have developed a saying. “Remember kids, the camera kills.” Unfortunately this applies to both DIAS games and some that manage to avoid it.

  30. Ralff says:

    Devil May Cry 3. Nothing like getting to the end of a level and losing to the boss, starting the level completely over again. Especially when this happens at least ten times in a row before I figure out that instead of, say, fighting intelligently, I’m supposed to use an otherwise useless weapon and spam a certain attack with it.

  31. Lo'oris says:

    instead of DIAS i called them “trial and error”.

    i hate them much, but maybe for reasons slightly different than yours.

    failure is an important part of a game, re-doing things you failed on is ok, to a point.
    what is BAD here is the compulsory failure. The trial and error. The REASON you fail: if you fail on your lack of ability, ok. If you fail because of many tricks you couldn’t possibly suspect, it’s not ok.

    moreover, flexibility is very important: if a game forces you to solve a problem in *one* way, it’s BAD. Designers should work harder to plan a mission which you can solve using creativity. And if a solution you find is too an easy way of completing it, too good for you.
    if they really want to prevent you on solving a mission in a certain too-easy way, they should find a reasonable explanation for that.

    by the way, i don’t think Prince of Persia (neither 1 nor 2) is trial and error. Automatic failures in that game seldom happened: most of the times you failed, it’s because you (*YOU*) didn’t check if the floor was safe before running accross a room. If you fail because you were too lazy to check, it’s not game’s fault, dude.

  32. Tseecka says:

    In reply to the person who posted DoC, I found the game ridiculously easy. It was probably the easiest game I have played in recent memory…and I agree with the comment on Devil May Cry 3, as well. One word–Cerberus. I never made it past the level following that gorram dog.

    Worst for me, though, is the old Final Fantasy games. “Play through this three hour castle…so you can get to the impossibly difficult boss…oh, and by the way, we’re not going to give you any save points.” Not so much a DIAS game, because really it just depends on being prepared beforehand, but MAN does it suck.

  33. Marstov says:

    This is probably WAY too late to do you any good, but I’m playing Jak II right now, Shamus. That “get somewhere fast” mission isn’t actually doable when it first unlocks. If you do some of the other missions first though, you get a passcard that unlocks the middle portion of the map and it’s suddenly possible since you can just cut across the middle.

  34. Mr. Son says:

    Ugh. “Gameplay” like that is why I only play Halo2 in co-op mode. Die horribly because you forgot that there’s two giant monsters behind that particular door? Respawn near your buddy.

    I loathe replaying the same mission umpteen-billion times with a fiery passion. It makes me want to take a fork and do creatively nasty things to the game developers.

  35. Matt P says:

    You’re right there Mr. Son. I could finish Halo on Legendary but in Halo 2 I gave up trying. Bungie has the WORST idea of difficulty. Every mega-fan of the single-player says the difficulty in Legendary comes from the increasing AI. It doesn’t. It comes from the “Bungie Legendary Difficulty system (TM)”: throw more Elites and Brutes at the player (although Brutes are easy). And make them tougher and stronger than the player when theoretically they have the same capabilities. And their weapons should defy the rules they follow in the players’ hands (overheating and ammo limits).
    It really is down to repeating each fight until you know which enemies to snipe, sneak kill, stick etc in what order. Thank god for the check point system at least.

  36. Anders says:

    Well, I’ve not played that many games like this. I tend to give up on them early but about the whole “Do it again, stupid” part it brings a specific game to mind, Conquest: Frontier Wars. The game allowed saving and such but it had the most annoying “you loose” message made up of sometimes THREE UNINTERRUPTABLE cutscenes explaining how you failed and how stupid you where.

    The first tended to be “Admiral X died. You can’t let that happen”, the second being “You lost the mission, stupid!” followed by “Earth is destroyed thanks to you!”. I gave up after a while, especially when you had up to three Admirals to keep alive and they didn’t really survive that much better than the rest.

  37. ArchU says:

    I recall having a lot of DIAS in RTS games. Especially having saved right after making a critical mistake halfway into the scenario. The remainder of the map would be a gradual downward spiral into failure and I’d have overwritten my save point from before making the mistake.

    Jurassic Park for Megadrive was a bastard for DIAS in every way. Don’t even look at the game.

  38. GJD says:

    Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, with its trial-and-error jumping, Dark Prince sequences (what’s with the hair?), chariot races, and utterly exasperating boss battles has to be the ultimate DIAS game. Right now I’m moving up on my twentieth try at the Twin Warriors battle, and am ready to give up. And it’s not just the battle itself that is frustrating, it’s that ridiculous cut-scene that I have to sit through each time I have to “retry”. Other frustrating DIAS games include Mechassault, Mechassault: Lone Wolf, Legacy of Kane: Defiance, and Kill.Switch.

  39. kamagurka says:

    What really pisses me off is when games that might be awesome have that, and I just stop playing them. The GTA series comes to mind, and most recently I just stopped playing “Beyond Good and Evil” because of those fucking sneak’n’hide missions.

  40. Brickman says:

    I tend to like this type of game, but it depends on the genre and how well it’s done, and especially on how far a loss sets you back. Basically, you have to intentionally design it to work this way or it’ll piss you off. The epitome of doing it well would be the freeware game N (if you want to find it, google Metanet, the creators–I don’t need to tell you why). One hit killed you in physics heavy, fast-paced platforming against enemies armed with lasers and homing missiles as well as simple touch of death ones, and you were expected to replay a given level maybe a dozen times or more to get past. But if time spent losing is “wasted”, you didn’t waste much–the average failed attempt at a level probably would be under 30 seconds, as with the average success, so it was really a matter of spending ten minutes figuring out the easiest/most reliable/fastest way to get past a short series of hard obstacles, rather than most games where you spend ten minutes stumbling, sprinting or brute-forcing through a large number of easy obstacles. If nothing else, they got more bang for the programming buck.

    Of course, what I [i]don’t[/i] like is a boss stuck at the end of a level without a chance to save. Especially when it’s one of those “harder than the whole rest of the level combined” bosses. Ick. Just ick. Megaman and his imitators are especially plagued by it, but it pops up all over. I want a savepoint before a boss, so I can learn to deal without him without running his level ten times. Hell, give me an easy mode with savepoints at the boss’s room and a hard mode without, so I can do it full throttle on my second run through knowing everything. Don’t stick something that WILL kill me the first time after a level of stuff that isn’t likely to.

    That and sticking this in anything that is primarily a puzzle game with some action elements (or even without). Like my big contribution to the “bad” list, The Lost Vikings. Ugh. If any of the three dies you automatically lose the level, the game steadily increases the level lengths until pretty soon they’re ten minutes or more, and many things kill in one hit (or one TOUCH–there’s spots where you have to have the sheild guy fall down a hole without touching any of the instakill death traps that’ll fry him with just one touch), or can hit three times before you can figure out what to do about it. Not to mention trial and error–how was I supposed to know the jumpy guy was the right one to send down that hole? I couldn’t see the room down there. Having a lot of time and genuinely liking the puzzles themselves, I slogged through to the last level, but I will probably never muster up the patience to do the last level–a combination level+boss that’s a total pain.

    Actually, I just realized I could probably totally find that on youtube and see what happens when you finally beat the bastard. I’m glad I typed this comment.

  41. James says:

    One game I own that falls into this category is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PC Version). I made it to the end fine, but the final battle against Voldemort/Quirrel is a beast. It requires exact timing to beat, something I was just starting to manage when my computer fried and I had to get a new one. I haven’t had the desire to slog my way through it again to see if I can actually ever beat the stupid thing.

  42. Andy says:

    Stuntman: Ignition is a DIAS game. You’re supposed to drive through a scene completing the stunts the director tells you to. You’re only told which stunts to do about a second before it happens, so they’re easy to miss. Miss too many and you have to do the scene again, and again as each time you progress slightly further through the scene. It seems an odd way to shoot a movie. Some of the stunts look expensive to be continually reshooting. When you do complete the scene, you’re given 2 stars out of 5, as an encouragement to do it again.

    Fortunately there’s an option to run through a whole scene without the scene automatically restarting. I turned that option on quickly.

  43. Anonymous says:

    La-Mulana’s Hell Temple. ’nuff said.

  44. Tom says:

    The “Rise of the Witch-king” expansion pack for “Battle for Middle-earth II” has a mission that I can’t get past. It’s something to do with collecting a certain number of “shards” before the enemy does.

    You can’t build a base or recruit more units, and the enemy constantly attacks you while you’re trying to get the shards. There’s NO WAY I’ll ever be able to beat that mission (I’ve tried different strategies at least two dozen times), and there are no cheat codes to help me get past it, so the game is over for me at that point, and I’ve quit playing.

    Which is a shame, because I really loved the games up to this point. I should see if I can get someone to send me a save game that’s past that mission…

  45. Randolph says:

    Wasteland. Good lord that game was difficult.

  46. Nanoswarm says:

    God of war (the first one)
    DIAS combined with an evil camera made one room impossible: the room with the lever that you pull that opens the gate that lets you get to the box that you need to pull a ways so you could jump on it to reach a ledge. The catch? Pulling the lever also triggers a timer for spikes to come out of the floor to come out and kill you. You know what? I don’t care anymore. If the gods can’t be arsed to give me the ability to fly for 2 seconds, I can’t be arsed to continue.

  47. Freggle says:

    Defenitly Nethack and Slash’Em, as in comment nr 1.

    This is a real geek game about getting down to level 64 or so, and back up to -4 and has about a hundred ways to die, varying from getting killed by a monster, to food poisoning, drowning, and falling rocks. You can’t load a game, only save and continu, that means that when you die on level 63 (or even worse: -3), you have to start all over again. I ‘realized’ (understood how many hours of gameplay were necesseray to have a chance of beating it) this when I reached level 3 for the second time, and I immediately stopped playing the game, and I have no intentions of ever trying again.

    O, and I totally agree with James, I came to the exact same point, and never finished the game either. Perhaps now I could finish it quite easilly, since I had quite a problem with low framerate, because of system specs, but I won’t try. What a waste that would be.

  48. Jachin says:

    Breath Of Fire II for the SNES had a boss fight just after the intro where you are basically one shotted by a huge demon.

    My friend and I always figured that the following screens/text was the GAME OVER message so we always used to reset and try to get around the boss or fight him again.

    Then one day he called me all surprised


    So we could finally play more than the first 10minutes over and over. And life was great.

  49. […] to as a “DIAS game,” with DIAS being short for “Do It Again, Stupid.” Read his rant here, but essentially DIAS gameplay is gameplay that you can only get past by playing and failing […]

  50. Alex says:

    In case this hasn’t been linked before, here is what may very well be the -epitome- of DIAS, “Asshole Mario 2”:


    Granted he’s got infinite lives it seems, but still. Suddenly that last mission in San Andreas looks doable, don’t it? O_o

  51. henebry says:

    I really agree with your criterion, with the odd exception of abstract games like GooBall, where you’re not really playing a character and where you’re not involved in any social interactions. The challenges are purely physical, due to geometry, not “happenstance” obstacles like cars that cut in front of you. In this situation, repeating the level doesn’t confront you with the Groundhog Day unreality of reliving the same cutscene and the same weird sequence of events.

  52. kmc says:

    so, it’s not a DIAS game, but mmos are sometimes plagued by those types of quests, and it’s always annoying. last night i was attempting my lvl 15 loremaster quest on LOTRO, where i have to go by myself into a room (no fellowship for this one) and find the right bookshelf before goblins break in. you have about 15 seconds, and when i walked into the room i wanted to cry. there were about 40 bookshelves, each of which takes 2-3 seconds to search. you have to know which one it is before you go in. i’ll go on the forums and do the research, but it’s just frustrating that, in order to finish this _solo_ quest, you have to go on a different site and have a big discussion about it. you know?
    my boyfriend likes trackmania nations forever, and he had a similar problem while i was complaining about mine. there’s a level where you have a couple little curves and then a turbo strip, where you jump off the ramp and go through a hole, and then over the finish line. BUT. if you go too slow, you miss the hole, and if you go too fast, you keep flying right over the finish line arch (you basically have to cross the line on the ground). the round doesn’t end until you make a valid cross over the finish line, so if you fail, you have to do it again and again until you get it right. _then_ you have to try again to get a medal on it; otherwise, you can’t unlock the next set of tracks! what fun is that??

  53. Joshua says:

    KMC, that quest *is* frustrating. However, you’re supposed to be able to get by it not by finding the book quickly, or by killing all the goblins, but by *stunning* the goblins continually with blinding flash while you search all the bookcases.

    For my input, I’ll bring up the gold-box games for D&D from the early 90’s, made by SSI. Especially anytime you’re fighting creatures with poison or other insta-kill attacks. Monster Attacks: Hit! Save Vs.X. Fail! Your character dies. Reload! I remember a fight with about half a dozen wyverns in Curse of the Azure Bonds that was like that.

  54. […] Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » Do it again, stupid – I can't stand these DIAS types of games. I've dabbled in Tony Hawk, but only when I can beat levels on the first or second try, or when I can make my character fall in fun ways. Shamus perfectly explains why these games annoy the hell out of me. […]

  55. Martin says:

    Call of Duty 4, Veteran level, Television Station map. It took me about 2 days to get through this, by pure trial and error.

  56. Demexii says:

    What games don’t have this type of thing? Even Super Mario Bros. had levels and if you died you had to restart from the beginning. It is like the foundation of the gaming world. Some games are more lenient on how you can solve the problem (Metal Gear Solid 2 was pretty good. You could be stealthy or just blast everyone you saw. Where as Splinter Cell felt like a trial and error thing on how can I get past those two guards). But games need to have this type of thing. If people could beat it in one run that would be kind of boring. Might be fun as a movie but as a game that is pretty lame.

  57. Christian Groff says:

    Anything by Naughty Dog or Insomniac. The Spyro games(I still can’t beat that freaking Yeti snowboard race in the bonus world!), Banjo-Tooie(curse you, Witchyworld UFO mission!) and the Ratchet and Clank series(I got bored halfway through Up Your Arsenal and sold it).

  58. Chris Arndt says:

    That reminds me!

    Spider-Man 2 has those with its Mary Jane and photographer missions….
    and the pizza box missions are especially punishing.

    The thing that pisses me off the most is… how the blazing hell is it that I have only two or three minutes to cross half the dang city because my girlfriend is that impatient and if I get there two seconds too late I lose and miss the date?

    Screw her!

  59. Stu says:

    Actually, I think GTA handles the failed mission thing fairly sensibly… particularly in GTA:san andreas. It has a ‘pseudo-branching storyline’ so at most points there are a choice of missions. If I fail a motorbike chase because I keep falling off, well, I’ll do a different mission in the meantime, train up bikes a bit and come back to the failed mission. I don’t lose 3 hours playtime by failing a mission. (of course the frustrating aspects of GTA are things like getting stuck in a pile up, only to have the police simply walk up to the car: busted!)

    I think the joy I get from GTA comes from a life thus far spent watching action movies, and now I can be the guy in the car chase, either running or chasing – the hollywood physics that GTA contains has kept me entertained.

    I’m much more grumbly towards games like Castlevania or Resident Evil (original – 3 ish) where you are limited in where and when you can save, and very likely to die often. Now it’s a case of, do it again but we’re not letting you keep any items you found in the meantime. You have no other options but this current task, so get better and do it. I do love the setting and style of Castlevania and Resident Evil – but darn they sure do put me in a bad mood when that hour goes down the drain!

    • maninahat says:

      GTA is a horrible perpetrator in some cases. The very worst I remember is from GTA4 bank heist. It goes like this:
      1) It starts with a tedious five minute drive.
      2) Then you have a massive shoot out in which at any point, you can accidentally auto-aim at one of your own men instead of the hundreds of cops, killing them and forcing you to start over from the beginning.
      3) You flee into a subway, in which you can accidentally get instakilled by a subway train whilst pushing past your idiot NPC friends, forcing you to start over from the beginning.
      4) After escaping the subway, you have to speed back home whilst being pursued by cops. Dying here will force you to start over from the beginning.
      5) If you finally make it home, only then will the game inform you that you are supposed to have escaped the cops first (which isn’t always a requirement in missions). If your car has been too beaten up from all the oncoming gun fire, catches fire, explodes, and kills your idiot NPC team mates, you are forced to start over from the beginning.

      I probably lost 45 minutes to that bloody idiot mission and its DIAS gameplay. THe one thing I appreciate about GTA5, more than anything else, is that it introduces regular, sensibly placed checkpoints. A failure usually only means a minute or so of replay at the worst.

  60. […] and my poor timing. Save States greatly cut down on my irritation with games that have a Do it again, stupid style of play. Save States are the only reason I was able to finish Super Mario Bros. 3. Whenever […]

  61. Rimshot says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Tomb Raider games. I enjoy them, but get frustrated as hell at some of the repetitiveness. This was especially bad in Angel of Darkness, where there were a number of times where all you did was watch a cut scene and note the ‘clue’ of what control you should have pressed to not die. Took a ridiculous amount of repetition, sometimes, to finally get through and resume play. And don’t get me started on some of the boss fights…

  62. […] open-world game franchise on the market regularly chooses to force its missions upon you in the most linear and restrictive way. If Rockstar want to send you on a car chase, they will damn well make sure you can do nothing to […]

  63. Kizer says:

    I have to agree with Brickman: The Lost Vikings and Norse By Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings are two of the most annoying DIAS games I’ve ever played. Don’t get me wrong, I love the games. However, the DIAS aspects of some levels have annoyed me greatly enough at times that I put the game down and don’t touch it for months years. I’ve had NbN for almost 11 years now, I still haven’t beaten it. I’m stuck somewhere in the last few levels. Similarly, I’ve had The Lost Vikings for two years, and I’m stuck on a level that sounds exactly like the one Brickman describes: ten minutes long and numerous insta-death traps. I’ve played the level so many times that I have the timing for certain parts of the level down to the millisecond in my head, yet there’s always something that kills me towards the end, usually me holding a button down just a little too long. After forty-eight (at least) playthroughs, shouldn’t I be able to just finish the level? I know exactly how to do it, I just haven’t been able to do it in one sitting yet . . . >.<

1 2 3

6 Trackbacks

  1. By Kaedrin Weblog on Thursday May 25, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    Pitfall II: Lost Caverns…

    Without a doubt, the greatest game ever made for the Atari 2600 was Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. A review and lots of screenshots of the game….

  2. By Kaedrin Weblog on Sunday Jul 16, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    God of War…

    For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing the PS2 game God of War. It’s quite good, though I’m not……

  3. […] to as a “DIAS game,” with DIAS being short for “Do It Again, Stupid.” Read his rant here, but essentially DIAS gameplay is gameplay that you can only get past by playing and failing […]

  4. By A Nerd’s Haven / Tastee (del.icio.us) links! on Thursday May 1, 2008 at 6:33 am

    […] Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » Do it again, stupid – I can't stand these DIAS types of games. I've dabbled in Tony Hawk, but only when I can beat levels on the first or second try, or when I can make my character fall in fun ways. Shamus perfectly explains why these games annoy the hell out of me. […]

  5. […] and my poor timing. Save States greatly cut down on my irritation with games that have a Do it again, stupid style of play. Save States are the only reason I was able to finish Super Mario Bros. 3. Whenever […]

  6. By Narcissism Incorporated » Responsible for Your Own Fun on Friday May 23, 2008 at 4:33 am

    […] open-world game franchise on the market regularly chooses to force its missions upon you in the most linear and restrictive way. If Rockstar want to send you on a car chase, they will damn well make sure you can do nothing to […]

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>