Lives and continues have no place in games post-SNES/Genesis

Jun 26, 2008
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Lives and continues definitely have a place in some games/genres. I've been replaying R-Type Delta lately. The game is hard as balls (and awesome) but wouldn't work properly with unlimited lives or continues. You'd blow through all the content too quickly. As is, you need to learn the levels and claw your way to the end. It adds replayability to a relatively short game. This is how shmups should be, and works perfectly for arcadey action games.

But I agree there is no place for lives/continues in a lot of modern games.
 
Jan 27, 2005
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Eh... I think Nintendo in particular uses the lives system poorly in their Mario games (because it's too easy to get extra lives) and, in that example, it does feel archaic and pointless.

But though lives/continues systems are a holdover from quarter-munching arcade gaming, I don't agree they need to disappear. They're just another way (when properly implemented) of creating challenge.

Reminds me of an old, old thread I remember posting in years ago. Someone was saying random battles in RPGs needed to disappear because the random battle system only existed to simulate encountering roaming bands of enemies on hardware that couldn't keep track of numerous enemy groups. Our something like that.

Even aside from the questionable assertion about the purpose of random battles, there's still no point to the argument. Game dedign choices either work or they don't to create enjoyable games. Even if you hate random battles personally, enough people are fine with them to keep using them in some RPGs.

TL;DR version: there's no such thing as an objectively obsolete type of game design if that design continues to work in achieving the goals of the game's designers.
 
Sep 9, 2012
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Bayonetta is definitely less tense. None of the games in that genre are really arcade-level intense or anything, but Bayonetta is more relaxed than DMC due in part to the more casual retry structure. "Similar" doesn't fit here.
Bayonetta...casual. Yeah, I have seen it all in NeoGaf.

I was there when lives and continues where the thing that made the game last, I don't need that crap anymore in my games. I'm not stuck with the same game for months and months the amount of game available is no where near at the megadrive days.
 
Apr 9, 2011
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Here's what you should do in DMC3. Acquire lots of continue gems or whatever they are called, and stockpile them. Get to a boss, feel free to use them so you can keep restarting right at the boss. Once you beat the boss, DO NOT SAVE, since you lost all those continue gems.

Now, reset and get back to the boss and beat him without using any gems(since you know his pattern now). Rinse and repeat.

Note this is for vanilla DMC3, I think DMC3 special edition changed the save system.

Bayonetta is more relaxed. I'm not sure you can say that with a straight face.
You're misrepresenting his post. The save structure does make things more relaxed.
 
Jul 27, 2013
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It's hardly "punishment" if the replayed sections are enjoyable.

There is no question in my mind that a player restarting an arcade game upon game over will be far, far better at a game than a player that is trying to learn a game by repeatedly credit-feeding it.
Yes! Learn the joys of 1CC!
 
Nov 9, 2009
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Bayonetta is more relaxed. I'm not sure you can say that with a straight face.
You get punished less if you die, so yeah, of course it is. Bayonetta is the kind of game where the challenge is not in beating the game, but in mastering it, so it's definitely accurate to say that the game is easier to complete than any of the DMC games.

I think it's pretty much fine in Bayonetta (although I would prefer a more punishing retry structure), but I think not having lives took away from Metal Gear Rising, and it sounds like Wonderful 101's retry structure is forgiving to the point that you could beat the hardest difficulty by rolling your face over the controller. I think Platinum's games would benefit from more strict retry structures.

I was there when lives and continues where the thing that made the game last, I don't need that crap anymore in my games. I'm not stuck with the same game for months and months the amount of game available is no where near at the megadrive days.
So because there are more games, we don't need to make them last anymore. Got it.
 
Jan 17, 2006
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Lives and continues are slowly becoming a bad thing?
This makes me an extremely sad panda.
I love the hell out of Maximo due to the live/continue structure it presented.

I wished to God that the Rayman games gave you an "old school" option where lives really matter. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Donkey Kong Country was one of the first games that no longer gave a shit about lives or continues and basically just threw them at you.
 
Dec 17, 2007
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I wished to God that the Rayman games gave you an "old school" option where lives really matter. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Donkey Kong Country was one of the first games that no longer gave a shit about lives or continues and basically just threw them at you.
Super Mario World is just about as guilty. Not even as challenging as DKC either.
 
Jan 5, 2009
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I don't see the problem with lives and continues at all. As long as games don't have bs ways of killing the player, then you'll eventually finish the game when you learn to watch for traps and hone your reflexes to get further and further in the game.
 

DjangoReinhardt

Thinks he should have been the one to kill Batman's parents.
Jun 7, 2004
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Continues and lives were the original versions of the "game design based on a business model" practice that so many people criticize today in F2P games. It's exceedingly rare that I have seen them used in a way that suggests they were incorporated for any reason other than sheer inertia.
 
And so, the entitled generation has spoke.

I remember an "article" a few years back on how by paying for the game, you where entitled to access at will all the s in it from the beginning, be it guns, cars or even the ending. Who knew that kind of mentality would be not only prominent, but direct the changes in the "gaming" industry.
And with God as my witness, it will die in a pool of its own blood upon the final threshold of the new generation. Its reign of tyrrany is over!
 
Feb 2, 2008
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Hey guys, get a load of the OP. He thinks limited lives/continues are antiquated. What a scrub-ass loser he must be. Hey OP, why don't you leave the real games to the tough real-ass alpha men of this thread and go back to your weaksauce, hand-holdy games with unlimited continues.

Just look at these babby games, amiright?
 
Jun 6, 2012
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Hey guys, get a load of the OP. He thinks limited lives/continues are antiquated. What a scrub-ass loser he must be. Hey OP, why don't you leave the real games to the tough real-ass alpha men of this thread and go back to your weaksauce, hand-holdy games with unlimited continues.





Just look at these babby games, amiright?
You're missing the point. A lot of games don't need lives and continues: but to say they're obselete is something else. Megaman games without lives would be fucking stupid, just as an example.
 
Feb 2, 2008
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You're missing the point. A lot of games don't need lives and continues: but to say they're obselete is something else. Megaman games without lives would be fucking stupid, just as an example.
Man, if there is ever an example of a game that is made artificially difficult/longer by the lives system, it's Megaman. Let's breakdown the usual experience of going through a Megaman level, shall we? You got three lives. First you got to get through the level to the robot master. You'll probably lose a life along the way, that's fine. Second life you make it to the robot master. You let loose with your special weapon, but your health is low from fighting through the preceding level and the robot master ends up beating you. Okay, third and final life, but now you're at full health and at the robot master. But wait! The special weapon you used up in your second life is still gone, so you're left with just your megabuster and the robot master ends up beating you.

Game Over, but you hit Continue and give it a second shot. You make it through the level with a tolerance of losing one life. Get to the robot master wounded, sacrifice that life without using your special weapons. Okay, now your at the robot master with full health and full weapons. Now it's go time. You beat him! Hurray! Now start the next level with just your one remaining life. And by that I mean suicide on a spike so you can start fresh again with three lives.

And let's be honest, we've all done this our first time through a Megaman game.
 
Aug 12, 2007
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Utter nonsense.

What you meant to say was, "Most developers suck at incorporating lives and continues into game design. They've all gone narrative crazy."
 
Jun 6, 2004
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Lives and continues are slowly becoming a bad thing?
This makes me an extremely sad panda.
I love the hell out of Maximo due to the live/continue structure it presented.

I wished to God that the Rayman games gave you an "old school" option where lives really matter. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think Donkey Kong Country was one of the first games that no longer gave a shit about lives or continues and basically just threw them at you.
Maximo took the save system and just put it on steroids for no reason.

A similar game that I think had the ideal save system for action games was the first God Of War.

You spawn right near a multideath encounter, but it had specific save points in the level. Want to make it difficult make the save points fewer and far between.

As it is now everytime this fucking demon-bird kills me I have to run down the steps, fight the lizard people and get the gauntlets before getting another crack at him.

Of course that's just my opinion.
 
May 18, 2005
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If you dread replaying sections of the game you've already completed because you died/lost all your lives, then the game you're playing sucks.

This is the real issue at hand, obfuscating it into a relatively meaningless "lives are awesome/lives suck" debate serves no one.
 
Jul 9, 2007
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If you dread replaying sections of the game you've already completed because you died/lost all your lives, then the game you're playing sucks.

This is the real issue at hand, obfuscating it into a relatively meaningless "lives are awesome/lives suck" debate serves no one.
Heh. Good point. "But I don't want to replay the game. This game sucks! I'm only in it for the juvenile, insipid, yet totally badass story!"
 
May 18, 2005
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Hey guys, get a load of the OP. He thinks limited lives/continues are antiquated. What a scrub-ass loser he must be. Hey OP, why don't you leave the real games to the tough real-ass alpha men of this thread and go back to your weaksauce, hand-holdy games with unlimited continues.





Just look at these babby games, amiright?
Super Meat Boy is an easy game.

E: it's not even strictly about lives or continues either. Certainly few people think that Metroid-style save points scattered around a persistent world necessarily makes those games babby mode easy, even though they are technically "infinite continues". The entire debate is framed around how much you progress you lose upon failure, and as with every other game design element, it's a balancing act that varies depending on the game in question.
 
May 13, 2013
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This is often stated, and is not true at all.

You get better through trying, not through punishment.

It is easily possible to have a failure in a game without punishment, allowing something to be retried until you get it right, without making you lose x amount of time in progress. That is bad game design. It is also not helpful to a player that is failing.

Edit: I'll expand on this.

Picking door locks. Many games have this mechanic in various forms, that generally involve playing with an analogue stick and lining things up or turning them. Failure will result in failure of that task only, it doesn't move you down three hallways and a bunch of encounters. Having the same mechanic with in game death is perfectly fine, and causes minimum stress to the player, meaning it is more fun. There is no excuse to have a game that punishes a player in place of teaching them.
You are less likely to try harder if there are minimal risks
 

GuardianE

Santa May Claus
Aug 23, 2005
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The OP makes my head hurt.


Hey guys, get a load of the OP. He thinks limited lives/continues are antiquated. What a scrub-ass loser he must be. Hey OP, why don't you leave the real games to the tough real-ass alpha men of this thread and go back to your weaksauce, hand-holdy games with unlimited continues.

Just look at these babby games, amiright?
Games can be built around having unlimited continues just as games can be built around having a lives/continues structure.
 
Apr 3, 2009
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Lives and continues make most games better, not worse.

Making a difficult game, and structuring it around a limited lives system forces the player to learn and master the game. The truly great ones are worth learning inside and out.

A lot of games have shallow mechanics that can't hold up to repetition though.
 
Feb 2, 2008
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it's not even strictly about lives or continues either. Certainly few people think that Metroid-style save points scattered around a persistent world necessarily makes those games babby mode easy, even though they are technically "infinite continues". The entire debate is framed around how much you progress you lose upon failure, and as with every other game design element, it's a balancing act that varies depending on the game in question.
I think the live/continues thing deserves its own discussion because regardless if the game has instant respawns or scattered save points, the extra layer of "if you fail X number of times, it's back to the title screen with you", is arbitrary more of a hassle than anything. Going back to Megaman, you have the normal punishment for losing a life, which is go back to the start of the level, mid-level checkpoint, or boss gate, depending on how far you made it before you died. But what happens when you add the extra layer of only three retries? Then you get a situation where if you die before you make it to the mid-level checkpoint, you might as well reset the game and start the level over with three lives instead of just two remaining. When the gameplay deems that the best course of action is for you to ram your character into a facefull of spikes to reset the arbitrary death limit counter, it help no one.
 
May 18, 2005
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I think the live/continues thing deserves its own discussion because regardless if the game has instant respawns or scattered save points, the extra layer of "if you fail X number of times, it's back to the title screen with you", is arbitrary more of a hassle than anything. Going back to Megaman, you have the normal punishment for losing a life, which is go back to the start of the level, mid-level checkpoint, or boss gate, depending on how far you made it before you died. But what happens when you add the extra layer of only three retries? Then you get a situation where if you die before you make it to the mid-level checkpoint, you might as well reset the game and start the level over with three lives instead of just two remaining. When the gameplay deems that the best course of action is for you to ram your character into a facefull of spikes to reset the arbitrary death limit counter, it help no one.
See that's a legitimate logical problem with the lives system that I'm surprised few games have bothered to address. The correct answer is to reset your lives to a minimum amount if you're below that threshold when you begin a new stage.

We fix the specific problem that a MM-style lives system presents rather than declaring the entire system broken. Doesn't that make more sense?
 
Jan 29, 2012
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I can't help but agree with the OP. Ever since I first started playing games on the Genesis and onwards I always loathed lives and continues or incredibly spaced out save points in RPGs and what have you. It's why stuff like MAME and these re-releases of older games with credit buttons and save states are goddamn godsends.
 
Feb 10, 2010
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it does seem that limited lives and checkpoints/save points are relics from gaming past.

i just 100% completed super mario 3D land, and i have 576 lives remaining. does that really seem necessary?

but at the same time, i do feel like unlimited respawns with no penalties make it way too easy. it offers no challenge! however, i don't miss backtracking for 45 minutes after a boss kicked my ass in an old RPG, thus having to repeat a large chunk of tedious gameplay.
 
Jun 26, 2008
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Super Meat Boy is an easy game.

E: it's not even strictly about lives or continues either. Certainly few people think that Metroid-style save points scattered around a persistent world necessarily makes those games babby mode easy, even though they are technically "infinite continues". The entire debate is framed around how much you progress you lose upon failure, and as with every other game design element, it's a balancing act that varies depending on the game in question.
Super Meat Boy is an easy game? What? No, it isn't. Most people will never see it through despite infinite lives because it demands good reflexes. If you are a little sluggish, it is impossible to finish the game.

The accomplishment of beating many games would be cheapened with infinite continues though. Battletoads, for example, wouldn't be considered the game it is if it had infinite continues.
 
Jun 6, 2012
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Man, if there is ever an example of a game that is made artificially difficult/longer by the lives system, it's Megaman. Let's breakdown the usual experience of going through a Megaman level, shall we? You got three lives. First you got to get through the level to the robot master. You'll probably lose a life along the way, that's fine. Second life you make it to the robot master. You let loose with your special weapon, but your health is low from fighting through the preceding level and the robot master ends up beating you. Okay, third and final life, but now you're at full health and at the robot master. But wait! The special weapon you used up in your second life is still gone, so you're left with just your megabuster and the robot master ends up beating you.

Game Over, but you hit Continue and give it a second shot. You make it through the level with a tolerance of losing one life. Get to the robot master wounded, sacrifice that life without using your special weapons. Okay, now your at the robot master with full health and full weapons. Now it's go time. You beat him! Hurray! Now start the next level with just your one remaining life. And by that I mean suicide on a spike so you can start fresh again with three lives.

And let's be honest, we've all done this our first time through a Megaman game.
What you described is perfect to me? Would you much rather just constantly respawn at the check point with no repurcussions after death. There are games designed with this in mind: Rayman Origins or Ghosts N' Goblins for example (Ok GnG has lives but they're ultimately pointless because even if you gameover you respawn at the check point.)
What these games do is have each segment between a check point be a rigourous obstacle course which you slowly grind away at until you're finally able to beat it. A game like GnG wouldn't work with a traditional game over set up, the same way a game like megaman wouldn't work without it.
Neither is objectively better but for me I prefer the Mega Man approach. The GnG approach is far too harsh and in the end it almost becomes a case of remembering button timings and patterns. Mega man does have some of that but it's never too brutal because that wouldn't make sense under the life system. If you're skilled enough you'll often be able to beat a Mega Man level without having played it before on limited lives. The same cannot be said for the hard levels or Rayman Origins or GnG.
Essentially giving Mega man a Rayman Origins style system would make it ridiculously easy unless you changed the levels to compensate. Doing this though would result in it being a completely different game which wouldn't be objectively better. Lives definitely have their place.
 
Nov 9, 2009
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But what happens when you add the extra layer of only three retries? Then you get a situation where if you die before you make it to the mid-level checkpoint, you might as well reset the game and start the level over with three lives instead of just two remaining. When the gameplay deems that the best course of action is for you to ram your character into a facefull of spikes to reset the arbitrary death limit counter, it help no one.
It isn't the best course of action at all, though. Doing that just means you're throwing away the experience you would have gotten by trying to get as far as you can on each life. It doesn't make to call lives "arbitrary", either. You might as well complain about life bars being arbitrary.

Super Meat Boy is an easy game? What? No, it isn't. Most people will never see it through despite infinite lives because it demands good reflexes. If you are a little sluggish, it is impossible to finish the game.
It kind of is. The game doesn't try that hard to challenge you outside some of the optional stages or extra content; the levels and bosses are way too short and bite-sized for that.
 
Feb 2, 2008
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See that's a legitimate logical problem with the lives system that I'm surprised few games have bothered to address. The correct answer is to reset your lives to a minimum amount if you're below that threshold when you begin a new stage.

We fix the specific problem that a MM-style lives system presents rather than declaring the entire system broken. Doesn't that make more sense?
You can fix that specific problem, but then you run into other specific problems that are systemic of the lives system. In Megaman, your special weapon ammo carries between your lives, which actively discourages the player from using the special weapons except on their last life. The solution to that may be to refill the special weapon ammo between each life, but then aren't we just inching towards the true one-and-done solution of ditching the lives system and just respawning clean from the last checkpoint each time you die?

The main problem with the lives system is you can find yourself in virtual no-win situations well before you actually fail.
 
May 18, 2005
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You can fix that specific problem, but then you run into other specific problems that are systemic of the lives system. In Megaman, your special weapon ammo carries between your lives, which actively discourages the player from using the special weapons except on their last life. The solution to that may be to refill the special weapon ammo between each life, but then aren't we just inching towards the true one-and-done solution of ditching the lives system and just respawning clean from the last checkpoint each time you die?
I don't have a problem with either approach frankly. Special weapon energy is a finite resource that must be rationed, this is implicit in the mechanics and understood by the player, thus they act accordingly. Not to mention that special weapon energy is refillable from enemy drops. Later Mega Man games even made things easier on that front by providing items that refilled your lowest weapon when you pick up a weapons energy without having to switch from your buster. The only time this rationing becomes a "problem" is during the boss fights. This is more of a balance issue though. Rarely do you need the entire special weapon bar to defeat a boss with its weakness, so you have some latitude for failing. And if you run out of weapons energy? Well, that's why I learn to buster duel.

The main problem with the lives system is you can find yourself in virtual no-win situations well before you actually fail.
This is a balance problem, not a lives/continues problem. It doesn't even apply to Mega Man because nearly every stage in every one of those games is designed to be beatable with just the buster. The only spot in a Mega Man game I can think of where your virtual no-win situation applies is the second half of the Needle Man doc robot stage, where if you die partway through the long rush jet segment you'll never have enough energy (or pickups) to get across safely, forcing you to game over. Not coincidentally, this is one of my least favorite levels in the entire franchise. But again, that's not a problem with the lives system. The level was simply not well designed.
 
Jan 15, 2013
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My problem with lives & continues is when you run into a brick wall boss fight or challenge that is proceeded by:
A) a series of easy fights
or
B) a long bit of exploration
Basically, when you have to work to get back to the thing that's actually keeping you from progressing. ESPECIALLY, when said boss/challenge is disproportionately difficult as opposed to the content before it. And that's just pretty lame.
 
Feb 2, 2008
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This is a balance problem, not a lives/continues problem.
No, it's a live/continues problem because at the most basic level, any lives system where your resources depleted carries over to your next life, then each time your start over you're retrying a situation where you died before, but this time with less. It's resource decay. You are fighting at a greater and greater disadvantage each time your retry. Yes you might recover your lost resources, like with random Megaman drops. Might. But if you have to take time to farm random drops just to get back to your power level before you died, well that's just not fun. See NES Metroid.

Even if you don't lose a resource like special weapon ammo in a specific game, the lives themselves are a resource that degrades. And I think games should be of the mantra "If at first you don't succeed, try try again.". Not "If at first you don't succeed, try and few more times then you're done".
 
Jun 3, 2013
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I'll agree that a lives system that results in having to start the whole game over has little place in games (there are always exceptions). I think games should be punishing, so there is a sense of reward when you make it through. My only gripe is when a game using the lives/continues system has a design flaw.
 

spineduke

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Apr 19, 2007
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I love the risk of playing with limited lives - it gets the adrenaline running like nothing else. The sorry state of modern game design rarely achieves anything close to it. If you feel like ballsing up, try some games with roguelike design (FTL, Spelunky, Isaac) or games that legitimately punish you for failure (MH, Dark Souls)
 
Nov 9, 2009
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No, it's a live/continues problem because at the most basic level, any lives system where your resources depleted carries over to your next life, then each time your start over you're retrying a situation where you died before, but this time with less. It's resource decay. You are fighting at a greater and greater disadvantage each time your retry. Yes you might recover your lost resources, like with random Megaman drops.

Might.
Yeah, but that's just part of the game. You almost never need extra weapons to progress; outside of a few situations you can beat every game in the series with only the buster. If you don't die, then you won't experience that resource decay. That is your punishment for dying.

The situations where you need items to progress and where the game gives you no way to refill your weapon energy are pretty annoying, yes, but that's more on the level design than on the lives system.