Saturday, 25 February 2012

BLOG -- Is There a Point to "Auto Features" in Video Games?

Well, two weeks ago, I had a somewhat lengthy, geeky conversation with a friend about auto features in video games. Some video games (usually ones with a turn-based battle system, but there are other games, too) have an auto feature that when turned on, the game's A.I. will control your character(s) and pretty much "play" some aspect of the game for you.

This conversation came about because of a game I'm currently playing (I will blog about it whenever I finish it). I'm personally not a fan of the game's battle system (though I don't mind it from time to time), but I enjoy seeing the characters interact with each other. I had resolved to just suck it up until I realized that it had an auto battle feature. I turned it on, and haven't agonized over playing another battle since.

Now, my friend also played this game, but stopped very early because he also didn't like the battle system. I told him about the auto battle feature and we went back and forth, discussing the validity of auto features in video games. This blog will cover a few of the pros and cons of auto features in video games (well, whatever we came up with).

My Personal Standing
I will never say that every game should have some kind of auto feature. For many games, it's just not necessary. But there are some games that I think would benefit with an auto feature, if the developers want to keep every aspect intact (even when it sucks). I also believe in this: if there is an auto feature available -- especially an auto battle feature -- the game's A.I. absolutely cannot be as efficient as a real person playing. There has to be some risk involved when using an auto feature. If there isn't any risk involved... then really... what's the point of the developers even creating that part of the game to begin with?

For Auto Features in Video Games
Lack of Time
These days, Time is against me. I have so little free time because of work and other priorities (unfortunately video gaming isn't always on the top of my to-do list these days). With auto features, I can have the game "progressing" while I'm doing other things (like eating and blogging -- yes, I have a game running on auto battles right now). And I'd be able to put my time to really playing the game (like boss battles, battles I want to fight, seeing the story, etc.).

To Experience Nice Stories in Horrible Gameplay
Not every game has that perfect unison of an awesome story and gameplay to match. Often, one outweighs the other. If story outweighs gameplay considerably, then some kind of auto feature would be beneficial -- to at least give a choice to those who would play that game only to see the story.

Remove the "Fluff" From Role-Playing Games [RPGS] (related to Lack of Time)
Need to level-grind and item-farm because the developers made the boss way too difficult, and made some ingredients for something-making (items, weapons, magic, etc.) way too rare (like maybe a drop rate of 0.02% from an enemy that only appears 0.01% of the time)? Unless it's quick and/or fun, I generally find battling enemies for the sole purpose of leveling my characters quite... not fun. For me, leveling up has to be the aftermath of some other objective (like capturing demons/monsters, stealing items, becoming more efficient, etc.). Rare item-farming is just a sad, annoying, frustrating experience. 

Some Games With an Auto Feature:
Auto Battles:
-Persona 1 [PS1/PSP]
-Persona 2: Innocent Sin [PS1/PSP]
-Record of Agarest War Zero [PS3]
-Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey [DS]

Other Auto Features:
-Catherine [PS3] -- You can skip the puzzle stages completely if you've received a gold trophy scoring before.
-Fortune Street [Wii] -- You can have the A.I. take over your character whenever you want (in case you're at a friend's house and you have to go before the match is over)
-iDOLM@STER 2 [PS3] -- You can skip the mini-games and have your idols do all the work in raising their stats and performing in lives/concerts.

Game That I Think Could Have Used an Auto Feature:
Magna Carta: Tears of Blood [PS2] -- This game... I hear it has a great story. I've tried playing it years ago. 60 hours in, I find out that I'm only about halfway through... The battle system, while unique, is horrible, long, and at times unforgiving. Every enemy battle, even if done perfectly, would take about 5 minutes, and there are a lot of enemies in this game. Seriously, I can go on ranting (I may one day). I may continue the game if I ever feel especially patient and masochistic, even though I don't remember everything that happened in my first 60 hours of gameplay.

Against Auto Features in Video Games
Removes Sense of Accomplishment
There is absolutely no way to have bragging rights to a game with an auto feature. I mean, how would you be able to prove that you achieved whatever you did legitimately, without using the auto feature (depending on the accomplishment)? 

Removes "Playing" Aspect/What's the Point
It is very arguable (and this is the strongest point) that if the game's A.I. is controlling your characters, then you're technically not playing the game at all. That defeats the very purpose of a game: to be played and experienced by somebody.

Some Games That I Think Are Fine Without Auto Features:
-Demon's Souls [PS3]
-Devil Survivor [DS]
-Valkyria Chronicles [PS3]
-Any rhythm game
-Any high-energy beat-em up game

Well... where do you stand? If you have any points for or against auto features in video games that I haven't listed, please let me know. While I lean more towards for auto features, I can also see things from the other side: auto-ing anything is more or less watching a video game, not playing it. But is it worth it? To spend that time to play for the sake of playing, when you may not enjoy certain aspects of it? Especially if those aspects can be done with the game's A.I.? Hmmm...

Oh, yeah. Thanks for reading! XD


  1. About some of your ideas on auto battle... So you say that auto battle are good for games that you have to grind to beat a hard boss. Or games that feature crafting where you have to get hard to obtain items. That's fine, but.... isn't those two things evidence of bad game design? Well, I guess this supports your other idea that auto battle can help a bad game be decent.

  2. About some of your ideas on auto battle... So you say that auto battle are good for games that you have to grind to beat a hard boss. Or games that feature crafting where you have to get hard to obtain items. That's fine, but.... isn't those two things evidence of bad game design? Well, I guess this supports your other idea that auto battle can help a bad game be decent.

  3. This is like, my third time writing this cause for some reason I can't post any comments on this darn thing... Grrr... One more try.

    *ahem* About your argument that auto battles are good for games that feature grinding or craft item collecting... Well, if the two become excessive, then doesn't it mean that the game was badly designed? If that's the case, then I guess your other comment about auto features making bad games playable makes sense but it's still... well... bad games....

    This reply better get published this time...

  4. Yes it worked! Can't stand the fact that the site things I'm a robot. Grrr. Wait... I've always wanted to be a robot. A transformable one at that.

  5. That's weird... my old comment got erased....

    1. Thanks for being the first one to comment on my blog! :D And sorry that your comments kept getting erased (I did nothing!).

      So... in response to your comments... I think it's up to the individual if level-grinding and material/crafting/item-mining makes for a badly designed game. I know some people who enjoy that kind of excessive grind (not me anymore unless it's fun).

      I think having auto-battles as an option for level-grindy games would be great -- just so people have a choice on how to play the game.