Read the previous post if you haven’t read it yet:
Why I hate upgrade systems but love Resident Evil 4

I forgot to mention another reason I hate upgrade systems these days, it creates a false sense of depth. This by itself isn’t a huge issue, but the problem is if the developer falls prey to that notion and perhaps concentrates on UPGRADES UPGRADES UPGRADES rather than a solid base foundation.

You can end up with a game with core mechanics that simply aren’t that good, and even worse if the upgrademania encroaches the gameplay itself. At that point you end up with the type of game where the sole purpose is to upgrade further, and all the gameplay is based around just getting you to upgrade.

Like many things this actually wouldn’t be so bad by itself, but when you take into account the likelihood that the core gameplay sucks and has little depth, the upgrade system ends up being the only worthwhile thing in the game. The gameplay itself isn’t really enjoyable or redeeming in any way, you’re just playing for the arbitrary rewards1. Those rewards are something the developers can crap out every few minutes if they want to…and they do, because many gamers just eat it up and beg for more.

Again I have no problem with the concept of upgrade systems themselves, but these days it seems like a lot of games (cough iPhone) are using them as a crutch for subpar gameplay. Rather than focus on making something genuinely good on it’s own then adding upgrades, it feels like developers are using upgrades in place of good gameplay.

  1. Oh I’ll have another post on these soon enough. It’ll probably be more of a crazy ranting type of post than attempting an intelligent argument though.

Followup post: The most blatant case of false advertising since The Never Ending Story