# Mirror's Black Book of SS13 Design Failures
this is like 40% done, mostly unedited and the large majority of it was written over the span of like one evening. so just take that into account. i guess it was getting shared a bit so whoops sorry
*For reference: https://github.com/tgstation/tgstation*
The purpose of this document is to serve as a repository of common antipatterns in SS13 design and display prominent examples of such patterns. By explaining my motivations, this document has already done the bare minimum better than some major SS13 features.
In over 18 years, SS13 has failed to live up to its potential in any way. Though there are promising gameplay elements and features created for the main codebases, as well as exciting forks and gimmick servers, there are still an overwhelming number of people (players and coders included) that fundamentally misunderstand the basic ways that games like this should be designed (and frankly how games should be designed in general).
Each antipattern will have a basic explanation, an example of a feature that fails, and analysis that attempts to understand how it can be avoided.
One pattern is not necessarily completely disconnected from any other. Often times they will go hand in hand and complement eachother, but the delineation here is that you can generally have a feature that fails at one of these but not any other.
"Nerdbait" refers to features whose main hook and persuasive tactic seems to be "well, it's cool!".
Its fun! It's got funny gadgets! It's Complex :tm:! We've even got some trite `pick(WH40K, Factorio, Dwarf Fortress)` references or some shit in here! Don't you just want to play around with it for half a round before being immediately burnt out? What does it bring to the game positively, you ask? I'm not sure, but it makes me rock hard just thinking about how *cool* it is.
It's a fantastic tactic! Genuinely! Loser nerds make up the primary audience of SS13 (that's me), and people love to talk about how *deep* and *complex* and *interesting* the game is. Anything that appeals to that primal desire is bound to get clicks, even if it's fundamentally worthless as a mechanic. I've been tricked one too many times by the siren's song of Complexity and this angers me greatly.
The fundamental issue with Nerdbait is that it fails to interrogate itself about what *actually* makes it interesting, and this is mostly because the authors of the feature have failed to understand what makes SS13 interesting to begin with.
Our lucky winner here is **[Plumbing](https://tgstation13.org/wiki/Guide_to_plumbing#Synthesizer)**, which fills me with an uncontrollable rage to a degree that is almost unexplainable and might be unhealthy. There are so many issues with it that I could damn near use it as an example for every single antipattern here but I'll restrain myself.
The main draw of plumbing is to create little miniature chem factories that pump out medicines and toxins or whatever using some little pipes and machines attached together. It's trying to be Factorio (hey, didn't I mention that before?) for babies.
Here's your fundamental strategy for interrogating and dismantling Nerdbait: simply ask '*why?*' Why on earth does this exist? What problem is it trying to solve? Did chemistry have an issue where they weren't able to click buttons fast enough, and so we need an automated system to do it for them? How does this make anybody happy? Why does it use up so much goddamn space? *Don't you think there might be some balance or even performance considerations when you have machines that can infinitely pump out any base chemical*?
None of these questions are answered, and frankly none were even really considered! That is the essence of Nerdbait. Plumbing was added simply because it makes nerds go "oh wow, just like my favorite games, so cool".
## Singleplayer Syndrome
*alternative title: No WiFi, Talk To Eachother, Pretend Its 1993*
Space Station 13 is a multiplayer social intrigue game focused on paranoia where you try to do your job on a space station. This is what everyone knows the game as, right? So why do people treat it like it's *not fucking multiplayer?*
It's baffling how often large features and intricate design documents are created that seemingly ignore the fact that more than one person is on a server at any given time. Everyone has heard amazing stories from SS13 games, right? No one has ever told an intriguing story about how they spawned in, did their job alone, and then logged off without talking to anyone, and yet this seems to be how many gameplay elements are designed.
Make your players *talk* to people! Make them interact with other people, other departments! Make them cooperate, make them fight amongst themselves!
What sets SS13 apart from many other games like it is that it's multiplayer. Getting a bunch of silly people together, all with conflicting or aligning incentives and objectives and desires, and then sticking them in an immersive roleplay setting with deep gameplay mechanics? *That* is what SS13 is about, and that is how true complexity and intrigue is generated. Not considering this is frankly an abject failure.
*Oh, **Lavaland.*** How I hate you and love you! But mostly hate.
Mining on most servers is typically a very good (bad) example of singleplayer gameplay. Lavaland is the absolute extreme example, considering the fact that it's literally an entirely different Z-level from the main station.
You're so disconnected from other players as a shaft miner that it's not uncommon to literally never see another player except for your fellow miners, and you might not even talk to them.
The only interaction mining has with the station is when they drop off their ores (and then immediately return to lavaland), and when powergaming miners that minmaxed megafauna get to show off their loot on the emergency shuttle and during EORG. To put it lightly, this is *fucking lame!*
Back when I used to play /tg/, I would literally play on a test server to do mining stuff and megafauna killing because playing on the actual servers meant there was a chance I wouldn't roll miner.
And yet--I played it anyway! For whatever reason, a lot of people find Lavaland fun (despite the insanely dumb AI, deterministic rewards, basic gameplay...) Frankly, I think this says more about the rest of the game than Lavaland.
## Wannabe Sandbox
A simultaneous advantage and disadvantage to the way SS13 is developed is that it's essentially run by the same people playing it. This is both a fantastic thing, as it pushes people to code that may not have otherwise and encourages participation in a more democratic way, but it also sucks balls because sometimes people just genuinely don't know what's best for them. Yes, I'm an ivory tower coder like that. A great example of this is the Sandbox problem.
[Okay listen Yahtzee's stuff hasn't aged that well but he puts it well here.](https://youtu.be/4wgQvij3rVE?t=255)
Players want to make it as easy as possible for themselves. I don't blame them, really! But at some point you have to accept that you're designing a multiplayer videogame, and not a sandbox. There are going to be tradeoffs to doing things. Things are going to take time and effort, and you might not always be able to do it in a round! That's fine!
People treat it like gospel that everything needs to be as easy as possible, everything needs to always *be* possible, and tedium is to be avoided at all costs, even if it means you have absolutely nothing to do. I would argue that tedium and annoyance are very good things indeed when used correctly! They function as incentives; for example, to encourage people to find a better way to do something, to discourage it from being done unless absolutely necessary, or to create viable alternatives that may be slightly worse but are less tedious.
If everything is easy and you can do it all immediately, then it's not actually interesting or fulfilling at all, and you've likely got barely anything to do. I've genuinely heard people make the argument that the station's power engine should be set up automatically at roundstart--because "engineers have to do it anyway and it's annoying". Are you serious? Why are you even playing?
This is gonna be a twofold one: this is sorta about chemistry in general, but it's primarily about the **chem dispenser** and **chemistry macros**.
The chem dispenser is absolutely terrible design. Yes, there is an 'energy' meter that technically restricts how much you can do, but it's just a magic machine that dispenses everything you need with no effort or delay. For the love of god, why does it dispense *welding fuel* or *water*? Both of these things are already greatly abundant, and it'd already be more interesting to force chemists to Go Outside and get those themselves. But, no, it needs to be as easy as possible.
Macros are significantly, significantly worse, and I didn't really think it could get much worse. Not only does the chem dispenser make gathering chemicals easy, macros make the literal only actual job of chemistry (pressing buttons) a copy+paste routine. I get that the button pressing is 'tedious' or 'not interesting', but that doesn't mean you need to literally make shareable macros (or recordings, which replaced the text macros) to bandaid the problem. Jesus Christ.
## I'll Tell You Everything
Once you give players some power they'll start going mad for quality of life improvements. And the thing is, QoL isn't even really a bad thing! There's a lot of games that could do with more of it, and sometimes there are great improvements to be made in that direction, especially for a game like SS13. But people also misunderstand what qualifies as QoL to an extreme extent. Heavily modded games, also with lots of player control over gameplay, frequently have this issue as well.
The primary issue is that people want to give themselves as much information as possible, and this is because humans have logistical minds that want to minmax and create efficiency whereever possible. The problem is that this while this is satisfying for the monkey brain, it's not really good gameplay in every case.
Sometimes, it's just better to withhold information, and let people find it out themselves, or give them alternatives that are harder to use. Perhaps... ask someone?
This is maybe a controversial one (or at least an uncommon critique), but I think handheld medical scanners are pretty lame. They give you way too much information for something that's easily (extremely easily!) available at roundstart. Like, it even gives you organ damage and descriptions of *how to treat wounds*! Certain servers like Bay do this better using a separate body scanner that shows more intricate details, which makes a lot more sense.
Why is it a bad thing to give too much information here? A couple reasons:
1. It eliminates the possibility for viable alternatives through research, exploration, etc
2. It makes it way too easy for doctors to determine what the issues are, and exactly how to treat them
Imagine if--gasp--you had to ask the person you're talking to what their issue is?
*"Oh, jeez, you look messed up, what happened?"*
**"I'm bleeding out, I got stabbed in the stomach by Urist McGreyshirt!"**
*"Alright, I'll give you some painkillers and take you to medbay to determine organ damage and administer surgery!"*
I think that's a lot better, frankly, and all that it requires is removing some information.
## Let's All Work Together
## We Need Determinism