Poll

Of these which do you think is worst aspect of adventure game puzzzle design.

Mazes
Tile/Jumping/Slider puzzles
Box puzzles
Standard/Cliched puzzle design (Door, key, and newspaper, etc)
Conversation-style puzzles
'Fetch Quests'
Rube Goldberg/MacGyver (unusual use of mundane items to solve puzzles)
Dead-ends
Deaths
no-deaths
Action/Arcade/Mini-games/Combat, etc (hybrids: QFG, Iceman, KQ8, Indiana Jones, Mean Streets, Conquests, Beyond Zork, Dreamfall, Freddy Pharkas, SQ, PQ, Inca, etc).
ingame hint system
no hint system
Linear or chapter-based
Non-linear
Parser (requires typing)
Multi-cursor & menus or verb menus (no typing)
Simplified menus (one or limited  # of cursors)
Dumbed down context sensitive cursors or highlighted items (telling you what can be interacted with, i.e. KQ7/KQ8)
The graphic system influence on puzzles (text or graphics 2-d or 3-d)
Treasure hunts (Zork Trilogy, KQ1, KQ2, etc)
Physics and Environmental puzzles
Useless Items/Red Herrings
CYOA Book-style puzzles (visual novels/interactive movie adventure genres)
Gatekeeping/checkpoint progression (visible or invisible)
Timed puzzles

Author Topic: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!  (Read 38482 times)

Offline Baggins

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Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« on: July 31, 2011, 02:00:50 PM »
Over the years there have been many aspects originating out of early or modern adventure game design, that many people criticize for various reasons. Note: While some of these puzzle designs appear in other genres, most had start as puzzles in early Adventure Games.

What do you think is the worst in your opinion?

I've given a few I remember people complaining about over the years in various magazines, websites, or in forums.

The first three are three types of puzzles that appear in many of the earliest adventure games (including text adventures) that many people claim are worst and most tedius aspects of adventure gaming. They often get in the way of doing the 'trading/item use' style puzzles.

The first is the maze, a place where you can get lost, and not always know what you need to find. Adventure/Collossal Cave is probably the first to have these. Wizard and the Princess, KQ5, QFG2, KQ6, SQ5, LSL2 (or was it three?), Monkey Island, and any number assorted games have this type of 'puzzle'.  KQ8 offers two or three of these in the form of the Dimension of Death, Underground Realm of the Gnomes, and the three levels of the Temple of the Sun. Zork series is generally remembered for the number of mazes thrown at the player. There are different types of mazes, including one screen mazes like the mountain caves/cliffs in KQ3, and the tentacle plant in SQ3.

The second is the tile puzzle (ala KQ6, Torin's Passage, Return to Zork, Gabriel Knight 3, Fate of Atlantis, Last Crusade, and KQ8): These often include jumping puzzles over platforms or move around tiles to find an exit, or some cases a variation on chess or checkers (where you have to defeat an enemy, i.e. the last puzzle of Return to Zork), others involve change all tile colors to another pattern or color. While generally a game had no more than one or two of these puzzles some games like Seventh Guest or KQ8 tried to toss in more than that (at least one of these is almost the same kind of puzzle as a tile jumping puzzle in the lava world of Torin's Passage)! Other variations of this is the sliding picture tile puzzle (EcoQuest 1, Return to Zork), where tiles must be moved around to discover the hidden picture they make up.



The third is the box puzzle, this involves pushing some box, walls, or other objects around a room to find an exit or reach another item. One of the most diabolical versions of this puzzle is in Zork 3 in which the player had to move around not only a maze, but also move walls around, in order to find an exit. All the while there was very few descripive clues to point out if you were doing it correctly (if you failed you had to reset maze). Some may argue that Broken Sword 3 went as far to focus on box and maze puzzles at the expense of other types of classic adventure game puzzle design (item/trading puzzles). KQ8 is also known for tossing 2-3 of these puzzles in a couple of areas of the game (one for example is the picture of the Mask in the Temple of the Sun).

Just for the sake of pointing out how some of these puzzle designs may overlap, I point out a puzzle in the Forest Temple in OOT, that is sort of a combination of box puzzle, and slider/title puzzles, with a ghost image, that resets after several seconds. The basic aspect of this puzzle is very similar to the Mask box/picture puzzle in KQ8.

The Cliches of Adventure Game Design. I use the example of the Door, Key, and Newspaper. For anyone who has played adventure games, this is probably THE most cliched puzzle in any adventure game... You might remember it such games as Hugo's House of Horrors, and a variation of it appears in Back to the Future! In worst situations this might even lead to a dead end, if you push the key before using the newspaper! Can you think of any other over-used puzzle sequences found through many adventure games?

Conversation-style puzzles. This is largely a more well known aspect of non-sierra games, such as Lucasarts. The more advanced forms of this kind of puzzle involves conversation menus, and choosing correct choices during a conversation while attempting to avoid doing anything that would make them angry, try to stop you, etc. They do appear in a few Sierra games such as the Gabriel Knight series, and some of the early Police Quest games, and Quest for Glory (but are generally pretty rare). These are very common in detective adventure games, where some kind of interrogation method is needed in the gameplay. They can sometimes include a visual aspect, like the classic hand puzzle in Monkey Island 2. Note that parser system games sometimes offered more elaborate conversation-style puzzles (without the menu) requring the player to think extra hard about what to ask characters. In the most primitive form of this puzzle (usually in games with cursors and icons) the player may receive points for simply talking to a character and learning about something they need to get (or need to do), or someone else they need to talk to (I.e. in KQ6 there is a chain to speak to  Ali to Hassan to hakim to get the magic map). The latter example can fit not only into a conversation-puzzle chain, but also ties into into a type of fetch quest. For another example of conversation style puzzles, see the many examples in GK3 which involve specific missible cutscenes that are required to get full points in the game, and truly solve the mystery. Many of these cutscenes and events are combined with the complicated menu-based conversation puzzles (so if the wrong choice is made the player might not get all the points, or solve the problem completely). Perhaps puzzles that require you to read a letter (but which turn into a more or less useless item afterwards) may be considered a type of 'communication' quest.

'Fetch quest' puzzles are generally one of the most common puzzle types in adventure games. They are usually the b****** offspring of the primitive form of the conversation puzzle and the more advanced versions of the item use/trading puzzles. These puzzles usually being told or reading about something you need to get. In worst case scenario told specifically were to go to get it. Most of KQ3 for example is made up of finding spell ingredients mentioned in the manual, and then using the spells in ways and locations described in the manual. On the other hand some of the most elaborate item trading sequences involve a sequence of fetch quests between various characters. In Sierra a good example of an adventure games based largely on fetch quests are Roberta William's own Mixed-Up Mother Goose, and the sequel, Mixed-Up Fairy Tales. The puzzles in these two games were simplified into very simple fetch quests for sake of children. The main quests in KQ1, 2 and KQ4, are riddled with elaborate fetch quests to find three treasures or keys (see also 'treasure hunt' puzzles below)! Another fetch quest in KQ2 involves Antique Shop owner asking you to fetch her pet nightingale from Hagatha! In some cases, you may just know the gist of what you need, but not told specifically what you need (so there is still a bit more challenge going on). In other cases you might be told what you need, but not be told where to find it (these can also prove to be more challenging style of fetch quest).

Next I use Rube Goldberg (aka Macgyver) as a reference to unusual or illogical use of mundane items (or any items really) to solve puzzles. These are generally unrealistic puzzle solutions, that require thinking completely outside or even under the box. Perhaps its even logical, but requires knowledge outside of the game to solve (pop culture, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, etc). These may overlap into the 'Cliches' category. These should not be confused with 'physics' or 'environmental' based puzzles, although there may sometimes be overlap.

Dead ends and deaths, this is largely self explanatory, and is boiled down to one of the key style differences between Sierra and Lucasarts. But also many other companies.

Action/Combat/Arcade/Mini-games, these are generally limited to sequences in adventure games. But in the case of some games like Mean Streets (the first Tex Murphy game), Conquests series, many of the Indiana Jones adventure games, QFG, Inca, Heart of China, Rise of the Dragon, or KQ8 are made constantly encountered or important aspects of the gameplay. They may also include board games, card games, or other types of 'mini-games'. Space quest 1 (original) and Leisure Suit Larry had its slot machines, and Space Quest has its assorted space combat, battleship, dukem robots, hovercraft and other mini-game and arcade sequences. Codename: Iceman has a difficult card game (that knows and will penalize if you 'cheat') and some rather difficult submarine arcade battle sequences. Infact, it seems that arcade/combat/mini-games tend to go hand in hand with games with deadends or even deaths! Since failture at the mini-game/combat might lead to death later on, if the doesn't kill you outright to begin with!

The last few poll choices are more to do with interfaces, graphics that sort of thing, and hint systems. These aren't necessarily directly related to puzzle design, but are often things people have complained about over the years for whatever reasons!

The final poll choice, gives you an option to mention something I may have missed!

Anyways what are your thoughts? Although you can't vote more than once, if there are several concepts that you find annoying, list them (and list them in order if you can)!

(Posted on: July 31, 2011, 01:14:12 PM)


I've had to reset the poll, as I've expanded it to add a few more puzzle types that get complaints (and it didn't move the selections correctly).

I've added illogical 'rube goldberg' style puzzles, as opposed to realistic everyday mundane puzzle design. I modified one category into 'cliches" (as in puzzles that are reused way too many times in countless games). i've added in the missing 'fetch quests' category.

Keep in mind that each of these categories probably have many sub categories and may blend into other categories as well. Fetch for example is usually combination of simple conversation-puzzle and item-based puzzles.

Each of these categories may have complicated or simple versions of that type of puzzle.

One final thing, I forgot to put on the list, but could fit into the arcade or other, is the mini-game style puzzle! These often involve some kind of arcade or traditional-style puzzle sequence. Like putting a puzzle together, or the Magic Mage or Antwerp mazes in QFG, maybe even a board game (mancala, nine-men's morris, battleship analog), or gambling games (poker, slot machines, etc). These are widely varried, are often required to play to move on in the game, and often hold secrets to a needed item, winning the game, or getting full points. Since these types are so widely varied, it is difficult to classify them all on a single marrit, they are worth mentioning.

I also didn't list up the "treasure hunt" style puzzles. These are puzzles that require you to find some treasure just to get maximum points. See the Sapphire Jewels in KQ2. These were common in early adventure games, but more rare in later ones. Generally they are only found in Infocom and early Sierra adventure games. These items may or may not be used as alternate solutions to other puzzles. But generally their purpose is to get full points. These are probably the most simplistic type of puzzle in adventure games. This concept survived in later games through the  existence of 'red herring' items, and non-useable items. The latter might add to the full points in the game, but serve no purpose towards solutions of other puzzles. An example of a red herring or useless item in KQ2 for example is the 'clamshell' or the 'silk pillow'. There only purpose is to be picked up, and find the the treasure underneath, but serves no other purpose after that. In some situations, they may not even be related to any other puzzle, for example the completely useless native Keronian plant in SQ1AGI (hence 'red herring'). The treasure chest in KQ3. In some cases treasure hunts could be the main point to winning the game (find tree treasures, the three keys, etc), but may be just part of an elaborate fetch quest chain!
« Last Edit: August 08, 2011, 11:06:58 AM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline MusicallyInspired

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2011, 02:45:15 PM »
Everything BTTF did (or didn't do).

:P

Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2011, 02:53:43 PM »
BTTF is made up of;

1. 'cliche' puzzle category. nearly every puzzle in the game has been seen before in other Adventure games (see for example the variation on the newspaper, door, key puzzles).


2. conversation-puzzle category both advanced and primitive forms (it has two variations on the Monkey Island Hand signal puzzle in two episodes). This could overlap with the cliche category.

3. Hint system.

4. highlighted items and cursor (the game usually tells you what you can pick up, by visually focusing on the item).

5. Fetch quests (tied in with the hintsystem and highlighted items).

6. It's linear and chapter based.

7. No deaths.

8. One game breaking dead-end (in a generally dead-end free environment).

9. Has one or two box puzzles, and or mazes (including that slider maze in the final act).

10. It's 3-d (for those that dispise 3-d).

You are told what to pick up (highlights), and you pretty much are told where to use them (if hints are turned on, 'fetch quests"). Besides if you are old timer with adventure games, most of the puzzles are 'been there done that" (cliche), so there is no challenge!

I don't think anything in it reaches into the Goldberg category, and there maybe is only one mini-game?
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 06:42:04 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline Fierce Deity

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2011, 02:56:03 PM »
I have to go with the Rube Goldberg aspect. It's an interesting title for an otherwise underwhelming aspect, but it really annoys me when I am driven to a walkthrough to find out that I needed to use an umbrella to unlock the door.  ::)

I found many puzzles like this in KQ5 and the first two seasons of Sam and Max. I am at least aware of the nonsensical "logic", but having to use a walkthrough for an adventure game kind of ruins the adventure aspect. Still, the countless hours spent on these puzzles do extend the longevity of the game, but I can't tell if it makes it any better. It's still corny to me.
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Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2011, 02:59:56 PM »
While there are many annoying aspects of adventure games, especially depending on what an individual wants to see in an adventure game; I personally chose the hightlighted items/context senstive cursors, as the single most dumbing down aspect in adventure games. When they added that into adventures, the games started going downhill fast.

Another thing I left off the list is 'physics' and 'environmental' based puzzles. These types of puzzles are fairly rare, IMO in Adventure games. Only were being put in after rise of true 3-d engines. Where a player's actions in one part of the map, could effect things in another part of the map. These largely appear in action-adventure subgenre of Adventure games. I actually think these puzzle types are nice. But some might not like them, so use the 'other' if need be.


Same goes for 'treasure hunt' puzzles if you feel that's a weakness.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 03:17:22 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline Fierce Deity

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2011, 03:22:31 PM »
While there are many annoying aspects of adventure games, especially depending on what an individual wants to see in an adventure game; I personally chose the hightlighted items/context senstive cursors, as the single most dumbing down aspect in adventure games. When they added that into adventures, the games started going downhill fast.

I am impartial to that aspect, because I feel like it isn't directed to me. It's for the newbies. If they didn't have that aspect, they'll be too many people complaining about how it's too difficult because it requires them to think (God forbid). Regardless, I can understand why a veteran of the adventure genre would be repulsed by the aspect. However, the genre has gotten progressively more simple for the casual audience, and it's a rolling stone. There's no way to hinder the ongoing process of requiring the gamer to use less and less of their brain power. Before long, the adventure genre will be filled with games that lack any real puzzle solving (a la Telltale's Jurassic Park, lest I remind all of you).

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Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 03:26:06 PM »
Any option that dumbs down the system, should be optional, and easily turned off or on, depending on a player's skill level.

It was the dumbing down of the interfaces that sent me towards more challenging game genres (more challenging in other ways), like traditional RPG's and action-adventures and the like...! Genres that evolved out of the Adventure game genre, but took a very different approach.

Adventure games are making a full circle back towards the CYOA (choose your own adventure) books and Pen-and-Paper RPGs that spawned the genre in the first place! More choice making, less direct thinking! It's like those older forms of entertainment but now with flashy shiny animated technology! But maybe  without the dead ends/alternate endings...

Thank you for Chrono Trigger and Radiant Historia (lots of dead ends, alternate endings)!

Also one of my favorite Adventure Games of all time Shadow of Destiny, because of the multiple ending approach. Although it is more of an interactive movie/interactive novella style of adventure, which is also a derivation out of the old CYOA books. See also Radical Dreamers for this style, or that largely popular Ace Attorney series (interactive novella style adventure without the multiple endings)! That being said these types of games can still be quite challenging! Even if the puzzles are made up more of 'choices' rather than say 'inventory' based puzzles (granted Ace Attorney has an inventory somewhat). Ace Attorney also has an extremely elaborate conversation based puzzle design, involving interogations, and catching flaws in your opponent's words (which I think is one of the other things that makes that series so good).


« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 04:01:50 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline Fierce Deity

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 03:52:23 PM »
I'm a fan of the Professor Layton series. While it is literally filled to the brim with puzzles, and you'll rarely find a moment in the game where you aren't solving a puzzle, it still has an engaging story that brings the world to life. In the end, the puzzles are irrelevant to the story, but they are fun nonetheless.

I would rather see the adventure genre evolve into these sub-genres than see it become these simplified point-and-click titles that do all the work for you.
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Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2011, 03:58:30 PM »
I love puzzle-adventure genre. The early Dr. Brains, Seventh Guest, Dr. Layton, etc. Sure they may or may not have an inventory, but the story is as you said 'still engaging'! Even Myst/Riven fits into this genre (although I never saw much in that series).

Some people hate the mini-game style format, that ridicule those type of games, though.

Ok I added in Red Herrings/Useless items, Physics puzzles, and 'Treasure Hunts" (an early adventure game aspect seen in Zork series, KQ1, 2 & 4) to the list! These are sometimes pointed out as weaknesses.

Physics and environmental puzzles are more rare, you do notice a couple every now and then such as one or two puzzles in one of the two Dr. Brain adventures. They main ones I can think of show up in KQ8, with button pressing puzzles, weight sensitive traps, cutting down a tree to block flow of water in a windmill, freezing water to make a lever, using a bow to cut a rope to open a gate, using throwing hammer to push a lever, etc. There really wasn't alot of actual functional physics going on in earlier 2-d adventure games. The closest might be the carrot/goat/troll quest in KQ1, in which you don't physically hold the goat (its not an inventory item per se), but physically eliminates the troll as an obstacle for you.

I also added in CYOA (choose your own adventure) as a proper category, as this is the direction of some of the adventure games in the interactive novela/movie format, but also the direction of some of the future adventure games, like Jurassic Park.

See here, for an example of a CYOA book based on an Adventure Game;
http://www.boraski.com/zork/

Dead-ends for example are pretty much a sub-aspect of CYOA! Especially when those dead ends lead to alternate endings or special deaths. Most of the dead ends of KQ5 for example lead to many unique death sequences (which are missible otherwise). Thus in this situation the dead ends are intentional, and not a product of bugs and poor game design.

I removed 'Other' category. It will make it easier to add 'others' as people bring them up.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 11:39:55 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline darthkiwi

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2011, 04:24:33 PM »
While there are many annoying aspects of adventure games, especially depending on what an individual wants to see in an adventure game; I personally chose the hightlighted items/context senstive cursors, as the single most dumbing down aspect in adventure games. When they added that into adventures, the games started going downhill fast.

But Monkey Island 1 and 2 had that: there's a bar at the bottom which tells you what your cursor is hovering over. I think it's a great idea, since it means you don't have to exhaustively click the eye icon on everything before you know what's important and what's not, and prevents pixel hunts.

When I first played Gabriel Knight 1, I spent ten minutes slowly and patiently clicking around the whole first screen making sure I wasn't missing anything, and that anything I could pick up had been picked up. Pleased with myself, but rather exhausted, I went into the back room. ARGH! Another room full of lots of stuff! I simply gave up, overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I'd have to click the eye icon on. Maybe I would have gone back to it sooner than I did (it took about two years and this forum to make me go back), but the thought of all that stuff just sitting there and waiting for me to click on it over and over made me feel slightly ill.

I'm probably rather lazy for not persevering, but I think one of the hardest moments in an adventure is the exploration period, where you have to comb through everything and make sure you haven't missed anything. I sometimes miss things (in Gabriel Knight, for example, missing easily overlooked pixel irregularities like the snake scale) which makes me assume that I have everything I need to solve the next puzzle when actually I don't.

Then we get into a situation where I'm just stuck, wandering aimlessly around various locations hoping to God that something will occur to me or I'll see something I missed which will let me progress. Some people (mostly old-school adventure game fans) seem to say that there's something special about this state, that players who get stuck and give up are weak or stupid and that true adventurers carry on and think their way through, but I don't see the appeal at all. It's seldom about being intelligent: it's more often about happening to think in the same way as the person who came up with the puzzle. And when you get stuck, you wander round feeling stupid and are taken completely out of the experience.

When I'm solving puzzles and moving the plot along, I feel like I'm the character I'm meant to be playing; when I'm stuck I feel like a hopeless player bashing their head against the wall. And needless pixel-hunting and unnecessary obfuscation of the game's basic puzzle elements aren't going to help with that. I say, the more context sensitive cursors, the better. People don't want to play a game to be stuck (and go find a walkthrough). I'm not saying they will always play to have "fun" either: I think that's a pervasive and ridiculous idea which relegates gaming to nothing more than toys. But they are playing to be engaged, and probably to feel like they're a part of the story, even if it's not necessarily a happy one. I for one would love to play a point-and-click tragedy, for example. But I would not like to play a point-and-click comedy featuring dead ends, unforeseeable deaths and easily missable items, because, while it might be more "fun", it would be a hell of a lot more frustrating.
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Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2011, 04:29:18 PM »
Quote
"But Monkey Island 1 and 2 had that: there's a bar at the bottom which tells you what your cursor is hovering over. I think it's a great idea, since it means you don't have to exhaustively click the eye icon on everything before you know what's important and what's not, and prevents pixel hunts."

MI 1 and 2 actually give you a suggested 'default' action. It wasn't always the correct action, but one that would give you a general baring on the situation. Otherwise it was a rather advanced interface somewhere between parser and cursor format interfaces. There was generally alot of things you could do with it, push, pull, look, etc. Even if some of the outcomes were for the humorous messages only.

Actually KQ1 for the Sega Master System used a similar system!

It's far different than say KQ7's glowing wand when hovering over an interactable object. Granted in that game there was hardly anything to interact with, so it saved time from having to click on everything... But i'd rather have mundane descriptions for everything if possible! It adds flavor. There are some things artists may put in background art, that I would love to know more about, but can't because there is no way to interact with it.

KQ7 felt more like a pixel hunt, since I still had to scan the entire screen looking for one tiny interactive element. Whereas in KQ6 part of the fun, was figuring out what you couldn't pick up, while at the same time I was learning about the world!

That is one reason why I consider GK1 the best of the Gabriel Knight games, because so much background lore is hidden in the narrative messages, and the later games lose that without the narrator and the simplified interfaces. I don't think every game needs a narrator, that's largely a style choice (not puzzle choice), but if a series starts with it, they should have carried it through the rest of the series (as its part of what made that series what was). It also works as a kind of clue system. Since looking and manipulating might teach you something extra.

Another game with lots of flavorful extra narrative text is Freddy Pharkas! Probably the most packed into a single Sierra game! Even if much of it is there for laughs!

Quote
I for one would love to play a point-and-click tragedy, for example. But I would not like to play a point-and-click comedy featuring dead ends, unforeseeable deaths and easily missable items, because, while it might be more "fun", it would be a hell of a lot more frustrating.

I take it you didn't like Space Quest, Leisure Suity Larry or Freddy Pharkas? I don't really like LSL but, the other two are great!
« Last Edit: July 31, 2011, 10:07:41 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline glottal

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2011, 08:13:28 PM »
I voted for mazes.

Mazes in graphical adventure games are not quite as bad.  In KQ5, I just walked around aimlessly listening to the music and not thinking very hard until I found all the stuff I needed, and the exit.  And the manual for KQ6 has a map for the maze.

But I loathe mazes in text-adventure games.  I find almost no pleasure in them whatsoever.  I eventually learned that if I run into a text-maze, I should promptly get a map for said maze - otherwise, the maze will kill whatever pleasure I am getting from the game.

Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2011, 08:52:38 PM »
Mazes in text games are diabolical. However, I didn't so much like the one in Hugo II: Whodunnit either, and that was a graphical adventure. That game makes me hate hedge mazes (ok not real world ones)!

The ones in Return to Zork were pretty annoying as well, they were extremely large, and had alot of death causing screens..

The one in Wizard and the Princess is pretty confusing too, but luckily you are continually warped around the castle by the wizard if you go certain ways, which makes it somewhat easier, since you often get warped into the main rooms. The desert maze is far worse!

I don't really like the one in KQ5 either, but like you I kinda wander aimlessly until I find Dink, and then the exit door. The one in KQ6 I have completely memorized, its not that big of a maze.

I'm also not that big of a fan of the mazes in QFG2, the city streets. I don't always have my copy of the map on hand, and that game has the complicated perspective changes like in KQ5, but a much larger map.

There is actually a trick to mazes, always follow the right or left edges of a maze (stick to one or the other, not both), and you'll eventually find an exit, or center of the maze (if its that kinda maze). But this trick is largely thrown out when it comes to mazes where the perspectives change whenever you change directions!

(Posted on: July 31, 2011, 10:22:44 PM)


So here is a question? Should I add first person perspectives to the list? As that is a perspective that often affected puzzle design decisions in certain games like Myst and its clones (the First Person-adventure Metroid Prime series and Azriel's Tear also comes to mind)! ...or at least the perspective changes the feel of the game.

People often hate the optional first person perspective in KQ8 for example, although in that game it really didn't effect the puzzles at all.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 12:32:42 AM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline darthkiwi

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2011, 07:22:34 AM »
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MI 1 and 2 actually give you a suggested 'default' action. It wasn't always the correct action, but one that would give you a general baring on the situation. Otherwise it was a rather advanced interface somewhere between parser and cursor format interfaces. There was generally alot of things you could do with it, push, pull, look, etc. Even if some of the outcomes were for the humorous messages only.

Actually KQ1 for the Sega Master System used a similar system!

It's far different than say KQ7's glowing wand when hovering over an interactable object.

Ah, okay. I thought you were complaining of the cursor being at all context sensitive. In MI1 and 2 I think the fact hotspots are flagged up is useful, but I think the rich verb system means that the game still has a deep enough interface. In KQ7 I agree it was rather simple, although I don't think we should throw out the idea of simple context-sensitive cursors entirely: for some games they might make sense. If a game is more geared towards telling a story than making you solve puzzles then it might make sense.

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I take it you didn't like Space Quest, Leisure Suity Larry or Freddy Pharkas? I don't really like LSL but, the other two are great!

Actually, I never got around to playing those. :-[ But I'm not saying that funny adventure games are somehow less noble than serious ones: I loved Grim Fandango and Monkey Island. My complaint is more against adventure games which are needlessly frustrating when they could easily have been designed in a more player-friendly fashion. For example, I just finished playing QFG4, and I think it's one of the most amazing and brilliant games I've ever played. But, it relies on you leaving your room at midnight on a certain day to meet a certain character, giving you no indication or hint that you need to do this. And if you miss this character, the game cannot be completed - and it has to be on the third night of the game, and if you miss him on this one night then you will never have another chance to meet him. Why not have thrown in a hint somewhere, at least? I'm just rather frustrated with the idea that bad design decisions like this make an adventure game more hardcore or worthy, when in fact they only frustrate the player.

Or take Laura Bow 2, for instance. That game has a number of really interesting design decisions which I think are really great and should have been used by other games: a journal of names, places, things and ideas to ask people about, as well as an intriguing murder mystery plot which you have to work out yourself, and lots of little pieces of evidence to uncover. Unfortunately, it's incredibly easy to miss things, and some events occur with no warning. Chapter 5 features you being chased by the murderer, but it begins with absolutely no warning that a chase is about to occur, so the player has to wander around thinking everything is normal, and then be killed by the murderer, before they know what's going on. And even then, they will have to reload to a save just before chapter 5, because you're not allowed to save (for some arbitrary reason) on the screen that chapter 5 begins on. I just wish that designers of games like these had considered the player more when they were designing, because it's almost as if the games were made for the people who were designing them, rather than the actual players.

As for mazes, the KQ5 one confused me but only because it kept changing perspective. I actually quite enjoyed the KQ6 maze, since I could map it as I went along and I got a feeling of accomplishment from having explored all of it. But I agree that other mazes, like the streets of QFG2, are pretty needless and just lead to frustration. And I really don't want to find out what a text-adventure maze is like. :o
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Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2011, 07:39:59 AM »
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layer-friendly fashion. For example, I just finished playing QFG4, and I think it's one of the most amazing and brilliant games I've ever played. But, it relies on you leaving your room at midnight on a certain day to meet a certain character, giving you no indication or hint that you need to do this. And if you miss this character, the game cannot be completed - and it has to be on the third night of the game, and if you miss him on this one night then you will never have another chance to meet him.
Are you referring to the domovoi? I'm pretty sure I've encountered it randomly at other times, there may be other events that trigger his appearance. As I don't spend most of my time staying in the inn and split some of that time with the the staff or the garden. I don't recall ever being blocked from beating the game. I recall the game even had a warning waking you up in the middle of the night to sounds coming from downstairs. This is at least how the game used to work, I don't know if it's become buggier with time. The game has always had timing issues that lead to random bugs.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 07:41:50 AM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline glottal

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2011, 04:21:53 PM »
You know, I actually liked the puzzle/box combo puzzle in Zork 3.  I also like Yorick's maze in QfG1, and the mountain cave screen maze in KQ3.  I don't even mind the QfG2 streets that much (though I could have also lived without them).  In my offline life, I have to walk in areas that are as labyrinthine as Shapeir/Raseir (not so much the neighbourhood I live in, but other neighbourhoods I visit frequently).  There's a reason many local addresses look like "Something Street, Lane #X, Alley #Y".  Of course, unlike in QfG2, there are semi-distinct landmarks, such as a tea shop here, a 7-Eleven there, a temple over there etc. to help you get your bearings once you know an area, and I have a strong sense of direction.  I think, in graphical adventure games, even with perspective changes, my strong sense of direction carries over to some extent.

However, I don't think my sense of direction helps me in text adventure games.  And what makes them really diabolical is their direction-warping.  If I go north from Room 1 into Room 2, you'd think that if I go south I'd be back in Room 1.  Nope, going south from Room 2 leads me to Room3.  I have to go NW from Room 3 into Room 4 and then west from Room 4 to get back to Room 1.  The direction warping is what really does me in, and makes me run for a pre-made map.  I was fine with the box-maze puzzle in Zork 3 because at least their was no warping.

So I suppose it's not so much that I think mazes are the worst aspect of puzzle design as that I think direction-warping is the worst aspect.

Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2011, 04:40:01 PM »
Isn't direction warping a form of or description for the perspective change? That is to say that the controls change based on direction you are facing, so you have think in 3-d dimensions, based on current direction you are facing in the game?

Cause in KQ5, when ever perspective changes, your north (or rather your movement foreward) is whatever way you are facing, and behind you is "south" (or rather back). In graphical adventures there is usually extra compass that makes it a bit easier to keep track of the direction switching.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 04:53:40 PM by Baggins »
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline glottal

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2011, 08:38:24 PM »
Isn't direction warping a form of or description for the perspective change? That is to say that the controls change based on direction you are facing, so you have think in 3-d dimensions, based on current direction you are facing in the game?

No!

No matter what your perspective is, whether it's changing or not, if you go north from Room 1 to enter Room 2, you should be able to get back to Room 1 by going south - unless there is direction warping!!!  Just look at the maps for the mazes in Zork 1 ... that's an entirely different beast than KQ5 (where if you go north and decide you want to go back to where you were, you can just turn around and go back south).

Offline Baggins

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2011, 09:12:03 PM »
I'm still a little confused. Since in some games, using n, s, e, w keys stood in for, forward, back, right, and left.

Maybe its not like that in Zork (I haven't played the series in maybe 15 years), but it was something I remember making some text adventures confusing as hell, since I had to rethink things from whatever perspective I was facing, and remember it would be different if found myself back in the room from a different side of the room!

I'm looking at some of the mazes in Zork, and its looks like in some cases, a direction might send you down some kind of winding passage, before you reach another room. So literally your character switches directions in an automatically described fashion. So the entrance to the tunnel might be south in one room, but the winding nature of the tunnel between two rooms turns it east in next room (or some other direction). So you would have too look at that room to get your baring again. This reminds me of some of the descriptions in the Hobbit, when it describes Bilbo exploring the Goblin caves, and how his sense of direction was always changing due to the winding tunnels putting him in another direction before he entered into another room..
Well, ya, King's Quest is on Earth. Daventry is very old city from a long time ago. It's in ruins now and people aren't quite sure exactly where it used to be. There are some archaeologists searching through the ruins, they think they know its Daventry. But its somewhere on Earth."-Roberta Williams http://kingsquest.wikia.com/wiki/File:Daventryisearth.ogg

Offline glottal

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Re: Worst aspects of adventure game puzzle design!
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2011, 02:01:31 AM »
Take a look at this map from Zork 1

http://www.lafn.org/webconnect/mentor/zork/Z1Maze.gif

If you go south from Maze (01), you end up in Maze (04).  If you go south from Maze (04), you end up in Maze (01).  And if you go north of Maze (01) you end up in ... Maze (01).  That is direction warping.

The only way to find you way around in such a maze (without a pre-made map, that is) is to drop objects to identify the different rooms, and then map them.  Not only is this extremely tedious, the thief might decide to pick up some of those objects which 1) means you don't have that object (until you beat the thief) and 2) you might end up in the same room thinking it's a different room because the object you used to mark that room is no longer there.