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An Interesting Article by Ron Gilbert

posted by Capotasto on - last edited - Viewed by 244 users

I was trawling the internet just now and stumbled upon this article written by Ron Gilbert:
http://oxcgn.com/2008/01/31/why-adventure-games-suck-by-ron-gilbert/

I'm not sure how much of it I agree with, but there's no doubt it's very interesting! I thought I'd share it with Telltale and the community. Sorry if it's widely known already!

15 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Brilliant article. Thanks for the link. I think a lot of the things Ron point out telltales did them right. Ron Gilbert really is the best. I wish he was more involved with Tales...

    Ron Gilbert says:
    Backwards Puzzles

    The backwards puzzle is probably the one thing that bugs me more than anything else about adventure games. I have created my share of them; and as with most design flaws, it’s easier to leave them in than to redesign them. The backwards puzzle occurs when the solution is found before the problem. Ideally, the crevice should be found before the rope that allows the player to descend. What this does in the player’s mind is set up a challenge. He knows he need to get down the crevice, but there is no route. Now the player has a task in mind as he continues to search. When a rope is spotted, a light goes on in his head and the puzzle falls into place. For a player, when the design works, there is nothing like that experience.
    I forgot to pick it up
    This is really part of the backwards puzzle rule, but in the worst way. Never require a player to pick up an item that is used later in the game if she can’t go back and get it when it is needed. It is very frustrating to learn that a seemingly insignificant object is needed, and the only way to get it is to start over or go back to a saved game. From the player’s point of view, there was no reason for picking it up in the first place. Some designers have actually defended this practice by saying that, “adventure games players know to pick up everything.” This is a cop-out. If the jar of water needs to be used on the spaceship and it can only be found on the planet, create a use for it on the planet that guarantees it will be picked up. If the time between the two uses is long enough, you can be almost guaranteed that the player forgot she even had the object.
    The other way around this problem is to give the player hints about what she might need to pick up. If the aliens on the planet suggest that the player find water before returning to the ship, and the player ignores this advice, then failure is her own fault.

    Arbitrary puzzles
    Puzzles and their solutions need to make sense. They don’t have to be obvious, just make sense. The best reaction after solving a tough puzzle should be, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that sooner!” The worst, and most often heard after being told the solution is, “I never would have gotten that!” If the solution can only be reached by trial and error or plain luck, it’s a bad puzzle.

    Unconnected events
    In order to pace events, some games lock out sections until certain events have happened. There is nothing wrong with this, it is almost a necessity. The problem comes when the event that opens the new section of the world is unconnected. If the designer wants to make sure that six objects have been picked up before opening a secret door, make sure that there is a reason why those six objects would affect the door. If a player has only picked up five of the objects and is waiting for the door to open (or worse yet, trying to find a way to open the door), the act of getting the flashlight is not going to make any sense in relation to the door opening.

    If any type of game is going to bridge the gap between games and storytelling, it is most likely going to be adventure games. They will become less puzzle solving and more story telling, it is the blueprint the future will be made from. The thing we cannot forget is that we are here to entertain, and for most people, entertainment does not consist of nights and weekends filled with frustration. The average American spends most of the day failing at the office, the last thing he wants to do is come home and fail while trying to relax and be entertained.

  • Interesting. I have a talent for solving puzzles backwards, LOL...

  • It is very frustrating to learn that a seemingly insignificant object is needed, and the only way to get it is to start over or go back to a saved game

    i hope nothing like this happen in TOMI

  • Oh kings quest 4 how many times did i die going up and down the stairs and falling....

  • @larys said: i hope nothing like this happen in TOMI

    I never experienced anything like this.
    Maybe I only played good adventures where you are forced one way or the other to get every important item before leving an area for ever.
    Like in CoMI when you pick up the bag so you can pick up the diamontd you need to finish the part of the game.

  • @larys said: i hope nothing like this happen in TOMI

    This has never happened in any Telltale game I've ever played, and I've played them all except CSI (Sorry Kevin, but I did played Telltale Texas Hold 'Em)

  • If any type of game is going to bridge the gap between games and storytelling, it is most likely going to be adventure games. They will become less puzzle solving and more story telling, it is the blueprint the future will be made from. The thing we cannot forget is that we are here to entertain, and for most people, entertainment does not consist of nights and weekends filled with frustration. The average American spends most of the day failing at the office, the last thing he wants to do is come home and fail while trying to relax and be entertained.

    I don't like that. I like challenging puzzles, that's the core draw to adventure games to me. They're like riddles. I never get them to just sit back and watch a story. I love a great story, but it's the challenge that is key to any game (thus why it's called a game).

    I also think that sometimes having a puzzle solution be totally wacky in the sense of "I never would've thought of that!" is great, as long as your actions eventually lead to that solution. It's great when you think of the puzzles' logic yourself and then carry it out and it works, but not at the expense of it being obvious or easy logic. I'd rather have a really clever solution even if I found it with a little bit of trial and error or lateral thinking. Sometimes you discover what the solution logic is half way into solving it, and it's cool.

    Also, that's from 1989 which is worth noting. He was laying out the ground rules, some of which seem obvious now, especially for LucasArts/Telltale players, but back then there were lots of games that weren't forgiving whatsoever. I think now people take some of that advice a little too far though, and make games for lazy, incurious, child-like minds.

  • @RockNRoll said: I also think that sometimes having a puzzle solution be totally wacky in the sense of "I never would've thought of that!" is great, as long as your actions eventually lead to that solution. It's great when you think of the puzzles' logic yourself and then carry it out and it works, but not at the expense of it being obvious or easy logic. I'd rather have a really clever solution even if I found it with a little bit of trial and error or lateral thinking. Sometimes you discover what the solution logic is half way into solving it, and it's cool.

    But, as you say, there has to be some internal logic in the solution, even if that logic is kinda wacky, twisted, strange, or even ilogical in the real world, it has to make sense it the world of the game. And "making sense" not neccesarily means "obvious" or "easy".
    An that's Ron said: Is a really bad idea that the solution of the puzzles have no logic at all.
    Is not the "I never would've thought of that!" thing what's wrong, not if you can add "But thinking it now, it makes sense!"

  • @Lena_P said: This has never happened in any Telltale game I've ever played, and I've played them all except CSI (Sorry Kevin, but I did played Telltale Texas Hold 'Em)


    It's something that Sierra and LucasArts changed about adventure games and it's been a major no-no in the genre for a long time as a result. I haven't seen any game that breaks this rule in a long time.

    Infocom used to be horrible about this (*coughBabelfishcough*) and it was really frustrating. Sierra really started to push forward with eliminating dead-ends, and then Lucas took it a step further by eliminating death altogether.

  • Wow, that was a really interesting read!

    Interestingly, I think out of that long list of potential problems, I think I've only ever seen Telltale slip up the Backwards Puzzles problem.
    They seem to always avoid the rest.

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