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Worst puzzle in TMI? (Plus some rambling)

posted by Kroms on - last edited - Viewed by 499 users

Disclaimer: I love Tales, but I'm just trying to get an overall view on things. I am not of the opinion that my - ironically - my own opinion is worth a damn. This is just for me, and hopefully anyone else, to understand things a bit better.

OK, so what's the worst puzzle in Tales? The one (two? three?) that they should never attempt again. Explain why.

I actually have two.

The first is the unnecessary bit with Nipperkin: he gives you three random piratey things to do, all without any relation to what Tales is about*. You need to do this, this, and that to get to Deep Gut. Why? The first chapter was primarily about DeSinge, and Guybrush's attempts to re-unite with his wife. Where does Nipperkin fit in? Shouldn't there be an absolute guarantee that the player picks-up the pyrite parrot, for example? You need the parrot to finish the chapter. Leviathan avoided a similar problem by having you get a necessary object - the wrench - from a semi-obvious area, and only after that object became needed. It also limited the number of areas, hence avoiding that ever-present problem, traipsing.

The second puzzle is the coupon bit in Spinner Cay. You know, there are three things solved with those coupons. Although the mast puzzles relate to the story, the coupons don't. There had to be a bit more creativity with those. Just saying "You need a pixel-hunted coupon to get a certain object" - and it's not even a coupon you acquire by story, it's just random traipsing - is not a particularly good puzzle, I think.

I just think you need a story, a puzzle that ties into the situation, a comedic twist, a sub-divided obstacle and a logical solution. I don't think the coupon or Nipperkin puzzles fit that definition**.

OK, here's the rambling bit. You can skip this:
Just to clarify - this is what I think a good puzzle is, as explained by Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern (CMI co-leads):

[quote="Jonathan Ackley"]We started by making a list of all the cool things about pirates that weren’t done in the first games: City sieges, ship battles, smuggler’s caves, volcanoes, “all-singing, all-dancing musical revues.” Then you see how they might fit into the story. You see if there’s a character from a previous game that fits with the new puzzle. If not, you create a new character. Then you add the inventory objects that give complexity to the original puzzles. Then at the very end, you go through and see if you have multiple inventory objects that can serve the same purpose. If so you throw one of them out. [/quote]

He also said:

[quote="Jonathan Ackley"]First we wrote an incredibly convoluted story about Elaine being turned into a ship’s mast-head. You had to change her back before the fiery demon LeChuck burned her down. A lot of great special-effects a la the “Gone With The Wind” burning of Atlanta scene. We also had a number of puzzles involving Guybrush attempting to return the wedding gifts given to LeChuck for the monster’s undead wedding to Elaine. It would’ve been spectacular, but when we looked at it again, we decided the story was somewhat hollow.

We reworked the story until all the puzzles revolved around Guybrush overcoming his own ineptitude and saving the one person who loves him despite his idiocy. The emotional stakes for Guybrush became even higher and the story fell into place. As to the end of Monkey 2 - that’s the real curse of Monkey Island. [/quote]

(Highlight by me, to emphasize that "story" and "puzzle" aren't seperate when done properly, but completely intertwined.)

[quote="Larry Ahern"]We got heavily into voodoo and ordering buckets of chicken, and the whole thing kind of gelled from there (the game, not the chicken). Basically, we were thinking that Elaine and Guybrush needed to take their relationship to the next level, which meant some big screwup by Guybrush involving the proposal of marriage.

Once we had that, we just started brainstorming situations that seemed appropriate and piratey, then tried to figure out how to relate them to the story and puzzle ideas. Often, most of the characters evolved from puzzle ideas (since most of the secondary characters weren't involved in the main storyline) and a gag.[/quote]

He later elaborates:

[quote="Larry Ahern"]As co-designer, you must have designed a lot of the puzzles in the game. Is there a typical method for creating puzzles (get object A to use B on C)?

Usually, it's good to start with a thematic element appropriate to the setting or story (such as the skeleton groom on Blood Island who left his bride waiting at the altar to eventually die of a broken heart). Then, add a comedic twist (the reason he left her at the altar was he got crushed in his fold-up bed), introduce the quest or goal (in order to get the ring from the dead bride, you need to reunite her with the groom). Then, create an unexpected way to make it happen (catapult him to the crypt with the fold-up bed), and, finally, disguise and block this way from the player (by covering the hole in the wall, nailing it shut, etc.). [/quote]

*To me, it seems Tales is about Guybrush and how he trusts those around him. I haven't pondered this a lot, but that's my kneejerk analysis.

**Yeah, totally stole that from Ahern and Ackley. :)

31 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • I kind of hate myself for starting this thread too, but I think it's something important, and warrants a discussion. The next MI game has to be, in Eurogamer's words, "in the upper brackets, where it belongs"...and...well. I don't want to see the same mistakes repeated. I thought that, as fans, we could help with that...Maybe?

  • I think the Nipperkin bit was just to sell MI's 'purpose' (and pirate rule, later revisited in Pirate God) again to new gamers. It has been 10 years, you know. I think that is the main reason.

    For the coupon puzzle, it's been a while, but isn't the coupon found in "the wild" useless except for comedy. The really useful ones are hidden away and need to be found (think: Singing fish).

    Personally I think the worst puzzle is the opposite Feast of the Senses in Epidose V (however, it's still my most favorite of the 5 episodes). Too fast after the feast, you already have 1/2 the items (if not more) by the time you get the puzzle. It just felt... unnecessary.

  • Oh wow, haha. This thread certainly didn't go well.

    My opinion, as worthless as it may be, is at least now out there. I love the games and I do appreciate all the hard work, everyone. Just a couple of things I thought I'd mention, in the hopes that they could somehow lead to an aversion of errors next time.

    [quote="Hassat Hunter"]
    Personally I think the worst puzzle is the opposite Feast of the Senses in Epidose V (however, it's still my most favorite of the 5 episodes). Too fast after the feast, you already have 1/2 the items (if not more) by the time you get the puzzle. It just felt... unnecessary.[/quote]

    It was essential to the story, but they avoided a re-play of the fourth chapter by keeping it short. Some people the sponge bit may have stretched a little in chapter four. Adding another long section would not have been a good idea.

  • Although I see how you could think the Nipperkin thing is totally random and not story-related, I see it as a way to get familiar with the places and people on the Island.
    And well the story hasn't really /started/ by that time.

    However I think the fact that the puzzles you names were from the first and second chapter might mean that they got better at it. I definitely think that the chapters got better and better (although my fav is 4 and not 5), so I'm not sure they really need to be told the first chapters weren't as good. They improved on them so they must have noticed, right?

  • @avistew said: Although I see how you could think the Nipperkin thing is totally random and not story-related, I see it as a way to get familiar with the places and people on the Island.
    And well the story hasn't really /started/ by that time.

    The way I see it, you need to introduce your world with your puzzles. SurplusGamer once brought up the opening of Monkey 2 as a great example of this idea: the more you do, the more reason there is to kick Largo LaGrande off Scabb. Largo steals all of Guybrush's money. Guybrush can't get off Scabb because of the Largo embargo. Everyone suggests a voodoo doll, which Guybrush begins making. The further into it you get, the more reason there is for Largo to get kicked out.

    Also, notice that every puzzle in act one is either directly related to Largo, or a sub-division of one of Largo's puzzles (you need a fluid; you need to wipe the spit; you need to find something to wipe the spit up with; use blank paper on spit).

    My problem with Narwhal's beginning is that there's no apparent *motive* for the player at some point. There had to be some way where you did piratey things without the unnecessary bit with Nipperkin. It has to tie directly into the story, which, in this bit, is escaping Flotsam. The most obvious thing is giving DeSinge a bigger role, but I'm sure that TTG thought of that. I haven't pondered it myself, so I don't have any decent suggestions.

    Though sticking in a maze when to solve things - and I think there were three mazes in Narwhal - is a bit of a patch job.


    However I think the fact that the puzzles you names were from the first and second chapter might mean that they got better at it. I definitely think that the chapters got better and better (although my fav is 4 and not 5), so I'm not sure they really need to be told the first chapters weren't as good. They improved on them so they must have noticed, right?

    I hope so. I think everyone's issues with the weaker bits was that they were given to us with different pacing. I mean, I loved the jungle puzzle in Trial, but I know some guys - including the Mixnmojo review - who didn't think much of it. From what I can tell, the better parts gave us all a somewhat similar experience: the pacing wasn't all over the place.

    Secret avoided the issue by giving you three trials of similar length, and those trials were always related to the story (you meet Elaine and avoid death when attempting to procure the Idol of Many Hands, for example). They even set-up the second act by giving you reason to leave Melee after you completed one of the trials (as an added easter egg, there were different versions of that scene, depending on which trials you completed first). Tales, on the other hand, had a couple of puzzles that halted the game completely until you solved them. These work for "locked room" puzzles - the Morgan/Elaine fight comes to mind - but for non-lnear, let's-walk-all-over-the-place affairs it's too risky that you'll kill the pacing.

  • @Kroms said: My problem with Narwhal's beginning is that there's no apparent *motive* for the player at some point. There had to be some way where you did piratey things without the unnecessary bit with Nipperkin. It has to tie directly into the story, which, in this bit, is escaping Flotsam. The most obvious thing is giving DeSinge a bigger role, but I'm sure that TTG thought of that. I haven't pondered it myself, so I don't have any decent suggestions.

    Well, Guybrush wants to escape the island, and Deep Throat can help him with that, and Nipperkin won't give him the password until he's done the three acts of piracy.
    Might not be tied into the story enough for you but it's still tied to the story.

  • Doing that he gains the Screaming Narwal... and he has a good reason to wishing to leave the island (Elaine and LeChuck).

  • A thing i didnt get form the last chapter is when the dog "hides" the spell.

    I mean, i said "ok, and using the dog with the Xs wont work because..." And it worked.
    Its one of those moments when you dont know if you missed something, or they missed something or what.

  • @avistew said: Well, Guybrush wants to escape the island, and Deep Throat can help him with that, and Nipperkin won't give him the password until he's done the three acts of piracy.
    Might not be tied into the story enough for you but it's still tied to the story.

    Which brings us back to my other point:


    I think everyone's issues with the weaker bits was that they were given to us with different pacing. I mean, I loved the jungle puzzle in Trial, but I know some guys - including the Mixnmojo review - who didn't think much of it. From what I can tell, the better parts gave us all a somewhat similar experience: the pacing wasn't all over the place.

    At one point, I had gotten the Narwhal and had been stuck on one of Nipperkin's trials. And I'd gotten angry with it, because the trials didn't strike me as being in any way related to Guybrush getting to, from what I could see, the Voodoo Lady. I still think that could have been better integrated. Narwhal would have been a better chapter with Nipperkin's sections replaced with something else. I wouldn't mind so much if the pacing hadn't been risked by puzzles not directly related to the plot, but that's not what happened.

    This is all said in hindsight, by the way. I can't hold a candle to Mike Stemmle, which is why I'm not suggesting any "alternatives". I'm simply trying to explain what didn't work for me, and why, in the hopes that this can be avoided in the future.

    @avistew said: A thing i didnt get form the last chapter is when the dog "hides" the spell.

    I mean, i said "ok, and using the dog with the Xs wont work because..." And it worked.
    Its one of those moments when you dont know if you missed something, or they missed something or what.

    Something similar happened in Leviathan: a showed Murray the book before actually asking for the vote, and from the dialogue could tell that I'd inadvertedly solved a puzzle I hadn't come across yet.

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