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Worst puzzle in TMI? (Plus some rambling)

posted by Kroms on - last edited - Viewed by 380 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
  • @Kroms said: 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 see what you mean. Since you need the boat to escape, it could have been tied to the plot for that reason. And you could have needed to help D'Oro find his Ninja Dave for another reason as well I guess. Same with the bar, you could have just needed to go inside to get something.

    When you think about it, all of that is really setting up chapter 4. You did all these stuff that you're being tried for, and you had to because Nipperkin asked you to. But on the other hand... It would be just as funny if everything was Guybrush's fault from start to finish, without him being asked to do these things.

  • That's an interesting way to look at it. If chapter one's tasks were a set up for chapter four, then much of both chapters was essentially unnecessary to the plot, no? I didn't really like Nipperkin's quests either, and I think it would have been better to have had Guybrush accomplish the same tasks as part of his mission to get off the island to save Elaine and not as his mission to appease Nipperkin's demands in order to find Deep Gut. It may have even been better to have had the Voodoo Lady ask him to accomplish the same tasks.

  • @Thriftweed Fancy Pants said: That's an interesting way to look at it. If chapter one's tasks were a set up for chapter four, then much of both chapters was essentially unnecessary to the plot, no?



    Well, one could argue that the whole trial thing was unnecessary since the only thing needed was getting the sponge to grow, and having LeChuck arrive and denounce himself right away would have saved time. But I liked the trial, I wouldn't have wanted to do without.

  • It almost feels like he should have been going around doing things to get off the island, whilst simulatenously doing things that directly related to DeSinge and the pox. If he began solving puzzles related to how the pox worked, or who DeSinge was...it might've been better. The trick is to not simply make it a re-tread of Woodtick. I'll have to think about that.

    [quote="Avistew"]Well, one could argue that the whole trial thing was unnecessary since the only thing needed was getting the sponge to grow, and having LeChuck arrive and denounce himself right away would have saved time. But I liked the trial, I wouldn't have wanted to do without.[/quote]

    The trial ties into the story, though. A part from it all being a terrific joke (Guybrush finally having to pay for always screwing over people), it provides enough elements related to the creation of the sponge, and develops the relationship between Guybrush and LeChuck before the "Unholy THIS" at the end. It's important because LeChuck comes in at the last second: you think you've been declared not guilty, find a crime you can't defend yourself against, and get saved by your arch enemy. It's a much stronger reason to trust the guy. More importantly, it introduces the angle about the Voodoo Lady being the real maestro of evil.

    [quote="Avistew"]When you think about it, all of that is really setting up chapter 4. You did all these stuff that you're being tried for, and you had to because Nipperkin asked you to. But on the other hand... It would be just as funny if everything was Guybrush's fault from start to finish, without him being asked to do these things.[/quote]

    I think Mike Stemmle wrote both chapters together, which makes sense.

    I agree about it being funnier if it were all Guybrush's fault. The guy's essentially a loveable kleptomaniac, you know? It's adventure gaming's equivalent of making a comic book about a superhero who gets sued for damaging the city during his antics.

  • Yeah, I've always thought if I made a story that takes place in a game (I keep having ideas like that but never really finish them) there would be things like that. The hero goes and finds a chest and steals the contents right in front of the owner, only to have said owner call the police/city guards instead of smiling an repeating the same sentence like nothing happened. Things like that.

    I know in games you spend a lot of time helping people with their problems. But you spend a lot of time doing terrible things to them, too.
    I liked the fact that the things Guybrush was accused of were actually actual crimes he committed (counterfeiting Ninja Dave, catalysing catatonic catalepsy) or almost committed (burning Krebbs leg). Appart from the one he was falsely accused of of course.

    It does feel like karmic retribution, which was nice. But they end up not really being his fault (Nipperkin asked him to do these things, indirectly at least) and then he gets out of the consequences anyways, which is terrible unfair since he DID do that.
    I keep wondering how Miss Prettywhiskers is doing. Poor kitty. At least Krebbs did burn her own leg so she only has herself to blame, and D'Oro gets away too, but Miss prettywhiskers is not only paralysed, but now being attracted to a magnetic monkey. She might get hurt, and it's not going to help with her condition :(

  • @Thriftweed Fancy Pants said: That's an interesting way to look at it. If chapter one's tasks were a set up for chapter four, then much of both chapters was essentially unnecessary to the plot, no?



    @Thriftweed Fancy Pants said: Well, one could argue that the whole trial thing was unnecessary since the only thing needed was getting the sponge to grow, and having LeChuck arrive and denounce himself right away would have saved time. But I liked the trial, I wouldn't have wanted to do without.

    Someone could argue that the whole of Part 2 in Secret is unnecessary since all you really do is create a Voodoo spell that takes you to Monkey Island, but I am not that someone. So long as the games are fun, (and they don't ruin staples of the series or create pointless character-ruining retcons,) who cares?

  • You need a decent to get to a legendary, possibly not-real island. It fits. To the game's credit, that part is relatively short and easy.

    Besides, according to the Idle Thumbs podcast with Ron Gilbert, that's somehow related to what the Secret of Monkey Island is.

  • bleh. anything could be related to what the real Secret of Monkey Island is. Ron has said that some guesses are closer than others to what it is, but no one has guessed quite right yet.

    my previous point was that just because some puzzles in ToMI are short or don't impact the plot, it doesn't make them useless.

    anyway, getting back to what you said about Ron saying the trip to MI in SoMI being part of the Secret itself... let's see. The name of the ship is the Sea Monkey, it was once crewed by monkeys and Herman Toothrot (seperately), Guybrush's crew are a bunch of lazy bums, and getting to the island requires a voodoo spell which accepts random substitutions from the original recipe (ie. Jolly Roger flag instead of an actual skull which had been pressed). how does any of that involve the Secret?

    If you ask me, Ron will never tell what the Secret is, because anything he says will disappoint one group of fans or another. At this point, the Secret itself has become a legend, and the hype probably outweighs the truth (as it probably should.)

    Speaking for myself, though I do want to know what the Secret is, I also don't want to know, or rather I don't want Ron to tell us and ruin the expectation everyone has.

    EDIT: I guess the real reason why I don't want him to tell us is for fear that it turns out to be something really lame or stupid.

  • I doubt Ron himself even knows what the secret of Monkey Island is.

  • @Chyron8472 said:
    anyway, getting back to what you said about Ron saying the trip to MI in SoMI being part of the Secret itself... let's see. The name of the ship is the Sea Monkey, it was once crewed by monkeys and Herman Toothrot (seperately), Guybrush's crew are a bunch of lazy bums, and getting to the island requires a voodoo spell which accepts random substitutions from the original recipe (ie. Jolly Roger flag instead of an actual skull which had been pressed). how does any of that involve the Secret?



    I don't remember exactly, but I think it was something like about the mysterious way in which Guybrush arrives at Monkey Island. I don't know. I'm too tired to listen to the podcast again.

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