User Avatar Image

Worst puzzle in TMI? (Plus some rambling)

posted by Kroms on - last edited - Viewed by 381 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: It's adventure gaming's equivalent of making a comic book about a superhero who gets sued for damaging the city during his antics.


    They've made a movie out of that, you know. And it's pretty good.

    As for puzzles. I think my own definition is that they BLOCK the progression of the story. Hence... "puzzle". Once you solve them, the story continues on. If you don't solve them... sorry, no more story for you.
    Seeing it like that I really don't mind Nipperkin's little tests.
    The puzzle in itself isn't "bad". The Slim of the Senses however I think is, that's why it got my vote of worst puzzle in the game.
    Luckily there aren't any absolutely horrible ones around this time (yes, EMI, I am looking at you!).

  • @Hassat Hunter said: They've made a movie out of that, you know. And it's pretty good.



    Oh yeah? What's it called?


    As for puzzles. I think my own definition is that they BLOCK the progression of the story. Hence... "puzzle". Once you solve them, the story continues on. If you don't solve them... sorry, no more story for you.

    Oh man, no.

    A good puzzle feeds the story, and the story feeds the puzzle. That's why there's always a three or five trial puzzle structure: you don't want to be stuck trying to figure out how to get the guard dog away from the house. You need to be able to do other things that move everything forward. The non-linearity and background interactivity of games like Monkey Island is a workaround.

    It'd be completely unfair to bring the entire game to a halt because the player hadn't figured out how to get the key from the dog's stomach. There always has to be progress. Most sucky adventure games have that problem of giving you completely obtuse puzzles that contribute nothing but bad pacing.

    More to the point: If you needed a certain object in the second act that could only be picked up in act one, you better give the player a reason to pick up the object. The game can't continue if the player does not have that object, but it has to explain why. You need the ring in Curse; to make sure you take it, the ring is used at the end of chapter one as part of a puzzle solution. You later need the nickels; you can't escape the hold without first picking up the ring, and you can't pick up the ring without the nickels. These are all puzzles that relate to the story. You don't pick up the ring and then not wonder if it's part of the puzzle solution...

    A puzzle isn't an obstacle. A puzzle is a tool. You can even use it to reveal character. For example, I'm sure Ben Throttle solves things differently than Bernard Bernoulli does. You can even use it for character development. Let's say Guybrush was trying to atone for what he's done; he's attempting to go back to the land of the dead and bring back Morgan. He has had it with puzzles: it's been a crappy day, and monkeys-on-water-pumps aren't sweetening things up. After finally solving a very difficult puzzle and getting ready to save Morgan, the puzzle twists on itself to form a new puzzle. Guybrush sighs, on the brink of defeat, and then says that he'll do it anyways - for Morgan. If done well, that'd be a good character moment, and it happens because the puzzle fed the story.

    This is just really basic stuff. God, can you imagine how unbelievably boring Monkey Island would be if all you did was solve puzzles that had nothing to do with the story? On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd peg it as a -5.

  • @Kroms said: Oh yeah? What's it called?



    The Incredibles.

  • @Kroms said: Oh yeah? What's it called?


    The Incredibles.
    It'd be completely unfair to bring the entire game to a halt because the player hadn't figured out how to get the key from the dog's stomach.
    I am going to list a few games that actually do this, you might have heard of them:
    SMI, LCR, CMI, EMI, ToMI, Sam&Max (Hit the Road, both TTG seasons), Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Syberia, A Vampyre Tale, Full Throttle, Wallace&Gromit, Gabriel Knight (all), Ankh (both), Jack Kane, The Longest Journey... should I go on?
    Pretty much all adventures. It's a wee little bit of a trademark of the kind actually.
    More to the point: If you needed a certain object in the second act that could only be picked up in act one, you better give the player a reason to pick up the object.
    Not related to what I am trying to say. Having the game halt because the gamer doesn't solve a puzzle is common. ALL THE TIME. Having the game halt because of bad game design... that's just unforgivable in this day and age. And (bugs aside) all above don't do that AFAIK.
    These are all puzzles that relate to the story. You don't pick up the ring and then not wonder if it's part of the puzzle solution...
    Picking up the ring and the nickles are puzzles? I don't quite see it that way. Having to USE the ring on the glass is a puzzle, that's true.
    And until you do that, the story doesn't continue... does it now?
    Pretty much everything one picks up in adventures (Longest Journey and some misc. items excluded) has to be used in a puzzle sometimes later on. Some items multiple times.
    Whenever the item is given doesn't change when it's being used (see: Skeleton Arm, CMI).
    A puzzle isn't an obstacle.
    Nope. Until you cut the glass, no escape (story advancement). A single or collection of puzzles may eventually resolve in story progression, but until any are solved, no progression for you.
    Maybe you call not being allowed to give cheese to a vulcano until you use tools on tofu "story progression" but I call it a puzzle, and until you solve it, no lava, used for yet another puzzle, before your story can progress etc.
    ToMI is a little different in that regard compared to the old MI's that more storyprogression happens with less puzzlefrequency to aquire such a progression, but the principle stays the same.
    After finally solving a very difficult puzzle and getting ready to save Morgan, the puzzle twists on itself to form a new puzzle. Guybrush sighs, on the brink of defeat, and then says that he'll do it anyways - for Morgan. If done well, that'd be a good character moment, and it happens because the puzzle fed the story.
    As I see it. Puzzle... story progressed after solving... another puzzle came up blocking you... solve it! Until you finish the initial puzzle no Guybrush progression at all. Puzzles actually block progression. That's the very definition of "puzzle".
    God, can you imagine how unbelievably boring Monkey Island would be if all you did was solve puzzles that had nothing to do with the story?
    ToMI did pretty good with Lair of the Leviathan (pretty much 1/2 of it was unrelated to the story).

  • Didn't he get sued for accidentally hurting the guy he was saving's neck, though?

  • @Hassat Hunter said: The Incredibles.



    Oh, that's not what I meant. I Googled a bit and came-up with Hancock, though.



    I am going to list a few games that actually do this, you might have heard of them:
    SMI, LCR, CMI, ToMI, Sam&Max (Hit the Road, both TTG seasons)... Day of the Tentacle


    Name me one puzzle in those games that halts the entire game. One. (I excluded the others because I either don't remember them well, or haven't played them.)

    You completely misinterpreted everything else I said, though. You seem to think that you have to concentrate on one puzzle for the game to move forward, when the non-linearity of the good games allowed you to do other things - related to story - whilst not being stuck in the same place.

    But

    Picking up the ring and the nickles are puzzles? I don't quite see it that way. Having to USE the ring on the glass is a puzzle, that's true.
    And until you do that, the story doesn't continue... does it now?

    Picking up the ring is part of the puzzle. The story doesn't technically continue, but that lasts for about five minutes - besides, the game hasn't been brought to a halt. You have a very clear objective: get out. LeChuck is dead. Stuff's over. All Threepwood has to do is get out. There's only one way out.

    More importantly, though, is that everything you do in that ship is what causes CMI to happen. A short, "locked room" puzzle that sets-up the story isn't exactly a halt.

  • @Kroms said: Oh, that's not what I meant. I Googled a bit and came-up with Hancock, though.


    Superhero gets sued for saving somebody that doesn't want to be saved, property damage during an apprehension etc. and has to quite being "super" and lead a normal life, which he can't cope.
    How exactly is that not what you mentioned?
    Name me one puzzle in those games that halts the entire game. One.
    SMI: Okay, can't really remember this one.
    LCR: Don't realize the meaning of the song? Sorry kiddo, no proceeding in the game (well, unless you use easy mode)
    CMI: Don't realise that you have to have a banjo fight? Sorry, no crew of 3, no sailing to Blood Island.
    Hit the Road: Can't find out how to disguish as Bigfoot? No proceeding in the game for you.
    Season 1, Episode 5: Don't figure out how to get into your office in cyberspace? No way for you to finish the game.
    Season 2, Episode 4: Don't go back in time to fix a leak, no flyer for you, no game proceeding for you...
    Day of the Tentacle: Oh man, the amount of times I had to seek up a walkthrough for this one. Okay; 2 words: Hamster, and... freezer.
    You seem to think that you have to concentrate on one puzzle for the game to move forward, when the non-linearity of the good games allowed you to do other things - related to story - whilst not being stuck in the same place.
    However eventually you HAD to solve that puzzle to proceed. And if you still couldn't solve it, well, you're stuck. Your argument would be true if every puzzle in each game had multiple solutions, but in 98% of the cases, there is just a single solution. Don't get it, don't go on... side-tracking wont help then.

    For example the Nipperkin situation you critize, it's the only puzzle in ToMI I had to use a walkthrough. Got the treasure and the fight, got stuck on the ship. And I couldn't proceed until I solved it. No more sidetracking available. Turned out that I had to climb the anchor *again* to set fire to some grease (I would have never thought of that).
    The story doesn't technically continue, but that lasts for about five minutes
    That's because there are a whole 2 screens. Things tend to get more complicated if 100 screens, 40 items, 3 characters over 3 timelines and stuff get involved (Think: Day of the Tentacle). And you bet you are stuck if not solving EVERY single puzzle in the game.
    LeChuck is dead.
    He was still very much alive (well... eh... sort off). He only "died" because Guybrush sunk his ship after getting out.
    There's only one way out.
    And that's my exact point. There is always only 1 way forward (masked with a puzzle). Don't solve it... no continuation of game, or storyline.
    More importantly, though, is that everything you do in that ship is what causes CMI to happen.
    I can say the same about Tales. Except replace ship with "ships".

  • @Kroms said: For example, I'm sure Ben Throttle solves things differently than Bernard Bernoulli does.



    @Kroms said: "As far as the main characters go, it's like this: Let's say Ben and Bernard both walk up to a door. It's locked. The only tool they have to help them get through the door is a ham and cheese sandwich on white (bread). Bernard would inspect the keyhole and see that the key was still in the lock, sticking out the other side. He'd lubricate the floor with mayonnaise from his sandwich, and slide a piece of bread under the door. Then he'd take out the toothpick and use it to push the key back out the hole so it would drop on to the bread and then pull the bread back under (the door), and open the lock with the key. Ben would eat the sandwich and kick down the door."

    (I'm supposed to type something that isn't quoted or I can't post)

Add Comment