Won't making the game larger make solving the problem tougher and more confusing? - If the player knows he has say, five screens to move around in, two characters he can talk to and only a taco in his inventory, then he knows the puzzle can be solved within that space...
If he has the option to drive/fly to multiple different destinations, then he's going to get overwhelmed by the potential options, how does he know the solution is within that area - maybe they need to get that skull in Botswana or guitar from Guantanamo Bay before the solution can be found (its gonna take a good 5-10 minutes to get the character there, and then back again when theres no potential clues) - Essentially I guess I 'm saying Adventure games are all about solving problems - You set the player up with the situation, and the tools (i.e. characters, inventory, etc) & let them take it from there?
At the end of the day, whatever the developers add - new dialog options, mini-games, etc.. are going to get old for the player at some point and he's going to be stuck in the same situation anyway?
The only alternative I've seen is to have serveral plotlines running concurrently, then the player can switch between between them when hes stumped with a particular puzzle and come back refreshed at the end
e.g. In order to leave the house the character needs to solve the puzzles of 1, getting washed, 2. Making breakfast, 3. Feeding the cat, 4. Getting rid of the annoying hangover...
Theres no set order these need to be completed in, he can do bits of the puzzel at a time
e.g. the character has figured out how to get the tin of cat food off the top shelf, get the bowl away from the phyco cat, but need to put together a makeshift can opener in order to feed it.
Since the player is stumped he might want to try going back to the making breakfast puzzle/quest or the getting washed and dressed thingy...
But even then, your going to end up in a position where you've completed all the quests/storyline/puzzles, except the one for getting rid of the hangover, which you just cant find an solution to... so your back to having 5 room, two characters to talk to and a kipper in your dressing gown pocket.
I guess what I'm saying is that solving puzzles is the point of adventure games (having a solid, fun, entertaining, engaging story is why you keep playing) - You want to be challenged by the puzzles (& as long as the solution makes sense and isn't too obscure), otherwise theres no satisfaction in solving them.
Otherwise Adventure games developers might as well just make the whole thing an animated short (though it would be cool if you could watch the game played through as an animation after you'd completed it - just the once though, and you'd probably get bored and turn it off after the first five minutes, like with the commentary's they've started adding to some games, I tried listening to the FEAR one - I could actually feel my life draining away with each passing second - It was a lot scarier than the actual game, which just seemed to be about a little girl throwing a strop because she couldn't find her hairbrush?)
Is it really good puzzle design to make the player exhaust all their variables anyway? A good puzzle should require thinking and logic to complete, not trial and error. That said, I understand your concern. When the player does get stuck, they shouldn't have too many variables overwhelming them. But of the two extremes, I'd rather the player be overwhelmed by possibilities than being able to figure out a puzzle in five minutes simply by trying all fifteen possibilities. But managing variable quantity is an important part of adventure design. Cutting off areas that are of no more use would be a step in the right direction.
I'd also like to see designers begin to use an auto-grab system where the character automatically picks up all relevant items in a particular area. It'd certainly stop the player from constantly revisiting areas in hopes of finding that magical widget that will solve all their problems.
Adding new stuff when the player is stuck may not get them unstuck, but it would help make the game feel more entertaining.
I'm not suggesting that the difficulty be taken away from graphic adventure games. But if the player can't figure out that he needs to disolve his pills in water to get over his hang-over, why not provide an equally difficult puzzle involving getting the water to work for a cold shower? Again, you're going to have to face a lot of puzzles throughout an adventure. But in some cases, putting giving the player two solutions to the same puzzle will increase the odds that the player can "get" one of them. Does it increase the number of variables? Certainly. Are there ways of managing the quantity of variables? Yeah, there are.
I would actually say that you have very important points there Oilers99. Particularly in terms of puzzles. These are the sort of things which stop the adventure genre from being a mainstream genre. Particularly in terms of puzzle design.
I personally hate puzzles which don't really seem to make sense. For instance, in Gabriel Knight 3 to make a disguise you have to put a piece of tape above a hole where it will take a small amount of fur from a cat (when it gets chased thorugh) and you get a false moustache. Even to me that makes little sense. Or Monkey Island 1 in which to get from one part of the island to the other you are forced to go find a chicken somewhere which so happens to have a pulley through the middle allowing you to hook it over the wire and get to the other side. Maybe to slightly crazy people such as myself that makes sense but nonetheless the solution involves a pixel hunt on the other side of the island. Couple "interesting" solutions such as these with having to guess precisely how the game maker wants you to do them (e.g. where they want you to place the balloon) and adventure games become an exceptionally irritating genre.
In games like Discworld II they actually went on to complain about it in game but they still did nothing to change it. It's still continuing in modern games as well, especially in games like Syberia and Runaway where the developers apparently refuse to try and move the genre forward from the 90's. I like these games but I have to admit that I often find them frustrating.
The first thing that needs to happen is developers need to sit down and actually think up clear and logical puzzles. No more combining shoe box with dead salmon to distract laser cannons to allow the clown into the toilets where he can open the secret safe. More allowing access to secret base by sneaking into and disabling control center so the lasers stop and having to blackmail the clown using the pictures you took of him taking cocaine so you can get the combination for the safe.
But this leaves how people are going to attempt puzzles.
But how to solve this? You can make it easier for people to figure out where to use what but you still don't know if they're going to do it. Obviously you cannot completely solve this. Nobody can completely account for how a total stranger is going to approach a puzzle. Whether they're going to attempt to try and push the safe out the window or try and break it open using the explosives in their inventory meant for later. I think the best idea would be to allow a slight level of open endedness. For those who do not think to throw Max into the switchboard, put a door in the back which can be opened by bargaining the key off the owners or ripping it open with a crowbar. Perhaps in these new fangled 3D games you could allow a character to make a costume and try to trick his way in or for the casual player you can allow them to try and sneak their way in, the difference being the person who goes out of his way to get the costume will find more puzzles but won't get caught by guards and be forced to restart while the casual gamer has to knock people out and avoid guards to get about. This not only allows for how people are going to attempt to solve puzzles but also adds a little more action and other genres so that people can replay and experience a slightly different game PLUS the other genres might attract people who play different genres like FPS and stealth-'em-ups.
You're not going to predict precisely how the player will react, but a good designer should be able to figure it out with reasonable certainty. People will use their logic. If you can put yourselves in the shoes of someone who hasn't designed the game, and anticipate how they would interpret the information you give them, then you should be able to design a game successfully. I'm not really a fan of integrating stealth or action into graphic adventure games. Adventure games are about the puzzles, and when they stop being about that, then how are they different from any other genre? It's just a matter of making smarter puzzles.
It's not a hopeless cause. Look at how successfully Zelda implements puzzles into its design. If that kind of intelligence in puzzle design is used, albeit a different type, then I would imagine the game would ellicit relatively few complaints.
Think for a second about Monkey2.
Lots of puzzles were totally crazy and incredibly hard.
Just to mention some, USING JOJO WITH THE PUMP, or just a simple "pick up dog". Those kind of puzzles made MI2 one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) graphic adventures.
You could think about what to do next for days and days, and when you finally did it, you were enthusiastic.
Maybe what you're saying is more appropriate for a game like Maniac Mansion, which didn't even give you a hint for being following the right logic. But during the next couple of years the problem's been solved, I think.
And Ocarina of Time is a classic because Navi repeats the same two phrases over and over.
A game is rarely a classic because of its flaws. If Monkey Island 2 has serious design flaws (I couldn't tell you for certain, it's been too long since I've played it), then that was a detriment to the experience. I remember loving the atmosphere and writing of the game. Not sure about the puzzles. Don't remember much about them, which might be a less-than-good sign.
Again, not knowing what you're doing for days is not a good thing. Sure, you feel good when you finally figure it out, but what about the DAYS you spend frustrated? To compensate for something that frustrating for that long, it'd have to be nothing short of pure ectasy. Never got that pumped about a puzzle solution. Frankly, those few moments of "I did it" are never worth the days you spent trying to figure it out. And you can get the same feeling whenever you cleverly arrive at a solution. Maybe less relief, but relief is merely the reprieve from suffering.
I'm not sure why having "I KILL YOU WITH ILLOGIC, STUPID ADVENTURE PLAYER" puzzles is a good thing.
Sure, but you've got your groups of adventure titles
Arcade Adventures - Like your Tomb Raiders
Text Adventure - Like the old Zork games
RPG Adventure - Like Ultima, Final Fantasy (which I calss as an arcade adventure, but none the less)
Point & Click/graphic adventure - Link Monkey Island.
Theres nothing wrong with preferring one genre over another, While Tomb Raider style games tend to favour action over puzzles, graphic adventure tend to lean toward puzzles over action.
For myself, I love both games, I personally find I become more immersed in a graphic adventure, since I find the storyline and character development is far more prevalent & I feel more involved with the story, which I can enjoy as it unravels - But I enjoy playing Tomb Raider games too - Just a different buzz.
But then, being a pirate wannabe, fighting a dread ghost pirate, getting involved with voodo and save the girl of your dreams - seems like a pretty cool adventure to me
Final Fantasy games are not adventure games. They're RPGs. If you want to get more specific, they're called Japanese RPGs or Eastern RPGs. You're the first person I've heard refer to them as adventure RPGs. Same for arcade adventure. Those games are called action-adventure, and even then, they're not all that closely linked to graphic adventure titles. They both involve exploration, and some action adventure games have puzzles (though usually not the same type), but that's about it. Text adventures are dead (with the occasional exception, tributes like Thy Dungeonman from Home Star Runner, for example) and seem to have been replaced by graphic adventures. Are these necessarily logical? No. But that's the language gamers tend to use, so in order to communicate effectively with each other, those are the labels we use.
Dunno why I felt compelled to nitpick.
At the end of the day you realise that most game genres don't fit very well any more, what with the added complexity and such. For instance, RPG. Role playing. Playing the role of a hero. When you think about it, doesn't that cover most story driven games now? Final Fantasy is no different to FEAR when you think about the title of RPG. They give you a character and say, this is you. Have fun. Okay, so perhaps you mean to say games where they cast YOU as a character. Games like Gothic III or Oblivion (note how I put Gothic III before Oblivion? I really hate Oblivion) where you create your own character. There are mutiple games (the names I can't currently think of) at the moment in which you can create your own personalized character and head out and do typical FPS tasks. Then you get the various games like Deus Ex or System Shock which change the games into Acion-RPGs and you being to realise that maybe the RPG genre isn't very well defined.
The same for pretty much every genre. There are mixing and matchings of different genres which are similar to others, hybrid genres (e.g. Action Adventures), so on and so forth. Perhaps someone should make some new, more specific genres or we should get really specific (e.g. I love my point & click, action free cartoon adventures) and then we could stop arguing about "What is an adventure game?"
Eh, sort of. There are a lot of hybrid genres emerging, but you still get a lot of games that fit pretty squarely in a genre. Also, as new genres emerge, we create new genre names for them to fit in. Fifteen years ago, did anyone have any idea what a "stealth action" game was? Exactly.
Thanks for posting! I’ve been a little backlogged with Sam & Max stuff, but I was really happy to read your thoughts. I hope to write full replies to each of your points soon, but if you subscribe to the theory that actions speak louder words, then the first episode of Sam & Max might be an even louder reply. I’m interested to hear if Sam & Max managed to evade these pitfalls any better, and where it could still use improvement.
But for the short answer, I think you make many very good points. I've experienced all the problems you mentioned, and I too want to correct them. In Sam & Max, we didn’t choose to address the problems in quite the same ways you proposed, but we certainly worked to make the puzzle design more consistent and to maintain a pleasing pace. I hope it paid off, but if not, let us know and we'll keep working at it!
Uh, thank you for thanking me for posting!
I'm definitely going to get Sam and Max. The difficult is... how? Maybe a GameTap subscription, maybe buy the game directly, maybe as a birthday gift for my brother... regardless of how I do it, I also have to get someone to use their credit card in my place. So... who knows. I think I'll do a detailed analysis of Sam and Max, see how it stands up both in terms of writing and design.
But if you didn't try to solve the problems in the way I suggested, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The more potential solutions that are out there in the world, the more likely it is that those problems can be solved. I'll see if I can figure out what you guys are doing in the game. When? Uh, who knows.
I haven't finished any Final Fantasy games. I like to get halfway, leave the games for about a year then restart them. I can definitely agree with the whole "Why play if it's boring?" idea. Makes a lot of sense.
I can't actually remember the last game I finished...I think it was probably GTA: VICE CITY. And that was OLD! Since then I've bought 15 games, and haven't finished one.
I never finished Final Fantsasy VII, but MAN was there a lot to do to keep me entertained while I 'went on vacation in the game'.
If I'm happily playing my way through GTA:SA then get to a certain point where the only mission I can do will require CJ to swim back and forth in the harbour for 2 hours before I can even attempt it, why should I even bother playing? I have better things to be doing than holding the forward key and occasionally pressing tab to see my stamina bar has gone up by 1/16th of a centimetre.
Or when I'm playing Dreamfall and am then made to wander in a circle into rooms, get keycards, continue to next room, etcetera for 15 minutes. In this situation I tend to quit and go for a run. Not exactly the best design.
It's too bad, because Dreamfall and many Final Fantasy games have very rewarding gameplay and stories that are worth seeing through to the end. The way I figure it, by the time you get to a particularly frustrating part, you should have figured out by then whether or not it's worth getting past. In a game like Final Fantasy VII, what with its poor translation and basic gameplay, the answer was a firm no. In a game like Final Fantasy VIII or Dreamfall, definitely, absolutely, totally worth working through. Get a walkthrough, get a friend to give a second opinion, but those games are worth it.
I don't think you can really expect a designer to be perfect, especially with the quantity of content that's in a game. The designer will mess up at some point. But the mark of a good game is one that will make you want to see it through, even when you aren't liking what you're doing at the moment.
Just consider buying the game. It's a necessary inconvenience to play the game. If there are a few necessary inconveniences within the design of an otherwise awesome game, so what?