Collector wrote:The problem with most such articles is that most who write them usually have a LA games bias who try to argue against all deaths and all dead ends. I agree with Josh Mandel's take on dead ends. There were two kinds of dead ends. The intentional ones that were part of the game design and the unintentional ones. The unintentional ones can rightly be considered bugs. Even the intentional ones can be poorly designed. Something that offers no clues that you have missed something and dead ends that allow you advance pretty far in the game before it becomes evident that you missed something much earlier. That said, even a dead ends that are not unintentional are subjective. Some will hate them regardless, but that does not make it a "sin".
I personally do oppose all dead ends, but the article didn't go to that extreme. It said that that was the most arguable of the "sins", that there shades of gray, and that going out of the way to complete eliminate dead ends can bring along its own problems. Instead, it specifically calls out those deads ends you enter unknowingly. The skimmer is a good example of this. When you arrive there, you don't need the skimmer anymore, and you do need money, so it looks like a good offer. You don't find out until significantly later that you need a jetpack but don't have one. And even then, there's no indication of where it is that you messed up. It's not a puzzle of "I need a jetpack. How do I get one?". It's just a way of punishing people something they couldn't have known.
It is true that a savvy player would be able to get around that, by saving the game before every decision point and then trying both to see which is better. But that would be 9 on the list.
Deaths are entirely subjective. I can't say that there are any deaths in Sierra games that I resented. While I was never fond of the stair case or bean stock situations, it was because of the tedious aspect, not because ego could die. As noted earlier many impressions of these older games are wrapped in nostalgia, which makes it harder to fairly judge them. I do think that opinions on deaths in games have been formed by the earliest experiences with the games. A very young player will probably react more negatively to the death of his ego than an older player. I feel that many LA fans started at an earlier age than Sierra fans. The typical LA fan's hatred of deaths and the generally more juvenile humor seems to bear this out.
Here, also, the article didn't take that hard-line stance. It's just the frequent, unforeshadowed deaths that are named as problem. SQ1 has plenty of those. For example, on Kerona, after exiting the pod, just walking in the wrong direction will kill you. Also notable is the hole in the cliff wall. It's hard to even see that hole, and it takes some exploration. If you look at it from a distance, the game encourages you to get closer. If you look at it from close up, you die. The lesson appears to be that look in holes is deadly, but given how often looking in holes is actually useful in Sierra games, the actual lesson is that you can't predict whether you'll be rewarded or punished for a given action.
I think the Sierra deaths largely are about tedium. You either have to constantly save the game, or you ended up having to replay the part you just did. As the article noted, a rewind function would have let them keep the deaths while making them far less problematic.
(Side note: Sierra adventure games were among the first video games of any sort I played, and it would be many years before I encountered an LucasArts game. I still prefer the general approach of the latter.)
Moon logic can be bad, but if it is consistent, once catch on to the designer's style it is not that frustrating and can even be humorous. It can also be mitigated with clues within the game play. So even this can be well done or poorly done. Overall the best puzzles are ones that are organic to the games and advance the narrative, not just some arbitrary roadblock. The logic can be a little crazy as long as it is consistent with the game.
I agree. The game puzzles have to be logical, but that "logical" can be defined by the game. For example, arguing against magic-based puzzles in a fantasy game on the basis that magic isn't actually real would be silly.
However, there are still plenty of puzzles that even an understanding of the game and its genre's tropes can't help you with.
I can't think of a Sierra game that allowed you to add items to your inventory that are never used in any situation out side of in MoE where you had to place the right skull on the top of the headless statue you could take the wrong skull, but you do get a clue as to which one is the right one.
Indeed. That complaint was leveled against Uninvited, with no reference to Sierra. There are some completely useless items (for example, SQ1 had the plant on Kerona that does nothing), and your inventory can still get somewhat cluttered from items that have already served their purpose or items used for alternative solutions to a puzzle, but since you have unlimited inventory space and thus don't need to bother with inventory management, it's much less of an issue.
His "simulational over the experiential" misses the boat on some levels. Adding realistic aspects can increase immersion and or make ego a little more relatable to the player. It can break immersion if too heavy handed like the sub simulation sequences in Iceman. So again it depends on how well implemented it is.
I don't think you're really disagreeing.If realism increases the immersion or relatability, that does
improve the experience, so that's a valid reason for including it.
I think this is actually the most important part of the article. And even the most important principle of game design. The question should always be "Will this improve the experience of players playing my game?". Every design decision and every interaction should be made with that question in mind.
The simulational approach is, to an extent, lazy. It requires the designer to just make the initial decision to include an element, and any further questions are just answered by thinking about how things like that normally work. The experiential approach, on the other hand, requires constant reevaluation to determine what effect this has on how the game is played and whether the end result is actually a positive.
This distinction is very significant to how death is treated. The simulational approach would just be "this sort of thing would be deadly, so I'll put in a death scene". The experiential approach would require asking if dying there is a satisfying result and whether the game is improved by people hovering their games over F5 and F7. And, of course, it would require considering the effect omitting
that death scene would have, and whether it would negatively affect the game if players no longer had a fear of death.
Just as a general rule, if someone asks "Why is there an X that does Y in the game?", just responding with "Y is just what Xs do" (i.e. the simulational answer) isn't a good enough answer, but there are countless cases in Sierra games where just that sort of reasoning seems to have been applied, leading to what (in my opinion) are bad design decisions.
To me misleading the player is again subjective. If everything is very clear cut then that contributes to a game becoming too easy or predictable.
There's a difference between just not giving clues and giving clues that are misleading. The player often relies on subtle clues from the game: what part of the screen the artwork seems to emphasize, what objects are mentioned in a scene description, how items are described, etc. That sort of thing is probably unavoidable in games; there's just a finite amount of detail that can be put into a game, and it's best used on things that matter. It's perfectly okay for something to just not have any of these hints. But if it has misleading hints, that either means the player will try to follow that red herring, or that the player will start just ignoring the legitimate hints.
Just as one example, the infamous yeti pie puzzle in KQ5 would been more forgivable if the pie had been described as unpleasantly sticky rather than delicious.