The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:28 pm

For people who know that, that can explain why the puzzle is the way it is. For someone just playing GK3, however, all they see is a really unreasonable puzzle. That's just one particularly notorious example of a "How was I supposed to figure that out?" puzzle in a Sierra game. The snake/bridle puzzle in KQ2 is another one, but there are many one could point to (though the exact list is, of course, subjective). But even if you think those particular examples aren't actually that bad or are justified, I think my general point there still stands: some puzzles are more reasonable than others, so a player might think think that they're able to understand and solve the puzzles in the game, up to the point where they hit one of the unreasonable ones.

I don't think it's wrong to state opinions with conviction or to choose catchy titles. I personally wouldn't use "deadly sins", but I don't think the article would be improved by making it more wishy-washy. I think it is still clear that it's an opinion piece.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:42 pm

BBP wrote:Is it just me, or are these authors full of themselves, calling their rants Deadly Sins and Gaming Bill Of Rights?

It came across that way to me as well. What if this was applied to another art form? "Reader's Bill Of Rights" can sound rather entitled.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:25 pm

That sort of things already exists, for types of books that need it. See the Mystery Reader's Bill of Rights (another incarnation of which had an even more presumptuous title). The interactive nature of games means that there more things that games can do wrong, however, so games benefit from it more than other art forms do.

I don't think a Bill of Player's Rights is at all absurd, and there have been many proposed over the years. You could also just call it Game Design Best Practices. The idea is just that there are certain things that can reasonably be expected of a game and that if the game doesn't do them, it's a problem. It's reasonable to have disagreements on just what those things are, but I don't think the idea that such a list should exist should be controversial. Surely there are things where we can go beyond "I don't like it but it's their decision and whatever they choose is okay" and instead say "They really shouldn't have designed it that way". Surely there is some level of respect that the game should give to player who've bought it, taken it seriously, and invested their time into playing it.

One could say, for example, that player are entitled to a game that doesn't just randomly crash and that it's wrong for games to do that. That's already universally accepted, however, so there's little point in writing it into one's manifesto. It's instead about things the author thinks should be accepted but aren't yet.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:36 am

adeyke wrote:
Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:But it's not about hard vs. easy. It's about whether the game is fair to its player.

But what is "fair" to the player? Hand holding everything? Painting it out so it's obvious?
The Sierra manuals used to say something to the degree, "Try to pick up anything that isn't nailed down."
After figuring out a few puzzles and seeing the weird logic - I realized, "Ah, it's going to be THAT kind of thinking!"
It's like reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You had to think outside the box - because that is not a "normal" book and these were not "normal" thinking games. That gets established pretty quickly.

There's certainly some degree of subjectivity. But a player will have some expectations going into the game and will feel betrayed if those expectations aren't followed. There also have been attempts to more rigorously defined what is fair, such as the Bill of Player Rights in the document linked by the article.


See, if the Sierra games were too easy; honestly, I don't think they would have left such a positive impact on me. (So for me, this is all going to be my point of view!)

So, this is all going to stem from personal experience.

As I said, I played 99% of the Sierra games I owned and bought back in the day, with my friend Shawn. He and I would spend nights trying to figure out some of the puzzles. Sometimes, even while we were at school (Middle School to High School, during the "Sierra Era") - and try to come up with ideas that might solve how to get the winning Lotto numbers in Leisure Suit Larry 2 (for example). We thought we were missing it somehow; like there was a clue; or that we were supposed to otherwise cheat (as in somehow see what they were pulling first, like maybe the company for the Lotto was cheating and pulling numbers that they knew weren't winners, and if we could find it out - we would win these mega millions in the game!) Yes, we actually thought like that! Sure, it's way off the beaten path - but that was the mentality that we determined was need to beat this game, after having played both King's Quest 1 and Leisure Suit Larry 1. (Granted, it eventually was cheating that was done - by telling the woman who can't see well, that you have the exact winning numbers she reads off) - but it took us a long time to figure that out - and that was half the fun!

adeyke wrote:
Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:I can understand the desire to forgive the games. Like I said, I have nostalgia for those old Sierra games and have played through many of the quite a few times. However, looking at it as objectively as possible, do you agree or disagree with the list? And in which ways in particular? For each of the "deadly sins", do you think a game becomes better if it does that or if it avoids doing that?

Answers below! (And I love this engaged a conversation! I certainly hadn't expected such a good convo!) :)

I hope that continues. I know it can be easy to get defensive and interpret "there are problems with a game you like" as a personal attack ("you are a bad person for liking that game"), which is not my intent.


Oh yeah, I am entirely too old these days to get all worked up! :D

adeyke wrote:But the puzzles aren't all alike. Even within a game, a player can build an expectation for how the world's logic works only to be blindsided by something completely different. For example, no amount of playing Gabriel Knight games will give the player the expectation that it's the sort of game where you use syrup and cat hair to make a false mustache.


Oh, I will be the first to agree - there are STUPID puzzles in this game, that go far beyond the scope of crazy thinking. But I'd say (from what I can remember), maybe 1 in 10 Sierra games had one of those "Who Came Up With This?" puzzle type thing that seems too far fetched. But - that said, what game is perfect? I can read an excellent book and find something I absolutely hated about part of it. (For example, I just saw the most recent "Fantastic Four" movie which is getting a lot of hatred - like 9% on Rotten Tomatoes - and watching the movie - granted, it took a long time to build up, and it DID feel very disjointed - I was actually okay with the movie - until, literally, the last 30 minutes of the movie, where they fight Doctor Doom)! But the other 95% of the movie, wasn't perfect, wasn't super great - but I was entertained. But that fight with Doctor Doom was horrible! (Granted, it also made the movie in my eyes, tank considerably... So I can see why some people could have a puzzle ruin an entire game for them!) That GK3 puzzle is one of the most notorious, "WTF Puzzles" - I'll be the first to admit. But the general puzzles of the game, though they require bending logic, they're not too insane (in my view).

adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote:If the player can just unexpectedly die, that means the player isn't free to just explore the game, and the player is encouraged to just spend as much time in the save/load GUI as in the actual game.

... Right? And the problem is where? I have never had a problem with death in a game. Especially if it involves exploring.
If you don't have death, then where is the risk? You'll just run around and do anything and everything you can, even if it might logically kill you.
Try to walk off the edge of a cliff - oh, no, the game stops you and says, "Close call Roger Wilco. You almost fell 300 feet into the hungry maw of a thersariun pit below!"
Forget that!

That reasoning is very foreign to me.


Don't worry, I don't think you're alone!

While I am going all over the place with my rambling (like the paragraph before using a movie to make an example!) - here I go again - at least, this time, with another game.
So, eons ago, when the MMO EverQuest first came out - that game was brutal when you died. You would lose experience points, unless you could find a cleric player to resurrect you (which was costly to the cleric). Not only that, when you died, you respawned, naked at your bind point. So you'd have to run back to your body, or convince someone to drag you body to the zone line so you can loot your own body and equip yourself. There were zones notorious for death (at lower levels, Crushbone was a zone everyone was all too familiar with dying and doing what was called a "Corpse Run"). I can't count, how many times, in EverQuest, I was in a party that got wiped out (sometimes because of me!), and I would laugh and laugh and laugh, despite all the trouble it was sometimes to get back to our bodies and recover them. Some - if not almost all - of my favorite stories in EverQuest have to do with the party or raid getting wiped out. And EverQuest was HUGE for an MMO when it came out. ABSOLUTELY huge. You could jump on ships that sailed between lands and jump off the ship and swim in random directions and find all kinds of islands that were populated with NPCs and usually monsters - even though there were no quests there! There was things to find by swimming underwater! EverQuest was huge! And brutal! It was VERY fun to explore - but you were certain to meet death by doing just random exploring.

Then comes World of Warcraft. Nowhere near as bit. You can't swim between lands. When you die, you respawn with all your weapons and gear. No XP hit for dying. There was literally no risk to doing something stupid in World of Warcraft. You can run into a high level zone with a low level character, and who cares? You died? So what? You appear with all your stuff back and your spawn point.

It took all the - what I would call - fun - out of the game, because there was no more risk. There was no more exploring. It seemed pointless.

So I am all for exploring stuff - and potentially having a character perish because I wasn't careful! I think that adds to the game. Especially, if like in Space Quest, I am rewarded with a silly comment, about how my stupidity led to my death. :)

adeyke wrote: To me every time you have to save/load (aside from ending and continuing a session) is a failure on the game's part.


So how do you play Quest for Glory?

That has got to drive you crazy?

adeyke wrote:Saving/loading means that the player is doing something, not player, so when you do things like that, you're definitely thinking in terms of "how do I win this game?" and not "how does Roger Wilco save the day?". It also means that there things you did but which didn't actually happen (because loading the game undid them), creating confusion about the actual continuity of the current playthrough. It diminishes the protagonist's achievements if they were were only possible because an outside force intervened each time they messed up. And it means that no matter what the intended quest was, it instead becomes Groundhog Day. And I just don't think "F7 F7 F7 get it right F5" is good gameplay.


So you don't think that Roger Wilco, for example, should be able to walk off a cliff? (Granted, if it were a real person, they wouldn't intentionally walk off a cliff - and that degree, things like the Spiral Staircase in King's Quest 4 would drive me insane, because I'm like, "Seriously Rosella, how drunk do you have to be to not be able to walk up a flight of stairs?") So I can see your point! I guess it's never bothered me - like you said the groundhog day thing - because, I was usually entertained by the death messages, and would get a laugh, and remember not to do that next time, and simply restore the game and carefully avoid not picking up that sheet of metal in Space Quest 3 for example!

adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote:If the game has misleading clues, that means the player can't trust even the helpful clues the game gives.

Because everyone is always honest?

I'm not sure what your response means in relation to what I said.


Well, because you said the game has misleading clues. (I am trying to think what you meant by that?) And I just assume, things like in King's Quest 1 - the "Think Backwards" clue - is a little misleading. You have to flip the entire alphabet backwards. That, admittedly, drove me insane - but King's Quest 1 was my first exposure to Sierra games (we played that, then LSL1). But once I figured that out - and it took a lot of back and forth from Shawn (and I even think Shawn's dad weighed in on that one), I felt better for it - because I had overcome an obstacle that was blocking my ability to move forward. I guess it's like those athletes who do that running jump, and can't seem to get past 10 feet, when suddenly they do it and land 12 feet. You suddenly feel great!


adeyke wrote:And to be clear, it's not that I dislike adventure games.


Your passion for adventure games was never in question in my eyes, or else you wouldn't be here on these forums! :)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:45 am

BBP wrote:The cat hair moustache was an emergency puzzle put in instead of the bird's nest - water hose puzzle, which was cut because of animation limitations. That one did have a satisfactory hint.


I don't know, even I think that one was pretty rough! I think part of the problem would be with a puzzle like that one - unless you're really playing it through, day after day, you might be inclined to forget things that may be hinted at, or suggested. And it's not like the game kept a "Journal" for Gabriel (or any of the characters), that might have said something like, "Hrm, I just pet that cat and got its fur all over me. I wonder if I can do something with that."

Or something. :)

adeyke wrote:For people who know that, that can explain why the puzzle is the way it is. For someone just playing GK3, however, all they see is a really unreasonable puzzle.


I could see that. I just assume, folks are like me - they'd play GK1 and GK2 before they played GK3, but that's not always the case. Someone who doesn't know Sierra or GK, might just see the cover to GK3 and think, "This looks cool! I will play it!" And get reasonably stuck on that cat mustache.

adeyke wrote: That's just one particularly notorious example of a "How was I supposed to figure that out?" puzzle in a Sierra game. The snake/bridle puzzle in KQ2 is another one,


Isn't there an alternate to passing the snake in KQ2, though?

adeyke wrote:That sort of things already exists, for types of books that need it. See the Mystery Reader's Bill of Rights (another incarnation of which had an even more presumptuous title). The interactive nature of games means that there more things that games can do wrong, however, so games benefit from it more than other art forms do.
I don't think a Bill of Player's Rights is at all absurd, and there have been many proposed over the years. You could also just call it Game Design Best Practices.
One could say, for example, that player are entitled to a game that doesn't just randomly crash and that it's wrong for games to do that. That's already universally accepted, however, so there's little point in writing it into one's manifesto. It's instead about things the author thinks should be accepted but aren't yet.


My main problem with someone who has a "Bill of Rights" type thing is the arrogance about it. For folks who say, "THIS is the seven steps every - EVERY - adventure game MUST follow!"

I say, "Shove off and go make your own Adventure game and see how easy it is!"

And if they do, more power to them! Wish'em the best, I do!

But that arrogance is the same kind of arrogance I get when someone knocks on my door, Bible in hand, and says, "Follow my God, my way, because it's the ONLY way, otherwise you are going to Hell."

I simply smile and say, "I'll tell the Devil you said hello."

:)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:47 am

The Bird's Nest Hose puzzle, if you think at the nest you'd hear: "I wish I could get that nest down. I need some of those polyester fibres."

When I first played GK3 I played mostly with walkthroughs from finding the bookstore on, that game is tough! But the cat hair moustache mostly troubled me because I love kitties. Not that Bird's Nest Hose is better in that regard. But I'd done weirder things before: in LSL6 I made, through trial and error, a swimsuit from a glasses cleaning cloth and dental floss. Apparently a pun but my English is not that proficient.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:06 am

Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:
Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:But it's not about hard vs. easy. It's about whether the game is fair to its player.

But what is "fair" to the player? Hand holding everything? Painting it out so it's obvious?
The Sierra manuals used to say something to the degree, "Try to pick up anything that isn't nailed down."
After figuring out a few puzzles and seeing the weird logic - I realized, "Ah, it's going to be THAT kind of thinking!"
It's like reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You had to think outside the box - because that is not a "normal" book and these were not "normal" thinking games. That gets established pretty quickly.

There's certainly some degree of subjectivity. But a player will have some expectations going into the game and will feel betrayed if those expectations aren't followed. There also have been attempts to more rigorously defined what is fair, such as the Bill of Player Rights in the document linked by the article.


See, if the Sierra games were too easy; honestly, I don't think they would have left such a positive impact on me. (So for me, this is all going to be my point of view!)


I again don't think this is about easy vs. hard but about fair vs. unfair.

I get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of managing to get past a difficult but well-crafted puzzle. In those cases, I can both both admire the skill that went into making it and be proud of my own skill in solving it.

There are other ways of making a game hard that don't improve the experience, however.

Just imagine taking a easy adventure game and, at the very end having a "Guess my number from 1 to 100" where if the player fails, their save games are reset and they're put back to the start. Suddenly, the game is much more difficult and most players won't actually be able to make it through to the end. It wouldn't actually be any more satisfying to players who enjoy solving adventure game puzzles, however, and it's just a very cheap way of adding fake difficulty. To me, a lot of the problems with adventure games are like that, though of course less extreme.

adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote:If the player can just unexpectedly die, that means the player isn't free to just explore the game, and the player is encouraged to just spend as much time in the save/load GUI as in the actual game.

... Right? And the problem is where? I have never had a problem with death in a game. Especially if it involves exploring.
If you don't have death, then where is the risk? You'll just run around and do anything and everything you can, even if it might logically kill you.
Try to walk off the edge of a cliff - oh, no, the game stops you and says, "Close call Roger Wilco. You almost fell 300 feet into the hungry maw of a thersariun pit below!"
Forget that!

That reasoning is very foreign to me.


Don't worry, I don't think you're alone!

While I am going all over the place with my rambling (like the paragraph before using a movie to make an example!) - here I go again - at least, this time, with another game.
So, eons ago, when the MMO EverQuest first came out - that game was brutal when you died. You would lose experience points, unless you could find a cleric player to resurrect you (which was costly to the cleric). Not only that, when you died, you respawned, naked at your bind point. So you'd have to run back to your body, or convince someone to drag you body to the zone line so you can loot your own body and equip yourself. There were zones notorious for death (at lower levels, Crushbone was a zone everyone was all too familiar with dying and doing what was called a "Corpse Run"). I can't count, how many times, in EverQuest, I was in a party that got wiped out (sometimes because of me!), and I would laugh and laugh and laugh, despite all the trouble it was sometimes to get back to our bodies and recover them. Some - if not almost all - of my favorite stories in EverQuest have to do with the party or raid getting wiped out. And EverQuest was HUGE for an MMO when it came out. ABSOLUTELY huge. You could jump on ships that sailed between lands and jump off the ship and swim in random directions and find all kinds of islands that were populated with NPCs and usually monsters - even though there were no quests there! There was things to find by swimming underwater! EverQuest was huge! And brutal! It was VERY fun to explore - but you were certain to meet death by doing just random exploring.

Then comes World of Warcraft. Nowhere near as bit. You can't swim between lands. When you die, you respawn with all your weapons and gear. No XP hit for dying. There was literally no risk to doing something stupid in World of Warcraft. You can run into a high level zone with a low level character, and who cares? You died? So what? You appear with all your stuff back and your spawn point.

It took all the - what I would call - fun - out of the game, because there was no more risk. There was no more exploring. It seemed pointless.

So I am all for exploring stuff - and potentially having a character perish because I wasn't careful! I think that adds to the game. Especially, if like in Space Quest, I am rewarded with a silly comment, about how my stupidity led to my death. :)


I should first stress that the complaints I have are about adventure games. Different types of games work differently. So I don't think lessons from MMORPGs can so easily be translated to adventure games. For one thing, in MMORPGs, loot and XP mean that you can be rewarded for doing the same content repeatedly. The world is also much more alive, so you're not going to experience the exact same thing each you play through it. To the extent a corpse run would be fun (and I can't say I'd personally be in favor of that in games I play), it would be because it because it gives you a new challenge to overcome.

With an adventure game, it's different. One possibility is that the player is compulsively saving the game (with the detriment to gaming experience that entails). In that case, they almost have the undo option I've been advocating, and there's no significant setback from dying. The other possibility is that player hasn't saved recently, in which case they just have to redo what they already did. There's no new challenge and no new experience. The only danger is that, because the continuity issues I mentioned, they might forget what they've already done for that previous save and thus end up missing something on the replay.

adeyke wrote: To me every time you have to save/load (aside from ending and continuing a session) is a failure on the game's part.


So how do you play Quest for Glory?

That has got to drive you crazy?


QfG isn't a pure adventure game; it's an adventure/RPG hybrid. And I do view the deaths in the two genres differently. I still don't like the adventure-style instant deaths in QfG, but I'm much more forgiving of deaths in combat. In those cases, there's a real sense of accomplishment when you win a tough fight, and you actually get rewarded in loot and stats from doing it. You also often have the possibility to run away if you're in over your head. However, even there, there should be the undo option (like QfG4 does with its autosave). And even there, care has to be taken to ensure the game is fair: the player should be able to judge if they're likely to win a fight before engaging, and the player should be given ways to build up their character before they get the really tough battles.

adeyke wrote:Saving/loading means that the player is doing something, not player, so when you do things like that, you're definitely thinking in terms of "how do I win this game?" and not "how does Roger Wilco save the day?". It also means that there things you did but which didn't actually happen (because loading the game undid them), creating confusion about the actual continuity of the current playthrough. It diminishes the protagonist's achievements if they were were only possible because an outside force intervened each time they messed up. And it means that no matter what the intended quest was, it instead becomes Groundhog Day. And I just don't think "F7 F7 F7 get it right F5" is good gameplay.


So you don't think that Roger Wilco, for example, should be able to walk off a cliff? (Granted, if it were a real person, they wouldn't intentionally walk off a cliff - and that degree, things like the Spiral Staircase in King's Quest 4 would drive me insane, because I'm like, "Seriously Rosella, how drunk do you have to be to not be able to walk up a flight of stairs?") So I can see your point! I guess it's never bothered me - like you said the groundhog day thing - because, I was usually entertained by the death messages, and would get a laugh, and remember not to do that next time, and simply restore the game and carefully avoid not picking up that sheet of metal in Space Quest 3 for example!


I would probably avoid letting Roger Wilco walk off a cliff, yes. The game is under no obligation to include possible actions that don't fit the character's motivations or the game's intended narrative. There are countless things that would be physically possible but that should be left out of the game.

The bit about being entertained by death messages brings up an interesting point though.

One could see the death messages as part of the game's content, in which case fully experiencing the game could include experience each of the death messages. Or one could see death as a negative outcome, a penalty for the player making a mistake or not playing well enough. I don't think those two views are really compatible.

If you're supposed to experience the deaths, that requires some separation between the player and the character. It's not "I'm going to die" but "I'm going to kill the character". And the death scene should feel like "Congratulation! You found another amusing way to kill the character". In that case, a supposedly dangerous situation is instead exciting, because it means you're in for a laugh.

On the other hand, if death is something to be avoided, it bring the player and character closer. It creates a stressful situation, and the player thinks "This place is dangerous and I need to be careful so I don't die". In that case, the death scene should feel like "Here's how you messed up and here's what happens as a result".

adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote:If the game has misleading clues, that means the player can't trust even the helpful clues the game gives.

Because everyone is always honest?

I'm not sure what your response means in relation to what I said.


Well, because you said the game has misleading clues. (I am trying to think what you meant by that?) And I just assume, things like in King's Quest 1 - the "Think Backwards" clue - is a little misleading. You have to flip the entire alphabet backwards. That, admittedly, drove me insane - but King's Quest 1 was my first exposure to Sierra games (we played that, then LSL1). But once I figured that out - and it took a lot of back and forth from Shawn (and I even think Shawn's dad weighed in on that one), I felt better for it - because I had overcome an obstacle that was blocking my ability to move forward. I guess it's like those athletes who do that running jump, and can't seem to get past 10 feet, when suddenly they do it and land 12 feet. You suddenly feel great!


I just really can't support the Ifnkovhgroghprm name puzzle. That's another one of those that always makes the list of bad puzzles in Sierra adventure games. I think it was a great move in the remake to change it to Nikstlitselpmur, is still be a tricky puzzle but a fair one.

But I don't think it's quite a case of a misleading clue. You do have to think backwards. The game just needs an additional hint that you should think terms of the alphabet instead of the letter placement in the name.

Suppose, though, that the game and the puzzles were exactly the same, but instead of that note, there was one that said "Wearing a magic hat will let a person see others' true names" or "The gnome is a good friend of the elf". In that case, you'd be spending time trying to find a magic hat or interrogate the elf, both of which are futile. That's the sort of thing that's a problem. And the article's example from Uninvited is just such a case: the game is very clearly hinting that the player should try to understand the bouncing creature, but that isn't actually possible.

Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:For people who know that, that can explain why the puzzle is the way it is. For someone just playing GK3, however, all they see is a really unreasonable puzzle.


I could see that. I just assume, folks are like me - they'd play GK1 and GK2 before they played GK3, but that's not always the case. Someone who doesn't know Sierra or GK, might just see the cover to GK3 and think, "This looks cool! I will play it!" And get reasonably stuck on that cat mustache.


I would say that even GK1 and GK2, and even experience with a variety of Sierra games, couldn't prepare you for that puzzle.

adeyke wrote: That's just one particularly notorious example of a "How was I supposed to figure that out?" puzzle in a Sierra game. The snake/bridle puzzle in KQ2 is another one,


Isn't there an alternate to passing the snake in KQ2, though?


Yes. You can instead kill it with the sword. However, if you do that, you don't get the sugar cube, so you're vulnerable to the poison thorns later on. And that means the poison thorn puzzle is a quite painful case of "F7 die F7 die F7 take a step successfully F5".

adeyke wrote:That sort of things already exists, for types of books that need it. See the Mystery Reader's Bill of Rights (another incarnation of which had an even more presumptuous title). The interactive nature of games means that there more things that games can do wrong, however, so games benefit from it more than other art forms do.
I don't think a Bill of Player's Rights is at all absurd, and there have been many proposed over the years. You could also just call it Game Design Best Practices.
One could say, for example, that player are entitled to a game that doesn't just randomly crash and that it's wrong for games to do that. That's already universally accepted, however, so there's little point in writing it into one's manifesto. It's instead about things the author thinks should be accepted but aren't yet.


My main problem with someone who has a "Bill of Rights" type thing is the arrogance about it. For folks who say, "THIS is the seven steps every - EVERY - adventure game MUST follow!"

I say, "Shove off and go make your own Adventure game and see how easy it is!"

And if they do, more power to them! Wish'em the best, I do!

But that arrogance is the same kind of arrogance I get when someone knocks on my door, Bible in hand, and says, "Follow my God, my way, because it's the ONLY way, otherwise you are going to Hell."

I simply smile and say, "I'll tell the Devil you said hello."

:)


The Bill of Player's Rights was actually written by Graham Nelson, who both created the Inform system for writing interactive fiction and wrote several such games of his own. It's not from the perspective of a petulant player but from a game designer trying to help other game designers avoid common pitfalls. I think such best practice documents are very useful to have, in that the let the game designers know what players expect and can make them fulfill those expectations as they're making the game, rather than wait until beta test (or worse, reviews of the released game) to see what they did wrong.

The same sort of thing can apply to other genres as well. For example, if a player buys an FPS, they have a certain expectation of the control scheme the game will have. Mouse to look, left-click to shoot, WASD to move, space to jump, R to reload, mouse wheel to change weapon have become a rather firmly established standard. That standard means that an FPS player can just jump into a new FPS game and can focus on the game's content without needing to worry about the controls. If someone was unaware of this standard and created an FPS with a completely different control scheme, players would be rightly confused by this. The same goes for an RPG with a blue life bar filled with blue potions and a red mana bar filled with red potions (instead of the other way around), or for an RTS that doesn't let you drag a box around units to select them and then right-click to move. Some things have become standard expected features in a genre, and it's good for game designers to know this when they're creating a new entry in it.

And I really think the "arrogance" is sometimes called for. For example, suppose I say the following:
1. A game should absolutely not randomly crash.
2. A game should absolutely not wipe the player's hard drive.
3. A game should absolutely not require the computer to be restarted in order to quit it.
4. A game should absolutely not send private information found on the player's computer to the game's creator.
5. A game should absolutely not consist of just staring at a blank screen.

Is that arrogant of me? Should I leave the door open that some games doing the above is legitimate? Should I have to make my own game if I don't like games doing the above? If the answer is yes, then I don't know what to say. If the answer is no, however, the fundamental idea of a Bill of Player's Rights is acceptable, and the disagreement is just about what things should be on it.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:57 am

It's arrogant to call it the Bill Of Rights. I have the same issues with the WIne Bible.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:19 pm

adeyke wrote:With an adventure game, it's different. One possibility is that the player is compulsively saving the game (with the detriment to gaming experience that entails). In that case, they almost have the undo option I've been advocating, and there's no significant setback from dying. The other possibility is that player hasn't saved recently, in which case they just have to redo what they already did. There's no new challenge and no new experience. The only danger is that, because the continuity issues I mentioned, they might forget what they've already done for that previous save and thus end up missing something on the replay.


I guess, when I played, I never saved that much unless I knew I was going to try something potentially stupid and fatal to the character.
There were times, naturally, that I did something I thought was logical and died for it - like lifting that piece of metal early on in Space Quest 3 (in the junk yard), where it slits your wrist and you bleed to death. I can see someone getting upset at that - because, really - are you going to slit your wrist accidentally on a piece of metal? Seriously doubt it, but the programmers took the opportunity to put in (what I thought) was a funny response and animated image.
Again, I could see someone being upset at that (it didn't bother me) because that is very random and very out of the blue and rather illogical that you'd perish there.
But, that idea in my head about not saving unless I felt I might do something stupid - just happened, literally, two nights ago. (Here's another example!) I was playing the original Neverwinter Nights, and running around, killing things left and right - opened a door - and there was a spider in the room that decimated me in seconds. And as I died, I realized, "Well, poop, I've not saved my game in like 2 hours!" So I lost 2 hours of game time, but it didn't bug me. I laughed, and just exited the game, picked up again last night, and saved before that room - and this time, for whatever reason - beat it pretty easily. (I think because I had the hireling, Tomi, the second time, still with me).

adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote: To me every time you have to save/load (aside from ending and continuing a session) is a failure on the game's part.

So how do you play Quest for Glory?
That has got to drive you crazy?

QfG isn't a pure adventure game; it's an adventure/RPG hybrid. And I do view the deaths in the two genres differently. I still don't like the adventure-style instant deaths in QfG, but I'm much more forgiving of deaths in combat.


But doesn't that also do the Groundhog Day you mentioned? Where you fight a Cheetaur - and die - reload the game, and restore back to the city as if it never happened!
And you'd think it'd be more personal - because you are building your character as you said - you're applying stats to Strength, Constitution, improving skills - and really doing much more with the character, compared to Larry Laffer or Roger Wilco which you are stuck with whatever they are without any time or investment in improving their skills, weapons, etc.

I, myself, typically come up with entire backstories for my CRPG/RPG characters too. But I'm weird like that. :)

adeyke wrote:Suppose, though, that the game and the puzzles were exactly the same, but instead of that note, there was one that said "Wearing a magic hat will let a person see others' true names" or "The gnome is a good friend of the elf". In that case, you'd be spending time trying to find a magic hat or interrogate the elf, both of which are futile. That's the sort of thing that's a problem. And the article's example from Uninvited is just such a case: the game is very clearly hinting that the player should try to understand the bouncing creature, but that isn't actually possible.


I've never played Uninvited, so I can't defend it. :)

adeyke wrote:And I really think the "arrogance" is sometimes called for. For example, suppose I say the following:
1. A game should absolutely not randomly crash.
2. A game should absolutely not wipe the player's hard drive.
3. A game should absolutely not require the computer to be restarted in order to quit it.
4. A game should absolutely not send private information found on the player's computer to the game's creator.
5. A game should absolutely not consist of just staring at a blank screen.

Is that arrogant of me?


No, because those would be pretty extreme. You would, however, expect the game to do whatever the game does within the program itself, that is a part of the game. Crashing, wiping a drive, etc - are obviously not elements of a game. But a tough puzzle in the game itself, just might be. (Even if it's as stupid and crazy as the damn GK3 cat-stache one!) :)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:04 pm

adeyke wrote:And I really think the "arrogance" is sometimes called for. For example, suppose I say the following:
1. A game should absolutely not randomly crash.
2. A game should absolutely not wipe the player's hard drive.
3. A game should absolutely not require the computer to be restarted in order to quit it.
4. A game should absolutely not send private information found on the player's computer to the game's creator.
5. A game should absolutely not consist of just staring at a blank screen.

Is that arrogant of me? Should I leave the door open that some games doing the above is legitimate? Should I have to make my own game if I don't like games doing the above? If the answer is yes, then I don't know what to say. If the answer is no, however, the fundamental idea of a Bill of Player's Rights is acceptable, and the disagreement is just about what things should be on it.

Not comparable. Those would be unintentional bugs, not design elements. Granted the end user has a right to demand bug free products, but those are a concern of beta testing or quality control, etc., not game design. I already mentioned that Josh Mandel said that the unintentional dead ends were bugs and these become much more rare in the later Sierra games. You personally might not like certain kinds of design elements, but that is your take. Not everyone will have the same take. Now you can make a case for an element in a game being poorly executed, such as a purposeful dead end that gives no clue or allows you to play too long before it becomes evident that you have gone down a dead end path. However, you can do it in a way that does not have those flaws.

As to a quick restore I am with Tawm on this. I resented it in KQ7. I hated it save system in that game. For me one of the purposes of a save games is to be able to revisit parts of a game without having to replay the entire game. QfG4 did have an automatic save in addition to the regular saves. This save would be overwritten every time the hero was entering a dangerous scene. I did not find this so bad because it was not forced on the player. Another possibility could be non automatic "quick save"/"quick restore" hot keys. That wouldn't need to be forced on the player. A combination of the two might acceptable to you. An automatic save on danger, but the quick restore would have to be manually executed by a hot key, otherwise the player could just use the regular restore dialog. Now that I have thought of it, this might be something to try to implement in the new SCI1.1 template game for the upcoming new version of SCI Companion.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:32 pm

Collector wrote:As to a quick restore I am with Tawm on this. I resented it in KQ7. I hated it save system in that game. For me one of the purposes of a save games is to be able to revisit parts of a game without having to replay the entire game. QfG4 did have an automatic save in addition to the regular saves. This save would be overwritten every time the hero was entering a dangerous scene. I did not find this so bad because it was not forced on the player. Another possibility could be non automatic "quick save"/"quick restore" hot keys. That wouldn't need to be forced on the player. A combination of the two might acceptable to you. An automatic save on danger, but the quick restore would have to be manually executed by a hot key, otherwise the player could just use the regular restore dialog. Now that I have thought of it, this might be something to try to implement in the new SCI1.1 template game for the upcoming new version of SCI Companion.


I think it was adeyke who mentioned a pretty cool idea - where the character "dies" but the "restore" is right back before the character dies. So you CAN technicially die - and see whatever death message - but the game itself does a quick save (not seen on the user end) before that death - provides the death, gives you the witty death message - and then after you press "Enter" on the death message, the game (once again, not seen on the user end) "restores" you back to right before that death happened.

While it still removes the "death" threat - it does still allow programmers to get in their witty death comments.

So for example, in Space Quest 3, when you pick up that metal slab and it slits your wrist - you get the "death" message and animation - but once you press "enter" to pass the death message - you're automatically standing right next to the metal piece, knowing you shouldn't try to lift it.

If someone showed me how to code that into a Sierra game, I'd actually gladly do it. :)


Maybe even do a "in game" counter - so it restores you once, after the death scene - but do it one more time, and it leads you to the death and then a regular restore. :)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:56 pm

Isn't that exactly what "retry" does in Torin, Phantas 2, KQ7 and LSL6?
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:08 pm

BBP wrote:Isn't that exactly what "retry" does in Torin, Phantas 2, KQ7 and LSL6?


Yes! And I can't help but wonder if it's because Sierra was getting a lot of flack for their earlier games being too "unfair" or difficult?

But I was thinking if we could - not that we can distribute these games - code the original AGI/SCI games to do that as well. Might be kind of nifty to play them with that modification.

(Shame these games aren't freeware to modify like that and redistribute with Collector's installers!)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:45 pm

Yes. That's one of my minor grips with the article as in "not looking to the competition" as the continuous dying was eventually banished. I also like GK's approach in that you can't die most of the time and you're not likely to lose very much, and you're given ample warning in advance that you're about to enter a dangerous situation. Kind of like Phantas 1, and that has a retry button (that doesn't always work since it sometimes saves while you're trapped).

Did we ever have a favourite Sierra death poll?
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Wed Aug 26, 2015 6:52 pm

Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:
adeyke wrote: To me every time you have to save/load (aside from ending and continuing a session) is a failure on the game's part.

So how do you play Quest for Glory?
That has got to drive you crazy?

QfG isn't a pure adventure game; it's an adventure/RPG hybrid. And I do view the deaths in the two genres differently. I still don't like the adventure-style instant deaths in QfG, but I'm much more forgiving of deaths in combat.


But doesn't that also do the Groundhog Day you mentioned? Where you fight a Cheetaur - and die - reload the game, and restore back to the city as if it never happened!
And you'd think it'd be more personal - because you are building your character as you said - you're applying stats to Strength, Constitution, improving skills - and really doing much more with the character, compared to Larry Laffer or Roger Wilco which you are stuck with whatever they are without any time or investment in improving their skills, weapons, etc.

I, myself, typically come up with entire backstories for my CRPG/RPG characters too. But I'm weird like that. :)


That is a good point. Deaths, and the save/load issue, in other genres do still have some of the same problems as those in adventure games.

I suppose one difference is that adventure games are so much more focused on the story, so the discontinuities are more jarring there. RPGs often have some separation: first story stuff, then a skill-testing part, then more story stuff. If it's like that, having to redo the skill-testing part wouldn't affect the story part.

And it would probably be bigger imposition on RPGs to avoid death than it is on adventure games. There are enough examples to demonstrate to me that it's possible to make a compelling, enjoyable adventure game where the player never has to worry about saving/loading or dying. Doing the same for RPGs would be a lot more challenging, though. If someone is just threatening you, it's possible to make the situation seem dangerous without you actually dying. If someone is actively attacking you, however, that doesn't really work anymore (well, unless they intend to just knock you unconscious, but that sort of thing only works in certain contexts).

There is something to be said for RPGs having a difficulty level setting, where turning it all the way down makes the fights so easy that a player will never die, and they can instead focus on the story.

And RPGs should absolutely still have an autosave or "rewind" feature for those deaths that do occur.

adeyke wrote:And I really think the "arrogance" is sometimes called for. For example, suppose I say the following:
1. A game should absolutely not randomly crash.
2. A game should absolutely not wipe the player's hard drive.
3. A game should absolutely not require the computer to be restarted in order to quit it.
4. A game should absolutely not send private information found on the player's computer to the game's creator.
5. A game should absolutely not consist of just staring at a blank screen.

Is that arrogant of me?


No, because those would be pretty extreme. You would, however, expect the game to do whatever the game does within the program itself, that is a part of the game. Crashing, wiping a drive, etc - are obviously not elements of a game. But a tough puzzle in the game itself, just might be. (Even if it's as stupid and crazy as the damn GK3 cat-stache one!) :)


Okay, then. Here's a similar list of things that would all be part of the game instead of external to it:
1. Suppose that, throughout the game, every few minutes there's a chance that the player is randomly struck by lightning and dies. This can't be avoided, but loading the game means that next time, they might get lucky and get a bit further before they die again.
2. Suppose that the player is constantly given decisions (which item to pick up, which door to enter, which path to take), all but one of which is always lethal. No hints are given to the correct solution. Instead, the player just has to try an option and die, until they manage to get the right one. In the final playthrough, having memorized the full solution, the player will manage to make the right decisions each time.
3. Suppose that, at the start of the game, the player is given a choice of nondescript keys, of which they can only take one (and must take one to proceed). They can't change their mind later. Towards the end of the game, they're presented with a door that can only be opened with the correct key.
4. Suppose that the game requires the player to fill a tub with water from a distant lake. The process involves filling a cup, traversing many screens, and emptying the cup, then repeating this over the course of an hour.
5. Suppose a game had a parser that only understood complete sentences, capitalization and punctuation included. Instead of "look desk", the player would have to type "Look at the desk."

I'm going to take a stand and say that all of those would be really bad. If someone is designing a game that has any of the above, they should stop. And if someone released a game like that, people shouldn't buy or play it. I don't at all think it's a good idea to just shrug and say that whatever choices the designer makes are equally valid and that strongly stating an opinion about it is automatically arrogant.

The point is just that a player entering the game has a right to certain expectations of the game, and if those expectations aren't met, they'll be disappointed and think it's a bad game. Maybe a particular subversion of their expectations can be very clever, but a lot of times, it's just because the game designer didn't think things through. Worse, they might not have realized that that was something they needed to think through. That's why the Bill of Player's Rights is useful. It's just there to help game designers make better games.

And despite the name, it's not like it has any force of law behind it. You can violate those "rights" if you want; the result is just that it'll be a bad game. So complaining about the name or the implied arrogance behind it seems like a rather superficial issue.

Collector wrote:As to a quick restore I am with Tawm on this. I resented it in KQ7. I hated it save system in that game. For me one of the purposes of a save games is to be able to revisit parts of a game without having to replay the entire game. QfG4 did have an automatic save in addition to the regular saves. This save would be overwritten every time the hero was entering a dangerous scene. I did not find this so bad because it was not forced on the player. Another possibility could be non automatic "quick save"/"quick restore" hot keys. That wouldn't need to be forced on the player. A combination of the two might acceptable to you. An automatic save on danger, but the quick restore would have to be manually executed by a hot key, otherwise the player could just use the regular restore dialog. Now that I have thought of it, this might be something to try to implement in the new SCI1.1 template game for the upcoming new version of SCI Companion.


I get wanting to have a manual save for specific points in the game, which KQ7 didn't have. There are many cases where being able to load back to a specific point is useful, such as wanting to re-watch a certain scene, capture a screenshot, or verify a certain point for an Internet argument ( ;) ). I don't think it's necessary for the standard use case of a player just wanting to play through the game sequentially, though. Oddly, KQ7 does also have a chapter selection option, and I'm really not sure who those are intended for; it's not granular enough to serve the purpose of traditional save games, but it's not useful for someone just playing through the game.

For me, a quicksave button wouldn't at all be valid substitute for an autosave or an "rewind" button. Saving is already quick process in most adventure games: F5 followed by one to three enters. The issue is that it still makes the player keep having the quicksave at the front of their mind. I guess that would be another of those potential terrible game designs: Suppose a game has a hidden timer that, when it hits five minutes,suddenly causes the player to lose the game. Hitting F5 resets that timer.

I have played some games with quicksave and quickload keys, and I've found that I tend to overuse these and ruin my own fun. If the game could just promise that, as long as I'm not just completely terrible, I can still win the game, that the last autosave is recent enough that needing to go back to it is not a big deal, and that those autosaves won't happen when I'm already in an unwinnable state, I'd be able to just relax and enjoy the game.

The exact details of how the autosave is activated are unimportant to me, as long as it's made clear to the player. Just having it listed in the load menu would work, as would a separate button in the usual "Restore, Restart, Quit" menu. A hotkey would also work if it's clearly communicated to the player, but I have the feeling many players would fail to recognize that the feature exists if the GUI presents a list of options that doesn't include it.
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