The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Iceman.

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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby Tawmis » Mon May 14, 2018 8:43 pm

adeyke wrote:You're reading too much into that comment.


Am I? Because, actually...

MusicallyInspired wrote:And to clarify, I think where Tawmis is getting the "announcement" idea is from what I said about not having formerly announced my KQ5 Fixed patch project to the public.


... that.

adeyke wrote:Also, I don't think that any sort of pressure is appropriate. If he finishes that project, great. If it takes a long time and is only finished sometime in the far future, that's also fine. If he sets the project down and picks it up later, that's also fine. And if it's delayed indefinitely or cancelled outright, that's also fine. Just mentioning that he's working on something doesn't obligate him to finish it or to make any sort of status updates. "Are we there yet?" doesn't help anyone.


Please allow me a moment to quote you...

adeyke wrote:You're reading too much into that comment.


In no way am I pressuring him to finish. I was just curious if he was still working on it, as I was confused between him saying he had an announcement, then not.

Rest assured, as someone with too many projects on my own plate (my brain doesn't let me rest unless I am always doing something) - I completely understand a project taking forever. You need only look at, for example, my show Neverending Nights. I've been refilming it in 1080p from it's original 800x600 - and proclaimed that I should be able to knock out an episode once a week (because I have all the audio done; from the original filming - I just need to refilm and edit). Well. It was weekly for awhile, and now it's more of a monthly release. And then there's my writing (there's like six stories on hold, in various stages of drafts), then there's my "Let's Play Sierra Games" - been playing KQ6 for like 2 months now, off and on.

So, I don't think - and certainly do not hope - MI thought for a moment I was pressuring him into anything.

Am I eager to see this fixed version of KQ5? Certainly!

(If I had a moment of time, I am sure I'd look into SCI programming myself to see about skipping the sub sequence in Codename: Iceman, and also removing the Save/Reload limit in it too, during the dice game... but as I said, too much on my plate at the moment).

MusicallyInspired wrote:Yeah, no announcement lol. When I said I had a lot to say I was referring to the massive (but well written) post that adeyke wrote about dead ends. I had a lot of counterpoints to add but I couldn't at the time. Eventually I decided to just not comment because I just didn't feel like writing my own massive post anymore. :)


Al Lowe says, "Save Early, Save Often."
(Do it in WORD or something) :D

MusicallyInspired wrote:The KQ5 fix is still in the works (with a successful working proof of concept set of patches), though it's among my many other small hobby projects I've had a passing interest in and I can't guarantee it'll be done expediently.


Which is more than understood!

MusicallyInspired wrote:My solution to the gold coin puzzle, however, was to just disallow the staff from breaking so you can go into the temple at any time until you have the amulet, cloak, and harp. Then when you try to go in the staff breaks. This transforms the breaking of the staff from a heart-pounding "oh-my-gosh-I-only-have-one-chance-to-get-this-right-and-I-have-mere-seconds!" adrenaline rush to simply a notification that you're done with the temple.


See. This is why you're smarter than me. :lol:

MusicallyInspired wrote:Killing the player for attempting to leave without all the items necessary is another interesting option I hadn't considered. Probably a little more LucasArts/TellTale-friendly as well.


To me, it lets the player know, right then and there they've done something wrong.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby MusicallyInspired » Tue May 15, 2018 9:55 am

I'd just think that it's not as explanatory. If you don't notice the tiny gold coin out of a myriad of animated shiny objects and keep trying to leave and keep dying there's no clue there as to what to do. That could be even more frustrating than a dead end if someone just doesn't get it. There's also no in-universe reasoning or logic to it. Why would someone think that you didn't have all the items necessary when you leave? Maybe they'd think that there's something they're missing BEFORE entering the temple to keep it open longer or something. Unless you put a hint in the death message itself, but I'd posit that that is no different than "save early, save often" that people hate so much. So you have to die to understand why the temple is killing you no matter what you do? According to many of these naysayers' logic, there should be enough clues and information to know what to do without HAVING to die. And if you don't do it in a death message, then you'd have to explain it in-universe somehow which seems incredibly contrived, convenient, and way out of scope for a "no dead ends" patch. You're rewriting the game at that point and it's bad writing at that. And having the suspension of disbelief necessary to make players buy it.....ehhh that's a rat's maze of problems. Remember the magic pinball of life deux ex machina at the end of KQ3Redux that everyone loved so much? This is a similar example.

Having the staff not break until you have all the objects necessary at least is kind of a hint that you don't need to be in there anymore. I have a problem with it only because it ruins the atmosphere of that room altogether. At worst people think you can only use the staff a finite amount of attempts (like the bridge in KQ2).

There's no perfect solution (which is part of the point of me bringing it up) which is why I think the way it already is is just fine. ;) But I have a fascination with making this patch that everyone wants to see and seeing how many people realize it actually dilutes the game presentation and experience in the end.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby Tawmis » Tue May 15, 2018 12:29 pm

MusicallyInspired wrote:I'd just think that it's not as explanatory. If you don't notice the tiny gold coin out of a myriad of animated shiny objects and keep trying to leave and keep dying there's no clue there as to what to do. That could be even more frustrating than a dead end if someone just doesn't get it. There's also no in-universe reasoning or logic to it. Why would someone think that you didn't have all the items necessary when you leave? Maybe they'd think that there's something they're missing BEFORE entering the temple to keep it open longer or something. Unless you put a hint in the death message itself, but I'd posit that that is no different than "save early, save often" that people hate so much.


See, this is where I would have loved to work on these kinds of games (especially Space Quest)... Because I'd make the death message a hint, indeed! Something like, after the doors crush Graham:

Untitled.png


MusicallyInspired wrote:Having the staff not break until you have all the objects necessary at least is kind of a hint that you don't need to be in there anymore. I have a problem with it only because it ruins the atmosphere of that room altogether. At worst people think you can only use the staff a finite amount of attempts (like the bridge in KQ2). There's no perfect solution (which is part of the point of me bringing it up) which is why I think the way it already is is just fine. ;) But I have a fascination with making this patch that everyone wants to see and seeing how many people realize it actually dilutes the game presentation and experience in the end.


Well I think your idea of the staff is about as perfect as you can get to prevent "dead" ends.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby adeyke » Tue May 15, 2018 2:51 pm

I agree with that. There really aren't any perfect solutions, especially if you're just making tweaks to an already-completed game. If it was still at the design phase, with you being able to completely change around screens, characters, and items, a more elegant solution would be possible, but that wouldn't be the same game as the KQ5 we know.

I also agree that, in the current KQ5, that scene does have good tension. If you only have one chance and only a few seconds of time, but you still manage to get what you need and escape, that's a great feeling. The problem is just when you don't manage to do that. Given the time pressure, it's very easy to just grab the obvious genie bottle and escape, not realizing there were two items you needed. And if the player just keeps dying, or they get out but then spend a long time wandering around stuck, that probably doesn't feel so great.

As for keeping the staff, for me, that raises several issues.

The first is that it would make sense to me that you could then open the door from the inside, so you could actually explore that whole treasure pile at your leisure. This is admittedly just an interpolation on my part, since in the bandit cutscene, we do just see them open it once, enter, leave, and then have it close automatically. However, if even the bandits who had the staff were risking their lives (and their treasure) every time they used the temple, I don't think they'd find it worthwhile. Or at some point, while neatly piling up the treasure in the back of the room, they would take too long (it only needs to happen once) and get stuck. But maybe the door does only open from the outside, and the bandits are both really bad at risk-benefit analysis and really lucky.

The other issue, though, is about when it finally does break. As you describe your solution, I don't think anyone will actually encounter that. There's no reason to try to enter after already haven gotten the two items, so the player will probably just hold onto the staff for the rest of the game, having it clutter up the inventory and making them think it might be used for future puzzles. Even if they do try to enter after no longer needing anything there, if the staff breaks for no benefit, they'll probably think that's a bad thing and restore (unless they're really, really sure that the game doesn't have any dead ends and that there's no possibility of them messing up). Ideally, they'd lose staff as soon as they have the two items they need from there, but it's not easy to come up with a sensible and causally satisfying way to do that.

That issue of causality might be the hardest part of puzzle design, I think. In order for the player to have a sense of agency, they have to be able to both predict what the consequences of their actions will be and be able to work backwards to determine what actions they need to take to get the consequence they want. A simple example would be that "If I click the hand on this item, my character will pick it up" means "If I want my character to pick up this item, I need to click the hand on it", but it can go on to longer chains of actions and consequences, if each follows from the last. If on, the other hand, good results happen that the player couldn't have predicted, that means that they can't plan for that or intentionally try to make it happen. For example, even if you figure out that the cobblers in KQ5 need a good pair of shoes to sell, you'd never be able to predict that you get them by entering the forest with honey and using that and the gems you find in there to trap an elf. If there are too many things like that, the game moves away from "I'm this character in this setting with these goals, facing these obstacles; how do I overcome them?" and towards "I'm playing an adventure game, so I'll just try every reasonable interaction, since if it's programmed in, it's probably needed to win the game."

And if there are negative results that couldn't be predicted, the player will have trouble figuring out what not to do. Ideally, an observant player should be able to figure out what's dangerous without actually dying, just by reading the text, taking in the audiovisual cues, and thinking about it. If you die unexpectedly, that should at most be an indication that there was some clue to the danger that you overlooked; the death itself shouldn't be the clue. A death without a causal connection to the player's actions is then doubly problematic, since there can't have been clues to it beforehand and the death itself isn't a clue to what the player did wrong. So with that hypothetical temple fix, if the player grabs the bottle (but misses the coin) and thus fails to leave on time, they're not going to conclude that spending time grabbing another item will let them successfully escape.

But causality poses a special problem when it comes to dead ends. If you just stick to all the logical consequences of various actions, dead ends are nigh inevitable. For example, if the door to the temple closes and you're unable to open it again, it's a natural consequence that you'll be unable to access the items left instead. And if there are dead ends and you want to remove them, the simplest way would just be to throw causality away and just come up with some ad hoc reason for why the action that would lead to a dead end is lethal or impossible (e.g. maybe Graham stumbles and falls into the river if he fails to save the rat, or maybe there's a wall blocking the entrance to the forest until Graham gets the honey, amulet, and bottle). Trying to remove all the dead ends while still being able to give a satisfactory answer to every sort of "Why can't I do X?" or "Why does X happen?" question is where the challenge lies.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby Tawmis » Tue May 15, 2018 7:09 pm

adeyke wrote:I also agree that, in the current KQ5, that scene does have good tension. If you only have one chance and only a few seconds of time, but you still manage to get what you need and escape, that's a great feeling. The problem is just when you don't manage to do that. Given the time pressure, it's very easy to just grab the obvious genie bottle and escape, not realizing there were two items you needed. And if the player just keeps dying, or they get out but then spend a long time wandering around stuck, that probably doesn't feel so great.


I'd agree, in a larger aspect - repeatedly dying because you're missing something would be bothersome. But the benefit to this particular scene - is you're locked in this one area.
So with going with the Staff doesn't break - you can keep coming back until you get the coin. (Which as we said, may ruin the tension)
And if you go with the Death message - then, ideally, with a suggestion (like the clue "To coin a phrase - that had to hurt!") - the player might realize they need to pick up the coin. Or, just frantically click around on the floor until they pick up the coin (also not ideal).

adeyke wrote:As for keeping the staff, for me, that raises several issues.
The first is that it would make sense to me that you could then open the door from the inside, so you could actually explore that whole treasure pile at your leisure.


(I might be misunderstanding?) If you want to keep the suspense, you could keep the timer that you need to get the correct items and get out. If the door closes before you do, you die.
But then, if you just go in, and then leave, and come back and use the staff again, you could technically keep pressing your luck (trying to get out of there before the door closes on you).
As a player, you would not know you need to get out before the door closes, unless it's happened to you once.
And if you're thinking, "Well if the door closes on you, just use the staff to open it from the inside" - you could always do a message that says "The staff can only be used outside."
Just before being stuck kills you.
Maybe let the player sit there for a minute before you do the death message, "You begin to realize, you will be entombed here forever, Graham..." Or whatever.
So this gives the player a chance to click the staff on the door (doesn't work) or click on other items inside the tomb (that they might be able to pick up) so when they restore they know what to do next time.

adeyke wrote:This is admittedly just an interpolation on my part, since in the bandit cutscene, we do just see them open it once, enter, leave, and then have it close automatically. However, if even the bandits who had the staff were risking their lives (and their treasure) every time they used the temple, I don't think they'd find it worthwhile. Or at some point, while neatly piling up the treasure in the back of the room, they would take too long (it only needs to happen once) and get stuck. But maybe the door does only open from the outside, and the bandits are both really bad at risk-benefit analysis and really lucky.


But what if the Bandit's know a magic word that opens it from the inside, that Graham isn't privy to knowing? Or there's a certain way to use the staff from the inside, again, that Graham wouldn't be privy to knowing since he didn't see what they did from the inside? There's plenty of reasons that could explain why bandits have stock piled and not died in that tomb.

adeyke wrote:The other issue, though, is about when it finally does break. As you describe your solution, I don't think anyone will actually encounter that. There's no reason to try to enter after already haven gotten the two items, so the player will probably just hold onto the staff for the rest of the game, having it clutter up the inventory and making them think it might be used for future puzzles.


Well two things to that - in the first Leisure Suit Larry, there's like pocket lint as an inventory item that's technically never used, or something. (I might be mis-remembering)
The other, after you successfully get both items, a script can check that when they walk past the door to leave the tomb, you do a message "You hear the ancient staff crack. Peering at it, it is clearly broken. You discard the staff." (Or whatever the actual "breaking staff" message is). This ensures the player has both items and has left the tomb successfully and then breaks the staff.

adeyke wrote:Even if they do try to enter after no longer needing anything there, if the staff breaks for no benefit, they'll probably think that's a bad thing and restore (unless they're really, really sure that the game doesn't have any dead ends and that there's no possibility of them messing up). Ideally, they'd lose staff as soon as they have the two items they need from there, but it's not easy to come up with a sensible and causally satisfying way to do that.


Well, it'd be (nearly) impossible to calculate what every person's mind is going think - and try to ensure that they understand - without hand holding them - through the game.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby adeyke » Tue May 15, 2018 7:58 pm

Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:The other issue, though, is about when it finally does break. As you describe your solution, I don't think anyone will actually encounter that. There's no reason to try to enter after already haven gotten the two items, so the player will probably just hold onto the staff for the rest of the game, having it clutter up the inventory and making them think it might be used for future puzzles.


Well two things to that - in the first Leisure Suit Larry, there's like pocket lint as an inventory item that's technically never used, or something. (I might be mis-remembering)
The other, after you successfully get both items, a script can check that when they walk past the door to leave the tomb, you do a message "You hear the ancient staff crack. Peering at it, it is clearly broken. You discard the staff." (Or whatever the actual "breaking staff" message is). This ensures the player has both items and has left the tomb successfully and then breaks the staff.


What I'm getting at is the issue of Combinatorial Explosion. The more items the character holds, the more item-item or item-hotspot interactions are possible. So at a minimum, the player will spend more time thinking about or attempting useless interactions. Possibly, however, some of those interactions will seem like they should actually have an effect, in which case the designer needs to either actually make that work (and make sure allowing it doesn't break anything) or give a narratively satisfying reason for why it doesn't. That might not come up with the staff, but it's definitely something that needs to be considered in general if a change allows the player to keep an item around longer. And it's why it's generally a good idea for the game to remove inventory items once their intended usefulness has expired (and have that make sense within the narrative, of course).

And yes, it's easy to just make the staff break if Graham leaves with the required items. The difficulty is in doing so in a way that makes causal sense.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby MusicallyInspired » Tue May 15, 2018 9:53 pm

The game does let you know when time is running out with a message that reads "The door is about to close!!" Which seems fairly urgent enough to let the player know his time is limited and that it's his only chance.

I never thought about opening it from the inside. I just assumed that wasn't possible from all the secret magic cave/temple/hold stories and movies I've seen. They usually trap you in. It's a greed/risk trope.

Another solution is to keep the staff's breaking and just leave the door open forever until you leave. Making the player think he has limited time when he really doesn't. There have been a fair share of games that use this false time limit scare method. Keeps tension but allows you to finish your task. Admittedly, once you hang around long enough you'd get suspicious. Also still doesn't help with being locked out if you miss an item.

What if, in true KQ fashion, getting the gold coin and bottle was entirely optional and that there would be alternate solutions (which don't grant full points)? It seems like the game was partially meant to behave this way with the interchangeable items to trade with. The wrong ones (with the exception of giving the needle to the gypsy and the coin to the tailor) just lead to dead ends when they could just lead to alternate solutions (like the magic beans vs the key in KQ1 or the other treasures you find which can be used in lieu of the cheese, goat, etc). Course, that would involve writing new content and dialogue which is again out of scope. Can't get the old voice actors to record new lines.

On another note, from reading the decompiled script it seems that you have 12 seconds to do your business and get out. But if you don't have a mouse device (only keyboard) you have 30 seconds. Thought that was a neat touch.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby adeyke » Wed May 16, 2018 7:17 am

MusicallyInspired wrote:The game does let you know when time is running out with a message that reads "The door is about to close!!" Which seems fairly urgent enough to let the player know his time is limited and that it's his only chance.


True.

MusicallyInspired wrote:I never thought about opening it from the inside. I just assumed that wasn't possible from all the secret magic cave/temple/hold stories and movies I've seen. They usually trap you in. It's a greed/risk trope.


If it were a magical treasure there to tempt the greedy, I'd agree. However, in this case, it's just where the bandits hide their stolen loot. Also, even though there are two bandits in the cutscene, the one with the staff doesn't even take the precaution of giving it to the other one while he goes inside. He's either really confident that he can hide the loot and get out again in a few seconds, or he knows he can open it from the inside.

That analysis is from an in-universe perspective. I suspect that actually, the creators of KQ5 didn't intend for the door to be openable from the inside but also just didn't consider how irrational this makes the bandits' behavior.

(In the source material, the cave could be opened from the inside, but someone fails to do so because they forgot the password, though of course there's no requirement that KQ5 match this.)

Another solution is to keep the staff's breaking and just leave the door open forever until you leave. Making the player think he has limited time when he really doesn't. There have been a fair share of games that use this false time limit scare method. Keeps tension but allows you to finish your task. Admittedly, once you hang around long enough you'd get suspicious. Also still doesn't help with being locked out if you miss an item.


As you note, that wouldn't remove the dead end. It would make it easier to avoid the dead end, but for me, that isn't the issue. If someone misses the coin and gets stuck later in the game, finding out that it's really their own fault and that they had plenty of time to see and grab it won't provide any comfort.

What if, in true KQ fashion, getting the gold coin and bottle was entirely optional and that there would be alternate solutions (which don't grant full points)? It seems like the game was partially meant to behave this way with the interchangeable items to trade with. The wrong ones (with the exception of giving the needle to the gypsy and the coin to the tailor) just lead to dead ends when they could just lead to alternate solutions (like the magic beans vs the key in KQ1 or the other treasures you find which can be used in lieu of the cheese, goat, etc). Course, that would involve writing new content and dialogue which is again out of scope. Can't get the old voice actors to record new lines.


Right. I think well-done alternate solutions are one of the best solutions to dead ends, but they generally require the creation of new content. And you'd also have to consider some other issues I've brought up in this thread. If there's an alternate solution that the player can get in addition to the current ones, we get that combinatorial explosion issue, where the player always has that extra potentially-useful item in their inventory. And if the alternate solution only appears if the player failed to grab the items in the temple, that might be a breach in causality. These issues aren't insurmountable, but they do need some consideration.

On another note, from reading the decompiled script it seems that you have 12 seconds to do your business and get out. But if you don't have a mouse device (only keyboard) you have 30 seconds. Thought that was a neat touch.


Neat indeed.
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Re: The One Thing That Stuck Out For Me About Codename: Icem

Postby Rath Darkblade » Thu May 17, 2018 12:49 am

adeyke wrote:(In the source material, the cave could be opened from the inside, but someone fails to do so because they forgot the password, though of course there's no requirement that KQ5 match this.)


I've never played "Codename: Iceman", and I hope you'll forgive me if I briefly go off-topic, but this is much too good an opportunity to show another instance in which the password is forgotten:

Image
(from this artist on DeviantArt, natch). ;)

And here is another. Enjoy :)
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