King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

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Tawmis
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King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

Post by Tawmis » Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:32 pm

Need to get the crystal from the house; but every time I go in the backyard, the dog is barking, indicating that's not the time to go in. I have gone back and forth to that screen probably about 30 times. Even used the flute to fly back up to the rainbow island and fly back down and tried again - same result.

I even went as far as looking at the walk through on SHP to see if I was missing anything... and it doesn't appear that I am.

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Re: King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

Post by Tawmis » Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:11 pm

Lord, that's some bad design. It ended up eventually working when I walked into the werewolf screen area and then back ...

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Re: King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

Post by adeyke » Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:21 pm

Tawmis wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:11 pm
Lord, that's some bad design. It ended up eventually working when I walked into the werewolf screen area and then back ...
I agree completely. Even if a player gets the "bark = deadly" connection, that doesn't tell them under what conditions it changes to be safe (i.e. for all they know, there might be a puzzle, or it might just take advancing the story elsewhere). And if they do figure out that it's random, the optimal way to get in to do that "run back and forth across the screen boundary" dance, which is ridiculous gameplay.

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Re: King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

Post by Tawmis » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:47 pm

adeyke wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:21 pm
Tawmis wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:11 pm
Lord, that's some bad design. It ended up eventually working when I walked into the werewolf screen area and then back ...
I agree completely. Even if a player gets the "bark = deadly" connection, that doesn't tell them under what conditions it changes to be safe (i.e. for all they know, there might be a puzzle, or it might just take advancing the story elsewhere). And if they do figure out that it's random, the optimal way to get in to do that "run back and forth across the screen boundary" dance, which is ridiculous gameplay.
Agreed. I think what they should do is have it be something like:

ChanceToBark=45%
Then each time a person enters and leaves the screen, reduce the chance of barking by 10%.
So the MOST - the MOST a person is going to do a screen dance is 5 times, if they're EXTREMELY unlucky.

So that way there's still a random chance that the dog is there; but decreases each time you enter the screen. So it even counts down if you go there, before you're supposed to (when you're at the point that you need the Crystal).

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Re: King's Quest VII - Chapter 5 - The Dog.

Post by adeyke » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:31 am

I think that's a good solution for games that rely on randomness (e.g. roguelikes) that still want to avoid the long tails in the probability distributions. However, I don't think addresses the underlying issue with this situation in KQ7. I see three main issues with it:

Communication and player expectation

Normally, in an adventure game, if there's something the player wants to do but can't, that means one of three things:

1. It's a puzzle. They're on the right track, but they have to overcome some obstacle first. In this case, they need to think about and solve this puzzle.

2. It's something that's currently impossible but will become possible as the story progresses. In this case, they need to make a mental note and come back later.

3. It's something that's just outside the scope of the game and will always remain impossible. In this case, they need to just forget about it and move on.

A game will probably have all of these in varying amounts. And ideally, the game should subtly communicate which of these applies to each situation, since trying to apply the wrong behavior might lead to frustration.

Here, however, there's a fourth situation:

4. It's random. There isn't anything the player can do to affect it. Instead, they just have to try repeatedly.

If the player is unaware that this is a possibility and instead tries to figure out which of the first three it is, they'll always get frustrated. On the other hand, if they know that random is a possibility, that calls all the other obstacles into question. That is, if the solution to one obstacle is "keep leaving the screen and coming back until the obstacle is no longer there", the player has to consider that for all the others as well. And even if they do that and it doesn't seem to work, they can never rule out the possibility that they were just unlucky and didn't do the screen dance often enough.

I think it's better if the player can just trust the game not to have that sort of randomness. But if it has that randomness, it needs to clearly communicate which situations it applies to as well which it doesn't.

Ridiculousness

One test for whether a game makes sense is to watch some playthroughs of it and then imagine writing a novelization based on exactly what happened. If there's ever a point where the character doesn't seem to have any motivation for their actions, or if they do something that would just be ridiculous to write down, that might be indicative of an issue.

I should clarify here that I don't mean the mere possibility of the character behaving in a silly way. For example, about every adventure game will allow the character to just stand still for hours on end, but that's not really a problem. It only becomes a problem if some silly behavior is either the optimal way to play or if it's something a lot of player end up doing even if they aren't intentionally trying to be silly.

This definitely qualifies for that.

Inconsistency of experience

With random elements, not everyone is going to have the same experience playing the game. For some games (again, roguelikes being a prime example), this is entirely the point. However, KQ7 is, for the most part, a very linear game, and most of it is designed with intention. Regardless of who's playing, they're going to encounter the same story, the same puzzles in more or less the same order, the same cut scenes, etc. (There are admittedly two different endings to the game, but it's just a couple of actions that make the difference between the two, not a whole different path like there is in KQ6).

So when it comes to the dog barking, that doesn't really match up with that general design. If it's important for people to sometimes hear the barking and walk away, then making it random means that some people will miss out entirely. And if there's some optimal number of times the player is supposed to hear the barking and walk away, then some players will have it happen a lot more often than that.

Basically, if a game is going to random elements, care should be taken that all of the possible outcomes are still acceptable. If something is important to the game, everyone should see it. And if something would be annoying to have happen too often, then it shouldn't happen that often.

Solution

To be honest, while there are a lot of potential solutions to this, I favor the simplest: just get rid of it. I don't think it really contributes anything and, given that some people can just be lucky and never encounter it, it can't be critical to the game.

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