The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

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The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Mon Aug 24, 2015 8:12 pm

(or, Why Ron Gilbert Hated Adventure Games)

http://www.filfre.net/2015/07/the-14-de ... re-design/

Some if it is good, but author has a very clear LA bias and is one of those that hate death in adventure games.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Mon Aug 24, 2015 9:11 pm

Harsh but fair.

I do have a lot of fondness for SQ1, but that's heavily based on nostalgia. I wouldn't be opposed to playing through it again (I've played it quite a few times already), but that's with me already knowing the full solution and being able to avoid all the pitfalls a new player would encounter. If I didn't have that knowledge, I don't think I'd enjoy the game at all.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Tue Aug 25, 2015 2:31 am

adeyke wrote:Harsh but fair.
I do have a lot of fondness for SQ1, but that's heavily based on nostalgia. I wouldn't be opposed to playing through it again (I've played it quite a few times already), but that's with me already knowing the full solution and being able to avoid all the pitfalls a new player would encounter. If I didn't have that knowledge, I don't think I'd enjoy the game at all.


See, being the old man that I am, I played these games "back before the Internets!" - when the "Internet" was calling a BBS and dialing up and connecting anywhere between 2400 to 9600 Baud speed (rarely did my super fast 14.4 Baud modem get to taste full speed!) And those connections (for example to the Sierra BBS) were long distance calls! So they were far and few between! And I still _loved_ these games, and wanted to WORK at Sierra (applied and all, for a customer service position!) - but to be fair, my best friend (at the time) Shawn and I would play these games together (either in his father's office) or in my father's office (where my computer was!) and stayed the night at one another's almost every weekend to knock these games out! So it was two heads trying to solve these puzzles - and we learned very quickly to "Save Early, Save Often."

I think games today are far too easy; and if they're not, you can find a 100% walk thru online, within a day or two after the game is released.

Kids got it too easy. There's no critical thinking. They're all just vegetables in front of their television or iPad playing games that require no real thought process.

/gets off his "Back in my days" soap box. :lol:
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:15 am

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

When a player plays a game, there's a sort of contract between the two. The player has to be willing to put in the time and take the game seriously. In exchange, the game has to be willing to give the player a good experience. And a lot of those "deadly sins" come down to a breach in that contract:
  • If there are puzzles that can't be solved by thinking about them, then any effort spent trying to think about them is a waste of time.
  • 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.
  • If the game has dead ends, that means the player at end point already have lost without knowing it, in which case any amount of effort to try to win the game is futile.
  • If the game has misleading clues, that means the player can't trust even the helpful clues the game gives.
  • If the game just has a bad parser, the player can't be sure if they're stuck because they don't know the solution, or if they're just stuck because they didn't use the right words to express it.
  • etc.

Even if a game avoids all of those problems, it can still be very difficult and require a lot of critical thinking. Indeed, most of those problems come down to the fact that critical thinking is insufficient to actually win the game. As for walkthroughs, I think those "deadly sins" help encourage their use. If I know that I can actually solve the game without enough thinking, I'm much more likely to put in that effort. But if the game isn't upholding its end of the contract, I'm also not inclined to uphold mine.

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

Postby BBP » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:19 am

I wish we'd get over gaming journalism as a whole. Here in the Netherlands it's still as much of a joke as it was twenty years ago when about every game got a 9/10 score.

Main Point:
It's not all that fair to measure up games like KQ1 and SQ1 to today's standards. Gaming was still in its infancy. So was technology.

He lists having to "try anything onto anything" is bad, which is problematic. One person's logic is not another person's logic and puzzles that are easy for one are impossible for the other. Besides, ever played LSL6? When my father was playing that, he got stuck, until I tried everything and managed to alter Thunderbird's gift. A lot of the remarks you get when doing that are funny, and if you hadn't tried everything you'd have missed that.
The same goes for humour. Apparently SQ is not his humour, and to be fair it isn't mine, but that doesn't mean you should rub a game in the ground for it.

Cluttering up the game with too much junk? Has he never heard of landscaping? When I played Broken Sword I was frustrated at how little things I could do in that game, to the point of solving puzzles by accident.

Actually I can understand the dying all the time. It always makes me horrible for my protagonist. Particularly in Gold Rush with the sad music.

What really rubs me the wrong way is how he talks about "not paying attention to the competition". In the arts there's no competition, how dare he bring novelists and composers into it?
And I really appreciate that Ken was in it for the art. I think that this is the base why Sierra is still as much loved as it was back then.

Player feedback? Wasn't LSL1 about the first game to be beta-tested?

Guy is as little insightful as that 7 Sins guy.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:26 am

BBP wrote:Main Point:
It's not all that fair to measure up games like KQ1 and SQ1 to today's standards. Gaming was still in its infancy. So was technology.


That sort of thing can explain (and to some extent excuse) why something is bad, but it doesn't make it good. Also, while SQ1 was very early in terms of graphical adventure games, it wasn't that early in terms of computer games in general. Part of the problem the piece points out is that those early graphical adventure games disregarded the lessons learned from text adventures, and that they didn't keep up with advances to the genre brought about by other creators. And while SQ1 and Uninvited were the two games used to illustrate the points, many of the issues still apply to much later games.

Also, none of the problems were caused by the limits of the available technology.

He lists having to "try anything onto anything" is bad, which is problematic. One person's logic is not another person's logic and puzzles that are easy for one are impossible for the other. Besides, ever played LSL6? When my father was playing that, he got stuck, until I tried everything and managed to alter Thunderbird's gift. A lot of the remarks you get when doing that are funny, and if you hadn't tried everything you'd have missed that.


It's true that different people will reason differently. So it's not possible to have objective assessment of whether something is logical or not. However, every player has their own experience. If a player can't figure out a puzzle and reacts to learning the solution with "How was I supposed to figure that out?", then that's a bad puzzle for that player, and it can make it a bad game for that player. Now, trying to please everyone would be impossible, but it's still good to try to minimize the number of players in their target demographic who end up thinking it's a bad game.

The same goes for humour. Apparently SQ is not his humour, and to be fair it isn't mine, but that doesn't mean you should rub a game in the ground for it.


None of the issues were about SQ's humor. Unless you mean #12? I don't see the humor in the game just being abusive towards the player. It's not laughing with the player; it's laughing at the player.

Cluttering up the game with too much junk? Has he never heard of landscaping? When I played Broken Sword I was frustrated at how little things I could do in that game, to the point of solving puzzles by accident.


There is a spectrum. At one extreme, the game could have screens that are completely bland (but with all relevant hotspots vividly highlighted) and only allow those actions that are necessary to win the game. At the other extreme, the could be filled with detailed screens, with long descriptions and many items to pick up, none of which is actually relevant to the game.

Both extremes are bad. If someone points out that something more towards the latter end of the spectrum is bad, saying that the former end of the spectrum is also bad doesn't actually refute the argument.

In the end, it just means that care needs to be taken to craft the desired experience. The designer should always ask themselves "is this what I want the player to be doing"? Nonessential hotspots and inventory items can certainly fit into a game if the designer thinks it improves the game experience. (And a player trying to interact with something but failing because there isn't the required hotspot or game logic is also a bad experience, so that's also something the designer should be careful about.)

What really rubs me the wrong way is how he talks about "not paying attention to the competition". In the arts there's no competition, how dare he bring novelists and composers into it?
And I really appreciate that Ken was in it for the art. I think that this is the base why Sierra is still as much loved as it was back then.


This makes no sense at all. Like any company, Sierra was trying to make money (and I don't hold that against them). And it's specifically a quote from Ken Williams that refers to competitors. So trying to paint Sierra as just artists who are above such concerns seems very misplaced. And there are some clear examples of them prioritizing money over art, such as the intrusive copy protection and Space Quest 5's Sprint product placement. And it certainly seems like they would sometimes prioritize wowing people with new technology over an artistic vision (e.g. adding speech to games but initially just using employees instead of actual voice actors, or the jump to 3D before that could actually look good).

But the point would be just as valid whether it's talking about a product to be sold or art. It's still useful to look what at other people are doing and figure out both what's working there and what isn't. Intentionally avoiding that seems very shortsighted. It might be a blow to a person's pride to implement a solution someone else came up with, but that's still better than to keep making the same mistake.

Player feedback? Wasn't LSL1 about the first game to be beta-tested?


Not at all. It was the first Sierra game to be beta-tested. The piece itself talks about how extensively Infocom was testing games in 1985, while Sierra only started with LSL1 in 1987.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Tue Aug 25, 2015 12:33 pm

You misunderstood me I think. Probably my fault since I have a massive bout of migraine (continuous attacks for 4 weeks on end) that tampers my mood and powers of expression.

Art is no business. That's why business models, like the premise of "competition", should not be applied to art. And that's why his comparison of games to the art world have no place in his article. And that is also why this composer finds him rapidly losing his credentials after making it. Well that, and the fact he just had to use the word "suck" in a context not related to suction.

Secondly, there's more to the 30 year age gap.
Ever watched an old sitcom and wondered what was funny? Or said to yourself "you couldn't do that nowadays"?
Our zeitgeist has altered dramatically - messages to friends are done in a few lines on Facebook or Twitter, news comes rapidly and in very short form... Talking to friends I find they have much more concentration problems in the sense that they just can't sit down and read a book anymore.
We consume everything in a very different way. Who has the energy nowadays to stand inbetween a pink and a blue bar getting shot by aliens every five minutes?

I quit playing SQ1 and SQ4. Can't find the energy for it. It's not my humour either. But maybe I would've enjoyed them in the early 90s. Back then I also enjoyed Gold Rush, and that game is just plain cruel.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:01 pm

The problem with most such articles is that most who write them usually have a LA games bias who try to argue against all deaths and all dead ends. I agree with Josh Mandel's take on dead ends. There were two kinds of dead ends. The intentional ones that were part of the game design and the unintentional ones. The unintentional ones can rightly be considered bugs. Even the intentional ones can be poorly designed. Something that offers no clues that you have missed something and dead ends that allow you advance pretty far in the game before it becomes evident that you missed something much earlier. That said, even a dead ends that are not unintentional are subjective. Some will hate them regardless, but that does not make it a "sin".

Deaths are entirely subjective. I can't say that there are any deaths in Sierra games that I resented. While I was never fond of the stair case or bean stock situations, it was because of the tedious aspect, not because ego could die. As noted earlier many impressions of these older games are wrapped in nostalgia, which makes it harder to fairly judge them. I do think that opinions on deaths in games have been formed by the earliest experiences with the games. A very young player will probably react more negatively to the death of his ego than an older player. I feel that many LA fans started at an earlier age than Sierra fans. The typical LA fan's hatred of deaths and the generally more juvenile humor seems to bear this out.

Moon logic can be bad, but if it is consistent, once catch on to the designer's style it is not that frustrating and can even be humorous. It can also be mitigated with clues within the game play. So even this can be well done or poorly done. Overall the best puzzles are ones that are organic to the games and advance the narrative, not just some arbitrary roadblock. The logic can be a little crazy as long as it is consistent with the game.

I can't think of a Sierra game that allowed you to add items to your inventory that are never used in any situation out side of in MoE where you had to place the right skull on the top of the headless statue you could take the wrong skull, but you do get a clue as to which one is the right one.

I will agree about the pixel hunting.

His "simulational over the experiential" misses the boat on some levels. Adding realistic aspects can increase immersion and or make ego a little more relatable to the player. It can break immersion if too heavy handed like the sub simulation sequences in Iceman. So again it depends on how well implemented it is.

To me misleading the player is again subjective. If everything is very clear cut then that contributes to a game becoming too easy or predictable.

One point that I will completely agree with is the use of a poorly designed parser. It is no fun and breaks immersion if you have to stop to play "guess what word I am thinking of now" with the designer. There are two aspects to this. The underlying parser and the vocabulary that the designer adds. A parser can be done well, but often it was not.

His little rant on ignoring the competition is rather off the mark. It is not a misplaced concern to want to avoid copying a competitors ideas. At best you can end up a bandwagon release and at worst something that reeks of plagiarism, whether intentional or not.

His other points come across as little pissy rants about things that he personally likes or dislikes.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 3:21 pm

Collector wrote:The problem with most such articles is that most who write them usually have a LA games bias who try to argue against all deaths and all dead ends. I agree with Josh Mandel's take on dead ends. There were two kinds of dead ends. The intentional ones that were part of the game design and the unintentional ones. The unintentional ones can rightly be considered bugs. Even the intentional ones can be poorly designed. Something that offers no clues that you have missed something and dead ends that allow you advance pretty far in the game before it becomes evident that you missed something much earlier. That said, even a dead ends that are not unintentional are subjective. Some will hate them regardless, but that does not make it a "sin".


I personally do oppose all dead ends, but the article didn't go to that extreme. It said that that was the most arguable of the "sins", that there shades of gray, and that going out of the way to complete eliminate dead ends can bring along its own problems. Instead, it specifically calls out those deads ends you enter unknowingly. The skimmer is a good example of this. When you arrive there, you don't need the skimmer anymore, and you do need money, so it looks like a good offer. You don't find out until significantly later that you need a jetpack but don't have one. And even then, there's no indication of where it is that you messed up. It's not a puzzle of "I need a jetpack. How do I get one?". It's just a way of punishing people something they couldn't have known.

It is true that a savvy player would be able to get around that, by saving the game before every decision point and then trying both to see which is better. But that would be 9 on the list.

Deaths are entirely subjective. I can't say that there are any deaths in Sierra games that I resented. While I was never fond of the stair case or bean stock situations, it was because of the tedious aspect, not because ego could die. As noted earlier many impressions of these older games are wrapped in nostalgia, which makes it harder to fairly judge them. I do think that opinions on deaths in games have been formed by the earliest experiences with the games. A very young player will probably react more negatively to the death of his ego than an older player. I feel that many LA fans started at an earlier age than Sierra fans. The typical LA fan's hatred of deaths and the generally more juvenile humor seems to bear this out.


Here, also, the article didn't take that hard-line stance. It's just the frequent, unforeshadowed deaths that are named as problem. SQ1 has plenty of those. For example, on Kerona, after exiting the pod, just walking in the wrong direction will kill you. Also notable is the hole in the cliff wall. It's hard to even see that hole, and it takes some exploration. If you look at it from a distance, the game encourages you to get closer. If you look at it from close up, you die. The lesson appears to be that look in holes is deadly, but given how often looking in holes is actually useful in Sierra games, the actual lesson is that you can't predict whether you'll be rewarded or punished for a given action.

I think the Sierra deaths largely are about tedium. You either have to constantly save the game, or you ended up having to replay the part you just did. As the article noted, a rewind function would have let them keep the deaths while making them far less problematic.

(Side note: Sierra adventure games were among the first video games of any sort I played, and it would be many years before I encountered an LucasArts game. I still prefer the general approach of the latter.)

Moon logic can be bad, but if it is consistent, once catch on to the designer's style it is not that frustrating and can even be humorous. It can also be mitigated with clues within the game play. So even this can be well done or poorly done. Overall the best puzzles are ones that are organic to the games and advance the narrative, not just some arbitrary roadblock. The logic can be a little crazy as long as it is consistent with the game.


I agree. The game puzzles have to be logical, but that "logical" can be defined by the game. For example, arguing against magic-based puzzles in a fantasy game on the basis that magic isn't actually real would be silly.

However, there are still plenty of puzzles that even an understanding of the game and its genre's tropes can't help you with.

I can't think of a Sierra game that allowed you to add items to your inventory that are never used in any situation out side of in MoE where you had to place the right skull on the top of the headless statue you could take the wrong skull, but you do get a clue as to which one is the right one.


Indeed. That complaint was leveled against Uninvited, with no reference to Sierra. There are some completely useless items (for example, SQ1 had the plant on Kerona that does nothing), and your inventory can still get somewhat cluttered from items that have already served their purpose or items used for alternative solutions to a puzzle, but since you have unlimited inventory space and thus don't need to bother with inventory management, it's much less of an issue.

His "simulational over the experiential" misses the boat on some levels. Adding realistic aspects can increase immersion and or make ego a little more relatable to the player. It can break immersion if too heavy handed like the sub simulation sequences in Iceman. So again it depends on how well implemented it is.


I don't think you're really disagreeing.If realism increases the immersion or relatability, that does improve the experience, so that's a valid reason for including it.

I think this is actually the most important part of the article. And even the most important principle of game design. The question should always be "Will this improve the experience of players playing my game?". Every design decision and every interaction should be made with that question in mind.

The simulational approach is, to an extent, lazy. It requires the designer to just make the initial decision to include an element, and any further questions are just answered by thinking about how things like that normally work. The experiential approach, on the other hand, requires constant reevaluation to determine what effect this has on how the game is played and whether the end result is actually a positive.

This distinction is very significant to how death is treated. The simulational approach would just be "this sort of thing would be deadly, so I'll put in a death scene". The experiential approach would require asking if dying there is a satisfying result and whether the game is improved by people hovering their games over F5 and F7. And, of course, it would require considering the effect omitting that death scene would have, and whether it would negatively affect the game if players no longer had a fear of death.

Just as a general rule, if someone asks "Why is there an X that does Y in the game?", just responding with "Y is just what Xs do" (i.e. the simulational answer) isn't a good enough answer, but there are countless cases in Sierra games where just that sort of reasoning seems to have been applied, leading to what (in my opinion) are bad design decisions.

To me misleading the player is again subjective. If everything is very clear cut then that contributes to a game becoming too easy or predictable.


There's a difference between just not giving clues and giving clues that are misleading. The player often relies on subtle clues from the game: what part of the screen the artwork seems to emphasize, what objects are mentioned in a scene description, how items are described, etc. That sort of thing is probably unavoidable in games; there's just a finite amount of detail that can be put into a game, and it's best used on things that matter. It's perfectly okay for something to just not have any of these hints. But if it has misleading hints, that either means the player will try to follow that red herring, or that the player will start just ignoring the legitimate hints.

Just as one example, the infamous yeti pie puzzle in KQ5 would been more forgivable if the pie had been described as unpleasantly sticky rather than delicious.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:37 pm

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.

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!) :)

adeyke wrote:If there are puzzles that can't be solved by thinking about them, then any effort spent trying to think about them is a waste of time.


But isn't this - the fact that these aren't puzzles of "If a train is going West, 200mph and a train 6,000 feet away, heading East is going 150mph - when do they collide?" type of puzzles.

I mean, I get it - if a person bought, let's say, Space Quest 1. And got to the puzzles and was like, "This isn't a game for me!" Fine, that makes sense.
But if that person then bought, say Space Quest 2, or Police Quest 1, or Leisure Suit Larry 2 - and said, "WTF. This is stupid!"
Then it's on the person. These games are already set a specific way - and you'd know that based off your first exposure.
The article writes itself like, people were surprised that they kept coming back to these games and finding that they all worked the same way. Time and time again.

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!

adeyke wrote:If the game has dead ends, that means the player at end point already have lost without knowing it, in which case any amount of effort to try to win the game is futile.


Now I agree, dead ends were horrible. I think even Al Lowe said something along the lines that dead ends were lack of beta testing. From what I understand, most Sierra games did not even get a play through to really test it outside of Sierra, until Leisure Suit Larry 1.

So ideally, you should not be able to "leave" an area if you're not flagged for having all the items that will be needed beyond the point.

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?

adeyke wrote:If the game just has a bad parser, the player can't be sure if they're stuck because they don't know the solution, or if they're just stuck because they didn't use the right words to express it.


Well that's not the game itself, but a limitation of the software. And you, as a human, back then, couldn't even begin to fit every possible scenario for the parser to understand and have an answer for. Granted, there was sometimes game breaking parser break downs - like in LSL2 on the plane. But that is the only one I remember being "game breaking" to the point it had to be VERY specific.

adeyke wrote:If I know that I can actually solve the game without enough thinking, I'm much more likely to put in that effort. But if the game isn't upholding its end of the contract, I'm also not inclined to uphold mine.


Which is ABSOLUTELY fine! I am not saying (or I hope I am not conveying!) that it's MY way or the highway! I get a lot of people don't dig the adventure games! And maybe, because for me, it was a very different time - these games were GROUND BREAKING. Because before then, it was either just text adventure games, or text adventure games, with like a single static image above the text.

So maybe because these games were so ground breaking, I had a much higher tolerance back then to play these games through to the end! (And like I said, for me, a lot of it was playing these games with my friend, Shawn).

I know my patience these days is not ANYWHERE what it used to be. When I played Legend of Kyrandia and Codename: Iceman, it drove me nuts. Especially Codename: Iceman, which I had never beaten until that thread.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:47 pm

BBP wrote:It's not all that fair to measure up games like KQ1 and SQ1 to today's standards. Gaming was still in its infancy. So was technology.


I suppose that's a bit true, as well. It's like comparing the 1970-something Captain America movie to the more recent Captain America movie! :D

BBP wrote:He lists having to "try anything onto anything" is bad, which is problematic. One person's logic is not another person's logic and puzzles that are easy for one are impossible for the other. Besides, ever played LSL6? When my father was playing that, he got stuck, until I tried everything and managed to alter Thunderbird's gift. A lot of the remarks you get when doing that are funny, and if you hadn't tried everything you'd have missed that. The same goes for humour. Apparently SQ is not his humour, and to be fair it isn't mine, but that doesn't mean you should rub a game in the ground for it.


I think I just love humor. I obviously love Leisure Suit Larry - but I think some of the most hilarious things (and thus making it forgiving!) were some of the death messages you got when playing Space Quest! :)

BBP wrote:Actually I can understand the dying all the time. It always makes me horrible for my protagonist. Particularly in Gold Rush with the sad music.


Gold Rush can be pretty brutal, because death and disease could come at you randomly! And granted most people would say that they hate that, because they didn't save - but back then, death and disease COULD come at you like that - and it made the game far more realistic. (I love Gold Rush, despite how difficult it could be - because it was one of Sierra's games that I thought was way ahead of itself with the three different passage ways, thus three different sets of puzzles to some degree!)

BBP wrote:Player feedback? Wasn't LSL1 about the first game to be beta-tested?


Whoa, funny you mention that - but yes, LSL1 was the first game from Sierra to be beta tested outside of Sierra employees.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Tue Aug 25, 2015 5:59 pm

BBP wrote:I quit playing SQ1 and SQ4. Can't find the energy for it. It's not my humour either. But maybe I would've enjoyed them in the early 90s. Back then I also enjoyed Gold Rush, and that game is just plain cruel.


Gold Rush was cruel. But so good!

And how can you not love SQ4? I think it's one of the funniest in the series! (But it's also pretty long and has some pretty rough spots to pass/solve!)
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:01 pm

Collector wrote:His little rant on ignoring the competition is rather off the mark. It is not a misplaced concern to want to avoid copying a competitors ideas. At best you can end up a bandwagon release and at worst something that reeks of plagiarism, whether intentional or not.


For example, Legend of Kyrania Book 1 - they actually eventually put on a disclaimer about it not being a Sierra/King's Quest game.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:45 pm

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.

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.

adeyke wrote:If there are puzzles that can't be solved by thinking about them, then any effort spent trying to think about them is a waste of time.


But isn't this - the fact that these aren't puzzles of "If a train is going West, 200mph and a train 6,000 feet away, heading East is going 150mph - when do they collide?" type of puzzles.

I mean, I get it - if a person bought, let's say, Space Quest 1. And got to the puzzles and was like, "This isn't a game for me!" Fine, that makes sense.
But if that person then bought, say Space Quest 2, or Police Quest 1, or Leisure Suit Larry 2 - and said, "WTF. This is stupid!"
Then it's on the person. These games are already set a specific way - and you'd know that based off your first exposure.
The article writes itself like, people were surprised that they kept coming back to these games and finding that they all worked the same way. Time and time again.


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.

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

As for the pit, that would be an example of the simulational vs. experiential I addressed in my response to Collector. It's true that, if you fall in a pit like that, you'd die. I don't, however, think that's sufficient reason for including a pit that can kill you in the game. The designer would instead have to consider what effect both falling and managing to avoid falling in would have on the player's experience and then only add it if it actually has a positive effect on it. I don't think the text message would actually be a bad solution or that it's sillier than "Roger just jumps into the pit and dies, but never mind, that never happened and he's still safely outside it". And if you're jumping in the pit expecting to die, that would seem to indicate that you're already not taking the threat of death seriously. And I think the fear that you could die is more important than the possibility of actually dying.

(If, instead of a save/load GUI, there's just a rewind option directly after a death scene that just lets you get back to just before it, most, but not all, of the problems are eliminated.)

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.

Characters in the game can be dishonest. If there's a shady character, the player trusts them, it turns out they lied, and the player no longer trusts them, that's good.

However, the game itself shouldn't be dishonest, since it's important for the player to be able to keep trusting the game. I sort of addressed this in the response to Collector, but there's a lot subtle signalling in games. If the player stops paying attention to that, it gets that much hard to keep the game on track and to keep the player invested.

For an extreme example, just suppose that occasional "look" descriptions flat-out lied. At some point, the player would no longer bother looking at things, and the game would no longer have that avenue for conveying important information.

adeyke wrote:If I know that I can actually solve the game without enough thinking, I'm much more likely to put in that effort. But if the game isn't upholding its end of the contract, I'm also not inclined to uphold mine.


Which is ABSOLUTELY fine! I am not saying (or I hope I am not conveying!) that it's MY way or the highway! I get a lot of people don't dig the adventure games! And maybe, because for me, it was a very different time - these games were GROUND BREAKING. Because before then, it was either just text adventure games, or text adventure games, with like a single static image above the text.

So maybe because these games were so ground breaking, I had a much higher tolerance back then to play these games through to the end! (And like I said, for me, a lot of it was playing these games with my friend, Shawn).

I know my patience these days is not ANYWHERE what it used to be. When I played Legend of Kyrandia and Codename: Iceman, it drove me nuts. Especially Codename: Iceman, which I had never beaten until that thread.


I get that, I really do. Those games represented significant breakthroughs in adventure game history, so it's easy to look past their flaws. And the environment was also different back then; people are more likely to be patient with a particular game if they don't have a lot of easily-accessible alternatives to play.

And to be clear, it's not that I dislike adventure games. I've played more of them than I can count, and just knowing that something is an adventure game makes me more likely to want to own it. However, at the same time, I can see some (what I consider) significant flaws in a lot of them that could be fixed to make them better. And I think that, in a lot of cases,they could be fixed without actually making the game worse for the players who like them as is.

And I think critically looking at even the games we like is important.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:41 pm

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.

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