"Don't go here yet." or Extremely Blatant Roadblocks

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by kirbwarrior, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

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    While playing Octopath Traveler, I quickly noticed these signs that just appear in the pathway and cause the PC to think "I shouldn't go this way right now" (or something to that effect). Before playing the game, I had thought that would be bad design, but I actually just laughed at it and basically forgot about it in play. I think I actually like it the more I think about it. There's still plenty of dungeons for the player to explore in this open world game, and I don't think there's any treasure hidden in these blocked off dungeons that's "required" or heavily wanted that you can't get an equivalent somewhere else.

    In a strictly linear game I could see it being bad, and I think I'd prefer an in-game reason for it of some kind. But it also doesn't feel out of place, since the characters are part of it by acknowledging they don't want to go there. What are your thoughts? What are your thoughts on how to implement roadblocks?
     
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  2. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    I prefer having some kind of explanation as to why you can't go in there yet.
     
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  3. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I've always considered this strictly bad design - I feel it teases and then frustrates the player as they think they can visit an area that looks interesting, and then are promptly and arbitrarily denied that opportunity. If I as the player want to step foot somewhere, I feel the game owes me that opportunity, and should allow me to find a way to step foot in that place (without waiting for "when I'm allowed to" in an arbitrary 60-hour plot).

    Therefore, I feel it's the best design practice to take any areas that you don't want the player going to yet and make them literally inaccessible - not by a dinky sign or fallen tree, but by something like an ocean, or an impassible mountain, or physical separation (like being on the other side of the continent in a game without a quick world map), or reasonable obstacle (think like an entire lava field or a rockfall that destroys half a mine or a truly behemoth monster) that would stop nearly the whole world's population from crossing the point, with the player learning an ability later on that can help them overcome the obstacle.

    In short, if you can see a place, you should be able to go to it.

    However, I've discussed this with other players and designers in another forum several years ago, and I remember my opinion was much less popular than I expected. A lot of players seem to be perfectly fine with dinky obstacles like fallen trees or party members saying "Eh, I don't want to go there yet". One of the most compelling arguments I heard was that the tease is actually a positive - the idea that it gives you a glimpse of something you'll get to explore later, and makes you look forward to it. I've always felt that the 'frustrating' outweighs the 'tantalizing', personally, but the argument in favor of it is very reasonable.
     
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  4. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

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    That's the weird part, I used to have the same opinion as you. But seeing it in practice, to the degree that the game itself is basically saying "Just do the chapter already" seems to push it so far that it wraps to "acceptable". It definitely helps that it's only done for dungeons, too. There's nothing stopping me from getting to any endgame city, for instance.

    I don't know if I'd need it to be that extreme but even a castle with the bridge up is enough for me. On further thought, I think a fallen tree or broken single-tile bridge is worse than the game straight up saying "don't go here, you know the story will bring you here later".
     
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  5. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    As long as it's not just an invisible barrier that stops you from going there for literally no obvious reason, I'm okay with any kind of roadblock. I don't have strong preferences for roadblocks, I just want there to be a reason given to me for not to going in that direction right now, even if it's something as stupid as a fallen tree.
     
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  6. Fernyfer775

    Fernyfer775 Veteran Veteran

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    I'm pretty much in 100% accordance with Milennin, I couldn't care less if there is a roadblock or what TYPE of roadblock it is, as long as it's explained to me why it's there.
     
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  7. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

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    I think part of the problem of the fallen tree is seen in the more extreme "napping cat" roadblock. A fallen tree isn't enough to actually stop someone. A napping cat can be moved or stepped over. But a broken bridge in a canyon is enough, even though you could theoretically just go hire someone to fix it.
     
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  8. D.L. Yomegami

    D.L. Yomegami Sanely Insane Veteran

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    Like Fernyfer and Millennin I don't mind most roadblocks that are adequately explained. Like, if trying to leave the hub town of a dungeon crawler results in the player character wondering why they're leaving when they have unfinished business in-town. I also don't mind roadblocks played for absurd humor (for example, those dancing guys in Pokemon Gen 5. "We're dancing for no reason! Someday, we'll disappear for no reason.").

    That being said, I am mildly bothered if I'm just told "There's something ahead. You can't pass" (another line from Pokemon Gen 5) without being given an actual reason.

    As a designer, I'd also prefer to just design my games in such a fashion that the roadblocks aren't strictly necessary (as in, the player won't find the place to move on until after they've done everything necessary to continue in the current area), but I'll admit that's a tall order if one's not going for an open world.

    There was one idea I'm considering for my current game for a semi-roadblock, where at one point the player's going through a dungeon with the goal of stopping the bad guys from releasing one of the world's elemental seals. If they find the exit to the dungeon before the seal, there's nothing stopping them from just leaving and moving on to the next town...only for the characters to realize upon arriving at said town that they didn't find the seal. Cue them running back to find that the bad guys succeeded because they walked right past the seal like a bunch of idiots and gave them enough time to do the job. I'd probably only do this once, though; that's a lot of data to remember for the rest of the story if the player could do this every time.
     
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  9. Kupotepo

    Kupotepo Fantasy realist Veteran

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    I agree with @Milennin that I am ok with visible roadblocks. If you are an expert RPG maker from forward to backward, do whatever your heart is contented.
     
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  10. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

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    "Player made" roadblocks like this (where the player doesn't want to continue on for whatever reason) sound actually very nice, but I'd probably give some sort of hint that it might be a bad idea, even with the vague "Are you sure you want to leave?"
     
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  11. Eschaton

    Eschaton Hack Fraud Veteran

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    I maintain that one of the best ways to corral the player when you have open-ended areas is with a good, old-fashioned beef gate. If they get past the beef gate, they deserve to go forward.

    Or you can just lock the door and make them find a key.
     
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  12. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    I try not to use blatant roadblocks unless it actually fits the situation. For example, in the game I'm working on now, one of the party members is in charge of a somewhat-suspicious research lab and if you try to enter, she's like, "Sorry, that's top secret because reasons." Over the course of the story progression, you have no choice to go in, but she'll discourage you from wandering into an area that the main character (and you, as the player) really shouldn't see at that point in the game.

    If the player was allowed to roam freely and see what was in there, it'd pretty much dump the entire story on its head. Instead, I intentionally block the player from those areas to build suspense as well as to build a bit of suspicion regarding that particular party member.

    On the other hand, blocking off a strong area while the party is weak seems a bit lame. Why is "Death Dragon Forest" or whatever so close to the noob areas in the first place?
     
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  13. Weremole

    Weremole Veteran Veteran

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    I usually don't get mad about game-y things in a game because it's, well, a game. I say usually because my problem is mostly in reverse. Not being able to go back! Like, I love Grandia and Grandia 2 something fierce but you can't revisit the majority of the areas past certain plot points. At least FF10 gave you the fast travel airship between the map nodes.
     
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  14. Conflictx3

    Conflictx3 Veteran Veteran

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    i never minded it, i always liked the idea of "man i wonder whats over there!", and then theres instances of seeing something that SEEMS like a roadblock but its literally just a dead end and you spend 20 minutes trying to prove it leads to a hidden area.

    i think we all remember the infamous truck block off in the early pokemon games, i was convinced by friends so many times that mewtwo/mew/a second missing no. was behind it if i could find a way passed the damned truck.
     
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  15. jwgz

    jwgz Villager Member

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    Usually, gates and roadblocks like this aren't explained well or are justified poorly (i.e. like someone else said, I can buy a broken bridge but not a sleeping cat/dog). However, they're usually a minor annoyance to me at best.

    If it was my game, I would use the aforementioned "beef gates." In the first half of FFIV, if you ventured way out of range of your current quest, the monsters would get more difficult and you'd be completely and utterly destroyed more often than not. As a player at the time, I took the hint easily enough.

    I would also agree with Weremole about backtracking. I hate being gated off of areas I've visited, because it renders you unable to pick up any loot you may have missed. I understand special circumstances like dungeons that explode and such, but for the most part there's little excuse for such limitations outside of sheer laziness. Bonus points if you can backtrack as well as see the effects of the plot on the area.
     
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  16. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    Oh, yeah I definitely have to agree about being prevented from backtracking. I absolutely loathe missable content because anyone with any degree of being a completionist is going to feel obligated to play with a guide open, and that just isn't any fun.

    In fact, I hate it so much that I'm trying to come up with some way around it for one of my next projects, although due to the nature of that project, being able to go back to previously-visited locations would be nonsensical in a lot of cases. (The general theme is that the characters are stuck on an out-of-control, auto-piloted ship traveling across the universe. While it stops periodically at different planets for various reasons, going back to a previous planet just doesn't make sense. Maybe holodecks/simulations or something?)
     
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  17. VisitorsFromDreams

    VisitorsFromDreams Veteran Veteran

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    I dont mind them depending on how they are handled. Things like the Snorlax or Sudowoodo blocking paths in Pokemon gens 1 and 2 were fine for me, hell, even the thirsty security guard was alright since it was worth a chuckle, but when its your character just being like "nah, not yet"... that bugs me. As long as its properly contextualised within the games world its A-OK with me.
     
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  18. kirbwarrior

    kirbwarrior Veteran Veteran

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    My favorite simple solution to this is how Secret of Mana (and other games) do it; If an area has something missable, just program the game to put it somewhere else. There are (I think) four missable orbs in the game, and if you miss them later chests just hold more than 1. Side quests are just as easy, just move the quest somewhere else (or don't have it give any reward, such as if it's a quest to learn lore about someone who dies).

    I love beef gates, it's one of the coolest ideas I've seen in games.
     
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  19. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    My opinion falls in line with @Wavelength as unpopular as it may be.

    I prefer the game not break my immersion by announcing, "You can't go here yet!". I hate it to the extent that I don't use it in my games. Namely, if I need you to come back to a location later 'cause there's something new to do there... you get a quest to go there and the path to get there APPEARS. This doesn't tease the player. It doesn't hint of "more area you don't get to explore yet". It doesn't destroy your immersion of "I could just hop over that".

    I don't like Roadblocks. Either engage in better map design that you don't tread over the same location more than once and don't have to use them... Or figure out a way to make them not obvious roadblocks.

    Most of my own design is simply cave entrances appearing as needed (they don't exist before being needed), paths being cleared as needed (it isn't obvious it's meant to be a path you can traverse until the moment it is cleared), and whole new locations just appearing as necessary (a cave layout changes to show you a new path... a new house goes up in town... etcetera).

    For me, it makes the world feel more "alive" and less like you're "playing a video game".
     
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  20. VisitorsFromDreams

    VisitorsFromDreams Veteran Veteran

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    Having entrances suddently appear and new locations coming out of nowhere (or with new paths through them) sounds like the most "playing a video game" thing I can possibly imagine. The local councils and building crews in your games must be really efficient if they get stuff that takes months if not years done overnight. :p The only way I can see that sort of thing feeling natural would be in something like a game set in a dream. Whatever floats your boat I guess.
     
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