Edge of Eternity
- Jul 22, 2014
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Indeed, it's one of my favorite kinds of roadblocks. Essentially, "get good" rather than "you need to do this, then this, then this". Of course, they can only be used in places where the designer is okay with the player getting through it earlier than expected. Very hard to use a beefgate to force the player to see some important part of the story before proceeding, right?What RPGs do I think is cool, with Beefgates that stop you from going forward until you can beat this encounter. I far prefer that to a random one-of instant death.
This places it more in line with a somewhat immersive roadblock (it's only a 'game over' in the most technical sense, not in any substantive sense)... and that's good by me!! Sounds like a great solution to have a bit of a sense of danger, without forcing the player to lose an hour of progress.I do like the 'instant kill, but puts you right back before you die' that some games do. Then it's a roadblock but can be more fun.
In my opinion (which should be taken with the understanding that I'm one of the most anti-roadblock people out there), yes it is bad. Everything inside me would scream, "I'm a Level 84 Hero! Why can't I grab the cat and fling it behind me with such force that PETA will show up in my next random encounter? (Or simply walk forward and make it run away?)"Now I wonder if there's a difference with required vs optional roadblocks. Is it actually bad if the reason you can't enter the casino to play minigames is blocked by a cat?
It would add insult to injury when I do the damned four-part sidequest to 'earn' cat food so I can bait the cat out and get into the casino, and then I walk into the casino and everyone is just sitting there playing casino games happily, like they had no problems getting in. And I couldn't even ask for the manager and kvetch at him! (I sound like a lovely person right now, don't I?)
I dunno. In an extremely silly game, I guess it would be okay. But in a game that takes itself even the slightest bit seriously, I'd prefer something like @Tai_MT's proposition of a "Members Only" restriction for an exclusive casino, and/or placing the casino somewhere where you might have to do a sidequest or learn a skill to get near it but once you do you can get in...
...Or the (for some reason rare and apparently blasphemous, if most JRPGs are to be taken as gospel) approach of simply letting the player into the casino early on, with no restrictions or roadblocks whatsoever, so they can enjoy it as a side activity all game long! Where there's no compelling reason to stop the player from doing something, I tend to like letting the player do it.
Not at all! Your perspective as a player is important, and very much worth taking seriously, even though (like mine) it's not representative of all perspectives.This is probably my bias as a player speaking, so feel free to disregard it.
Signposting is definitely the biggest issue here. You shouldn't have to get halfway into a challenge before you know you're not supposed to be taking it on yet. Graphical signs, changes in music or screen tone, character dialogue (especially), really tough (and different-looking) monster upfront, a change in the location name, help text that spells out the player is taking on additional challenge... all of this helps and (unless you go for the help text) you probably need to do more than one of these things to make it clear.I think it is far more frustrating to get halfway through a challenge before realizing you cannot tackle it... rather than being told immediately that you can't handle it.
Put simply... the rewards don't really make the challenge feel worth it.
But, again, this is probably my personal bias.
As far as rewards for the challenge, generally you want to reward the player with a single element of either power or variety that they otherwise wouldn't be able to obtain until considerably later in the game. That usually feels satisfying. Getting a spell that deals 3x the damage of what you've been working with so far (even if it also costs 5x as much) will make the player feel a rush of power for a while, and eventually they'll learn spells on par with it (in the midgame) so it's only gamebreaking for a little while. Alternately, you can open up something like a character or a special cutscene that is only available if you take the challenge on before a certain point - this is extremely satisfying as a reward, but it also opens you up to dissatisfaction from players who didn't take it on as a "missable".
I'm not sure they need to be scaled. When the power of most things scales up throughout the game, all you really need to do is place a later-game reward at the end of your balanced-for-later-game (but available in early-game) challenges.How do you scale rewards for players who tackled the high level content at lower levels in comparison to the rewards of those who came back at the proper levels? Most devs don't do this. Or, if they do, it's scaled so terribly that no reward is ever worth the investment at any level.
These are two cardinal sins! Anything that is handled via "mechanic" (rather than used as, for example, a bias of the RNG to present random story-hook events that may come your way) should be clearly spelled out for the player. Even if it doesn't tell you "there's a 0.01% chance each step a Grue will eat you", the Cursed status should say something like "Stay away from dark areas - unknown and deadly dangers lurk there, and they want YOU".ADOM doesn't tell you what "Cursed" does to you. It's a rogue-like, after all.
It does not take long to figure out how you get the status (it's the second and final Tier of it, I forget the name of the first tier), but you'll go pretty much forever without knowing what it does.
Sounds like it!The distinct lack of signposting hurts the game, just like any other Rogue-like I've ever played.
I think you make a really great point about how audiences from different eras will read something like this!! Obviously, when designing games today, it's the most important to keep the expectations of modern audiences in mind (as anyone playing a new game you make has probably played a few other games in the last decade). But when looking back at games to understand why they did what they did, the historical perspective that you mention is a great tool to have front and center in your mind.Yes, the "likely" part probably wouldn't be great design these days. The phrasing is very much a sign of its age as a game. Back when most games were super lethal to players, something saying "Likely" usually meant there was a good chance it was going to happen. With today's games though? Yeah, "likely" in a video game means something entirely different to us. It means there's a chance we won't die. It means we can affect the outcome even if we ignore the warning.
One interesting point to consider - if the player is literally told (or understands) "You will die if you go any further without a light source", then why not just have the artificial roadblock? What player in their right mind would intentionally press forward knowing they are about to take an automatic Game Over? I'd argue there are players that would still want to do this (mostly the "Spade" types of Bartle's Taxonomy) just to see how it happens. So it's not a bad idea to signpost it in very obvious terms, and then still let the player be self-destructive if they wish.
Total agreement that the genre and especially the "purpose" of a game should be considered when evaluating whether certain mechanics are necessary or just annoying.I think the reason it was changed was because there really wasn't a "save system" in place. Or, maybe there was. I don't know. I assume not. So, if you died... back to the start of the game. If you had completed this puzzle and died afterwards... you could essentially skip it and solve it with the set of actions you already did... bypassing the light puzzle altogether. Essentially, cutting out a piece of content altogether.
I don't want to debate whether or not it was a good idea to force players to do a completely arbitrary puzzle that would just cut down their playtime in getting back to where they were... But, I like the method they used to make the puzzle "no longer arbitrary".
If you could solve the puzzle in the darkness, you didn't use up your light producing resources (lamps, candles, torches, matches, etcetera). However, if you had to solve the puzzle by producing light... you were guaranteed to use up the resources as had been intended.
But, that's just my bias talking, to be honest. Zork is essentially a text-based puzzle game. The whole point is to solve all the puzzles and reach the end. Making the puzzles skippable seems like it goes against the core design decision of the game/genre itself.
So, there's a roadblock that exists to make sure you solve all the puzzles, rather than skip them.
I personally think that being able to stumble around and solve puzzles in darkness (even on your first run) would be really cool. Not only as an optional extra challenge, but also as an additional way forward if you found you couldn't solve the light puzzle. You asked something to the effect of "why would I do something self-destructive like bumble in the darkness", but that second reason (additional way forward) is a compelling one, especially in an age before GameFAQs. It may be the only way you get to keep playing the game.
Now, as far as your second run, where you've already seen this exact same puzzle before (and completed it and died much later on and had to restart because it's a roguelike), I would argue there is absolutely no engagement for me or for most other players in re-doing a puzzle I already figured out. It becomes busywork. A mandatory chore that falls well into the 'Apathy' or 'Boredom' sections of the Flow Diagram. Giving the player who has already done it a "shortcut" (solve it in darkness) would actually be a great mechanic for a roguelike, in my opinion!
As a quick tangent - in my game timeblazer I do force the player to replay the entire (five-minute) dungeon every time they fail a boss battle, and that's a very intentional choice intended to break up too much battle time in a row. I feel that this works only because everything you do in the dungeon has a skill element to it. Dungeons are made up entirely of minigames - either action-based ones, which have an obvious skill factor and replayability associated, or perception/puzzle-based ones, which are randomized each time so that it's still interesting and challenging even after you've solved it once. (Worth noting is that it's impossible to "get stuck" - you have 60 seconds to solve any puzzle, and if you fail you still get to move on.)
If you're designing a roguelike and you want to force players to solve puzzles that they've already solved on previous runs, randomizing the setup of those puzzles is one way to keep it interesting and challenging in each run.
Absolutely! The expectations that the game has created in you, through its previous gameplay, is one of the best signposts of all!I think it might depend heavily on what kind of game you're playing. In your example of Final Fantasy 3, it seems like this instant-death comes completely out of nowhere. Not only that, but it is never repeated. Essentially, it does not belong in the game as you have not taught your player about the mechanic or enforced the mechanic later in the game.
But, if we play a Rogue-like... you're conditioned to just accept that you will die constantly until you figure the game out. The opening room and first enemy can kill you, quite easily, and reset your progress.
It's a matter of what you've conditioned the player to expect in your game, in my opinion.
I still feel that other signposts are necessary where you're using a new trick or one that runs counter to most things that the player has done so far, to avoid the kind of feeling you mentioned earlier with Dark Souls' "newbie traps".
(FF3 does repeat the instant game over thing a couple of times, but not enough to make it an expectation - and it felt especially unfair the first time I encountered it, in the swamp.)
Total and wholehearted agreement!! I don't like obviously-contrived roadblocks. The more natural a roadblock is (not only in its environment, but in its role in the plot), and the more "negotiable" it is (allowing a skilled player to find ways through or around it), the more I like it.I tend to agree with this sentiment. Instant-death should not come out of nowhere. Though, for the same token... do we really need roadblocks? It could be argued that you simply need stronger monsters beyond this path to ensure the player doesn't go there until they're meant to. Or... does a player really need to backtrack to a higher level area they were prevented from being in to start with? What for? Couldn't we have had better map design to prevent backtracking? Does this second path through this same forest really need to exist? Couldn't we just put it in another forest further on in the game, when the player is more likely to be able to tackle the challenge?
I think the main thing a dev needs to do is justify why their roadblock needs to exist at all.
I think we should be asking, as devs, if our roadblocks really need to exist. Do you really have to block the road out of town? Why? Could it be tackled in a less immersion-breaking way?
Most Roadblocks I've seen in video games could've been easily removed by just using clever map design... or by just deciding to make the section a bit more linear.
The one thing I'll disagree on is your question of "why not just place this second path through the forest later on in the game?" - I think that a lot of players enjoy having this optional challenge available (especially if the rewards are good). I'm one of them! It's a rush, it's a visceral sense of risk and danger, and often represents one of my 'high moments' in a great game.
I tend to get very immersed in games. I forget about the real world around me. I forget about certain contrivances, like Saves, if there aren't any save points to remind me. I generally remember about once an hour. (If I'm getting game overs a lot, I become more cognizant and try to save more, but I find doing to excruciatingly boring and immersion-breaking.)I have a friend who has that same mentality. "I'll save when I'm ready to quit". He loses a lot of progress in his games quite frequently... complains a lot about glitches and bugs too.
I'm probably mean, but I laugh at my friend who hasn't learned this. I laugh at him for not considering saving as frequently as possible. He hasn't had thousands of games' worth of experience to draw from for a hundred good reasons to save. It hasn't been beaten into his skull yet. For me, it's just a matter of course. "Oh, I instantly died. Okay, I saved two minutes ago, let me reload and do something different".
Now, I live in South Florida (lightning capital of the world), so yes, sometimes power outages screw me. It sucks, but that's force majeure. It doesn't hurt as much to retread ground because of a lightning strike, as it does to retread it because of an instant-death blindside. I can laugh about a lot of things, but I genuinely feel frustrated when I have to do this.
Whoa, that's surprising, in light of what you said before about "as the dev, consider whether you need the roadblock at all".I tend to prefer traditional roadblocks. Can't go here yet 'cause you need the boat to cross the ocean. Or, you need the airship to cross the mountains. Or, you need the dynamite to blow a hole in the wall of the fortress to get in.
I certainly don't like these either, but I think the more common form of roadblock is that the dev wants to make sure that you experience all their "hard work" doing a menial sidequest that, ultimately, wasn't really necessary to advance the plot.I don't like Roadblocks that exist purely because the dev couldn't figure out a good way to keep you from bypassing the story... or the power curve.