good roadblocks

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Oddball, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran

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    Latley ive been thinking about how to make good roadblocks. At first, I could only think of something like a spider sleeping in the road. 


    Im sure with that one players would go "why cant i just wake the spider up and kill it?"


    ive gone onto better ones like a cave in or someone who lost there contact or something and others and thought id start a disscussion about good and bad roadblocks
     
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  2. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran

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    Good topic.  I have a few places in my game where the player can't go because "I don't want to go there - I want to go somewhere else", but it's pretty poor.  If they can't go, there should be a reason other than "it's not time to go there yet".  I think I'll have to revisit those.


    So ...


    - a river with a bridge that's out and needs to be repaired


    - a log across the road that someone needs to come and chop up (could be you, if you get an axe from a quest just before the point in the game where you need to go there)


    - a river or chasm that you can't cross without making a bridge (and you get the materials at the appropriate time)


    - guards blocking the way


    - some other creature blocking the way - you can fight them but they're too powerful - have to distract them with an item or use an item in battle, and of course the item is only available at the appropriate time


    - locked door/gate


    - need a vehicle


    - fire burning - needs to be put out, or wait for it to go out on its own


    I'll come back if I think of more.
     
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  3. Haydeos

    Haydeos The Dragon

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    the two main components are the roadblock ( "Why can't I go past?" ) and the funnel ( "Why can't I go around?" )


    Roadblock ideas (ninja'd by shaz...) :


    Cave-in


    Bandits demanding a toll


    Spider-webs


    Vines


    Icewall


    Funnel ideas:


    River of water


    River of Lava


    Cave Tunnel


    Town Gate


    Dense Forest
     
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  4. Slimsy Platypus

    Slimsy Platypus Veteran

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    It's funny, I was thinking of this same problem recently.  My first thought, the ol clearing the rubble / cave in... it's so cliche and been done a million times.  So many games have handled this differently.  


    I think the less ideal way to handle it is by utilizing a "clearing of the road theme" as many times they just don't make sense and are rarely are tied to the plot (not to mention the player will be rolling their eyes as it's bound to be obvious what's going on there).  If you can get them to make sense, then by all means, go for it!  But I think the most ideal way is to design around these when possible (i.e. don't make the obvious paths that present the character with "why can't I go there?".  


    They obviously can't be avoided in all instances which presents you with some other options.  Does your setting allow terrain obstacles?  Maybe your party needs to find a donkey before heading into the mountains.  Maybe there needs to be a ferryman present to row the boat to pass the river and he's just not there yet.  Maybe a draw bridge is simply raised.  Maybe you need a boat, or a plane, or a lapras to ride.  Suikoden used gated "quadrants" where huge massive medieval long walled fortresses blocked passage into the next game area.  FFVII did it with a series of linear progression maps that opened up with vehicles (desert ridey thing / shallow water plane / chocobo / air ship).  IIRC Breath of Fire III had a guarded gate where you needed a pass (I'm pretty sure they had a cave in on the road too haha)


    Another alternative is just let the player go there, then throw a big ol fat enemy that is of that area's level right in the front (a la Elder Scrolls).  If you're making a classic RPG maker game and you allow your characters to "break character" a bit, you can event in a playable character mentioning "I think we need to be higher level (or more prepared, or more experienced) to fight the [insert enemies] of [insert place].  And if the character proceeds, they need to pass a difficulty check that will clearly communicate "I don't belong here".


    Ton's of options!
     
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  5. Caitlin

    Caitlin \(=^o^=)/ Kitten shall rule the world!!!

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    I think that this is a great topic and one that I am surprised that me and my sister haven't discussed as we do love to discuss various parts of story, video game creation.  A good roadblock I feel is something that doesn't feel like it's there to keep you held back.  It's merely an antagonist meant to keep you from you goal.  So, here's one.  You are crossing the ocean to head to the other side, but there's a reason you can't just jump onto the boat... the captain is missing.  When you do locate the Captain, you are told that he was trying to relight the lighthouse, not only has a monster made this place his nest, but you need a special relic to light the light with.  The thing is just to think about the lives that people and go from there.


    Another one is that the town has been shut down, because of some missing children and in order to move past the town, you need to save the children.


    What if you were playing a game that had two time periods, but you needed to return to one in order to save someone so that they are alive in order to build that bridge in the future.  I'd think of more possibilities only my eyes are doing that long blink and I'm about to fall asleep at my computer.  (Doh!)
     
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  6. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran

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    It's an interesting topic and yet... One I've never really thought of, despite the fact that I'm using a good many roadblocks.  I'm just going to assume at this point that I've not had a lot of issue with coming up with decent roadblocks.  Though, if I had to guess, it's merely because of the way my game mechanics work... that roadblocks are fairly easy to come up with.


    While my game is "open world" to an extent, it is split into "sections" that are meant to be tackled in a specific progression order.  The player starts the game in the "Grasslands" zone, which is basically a series of grasslands, forests, a river that splits the map down the middle, two towns, a bunch of cliffs and caves, and a few houses or signs of settlements.  However, the first area is also split into micro zones, despite being on the same map.  The "Demo Area", is basically one fourth of the entire map.  It is separated from the rest of the map via a large cliff edge, with the only way out to travel through a cave in the area (completing the storyline part of the quest inside the cave is where the "Demo" officially ends, but it's basically the beginning of the actual storyline at that point).  The actual area is split up into a "linear" type experience.  You can go wherever you like and do whatever you want, but that cave is "unfinished" until the main storyline has started up.  It's part of the world the game takes place in.  There's a house the player can't enter until their level is 2 (some NPCs appear in town and if you talk to them, they let you know the house is ready to be visited in a subtle way, which starts the main storyline).  That cave doesn't open up (an NPC tells you about it as well) until you've experienced enough of the "personal storyline" with your first two characters.


    I even have roadblocks along those paths.  Because every single level you gain in my game opens up a new path or alters the landscape in some way, you sometimes only have a single way to get around.  To get to that cave I mentioned, while at level 1, you have to wander around the "long way" of the map, through a lot of landscape and even a forest (which is it's own separate map).  The landscape itself is simply the roadblock.  There are boxes in town that block the southern exit, which disappear after a certain level, and that lets you get to the cave without walking around the whole map or traveling into the forest.


    I guess a lot of my roadblocks are simply just things that make sense for the game world.  A lot of "funneling" and "this isn't open just yet".  I mean, you can tackle whatever you like in each "zone", but you are slightly limited to the zone until certain specific things are accomplished.  Most of it is story related.  But, to maintain a cohesive narrative, I have to have certain roadblocks in place.  Those roadblocks are just more about what the narrative demands and not really about what the world demands.  A section doesn't open up until you've got the party members you need (which you get via storyline) because they're the ones who help you overcome the obstacle.  Another section doesn't open up because you haven't confronted the badguy over in this area and it hasn't been revealed what that area is or how to get into it.  A tower to the next zone can only be accessed if the player obtains the item that opens the door.


    A lot of my game is simple roadblocks or temporary roadblocks.  Heck, I even have Keys that are a type of "currency" you use to get some roadblocks out of your way.  They either open up shortcuts or treasure rooms.


    I just don't like using roadblocks in which it's things like, "these bandits block the road! kill them to proceed!" or "there's a tree in your way, you need to cut it".  Why can't I walk around it?  A tree isn't a wall...  It's easier for me to explain away a roadblock like, "well, all this stuff is stacked here because the villagers are sending their goods to market and they don't need this road open while they do that.".

    But, I'm a strange one.
     
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  7. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran

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    so it sounds like the best roadblocks are the ones when asked "why are you here?" awnser, "because i add to the story/world."


    i suppose roadblocks could also help tell the story of the game as well. although, they dont do a very good job if they send you away from the area to get past them. I can think of one in particular that says "im here till you go back to the castle and get permission. It doesnt matter that you already met the person that will give you this. Go out of your way to get past me or else!"


    its bad design in an otherwise good game
     
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  8. SLEEP

    SLEEP grunge rock cloud strife

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    a gamer is sitting in the Only Road and will stop playing in "ugh just 1 more round aLRIGHT". its political commentary
     
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  9. Feenick

    Feenick Veteran

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    The best roadblock:

    8z9aPHx.png



    But in all seriousness, I do prefer less obvious roadblocks, in which either some sort of skill is needed to progress that you only get elsewhere, or stuff like @Caitlin's example where the roadblock is tied in well with the overall setting. I've been slowly going through Xenoblade recently, and that's pretty decent in terms of having its roadblocks not be quite so obvious [even if it accomplishes it via all its areas being connected in a linear fashion].


    You could also go with a setting that's generally free of true roadblocks [with intensely scaling monster strength being you main way of handling progression], but that requires a plot that can either handle being done out of order or that isn't really there beyond the beginning and end of the game.
     
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  10. Anthony Xue

    Anthony Xue Ancient Architect

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    I'd say that this is the quintessential question/answer for just about any atmosphere-related element. If the question "why are you here" is answered with anything else, usually a gameplay function for its own sake, then you could just as well place things with a random generator which only cares for abstract gameplay principles. (If it's answered with "don't know, who cares?", maybe removing it is not a bad idea.)


    I also think that the simple principle of too hard encounters (see Feenick, above) isn't that bad. Add some tavern rumors ("No one has traversed the dark forest and lived since the witch has returned") and you're set to go. The roadblock "guards/bandits" is essentially the same, because why shouldn't players just bash their way through? Unless, of course, we are talking about guards from the "good side", which the hero of course wouldn't murder, right?


    Beyond that, it's a question of what area you wish to block off. If it's a civilized area (which usually will be blocked by "good side" guards):


    - player needs an invitation, as only the rich and famous dwell there


    - player needs a letter of recommendation, as a lot of magic is going on in that area and amateurs could easily disrupt things or steal knowledge


    - player needs an order of the king (or any questgiver) as the area is haunted by spirits or otherwise dangerous


    - player needs a disguise (or rare invisibility spell etc.) because the area is only open to members of the church


    - the area is a segregated place for a certain race and they only accept those who they trust (usually by fulfilling a quest, gaining reputation etc.)


    - any of the above, but the player is now allowed in because things have obviously gotten very bad (black moon is rising etc.)


    In wilderness areas:


    - connecting structure (usually a bridge) is broken - but if the connection is of any kind of importance (and if it's not, why build a bridge in the first place?), there should also be a reason why no repairs have been done. Maybe the structure is partly magical and can only be repaired with the help of an elemental or genie?


    - road is blocked by a sleeping mountain titan who must be woken up with a spell


    - road is flooded by a river which must be contained further upwards


    - passage has been cursed either recently or long ago, and the spell must be broken with an unusual ritual


    - mountain pass is blocked by a tribe of savages, too many to take them on, who refuse to leave unless another faction returns a stolen holy relic (alternatively, the disguise/invisibility option could work as well here... good chance to give the player some freedom)


    Alright, post is long enough already. Maybe I can think of something else later on.
     
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  11. LightningLord2

    LightningLord2 Psionic Bird Thrower

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    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Anthony Xue

    Anthony Xue Ancient Architect

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  13. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran

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    did you write that because of this thread?
     
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  14. Wavelength

    Wavelength Basically a Vision Ward

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    For me the single most important thing is that the roadblock is believable.  In order to keep immersion, I need to recognize that this roadblock is actually a reason that my characters can't go somewhere, not that the game designer didn't want me to go somewhere yet and put up a plot flag to prevent me from doing so.


    My favorite example of a completely unbelievable roadblock is from Tales of Symphonia, one of my favorite RPGs of all time.  Minor spoilers ahead: Late in the game, your party needs to rush to a hidden elven village to get information about someone that is threatening the world.  You find the forest the village is hidden in and make your way through it easily, only to be stopped before the gate by... a little elf kid.  He says his mother is sick and he needs a special fruit that grows in the forest to cure her - and he's not letting you through unless you find him that fruit!  Now, if I have a world to save, I'm not going to stand for this.  As a party of several badass warriors and mages with a pretty pressing priority, at best I'd promise him to find that fruit for him after I talk with the village elder, and forcibly push him aside if he continues to block my way.  But for some reason the whole party acts like there's no other way to solve this, and get to work trying to get the fruit.


    What's even worse - you find the fruit a short walk away, bobbing in the water about six feet away from land.  Does the game allow you to swim through the clear, clean water to retrieve it?  No.  Does it allow you to ask Colette, a winged half-angel who has been shown in cutscenes and battle flying around with ease to float over and pick it up?  No.  Does it allow you to grab a branch from one of the nearby trees and coax the fruit to shore?  Of course not.  No, the solution is to use a magical flute in different points of the forest to play melodies that cause birds and fish to come by and push the fruit all over the forest like some Rube Goldberg contraption until it lands at the designated point where all of a sudden the characters can reach in and pick it up.  This part is technically puzzle design rather than a proper roadblock, but the sore spot is the same - it feels really bad and breaks immersion because any reasonable person will look at the roadblock or puzzle and say "honestly, did I really have to do that?".


    A soldier guarding the entrance to a town - can't I fight my way past him?  Can't I lie to him and tell him I live in that town and my starving kids are waiting for me to come home?  Can't I get a note from the King who I saved from a plot to usurp the throne, that says let me through?  Can't I simply convince him that, yeah, I'm that local do-gooding hero and I actually have a good reason to be here?  I'm not saying the game actually needs to let me do these things - I'm saying the game should never ever put me in a situation where I'm asking myself that.


    A broken bridge.  An unbreakable door.  A pile of rocks.  A random town guard.  Trading loops.  Slightly different-colored ground.  An open passageway that I can't traverse because a party member literally tells me "we shouldn't go there yet".  Ugh!!  This is the purest form of lazy storytelling there is.


    And I could rant for days about multi-step roadblocks.  Not only do I inexplicably need to disguise myself to get past that random town guard, but I also need to 


    So with all of those travesties out of the way, what does work?  Geographical roadblocks are an interesting place to start, because a little bit of good framing is all it takes.  A pile of rocks at a passageway is going to be recognized as the BS it is, but a severe rockfall in the only tunnel under a mountain range is a lot more convincing (especially if you allow, but don't force, the player to do a quest that helps clear it).  Placing a tree across someone's path to a new continent will draw ire, but placing an entire ocean across their path will seem reasonable.  Don't have a port town where a ship's captain says "the seas are too rough, no ships are crossing right now" - get rid of the port town completely and figure out some other way that the player ends up on another continent, or bring a ship out of nowhere at the moment the player finds out he needs to cross the sea and just handwave it as "the ships were there all along".  Only the most intricate world-builders will ever call you on it.


    This actually brings up another point I want to make - if a player can't do something yet, do your best not to imply they need to do that thing.  If the party wants to cross an ocean to find the Holy Gem but the Captains are saying "the seas are too rough, try again later", and the only thing that will solve this plot flag is the party hearing a rumor that a local maiden has been kidnapped by bandits, finding the bandits' hideout, and rescuing her (after which point the seas will inexplicably have calmed down), the narrative designer has botched it.  A much better approach would be to have the kidnapping plot completely unfold before the player knows they want to cross the ocean (and preferably by having someone that both the player and the party actually care about get kidnapped), and find out information about the Holy Gem as part of the resolution/denouement to that arc.  Now the player knows they need to cross the ocean and - guess what? - they actually can!  The obvious roadblock was removed completely, the narrative was improved a bit, and the gameplay didn't need anything to be added nor removed (except some annoying walking to the docks, which I don't think anyone will miss).


    People with special talents, positions, or knowledge tend to make for pretty good roadblocks.  If there's a singular person with the power to sense the faraway Artifacts of Power that I need to collect, and I need to find or rescue that person... well, yeah that's a little bit annoying, but at least I can buy into it as a player.  (Say what you want about Inuyasha, but Kagome's presence in that story made sense and drove the narrative well.)  If there's a great wall manned by five thousand soldiers loyal to a powerful autocrat, and I'm told I need to do a few "favors" (quests) for someone with the influence to get some of those soldiers to look the other way as I cross... it's still very much a roadblock, but the situation is realistic and logical enough that it won't start raising immersion-breaking red flags in my mind.  If I don't even know about a faraway land, and then an NPC I befriended leads me to a secret tunnel that leads to that land, it's going to feel really cool - much better than having the tunnel be common knowledge but "temporarily unavailable" because of a rockfall.
     
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  15. Anthony Xue

    Anthony Xue Ancient Architect

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    Well, in both your ship and your elf town example, the blockade and the unblocking action are somewhat unconnected. I don't know how anybody would actually do this, but as the elf town example comes from an actual game, someone obviously did. I agree, this sounds like extremely lazy design.


    But why shouldn't I imply to a player that eventually he will have to enter area X once the roadblock is gone? This can give him a goal and create some tension, at least if that area sounds like an interesting place, maybe thanks to some in-game lore. It just should be clear what must be done to remove the roadblock. A statement like "the seas are too rough" is indeed pretty bad here, because what could the player do to calm the seas? This really feels like an arbitrary flag set by the designer, and if all the player can do is solve some quests that are completely unrelated to the reason for the roadblock, he is invariably forced to think in terms of game mechanics, i.e. an abstract layer. Personally, I think it is that abstraction that we want to avoid if we wish to keep immersion. But as long as we can answer the questions "Why is the roadblock there?" and "Why hasn't anybody else removed it yet?" with in-game reasons, things should be fine. (The elf town example fails at the second question, as just about anybody could have either pushed the boy aside or gathered the fruit. No reason to leave this to the heroes.)


    @Oddball: (how do you do these little blue references?) I didn't write the entry just so I could post "hey, I've written something", if that's what you mean. I write about whatever comes to my mind and what seems interesting enough. Without this thread, I probably wouldn't have thought of this question, though - that's what I meant with "Inspired by". (Wavelength's post also brought up some thoughts that I have entered into the article.) The idea behind the site is to create some kind of a library for such design questions - there are numerous collections of technical instructions and "how to" articles, but very few, if any, concerned with design on top of the technical stuff.
     
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  16. Wavelength

    Wavelength Basically a Vision Ward

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    I think the best way I could put it would be, which of these scenarios would bring you more joy and which would bring you more frustration?:


    A) You won a free five-day trip to Disney World that starts today!  You leave your hometown, start to drive there, and on the way, your car breaks down.  You try to fix it all afternoon, nothing works, so you call a towing service and arrange to rent a car the next morning.  The rent-a-car place doesn't have any cars available for rental, so you have to wait another day until one is available.  Finally, everything works out and you make it to Disney after two days of hassle.  You enjoy the three days that remained of what was supposed to be your five-day trip.


    B ) You're in your hometown and your car breaks down.  You try to fix it all afternoon, nothing works, so you call a towing service and arrange to rent a car the next morning.  The rent-a-car place doesn't have any cars available for rental, so you get a friend to drive you home and wait for tomorrow when one will be available.  When you get to the car rental place, not only do they have a car ready for you, but you're their 1,000,000th customer and as a result you've won a free three-day trip to Disney World!  You hop in your car, drive to Disney without issue, and enjoy your three-day trip.


    To me, this is the problem with telling the player the mission is to go to area X before he can actually go there.  He wants to be there.  He feels like he should be there.  But he's not allowed to go there.  It feels bad!  I don't think it creates tension - rather, it's more likely to create anticlimax.  Tension comes from feeling like something big is about to come to a head, for better or worse.  If, on the way, I find out I actually have to do Y before I can go to area X, I'm going to be looking past Y (to X).  I'm going to care much less about Y as a result, and become bored of Y.  And when I finally get to X, unless I really care about what I'm doing there, the experience at X will be hurt too because any tension I had felt was broken by a period of boredom.


    I think those three days at Disney are going to be a much more joyous, visceral, and memorable experience in Scenario B. ;)



    You make an interesting point about the "disconnect" between obstacle and solution being part of the kill-joy effect here.  I think that this disconnect is just one particularly egregious type of plot flag that makes the player think "do I really have to do this", though.  As a good example, let's use your idea of needing an invisibility spell to get into a sacred church because you're not a member of the clergy (and let's assume that you need to do something non-trivial to get that invisibility spell, like clear a magic ruins-themed dungeon).  When the player is sent off, are they going to think this is a reasonable ask from the story?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Most (not all) RPGs tend toward power fantasy dynamics (and high-magic settings to boot).


    So while I'm trudging through the dungeon to get the plot coupons I need to get into the sacred church to get another plot coupon that lets me do what I wanted to do in the first place (wow that's a long clause - imagine playing it), I'm inevitably going to feel like I would have rather broken into the church at night or asked my Thief party member to sneak in and grab the Sacred Torch or ask the Bishop I did a sidequest for four towns back for help or beat up that Bishop and take his hat or simply ask a clergyman for help because we kind of need this to re-seal the ancient demon that's been terrorizing the world.


    It's certainly possible to frame this kind of roadblock in a way that it feels realistic and logical (and maybe even plays on the player's biases and emotions) - maybe the church is revered the world over and is guarded night and day by hundreds of Papal Knights who know each other by face and the church is clearly working against you and your allies for one reason or another.  If you can deftly get this information into the narrative, very few will question why you'd need invisibility to get what you need.  And I guess that sort of speaks to both your point and mine, that framing is really important when using "roadblocks" in a game.
     
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  17. Anthony Xue

    Anthony Xue Ancient Architect

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    I think the anticlimax problem only exists if you are blocking off a passage that the player expects to use pretty much at once. This is most often the case if the game leads you to believe that, as a logical succession to what you have been doing, a major plot development is going to happen in that area upon arrival. If that arrival is then delayed by dubious circumstances, this will indeed lead to more frustration than excitement. Example: "Oh, that artifact you found there looks important. You should take it to the wizard's tower immediately!" ...and the bridge to the wizard's tower is broken and you have to spend half a day to repair it. Sucks, obviously. It is different when entering the area itself is the development, as then removing the blockade directly implies the reward. It's like foreshadowing with a world map showing all kinds of places you will visit... eventually.


    I'm also quite aware of your line of thought around "first the blockade, then the revelation". But that's not what I was trying to do anyway. I understood the term "roadblock" to mean an obstacle to area transition where the player knows that the next area awaits behind, but for whatever reason shall not go there yet. If roadblock and knowledge about the area behind actually come in linear progression, we have to answer less questions and thus far better possibilities.



    Now you are interpreting a little much into my suggestion. Using invisibility to enter a guarded area was simply a classic example, and certainly not meant to be exclusive. I'm sure that for many obstacles in any given game you could think of easier solutions which the game mechanics don't allow you to take, and rarely are all of them excluded with rational reasons. Basically, you are saying "I want the game mechanics to allow for any solution which the framework makes me think to exist", but thought to the end, this would lead us to something like this list:


    - Disguise


    - Invisibility spell


    - Sneaking in with thievery abilities


    - Convince the high priest with speech skill (mentioning the main quest alone would be too easy, wouldn't it?)


    - Extort the high priest with knowledge gained elsewhere


    - Solve a quest for the high priest to gain his trust


    - Solve a quest for someone else with influence on the high priest


    - Find an alternate way through the sewers


    - Get another priest to do whatever it is you want to be doing there


    Even though I'm all for multiple possible approaches, I don't see myself implementing them all. And I don't think we have to weave our framework so tight as to deliver plausible deniability for each and any missing solution. Rather, if we communicate two to four possible ways directly enough to the player, chances are that the absence of the rest won't be questioned.


    Unrelated: This has gone pretty far from the original question, but has definitely resulted in an interesting read.
     
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  18. Wavelength

    Wavelength Basically a Vision Ward

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    I suppose I understand where we agree, but not necessarily where we feel differently.  Can you give an example of a roadblock to the wizard's tower that you believe would be a well-done, satisfying way to tease that the Wizard's Tower will be coming, but not for a little while?



    Maybe I should have been more explicit in saying this, but I absolutely do not expect games to let me use all or even any of the "alternate solutions" that I come up with.  I was saying that my mind (and I think the minds of many players, especially longtime role-players) will naturally look for these alternate solutions if they seem like a more sensible way to solve a problem than what the game gave me.


    If the game asks me to go into a dungeon and slaughter a Mustached Yeti so that I can rip off the mustache and use it to make a disguise to pose as the mustached Pope so that the single guard lets me into the Church, my immediate thought is going to be "well, obviously they just wanted to railroad me through the dungeon" and from there I will think of all the better ways I could have gotten into the Church if I were the character.  As a less obvious example, if the game asks me to find an alternate way through the sewers to get around a single ordinary guard (who probably would just let me in if I told him why I needed entry anyhow), I'm going to think the same thing.  On the other hand, if the game asks me to find an alternate way through the sewers to get around a well-orchestrated troop numbering in the hundreds, and establishes that the clergy are incorruptible and clearly acting against me, the ask makes sense.  Sneaking through the sewers seems like a reasonable thing for my character to do in this situation, so I'm not going to worry about "why couldn't I use a disguise to get through?".


    Connecting the dots with the original topic, there are roadblocks that never feel convincing - a tree in the middle of a path, for instance (which largely fails your criterion of "why is this obstacle here"), but even the roadblocks that can be convincing need to be framed in a way that the player recognizes them as a genuine obstacle to be overcome and not as a removable wall or a plot flag to be triggered.
     
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  19. Anthony Xue

    Anthony Xue Ancient Architect

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    We are apparently coming to the same conclusions from different ends. Of course, the game definitely shouldn't force me to execute an absurd undertaking if more reasonable ways suggest themselves. (90's adventure games were particularly good at setting up completely ridiculous puzzle chains, which is why I never liked the whole genre.) Where we differed was that you put the "Invisibility" method onto the "absurd" pile and went from there, while I had intended it to be not much more difficult than the other "bypass a guard" methods listed. Which actually illustrates my point - different players may assess different methods as "reasonable", but that shouldn't mean you'd have to go out of your way to implement all of them. And of course the setting plays a big role in determining what is absurd in a given situation. I hear having playtesters other than yourself helps to avoid cases of tunnel vision here.


    Long-time role-players - are you talking CRPGs or P&P here? If it's CRPGs, then they should be accustomed to strange puzzle chains - just go ask the CRPG addict. If it's P&P, then you have to keep in mind that a CRPG can never have the flexibility of a game master. The thing is that many modern games try to offer it, so much so that I'm by now expecting to have various reasonable options to solve a certain problem. However, I don't think that we homegrown CRPG designers have that kind of luxury, which is why my other point was to offer the players maybe 2-3 obvious ways - if they need to search a lot, they automatically begin to think of what would be "reasonable" from their point of view and are somewhat disappointed if it doesn't work. (As I'm writing this, the only adventure game that I played through to the end comes to my mind: "Death Gate" by Legend. It was the only one which answered your unsuccessful actions not just with "this doesn't work", but an explanation why it didn't work. With the far more open structure of RPGs, we have to rely on the game mechanics and the framework to transport those explanations... well, we are connecting some more dots.)


    The wizard's tower: Having the roadblock alone both blocking access and tease the player is demanding; I would introduce the tower through dialogues and lore earlier in the game. But let me see: The party makes its way to the wizard's tower, a monumental structure in its own right (without a specific quest that would prompt an immediate answer). As they pass the front gate and approach the entry stairs, one of the stone gargoyles that line the stairs steps aside and blocks them, rumbling "The master has sensed your coming, but you shall not yet pass. He is still lying dormant, his mind in the blind eternities, and reawakening him onto this world is a process that takes time and might disrupt the arcane patterns of this world, so great is his power. But yes, a moment is near where it will be necessary. You shall be notified". The gargoyle petrifies again.


    Maybe a little over the top, but I'd say it fits the description. Going to sleep now, but should simply awake tomorrow morning...
     
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  20. Feenick

    Feenick Veteran

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    Neither of these hypothetical situations feel all that great to me. The first is an obvious roadblock, and one that doesn't have anything to do with how the main issue at hand [the seas being stormy] gets resolved. The second, though being a bit better, also rubs me the wrong way, as it implies that there isn't all that strong a reason for the player to be traveling to begin with [Also, what's stopping them from hiring a boat and just wandering around the oceans simply because they can, for one? They know RPG plots will wait for the player]


    I vastly preferred FF3's take on a similar situation. Early on in the game, you reach the Viking Cove, which is blocked off from the main seas by the Nepto Dragon. Sure, you can go out and try and fight it, but you'll instantly be killed by its attacks. Instead, you have to go into a nearby temple and appease it by retrieving a stolen eye from its statue within. Similarly, in your example things would probably be improved by the kidnapping [and potential sacrifice, perhaps] be part of some attempt to make the seas calm down.


    As with many things, I don't really feel that it's the actions themselves [going through a dungeon, sneaking around, and so on] that are at fault; it's how they are integrated into the story and game as a whole that's important.
     
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