Wavelength

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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.



"The Senator and I are in vigorous agreement!" - H. Clinton
 

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



I didn't ever mean to imply, in my example of removing the roadblock (by not having the port town / not initially mentioning the Holy Gem at the other side of the ocean), that the player has no strong reason to be doing something.  The player should always have a strong reason to be doing whatever it is they are currently doing.  In fact, this is at the core of my entire philosophy on roadblocks - weakly-justified ones make the player feel like they don't need to be doing what they're asked to do, because there is realistically a much easier and better solution that the game is just ignoring.

[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]



The simple fact that there are no places to explicitly hire a boat and no reason given to think about the need to hire a boat before it's time to do so.  It's the same logic as why FF7 players didn't think about "why can't I leave Midgar" in the first 5 hours of the game.  You didn't come across a checkpoint with a guard that said "you can't leave"; you didn't come across any obvious roadblock.  You didn't hear too much about there being a whole world outside of the city.  You simply did engaging things inside the city, and accepted it as the setting for your story and gameplay.  Then, only when it comes time to leave, you're told to travel to Kalm, and in doing so you get to see that there's this whole world out there to explore that you didn't even know about.


I think for the most part we agree; I'm totally on board with the idea that an activity's integration into the larger game and especially the narrative are crucial to making that activity feel satisfying.  I'm taking it one step further and saying that the immediacy of a given objective (for objectives like "travel to X", as opposed to obviously large-scope ones like "defeat the evil overlord") also furthers that goal.
 

Oddball

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what about a bridge being out on purpose because someone was mugged on the road ahead and they (thoserepairing it) suggest to explore some ruins while they work?
 
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Wavelength

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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.



Yeah, I think we were largely doing this :)  Just to be perfectly clear - I don't think that "invisibility" as solution to this roadblock is necessarily absurd; I think it's only absurd when there's an obvious, easier solution from a narrative (not gameplay) point of view, such as asking to be let in or pushing away a single guard.  Or when it requires the kind of "90s adventure game" chain of puzzles that you mentioned.  Looking at you, Sierra.

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...



I was specifically referring to CRPGs - yes, a lot of CRPG players are used to the strange asks by virtue of old CRPG games, but they can also recognize these strange asks more easily than a neophyte RPGer can.  I know that I for one have become really jaded to this kind of thing, and it feels like such a chore when a CRPG makes a nonsensical ask of me.  I know others that feel the same way, and I feel like the majority do, although I could be wrong.


And I'm 100% in favor of offering multiple solutions to a problem, whether that's "2 or 3 obvious ways" or "anything and everything the dev team can think of" - it's a huge draw for me when I play any game - but I think that's a gameplay issue that goes far beyond the scope of roadblocks.


(And P&P can go beyond that, even, because a good Game Master can improvise when the players come up with something he hadn't.  I love P&P roleplaying.)

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.



This sounds like a pretty good example!  (I think it could be made even more convincing by implying the passage of some time before the player is allowed to enter the tower.)  Thanks for that!
 
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Anthony Xue

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Glad you liked it. And thanks for the interesting discussion. I'll try to work it into my blog entry, it would be a shame to let all of this drown within the sea of old postings.
 

Prescott

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Forgive me if I'm just repeating stuff, too lazy to read the thread ;)


I think the best way to put natural roadblocks in the players way is to actually make it feel natural. When you're watching a horror movie where the protagonist is stuck in a house that has a full on kitchen that probably has a lot of knives they could use against the killer, you ask "why don't they just defend themselves instead of running around and not using their surroundings?" That's kind of how I felt playing Outlast. Miles is in an insane asylum with weapons practically everywhere but spends all of his time running. The roadblocks in that game are a gigantic insane guy randomly appearing and forcing you to run away, or throwing you into a different location of the asylum (he's like a cave-in).


HOWEVER, if you put the player in an environment or a situation where they can't do something about their roadblock, and it's always been there (like an ocean they need to get a boat to travel across), it feels much more natural.


We are letting the player go pretty much anywhere right from the get-go in our game. You can take down the big bosses in any order you feel. Anything preventing the player from doing that is a natural barrier. Dark Souls does something a lot where the enemies you encounter will be WAY too hard for you to take on and you pretty much immediately die. I mean, if you're skilled enough, by all means go for it, but there shouldn't be something indirectly telling you "maybe I shouldn't be here right now." Enemies, harsh conditions (maybe they need a bigger coat to go into the cold regions, or something like the earrings in Skyward Sword that enable you to go into a hotter part of the volcano), or somewhere they won't make much progress (like if you were to play Wind Waker without the sail).


It's important, I think, to let players explore these places even if there are warnings in place that they shouldn't be there. Even if you're focusing on a more linear story, you could always have the player move forward and trigger a different sequence of events if they ACTUALLY made it through that place without dying, or make it impossible to get through without dying so the player knows they have to do something else first.


I know it's hard to implement all of this as an indie developer, and that it usually takes a much larger studio to account for all of this uncertainty of what a player is going to do, but just look at a game like Undertale. Toby Fox thought of absolutely everything a player could do inside and outside of the game to affect it. It's possible for sure, and your game will be much better, in my opinion, if you let players explore all of these avenues and give them natural consequences to their actions.
 

HexMozart88

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Aw, man. I don't know why I hate this so much, but don't use "It's locked..." It's super cliche and not very creative in my opinion. A good thing to do sometimes (depending on how you do it) is to say, "Such-and-such is calling me. I'd better go see what they want."  (Obviously replace such-and-such with whoever.) Or if you want, you can also do enemies that are like, ten levels higher than you and you have to get to a certain level or a certain point in the game to be able to beat them. 
 

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I have the "It's locked." Roadblocks.  But, they make sense.  The door to a bandit hideout isn't going to have an unlocked door...  A treasure chest with a lock meant to be picked by a certain character you don't have yet, will be locked.


But, I do have some in the traditional sense.  The first storyline quest of my game takes place at a house that is locked up until you hit level 2.  The character can check the locked door, talk to the NPC nearby, asking about it being locked and some somewhat spoilery content, and it won't open.  When the door is unlocked, new NPCs appear in the town nearby to ask if you've been in the spooky house at all, and they warn you to stay away from it.


The other notable examples of the "It's locked" come in the form of "shortcuts" that you need a semi-rare currency called "Silver Key" to open.  Usually, these keys open shortcuts in dungeons/caves, or treasure rooms, or other stuff that a key might apply to.  But, without the key, it tells you "It's locked."
 

HexMozart88

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Those are decent uses of "It's locked..." but what I was talking about is when half the houses in a village are locked and you can barely go anywhere. The point of rpgs is to explore, I think. So let the player explore or they'll get bored. Also, being locked up until a certain point is okay if it has some use to the game, however, if you have a door that is locked the whole time, why put it down in the first place? Basically what I'm saying is to do as you did and be clever about it, otherwise don't make the door at all.   
 

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Hey ive got a good roadblock! Roadblocks! :p
 

F117Landers

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Hey ive got a good roadblock! Roadblocks! :p



With construction crews!


On topic, this has been a concern of mine. In the current game I'm working on, I have found a decent reason as to why the player can't wander outside of the maps (he's dead). Every challenge accomplished to continue progress through the veil unlocks more areas (new challenges). This also allows me plausibility for certain items not being interactive. 


Obviously this doesn't work in most games, but there are many ways to dress up roadblocks so that players don't go "the door is locked, but it is half missing. Why can't I just reach through and unlock it?"
 

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Link the second game on NES had a cave or caves you could try and get through without your candle, but it was usually deadly. This is a good example of a roadblock that is a bit more interesting than just something blocking your way.

Whirlpools, fallen trees (when your characters are in a cart perhaps), Sandstorms ("block your way ahead") would be cool some particle effects showing a sandstorm, or hail storm or blizzard. So environmental types of blocks.

A cliff that requires climbing equipment or a grapple. (So like LINK for NES, you need an item to pass) or a vehicle like a boat or raft.

Chasms.

Just think of what might block your way in real life. Then there is also magic, so magical barriers.
 

Manofdusk

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You could make certain events timed. If certain disaster is about to befall a nearby city if you don't act, then it WILL happen if your character wanders off to the caves in the opposite direction. It's not exactly a roadblock but it DOES keep players on track. Timers work wonders for this too (nothing says "don't wander off" like a countdown)


 If you need to get across the ocean for some reason but there are powerful sea monsters keeping the boats from going out, that also makes a good roadblock. You could fight it (maybe you CAN actually beat it if you grind a few levels), or you could go do a quest that calms/defeats them. I don't consider something like this to be a roadblock since it's part of the narrative.


 Now, with a locked door... I'm a little on the fence. If it's a fairly sturdy door, then I can get it but if it's not, then just break it down if you really need to get in (I actually like to do this. Have a door that's locked and offer the player the chance to get the key... but, if you keep examining the door, one of the characters gets irritable and breaks it down).


 I also do things like, when in towns, your character can actually get in trouble (ie. get a "go to jail" ending) for entering someone's house uninvited. When the player understands this, he's less likely to be trying to open random doors in towns.


 When a character is given an open world, then it should really be free to explore... but if there are limits in place that the player understands (like in my above example of the player getting in trouble for stealing/trespassing) then certain roadblocks make sense. However, I dislike the excessive use of roadblocks on the story path. Staying on the path of the narrative should be fairly easy. The roadblocks should only be popping up if you're trying to bypass the narrative.


 That said, I do like having ways to bypass the roadblocks guarding the narrative, letting you go places you wouldn't be able to otherwise (ie. Sequence Breaking). The game becomes considerably harder when sequence breaking but you can get access to special items or alternate endings by doing so.


 In the example I gave of fighting the sea monsters. If you kill them, then they drop an ingredient used to make a weapon more powerful than anything you'd get for quite some time (AND you passed the roadblock).
 

eadgear

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Good roadblock? what about the road itself than blocks you. That's literally roadblock. Imagine the ground changes and/or started to attack you, even the spikes floor and ceiling attacks you. The ground can even chase you.
 

Pierman Walter

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Something that always bothered me is how easily the player would be able to get past the obstacle if they did something that made sense. If I am a half-demon knight, and the gate is being guarded by a couple of dogs, I am fairly certain I can get past them. If I am wearing so much flame-shielding gear that I am literally fireproof, but I still can't walk over a lit stove, then something has gone wrong. I always have issues with making routes that the my characters are unwilling or unable to cross, too. In my game, a path is closed off because you recognize the corpse of a friend lying in it and are too scared to pass. For a while, this made sense, but then I accidentally figured out that it was possible to take a nap in a mass grave, something so darkly hilarious I had to include it in the actual map. Because of this, the roadblock doesn't make any sense. A person who sleeps on hundreds of dead bodies like it ain't no thang probably isn't going to worry about one of them. I changed it to some landmines instead.
 

Oddball

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Good roadblock? what about the road itself than blocks you. That's literally roadblock. Imagine the ground changes and/or started to attack you, even the spikes floor and ceiling attacks you. The ground can even chase you.

This is a very interesting idea. Not sure how practical it is, but i would love to see that in a game
 

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