Interactable background objects

Gensun

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By "interactable background objects" I mean objects that does anything from showing some text or change a visual effect in another room, but aren't part of any puzzle or isn't needed to drive either the main or side stories.

When are they done right? When do they detract?
 

SGHarlekin

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Never heard of a game that had "Too many interactables" tbh.
 

SGHarlekin

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What about games where almost everything is interactable but 99% of them don't contain anything?
Then I'd commend the dev for going through the effort of describing everything I clicked on with the utmost detail!

Jokes aside, though, here's what I think happens in each scenario:

So you start the game, you wake up in your house, you watch the intro. you check the shelves.

Scene 1: You found a hidden potion! Yay! You will now go around and check everything for hidden items. The dev didn't make anything interactable, though. But you still have to click everything because you don't want to miss the items. *Sad player noises*

Scene 2: You found a hidden potion! Yay! You will now go around and check everything for hidden items, and while you don't always find items, at least you will always get a funny text, an interesting description or lore. *Happy player noises*


Scene 3: You see sparkly bits on that shelf... A potion! Yay! You go around and click on other things, but you quickly realize that there's never going to be anything unless there's sparkly bits. You stop checking everything. *Happy player noises*


No shelves in this:


Scene 4: There's a sealed pot. You interact with it and you find a potion. Yay! You'll now go around and check everything. As you play, you realize that there's these sealed pots here and there, and you can always open them and they always give you potions! Yay! *Happy player noises*

That's my take on interactables as far as items go. For things that are "non loot" like light switches, you can just have them as little details, it's cool if you come across them, but if they serve no purpose aside from that, it not important if the player ever finds them.
 
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Frostorm

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Here's how I did it. It's kind of like Scene 3, except the "sparkly bits" don't show up unless you are standing adjacent to the tile. So the player still has to go check every object, but needn't press 'OK' unless the "sparkly bits" show up.
 

TheAM-Dol

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Mentioning everything being interactable and there's a chance for items being contained in those interactions, immediately what comes to mind is Fallout 4, where, because of the waste-of-time crafting mechanic (and don't forget 16x the detail), I felt required to check every nook and cranny for another busted desk fan just so I can get a screw. Utterly killed the pacing. I want to get back to shooting, but I feel like I'm not "optimizing" my play time unless I slow down and search every bag, body, and toolbox.
Apples to oranges, though.
I think most JRPG-styled "RPG Maker games" may have a more appropriate pacing to allow players to feel like they can enjoy taking the time to search everything...
then again, imo...I recall my time with Golden Sun. I wasn't as precocious in my searching like in Fallout 4, but I still started feeling antsy when I would get to a town and spend (what I felt) too long searching for potions...I do think there needs to be a balance, or at least clear indication. I like SGHarlekin's idea of having identifiable pots, but I'd maybe take it 1 small step further and give them a contrasting color relative to the other decorations - or something else to give players a hint that there is something of value there.

On the other hand, I do think all interactable objects can be detracting if the text doesn't sit well. For example, if you decide to put poorly conceived references to other popular media, or (god help us) memes, it just seems in poor taste and I think really detracts no matter the circumstance. I don't know if there is any saving memes - it just should never be done, but at least with references I can see it being done tastefully and sparingly if you wish to pay an homage to a favorite of yours (I know I have a hidden tasteful callout to a favorite composer sneakily stuck in my game somewhere).

Overall, I would say, do what you feel is appropriate for your game (I know it's a bit of a cop-out answer).
 

Gensun

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Mentioning everything being interactable and there's a chance for items being contained in those interactions, immediately what comes to mind is Fallout 4, where, because of the waste-of-time crafting mechanic (and don't forget 16x the detail), I felt required to check every nook and cranny for another busted desk fan just so I can get a screw. Utterly killed the pacing. I want to get back to shooting, but I feel like I'm not "optimizing" my play time unless I slow down and search every bag, body, and toolbox.
Apples to oranges, though.
I think most JRPG-styled "RPG Maker games" may have a more appropriate pacing to allow players to feel like they can enjoy taking the time to search everything...
then again, imo...I recall my time with Golden Sun. I wasn't as precocious in my searching like in Fallout 4, but I still started feeling antsy when I would get to a town and spend (what I felt) too long searching for potions...I do think there needs to be a balance, or at least clear indication. I like SGHarlekin's idea of having identifiable pots, but I'd maybe take it 1 small step further and give them a contrasting color relative to the other decorations - or something else to give players a hint that there is something of value there.

On the other hand, I do think all interactable objects can be detracting if the text doesn't sit well. For example, if you decide to put poorly conceived references to other popular media, or (god help us) memes, it just seems in poor taste and I think really detracts no matter the circumstance. I don't know if there is any saving memes - it just should never be done, but at least with references I can see it being done tastefully and sparingly if you wish to pay an homage to a favorite of yours (I know I have a hidden tasteful callout to a favorite composer sneakily stuck in my game somewhere).

Overall, I would say, do what you feel is appropriate for your game (I know it's a bit of a cop-out answer).
To relate to that, I once got praise for a section of a game I made that had interactable objects for literally every thing. It was when you control a quirky minor character for a random character arc I added for padding. He had quirky dialogue from everything from curtains to pillars. My playtesters also had a bit of fun examining everything too
 

Tai_MT

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From my perspective as a player:

It really depends on how these "interactables" are handled. I think my favorite experience with them was in Final Fantasy 6 where the game doesn't really "tell you" there are hidden items. So, if you don't accidently click on one (or purposely click on one) you never really know. You can miss out on items. What are the items you miss out on? Nothing really that important or useful.

If you do manage to find an item, however, you now begin to search everything in earnest! When you do this searching for a while... you learn which things hold items in them.
Barrels
Crates
Pots
Clocks

That's it. So, you don't waste time checking everything anymore. You only click the objects that matter and move along. Plus, since almost every Clock gives you an Elixir... you are frequently excited for seeing a NEW clock you haven't clicked! And they're rare!

Not that you'll ever use the Elixirs. Since the game suffers from "But I might need it later" syndrome.

Personally, I like this approach. I don't have to click on everything. I learn very early on that clicking on everything is a waste of time. I learn some things that are clicked on have the possibility of extra goodies.

I don't like clicking everything. I don't like getting a message for every little thing. A message implies that something is important. But, the message itself isn't important. Now, I might miss something. I might "tune out".

I think it makes sense to attach messages and items to things that make sense to interact with. Bookshelves, signs, pots, etcetera. I don't think it makes much sense to make everything interactable. It would really burn me out as a player. What is important to click on? What is frivolous? What's a waste of time? Is this going to burn me out and make me lose immersion? Pacing? Will I eventually miss something important if I'm NOT clicking on everything?

Like all good things... they should be used sparingly.
 

Zalzany

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Yeah, it's up to the dev. My first RPG VX ACE game, everything you could mess with and get some message. Most found it neat, and they wanted to touch everything. It breaks down precisely, as SGHarlekin said. You expect it it's fantastic unless it petters off, then you feel things for no reason, and it's sad or annoying. I wouldn't say I like that, don't click everything; boom, fixed.

Then you got the hidden rare things some people like it, but it makes you want to touch more, less happy noises as he put it its neat when you find something, but you don't wish to handle everything after a while and stop trying way sooner than when stuff has some message.

Some players, you do it well enough, end up with an extra 10 minutes to an hour of playtime. Others will touch things that might contain something, whether from experience in that game or others. Like, I played some checking pantry shelves, and bookcases sometimes get you things, but honestly, if you don't get any message, it gets old, and you check cupboards, and unless you find something first, like 5 mins of the game doing that I don't check them ever again.

Then you got the sparkles or other things to lure the player, these are nice, especially if it is a quest related, and they made it too hard to find for casual with it. But also make it, so you never check anything that doesn't sparkle and make a b-line to them every time. Like, I am tempted to use sparkles more as a joke. Do a trap with them, Have something in the intro with it, and you run to it, and it sets off a cutscene for a surprise, lol. But if you do that, they expect the next one to be a trap or lead to something more unique than usual.

To me, the only time it gets too tedious as a gamer is when you find out you have to check everything, even with sparkles, see some go overboard, and it's like, "oh, I probably need one of those 3 in that maze for the story, damn it I got pick all three you did this on purpose!" But I classify those same as those puzzle games where one is ok, but they do like 5 push the mini boulder games, like, "no, no, one was too many, but I will take it. You want me to do five. This is just filler!"

In my final opinion on this, Easter eggs are lovely; sparkles are good if it's essential; that would be hard to find without them for a quest or the story. But shouldn't everything that might have something or it might be something suitable or be a waste of time. I've seen games do that it's. It's "oh, a quest item I needed, nice! Oh, this one has a joke message, now; now to rethink how bad I want to reach each of these sparkles when I see them..."
 

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