Letting the player control the pace of the narrative...

NPC

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Hi all,

While I was working on the script for my upcoming game (unapologetic plug; link in my signature), I came across an interesting problem which I think would make for good discussion:

Is there any way to let the player move the narrative forward on their own terms while also making sure they've done everything they need to in the section of the game?

Of course, the immediate problem is that characters may have to reference an event that just happened, and in a mystery game like the one I'm writing, that means that it's possible that certain clues will be lost to the player.

Should the player risk losing certain clues by moving the narrative along then? My only solution is to make sure that all the mandatory clues are basically given to the player, but I hate feeling like I'm railroading them to even give them the basics.

On the other hand, I could provide the player with a roadblock. A character could not give you a key until you've found all the things in the area, but I feel like that would be a bit demeaning to the player outside of a tutorial.

To further elaborate for any who are lost on my meaning, take this example: Our hero gets locked in a room by the murderer, and when he escapes, a number of people have changed location, but in changing their location, some characters would be inaccessible to talk to. Now the player cannot get the clues he could before the locking incident.

I'd love to know your thoughts; if you've encountered this problem before; how you solved it; if you had a case of this outside the mystery genre.
 
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If this is in a modern period you could have characters communicate through cellphones or email.

You can set a variable in an area of "clues found".
Have a police officer ask: "Are you sure you found all you looked for?" if "clues found" are less than "clues existing".
 

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Old Adventure games "allowed" to get stuck because the player forgot to do something in a past scene with no way to go back other than reloading/restarting.
It quickly became a chore to play those games with no walkthrough (that was way before the Internet) and almost no longer exist.

I don't think bringing back that kind of gameplay would be well received now, especially since players are more and more used to being guided or led by the hand.

However, if you make it so that the bare minimum is always done by the player, the rest being optional, that's great.
A lot of work to take into account every possibility, but great nonetheless.
 
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Kes

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I think all mandatory clues should be available to the player - if I am playing a game, move forward, find I can't go back and therefore cannot finish the game so that I have to start again, you can guarantee that I will not reload. Move forward without all the mandatory clues, and therefore things are more difficult is a different case. But in that case, something is not mandatory.

How you make those mandatory clues available without blatant hand-holding is part of the challenge of being a dev. But setting the player up for compulsory failure (which is what the not being able to go back & therefore stuck for ever is) will not go down well with many people.
 

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Yes, obviously the point-of-no-return system is flawed outside of games specifically built around it.

However, do you think there is a way to control how a player decides to approach a problem?

Say they have the option to go past the point of no return, is there any way to make them choose a path without actually forcing them down it?

Say one clue seems to lead to an obvious follow-up clue. Is there any way, do you think, to hide the obviousness of the choice? Obviously making them just go from one NPC to another in order would be quite boring, so would it then be possible to construct a pseudo-puzzle about who to ask where the player will come up with a logical conclusion that is, in fact, the obvious next person to ask.

I believe a player could be trained to think a certain way inside the game, but the question is how to get them to think in the way that will lead them down the right path in the first place. By presenting it as a puzzle (that only exists in the player's mind), would that then risk the 'slower' players to become even more list if they accidentally stumble past the point of no return?

Can you stop a player from brute-forcing the game- give them a reason why they should not play so callously without outright punishing them?
 

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The problem is that we want to create a game with a "good" end but allows some kind of failure at the same time.
Obviously, it can't allow critical failures aka game over.
So, there's no other choice than cheating somewhere and force the player to do something before a turning point.

To draw a parallel with real life, let's take a police detective working on a murder case.
In movies, books, games, whatever, you have to find the culprit (at least 99.9% of the time). There are no critical failures. Even those that happen are "staged" by the author.
However, IRL, the detective can fail. They can omit a clue, overlook a critical statement, anything out of bad luck, even.
The result: case unsolved. Totally not satisfying (IRL and even more in an entertaining form).

So, you'll have to cheat in your game the same way many other writers cheated. You just have to do it discreetly so that the player feels like *they* solved the case, and that's part of the challenge.
If done well, it's a really good experience!
 

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