Author Topic: On detective games; how to let the players draw conclusions  (Read 5278 times)


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What I do know is that regardless of how interesting something might be, I really hate to read (and especially if I have to stare at it and reread it a lot) on screen, especially in a game. I think it also shows lack of imagination in the design of gameplay.
Are you actually saying that you hate reading?  You hate journal entries, descriptions, short in-game books, that sort of thing?
Heh, I accidentally left out "on screen". I don't hate reading in general, just the staring at the screen/monitor/lcd to read.

But again, I disagree with you to some extent, gameplay has changed a lot in recent times, and yes most of it is streamlined very severely (especially AAA FPSs), but AGS games are usually less demanding on graphics for example and offer to make some kind of middle ground, where the game is not hard because interface is fidgety but because the design is put that way. I wouldn't call stuff like backtracking something that was a good idea to make the game harder. When a side scroller starts you of with 2 lives instead of say 3, I wouldn't say that it's more fun, yes it is probably more challenging, but in an adventure game for example, it'd make things annoying really quickly.

I don't mind being stumped by a puzzle, I do however hate some old design rules that just make interacting with the game world harder than it needs to be. Now you might prefer that because you're used to it, but I think it breaks the immersion more than a finely streamlined gameplay would.

@Gilbert: actually I only got that situation once or twice as well while playing Blackwell games (can't remember which episodes), the rest of it seemed to be ok though, but that's just showing that balance is hard to find (maybe even impossible).
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Thanks a lot for all your valuable input!

The first two Blackwell games suffered from this problem a lot, and is something you once complained about yourself, Andail.  "Painful", I think you called it. :)  

Ha ha, yeah I remember that :) It was a clever little mystery, but it was painful because the protagonist could not express what you as a player had already realized, until she had combined the proper clues. It's one thing if you don't play an intellectual character, but when she's a detective you don't want to feel dumbed down.

The ambition expressed in this thread can be summarised to:
1. The player should not be able to advance the game without understanding it.
2. If the player understands the game, he shouldn't have to wait for the protagonist to catch up.

But I guess it's not really possible to provide a perfectly player-driven gameplay without implementing a) special tools, like the deduction board in Sherlock Holmes, b) some sort of text parser, or c) have all locations and objects turn into notes or memories (which can then be combined near-infinitely).  Being a fan of simplistic controls, I'm not sure I'm in favour of either of those.

I even have hopes of releasing this on phones or pads in the future, and want a very simple GUI. Otherwise I was actually considering having a supporter character, like a Watson or something, with whom you could discuss the case as you progress. The discussion topics would be typed in via a text parser by the player, and "Watson" would ask you what kind of conclusion you would draw from certain facts and circumstances.
However, I'm scrapping parsers now, and also my game doesn't really have room for a side-kick...
« Last Edit: 23 Mar 2012, 14:10 by Andail »


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Why not replace text input for icons?
This is what I have in mind:

Room: a room that has objects (some are clues) and NPC;

Phase One: exploring: the player will examine objects and/or the NPC looking for clues, every item that he examines will be stored has an icon; this way having the object or not isn't important because the player has the knowledge of it; if the player is actually on a "action" room then he'll need some physical key (example) but will have figure it out;

Phase Two: dialogue: the player can talk with the NPC and use the icons he found on the exploring phase; the conversation output should deliver more icons that represent locations, different characters or objects; the player then gains the knowledge of some new evidence for example;

Phase Three: Conclusion: a sort of inventory where the player can mix icons and draw some more conclusions (icons);

Eliminating items that were sorted out has obsolete would make the icon count manageable;

On Phase Two: the dialogue would allow the player some basic start-ups like an icon representing a generic location, so that he could start with the location icon and then add the key icon: he'll be asking if the NPC knows or knew where the key is/was or any story driven importance of the objects being discussed;

I know it can be done with text input but some people may prefer icons (me).

Any thoughts on this?  
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For me, icons would only work in a very evidence/forensic based scenario. For a character/dialogue-based mystery it would be very difficult. I can't imagine how ideas like 'Jenny's veganism' could be represented effectively as icons.