Author Topic: To pick up the weird item, or not to pick up the weird item?  (Read 2948 times)

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      Ali worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
I guess we can all agree that the most elegant way to design a puzzle is for the player to meet the obstacle before they come across the solution. But when a game is plotted in a non-linear way, it's (probably) inevitable that the player has a chance to come across the solution first.

So here's my question. If the solution involves carrying a large/outlandish item that doesn't seem immediately useful, should the player character decide to take it before they have a reason to?

I would say no. Though, I can see the traditionalist argument, that the player is king and you shouldn't stop them from picking up whatever they want.

I think the player character should refuse to take an item until he/she sees the relevance of it. I think that's preferable because (in an adventure game) the protagonist is a character with opinions, not just the agent of the player. The player's agency is mediated through their personality, and they are entitled to refuse to do something which is pointless or doesn't make sense. Particularly in the context of a 1 or 2 click interface, I think the protagonist picking up useless bulky item X is unlikely to be what the player intended them to do anyway.

What do you think? How happy/angry does this make you as a player?
« Last Edit: 29 Jul 2016, 09:38 by Ali »

Esseb

  • Mittens Duke
  • ¡¿Interrobang?!
    • Esseb worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
One solution to this I thought about back when I still thought I'd ever make a game was to have the character "remember" the item in question, and show it in the inventory in a thought bubble or similar. If you try to use a "thought bubble" key on a door the character will say something like "hm, I wonder if  that key would work here" and then a short cut scene in an overlay window would show her picking up the key back in her brother's apartment or something.

Might feel a bit artificial though, the current method of picking up everything that isn't nailed down is effectively the same solution just presented more directly. I basically pretend the thought bubble solution is in place while playing Monkey Island 2 instead of assuming Guybrush is really carrying a monkey around in his pocket for half the game.

So basically it's a non-issue. Just don't make the main character put a ladder in her pocket and you're fine.

CaptainD

    • I can help with play testing
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
    • I can help with voice acting
    •  
    • CaptainD worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      CaptainD worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
The usual solution that I've seen that actually makes sense (seem to remember this in an early part of Nelly 2 as well?  But off the top of my head can't remember what) is for the reaction to be "Well I know where it is if I need it".  Although I think that was with a non-movable object?  (Bucket of tar?)

Something along those lines.  I've seen the "memory item" idea Esseb used too, can't remember which game (might have been Runaway 3). 

Both methods scream out to seasons adventurers "this item is important, but not just yet!".  So it would make me happy to an extent because I know that I've found the solution to a problem that I have yet to come across in the game.

Another possibility - perhaps difficult in a non-linear game - is that the character is unable to take the item for some reason, but once the purpose of the item is known, the means to get it also becomes available.  So... I don;t know, for example you need an engine, but it's far too big to carry, you come across a speedboat with a faulty engine and realise you need to fix it, on the same location or a nearby one only accessible after you've seen the speedboat you find a wheelbarrow that allows you to transport the engine.

Cassiebsg

  • Cavefish
  • Fleeing the Cylon tyrrany...
    • Cassiebsg worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Alternatively, you can give them a limited inventory, like can only carry 10 items at a time, or a limited weight, like 10kgs. Then use a custom property to assign weight to all your inventory items. This way the player has to have a good reason to be carrying a 9kg ladder around. ;)
In one of the games I'm working on, I have just went for big, medium and small items. Big items, you can only carry one at a time (on the hand slot), the rest you need a backpack to carry unlimited medium/small items. Otherwise, picking up everything that isn't nailed is the "norm" and refusing the player to let it pick up, might just annoy the player (specially if you playing it for the 2nd time and you already know you need that item).
There are those who believe that life here began out there...

NickyNyce

  • ready...FIRE...aim
    • NickyNyce worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
I like the idea of having the character say "I know where it is if I need it". The thought bubble is kind of cool, but I think that may make things too easy. I don't see anything wrong with picking up an item later in the game when needed, but I think it's important to give the player a hint that it may be useful later.

cat

  • Local Moderator
  • AGS Baker
  • Angelica Crosley
    • cat worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      cat worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
I HATE it when I can't pick something up now but can do it later.

I'd suggest either doing it the way CaptainD suggested or, doing it similar to what Cassie said:

Once the player picks up the huge item, he says something like "Ok, I'll take this, but I can't take anything else with me now." and then dumps all the stuff somewhere on the floor in a huge pile (and switches to a view carrying that bulky item). Since most players are kleptomaniacs, they will feel highly uncomfortable without their inventory and soon switch back to their regular inventory.

Danvzare

  • The Man with No Name
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    •  
    • I can help with play testing
    •  
    • I can help with proof reading
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
    • I can help with voice acting
    •  
Personally, I think that if you can't pick up an item until the player character actually sees the problem, then the actual player might not go and try to pick up that item, since they'll be expecting to get the same response as last time.
As a matter of fact, I think puzzles designed like that have been what has tripped me up a few times in the past. It's infuriating to get stuck because of something like that.

On the other hand, if this puzzle doesn't appear until another clearly identifiable act, but the item can be found on an earlier act, then it's ok. A good example of this would be the blue tack on the door on Ben There Dan That.

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      Ali worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
I see your point, but it seems to me that you're viewing the protagonist as a puppet for the player. Conversely, I get really annoyed when the character picks things up for no (apparent) reason.

Even if the protagonist is a puppet - in a single click game, when the player clicks on the large, unwieldy item which they don't yet need - do they actually WANT to pick it up?
« Last Edit: 29 Jul 2016, 11:48 by Ali »

cat

  • Local Moderator
  • AGS Baker
  • Angelica Crosley
    • cat worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      cat worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
Then, I guess either your interface or the puzzle is too simple/casual. If you want to have a simple interface with a casual feel but still difficult (non-casual) puzzles, you have to think differently about the puzzles.

One more option you could use is making the environment dynamic. Just have the big, heavy object only appear after you have encountered the puzzle. For example, if the item is a crate, make an empty cargo bay (maybe with a ship approaching in the background?). Only after you have encountered the obstacle, the ship has landed and the crate was unloaded there.
I did something similar in Toffee Trouble where
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
the egg with the cogwheel only appears on day two.

Jack

  • Think deviant
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    •  
    • I can help with scripting
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
Maybe it's because I have only made one adventure game, but I like the subtle humour of carrying around impossible objects in hammerspace, even if the game does not draw attention to it.

But maybe this is just something we inherited from classic adventure games, and maybe it is something that should be left behind, except when it's done deliberately for comedic effect.

...a wheelbarrow that allows you to transport the engine.

This sounds like a clip from one of those Meanwhile in Russia videos. I'm already cringing for when the wheelbarrow tips over due to far too much weight and the engine slams into the ground.

NickyNyce

  • ready...FIRE...aim
    • NickyNyce worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
If the player character feels as though anything he can get his hands on might help him (escape or progress further from an area),it's very easy to justify picking everything up. The idea of this inventory item appearing only after the puzzle has presented itself like cat has mentioned might be the way to go. Hopefully you can figure out how to do that.

I think the player character should refuse to take an item until he/she sees the relevance of it. I think that's preferable because (in an adventure game) the protagonist is a character with opinions, not just the agent of the player. The player's agency is mediated through their personality, and they are entitled to refuse to do something which is pointless or doesn't make sense.

I agree with that, if the game isn't a weird comedy game anyway where you're constantly carrying stuff around that doesn't make sense to you.

I think it's totally fine that you can't pick something up first but later can see a use for it. And for me it's quite satisfying when I think "Ah, that item I encountered some time ago could be useful here", go back there and then can actually pick it up. I don't see so much difference to the decision what item to try on what object/character - something you think about in most adventure games all the time anyway. As long as it's (more or less) logical, it's fine for me.

Something like "Well I know where it is if I need it" is too much of a hint imo, because then you already know (or believe) that it'll be necessary later on. Without knowing why it is not a good idea, or at least not necessary. I'd prefer that either the player can see a use for that item on his own or gets a hint later on and thus returns to try to pick it up. If I already know that I'll need the item later, it's less exciting and not really satisfying. I'd prefer something like "I can't see a use for it" or "I'd need a good reason to carry something that large with me".

"Well I know where it is if I need it" would be especially silly in a case where the player sees "a large/outlandish item". If he can't think of a use for it then he wouldn't say something like that.
« Last Edit: 29 Jul 2016, 19:22 by Matti »

AGA

  • Adventure Game Aficionado
  • Administrator
  • Mittens Deity
  • ¡Qué alí­vio!
    • Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
    •  
    • AGA worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Personally I hate having to backtrack in games...  I like to 100% explore a location when I visit it (look at, use and take every available item).  I'm not necessarily going to remember a vaguely interesting stone from 20 screens ago when I'm looking to break a window, so could quite easily waste a lot of time having to backtrack and reexplore.  Sure carrying all the things is unrealistic, but this is a game, and not frustrating the player is way more important than realistic pocket physics.

Danvzare

  • The Man with No Name
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    •  
    • I can help with play testing
    •  
    • I can help with proof reading
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
    • I can help with voice acting
    •  
I see your point, but it seems to me that you're viewing the protagonist as a puppet for the player.
Exactly! The protagonist isn't a puppet for the player, the protagonist IS the player, and the player IS the protagonist.
You get to choose what they say during dialog, you get to choose what items they try to combine and use to solve puzzles, and YOU get to choose what they should try to pick up.
We're all kleptomaniacs while playing adventure games, and thus all protagonists are kleptomaniacs who constantly talk to themselves. It's really jarring and immediately pulls you out of an experience as soon as this bond between player and protagonist is broken, just because the creator wants the protagonist to act in a realistic way.
If you wanted to be ultra realistic, you probably shouldn't have chosen to make an adventure game. One of those choose-your-own-adventure games like what Telltale makes nowadays would be better suited for that type of gameplay.

And I'm not saying that the protagonist can't have a personality. What I'm saying is that when you're really immersed in an adventure game, you start thinking like the protagonist and taking on their personality, while at the same time it feels as though the opposite is also true, with the protagonist taking on your goal of completing the game and bringing the story to it's conclusion. In short, it feels as though the player and the protagonist become one.
Not being able to pick up a key because you haven't found the door yet, ruins that experience.

Personally I hate having to backtrack in games...  I like to 100% explore a location when I visit it (look at, use and take every available item).  I'm not necessarily going to remember a vaguely interesting stone from 20 screens ago when I'm looking to break a window, so could quite easily waste a lot of time having to backtrack and reexplore.  Sure carrying all the things is unrealistic, but this is a game, and not frustrating the player is way more important than realistic pocket physics.
Also this.
I couldn't agree more. (nod)

Kumpel

  • On the way to break new ground...
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    •  
    • I can help with animation
    •  
    • I can help with backgrounds
    •  
    • I can help with characters
    •  
    • I can help with proof reading
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
    • I can help with translating
    •  
    • I can help with voice acting
    •  
For me , as the answers here show us, this is an impossible thing to decide correctly. It's a pure "What's your flavour?" problem. Personally I am with Matti on this one. Getting to crack a complex puzzle where the player has to rethink what he did and saw and do the right things in the light of new events is 100% fun!

Of course this is only the case if the puzzle is logical and consistant. Not picking up a stone you later want to break a window with,  is imho an example for senseless restriction and flawed puzzle design. But finding an item that is for example too dirty for the character to touch it without hesitation makes sense. In this case the char can say "I need a really good reason, before i'll touch that filthy thing!"

Another thing Cassie mentioned is letting the player feel the consequences of picking up everything. As abandoning the whole inventory is a really drastic idea I like a lot, the game designer could also be less cold-hearted and f.e. let the player constantly complain every thirty seconds, why he is holding onto that thing until the player really finds out he needs it. If so, the char now could still complain but with a homourous touch like " argh... I really hope this damn thing is worth all the sweat.", "Will I ever find a purpose for this???", or "I really wanna get rid of this...".





« Last Edit: 29 Jul 2016, 18:09 by Kumpel »

Stupot

    • I can help with play testing
    •  
    • I can help with proof reading
    •  
    • I can help with story design
    •  
    • I can help with voice acting
    •  
Most players, rightly or wrongly, scan each room for hotspots and pick-uppable items. As a designer, you want to encourage the player to realise this won't always work. So I think sometimes a later-needed item shouldn't always be pick-uppable from the get go. Try to make it something that fits well in the environment. E.g. if you are in a church, there might be some candles. The player wouldn't necessarily be disappointed if they can't pick uo the candles at first pass. But a little later, when she needs to make a fire, she's going to remember the candles and go back for them.


NickyNyce

  • ready...FIRE...aim
    • NickyNyce worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Now I want to make a game where the character can only hold so many items at a time. Some items might take up 2 or 3 spaces while others only take up 1 space in your inventory. A puzzle game that has you wondering which items to carry together...hmmm.

Adventure games have become predictable in the way people play them. Scan every new screen for every item you can pick up, and some games let you hit space bar so you can see every single item you can pick up. I think it's important to break away from that mold and to try new things. Depending on what the goal is for the character to accomplish, I don't think this should be a clear cut answer.

AnasAbdin

  • Peace, Love and AGS
I'm not a fan of picking up an item to only use it immediately. Since I'm working on a non-linear game, I think a little bit of everything is good for a well balanced atmosphere. Some items can be used immediately, some later, some more than once... hell some items change when used and can be used in another location differently.. I wouldn't mind using an item acquired later in the game in an earlier location, for example:

In Space Quest 4:
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
Roger picks a cigar butt that can be used near the end of the game in a room that appears early in the game.

Non-linearity is really awesome when it comes to inventory. If you can choose where to go first between locations A, B and C, you'll definitely pick up items in different order. The trick here is making the puzzles in each location solvable in several ways as well.

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
      Ali worked on a game that won an AGS Award!
In Space Quest 4:
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
Roger picks a cigar butt that can be used near the end of the game in a room that appears early in the game.

I can see I'm clearly in the minority, but this SQ4 example is exactly what I think is bad. In a detective game, holding on to a cigar butt for ages makes sense. But not in a humorous space adventure.

I'm not saying the player shouldn't be able to pick up useful looking objects - hammers, keys, books etc. I just don't like it when they pick up useless looking items for no reason.

AnasAbdin

  • Peace, Love and AGS
I kinda agree with you Ali.
But in SQ4 defense:

Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
If Roger doesn't want to pick up the cigar butt, he can still visit the -later- location where it is impossible to go further without the cigar. The puzzle that needs the cigar is very obvious and you can always return to pick it up.

But yeah, this example fits fine with comedy. So all I can say that it is all up to the story and the writing style. I am not into limiting what the player can or cannot do. I do however like realism in the amount and size of inventory items a person can carry.