Continuing the discussion from (POLL) Which LucasFilm graphic adventure do you think has the highest level of difficulty?.
I’ll re-write what I wrote in the other thread, adding a few links to sources:
It would be interesting to discuss why an adventure game is difficult.
A former Sierra employer has admitted that some Sierra games were made intentionally obscure and illogical to sell more hint books.
You put there dead ends, a lot of sudden deaths, random puzzles, other artificial ways to increase the difficulty and the game becomes, technically, more difficult. But at what price?
It seems to me that many people who don’t know adventure games very well still think that PnC adventure games are illogical. Do PnC adventure games have a bad reputation?
Finally in 1989 a smart guy wrote This and things changed a bit, but you still can experience the aftermath of the “old way” to design games.
I’ll also add that in a recent thread about Thimbleweed Park, I had to reassure a person who asked if the gameplay was full of illogical puzzle chains. This is not the first time that I see this; for some reason this reputation of “illogical gameplay” still exist.
So, do PnC adventure games have a bad reputation for being illogical or “artificially difficult”?
The answer is, YES ( A well earned bad reputation). Thanks, Sierra.
What about other software houses?
Is Sierra the only software house that developed “artificially difficult” adventure games?
Well, Delphine is at least as guilty as Sierra. (future wars, operation stealth, cruise for a corpse).
Other software houses are not guilty of difficult puzzles, but of dull puzzles. For example I recently played Whispered World, which has really uninteresting puzzles… puzzles which (to use the words of Ron) don’t inform about the characters or the story.
So they are illogical puzzles?
(if you read the sentence before, I had changed the topic from “guilty of being illogic” to “guilty of dullness”)
(However, some might be illogical, I don’t remember right now. And I haven’t finished yet.)
Come on, “The Whispered World” is nothing like some old Sierra games. If puzzles can be solved by deduction, then they are OK.
The real issue is when a game gives you zero reasons to do something nor puts the player in the condition of understanding what will happen when doing something.
I saw a Larry game in which he got hit by a car only because he tried to cross the road.
I did not say that it was similar, or that it was illogical. I only said that difficulty/unfairness is not the only thing that adventure games are guilty of. A puzzle can be “bad” also for reasons other than unfairness.
To elaborate, I believe more people avoid adventure games because they find them boring, than because they find them too difficult or unfair.
As another example: I recently tried to play “Deponia”. I did not pass the first room. The designer was clearly expecting me to combine objects in strange ways, without giving me an incentive to find those objects interesting. Some designers seem to believe that an object will be interesting just because it’s there. Why should I care about a moving toothbrush?
Most of the popular survival horror games have puzzles that have zero reason to be there at all. Somehow I never questioned why they´re even there.
Just to digress… I’ve heard a story of a beginner writer that submits his book to an editor (publisher); the editor reads the first few paragraphs, then rejects the book without reading it. His annotation on the book is: “why should I care?”
I think this is more or less common knowledge in writing books: the reader should be given a reason to care about the character. (If you read the first pages of “Duma Key” by Stephen King, you’ll get what I mean. It’s impossible to not read that book. One of the best book I’ve read btw.)
But in adventure game design, it seems to me that often the designer believes that his objects are automatically interesting. I think we need a theory of “what is interesting”. Ron Gilbert does not need it: somehow he has a gift to always know when something is interesting and when it is not. I am not sure how much he does this instinctively and how much consciously. But apparently other designers are less gifted, and need some guidelines.
However, if the player wants to proceed, he has to deal with almost every hotspot sooner or later.
I personally think that the reputation of PnC adventure games is not generalizable. Though, I believe that their average reputation is rather bad.
There will always be people who think that they were boring. But, at the same time there are other people, such as us, who appreciate them. All in all, adventure games seem to be just a niche - which is a pity. There is a whole bunch of possible reasons for this.
I like to tell the anecdote, that I was standing in a store that sells video games. A girl in my age entered the scene with her boyfriend or husband (or something like that). She looked through the video games and stopped in front of the shelf with the adventure games. She said to her friend : “These games are crap, because you have to think, come on.” Then she left the scene and me completely confused.
So one reason why adventure games are “boring” is that the people won’t like to think when playing a game.
A friend of mine was very similar to that girl. He was too lazy to think and too impatient for finding the solution of a puzzle.
Maybe some of these people were traumatized by illogical adventure games.
I’m pretty sure that the girl hasn’t played the old Sierra adventures.
Half of those games I don’t even know. Guess that’s why I’m still an adventure game fan
Ah, Gabriel Knight 3. What a surprise!
Me too. I’m grateful to have played the very best adventure games first.
I find it strange that the monkey wrench puzzle is not listed in that page.
But you can find many more articles about bad PnC adventure game puzzles doing this Google Search:
If I remember correctly, there was a hint when you “looked at” Jojo.