Official Thimbleweed Park Forums

How to give hints to players who ask for help?


#1

I see people (mainly in other forums) who give hints to stuck players in a way that makes them just robots that execute commands.

I would like to share with my approach to giving hints, which is based on the description of the “Hints” category of this forum:

Ask for and get hints about Thimbleweed Park. Please don’t post SPOILERS. Help people in a way that gets their mind thinking along the right path. Please indicate if you’re playing in Casual or Hard mode.

When a person comes to the forum to ask for help, we don’t have an important information: if he’s more the person who likes to reach a conclusion by his own or if he would prefer more explicit indications about what to do next.

Since we don’t have this information, it’s tricky to understand how much we should tell him, because telling him exactly what action to execute might spoil the fun if he’s the kind of player who likes a lot to explore, observe, deduct, etc.

So, taking for example a recent thread in the hint section of the forum, if a player has clearly missed something in a location, he might prefer a simple “Search better” answer or he might prefer a more explicit “Go there” or “Use this object” answer. But you don’t know what he prefers and in my opinion making assumptions that he wants more explicit suggestions is not the best approach.

A good way to solve this problem would be to do what the in-game hint line of Thimbleweed Park does: giving incremental hints. You write a list of two or three suggestions, the first one very vague and the following ones more and more explicit. In this way the player who likes just a generic help on his approach can stop at the first vague hint and the players who like more explicit suggestions can read also the subsequent hints. And of course, all hints use spoiler tags.

I’m just suggesting this approach, because I’m the kind of player who doesn’t like to be transformed into a robot that follows explicit directives. So, for me, a hint like “Do you remember any character who is somehow related to pies?” is a better first help than “Talk to this character.”.

Also, in my opinion telling people what question they should ask to themselves is an extremely good way to handle those players who like to reach a conclusion by their own.

What do you think about it?

Added: I would also always use spoiler tags around words that explicitly cite objects, places, characters or actions.


#2

Absolutly, and what kind of hint the person wants is what talking back and forth is for(if the first hint is not enough for the person you can always be more spefific later). I think we have handled this really well so far.


#3

I agree, talking back and forth with the person who asked for the hint is a good way to understand what he prefers and a good alternative to writing a post with incremental hints.


#4

I think this is the most important part, and may be one reason why this person chose to ask on the forums rather than using the hintline. You don´t have the ability to communicate with the hintline or a finished post.


#5

I don’t know which person you are referring to, because there are two recent threads in the “Hints” section, but I would say that in the specific case of Thimbleweed Park resorting to a forum may be an indication that the player prefers to interact with other people but it can also be caused by the fact that the in-game hint line has not already been found by the player.

In any case, even a post with a few incremental hints can be an opportunity to start a conversation, if the player wants.


#6

No specific one!


#7

I think incremental hints is a good idea. I absolutely hate spoilers of any kind and have at least two friends who I can’t talk to about TV because they inevitably ruin something. “This won’t ruin anything, but the last episode is soooo sad.” >> that’s already too much of a spoiler, especially if e.g. a character is stabbed towards the end, and it could go one way or the other - it’s then really obvious. I think a lot of people don’t think that through.

Anyway, incremental hints (like the ones you gave me for TDD) are best, and safest. Or the person can be more specific about the depth of hint they want I guess.

Another way could follow the nature of lateral thinking puzzles - the person can ask questions that can only be answered with yes, no or irrelevant (so not ‘leading’ questions). That way they have a bit of control, and not too much can be given away.

(I’ve just realised why I like lateral thinking puzzles so much.)


#8

I see a more fundamental problem… even if you know what he prefers, how do you know what he needs to do next? For that you’d need to know what he has already done. But how can you know that? You can’t ask him “did you already do this?”, because if he hasn’t, you will spoil another puzzle. Will you ask him “please tell me all you have done so far”?

Anyway, to answer your question: supposing you know what he needs to do next, most of the time you can just tell him “there is something you can do in this location”.

Btw, I am replaying Gabriel Knight 2 and it does exactly that: tell you in what rooms you can still do something. I was stuck twice, and as soon as he told me “there’s still something you can do here”, I returned there, I looked better, and got unstuck. Twice. This information is incredibly useful even if very vague. (but it must be said that GK2 practically does not highlight objects on mouseover, and that’s why I had missed stuff)


#9

Ray Liotta said it best.

“You gotta move diagonal”

“It applies” to problem solving in general.


#10

You know, when I first read the heading, I misunderstood it as “how to give hints to get players stuck” (to “stuck” players)…

I was thinking, that’s easy: I just give them a very bad red herring hint! LOL


#11

All the questions that I have read are quite focused on specific situations. Sometimes I have asked for more information but I have never observed a case in which you have to ask about all the things the player did since the beginning of the game. At most you ask about some additional details.

I like this! Of course it’s up to us to understand when this kind of generic advice can be done and when it’s not enough, but it might be a good suggestion in all those cases in which the player overlooked something, for example.

You are right, it’s ambiguous. I’ll change it!


#12

But often he believes he can do something there, but he can’t. He needs to do something in a totally unrelated place. What do you ask then? You can’t ask “do you already have this” or “did you already do this”.


#13

I would never ask that, because it might contain a spoiler.

I can’t extract a general rule and I’m under the impression that even searching for a general rule might lead to a bad and too strict protocol. Every question I have answered was a different case and I handled each situation in a different way.

Sometimes it’s clear what the issue is, other times you have to ask for more information without citing elements of the game that the player might have not been seen yet.


#14

I think you examined the puzzle chain, and reasoned “either he hasn’t done this, or he hasn’t seen this, or this”. So basically you solved a complex puzzle yourself to figure out what he has and hasn’t done :).