Should adventure games have inbuilt hint systems?


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I think that a hint system would be OK for a “casual” mode but not for a “hard” mode.

(Off-Topic: BTW, it would be more sincere to have “hard” renamed to “normal” and “casual” renamed to something that mocks people)

And if the adventure game has only one mode, well, I still think that helping a bit the less motivated players is always better than sending them to google a walkthrough. Hard-core adventure game players should be strong enough to resist the temptation to use the hint system.

Thimbleweed Park Steam forums are full of people who play on casual mode and who are completely puzzled because they are trying to use a hard mode walkthrough. They try to do “hard” stuff than doesn’t exist at all in the casual version, like the hotel guest puzzle.

Maybe it would be interesting to have a hint system that you can use only if you solve a small puzzle. Machinarium does something like that but the kind of puzzle to solve to access the hint is extremely simple.

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That’s funny, because I was thinking it would make sense to have them for a “hard” mode and not a “casual” mode, at least as far as it pertains to TWP. Check the latest update. :wink:

Ultimately, I think it’s a positive thing and agree that the hardcore enough will be disciplined as to avoid using hints. Now my gf might be able to play this game and reach the end and enjoy it without losing her mind.

Also, about the timing of this…

The Steam Summer sale kicks off in less than 24 hours. Is TWP about to be sold at a discount price??

I’d have preferred it though if you had to work for your hints. Like… you keep having to pick up bottles in the street and selling them at the Quickie Pal to be able to afford the service of the hint helpline number.


I think that the solution adopted by Machinarium has this precise purpose: not giving hints for free.

I liked the system in “The Room” series, where a new hint would be available (up to 4 per section, I think) after a certain time had elapsed. So if you were muddling around for awhile, you could get a hint on what to do next. Although the time that needs to pass before a hint is available should be longer; “The Room” gave them every few minutes from what I remember.

I’m not a fan of hints since… well, solving puzzles is the core of the game. You might as well watch someone else play. I know there are a lot of people who actually do that - I still don’t understand what’s the fun in it.

But my concern is for hardcore adventurers. You KNOW you would use it. When you’re stuck and you really want to advance and hate the fact that you’re almost there, that “hint” button is a temptation. You won’t be that disciplined. And after you use it, the whole experience is spoiled. You feel like a loser, and if you’re stuck in another puzzle you give up more easily since you already felt the failure.

So, I agree with all those who say you have to work hard to get a hint. If I REALLY were to implement such a thing, I’d make the characters say revealing stuff after a while. So, take the bottle in TWP. It says right there that it can be returned, but it’s easy to overlook it. So, you could for example look at it it more than once and the more you do, the more obvious it becomes that you HAVE to return it.

Or, the puddle. Everyone steps in that puddle, that’s already a hint. If you spend a lot of time trying to go into the woods without any idea (and maybe you already took the berries), the next time a character steps on the puddle the player character might underline that fact. Give enough time, and you can say you can see their wet steps, but the trail disappears soon.

That doesn’t feel like a hint system, so you feel like you solved the game without any external help.

EDIT: here’s what I thought about it two years ago, when I had a lot of people asking me while I didn’t put a hint system in my game.

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Yeah, a lot of people will give in to the temptation with it being so close to their fingertips.

Personally, I wouldn’t like this kind of hint. If I have not yet realized why I have to return the bottle, I wouldn’t want the game to strongly suggest me to return it.

I think that from a psychological point of view a search engine is not more far than an internal hint system and that when people use a search engine they search mainly for “walkthrough”, not “hints”.

So if a developer wants to “fight” a little bit the phenomenon of those who give up easily, in my opinion it’s better to handle them with internal hints (maybe incremental hints) than seeing them go reading a walkthrough full of spoilers.

I can’t believe how many people searched for a walkthrough.

Probably, they have been hanging around the machine too long…


Well, that chart doesn’t give you the quantity of people who searched for a walkthrough. It just tells you that those who search for “hints” are about one tenth of those who search for “walkthrough”.

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Yeah, I was discussing this earlier with a friend saying that an inbuilt hint system will spoil the game less for the player as they a. won’t look at complete answers and solutions and b. won’t be accidentally spoiled when truly hint-hunting via the net.

The above is probably unclear:

Assuming the player uses just the hint system, they won’t receive complete answers and solutions and they won’t run into unhappy accidents – which will happen for people searching hints on the net because enough people in enough threads end up just giving solutions or clues which are too obvious. It doesn’t preclude new gamers though from giving up with the hints in the game and still reverting to the WWW though. The propensity for using a helping hand though will probably be increased with the inclusion of this hint system, but at least it always does offer a hint and not the answer (I’ve only checked a few of the hints though). It will be interesting to get a sense of how new players will use the system, and surely TWP is about to see quite a number of new players through the upcoming Steam Summer Sale period.

I updated the first post of the other thread pointing out that TWP hint system does eventually give the plain answer if the player keeps asking hints about a specific puzzle.

I think it’s just a matter of trade-offs. People searching for a walkthrough or asking help in forums is a social phenomenon that will not go away. Adding an internal hint system will probably motivate more people to ask for hints but at least the developers have decreased the chance that these people will use more drastic methods that will spoil their experience even more.

So, I think that a hint system is the lesser of two evils. If you can’t prevent people from asking help, at least manage this need yourself.

That’s very true. Giving puzzle hints is some sort of art: you have to help people to make a deduction, not giving the solution away.

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I think that the hints should be dissolved, for example, in the dialogues, as Ron has done in Thimbleweed Park, as part of the game.

I agree, in fact I was thinking (but forgot to write it) that it happens only when the game knows you need that coin.

Difficult question. I think the important thing is to make it clear that there is a puzzle to solve in the current place, and you have all the informations to solve it. Even a blinking “there is a puzzle here!” icon on the bottom of the screen would do. (because this can be difficult to convey in dialogs in a natural way. ).

Why? What should not happen is that the player spends a lot of mental effort to solve a puzzle that he cannot solve yet; because he does not have all the elements, or all the informations, to solve it. If instead he knows that “there’s something I can do here and I have all the informations to solve it”, even if he is stuck, this is completely different. Because he knows he is not consuming his brain needlessly. If I have to spend one day thinking, I want to be sure I am thinking in the right place.

If you do that, maybe you don’t need hints. Maybe he will accept to be stuck for one day, because he knows he is not focusing his thought on the wrong place.

What do you mean by “here”? In a specific room? If yes, what if the puzzle is an inventory puzzle or a dialogue puzzle?

The way I imagine it, you split big rooms in 3 zones: left, center, and right. If you are in the right part of the room, and there something you can do in the right part of the room, the “puzzle here” icon turns on. (In case it is too easy, you don’t split the room. this idea can be finetuned as you please, to give just the right amount of aid.)

Inventory + inventory puzzles are not covered by this idea. (you’ll have to resort to dialogs, I guess)

Dialog puzzles are covered. If there is a dialog puzzle, when you get close to someone, the “puzzle here” icon would turn on.

Do you see drawbacks in this idea?

for example: In twp, there was a time I was stuck and I did not know if I had to do something in the penthouse with the crystal, or with the puddle.

With my idea, in the penthouse I would not have seen the “puzzle here” icon, and I would have realized that I had to focus on the puddle location. A lot less frustration, and no significant giveaway. (Especially because being stuck wasn’t completely my fault. I knew what I had to do with the puddle, but I did not pickup the trophy and I assumed I could not).

I can’t imagine how a normal hint system could solve this problem.