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Codex Interview Wasteland 2 RPG Codex Interview - Part 2: Michael A. Stackpole

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Crooked Bee, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    Funny how I remember popular adventure games continuing to sell years after complete walkthroughs had been publish in numerous magazines. Hell, some games even shipped with a built-in walkthroughs or hints.
    And I guess if you knew someone who'd beaten a game it also instantly became obsolete? How about them hintlines? Your internet argument is just a strawman.

    According to you. A puzzle should be designed with the intent to entertain, not frustrate.

    The internet, or rather anything that makes a portion of game play effectively optional simply means that individuals will not subject themselves to it if they don't consider it to be entertaining. That's hardly something negative.
     
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  2. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    Let me lay it out for you more clearly:
    With playtesting, it's possible to take pretty much any of your beloved old-school puzzles and add enough hints and guidance so that someone such as yourself can solve it in approximately whatever amount of time it takes for you to break down and look up the answer.
    Now, if that scenario still makes you pine for the good old days without internet then you're pretty much declaring yourself a moron, since you're saying that you wish it took more time to solve it, but if it did then it would be "obsolete" because you'd look up the solution.

    And let's also analyze your actual claim here, that the internet has made puzzles "obsolete":
    Since developers just want to sell their games and don't really give a fuck about you using a walkthrough or not, you must mean that you no longer enjoy a game with puzzles and won't pay for it. You used to like games where you solved puzzles but now you can't stand them because of the internet, correct?
     
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  3. Country_Gravy Arcane Patron

    Country_Gravy
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    Quest for Clues.

    Anybody?
     
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  4. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    thesisko

    The playtesting theory doesn't wash because you have a highly variable audience. For instance, when I was 15 Finster's Brain was genuinely challenging (to the point of being frustrating). When I was 21 or so I replayed Wasteland after having studied computer science at GA Tech, and it was trivial. I walked right through it. I was surprised, because I remembered that part of the game being quite difficult. The difference was really night and day. So I thought about it, and realized the puzzle was designed by programmers, and that the puzzles reflected their skillset as programmers. Lots of binary math, etc. It was trivial for me because I had picked up those skills in the meantime, whereas when I was 15 I didn't know anything about programming or cs theory etc. The puzzle hadn't changed, I had.

    Most people enjoy gaming because it gives them a sense of accomplishment (false or otherwise), solving puzzles gives the player a sense of accomplishment. So I genuinely want them in games, but designing spoiler-proof puzzles is non-trivial.

    A few posts up, I mentioned Portal 1 and Portal 2. I really enjoyed those games, and they are generally quite popular. But...paradox...they are puzzle-based...wouldn't people use spoilers to get through the game and self-ruin the experience? Nope. Why? The puzzles are relatively trivial at the start, and as you advance from one level to the next the puzzles 'teach' the player how to solve the next level. The spoiler is built into the game, but the player experiences it as learning instead of cheating. So the illusion of accomplishment is maintained for the player. It's a clever way of solving the problem. So I'm not saying puzzles have no place in games today, or that it's an impossible problem to solve. It's just much harder to do right in today's environment.
     
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  5. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    And the problem is...? As long as people buy their game and enjoy the idea that it contains puzzles it doesn't matter if they solved it slowly, quickly or used a walkthrough.

    You didn't answer my question though. Would knowing that a game contains hard puzzles have enticed you to buy it pre-internet era but not today?

    Sounds more like your standards of what you consider to be an enjoyable puzzle have changed. If there was no internet but some games had frustrating "old-school" puzzles and other games had puzzles like you describe above....which would you have preferred playing?
     
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  6. Gregz Arcane

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    I didn't enjoy the puzzle in either scenario. The first time it was too hard, and the second time it was too easy.

    It's not an answerable question. I enjoy puzzles, enjoy challenges, and enjoy discovering solutions. If the game requires that I prove Fermat's Last Theorem in order to unlock content however, I would stop playing. That's the problem, how do you design interesting and engaging puzzles for 3rd graders, housewives, consoletards, and math professors? How do you avoid frustrating one or boring the other?

    No, because the 2nd time around Finster's Brain was trivial. Too easy is just as bad as too hard. It's an experience of boredom vs. frustration, neither of which is desirable in a game. I don't have a solution, my point is that the vast majority of game designers don't have a solution either. Portal was flat surfaces and bouncing balls, extremely simple compared to a 'breathing world' RPG. The perfect game would be chock full of puzzles that engage and challenge a player of any level/experience, and one that uses the RNG+adaptable AI, or some other mechanic, such that there's not a single walkthrough on the internet because there's no demand for one.
     
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  7. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    You seem to be stuck on the idea that the existence of a walkthrough is somehow a problem. It's not. All your other statements are perfectly reasonable and equally valid whether a walkthrough exists or not.
    Casual gamers wouldn't suddenly become fans of frustrating puzzles if they didn't have walkthroughs, they'd just play less frustrating games, like Portal.
     
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  8. Gregz Arcane

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    Well, there's no label on the box that says:

    Warning: you will not enjoy this game unless 85 < Your IQ < 115

    If the player is frustrated or bored it's already too late, and there's really no way for a particular player to know that ahead of purchasing the game. That's one issue.

    The other is just anecdotal experience. Way back in the day, I remember playing these games...like Zork for instance...with a buddy...and we'd spend hours trying to figure something out, and when we finally did we'd jump off our seats and cheer like it was the greatest thing in the world. Some of that was just being young, but there is a correlation between how emotionally invested you are (blood, sweat and tears) and the emotional payoff of solving the puzzle. Most great/moving/powerful films involve the protagonist overcoming incredible odds and difficult circumstances (Rocky is one example), that's why we're moved when he finally succeeds at the end...because we struggled with him during the preceding 90 minutes.

    Likewise with a game, you can't bullshit yourself after having spent hours pulling your hair our, and then finally getting that 'aha!' moment. It's a great feeling.

    I haven't had that kind of feeling playing a computer game in a long, long time. Since the advent of Google and walkthroughs actually. (Well, OK, I remember camping the AC for a week in SRo and getting jboots in EQ, I was grinning ear to ear for hours after that...not a puzzle per se put plenty of pain and tedium that finally paid off). So I think frustration is a double-edged sword, it really sucks being stuck for hours...days...a week...but nothing is as gratifying as solving that problem without help.

    I don't think most people do that today. They sweat a little, say fuck it, and Google their way to the credits. (Or some variation in between). It's a completely different experience.
     
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  9. Jasede Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Jasede
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    That's pretty much it. You just can't replicate the feeling of being stuck on a puzzle for hours, days, only to find the solution while you are in the bathtub, on the train or dreaming. Sure, there were helplines back then, but did your parents allow you calling them?

    A couple of my greatest memories were about solving some tough puzzles on my own: winning the best ending in KQ 6, beating all the Quest for Glory games fair and square, finally having the right idea on what to do in a certain spot in Anchorhead and so on.

    Yes, you had helplines and such back then, but that was a lot more effort than just slamming your query into Gamefaqs. Even reading a magazine was more effort. You were willing to grit your teeth and keep trying, no matter how long it might take you to finally beat the puzzle path in Indiana Jones 4: The Fate of Atlantis.

    If your adventure doesn't have those "Help, I am stuck for a hours/days" moments it just isn't the same and nothing you can argue rationally can convince me otherwise.

    I am sure all of you who played through Monkey Island as a kid, or Day of the Tentacle, or any other classic you care to name know exactly what I mean.

    Edit: I just remembered not without sentimental memories the point in Day of the Tentacle in which I was helplessly stuck: I needed to open a car's trunk and didn't have the key. I searched everywhere, for hours. Until it finally struck me that it might very well be stuck in a door, but I couldn't see it from my angle because the door's backside wasn't visible...
     
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  10. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    Still skirting around...the Internet isn't the issue. Either people enjoy the whole experience or they skip it because they don't think it's good use of their time. Whether they skip it by using a walkthrough or by playing something else is irrelevant.

    And your line of logic still assumes that not having access to a walkthrough would make people more likely to buy a game with hard puzzles. Because that's what developers base their decisions on, sales, not whether people cheated or not.
     
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  11. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    Well, don't sweat it Jasede. You're a big boy now so even if the Internet didn't exist calling the hintline would have prevented you from experiencing the joy of being stuck for days. Let's give Internet and a steady income shared credit for killing off puzzles. Because it certainly can't be that you prefer to do something else with your time than be stuck for days. It's the evil Google-man's fault, forcing you to look up the answer even though you really, really wanted to be stuck for days.

    And if a really good adventure game was released, you wouldn't even buy it because Google has already ruined it for you, right?
     
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  12. Jasede Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    But you don't understand- you do do other things while stuck: work, sleep, eat, play, talk, whatever. But in the background, your mind is working on the puzzle and then will, all out of the blue, present a solution sooner or later. And that moment of insight is second to none, one of the most rewarding feelings one can have.
     
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  13. thesisko Emissary

    thesisko
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    I understand perfectly. When I decide to look for a hint it's because I've reached the conclusion that I do not wish to spend more time on this particular puzzle. I've solved enough puzzles in the past to know that I'll probably get more enjoyment out of moving on at this point. My decision - my choice.

    But when you look up a hint it's because someone forced you to Google it, because if you actually had a choice you'd do what you find most enjoyable - let your mind work the puzzle and sooner or later you'll get a moment of insight that is second to none. Who'd want to give up that feeling voluntarily, right?

    You didn't address the question on whether or not you'd buy a game with puzzles. Does not being stuck for days due to Google make you prefer a game without puzzles over one with puzzles? Because the question here if you'd like the game more if it had puzzles, not whether or not you'd find them as emotionally engaging as your younger self did.
     
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  14. almondblight Arcane

    almondblight
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    This. I went through Planescape for the first time recently and looked up how to get into the siege engine. In the end it turned out I had to talk to some random guy that had nothing to do with the engine, and ask him about something unrelated, which would trigger an idea in my character. I would never have gotten that unless I had just ran around and talked to every single NPC and asked them every single question I had in mind.

    There were plenty of other puzzles in the game I didn't look up, however, because they made sense in some way. Pixel hunting isn't fun, Google or not.
     
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  15. Grim Monk Arcane

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  16. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    Cool, good stuff. I like the dump-truck robot.
     
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  17. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    This. Plus Gregz still hasn't countered the argument that his viewpoint makes all non-reflex based games obsolete because you can just look up a walkthrough on the internet.

    Good puzzles aren't obsolete, nor are good riddles or all kinds of secrets. In fact, the Japs still tend to include lots of secrets into their games despite those being made "obsolete" because of the internet -- because, you know, some people love discovering those for themselves! Imagine that! Gregz's mind must be blown now. If someone wants to consult a FAQ or a walkthrough, it's his or her own problem. If anything, having puzzles/secrets in the game caters to both audiences at once -- to those who want to solve/find them on their own as well as to those who'll be consulting the FAQ while playing.
     
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  18. Tolknaz Savant Patron

    Tolknaz
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    Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    Not to piss on your little "grass was greener" lawn party, but walkthroughs were around even in bbs days, long before the internet as most people know it today.
     
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  19. Gregz Arcane

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    TBS games aren't twitch, and don't rely on puzzles. That's just one of many types of games that aren't changed by the availability of spoilers. Traditional RPGs have problems however. Puzzle-based gaming today is fundamentally different from how it was before walkthroughs and spoilers were easily available.
    It's all explained :deadhorse: upthread.

    And you're in denial bro, just like a lot of people. "You guys may use walkthroughs, but I'm a real gamer." Several people upthread, including myself had the stones to admit using spoilers/walkthroughs governed by our pain threshold. Nobody wins KKKs admitting that, we're trying to clarify an issue. The fact that gamers use spoilers means something is fundamentally wrong.

    Hell, even major players (bioware?) in the industry have claimed that RPGs are obsolete, a big part of what defines RPGs are puzzles (quests, mazes, etc., anything requiring problem solving or ingenuity). We've been collectively bitching about the decline. Skyrim's quest compass might just be there to keep the player from alt-tabbing. The internet/spoiler issue may be a large part of why RPGs have been declining. The timeline correlates pretty well the growth and accessibility of the internet.

    Also, what was the last highly lauded Codex RPG? KoTC? Great game, but no real puzzles to speak of (talk to the bears, translate a scroll, stuff a 5 year old could figure out), and KoTC is a dungeons and dragons game. It should have been full of puzzles. In the 80s, DnD was riddles, mazes, traps, and all kinds of cool shit that's easily ruined by spoilers today. That's probably why they weren't in KoTC, no point these days.

    I know, but you're ignoring the accessibility issue. Accessibility has been increasing every year since the bbs days. It literally takes anyone < 60 seconds to:

    alt tab -> open a browser -> Google 'game' + 'walkthrough' -> F3 -> password 'open this door' -> Answer -> alt-tab -> type password.

    As Jasede mentioned, help lines were available back in the day too, but most gamers didn't use them because of the much high accessibility barrier.
     
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  20. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    I see, you're just retarded. Nevermind then.
     
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  21. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    Yeah, I have you figured the same way too.
     
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  22. Jasede Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Jasede
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    Negative brofist to Brooked Cee.
     
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  23. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    In my view, yes. That's the most retarded bullshit I've ever seen around here. Sorry if that disappoints you for some reason.
     
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  24. Shannow Waster of Time

    Shannow
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    Nah (or you haven't been reading the codex much/have the right people on ignore). A weird (and granted, rather stupid) opinion, but I've seen worse just in the last two days.
     
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  25. Gregz Arcane

    Gregz
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    Here's how I saw it CB...

    A respected veteran cRPG designer expresses little interest in puzzles in the interview.

    Someone makes a remark about why he thinks the designer no longer has interest in puzzles (I may be wrong):

    You call me out in asshat fashion:

    I ignore your shit and explain my thought process.

    The rest of us have a discussion, which was actually kinda fruitful and interesting...exploring what's changed, what hasn't etc. You know...the stuff these forums are for.

    You take no part in that discussion, make no counter-points, show no comprehension of what's been discussed, and drop a shitpost.
     
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