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Frisbyjo

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I've just skimmed your post for now, so I'm just going to comment on one of the points:

3.

Of all the control schemes I've played in the newer games I like Hector: Badge of Carnage's interface the best: one-click to walk, double click to interact/pickup, right click to look. Felt slick and transparent. It felt easier to instantly grasp, while maintaining enough of the interaction of the "old school." This really made a difference in how quickly the world felt real.

I agree that a two-button control scheme is good, but I think left- and right-button clicks would have been a lot better for the PC and Mac versions of Hector. The obvious advantage to one-click and double-click is that it works on touch devices. Click and hold to bring up a verb coin like in some of the classic adventures would probably work too, but in my experience this only triggers after some delay, probably to distinguish it from click and scroll. (This might not be a problem if there's no need to distinguish it from scrolling, but I know next to nothing about Android and iOS programming.) I agree that the 9/12 verb scheme is dated. It allows for a lot of funny responses, but it's not all that good for immersion.

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I think something like the verb coin works just fine. Gives a few good choices of how to interact with something, keeps off the screen when it's not needed, doesn't overcomplicate.

Anyway, back to the topic, I've had a problem for a long time, with big dialogue trees, and maybe that's just because I'm not enjoying the dialogue. The only recent adventure games I've played are Telltale ones and their dialogue has always been okay but not brilliant, and I find myself increasingly just not exploring them. But everyone in those old Schafer classics always had something cool to say or some clever way of providing exposition without feeling too forced - I always loved that first conversation with Eva in Grim Fandango, for example. Give me good enough characters in a good enough world, with good enough lines, and I'll read through any amount of dialogue. (EDIT: with the caveat a couple of posts below this one)

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Why- in a game being WRITTEN BY TIM SCHAFER- would you hope for/suggest there be LESS dialogue?

NO. Just no.

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Why- in a game being WRITTEN BY TIM SCHAFER- would you hope for/suggest there be LESS dialogue?

NO. Just no.

This is such a simplistic point to make. Tim Schafer writes awesome dialogue, true. But that doesn't mean that more dialogue equals more awesome. In fact, one of the best things about Tim Schafer's dialogue is that it shows restraint. It doesn't take the time to over-explain things, but it manages to get across a whole lot of ideas in a small amount of dialogue. For instance, take this single line from Grim Fandango:

"What I did back in the fat days is none of your business. You know the rules."

That bit of dialogue does SO much work. First of all it explains that talking about the days of being alive is off limits in the land of the dead. It also does the work of explaining why it's never talked about in the game, so now you no longer have to wonder what the characters' lives were like before the land of the dead. It sort of makes it off limits for the game, and focuses the whole story on what's happening now. The use of the phrase 'the fat days' is a nice touch, adding a kind of hint that the land of the dead has its own slang with its own rules, makes it feel like a more lived-in place when people casually throw those sorts of terms around. And of course calling it 'the fat days' is a little joke, so the player gets a little laugh out of the line, too.

In that one single line they've done all they need to do to deal with that one part of Land of the Dead lore, when they could easily have had a long dialogue tree about it. And I'm glad they didn't. This is just one of many examples of Tim's capacity for doing more with less dialogue, and one of the reasons that I respect his work so much.

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Nicely put. I started writing a reply myself, but didn't quite know how to put it.

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Why- in a game being WRITTEN BY TIM SCHAFER- would you hope for/suggest there be LESS dialogue?

NO. Just no.

I'm agreeing with the Ignoramus. Dumbing down games for people with short attention spans is not the way to go. I'm just as ADD as the next gamer, but it is good to have a game rich in story and dialogue. Just simply don't make it so the gamer has to go hunting for the right dialogue choice to move on unless that is deliberately part of the puzzle, and any dialogue choices to just learn more about the world are more optional.

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This is also a great post for Tim to read:

http://www.sizefivegames.com/2012/03/14/hello-tim-schafer/

Main points:

1. People these days have a very low tolerance for tough puzzles.

2. I reckon if anyone was using [clever technology] to track when people stop playing point-and-clicks, it’d turn out they all save and switch off with the introduction of a huge, sweeping area to explore. Suddenly loads of new people to talk to, new puzzles to identify… eugh. It’s probably also where people never bother coming back to the game. It’s daunting! Smaller, tighter, densely-packed areas with minimal to-ing and fro-ing are where it’s at.

3. Finally, and possibly most-importantly: the role of the auteur in adventures is key. When I was playing Full Throttle, there was a personal relationship between you and I. You, at the time, were presumably not aware of this. I knew that solving puzzles wasn’t necessarily about logic, or doing the right thing, it was about what walls you as a designer had chosen to put up. Your brain, your rules.

Well worth a read!

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Why- in a game being WRITTEN BY TIM SCHAFER- would you hope for/suggest there be LESS dialogue?

NO. Just no.

I'm agreeing with the Ignoramus. Dumbing down games for people with short attention spans is not the way to go. I'm just as ADD as the next gamer, but it is good to have a game rich in story and dialogue. Just simply don't make it so the gamer has to go hunting for the right dialogue choice to move on unless that is deliberately part of the puzzle, and any dialogue choices to just learn more about the world are more optional.

Oh, for goodness sake. 'Dumbing down' is one of the most over-used phrases by gamers. Perhaps 10% of the time it's an actual example of dumbing down, and is bad. Maybe 60% of the time it's not actually dumbing down but smartening up, by cutting out parts of the game that were a bit overwrought in terms of design or handling the complexity in a more sensible way. And the rest of the time it's not dumbing down, but just good editing.

This is an example of the latter. It's not about dumbing down for people with short attention spans - it's about good writing practice, it's about not saying in 200 words what could be said with a pithy, well written 20 words. It's about respect for the reader's time. If anything, it's much MORE like dumbing down when a game feels the need to spend reams and reams of dialogue explaining every little thing, rather than giving you just enough and respecting your intelligence, as a reader, to note the implications and what's behind what is being said.

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2. I reckon if anyone was using [clever technology] to track when people stop playing point-and-clicks, it’d turn out they all save and switch off with the introduction of a huge, sweeping area to explore. Suddenly loads of new people to talk to, new puzzles to identify… eugh. It’s probably also where people never bother coming back to the game. It’s daunting! Smaller, tighter, densely-packed areas with minimal to-ing and fro-ing are where it’s at.

This is a great point, absolutely true in my experience. Wandering around and getting a sense of a new area is overwhelming, and most games really lose momentum everytime this happens..

And this isn't about dumbing down the experience for people.. I'm totally against that. Tim has said many times that the genre was continuing to evolve, just thinking about that.

Actually that was one of the points that I sort of disagreed with Dan on. I agree that people stop playing when they reach a new area, but not because it's a bad thing or that they don't want that, but because usually it means a couple of things.

a) They just got to the end of a previous section, and this is the start of a new one, so it's a neat place to stop. It's just a natural break-point.

b) When I start exploring a new area, I want to have the time to get lost in it, explore it properly. I'm not going to do that if I've already been playing for hours. Much more likely to take a break and then come back, and get immersed in it afresh. But I love the process of getting stuck into a new area.

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1.

In the 35 minute interview Tim mentioned that "3 lines of dialog" was about the limit before you start mousing around, and that seems right-on...

I feel like the Telltale games have sort of overwhelmed me with expansive dialog choices.. They stress me out

I can certainly understand this but I would argue that this has to be down to the quality of the dialogue and how interesting it is, and not just to the fact that it is dialogue. Dialogue is not just there to give the player hints and point them in the right direction but also to flesh out the world and characters; if these are interesting enough then I will lap up all the dialogue I can get. I often lamented that there wasn't more dialogue in games like GF and Psychonauts. Perhaps not every player will bother to listen to all of it, but that doesn't matter; it's generally obvious which dialogue choices are 'useful' in the sense that it will give you the hint to the relevant puzzle.

It also depends on the characters' personalities. I probably shouldn't expect to be able to have a half-hour conversation with an on-duty policeman about the history of the town, but I might expect to have a nice long chat with the protagonist's friendly coworker about the recent change of management, their family troubles and what they think of the new town mayor, even if this is irrelevant to the puzzles.

There's a real art to just how many hotspots are put in a room, and I've seen a lot of different styles of doing this in newer adventure games. If there are very few, it gives quite a lot of importance to them all, making you have to look at them all; if there are dozens it's somewhat overwhelming, but perhaps allows you to sort of forget they're there.. It's always nice when I don't feel like I have to look at everything -- it seems like important objects used to be visually telegraphed a lot better, which defused a lot of this "look at everything" stuff.

My feeling is simply that if it's an unimportant scenery item which would just end up with a default response to "look at" then there is probably no point in having a hotspot in the first place.

Most cutscenes don't seem to have the reward-factor they used to. I don't know what changed, but they just don't excite me as much as pull me out of the game, these days.

Again this surely just depends on how involved you are in the story and how engaging the cutscene is. Maybe it's not gamers that have got worse, maybe games have :D

In Valve's games, we don't expect to be interrupted by cutscenes at all. It raises the question of whether cutscenes should be considered an annoying hindrance to interactivity or a reward for our progress. Are they absolutely necessary, or is it a sign of weakness that we should have to fall back on the techniques of cinema just to tell a good story?

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Harkening back to a point that was made in the 35 Min. Interview, I think that, weirdly, frustration is one of the key things that makes these kinds of games fun for me. To me, there is nothing better in these games then when I finally figure out a puzzle that has been stymieing me for hours (or even days). If I'm stuck on something, even when I'm not playing the game I find myself thinking of new things to try. When I finally do figure out the answer not only do I get the satisfaction of beating the thing that was bugging me but I'm rewarded with a new area to explore. Plus, the frustration I felt makes the reward seem all the sweeter.

The internet wasn't something that the players of the classic games had to contend with. If you wanted to keep playing you had to persevere (or you could quit and go learn to skateboard or something). When stuck, these days, though the temptation to "cheat" is a strong one and once that temptation is succumbed to, it is easy for a player to go on Google autopilot for the rest of the game. That being said, I hope the designers do include hard challenges that require some effort and not try to exclude every element that may prompt people to get some outside help.

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I have to pretty much agree with SurplusGamer on all fronts. As a writer, I believe strongly that being verbose has its place, but typically a concise statement can be more powerful, regardless of the emotion it is sending. Twenty good words beat a hundred fluff words every time.

As for the stopping points, I also agree that people probably Do stop at those points, but only to come back next time and pick up from there. It's the same as reading a book; I hate having to put a book down in the middle of a chapter. It drives me absolutely nutty. So, I look at sections of a game in much the same way. I'm replaying Mass Effect right now (and then ME2, to pick up for ME3 due to an awesome hard drive failure). I always make sure to complete the quest I'm on before shutting it down.

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I have to pretty much agree with SurplusGamer on all fronts. As a writer, I believe strongly that being verbose has its place, but typically a concise statement can be more powerful, regardless of the emotion it is sending. Twenty good words beat a hundred fluff words every time.

As for the stopping points, I also agree that people probably Do stop at those points, but only to come back next time and pick up from there. It's the same as reading a book; I hate having to put a book down in the middle of a chapter. It drives me absolutely nutty. So, I look at sections of a game in much the same way. I'm replaying Mass Effect right now (and then ME2, to pick up for ME3 due to an awesome hard drive failure). I always make sure to complete the quest I'm on before shutting it down.

Let's be opinion-buddies!

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This is such a simplistic point to make. Tim Schafer writes awesome dialogue, true. But that doesn't mean that more dialogue equals more awesome. In fact, one of the best things about Tim Schafer's dialogue is that it shows restraint. It doesn't take the time to over-explain things, but it manages to get across a whole lot of ideas in a small amount of dialogue. For instance, take this single line from Grim Fandango:

"What I did back in the fat days is none of your business. You know the rules."

That bit of dialogue does SO much work. First of all it explains that talking about the days of being alive is off limits in the land of the dead. It also does the work of explaining why it's never talked about in the game, so now you no longer have to wonder what the characters' lives were like before the land of the dead. It sort of makes it off limits for the game, and focuses the whole story on what's happening now. The use of the phrase 'the fat days' is a nice touch, adding a kind of hint that the land of the dead has its own slang with its own rules, makes it feel like a more lived-in place when people casually throw those sorts of terms around. And of course calling it 'the fat days' is a little joke, so the player gets a little laugh out of the line, too.

In that one single line they've done all they need to do to deal with that one part of Land of the Dead lore, when they could easily have had a long dialogue tree about it. And I'm glad they didn't. This is just one of many examples of Tim's capacity for doing more with less dialogue, and one of the reasons that I respect his work so much.

Point taken. I was more than happy with the amount of dialogue (and quality of) in GF, so if that's your idea of "less equals more" I'm fine with that.

All I will say is, for me, if I'm caught up in the world and characters of a really good adventure game, I actually like listening to everyone say their piece. An example of this is The Longest Journey, which has LONG stretches of dialogue that are quite tedious and full of exposition, to be frank, and not nearly as clever or well-written as those of a Schafer game. But I'm so caught up in the story and the world that it's created, the more time I can spend in it the better. Even if that time is spent listening to people ramble on.

If the game sucks me into it's world enough, dialogue- either the lack of it; or the over-abundance of it- is a non-issue.

That said, I'm one of those people who will ALWAYS be more forgiving of adventure game quirks than others. All part of their charm, for me.

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This is such a simplistic point to make. Tim Schafer writes awesome dialogue, true. But that doesn't mean that more dialogue equals more awesome. In fact, one of the best things about Tim Schafer's dialogue is that it shows restraint. It doesn't take the time to over-explain things, but it manages to get across a whole lot of ideas in a small amount of dialogue. For instance, take this single line from Grim Fandango:

"What I did back in the fat days is none of your business. You know the rules."

That bit of dialogue does SO much work. First of all it explains that talking about the days of being alive is off limits in the land of the dead. It also does the work of explaining why it's never talked about in the game, so now you no longer have to wonder what the characters' lives were like before the land of the dead. It sort of makes it off limits for the game, and focuses the whole story on what's happening now. The use of the phrase 'the fat days' is a nice touch, adding a kind of hint that the land of the dead has its own slang with its own rules, makes it feel like a more lived-in place when people casually throw those sorts of terms around. And of course calling it 'the fat days' is a little joke, so the player gets a little laugh out of the line, too.

In that one single line they've done all they need to do to deal with that one part of Land of the Dead lore, when they could easily have had a long dialogue tree about it. And I'm glad they didn't. This is just one of many examples of Tim's capacity for doing more with less dialogue, and one of the reasons that I respect his work so much.

Point taken. I was more than happy with the amount of dialogue (and quality of) in GF, so if that's your idea of "less equals more" I'm fine with that.

All I will say is, for me, if I'm caught up in the world and characters of a really good adventure game, I actually like listening to everyone say their piece. An example of this is The Longest Journey, which has LONG stretches of dialogue that are quite tedious and full of exposition, to be frank, and not nearly as clever or well-written as those of a Schafer game. But I'm so caught up in the story and the world that it's created, the more time I can spend in it the better. Even if that time is spent listening to people ramble on.

If the game sucks me into it's world enough, dialogue- either the lack of it; or the over-abundance of it- is a non-issue.

That said, I'm one of those people who will ALWAYS be more forgiving of adventure game quirks than others. All part of their charm, for me.

I guess that's why I'm willing to trust Schafer on this. He's never, ever let me down with his writing, while the writing was one of the reasons I really didn't enjoy The Longest Journey.

(Aside: I don't know what so many people see in The Longest Journey. That long, rambly dialogue which shows no respect for economy of words, the puzzles which are by turns illogical and cartoony in a way that's at odds with the mostly-serious presentation of the game world. The way that whole plot threads are abandoned towards the end. To me The Longest Journey was tonally all over the place, poorly written and constantly at odds with itself. The dialogue was only part of the problem)

Anyway, point is, I don't think we need to worry, but also keep in mind, they need to record all this dialogue, and they have to budget that, too, so there just IS an upper limit to the amount of stuff they can write for this.

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Did someone the sorry-didn't-read-initial-post-my-attention-span-is-too-short-joke already?

Sorry, but my attention span is too short to search the thread for that...

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Did someone the sorry-didn't-read-initial-post-my-attention-span-is-too-short-joke already?

Sorry, but my attention span is too short to search the thread for that...

My attention span is too short to read this comment, but not too short to respond to it, oddly enough.

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Oh, for goodness sake. 'Dumbing down' is one of the most over-used phrases by gamers. Perhaps 10% of the time it's an actual example of dumbing down, and is bad. Maybe 60% of the time it's not actually dumbing down but smartening up, by cutting out parts of the game that were a bit overwrought in terms of design or handling the complexity in a more sensible way. And the rest of the time it's not dumbing down, but just good editing.

This is an example of the latter. It's not about dumbing down for people with short attention spans - it's about good writing practice, it's about not saying in 200 words what could be said with a pithy, well written 20 words. It's about respect for the reader's time. If anything, it's much MORE like dumbing down when a game feels the need to spend reams and reams of dialogue explaining every little thing, rather than giving you just enough and respecting your intelligence, as a reader, to note the implications and what's behind what is being said.

Yeah, right. Maybe gamers use this phrase so often because developers have a tendency to fix things that aren't broken so often with their attempts to make things less difficult for their more impatient users. Most gamers could care less about "respect for their time" and more about a game they can revisit and get bang for their buck. When you limit dialogue in a point and click adventure, you are limiting half of what the genre is about. If you want to skip the talky and get to the action, generally speaking adventure games are not the right route, especially if this is a bit of a love letter/improvement to the older ones.

As for the second part, that is complete nonsense. Nobody is suggesting that developers should produce a ton of redundant speech. What they are suggesting is that the world is fleshed out and rich in interactivity and story and choices. Get rid of the interactivity and choices and you just have a movie.

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No problem for me. I have a long attention span.

My attention

What about your attention?

span is too

Too what?

short to read

What's short to read?

this comment

Which comment?

but not too short

Not too long?

to respond to it oddly.

Respond to what?

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Oh, for goodness sake. 'Dumbing down' is one of the most over-used phrases by gamers. Perhaps 10% of the time it's an actual example of dumbing down, and is bad. Maybe 60% of the time it's not actually dumbing down but smartening up, by cutting out parts of the game that were a bit overwrought in terms of design or handling the complexity in a more sensible way. And the rest of the time it's not dumbing down, but just good editing.

This is an example of the latter. It's not about dumbing down for people with short attention spans - it's about good writing practice, it's about not saying in 200 words what could be said with a pithy, well written 20 words. It's about respect for the reader's time. If anything, it's much MORE like dumbing down when a game feels the need to spend reams and reams of dialogue explaining every little thing, rather than giving you just enough and respecting your intelligence, as a reader, to note the implications and what's behind what is being said.

Yeah, right. Maybe gamers use this phrase so often because developers have a tendency to fix things that aren't broken so often with their attempts to make things less difficult for their more impatient users. Most gamers could care less about "respect for their time" and more about a game they can revisit and get bang for their buck. When you limit dialogue in a point and click adventure, you are limiting half of what the genre is about. If you want to skip the talky and get to the action, generally speaking adventure games are not the right route, especially if this is a bit of a love letter/improvement to the older ones.

As for the second part, that is complete nonsense. Nobody is suggesting that developers should produce a ton of redundant speech. What they are suggesting is that the world is fleshed out and rich in interactivity and story and choices. Get rid of the interactivity and choices and you just have a movie.

Are you done? Oh, good. Because nothing I said above contradicts your reply. So.. I've no idea what you're arguing against. Also, it's 'couldn't care less.' Couldn't.

But if you're going to go into 'respecting the player's time,' then gamers absolutely care about that which is why companies like Valve have got how players spend their time in a game down to a fine science. Good game designers are always looking at ways to not waste the player's time, and that doesn't have to involve dumbing down. Trust me, gamers care very much about not having their time wasted, but I don't think what you think I mean by that is what I actually mean by that.

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I'm sorry. On a second read that sounded a bit rude - but I basically stand by the points. I don't think we actually disagree, mainly, but I think your concerns about 'dumbing down' here are unfounded.

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I'm sorry. On a second read that sounded a bit rude - but I basically stand by the points. I don't think we actually disagree, mainly, but I think your concerns about 'dumbing down' here are unfounded.
As I think your concerns about the game being too wordy are unfounded.

I think the basic disagreement here is that you seem to be worried about the game being too wordy for the sake of short attention spans, and I am worried an attempt to cater to this will make the game too linear, simplistic and short. Many a game of recent have fallen into this trap.

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I'm sorry. On a second read that sounded a bit rude - but I basically stand by the points. I don't think we actually disagree, mainly, but I think your concerns about 'dumbing down' here are unfounded.
As I think your concerns about the game being too wordy are unfounded.

I think the basic disagreement here is that you seem to be worried about the game being too wordy for the sake of short attention spans, and I am worried an attempt to cater to this will make the game too linear, simplistic and short. Many a game of recent have fallen into this trap.

No, I never once said I was concerned that the game would be too wordy. In fact, I said that one of the good things about Tim Schafer's writing is that it ISN'T too wordy. What I was responding to, was the following post, which said:

"Why- in a game being WRITTEN BY TIM SCHAFER- would you hope for/suggest there be LESS dialogue?

NO. Just no."

My point being that there are plenty of cases where you would want less rather than more dialogue, and the fact that Tim Schafer understands this is one of the things that makes him a great writer. I am completely unconcerned as to the wordiness of the game - I was simply addressing the point that someone else was implying that more dialogue is necessarily a good thing and less dialogue is necessary a bad thing.

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