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Smalltalk-80

Machinarium

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Sorry, I'm not really interested in a discussion with you. I enjoy objective discussions in which we make arguments and pose ideas based on our understandings. The only thing you really seem interested in based on your two posts in this thread is putting yourself above people. That doesn't make for an interesting or productive discussion.

And this was apparently not done in my post? X-D Also, I highly doubt you are studying any kind of philosophy when you use a phrase like "objective discussions". If you feel I'm putting myself above you then apparently you just don't have any valid counter arguments?

By the way, I happen to love complex strategy games and RPGs. I also study philosophy. I really enjoy putting time into a problem...just not this kind of problem. Maybe you should make an effort to get to know me instead of just trying to insult my intelligence. There's not much in your post I could respond to anyway because most of what you said was either personal or condescending. There weren't really a lot of well-presented objective arguments or substance.

Get to know you?! That's rich. Are you proposing a coffee date or something? If you enjoy other games then play those instead. It's my understanding that there also is some kind of narrative in many RPGs. Although I don't blame you for wanting more than hammy, angsty teeny, assembly line stories.

I for one can't be bothered with the gameplay of most RPGs. They just feel incredibly pointless with the detached, endless random battles, semi-random outcomes and other schema and number templates draped over what should really be a boisterous exiting adventure.

Come to think of it, isn't there a point here somehow... ;-)

You lose.

Or win. Depending on how you look at it.

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Someone made the comment about there not being any text within the game, just pictures. But this is a great way of telling a story

for an audience of different languages. There is no need to limit your market and spend time changing the language for everyone,

they were not a big company, and spent their time and money wisely.

I didn't consider this when trying to find out why it was so popular (since it's currently rated as the best adventure in last 10 years if you disqualify The Longest Journey for being released prior to this period) but I guess you could be right, since only ~30% of the people who voted in the "What is your native language" poll are native English speakers, ~23% are German + ~34% Other, and there's no translation/voice acting issues that can spoil it for people playing it in when played in a different language to the developer's native language, so everyone gets the full experience as intended by the developers.

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@DanB: That explains why so many people KNOW the game, but not why so many really LIKE it a lot. It's simply a type of puzzle-design a lot people seem to enjoy a lot (and others don't like it). But of course being without text also gives it a certain additional beauty (a bit like Wall-E) and it suits the concept and the puzzle-design very well. But let me put it this way: you wouldn't like a game that much just because there's no talking in it that could be spoiled by translation. There must be more to the game...

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i was just playing through Machinarium last night, so it's very fresh in my mind.

i agree with a few of the posters here: aside from its great artwork and charm, the game is very flawed.

The biggest issue is this: the game does not define goals. Here are a few examples (don't read if you haven't finished the game).

1. When you need to retrieve the robot dog, you have to attach a toilet plunger to a gun. The gun, inexplicably, is locked in a jail cell inside a furnace. You have to solve a puzzle to open the cell door to retrieve the gun, without ever knowing you need a gun, or that it's inside a furnace. The keycode to open the door is on a clock. Despite the fact that the clock's little hand points directly to the 5 hour mark (with the little hand on the 45), the solution is 4:45. Maddening.

mach1s.jpg

(i know that it's not 5:00 yet until the minute hand passes the 12, but by the same token, the hour hand does not point directly at the next number until that point. To make it a fair puzzle, the hour hand should point just before the 5, not directly at it.)

2. Late in the game, the slide projector isn't working. That's because it needs a magnifying glass, which has (again, inexplicably) been swallowed by a carnivorous pitcher plant. You have to zap the plant with a heat ray and prop its mouth open with a stick to get the item. The problem? The game never shows you that you're missing the piece, or that it's inside the plant. You just have to intuit that it's missing, and guess that it might be somewhere in the room.

This could have been easily made more fair by showing an animation of the pitcher plant eating the magnifying glass when the robot first enters the room.

3. At another point, you need to retrieve a loudspeaker from a guard tower. You can't go up, because the guard's there. But because the robot can only "see" (interact with) items that are close to him, the loudspeaker may as well be part of the background. It's entirely unclear that you need the guard to leave his post.

The old lady next to the giant clock tells you "church infinity" (through pictograms). By that, you're supposed to intuit that you need to set the clock to chime "infinity", so that the old lady will go inside the church, and reveal the note on the wall that she was blocking, that tells you how to set the clock to get the guard out of the tower (which you don't know you're supposed to do).

machenarium.jpg

The motivation could have been cleared up completely by having the guard say "VII" (quittin' time) with a picture of the clock when the robot tried to go up the guard tower. The robot should also look at the loudspeaker and think of the broken radio ... but it's possible that the player can solve the loudspeaker puzzle before actually needing a loudspeaker (as i did). This is what Tim and Ron refer to as a "backwards puzzle". It's sloppy.

And how do you operate the clock? By taking the crank off the fence. How do you know you that the crank is a special "take-able" item, and that all of the other interesting nuts, bolts, lightbulbs, wires and fiddly bits on that screen are NOT puzzle items? You don't. You just don't. In Machinarium, a lightbulb is only interactive when it suits the puzzle. In all other places in the game, lightbulbs do nothing. Except when they do.

That, my friends, is bad puzzle design.

Two years ago, i built a graphic adventure game called Heads, with the same constraint: the player character couldn't talk, and communicated only through thought bubbles. As simple as the game was, it was really difficult to telegraph the player's goal, because pictograms are open to interpretation. Still, i think the Machinarium creators could have done a much better job of it.

- Ryan

Great post! That's exactly how I feel about Machinarium (and Limbo).

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Great post! That's exactly how I feel about Machinarium (and Limbo).

How is what he wrote applicable to Limbo?

why does it matter? just leave em to their opinion, it doesnt effect you.

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I'd say it's always a matter of what you're looking for in a game. When it comes to puzzles, MACHINARIUM is top and there are not many games comparable that are that good. If you're looking for a concrete story, highly narrative... then it's probably not the best choice. Another example is LONGEST JOURNEY... here the focus is completely on the story and the puzzles are disappointing (which often is the case with newer adventures).

I liked Machinarium a lot, but to me the puzzles were probably the weakest aspect of it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed most of the puzzles but some of them came across as a bit artificial. It's rare to find a slider puzzle that looks like an organic part of an adventure game rather than a random obstacle, and the ones in Machinarium were no exception. But at least they were generally well made. It was usually pretty clear how they worked, and the difficulty seemed about right to me. (For an example of how annoying that kind of puzzles can be, I recommend The 11th Hour. Now that was a cavalcade of pain and suffering, even with a walkthrough...)

But I liked the setting, the atmosphere, the characters and the story. I thought it was an interesting idea to tell the story without words, and the game was short enough that it didn't wear out its welcome. Whatever flaws there may have been, I was more than willing to overlook them. Maybe I would have reacted differently if I had played it expecting the greatest adventure games of the past decade, but I didn't. I played it expecting another game from the makers of Samorost, which was a game I thought was well made but a bit too strange for my taste. Machinarium exceeded my expectations in almost every way.

Is it the greatest adventure game of the past decade? I hope not, but I thought it succeeded admirably in what it did.

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It turns out that it is much more strongly rooted in Czech and Russian tradition that was the original inspiration for much of the formerly mentioned lazy post-grunge "indie" stuff (as with much inspiration, it's a great improvement on what came after). Look up Zagreb Film and Yuri Norstein to get an idea what I'm talking about.

Yeah, I'm not sure why looking at Machinarium you'd think it was anything but a classy affair. The art direction is phenomenal.

The Norstein influence is something that occurred to me as well. Also with Limbo (although that also has a big Lotte Reiniger influence as well).

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How is what he wrote applicable to Limbo?

Backwards puzzles.

I agree wholeheartedly with the criticism of the backwards puzzles in Machinarium, but I just finished Limbo and don't recall any backwards puzzles at all. Each puzzle is specifically laid out in its own area.

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I agree wholeheartedly with the criticism of the backwards puzzles in Machinarium, but I just finished Limbo and don't recall any backwards puzzles at all. Each puzzle is specifically laid out in its own area.

The game is about a third backwards puzzles. You often have to do something first to understand what you were supposed to do. For example, running across a platform that kills you. It's only by being killed that you learn that you need to avoid the platform. This type of thing can be used to teach you the rules of a world, but in Limbo no two lessons are the same. So one platform will kill you, while another won't. And so on.

It just makes for a frustrating experience, although you're right in saying that's quite different to Machinarium.

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How is what he wrote applicable to Limbo?

Backwards puzzles.

I agree wholeheartedly with the criticism of the backwards puzzles in Machinarium, but I just finished Limbo and don't recall any backwards puzzles at all. Each puzzle is specifically laid out in its own area.

I really wish Ron never came up with the term "backwards puzzles" because it really isn't the problem he thinks it is.

There's really nothing wrong with finding an object and then discovering an application for it. Why is that bad design? Wouldn't it be worse design to find yourself stuck at an obstacle and have to go scavenging for an item every single time?

What bothers us about some of these is when the object itself is seemingly useless and easily missed. This was a common mistake made by adventure game designers, and it was very frustrating. That IS bad design. But finding a rope and then a few screens later finding a cliff you can climb down with a rope is not.

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I don't think Ron has anything specifically against finding puzzle items before you need them. I don't see anything wrong with that either. I can't remember exactly how Ron worded it but I agreed with him when he said it. I have to watch that video again but I don't want to go hunting through all 30 minutes of it to find it.

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I agree wholeheartedly with the criticism of the backwards puzzles in Machinarium, but I just finished Limbo and don't recall any backwards puzzles at all. Each puzzle is specifically laid out in its own area.

The game is about a third backwards puzzles. You often have to do something first to understand what you were supposed to do. For example, running across a platform that kills you. It's only by being killed that you learn that you need to avoid the platform. This type of thing can be used to teach you the rules of a world, but in Limbo no two lessons are the same. So one platform will kill you, while another won't. And so on.

It just makes for a frustrating experience, although you're right in saying that's quite different to Machinarium.

Trial and error isn't bad game design. Limbo draws a lot of inspiration from Out of this World (Another World), which is HEAVILY based around trial and error and constant failure, and that's one of the greatest games of all time. That's not backwards puzzle design, it's just a completely different style of game. It's not an adventure game at all, it's closer to a cinematic platformer.

Oddworld, Flashback, Prince of Persia, all of those games were about constant failure and having to try new things and be creative within a very limited set of abilities. They're really pretty brilliant games, too.

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I don't think Ron has anything specifically against finding puzzle items before you need them. I don't see anything wrong with that either. I can't remember exactly how Ron worded it but I agreed with him when he said it. I have to watch that video again but I don't want to go hunting through all 30 minutes of it to find it.

Here's what Ron says:

Backwards Puzzles

The backwards puzzle is probably the one thing that bugs me more than anything else about adventure games. I have created my share of them; and as with most design flaws, it?s easier to leave them in than to redesign them. The backwards puzzle occurs when the solution is found before the problem. Ideally, the crevice should be found before the rope that allows the player to descend. What this does in the player?s mind is set up a challenge. He knows he need to get down the crevice, but there is no route. Now the player has a task in mind as he continues to search. When a rope is spotted, a light goes on in his head and the puzzle falls into place. For a player, when the design works, there is nothing like that experience.

I just disagree with this. I don't think the player should constantly find himself scavenging for anything that might help him rather than trying to think of ways to use what he already has in his inventory. I actually think that can be damaging to the pacing of a game. People quote this all the time like it's a rule of game design, and any game that does it otherwise is bad, but I think that's a mistake.

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I just disagree with this. I don't think the player should constantly find himself scavenging for anything that might help him rather than trying to think of ways to use what he already has in his inventory. I actually think that can be damaging to the pacing of a game. People quote this all the time like it's a rule of game design, and any game that does it otherwise is bad, but I think that's a mistake.

Unsurprisingly I completely agree.

I somehow think though, that Ron had something else in mind when he mentioned the type of problem, and that particular example is just poorly chosen or easy to misunderstand.

We'll just have to hope for an answer from him at some point.

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@BACKWARD PUZZLE:

I also think he had something else in mind, but still... maybe it could be an intriguing TOPIC for Ron to discuss in a VIDEO? Once in a while I'd love to have questions like this one answered from a professional point of view. If Tim and/or Ron were interested in doing so, now that would be great :)

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yeah I think ron was referring more to things like in kq6 (one of many examples) when you need to have picked up a brick (and some other items) in order to survive a trap in the catacombs, which once you enter you cannot leave to go get that brick. (In fact now that I think about it that "puzzle" breaks almost every rule in the book: you can destroy another item (that you need later) there pointlessly, its timed, you need an item that you cant go back for, and you should have been able to use any old rock or hard thing from any old place, including the catacombs where you are. goddammit! still loved the game though =) )

I dont think hes advocating that you always go look for items after you found a need for them, just that you should be ABLE to. "hey I saw something like that over in..." etc. sounds like machinarium breaks that if youre forced to try stuff out without knowing what youre trying to accomplish. the furnace thing sounds outlandish...but at least its contained enough that you probably will try everything that the game allows you to anyways.

ideally you should just try to pick up stuff that seem really useful (like ropes) in the situation youre finding yourself in, not scan the background and try to pick up EVERYTHING. in reality you do try to (at least if youre damaged from playing many of them) but thats not how you should be thinking is it.

(again bringing up kings quest but in 3 its a bit hilarious that you pick up old dead flies and dirt and all sorts long before you find out that you need them for magic spells. to be fair you dont need to in this case I dont think, but the dead fly was the first item I got. "this ll come in handy...")

Im thinking of getting machinarium. a friend recommended it to me a few years ago but I forgot about it. just looked at the demo now... man, the atmosphere and little animations are amazing. it IS too hard to look around and try stuff though, as pointed out here. I kinda like the idea that it forces you to just look at the scene and think what would be possible, instead of scanning for interaction points. could have worked if there wasnt so much detail and stuff in the backgrounds and all of that. (all of which has already been mentioned in this thread of course, just agreeing)

but having contained rooms of puzzles like that works great for p&c gameplay! imagine the frustration with that UI and a huge world to walk about and try things out in... I dont like it when the world is too large and you have too many items at once. (as in the middle of MI2). its just overwhelming. and you always fall back to a bit of trial and error at times.

anyways there IS a hintsystem and just wanting to see the next location (so important in adventure games!) will probably get me through it.

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@DanB: That explains why so many people KNOW the game, but not why so many really LIKE it a lot. It's simply a type of puzzle-design a lot people seem to enjoy a lot (and others don't like it). But of course being without text also gives it a certain additional beauty (a bit like Wall-E) and it suits the concept and the puzzle-design very well. But let me put it this way: you wouldn't like a game that much just because there's no talking in it that could be spoiled by translation. There must be more to the game...

You made me realise that one of the reasons I like this game so much is the lack of conversations.

As in, I'm not a person who particularly enjoys walking up to every person I meet in a game and exploring their entire conversation tree. I find that gets boring really fast. Before long I'll be thinking "Ugh, five people in this room, and I have to talk to ALL of them?!"

I hadn't thought about it before, but I actually think that not having this is one of the things that made the game stand out for me*.

*personal preference of course, no doubt there are people who feel the opposite way.

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As in, I'm not a person who particularly enjoys walking up to every person I meet in a game and exploring their entire conversation tree. I find that gets boring really fast. Before long I'll be thinking "Ugh, five people in this room, and I have to talk to ALL of them?!"

I really love lots of conversations when I feel that it adds to the game world. I can't stand conversations when it's obviously just for exposition. I want to talk with characters who add something to the game world which already stands for itself. I don't want to talk with a bunch of characters who are obviously just there to explain the game world to me because they couldn't get any of that information into the game. So it depends on the conversations, but if there are fun characters in a well-developed world then I will spend as much time as possible talking with all of them.

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I completely forgot that I got this game in an Indie Bundle some time last year. Gotta install that sometime.

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Personally I'm not a fan of the game either. Besides, I wouldn't call it an adventure game in the first place, it just plays like one. It's like saying Portal is a FPS, Braid a platformer or Minecraft a RPG.

For me, Machinarium is a little simple puzzle game with a depressing atmosphere, just going from room to room to solve the next puzzle. At least, that's how I felt after playing the demo, and after reading the various posts here I'm even more convinced of my opinion. I will definitively not buy it.

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Besides, I wouldn't call it an adventure game in the first place, it just plays like one. It's like saying Portal is a FPS, Braid a platformer or Minecraft a RPG.

So, going by your examples, you're saying it's sort of like a normal adventure game but with 100 times more awesome? ;)

Seriously though, I didn't enjoy the demo at all when I first tried it. Then I got the full game as part of a bundle so I tried out the whole thing, and once I got past the first few screens I started to totally adore the game. If you ever do see it cheap, I would recommend giving the entire game a chance!

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