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Number47

Infinite possiblities?

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After seeing Episode 2, the comment made about infinite possibilities stuck in mind, and I started thinking back to those adventure games that gave me that sense of there being almost endless possible interactions. I tried to figure out which characteristics of those games helped give that sense, and when adventure games stopped giving me that sense.

I think that all Lucasarts Games up till Sam & Max, and the early Sierra games had that sense of endless possibilities. What changed? I believe there are a few factors.

Firstly I think that the sense of being able to do anything in those games resides in the player rather than in the actual game, and I believe that the interface played a big part in that. Thinking back on Maniac Mansion and Zak Mcracken, the fact that you had so many verbs to construct actions with gave a sense of a high level of interaction with the game, and in the early Sierra games you had that type your action window. And from Sam and Max and forward the interface was simplified to five possible actions, which I feel took something away from the feeling of there being infinite possibilities.

Secondly, I think that at some point the story took precedence over the puzzles and the newer adventure games feels more like you are playing a story where the puzzles are the keys that unlock the next part of the story. Just think about the difference between the new Sam & Max and a game like Maniac Mansion and to some degree Day of the Tentacle. In the latter to games you are presented with a problem that you have solve and the story, in Maniac Mansion at least, takes a back seat to the puzzles, and the story that is being told is connected to the puzzles.

Thirdly, the space that the game takes place in also plays a role. In Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle the space is constricted to a single house but it is much more detailed in the sense that there are more possible interactions per "room", and you don't get that sense of the game being stretched thin over a large area. System Shock 1 and 2 also did this right.

Fourthly, I was much younger when I first played Maniac Mansion and Zak Mcracken (I played them on my C64, yes I am that old) and my young mind did not have the same understanding of the underlying game mechanics and hence games were probably more magical back then.

My advice to Double Fine is:

1. Create an interface that at least gives the player a sense of infinite possibilities.

2. Don't let the story get in the way of gameplay. The puzzles are more important.

3. Don't stretch the game over to large an area.

4. Make games magical again.

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My advice to double fine is

1. Create an interface that is intuitive and nice to use

2. Don't let the gameplay get in the way of the story. The story is very important

3. Let the story decide the area of the game

4. Make the best game ever

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1. Create an interface that at least gives the player a sense of infinite possibilities.

Easier said than done. Like how?

It obviously won't be a text adventure with typable commands. It will be a point and click, so there will probably be a verb list to choose from or else, like some point-and-clicks, have context or the object being hovered over automatically determine the verb.

*poof*

You're a game designer now. You're making this game and need to sell it to the world. What do YOU think the solution to that problem looks like?

2. Don't let the story get in the way of gameplay. The puzzles are more important.

Firstly, that's personal taste. It's the reverse for other people.

Secondly, story and gameplay don't necessarily have to be at odds. Often they are, because stories---whether in text or in film---tend to be perpetually unfolding, whereas gameplay tends to be a frictional force that halts or slows a story. (Citation for Jonathan Blow here.)

But then you have games like Minecraft and Terraria, for example, where there really ISN'T any story in the game aside from the experiences the players have, and that becomes the story. But at the same time, it can also be kind of barren.

So really it becomes a problem of how to make the story and the gameplay be the same thing as much as possible.

3. Don't stretch the game over to large an area.

You want infinite possibility but only a tiny space?

Is it just the walking/backtracing you dislike? Because we've invented fast travel since then. It's amazing. I endorse it.

4. Make games magical again.

I think Double Fine always does, but when speaking of games in general, I sort of understand where you're coming from.

On the other hand, I do sometimes worry that all I'm saying is, "Why can't ALL games be the BEST games?"

I'm sure I'll like whatever they do. Their track record is crazy strong. =]

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It's been a while since I watched that episode, so I might be missing the point, but are you certain you didn't misunderstand the concept of "Infinite possibilities"?

Because the way I understood it, infinite possibilities is not something that the game will offer the player but it was supposed to express the fact that there are no creative constraints limiting the design process - that there are infinite potential games one of which the DFA will be.

In any case, infinite possibilities gameplay is not something you get in adventure games, where everything tends to be very carefully orchestrated. It's more of a Minecraft/Civilization/Sim Whatever kind of thing.

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It's been a while since I watched that episode, so I might be missing the point, but are you certain you didn't misunderstand the concept of "Infinite possibilities"?

Because the way I understood it, infinite possibilities is not something that the game will offer the player but it was supposed to express the fact that there are no creative constraints limiting the design process - that there are infinite potential games one of which the DFA will be.

In any case, infinite possibilities gameplay is not something you get in adventure games, where everything tends to be very carefully orchestrated. It's more of a Minecraft/Civilization/Sim Whatever kind of thing.

A quick watching of the video will verify that the original poster did not misunderstand the concept. If I remember correctly, it was one of the people Tim Schafer was speaking to in a meeting who said that infinite possibilities was one of his favourite aspects of adventure games growing up.

And now that I'm posting I suppose I have to weigh in on this.

My advice to double fine is

1. Create an interface that is intuitive and nice to use

2. Don't let the gameplay get in the way of the story. The story is very important

Perfect. The above expresses how I feel about this. Point 4 doesn't really mean much anyway; I don't care about it. Point 3 is about the areas in the game, and I don't have any specific opinions on that.

Well, regarding what AnAnemoneInAnonymity said about point 3, I also think fast travel is awesome. But that's all.

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A quick watching of the video will verify that the original poster did not misunderstand the concept. If I remember correctly, it was one of the people Tim Schafer was speaking to in a meeting who said that infinite possibilities was one of his favourite aspects of adventure games growing up.

Right, I watched it again, it's not what I had in mind.

I still think it's not exactly the same thing though, they were talking about expectations - the fact that you didn't know where the game would take you and not that the game would let you do anything you could imagine.

Really the things you could do in adventure games were always limited to a very specific amount. You could try to "open door" or "pick up door" or "use red wax lips with door" etc. etc. but in the end only one of these things would work, that's hardly infinite. Thinking that it could be anything behind that door is whole other thing, but in the end the result was always more or less the same.

With that in mind: how do you enhance the expectation of infinite possibilities? Well... just don't be predictable I'd say.

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"Don't let the story get in the way of gameplay. Puzzles are more important" ???

I'm sorry, but have you ever played an adventure game before?

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While I love a good story, it for me at least sometimes feels like I am clicking through an interactive story, instead of playing a game. I agree that story and gameplay doesn't have to mutually exclude each other and one of the better solutions is Maniac Mansion, where each puzzle was an obstacle you had to overcome to reach your end goal (rescuing Sandy), not to get the next story bit. I know it is different for other people, I was just expressing my opinion.

Regarding interface, I know that ease of use and intuitiveness is all important, but I really think that the interface of old (the Scumm system with all the verbs) added something in the mind of the player, even though they could be cumbersome. And I am not always for making things more simple just to make it easier to use, especially in games. I also know that DF will get slammed on the head if they make a terrible interface. I just really really like the verbs interface of Maniac Mansion, Zak, DOTT etc.

My hole point is that older adventure games actually did give a sense of infinite possibilities, and I was just trying to figure out what about them gave that sense.

I am very confident that DF will make a great game. I am a backer after all.

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"Don't let the story get in the way of gameplay. Puzzles are more important" ???

I'm sorry, but have you ever played an adventure game before?

Yes, Yes I have. I just like adventure games of old. And for the record, I think that Maniac Mansion is THE best adventure game of all times, and no other game has come close. See my other post here: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewreply/219699/

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I actually agree with you on the verbs interface, I've always found that the simplified interfaces take something away from the gameplay somehow. They restrict the number of things it feels like you can do and you end up just walking around clicking on stuff and seeing what happens. Those old interfaces are really clunky though so I don't know what the best solution here is.

In terms of story, I agree that it shouldn't overshadow the puzzles and leave you feeling like you've just got to click to progress, but honestly the gameplay in adventure games has never really been strong enough to be fun without having an interesting story attached. I guess the ultimate formula for an adventure game is challenging, relevant puzzles, tied closely to a good story that never tries to take control out of your hands.

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I commented about the verbs in another thread, and I agree regarding them. The games often had humorous comments to make when you tried the wrong verb on an object, which was part of the fun. I also think that having verbs instead of icons gives another dimension to the game. An action like 'pick nose' is funnier when done with a verb than with a 'pick' icon.

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I commented about the verbs in another thread, and I agree regarding them. The games often had humorous comments to make when you tried the wrong verb on an object, which was part of the fun. I also think that having verbs instead of icons gives another dimension to the game. An action like 'pick nose' is funnier when done with a verb than with a 'pick' icon.

Sooo you want a text parser instead of a point and click then?

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I commented about the verbs in another thread, and I agree regarding them. The games often had humorous comments to make when you tried the wrong verb on an object, which was part of the fun. I also think that having verbs instead of icons gives another dimension to the game. An action like 'pick nose' is funnier when done with a verb than with a 'pick' icon.

Sooo you want a text parser instead of a point and click then?

This is the 21st century, a camera should detect the action. So all the player has to do is pick his own nose.

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I agree with OP. The way the old point and click adventures worked was limited. today, with minecraft, games like the amazing machine and sandbox games there are many ways to tell a story without it being so linear. Question is, what do you like DFA to be? a story mainly told by Tim, or a story mainly told by each of us. going in, I think it was clear the a point and click adventure is not a sandbox game of any kind, so having sandbox elements in a point and click means the devs will have to devote more time to all(well, most) possible permutations of inventory items (however they are implemented) and the env. This is not feasible, so the next thing is to make it an adventure game more akin to black and white where you had little puzzles all over the place which may or may not give you more abilities and so you progress with the story - but again, this makes it less of a story based point and click and more of a sort of a sandbox game.

So OP, looks like this is not in the cards with this one..

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I think I kind of understand the sense that 'anything can happen'. I remember playing Monkey Island, the original, when I was about 10 and the part on the ghost ship, creeping around, going to LeChuck's cabin and trying not to get caught: my brain knows this is an adventure game - it says in the manual it won't punish me for exploring. But still I feel nervous, like if I make a wrong move it's all going to go wrong. Maybe it's just that as a child I allowed myself to fall into the world more, suspend my awareness of the game mechanics to enjoy the situation on a more basic emotional level. Maybe it's impossible to get back to that state again: nowadays I'm far too aware of game mechanics and design to un-see all that stuff, but as long as it's a world I truly want to be in, I think it can get close.

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I do agree that puzzles should be part of the story, I hate the kind of puzzles where the story stops and all of a sudden oh hey looky here a box with several pins sticking in it awaiting to be opened be re-aranging the pins, left here by somebody who doesnt know how to use a propper locking mechanism and instead opts for the james bond like "easy escapable trap"- equivalent of hiding something.

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I can´t see all this thinks apart... story, puzzles, etc...

I think in the older games the puzzles are more relevant but at some point all of us need a good story to envolve the puzzles and the graphic evolution...

Like Grim Fandando, great story, great puzzles, great graphics, great caracters, great music... you are deep in game, in the story, understand the puzzles, close your eyes and feel the sound and the music... the interface... I played and love lots of games with diferent interfaces... not a problem to me... it´s a mater of time to adapt.

For me the most important thing is that all this ingridients works well together. About the puzzles, I just hope they are logic with the story and not mechanic.

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