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ianlippert

What has Double Fine learnt from Skyrim?

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If I was making an adventure game, for example, I might, for example, look at Skyrim and think ‘man, I really like how that game presents open space’ and wonder how to translate that into a non-open-world game and if it’s even possible to do that while preserving feel. And I might identify certain key elements of how Skyrim achieves this that actually would be translatable. That doesn’t mean my game is going to be more like Skyrim. It only means that Skyrim was a starting point with which I began to hone my own ideas.

This is mainly what I was talking about. To translate this into adventure game term would mean there would be "side quests" or "side puzzles" that would be a little something extra for those that put in the extra time to explore. What the skyrim quest is good at (and I agree the mechanics are usually fairly simple) is that it sends you off on an adventure where you have to travel to another part of the world and your reward is that you usually get to delve a little deeper into the lore and world. Its the world building that Bethesda is great at and could be converted fairly easily into an adventure game. One great example was the original quest for glory, in its initial incarnation as Hero Quest it was literally a merging of adventure game and rpg. They were able to pull off the questing and puzzle solving of the adventure genre while having the class structure and open world exploration of an rpg.

Another game someone brought up was zelda. The strength of zelda is that the items in those game are far less generic than the stat loot that you get to plug into your excel sheet ala Diablo. The items all do interesting things that let you interact with the world. The adventure game often limits its item to single specific uses and then they become discarded. The adventure game could incorporate a more zelda-ish item system where items allow you more interation with the world. It doesnt even have to be large multiple paths to take but maybe just a few little story pieces here and there for those that are smart enough to come up with clever ideas for item use. Basically rewarding those that put in more time and effort into exploring the world.

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If I was making an adventure game, for example, I might, for example, look at Skyrim and think ‘man, I really like how that game presents open space’ and wonder how to translate that into a non-open-world game and if it’s even possible to do that while preserving feel. And I might identify certain key elements of how Skyrim achieves this that actually would be translatable. That doesn’t mean my game is going to be more like Skyrim. It only means that Skyrim was a starting point with which I began to hone my own ideas.

This is mainly what I was talking about. To translate this into adventure game term would mean there would be "side quests" or "side puzzles" that would be a little something extra for those that put in the extra time to explore. What the skyrim quest is good at (and I agree the mechanics are usually fairly simple) is that it sends you off on an adventure where you have to travel to another part of the world and your reward is that you usually get to delve a little deeper into the lore and world. Its the world building that Bethesda is great at and could be converted fairly easily into an adventure game. One great example was the original quest for glory, in its initial incarnation as Hero Quest it was literally a merging of adventure game and rpg. They were able to pull off the questing and puzzle solving of the adventure genre while having the class structure and open world exploration of an rpg.

Another game someone brought up was zelda. The strength of zelda is that the items in those game are far less generic than the stat loot that you get to plug into your excel sheet ala Diablo. The items all do interesting things that let you interact with the world. The adventure game often limits its item to single specific uses and then they become discarded. The adventure game could incorporate a more zelda-ish item system where items allow you more interation with the world. It doesnt even have to be large multiple paths to take but maybe just a few little story pieces here and there for those that are smart enough to come up with clever ideas for item use. Basically rewarding those that put in more time and effort into exploring the world.

I actually have thought about 'side puzzles' before, and I think it would be an interesting way for adventure games to evolve, to take inspiration from RPGs in their progression structure. The reason why not many adventures have gone down this road is that most adventures are very asset intensive, having to create a lot of bespoke animations, dialogues, scenery and so on, and so doing this is rather expensive compared to creating something more focused.

But would I one day like to play an adventure game as big as Skyrim which had so many puzzles I probably wouldn't even find them all? Absolutely. I think we're a long way off from that, and it definitely seems outside the scope of the DFA project. But perhaps there's some concepts there that they could start flirting with, for example the idea of having puzzles you don't have to complete, but if you do you find out a bit more about the back story.

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I'm really looking forward to an adventure game where multiple characters in all sorts of remote places all say "I used to be an adventurer like you..."

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You, my friend, need some Vampire in your life, if you've not had the pleasure.

The game has some (really really awful) combat, but most of the game is built around story and characters. And honestly, for not being graphically superior, I enjoy the story and characters of Vampire more than I've enjoyed the story/characters in any Bioware RPG. It's great!

That's my beef, that these games always have some combat which detracts from an otherwise great game. I had in mind Planescape: Torment when I thought about the story based RPG, and there was some annoying combat there, too. I think that combat can add sometimes, and some of the combat in Planescape was probably okay, but it's the annoying times which leave a bad taste.

Thanks for the recommendation of Vampire. I'm pretty sure I have it somewhere, and perhaps I should put it on the list of games to play after The Beast Within (which will probably take me a long time to finish). If I can find it, that is. I recently made a list of games I have on various services, and just looked but it's not there and not on Steam, so I have no idea where it is. Maybe I'm just imagining I bought it.

Well I can warn you that Vampire does have some combat in it, and I'm not kidding when I say the combat is bad. Not just bad because it's combat, but I mean bad as in its janky to the point of almost being broken, like their combat programmer died early in production and the rest of the combat was programmed by squirrels running across a keyboard.

Fortunately, there is a guy on the Steam forums named Wesp5 who has all kinds of good patches that fix the game and can make the combat less annoying.

But still the combat comprises a very small part of the game, especially if you'd rather solve a problem by other means. A lot of times you can stealth kill enemies, talk your way out of an encounter (especially if you're a Toreodor), work out a bargain, or sneak around an encounter. I'm almost done with it and I feel like I've only spent about 10 to 20 percent of my time with the game fighting things. Mostly easy things that go down with one or two good hits.

A lot of the things you end up doing most of the time are stuff like investigating, hacking, stealing, assassinating, negotiating, bargaining, searching, setting traps, etc. =]

The combat in V:tM isn't that terrible, it's just generic. And even with pretty bad skills almost the entire game can be solved by just darting about from person to person and draining them. Admittedly if you choose melee combat and decide to beat the whole game that way, it's going to suck. But guns are fairly standard, stealth with powers works really well -- probably too easy, but not terribly broken. The only thing that is really bad is straight-up melee combat. Basically the game's core mechanics were supposed to be a lot like Deus Ex -- with multiple ways of defeating every situation -- but many things were unfinished and uninspired, so it fell flat.

The only really broken thing is that your game will crash and irreparably corrupt your save on multiple occasions unless you know enough to apply certain unofficial patches before your first playthrough. But whatever, it was a good enough game to keep playing even after an experience like that. That can't be said for a lot of games. Actually I can't think of a game other than Bloodlines I wouldn't give up on after that...

What it did best is characterize its universe really well. It took the White Wolf Vampire P&P setting and really made you feel that it was living and breathing. Even as a crazy-overpowered videogame main character, you got the very proper World of Darkness feeling that you are just a a little pawn struggling not to be cut up and hung out to dry for someone else's convenience. It was pretty excellent to see a game where the player character fit in so well without needing to be made the center of the universe in some existential or literal struggle over the fate of all mankind, because that sort of thing is so blah.

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I think it's unfair to use Skyrim as any sort of learning platform for this adventure game. The fact is that Skyrim didn't really bring much of anything new to the table, it just brought solid, time-tested gaming elements in a more realistic format. As was said before, Morrowind was truly a marvel in its day and I think that's because it included several action game elements in it (for example, there's a random cave that required you to solve riddles before passing to the next room and eventually to a treasure room after the final riddle. How is that not a classic point and click element?). As a person who played the series way back then and has logged over 170 hours in Skyrim (if I include the 60 hours I wasted trying to play the broken PS3 version before finishing my computer) I can tell you they make novel and wonderful games that each seem to push technology and storytelling in their own way, but they're really just standing on the shoulders of giants.

What we're talking about here is an old school adventure game that they're creating. I am super excited about the prospect of this coming into existence. But if anything, I think Bethesda learned from adventure games and continue to lean heavily on those aspects when creating the various quests they create. So what does DFA need to learn from Skyrim? Nothing that they didn't already know and already demonstrate in their games twenty years ago. If you wanted Skyrim 2-D then I think you're in the wrong place. This game is going to live or die on its writing and so I'm glad its in hands we know and can trust.

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I think it's unfair to use Skyrim as any sort of learning platform for this action game.

.oO(I think he probably meant 'adventure' game.)

What we're talking about here is an old school action game that they're creating.

.oO(Well, he could make the same mistake twice...)

But if anything, I think Bethesda learned from action games and continue to lean heavily on those aspects when creating the various quests they create.

.oO( ... )

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Cool, semantics, everyone's favorite game!

I also enjoy shouting "Star Wars sucks" at Trekkie conventions.

Well, it was weird! :)

To address your actual point, I think maybe you missed the point of the the OP a little. You're not alone in that, actually, it's been pretty common and it's sort of understandable, but I still think it's missing the point:

I don't think the OP was suggesting or even thinking that this should be like a 2D Skyrim. It's just that Skyrim is a game that he thinks does a lot of world building stuff well (and I think that's probably right, though it's at the expense of some of the precision one would expect from a more tightly focused game).

So it's quite a good question to ask 'well, what could other genres learn from what it does well?' It's beside the point that there might be other games that did what Skyrim does well first - it's just an example. OP might as well have phrased the question: could DFA learn from open world RPGs?

Next, I don't think it serves any purpose to do a sort of point-scoring thing of 'Well, actually if anything they've learned from adventure games!' Because while that's true - any story heavy game owes a lot to the adventure game, historically speaking - it doesn't have to be a one way conversation. Who has previously learned what is somewhat irrelevant to the question of whether something new can be learned now.

Finally, as for what could actually be learned, it's difficult to say. Certainly an adventure game that took a more open, free-roaming approach to its world, with side-stories and an expansive world would be an interesting (and difficult) experiment. I'd sure like to play something like that, but it's not what I expect from DFA (I don't think the budget could do something like that justice, and I don't really think it's what this project is going for).

But influence doesn't have to be wholesale, so I'm not sure what you're trying to say with "If you wanted Skyrim 2-D then I think you’re in the wrong place." It doesn't have to be that, to draw some influences. So, for example, it's not out of the question that they could do something like what I mentioned before, such as having a few optional puzzles which aren't necessary to complete the game but might reveal more story or have certain dialogue options open up during the main story and so on. It would add a depth of consequence to your actions that is very rarely seen in adventure games, but could really make them feel alive without doing anything to deduct from the adventure-game-ness of it.

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The combat in V:tM isn't that terrible, it's just generic. And even with pretty bad skills almost the entire game can be solved by just darting about from person to person and draining them. Admittedly if you choose melee combat and decide to beat the whole game that way, it's going to suck. But guns are fairly standard, stealth with powers works really well -- probably too easy, but not terribly broken. The only thing that is really bad is straight-up melee combat. Basically the game's core mechanics were supposed to be a lot like Deus Ex -- with multiple ways of defeating every situation -- but many things were unfinished and uninspired, so it fell flat.

*whistles*

And I would never do something like focus my character on melee...

Nope. Not me.

*lucky to be a super stealthy Toreodor*

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...
Quote shortened for space and out of spite, naturally.

My point about Skyrim learning from adventure games is that the actual story mechanics are still the same, it's just delivered in a more programmatically complex way. We can look at some of the quests performed in Skyrim and decide that it's an interesting way to progress a story and then use that, but that's true of any game and we can't really take 3D solutions and translate them the same way here.

It's like if you want to be a better writer you should read a lot to see what sort of writing mechanisms you like and what ones you dislike to start cementing your own identity as a writer. There's very little that Skyrim has to offer in the way of a 2D game other than just straight plot mechanisms. In that way, I feel the OP might as well have asked what we could learn from the Harry Potter series.

That being said, we know so little of the actual game DFA is creating so far that we don't know if there's any way to implement some favorable elements of technology. Like a map system being implemented somewhere in the game. But at the end of the day, again, there's not much that really can be taken away from it except in writing. Perhaps that's really what the OP meant all along?

How is this not the point of your spin off thread?

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How is this not the point of your spin off thread?

I'm afraid the point of my spin off thread was just a bit of silliness!

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I loved Bloodlines until the last quarter of the game, when the non-combat solutions started to disappear and were replaced by respawning enemies and mandatory boss fights. It's still a great game, but any character must have at least some combat skills to get through the last areas, which is a shame since you were either able to avoid or talk your way out of most encounters before then.

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Interesting discussion. My feeling is that, as other's have pointed out, no game actually offers infinite possibilities. That being the case (and I know we all understand that) all games offer the same thing - a set of mechanics that the player can use to interact with the environment.

Reading over the comments, I think there are actually two different things that are being discussed. First, the sense that some games give you that they have more possibilities than they actually have, and second that general sense of wonder that some games give you, where you enter a new area or situation and think "Wow, what am I going to get to do here!?!? It is not accurate to say that any particular game (Skyrim or otherwise) has a lock on THE way to convey these feelings - there are multiple ways. But it is fun to talk about this stuff and I have some theories.

I think in any game there are basically two issues - the scope of the environment (I mean how big and diverse it is) and the level of interactivity of the environment. That sense that you have more options than you have more options than you actually have is I think caused by the latter. In some games, everything that looks like it should work does work. Because of this you have the feeling that the game is not artificially limiting your options. Even very linear games, if they are well designed, can achieve this. For example I feel that many 16-bit games achieve this quite well. Super Mario World and Link to the Past come to mind. I never felt "limited" exactly by those games, because I never saw a path that I couldn't walk down or an enemy that I couldn't fight and defeat somehow. It can be little things - I remember as a kid playing Diddy Kong Racing and in the main area there are all these frogs jumping around. I decided to try and run over one and eventually I succeeded and it got squashed! It's make you feel like anything you can think of you can try and be rewarded somehow. The rest of the game may have been less interactive - but I don't remember that! I remember the frogs that rewarded me for trying something outside of the intent of the game. They gave me a positive impression of the game in the very first area. I believe this is a crucial lesson that all game designers can learn from, adventure or otherwise.

Now Skyrim, IMO, is actually not very successful in this way. But the scope of the game world is amazing, and that goes a long way to giving you a sense of wonder. For me the most fun to be had in Skyrim is walking around, cresting a hill, and seeing a brand new sweeping vista before me. Maybe I see a little cottage over there, or a waterfall, or a crumbling tower. The unfortunate thing is that after about 10 hours I already knew the outcome of exploring these areas. The cottage might have an NPC - but they won't be interesting. They might give me a quest, but the quest will not be very well distinguished from the dozens of other quests I've done. And that's it.

The perfect game would have both a large world and a fully interactive world - but for the most part these are mutually exclusive goals. Adventure games historically tended towards the interactive side (compared to the other games released at the time) and I feel that this is what they should continue to do.

I guess, in short, to take it back to the Skyrim discussion, I think Skyrim is an example of exactly how DFA should NOT be designed.

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Okay, I'll admit I haven't fully read through the posts that have come before me on this thread (which are damn fascinating thus far, you guys are an interesting bunch!) but I would like to put in my two cents, as it were.

I personally really agree with the notion that I don't want to be creating the storyline, I'm playing the game to experience the storyline created by the writers, designers, and artists that made the game. I want to see their vision, be guided on a journey that they've set out for me.

This is totally just my personal play style, but I really don't like games like Skyrim where you're placed in an open world with "infinite possibilities", which always boils down to "infinite possibilities" to kill things, go on monotonous quests, and experience landscapes that still aren't as breathtaking as real life, in my opinion. I'm super cynical when somebody shows me some gorgeous vista in a game, all I can do is think: Yep, I could go and see something like that for myself but I'm looking at a pixelly version on a computer screen. That's just me!

I'll take interesting, quirky, unique art styles to perfectly rendered realism any day. That's why I love old-school adventure games, the art is fun, it catches my eye, and pulls me into a world I can't experience anywhere else. Sure, I can't go hiking through the mountains in Skyrim anytime I want, but I kind of wouldn't want to anyway.

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Might be interested in this (Warning: some adult humour/themes/content): http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/5090-Beneath-A-Steel-Skyrim

I agree with where he goes with this, but I don't know if I agree with his assertion that what they are doing is "the same", since all he seems to mean by that is "they are both kinds of games that I like".

Where I agree with him, and where I think the heart of his point lies, is that you can make a decision as a designer as to which direction you want to grow the size of your game world.

Open world games tend to emphasize growing the boundaries of their worlds more horizontally, along the X axis. The square footage and/or acreage of the game's world is enormous. But vertically, the characters you meet in that world and the ways you interact with any one particular place in that world are not very deep. Even if you're a game like Skyrim and you create a lot of complex, interlocking systems (e.g., alchemy, cooking, smithing, enchanting, buying/selling, etc), those systems apply and work the same in all places, so they are just the mechanics version of horizontal growth. The result is that no place, no character, no interaction in the game feels truly unique. If you take away all of skyrim's art assets and just have a world of pale shapes, you find a game that is spread wide but thin.

When you look at Adventure games, on the other hand, they tend to be more interested in growing the boundaries of their worlds more vertically. The overall world size is small and you revisit a lot of characters and locations multiple times. But more emphasis is placed on making each character and place a unique experience. There are all kinds of one-off interactions you can do in a single location or with a single character that you can't do anywhere else in the entire game. Even if you take away all the game's art assets, you find that although the world is not spread very wide, it is piled satisfyingly high!

Open-world games at their strongest are a shallow ocean with a jaw-dropping surface area, whereas Adventure games at their strongest are a lake with a comparatively tiny surface area, but so deep that you would think you could swim to the center of the earth.

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First of all there’s no such thing as “infinite possibility”, there’s no such thing as anything infinite, even the sun will die one day.
So with this assertion you mean to tell me that you've seen the edges of space?

Yeah, I thought not.

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First of all there’s no such thing as “infinite possibility”, there’s no such thing as anything infinite, even the sun will die one day.
So with this assertion you mean to tell me that you've seen the edges of space?

Yeah, I thought not.

So? I haven't seen a giraffe, or the Great Wall of China or your house does that mean these things don't exist?

I haven't seen the other end of the cable that comes out of my wall, does that mean it's goes on forever?

(I know nothing about astrophysics but isn't the accepted theory that the universe itself isn't infinite?)

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First of all there’s no such thing as “infinite possibility”, there’s no such thing as anything infinite, even the sun will die one day.
So with this assertion you mean to tell me that you've seen the edges of space?

Yeah, I thought not.

So? I haven't seen a giraffe, or the Great Wall of China or your house does that mean these things don't exist?

I haven't seen the other end of the cable that comes out of my wall, does that mean it's goes on forever?

(I know nothing about astrophysics but isn't the accepted theory that the universe itself isn't infinite?)

It's not accepted that it is infinite OR finite.

What we know is that A) The universe had a definite beginning, B) The universe has been expanding since then, and C) The speed of light is constant and does not change.

Based on all of that information, we have an *observable* universe which is finite only in the sense that we can't see farther than we can see. Or to use Neil DeGrasse Tyson's analogy: A ship at sea has a visible horizon beyond which it can see no further, but it is *pretty sure* that the ocean keeps going beyond that horizon. But how far? It doesn't know. Maybe a few hundred miles, maybe forever.

So no one can really say one way or the other.

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Yeah that was what I understood, but if we accept that the universe is expanding doesn't that mean that it has a certain size - ie that it stops somewhere, meaning that whatever lies beyond that might be infinite but is not universe? Sorry if I'm being dense... I'm not arguing (I'm in no way qualified to do so), just asking out of curiosity.

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Yeah that was what I understood, but if we accept that the universe is expanding doesn't that mean that it has a certain size - ie that it stops somewhere, meaning that whatever lies beyond that might be infinite but is not universe? Sorry if I'm being dense... I'm not arguing (I'm in no way qualified to do so), just asking out of curiosity.

"...meaning that whatever lies beyond that might be infinite but not is not universe?"

I think the answer is something like that, though I am not an expert on this subject either. Another way of looking at the same question is that, if the universe had a beginning, then what existed BEFORE the universe?

I'm not clear on the specifics, but I think currently the most supported explanation is that there is a distinction between universe/space and "nothing", but "nothing" is actually defined by the constant cancelling out of two equal but opposing energies, which are thought of as something like matter and anti-matter. In a state of nothing, they are both sort of bubbling and randomly crashing into each other all the time, and the universe exploded into existence in conditions where "matter energy" bubbled over, throwing the cancellation of energies out of balance and leading to a huge explosion of matter.

And now the universe exists, but it is expanding. Not only is it expanding, but the speed at which it is expanding is constantly accelerating. That observation allowed us to calculate the expansion and then reverse the math and determine when our universe was born.

Two strange things that complicate the simplicity of the "explosion" way of looking at the universe is that explosions are sort of chaotic, but everything in the universe (i.e., galaxies/clusters, etc) is spaced apart pretty much equally, so it is oddly balanced for an explosion. Another strange thing is that you would expect things at the edges of the observable universe to be older or everything to be about the same age, but there are new galaxies around the universe that appear to be... YOUNGER THAN THE UNIVERSE?! WHAT?!?!

And that's where the equal/opposing energies come back into play, so new things may be emerging out of nothingness even now.

Some people even think that our universe isn't singular and it isn't special. It is just one universe, like you can have just one galaxy, or just one star system. So you end up with a situation where "nothingness" is this sort of goop that is constantly churning and bubbling and flowing, and every little splash and bubble is a kind of universe.

I don't understand the details of any of this stuff. I just repeat what my friends with science degrees tell me. =P

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How is this not the point of your spin off thread?

I'm afraid the point of my spin off thread was just a bit of silliness!

Silliness?! Is that allowed around here!? ;)

I think any creative project can take influence from most anything in the world. It is less about the original item of influence, and more about the interpretation and execution of that influence.

Fun pills and sleds for everyone.

Smiles

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First of all there’s no such thing as “infinite possibility”, there’s no such thing as anything infinite, even the sun will die one day.

This is why i cannot enjoy video game rpg's that much, since the boundaries limiting your actions feel often too restricting and hence take a lot from the immersion and overall enjoyment. Best way to enjoy freedom of choice and possibilities so far has been on tabletop rpg's although it is not without it's own flaws. Especially the narrative often falls flat compared to more carefully thought and constructed story in restrictive environment.

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I need to apologize in advance, as I'm pretty much shooting down the idea for this very thread.

there is probably nothing as there should be nothing.

Bethesda made skyrim large through having a large overworld and a series of dungeons, but infinite possibilities? HOH NO! most adventure games did it better. why? Because a lot of the same, and a lot of nothing else, does not speak possibilities: hack, slash, level up, loot, monotonous quest dialogue, arrow in the knee banter, currrrrrved sworrrrds. In adventure games, try using a rubber chicken to stop gears from moving: just hear a squeak and a snide comment. a metal pipe instead: ricochets across the room, character berates you for trying to kill him. combine items to provide just enough girth and grip to stop it. screen now pans a few inches to the side to reveal a pretty obvious "stop" lever.

Even if you weren't actually given an option, it's about providing the illusion that you could. and giant (in)conviently placed mountains and invisible walls don't provide that. and when your only methods of interaction is talking, smashing, or blasting, well i actually already adressed that. Though talking is shared, you could always try using or showing items to characters for reactions or plot development.

A lot of adventure games used the fourth wall, and could still be used to create aforementioned illusions; not by having a large world, but teasing the possibility of continuing in a direction, but the character straight up defying your commands and saying he's not interested in going there. It's a strange sort of logic, but in one scenario, it really seems like "can't" = "can't", while in the other it's "can't" = "can, but just won't".

They could try doing more things like skyrim, but I don't think it'll end well; lot's of optional areas? Makes littles sense when there's no grinding in the game, and sidetracking stagnates the pacing that is the strength of adventure games. They COULD have technical sidequests, but there's the risk of inventory clutter which has been a problem in adventure games, and you end up just rubbing all objects together and on everything til something happens, and if the sidequests can be picked up at any time, there's still the pacing issue.

If they want to give more feeling of possibilities, they should basically show the attempts of whatever the player is trying to do, no matter how silly or nonsensical it is. perhaps especially if it is. use rubber chicken on toilet. oh god it's flooding! find mop. use on floor. get wet mop. use on power supply. power outage. that was pointless, you were here to use one of the computers.

even though the interaction in adventure games are also limited, and you can't do everything you could in real life: you can't specify that your character should shake a persons hand or kick him in the shins if you select 'touch' and click on another character... or can you? make it contextual: the same way you have branching, multiple choice dialogue, give different ways of using objects, or interacting. At this point I'm rambling, but I'm still saying there's little to learn from skyrim, especially now that it seems dragons dogma is everything I wish skyrim would have been, and especially because what makes skyrim good, could likely make an adventure game bad. I hope I've been clear, despite rambling examples.

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What about implementing a basic free-form skill tree in the game.. that could be interesting and add another flavour to the mix

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