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Dear Video Games: Please Stop Immediately Telling Me What To Do

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by JoeStrout, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Ran across this interesting article today.



    Pretty interesting point. I'm a huge fan of games that teach by giving you (1) a need to do something (e.g. an obstacle you can't get over without jumping), and (2) a safe opportunity to experiment until you figure it out.

    Of course, Super Mario Bros was written for a controller that had two (count 'em!) action buttons and a d-pad. Modern controllers have two analog sticks, a d-pad, four shoulder buttons, and four action buttons, plus weird stuff like being able to push the sticks down for yet another button, etc. And some games use them in combinations. Or make use of the accelerometer.

    So maybe it's just not practical to expect people to discover controls by experimenting. On the other hand... why not give the player a chance? If they don't do the required behavior after 5 or 10 seconds, then show the tip. If they do, then silently file that tip away as "not needed" and never show it.

    What do you think?
     
  2. nat42

    nat42

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    I'm not sure I see a problem with Mario Odyssey prompts. I feel it takes some effort to read them, so if you figure it out you probably do/can ignore the text; and I feel like from what I've seen of the game, that it leaves a lot for players to figure out.

    Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island felt the need to explain it's controls way back in 1995, it's not that new to the series.

    Anyway I see a huge difference between a few ignoreable words appearing like subtitles and pausing a game to show a few paragraphs on how to beat a boss the player hasn't encountered yet.

    I feel like the Assasin's Creed example is something else again. Like it was added as a hack to address issues found in user testing. I guess these are all fixes to usability, something about the Assassin's Creed clip just makes me think of Clippy offering help like "I can see you are trying to write a letter"
     
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  3. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    Hah hah... "It looks like you're trying to assassinate a guard; can I help?" :p

    (Yes, take that and stick it in your file, NSA!)

    Now I want to make a game that actually has a Clippy character helping you to commit heinous crimes (of the sort that action games routinely have you committing anyway, of course).
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  4. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Non-hand holding games seem to have become something of a niche genre.

    It's just idiocracy. More and more idiots every day. Easy to milk them with lame games, but you have to walk them through and pat them on the back because stupidity and insecurity seem to go hand in hand.

    Not saying if you like casual/easy games you are an idiot! But then, if you were an idiot, would you know? Probably not. You'd probably think you were pretty smart, huh? Wouldn't you?

    Of course, being the BIG TIME geenyus that I am, I appreciate games that require small amounts of mental effort, and am generally turned off by games that continually prompt you even when its completely obvious what needs to be done.

    I appreciate games with options that allow you to customize the amount of UI also.

    One thing I don't appreciate is the current need for every AAA game to have a stupid crafting system, skill trees, etc. Maybe its just developer fatigue or whatever they call it, but I just don't feel like learning stuff like that or looking at menus. I want to play a video game, not a board game.
     
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  5. Kemonono

    Kemonono

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    This has been one of my pet peeves with modern games, which have grown into more than just a minor annoyance.
    And one of, among several, reasons why I want to design games on my own.

    I think Rimworld has found a good way to have unobtrusive hints, where it displays a hint about the action the first time you perform it.

    Other than that, there has been a number of times where I'm not looking for that 40h experience, but rather something that can occupy me for an evening. I'm willing to pay full prize, but are dreading the 1hour+ required introduction sequence before you are allowed to actually play the game, so I skip it.
     
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  6. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    How many few-hours-long experiences have you really seen that have an hour long introductory sequences?
     
  7. Kemonono

    Kemonono

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    I don't see many hours-long game experiences in general at all.

    I have, however, seen, a lot, of hour or longer introduction sequences.
    Which is expected of you to progress through, before you "unlock" the full game, and let you play on your own terms.
     
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  8. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    Yeah, but both at the same time rarely happens. Seemed like you were condemning situations where you just had a game that's a few hours long but spends a huge portion of that on the tutorial.

    If it's a 40 hour game with an hour-long tutorial you want to play a few hours of, you only have to play that intro part once before moving to the more interesting content.
     
  9. Kemonono

    Kemonono

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    No, not at all. I embrace short games when I get a chance, which is probably why I mostly prefer indie games nowdays.
    However for a 40 hour, or whatever length a typical AAA claim to be, I rarely, if ever, expect to complete it.
    I think for the most part, the majority don't complete games, but play it as more of a time leisure time filler, in substitute for TV.

    So when I have some free time, I take a look at a list of new games and see if anything peeks my interest.
    More often than not I just ignore the big titles, because I know it's likely it's going to take at least half the playtime just getting to the good bits.

    I don't know, maybe I'm just completely outside of the target audience for those kind of games.
    But I'm used to the kind of games that just throws you into it, and let you figure things out for yourself.
    And when those restrictions, an introduction sequence have, are thrown at me against my will, it feels demotivating for me rather than enticing me to continue.
     
  10. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    (sorry Kemonono, not trying to ignore you here, but I've been writing this unrelated response for nearly an hour)

    Good article, though as nat42 says multiple approaches are being conflated here as roughly the same.

    I've actually been playing AC Origins, and I too have found it annoying how frequently they pop up with these tips. I'd like it if they were a bit more unobtrusive, or could be turned off (perhaps with a contextual "turn these off" button when it appears). I definitely CAN understand their purpose though--I've never been in a place where those specific prompts were needed, but occasionally there have been others that were useful, such as the wall breaking one. However, like mentioned they should be shown after some time rather than immediately.

    Much the same for Super Mario Odyssey. It should at least give you the chance to take these actions without prompting you about them.

    I would like to point out, however, that this can be a design decision--and not in the sense of "dumbing things down." In some games, the player exploring the controls to find out what their character can do is an important part of the experience. In others, it's not a part of the experience at all.

    Consider DMC or Platinum Games...games. These character action games are all based around the character performing these stylish and often very precise combos. The challenge in these games is not in figuring out what the character can do. The challenge is in manipulating the character properly to do what you want them to.

    Note: I did NOT listen to any of these. Some probably have heavy metal or something playing over the game.



    In the games above, you're told pretty much explicitly how to do each combo. The challenge comes from implementing them. So in this case it's more than reasonable to tell the player how to perform each action

    Shadow of War sounds like the most egregious transgression by far, however. In my opinion it's the worst of all of them, because it's not just the game telling the player what options they have, but the game telling the player how to play. That should definitely be left up to the player to figure out, with such explicit tips possibly being mentioned in a bestiary or something.

    One game that did it rather nicely was Deus Ex Human Revolution. When you got to a situation where a tutorial might be shown, a prompt flashed telling the player there was a tutorial available. You could choose to watch it or skip it.
     
  11. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Nice explanation @EternalAmbiguity
    Related tldr - some games are improved with less guided direction = difficulty, while others are degraded by 'helpful', hinting designs.
     
  12. Master-Frog

    Master-Frog

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    I think it's because old school gamer people grew up with hard games, and so we already know how to solve every puzzle. But for new gamers in the testing phases, they probably just longer aimlessly on the puzzle parts.

    it's like automatic vs stick shift
     
  13. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Perhaps it went down something like this:

    People who can make a video game have to be pretty smart. A bit above average. So when they started making games, it was smart people making games for people like them. Just natural.

    Then video games grew in popularity, and became a major business. Since the goal of any business is to maximize profit, the most efficient way to do so is to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Idiots. Stupid is the LCD. We all begin as stupid and remain stupid our whole lives. Some people gain some smarts, but the stupid is always there.

    I don't know why idiocracy is my answer to everything. Probably because I left the house yesterday and had to interact with people.
     
  14. SoundStormLabs

    SoundStormLabs

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    What might be worth considering that recent games have done is to give players the option to turn off hints like in Bioshock or Darkest Dungeon or Borderlands. However, the only time where not telling new players the controls is actually more beneficial to remove annoyance is if a game is so cliche that it conforms solely to a conventional standard, like w-a-s-d LMB RMB in all COD games or arrows in all of the super mario bros games, otherwise you're just asking for your inbox to be spammed with angry emails about why you don't explain the controls.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
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  15. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    I really dislike it when games tell you exactly what to press. Whenever I see that I just think if they are going to tell me what I need to press then why don't they just go all the way and do it for me? Why am I even playing this game if the game already knows exactly what I should be pressing and when I should do it?

    Even worse is when games try to integrate a tutorial into the first few levels of the game. It makes replaying the game again from the start a horrible experience. Ever try to play the original Call of Duty from the start? It puts you through a training level that you cannot skip, where it walks you through every button, every type of weapon, every type of movement.... OMG it is horrible.
     
  16. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Yeah but in every game with that option it seems you end up missing key important information. So you disable hints to stop getting endless nagging about how to use the "Use" key to open a door every time you encounter a door, but then you miss out on the rare important hint about some obscure system that you really need to know about, but isn't part of the overall game genre.
     
  17. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    This^

    One of my favorite recent games was really awful in this regard. If you played Sniper Elite 4 on Authentic difficulty so that you didn't get all the indicators that tell you exactly what the enemy knows and is doing, it also disabled your mission objectives from appearing in the map screen. So if this was your first playthrough, you would have no idea what to do at all. This essentially made it impossible to play the campaign on the hard difficulty on your first go, so what I had to do was load a mission on a lower difficulty, memorize the mission objectives, and then go back.
     
  18. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Dear dragon's lair, tell me what to do!
     
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  19. Martin_H

    Martin_H

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    I think you're on to something!


    Currently I'm playing the new "Prey" and I think it has a refreshingly low level of handholding and it stresses the point that you're supposed to improvise and find your own solutions to problems. It really is the like System Shock 3 for me. I like it vastly more than Bioshock. Strong contender to become one of my all time favorites alongside the good Thief and Deus Ex games (both series have their black sheep).
     
  20. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    I can totally see that in an RPG.

    "It looks like you want to kidnap the princess; can I help you?"
    > Good hiding spots
    > How to obtain Guard patrol routes
    > Citizens you can bribe.
    > Vendors for Drowsingbloom

    ...Actually, you might be on to something with that one...
     
  21. Jeror

    Jeror

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    i have the same thoughts
     
  22. SoundStormLabs

    SoundStormLabs

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    Most games circumvent this by simply making the tutorial optional but still containing what you need to know. Like for Witcher 3 yet another famous game, you can decide not to go through the tutorial and miss important information by your own choice to unnecessarily suffer the consequences like what you mentioned, or you can simply go through it and learn what you need to know to actually play the game. Like I said, usually the only time that it is a good idea to make hints actually unavailable is if the game is designed to be so conventional players can guess everything. Even though hints might be annoying to the 10% of veteran gamers who've played so many games they know what the commonalities are, hiding hints is detrimental to the 90% of other players who comprise a majority of the profit for flat rates.

    Another way games get around this problem is with cut scenes and special action sequences. If something is truly important to know to continue playing the game, there will be some action or cut scene that leads you to use a new button or combination just before needing it, and it won't be a hint containing all info on a specific enemy but rather just a possible ability or tactic you can use that will probably be helpful.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  23. Hyblademin

    Hyblademin

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    I recognize that improving game tutorials is important, and many, many players take huge issue with interrupting the early action with text boxes, arrows, or whatever else. I do agree that for simpler games, and especially as it relates to controlling the game rather than to its mechanics, nonverbal teaching methods usually feel the most satisfying and are the least likely to let the player get bored right away.

    I'm not going to get into the differences between explicit teaching and handholding here (please consider the difference if you haven't), I'm just going to point out that not everyone dislikes a thorough tutorial. Plenty of people don't mind.

    Many board games take hours to learn, and reading and re-reading the instructions for them are way more brutal than any video game tutorial I've ever experienced. Yet, for most of the board game parties I've been to, something like half the players want to go over the instructions in detail before starting, while the others want to learn from the ground up while playing. Learning the rules is essential, and to many is one of the most interesting phases of playing a new game.

    That said, conventions need to be payed attention to. Just as I wouldn't write in the instructions to a board game, "move the game piece by gripping it with your fingers and pivoting your arm at the elbow," I wouldn't bother the player by telling them to jump with A (or something) in a platformer in most cases.

    Tutorials existing is not a clear-cut problem with design, it's just a matter of preference and attention to detail by the tutorial designer. Some tutorial features that are must-haves:
    -Option to skip, but not easy to do by accident
    -Properly written, in-game manual that is easy to reference; Wii U, for example, had this built into the system's game wrapper, a brilliant idea
    -Flexibility

    Video games have an advantage over tabletops in that they can react to us. If the game can see that the player is playing like a beginner, add more details to the tutorial, as mentioned above. If they are breezing through, shorten it. Is the player moving quickly or correctly using advanced techniques right off the bat? Skip the sections that teach them how to do that.