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defeating the walkthrough

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Here it is- your dream come true. Your first, big, epic game. It will make millions. People will be talking about it for months, and playing it for years. You have spent the past 9 months writing the story, the engine, and most importantly of all - the puzzles. Each one took longer than an hour to make, some would take days to beat. It all came to an end. Your game would have taking months of playing to appreciate, if not for the fact that any twelve year old could go online, type under google < (insert game''s title here) walkthrough > and in an instant play the game as well as you. Your perfect game is now unappreciated, and mocked. All because of walkthroughs. As game developers, writers, and programmers, we have to find a way to make walkthroughs unable to affect how our games are enjoyed. Any ideas?

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quote:
Original post by Chokki As game developers, writers, and programmers, we have to find a way to make walkthroughs unable to affect how our games are enjoyed. Any ideas?

Are you somehow living in a parallel universe where walkthoughs are broadcast direct into your brain? Because over here you actually have to actively go and hunt out out (be that either gamefaqs or an actual printed thing). If people want to use a walkthough to ruin an entire game thats their problem, but it can sure as hell be helpful for figuring out that obscure puzzle you''ve been stuck on for the last month.

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quote:
Original post by Chokki
As game developers, writers, and programmers, we have to find a way to make walkthroughs unable to affect how our games are enjoyed.


No, we don''t have to do anything.





Kami no Itte ga ore ni zettai naru!

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We already got our money, and it''s less likely that players will return the games because they are hard.

But anyway, if you want an example of a game that you can''t write a walkthrough for, check out NetHack. And the conclusion you can draw is that randomness is the key to fighting walkthroughs.

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Only 9 months to make an epic game? Impressive

Anyway, getting to your actual question.. There''s a reason why I don''t purchase the hint books for games when I go to the store, although at EBGames they''re always happy to say "Would you like the guide book for $9 more?" and I always promptly answer with a "No thanks"..

My reason? because I''d rather _play_ the game, not follow step by step instructions so I can see the game''s ending.

Short answer, it''s the player''s fault for using a walkthrough. Also, if the playtime can be decreased from months down to a matter of days, then there''s a good chance that your (in theory) game isn''t very long, just confusing to play. The only time I''ve looked at walkthroughs is when I''ve either beaten the game and want to see if I missed any secret things, or if I''ve walked around the same area for 2 hours, and I can''t find the freakin'' 3 foot diameter cave in the side of a wall with a wooden crate in front of it (a result of bad level design imho).

It''s just not a problem I''d worry about. Have a nice day, and may your code compile smoothly sir



Klowner
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http://dugnet.com/klown

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Well actually I tend to enjoy games a lot more when using a walkthrough. I just can''t be bothered anymore to solve all the brainbusters (yeah I''m old and just don''t have the time), yet I gladly follow the story while I''m enjoying the graphical and musical experience.

Forcing me to puzzle around for weeks would make me dislike your game and not buying it. Like all software, it is mine and I decide how I enjoy it most.

On a side note, I recently re-purchased Blade Runner and it has a variable storyline, which could be a help in making walkthroughs less interesting.

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There are certain intriquacies of gameplay that can''t be recorded in a walkthrough. I mean, unless you know how to write down on paper how to perfectly play stuff like anything by Treasure.

I think, if anything, you should be happy there are walkthroughs. It means your game was good enough that certain players feel neccessary to write a walkthrough that will get other players to play through the game.

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Walkthoughs can be very useful especially in games that seem to only make sense to the designer, or to help find those secrets.

For instance I was playing soul reaver once I spent days stuck in this old church. I tried everything I could think finally I gave up and looked at a guide which told me to open some lids on a pipe, something that I had tried dozens of times before but had never succeeded in doing because I was never exactly on. It was only with that guide and numerous tries that I was finally able to advance.

Another use of guides to allow the player to find all those interesting secerts that they might otherwise miss. Such tossing a gold coin in to the foutain then climbing to the top of the church, leap across to the nearby house, going to the balcony in the master bedroom and knock the flower pot over to kill the begger trying to get the gold coin. Then going down and stealing his wallet before the police arrive. to get the all powerful beggers wallet.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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I can clearly see your point with walkthroughts but if a player actually bothers to turn on the computer, go to the net and look for a walkthrough about a game, they might have a reason.

Maybe they want to know if they left something behind.. maybe there is a puzzle that they have been trying for 15+ days and they can''t solve the frigging puzzle..(that''s why I have done it Im tired from trying!)

Now if the walkthrough is read before the player actually tries or sees something that he isnt supposed to see there''s the problem. But solving a puzzle that is too hard might be good.

I remember an old game that ran on Windows 3.1, a puzzle game. I loved that game but the level 36 or something was too darn hard. In that game if tried more than 5 times it would offer you to jump that level. For me it was a relief having that feature.. I got to that level and the game jumped me.. I continued playing; later my computer had a problem and I had to reinstall. I started to play again.. this time the game wouldn''t jump me, I don''t know why. I spent more than a month trying.. I finally stopped playing and forgot about that game.

You don''t want your players to stop playing because they are too stupid to beat your puzzle or because your puzzle was too hard. You want the player to have fun, that''s all.

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Firstly, I agree with most of the others; walkthroughs are not a problem. Some people I know will not buy a game unless they know they can get a walkthrough. They like to know that if they get stuck, they can find an answer and continue to enjoy the rest of the game. Therefore, I do not agree that walkthroughs are a problem for 99% of games.

However, let''s say you''re running some sort of competition... you know, "the first one to complete the game wins a prize" or whatever. The answer to the problem falls into the same category as most of my other proposed solutions to game development; procedural content.

Instead of having designers painstakingly create content from start to finish, designers work on more finely-grained components which the game''s algorithms put together based on a seed value. This seed value can be generated from a hash function based on the time you started playing the game, meaning that everybody''s game will be subtlely different.

However, the problem isn''t solved, merely changed; you have to develop algorithms that will generate puzzles from standard building blocks. I don''t think this is impossible, but it will require a little more thought into the basic and abstract components of a ''puzzle'' so that a system can generate them. eg. a few different RPG puzzle types might include "key/lock", "dangerous terrain", "concealed foes", and "minimum skill level required". Each of those has various aspects that a designer can create, and the system can pick some out accordingly.

I have several other theories on this, but I''ll save all the detail for now.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL Docs | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost
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quote:
Original post by Kylotan
However, let''s say you''re running some sort of competition... you know, "the first one to complete the game wins a prize" or whatever.

Heh, no problem there. First to win will claim the prize and THEN write the walkthrough.

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I think that games are becoming harder and harder to write walkthroughs for anyway. Exept for absurdly linear anomalies like FFX, games are becoming more open-ended, and are usually filled with non-linear story elements that may or may not have a profound impact on the player''s experience. A wolkthrough has become more of a "suggested order of completion" with tips on overcoming specific obstacles or solutions for specific puzzles.

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Here''s an idea.. include the walkthrough inside the game.
When a gamer gets stuck he can click on the help button (possibly only enabled if he spends too long without getting any points). If he chooses to look at the tip don''t award points (ala sierra) for the things he reads there. It could even provide simple tips first, costing a little ("Take a good look around the scene"), and provide more and more information until it reads something like: "You have to pick up the bloody rock and smash the window, moron!" Each hint costs a few points and if he chooses to get all the information it might cost 1.5 or 2 times the points he''d get if he didn''t use the hint system (Instead of getting 10 points he looses 5 or 10 points).
A similar system might be used with logic type puzzles in the game. Solve a rubix cube inserted in the game (probably because the designer couldn''t find a more suited puzzle - see "Ring 2" by Arxel tribe) and get 10 point, skip it using the hint system and pay a little. It shouldn''t cost too much though, unless the game is purely logic puzzle based. For a Sierra type game (ie QFG, SQ, PQ, LSL etc), it should be fairly cheap, for a Myst type game it might cost quite a lot.

This way no one would bother to create a walkthrough for the game.
If the player got stuck, he can just see what he must do to solve this particular puzzle.
The player would probably only use the hint system in case of emergency, since it costs points.

To be fair, this isn''t my idea. It was used in the Tex Murphy games by Access (At least the "Pandora Directive")

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I remember the help system from Metal Gear Solid 2. I was doing a puzzle that required me to shoot, with a rifle, a number of detonators. The last detonator was on a flying machine in the distance, and was a very difficult target. I hadn''t paid attention to the instructions for the puzzle, and didn''t realize that I had to shoot them all before continuing. I tried timing my run, shooting the obvious ones in different patterns, and a variety of other tactics, and generally made an ass of myself. Eventually, my comm unit crackled to life, and one of my advisors told me too shoot the last detonator. Intrigued by the feature, I refused to shoot the thing, and fooled around for a while. Finally, another character got on the line and described, in embarrassing detail, how to get through the puzzle. I think that''s a clever feature for a puzzle-based game.

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Iron Chef Carnage:"
Eventually, my comm unit crackled to life, and one of my advisors told me too shoot the last detonator. Intrigued by the feature, I refused to shoot the thing, and fooled around for a while. Finally, another character got on the line and described, in embarrassing detail, how to get through the puzzle. I think that''s a clever feature for a puzzle-based game.
"
Heh.. cool. I never noticed the helper in MGS2 (or at least so I think).. however
the game was extremely captivating and I once played it for something like 12 hours straight. I had been up all night and I was on the submarine/underwater base (or something) level and I was running along a corridor. Suddenly my comm unit crackled to life telling me I really should stop playing the game. It started displaying images from the original games (pre MGS1) and playing messages from those games. And so on. I was really shocked.. "Jeez, they monitor how long I play.. Must be some kind of anti-eyestrain feature or something.." I turned off the game and went to bed.
When I resumed playing from just before the comm unit acted up the same thing happened at the same location so it must have been a part of the level.. Extremely psyc-ops.. Worked against me anyway The "buggy" you have died screen on the elevator got me as well.. Almost died for real before I noticed I still had control over the character. Those bastards


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Game design rule #1: Don''t annoy the player.
Game design rule #2: You, the game designer, are not infallible.

Thus, if you happen to come up with a puzzle that some number of players have a really hard time "getting," and this is the third puzzle of 30, chances are they''ll chuck the game and never buy another one. That is, unless they can find the solution when they''re really stuck, and then keep solving puzzle 4, 5, 6, ... 30.

Oh, and saves should be allowed in any amount at any point in a game, for the very same reason. It''s not your rule as a designer to jack-boot players. Players don''t like being jack-booted about what they can do and not do. That annoys them. See Game design rule #1.

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I always liked it when the game gave you choices about how to solve a puzzle. For example, Deus Ex let you search for a secret entrence, or go in and shoot everyone. Admittedly, this may not work for every type of game, but I hate it when an RPG ask me to solve some stupid logic puzzle befor I can take on a boss, or enter a dungeon.

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quote:
Original post by Leffe
We already got our money, and it's less likely that players will return the games because they are hard.



It doesn't matter if they return it, the store is at a loss, because they (the store) bought it from us (or another warehouse dealy). So we had our money when we sold it to them(the store) .

/*
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*/

[edited by - Programmer16 on February 22, 2004 12:32:11 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Programmer16
It doesn''t matter if they return it, the store is at a loss, because they (the store) bought it from us (or another warehouse dealy). So we had our money when we sold it to them(the store) .



But if your current game gets returned like crazy and stores
are posting losses across the board, what does that say
about your track record? What do you think the chances are
that you''ll ever be able to publish another game again?

What will happen when your current paycheck runs out? Hmm...




Kami no Itte ga ore ni zettai naru!

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I guess you''d have to get a real job...

I remember the discussion a while ago about how "neat" it would be to make a game that requires interaction with a web site, or even with actual reference materials, to complete. You''ve got to dig up an atlas, or an almanac, or something, and get data, perform investigations, maybe even learn something about biochemistry in order to solve all the puzzles. And not like "If only I knew the circumference of the earth, I could catch this crook once and for all!" kind of kiddy crap, I''m talking studying up on physics and then calculating which planet you''re on (a la Have Space Suit, Will Travel). That would be pretty cool, if a little frustrating.

The discussion lasted for about three posts before someone said, "Yeah, that idea would work really well until three days before its release, whereupon the walkthrough would be posted on Gamefaqs with every solution to every puzzle." That''s a little bit of a drag, but all you can do about it is whine. Unless there''s a way to randomize sophisticated puzzles like that, you''re out of luck.

That'' a shame. It would be nice if that particular aspect of gaming (the FAQ/Walkthrough) didn''t encroach so heavily on that particular aspect of game design (unique puzzle design), but there''s no real solution to the problem.

People always complain about the stupid "brain-teaser" puzzles in games, but it really isn''t worthwhile to put more sophisticated or plausible challenges in there. It''s just a pain in the butt.

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My approach to walkthroughs is simple:

1) Avoid buying anything released by Brady Games - they tend to be incomplete, poorly edited and show no signs of actually having been proofread - with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I bought the walkthrough hoping to check that I''d found all the upgrades (sand clouds and magic fountains) only to find that, while they listed some of them on the way through, I''d found one they didn''t mention.

2) Don''t open it until I''ve completed the game at least once, or got hopelessly stuck.

In general, when I get hold of a walkthrough or guide, it''s not to try and finish the game the first time, but to find hidden extras I missed, find out more about the system behind the game, and generally explore the game in more depth.

For a purely puzzle-based game, I probably wouldn''t bother to acquire a guide.

Short of some sort of content randomisation, walkthroughs are a necessary evil, and even then, your atomic puzzle pieces could be given individual guides if they contained anything novel and/or interesting that would require actual thought to solve.

I guess the answer is: if you can''t beat ''em, join ''em - include some sort of in-game help that avoids spoilers and, hopefully, keeps the player from getting stuck.

Iron Chef: I think someone has relatively recently released a "game" which does require interaction with planted websites, and involves recieving emails from the bad guy. I can''t remember the name, but the game is out there.

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Walthroughs make my game experience more enjoyable. Why?
After I''ve finished a game, I don''t have the patience or time to try out every possible path I could have taken or discovering every secret I missed (I used to enjoy and have time for that). Now I can spend an hour or so to read some of the secrets I''ve missed and receive some second hand enjoyment. Additionally it makes me feel like I''m socialising with others that have played the same game. I tend to play rare games, so it''s common that the gamers I talk to in person have never heard of my favorite games.

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