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Ketchaval

Hint Systems.

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What about implementing hint systems into all genres of games. I''ve just been playing some interactive fiction (adventure games) where they have a hint system which gives you several hints starting from the general and going to more specific hints as you ask for more help. This is a pretty useful system (since adventure games usually have 1 solution to a puzzle). But would such a system be possible with other styles of game. For example how could one make a hint system that dealt with the unpredictable nature of RTS strategic combat? Hints given wouldn''t necessarily work with the way the player had been playing. Such a system would work better with more linear games. (Platform games etc).

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Well, with an RTS game you wouldn''t neccessarily focus on the outcome of a given battle. Hints given in a strategy game would most likely reference the different qualities of the various units and how they can be used effectively, or comment on various strategies, like faster resource gathering and more effective unit management.

Action games would focus on the use of the various weapons, and discuss some of the enemies weak points, as well as comment on various items and how they could be best implemented against enemies and obstacles.

I''ve never really encountered or used a hint system so I can''t really comment on how it would all work together, but this is just my idea of what it would cover.

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"Need more eeenput..."
- #5, "Short Circuit"
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I have been thinking about implementing a kind of hint system into an fps, or rpg type game. The way it would work would be that the hint provider would be the character's mind itself. This is kind of a reverse to the consciousness post in that the AI suggests actions and you agree or not agree to accept them. So for instance, the player gets trapped in a room, if there is a key hidden behind a rock, the player would see an onscreen display of his character's thoughts, something along the lines of "I wonder if these louts would be dumb enough to do something like that..." and the rock would be highlighted...something like that anyway...just my 2 cents.

Edited by - Alandre Sessine on June 26, 2001 6:16:28 AM

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The way I see those hints...
They could be context-sensitive, like the ones Alandre Sessine talks about, but those work mosty (if not only) for linear games. Once you play through the game, they are useless, but who replays linear adventure games?
Other type is general hints, which are more "Tips of the day", instead of hints. Those are useful for the newbies, but once a player masters the game, he turns off the tips. Also, those tips are usually abstracts from the game manual, so if you read the manual, you don''t need them.
I would really prefer a nice set of tutorials vs a tip/hint system, except for the following case:

One of those highy randomised worlds, stories, encounters, characters, dialogues we are discussing lately. A game, where the chance a player jumps in two exactly the same situations is below 10%. I would appreciate a hint system in such game. It envolves heavy and complicated AI, but we''re just talking now...So the AI could make conclusions and give you hints on the problems you come up to. I.e. 3 vilains ambush you in a forest, you ask for help and the AI returns:

"Those men are dressed in common villager clothes and their weapons look handmade. There is a belief in most of the villages in that region that there''s Spirit that protects the forests, can take any form he wants, even human, and wields a crafted quaterstaff."

This is provided you have such quaterstaff too. Also, the description could point you to act like, say royal herald or some aristocrat, i.e you could say: "Get out of the way, peasant! You know the penalty for stopping a royal herald on duty, don''t you?". And the description of their clothes and weapons could mean it won''t be that hard to beat them by yourself.
But there should be a flip side. Using the above example, those peasants could be skilled criminals, disguised as humble villagers, so some players could get into trouble attacking them. This would allow several (at least two) levels of hints to be developed. The lower level would be used my more skilled players and would return something like that above. The higher level is the beginners'' level: it would return almost the same feedback, but it could add: "Below the clothes you see something shining, the blade of a dirk, well hidden for the unexpecting observer.", helping the player take the right move.
Also different levels of help could take different time to come up. I.e. the lower level would take, depending on the situation, say, 3-10 seconds and the higher 15-30 secs. This would simulate that the player is just standing and thinking over the situation. In the above example, if the player chose the higher help level, the vilains may get unpatient and attack him, but the lower level wouldn''t give him all the useful information...

Anyway, enough for now, i''m ranting too much...

Boby Dimitrov
boby@shararagames.com
Sharara Games Team

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I would like to say that I think it is important to consider the effect a hint system''s implementation will have on the player''s suspension of disbelief.

If the help system is implemented in such a way that it is inconsistent with the rest of the game, it could be distracting. That could ruin the pacing of the game, or just draw attention to the fact that the experience is "just a game."

It can be very difficult to come up with a way to make this sort of system blend with the rest of the game, so that it provides the necessary assistance subtly. But I believe that in most cases the effort will be well worth the trouble.

Also, many game designers do not always pay careful attention to implementing systems in this careful, creative manner. That gives any designer who does an advantage. It automatically gives a jump on the competition. (Did I spel that korrectlie?)



Jonathon
quote:
"Mathematics are one of the fundamentaries of educationalizing our youths." -George W. Bush

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Well, a good way to make this blend in a Fantasy style RPG-like is to have people pray for some help from their given ''Puzzle God'' or they do a scrying in the water or fire. It should be just as easy to find useful ways of hinting in other games that maintain the game specs and continue the immersion...

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - The future of RPGs Thanks to all the goblins in the GDCorner niche

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Suspension of disbelief is not necessarily a bad thing Jonathon...it coulc create a postmodern playing experience for the player ie little reminders that he/she is indeed playing a game. Things like the evil conscience ''knocking'' on the monitor in Black and White when you have been idle for a while, and a the tip in Metal Gear Solid about using the other control pad. These events may remind the player that it is indeed a game they are playing, but it may not necessarily ruin the playing experience. After all we still watch postmodern movies and enjoy them.
Back to the topic of hints, I do not believe that the hint mechanic I tried to define earlier is only suited to linear adventures...it could respond to different situations in the game, and only provide a ''guess'' as to the next action the player should take. They do not necessarily have to be the ''right'' action. They could act in turn as hints, and also as markers where players make their choice in the game and continue based on the choice taken. ''To listen to, or not to listen to my guide/level 30 sword of rathos/the oracle of daethos as to whether or not to scale this cliff''. This can encourage replayability in that people can play again and listen to their guide/level 30 sword of rathos/the oracle of daethos in a place where they ignored its advice to take the stairs and took the lift instead

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Well, when it comes to pre-empting the future, this is something that I have been thinking about a lot. In a series of books by the Australian author ''Traci Harding'' there is eventually a device that allows the person using it to see three different futures.
  1. The future as it would be in the most perfect circumstance.
  2. The future if everything went absolutely wrong.
  3. The future as it would be if all following events were handled in the same way as the past


These may all be the same, or two the same or even all differing. This gives the player a look at all the possible outcomes that may occur inbetween the two extremes.

From here, the player could also do a little bit more hinting that involves searching the best options to take (for those people who have read Janny Wurts ''The War of Light and Shadow'' series) so as to have the best possible outcome for the player. These could be as detailed as the game designer wanted them to be, or not.

It can all be done fairly simply, but it does require at least a little prescripting of the story in order for the player to be able to gain future insight.

Actually, even if the story were to be generated at random, the story could be generated ahead of time (by a few steps) in order to give the player a chance to look into the future and see what may or may not happen.

OK, I am just ranting again now

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - The future of RPGs Thanks to all the goblins in the GDCorner niche

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There are some good ideas (and angles on the subject) being knocked about here.

In Dune 2 (- nearly the first RTS game), there was an advisor that worked as an Encyclopedia of everything the player had encountered. Such a system could be used to provide tips..

Turret guns = work better when used in a defensive line.

Or, General tips on attacking / defense (involving the units discovered so far) could also be given.

Ie. How to defend buildings, attack sentry turrets etc.
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(On praying) Praying to different gods could give you different tips. Ie. Praying to Mars (god of War) would give you different advice than praying to more caring god. Companion characters can also be used to give hints.

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Right solution, or guidance ? Some of the adventure hint systems get you to try the things that *don't* work, and the replies to the attempt at these actions helps guide the player to the pre-determined solution. This might not work as well in a action / strategy game, as trial and error experimentation (in combat related situations) would lead to death or injury.

Edited by - Ketchaval on June 26, 2001 2:57:59 PM

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