How Intuitive Does A Game Have to Be?

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How Intuitive Does A Game Have to Be?

At what point does giving the player the freedom to find things out for themselves become being needlessly obtuse? I bring it up because of the secrets in Cave Story.

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I prefer working things out for myself, but hate getting stuck on things, gets frustrating very quickly, and then I use a walkthrough.

If a game is going to doom you, I'd much rather it do so by your choices than by your ignorance. "The Internet is right there" is a poor excuse; we're all relying on the good will of OCD-afflicted FAQ writers rather than the craft of the game designers. If a significant portion of a game is only achieved through a nigh-impossible counter-intuitive polka dance that we'd only know the existence of through reading someone else's flowchart, there really isn't a whole lot of difference between playing and watching a playthrough on Youtube; we're experiencing the game like machines, not like people.

I got one of the standard endings of Cave Story long ago; I'm not going to replay it. It's not a short game.

I prefer games that're more intuitive or logic based like portal when it comes to in-game puzzles; I hate when a game takes the cheap approach and basically punishes me for trying to do it on my own. It's even worse for super long games like rpgs: I remember getting really pissed at Final Fantasy XII for locking away the best weapons in the game if you opened any of like 3 or 4 chests that are in no way different to other ones throughout the course of the game. Talk about a counter intuitive dick move.

For water cooler discussion I prefer things where individual experiences tend to vary enough to merit discussion like Deus Ex or Skyrim and similar open world games. How did someone get by a certain boss, what did they do with a certain faction, or even what was your favorite bug?

In Skyrim I still haven't had anything that's beaten Yahtzee's hovering-ground lady.

I really dislike Guide Dang It ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GuideDangIt ) elements of games, but I'm more acceptable of them if they aren't permanently missable.

If they are, screw you.

I like situations like the Hitman: Blood Money theatre level; the "true" solution seems simple but there's a lot of chances for mistakes between stealing a maintenance man's clothes and firing a single shot with an antique pistol from the scaffolding (or if you're really insane, swapping the actor's pistol with the real one)
There's no penalty for simply killing everyone between you and the target except the standard you hold yourself to and a newspaper article about either a massacre or a mysterious tragedy

Reminds me of the stupid zodiark spear quest in FF12.

I think there are 4 basic levels of intuitive: Intuitive, Counter-Intuitive, Obtuse and Unreasonable.

Dark Souls is (as far as I can remember) a mixture of intuitive and counter-intuitive, which is wonderful because everything can be figured out by doing the logical thing or its inverse.
Hotel Dusk was obtuse. For example there is a puzzle that requires you to dust a pen for fingerprints. To remove the excess dust you

. This was never mentioned previously, nor would anyone have a reason to believe it was even possible, but it could at least be attempted.
Braid is Unreasonable. The Secret Stars required for the best ending are so secret that they are never mentioned in the game whatsoever, and to get the complete set you need to wait for 2 hours in one level for a cloud to move into position. Even if you've somehow worked out that the Secret Stars exist, the cloud moves so slowly that it's practically immobile, and there is no way a player is going to hang out in one level for that long since most can be beaten in under 15 minutes.

Dark Soul's unintuitive-ness doesn't come from gameplay or exploration.

It comes from it not fucking explaining how any of the stats or upgrades work, and not giving you an option to respec after you've critically hobbled your character with 40 Resistance and a +5 Raw Mace.

Like, it's cool that they didn't throw in some hand-holding tutorial or something, but just put a little blurb on the goddamn level up screen that says what each stat does, instead of a bunch of arcane-looking numbers and percentages next to icons I can barely even see much less make out what they're supposed to represent.

If I have to spend three hours on the wiki before I understand enough about the game to build a character capable of making it to the final boss, that's bad design.

Bloodborne had that trolling lift under-floor. Has no one tried rolling under the lift by grand cathederal? There were no visual clues to suggest it was a false floor. Just two notes on the real floor when I played: one telling me there was a secret and the other telling me it was an illusion.

Well, a person like me cannot just walk away not knowing. So I rolling into, through...and down to my obscured death. My very next choice of action was to leave a note hastily denouncing everything there as disgusting lies. - you're welcome, future bloodborners.

Maphysto:
Dark Soul's unintuitive-ness doesn't come from gameplay or exploration.

It comes from it not fucking explaining how any of the stats or upgrades work, and not giving you an option to respec after you've critically hobbled your character with 40 Resistance and a +5 Raw Mace.

Like, it's cool that they didn't throw in some hand-holding tutorial or something, but just put a little blurb on the goddamn level up screen that says what each stat does, instead of a bunch of arcane-looking numbers and percentages next to icons I can barely even see much less make out what they're supposed to represent.

If I have to spend three hours on the wiki before I understand enough about the game to build a character capable of making it to the final boss, that's bad design.

Came to basically post this.

The amount of defence for Dark Souls in the article is probably more damning than any judgement of Dark Souls could be when it comes to its level of intuitive design.

I think it's worth noting that the pit example Yahtzee keeps using had a conspicuous mark on the floor showing the player which pixel to jump from. That mark was the entire reason why I did skip the jetpack the first time, which results in a better jetpack later even if you don't go for the secret ending.

the right level of foaming paranoia.

Mr Croshaw, if you think that Dark Souls taught me how to be a cautious, paranoid nutter in games you would be wrong, I main Medic in TF2 and after a few weeks of that you become ingrained to the core with a sensation of infinite paranoia for snipers, spies and the occasional marauding Pyro or random crit sticky. However, being perpetually paranoid of corners and what was behind me did protect me from Miyazaki's monster closets and (most of) the traps in Sen's Funhouse.

shirkbot:
I think there are 4 basic levels of intuitive: Intuitive, Counter-Intuitive, Obtuse and Unreasonable.

Dark Souls is (as far as I can remember) a mixture of intuitive and counter-intuitive, which is wonderful because everything can be figured out by doing the logical thing or its inverse.
Hotel Dusk was obtuse. For example there is a puzzle that requires you to dust a pen for fingerprints. To remove the excess dust you

. This was never mentioned previously, nor would anyone have a reason to believe it was even possible, but it could at least be attempted.
Braid is Unreasonable. The Secret Stars required for the best ending are so secret that they are never mentioned in the game whatsoever, and to get the complete set you need to wait for 2 hours in one level for a cloud to move into position. Even if you've somehow worked out that the Secret Stars exist, the cloud moves so slowly that it's practically immobile, and there is no way a player is going to hang out in one level for that long since most can be beaten in under 15 minutes.

I remember this really funny video I found on YouTube, with the guy from Braid trying (and hilariously failing) to explain to Mario how his game works, and being such huge hipster douchebag about. He was all like "It's a SUBVERSION of- Ugh. You wouldn't get it."

I prefer games that present the obstacles, and empowers the player to overcome those obstacles with the game mechanics. An example would be either Dark Souls, or Super Metroid. Both games present obstacles, and both games empower the player to overcome them by design. Some sections may be gated until you acquire the right power up, but that power up is good for more than just getting through a specific gate. It allows you to overcome multiple types of obstacles.

Other than that, fuck any RNG-based secret shit! That shit's never fun even when it is fun...

CHECK DIS OUT!!!

If you pick the third option "Birthday Cake" and defend it on the forums 77 posts in a row, then type the URL in backwards you are awarded with a SWEET secret Forum Badge!

For me, its all about whether or not the puzzle is malleable enough to be solved without first finding all the clues. There were things that I got stuck on and its because I tried to implement the correct solution without finding the last few clues. And it won't allow me. Then later on when I've found the remaining clues I could do it but didn't go back because I thought that I was wrong and didn't know that I had to find the clues to be right.

I also hate Batman riddler trophies. Not because I'm not good enough to solve them, but the whole notion of needing the correct upgrades to solve them so I stand there trying for 20 minutes is annoying. I get that the open world concept means there are puzzles I have to go back to but its annoying because I hate going to a puzzle and wasting time. Especially when there are 400 of them

Darth_Payn:

shirkbot:
I think there are 4 basic levels of intuitive: Intuitive, Counter-Intuitive, Obtuse and Unreasonable.

Dark Souls is (as far as I can remember) a mixture of intuitive and counter-intuitive, which is wonderful because everything can be figured out by doing the logical thing or its inverse.
Hotel Dusk was obtuse. For example there is a puzzle that requires you to dust a pen for fingerprints. To remove the excess dust you

. This was never mentioned previously, nor would anyone have a reason to believe it was even possible, but it could at least be attempted.
Braid is Unreasonable. The Secret Stars required for the best ending are so secret that they are never mentioned in the game whatsoever, and to get the complete set you need to wait for 2 hours in one level for a cloud to move into position. Even if you've somehow worked out that the Secret Stars exist, the cloud moves so slowly that it's practically immobile, and there is no way a player is going to hang out in one level for that long since most can be beaten in under 15 minutes.

I remember this really funny video I found on YouTube, with the guy from Braid trying (and hilariously failing) to explain to Mario how his game works, and being such huge hipster douchebag about. He was all like "It's a SUBVERSION of- Ugh. You wouldn't get it."

That's a Dorkly vid.

http://www.dorkly.com/video/30941/dorkly-bits-mario-is-too-mainstream

Personally I get more irritated at games that don't tell me a damn thing versus games that hold my hand, the early Resident Evil games were particularly bad about this in regards to some of the puzzles, which is why i'm extremely grateful that puzzles more or less vanished from later games in the series.

I simply don't have the patience to figure things out in games myself most of the time, if I find myself spending 10 minutes trying to get past one part, that's the point where I look up the solution on Youtube or Gamefaqs.

I guess you didn't grew up with NES level of cryptic games, one of the reasons why I love the Souls series so much :)

I like this level of convoluted solutions and the game not handing you everything, I like to work my ass off in these games to take the most out of them.

Rad Party God:
I guess you didn't grew up with NES level of cryptic games, one of the reasons why I love the Souls series so much :)

I like this level of convoluted solutions and the game not handing you everything, I like to work my ass off in these games to take the most out of them.

Nope, though I did grow up with the Genesis and I remember that damn barrel from Carnival Night Zone act 2 in Sonic 3 all too well, I actually did manage to figure that one out on my own through trial and error, though it was still unnecessarily confusing.

PuppetMaster:
I like situations like the Hitman: Blood Money theatre level; the "true" solution seems simple but there's a lot of chances for mistakes between stealing a maintenance man's clothes and firing a single shot with an antique pistol from the scaffolding (or if you're really insane, swapping the actor's pistol with the real one)
There's no penalty for simply killing everyone between you and the target except the standard you hold yourself to and a newspaper article about either a massacre or a mysterious tragedy

What I am very highly amused by and also rather pleased by is the fact that you're saying a solution seems simple...a solution that honestly has never even occurred to me, EVER. Despite replaying that game multiple times over the years since it was released. I've never broken onto the scaffold and taken a shot with the antique pistol, never even occurred to me to try that.

I have, however, taken other 'simple' solutions such as:
- replacing the actor's gun with the real one
- replacing the ACTOR with myself and taking the shot on stage with the real one (this is particularly fun)
- going in with a silenced sniper rifle and taking the shot from a secured balcony
- straight up taking him out in the corridor
- massacring absolutely everyone (one of the easier levels to do this I found)

And so on and so forth. Says a lot for a game that even after all this time you can hear new ideas.

I also have to agree with the above comments with respect to Dark Souls' stat system. Its pretty damn impenetrable if you don't outright use the internet to look stuff up and you can severely screw yourself with it.

Michael Prymula:
Nope, though I did grow up with the Genesis and I remember that damn barrel from Carnival Night Zone act 2 in Sonic 3 all too well, I actually did manage to figure that one out on my own through trial and error, though it was still unnecessarily confusing.

God forbid dem vidyagaems make you use your brain!, can't play any without them holding my hand at every turn and someone telling me what button to press next and spoon feed you with answers to everything!

*Ahem* I respectfully disagree.

Rad Party God:

Michael Prymula:
Nope, though I did grow up with the Genesis and I remember that damn barrel from Carnival Night Zone act 2 in Sonic 3 all too well, I actually did manage to figure that one out on my own through trial and error, though it was still unnecessarily confusing.

God forbid dem vidyagaems make you use your brain!, can't play any without them holding my hand at every turn and someone telling me what button to press next and spoon feed you with answers to everything!

*Ahem* I respectfully disagree.

But that barrel thing is just unreasonable. As Yahtzee put it: "It's not fair if you don't make all the rules clear. If I'm stuck in a puzzle game, I prefer it to be because I'm a big thick-y bobo who can't figure out where all the pieces go, not because one of the pieces was still in the box. Forgive me if it didn't occur to me to near the bleeping explode-y death ball and repurpose it as a dessert trolley!"

Besides, nowadays if something is ridiculously unintuitive like that, then you just look it up on gamefaqs. Then you're not figuring things out, you're filling out a checklist. Better to strike a balance and encourage players to actually work things out.

shirkbot:

Hotel Dusk was obtuse. For example there is a puzzle that requires you to dust a pen for fingerprints. To remove the excess dust you

.

I quite liked Hotel Dusk's "meta puzzles" that involved the hardware. I remember similar ones included

and .

As for Yahtzee's broader question about how intuitive a game should be... that's a tricky one. In any game there will be a finite number of ways to complete a goal so there has to be some kind of signposting to avoid the horrible, immersion-breaking situation where the player is left clicking on every pixel in desperation, or shooting at the level geometry at random to try to find a breakable door, or bunny-hopping around wondering why the two-foot barrier is airwalled off.

I'd say that different genres (and within that, different individual games) have different sweet-spots of hand-holding vs abandoning the player to their own devices. Good level design plays a huge role here, as does the way a game introduces rules and then sticks to them consistently.

Too many games these days swing to the side of hand-holding, which runs the risk of trivialising the in-game context. For example, I think I recall a section in one of the Splinter Cell games where you're asked to find a code on a terminal, and then use that code to open a door at the other side of the level. Very bog-standard scenario, you'll agree. A reasonable degree of hand-holding here would be to record the key-code once discovered, to avoid the risk of the player forgetting the code and having to backtrack to remind themselves. However, IIRC the game also took the liberty of automatically pulling up the code and entering it for you when you returned to the locked door, meaning the 4-digit code actually wasn't needed at all - the whole "fluff" of accessing a computer and discovering the code was just window-dressing for "press button, unlock door". It utterly trivialised the process and made the immersion as shallow as an ant's grave. This really leapt out at me, because the SC games are usually very good at exceeding player expectations of problem-solving and interactivity.

Just my rambling 2 cents.

crazya02:
But that barrel thing is just unreasonable. As Yahtzee put it: "It's not fair if you don't make all the rules clear. If I'm stuck in a puzzle game, I prefer it to be because I'm a big thick-y bobo who can't figure out where all the pieces go, not because one of the pieces was still in the box. Forgive me if it didn't occur to me to near the bleeping explode-y death ball and repurpose it as a dessert trolley!"

Besides, nowadays if something is ridiculously unintuitive like that, then you just look it up on gamefaqs. Then you're not figuring things out, you're filling out a checklist. Better to strike a balance and encourage players to actually work things out.

I didn't think that puzzle was that bad, as the puzzle in question had a raised platform near the bombs so you could approach them and experiment without being in danger. A better example IMO is one of the two stars in A3, which cannot be obtained without using sources and equipment outside of the game itself (or a ludicrous amount of trial-and-error), and also involves "one of the pieces was still in the box" logic:

So not only do you have to use physical resources and information outside the game, but you also have to realize that the QR code is significant to solving the puzzle, something that no other QR code has been up to that point, and then try and solve some obtuse "puzzle" that's contained in the message of the QR code (though honestly, if you actually did scan the QR code, chances are you're invested enough that you're gonna try and derive some meaning from the message it contains).

shirkbot:
Braid is Unreasonable. The Secret Stars required for the best ending are so secret that they are never mentioned in the game whatsoever, and to get the complete set you need to wait for 2 hours in one level for a cloud to move into position. Even if you've somehow worked out that the Secret Stars exist, the cloud moves so slowly that it's practically immobile, and there is no way a player is going to hang out in one level for that long since most can be beaten in under 15 minutes.

I actually didn't mind the stars in Braid, since you're pretty much *not* supposed to find them, and I wouldn't really consider it the "best" ending, just a different ending, since it takes an entirely unrelated approach to and interpretation of the game.

Michael Prymula:
I did grow up with the Genesis and I remember that damn barrel from Carnival Night Zone act 2 in Sonic 3 all too well, I actually did manage to figure that one out on my own through trial and error, though it was still unnecessarily confusing.

That (*^%(^(%! barrel is the epitome of game-breakingly poor level design. The hours I spent trying to hammer it all the way down with a bubble shield, only to glitch myself into the wall and then having to wait for the timer to run down to restart the checkpoint...

Maphysto:
Dark Soul's unintuitive-ness doesn't come from gameplay or exploration.

It comes from it not fucking explaining how any of the stats or upgrades work, and not giving you an option to respec after you've critically hobbled your character with 40 Resistance and a +5 Raw Mace.

Like, it's cool that they didn't throw in some hand-holding tutorial or something, but just put a little blurb on the goddamn level up screen that says what each stat does, instead of a bunch of arcane-looking numbers and percentages next to icons I can barely even see much less make out what they're supposed to represent.

If I have to spend three hours on the wiki before I understand enough about the game to build a character capable of making it to the final boss, that's bad design.

I was thinkin that while readin the article. The gameplay of Dark Souls was super intuitive. You could figure out anythin by really examinin every situation. That was great.

The stats were unintuitive as fuck though. You have absolutely no idea how any stats work except through ridiculous amounts of trial and error. That was outright stupid.

Maphysto:
Dark Soul's unintuitive-ness doesn't come from gameplay or exploration.

It comes from it not fucking explaining how any of the stats or upgrades work, and not giving you an option to respec after you've critically hobbled your character with 40 Resistance and a +5 Raw Mace.

Like, it's cool that they didn't throw in some hand-holding tutorial or something, but just put a little blurb on the goddamn level up screen that says what each stat does, instead of a bunch of arcane-looking numbers and percentages next to icons I can barely even see much less make out what they're supposed to represent.

If I have to spend three hours on the wiki before I understand enough about the game to build a character capable of making it to the final boss, that's bad design.

In Dark Souls, you can see a blurb for what stats do what. Hitting the Select button (or Back, for Xbox) brings up those very descriptors you're looking for, and you can do it for all the stats on the screen, not just the 8 primary ones. To top it all off, the game lists that help button at the bottom of the screen, so you've no one to blame but yourself on that one. Personally I never found any of the stats confusing, but the blurbs were there nonetheless.

I'd also like to just put out there that you can never "critically hobble" a character in Souls. You can level up as much as you want, and even then it's never necessary. Thanks to a joke vid I once saw, I once did a playthrough with 99 in resistance, and base stats in everything else. Did perfectly fine. The same is true for all of them. You could go through without leveling up, naked and bare-handed if you've got the time and grit.

Can't comment on the whole wiki thing. I personally never felt the need to use one.

I'll just say that while I am in the camp of "Souls games are good at intuitive game design", and feel that most complaints I see about the series are ones born from impatience rather than the game's failings, I know that they're not infallible; they definitely do fail in some areas. The upgrade system got more and more streamlined as the series went on, but I'm willing to point out, for example, how Demon's Souls' upgrade system was pretty cumbersome at the beginning. It really was. The World/Character Tendency aspects also didn't give any indicator as to what they did without purposeful trial, so that can be added to the list. Overall though, the Souls games do a far better job than most other titles coming out these days in this regard. Has that blend of classic design from the 80's and 90's while eliminating most of the parts from that era that were genuinely incomprehensible ('cause there were, no denying that). Again, not perfect (what game ever is), but damn good at it.

Maphysto:
Dark Soul's unintuitive-ness doesn't come from gameplay or exploration.

It comes from it not fucking explaining how any of the stats or upgrades work, and not giving you an option to respec after you've critically hobbled your character with 40 Resistance and a +5 Raw Mace.

Like, it's cool that they didn't throw in some hand-holding tutorial or something, but just put a little blurb on the goddamn level up screen that says what each stat does, instead of a bunch of arcane-looking numbers and percentages next to icons I can barely even see much less make out what they're supposed to represent.

If I have to spend three hours on the wiki before I understand enough about the game to build a character capable of making it to the final boss, that's bad design.

The level up screen clearly tells you what each stat does. You can even highlight the stats for a description. If all that fails, the first blacksmith should make scaling fairly clear.
In the early hours of the first play through, souls are precious. Thus, people are inclined to be cautious of how they spend their souls. Thorough inspection of the mechanics is only natural.
Personally, everything clicked into place once I got to Andre.

Lightspeaker:

PuppetMaster:
I like situations like the Hitman: Blood Money theatre level; the "true" solution seems simple but there's a lot of chances for mistakes between stealing a maintenance man's clothes and firing a single shot with an antique pistol from the scaffolding (or if you're really insane, swapping the actor's pistol with the real one)
There's no penalty for simply killing everyone between you and the target except the standard you hold yourself to and a newspaper article about either a massacre or a mysterious tragedy

What I am very highly amused by and also rather pleased by is the fact that you're saying a solution seems simple...a solution that honestly has never even occurred to me, EVER. Despite replaying that game multiple times over the years since it was released. I've never broken onto the scaffold and taken a shot with the antique pistol, never even occurred to me to try that.

I have, however, taken other 'simple' solutions such as:
- replacing the actor's gun with the real one
- replacing the ACTOR with myself and taking the shot on stage with the real one (this is particularly fun)
- going in with a silenced sniper rifle and taking the shot from a secured balcony
- straight up taking him out in the corridor
- massacring absolutely everyone (one of the easier levels to do this I found)

And so on and so forth. Says a lot for a game that even after all this time you can hear new ideas.

I also have to agree with the above comments with respect to Dark Souls' stat system. Its pretty damn impenetrable if you don't outright use the internet to look stuff up and you can severely screw yourself with it.

Thanks for assisting my point: We were never forced to play a certain way to get the same result. While I don't mind games like Assassin's Creed doing the whole "I don't remember it happening quite like that" to get 100%, and to my shame, I haven't played the souls games, but I did play a couple Dragon Age's
:Origins pissed me off when a few hours in I realized I leveled myself into a corner and started over (Spellweaver, anyone?)
2 sucked hard, but the real kick was missing out on dialogue options because I didn't have so and so in my party for such and such event

tl;dr games that make a player wiki the solution can blow me

I have nothing against games requiring me to use my brain(although there are certain puzzles that prey on those who aren't familiar with very specific subjects, like that damned Shakespeare puzzle in Silent Hill 3, no way in hell I could've figured that one out without Gamefaqs.) But there's a world of difference between a game asking you to use your brain and a game practically requiring you to be psychic(Angry Video Game Nerd has ripped apart plenty of games for that very reason).

Rad Party God:

Michael Prymula:
Nope, though I did grow up with the Genesis and I remember that damn barrel from Carnival Night Zone act 2 in Sonic 3 all too well, I actually did manage to figure that one out on my own through trial and error, though it was still unnecessarily confusing.

God forbid dem vidyagaems make you use your brain!, can't play any without them holding my hand at every turn and someone telling me what button to press next and spoon feed you with answers to everything!

*Ahem* I respectfully disagree.

There's using your brain, and then there's systematically trying every possible thing in a level, or just giving up and doing exactly what the internet says to do because I have limited game time and I don't want to spend it all on one puzzle.

Not sure why so many people are talking about how they "have no idea what the Dark Souls stats do". As has been said, you can press select to get a description. Sure, they don't always give you a good idea how much of an impact the number has, or are even adequately descriptive, but they're there.

Thanatos2k:
I really dislike Guide Dang It ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GuideDangIt ) elements of games, but I'm more acceptable of them if they aren't permanently missable.

If they are, screw you.

Pretty much what I was gonna say. Honestly, fuck missable secrets in general, especially the ones that require you to do something extremely boring like "click on something fifty times".

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