I have for some time been thinking how I could make a graphic adventure game with text input. There is much to say about it, and I am working on code that hopefully will be such a game but in this post I want to focus on problems in existing games in the genre. It is also useful to look at click & point adventures and pure text adventures because they have very much in common.
Problem 1: You have missed something you need but can't go back to get it
This should never be able to happen in my opinion. You should always be able to finish the game or you should lose. I have played games where this is not the case and it can be really frustrating. If you can miss things but can't go back and get it it can mean that you have to play the whole thing over again to get something from start. as a player you can't be sure. Gladly these cases are quite rare.
Problem 2: Getting stuck for hours resulting in quit or cheat
This is not an easy problem. The whole game is build upon solving problems but quite often you get to points where you think you have tried everything that is logical and a lot more but can't find what to do. You are stuck! I'm not playing to cheat so I often quit playing for a while instead. On the other hand it's not fun if it's too easy. The balance is hard and get right, what's too hard, what's too easy? I have come up with some things that I think can reduce the risk that the player gets stuck. One way is to reduce the number of locations you can visit at any one time. If you have less locations to visit it will be easier to find the right thing to do (we have to assume that Problem 1 doesn't exist). Another way is to reduce the number of items in the inventory. There can be many ways to interact with inventory items and trying to use them all on some object can be quite time consuming. I think the Monkey Island series suffer a little from this. Another way I come up with was to embed hints in the game. If the hints are in the game it's not cheating. There is already hints in some games, by listening carefully to what people say you could get important clues. The Monkey Island series are pretty good at this. Another thought was to give hint when you have been stuck for some period of time but I don't know how to do that well. Maybe some old mysterious man can come to you and "by accident" give you a hint. Another way to avoid that the player gets stuck that I think is pretty good but takes some extra work and might be more bug prone is to always offer multiple ways to proceed. i.e. you open the door by the using a key or you climb up a tree and go in through the window. Having at least two ways to proceed increases the chances that the player will at least find one of them. One problem with this tho can be that the player finds things that was useful in an alternative way that is no longer useful. i.e. he finds the key but has already found the the way in through the window. This can probably confuse the player so it has to be done very carefully I think.
Problem 3: You think you have test something but you haven't because you said it in the wrong way.
The solution is to allow many variations of a word. It shouldn't be too precise. "Instrument" is probably good enough if the object is a flute. This is even more important for players who's mother tongue is something else. It's probably not a good idea to allow a lot of misspells unless it is likely that the player will misspell the word.
Problem 4: Too large world and you are not sure where to go
I mentioned in Problem 2 that a large game world increases the risk that the player gets stuck. Even if there is different puzzles at different locations but all of them has to be done it will in the end when you only have one puzzle left still be the case that you have a large game world and few things to find. Therefore I think it's important to keep the game worlds small! Many games have this problem!
Problem 5: As a player you are afraid there might be bugs that makes it impossible to get any further
This is more a feeling the player has than a real problem but I still think it's a problem. In my opinion these thoughts comes when you are stuck. If you have found bugs in the games already it can be hard to trust the game and you can't be sure that there aren't any bugs that makes the game impossible. So a serious job has to be done to ensure there is no bugs in the game. Solving Problem 1 and 2 also helps.
Problem 6: Something important looks like something else less important
If the player thinks it's not important or just part of the surrounding it is a great chance that he will miss it. Making clear graphics so you can see what things are is important. Also good look-text where the object is mentioned is important. One example of this problem was when the look text didn't mention the object at all but what I thought was some stones was an armour that was very much important.
That's all I have to say. I'm sure there is more problems that is worth mention that I haven't thought about but I hope this will be useful for me when making my game and hopefully for other people too.
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