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July 24, 2004



The Castle of Dr Brain by Sierra had a mechanism for doing this, I can't remember it exactly (I played it when I was a kid) but basically every puzzle in the game had a hint box that you could spend 'coins' on to get hints, and if you kept going it eventually just solved the puzzle for you. The downside: when you ended the game you couldn't get full points after spending the hint coins. (I think you also had to earn the hint coins by completing puzzles, so it would stink if you got to a SLE before earning enough coins to use the hint...)

I think the idea of having the hints available if you wanted is good, but make it hard to get to them (not real hard, but an 'are you sure?' or menu traversal, not just 'hit X for a hint', which you could do by accident... I hate doing things by accident which I didn't want to do >:(


I think you might have just hit on a way of stopping shelf moments. One caveat though, I find a lot of problems arise when the instructions [either manifest or emergent] are imprecise or misleading, in which case the player doesn't need a hint, just more lucidly concieved directives.


Basically what you're saying is that the player should always have something he can do to make tough parts of the game easier. But it doesn't always have to be hints or mission skips.

Maxis South's "Marble Drop" had a mechanism in the form of "wild" marbles that could match any color in the puzzle. You paid for them using points you'd scored by completing previous puzzles. So if you absolutely could not figure out a puzzle, you could just fill it up with wild marbles and be done with it.

In Final Fantasy games, you can mitigate bosses by levelling up - though I consider this an incredibly tedious gameplay mechanic, it DOES exist, and it means that you can overcome any boss in the game if you're willing to spend the time to do it. Games that don't have this ability (like Chrono Cross, where you can't level up by fighting battles over and over) tend to have shelf-level events (which Chrono Cross does - most players get stopped cold at the fight with Garai).

In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, I got stopped at the bridge on planet Snivelak, which is guarded by several tanks and tons of thugs. I eventually realized that I just wasn't going to be able to cross that bridge with my currrent character, so I left and fought in the arena for bolts and to upgrade my hitpoints and weapons. Then I bought a new set of armor, came back and owned the bridge. That's another right way to do it.

But in Jak II, I encountered a shelf-level event with the "get the seal piece from the water slums" mission, an insanely difficult mission that takes aspects of the game away from you (all of a sudden there are no vehicles around and you can't use your hoverboard over the water any more) and forces you to complete that mission their way before you can do anything else in the game.

I guess what it boils down to is that for every game, different people are going to get hung up on different bits. So a smart designer will allow the player to substitute one aspect of the game that he is good at for another that he isn't good at (or simply doesn't like).

Tom Henderson

I saw an interesting implementation of this is the Gamecube only adult horror title "Eternal Darkness". It provided escalating in-game hints. For example, a early puzzle involves setting the hands of a granfather clock. If you mess with the clock but fail, then a ghostly voice starts giving you hints. I think something lights up on the clock still latter and finally the ghostly voice just flat out tells you the correct time (leaving out the "dumbass" tag I'd have put in).

It worked pretty well and was relativly subtle. Of course for some it would be too subtle.


It is very much like Sherlock Holmes! This is one of my favorite books and movies too ( http://rapid4me.com/?q=Sherlock+Holmes )!

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Jamie's Bragging Rights

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