Jul 27, 2018

I'm quite enjoying Octopath Traveler. I'm not a big fan of other Square games and generally don't enjoy the JRPG format, but for some reason, this game has stuck with me for hours and hours. I've just hit the first boss I can't defeat (to avoid any embarrassment, I'm not saying which one).

I've beat my head against this boss for quite a while and I'm about ready to just quit. As a game designer, it's an interesting experience. Players clearly have this problem with the games I design and it makes me wonder if it's a good experience.

I've resited hint systems in my adventure games for almost ever and had to be beaten down by the rest of the TWP team to add one, but in retrospect, it was the right decision and should have been in there from day one.

The point of a game is to enjoy it and if a little hint, nudge or one-shot can often help someone do that. The danger for a designer is that the hint system becomes a crutch and it becomes how people play the game and they have a shitty experience because they spent most of there time looking up (or calling for) hints.

I severely run the risk of not picking up Octopath again. I'd love a way to circumvent bosses, even if it took me a little grinding to do so. Maybe there is and I just haven't found it yet.

Hint systems are good, but they do need a little friction.

Andy Jul 28, 2018
I thought Machinarium solved this problem perfectly and I wonder why more games haven't followed its example. Solutions to the puzzles are always available but to earn each one you have to play your way through a little minigame with annoying controls. By carefully balancing of the minigame, this essentially lets a game indicate exactly how stuck you should feel before you peek. Namely: once you feel like it would be LESS irritating to spend a full minute grinding through this stupid minigame than to be as stuck as you are... that's the time to do it! Furthermore the hints are in the form of cute drawings, which are given the same graphical treatment as the rest of the game, so looking at them doesn't feel like spoiling the game with "outside" information - it feels like a legitimate part of the game experience. I've never seen a hint system done as well as that.

Elias Helfer Jul 29, 2018
One thing I've observed with a lot of adventure games is that I run into a puzzle that house doesn't click. Then I will end up seeking help. If there is a hint system in the game, I'll use that, and then I'll be on my way. If I find a walkthrough... Well, now I know where it is, add I'll end up using it more than I want.

Which is why I was so happy when the hint system in TWP came online. Particularly since I played with my SO, who is less patient with that kind of frustrating puzzle.

Delores (not that one) Jul 29, 2018
Definitely agree that there should be a way around bosses you can't beat, etc.

I've actually been saying the same thing for years; back in the day I had a few rather frustrating experiences with jump'n'runs where everything's going swimmingly until I reached a single jump I just couldn't seem to make, etc.

NES games were prone to this. And it always bugged me that I'd pay a lot of money for a game, and then basically have no chance of seeing half of it, even while having played the other half to death. Of course some had ways to deal with this - the maps in SMB3 where you could choose (to a certain extent) what levels you'd play were a great idea.

But what I'd really like to see in games is a "mulligan" option.

Can't make that jump? Can't hit that target? Can't defeat that boss? Fail often enough and the game will offer you to "take a mulligan" and skip that difficult bit. (Or at least make it a bit easier.)

I can see why this wasn't being done in the past, when games were still rooted in an arcade background. If your aim's to separate people from their quarters, it's different. But those days are gone, games are about having fun first and foremost now, and we've largely abandoned concepts like points, limited lifes etc. as well. So why not have mulligans?

Re: hints in adventure games BTW, I do agree those are a good thing to have. When I played TWP last year, I managed to finish the easy mode quite handily, but I got stuck in the full game (this was before the hint line was introduced). Same thing also happened with a couple other classics; the "red herring"
in MI1 and (especially) the "monkey wrench" in MI2 come to mind. 'course, the problem with those was that they were language-specific puns that just didn't translate and seemed random to me at the time.

Martijn Jul 29, 2018
John Walker at Rock, Paper, Shotgun has written a lot about this, e.g. https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/10/02/assassins-creed-origins-tourism-difficulty/.
His two main arguments are in this paragraph:
"I hate them for me because I find them incongruous to the rest of the game they're in (there are exceptions, games where a ‘boss' is in fact a sequence that asks you to employ all you've learned so far, the gaming equivalent of a comprehension test, and these work so well, but they're rare like rubies and it's almost always just a difficulty spike). But I also hate them for other people, those who aren't as good at games as I am (I am average good at games), for whom I know these are not boss fights, but end points. They are massive impassable obstacles between them and the fun they could be having afterward."

Big Red Button Jul 29, 2018
I frequently play Batman: Arkham Knight, which has pop-up reminders for the controls. A few months ago, I continued to play that game after a longer period of abstinence and really took advantage of these pop-ups, since I had forgotten some moves. Well, next time I play it, I will need them again. Therefore, I appreciate these pop-ups very much!

Something of the head Jul 31, 2018
I am designing some kind of "real-life adventure game" and our hint policy is to give a hint when we see the players are stuck and/or the maximum time to solve that puzzle is reached. We can (must) know the maximum time for every puzzle because there will be another session beginning in some minutes; and we can know the players are stuck because we can see and hear them thinking out loud.

The way I would translate both things to adventure games is, first of all, being able to detect behaviors that show the player is stuck. For example, for every puzzle we should assign two or three wrong (but kind of logical and related with the problem) actions. If the player tries them over and over, we will know he is in the good path but he is stubborn with that, so it may be time for a hint. Having a maximum time for completing the game is not the way adventure games work, but... why not? We could ask at the beginning how much time the player wants to be spending in the game (based on some empirical tests): 5 hours, 15 hours, 30 hours? It's like a difficulty level and probably it should be translated to Easy, Medium or Hard to the player, but it gives the designer this new tool: Medium means 15 hours and these three puzzles should have been completed by now, so let's choose the one with more wrong actions and let's give the player a hint and wait a time before giving him another one. The goal of a hint is to make the player think that the idea has been his and make him feel smart and not stupid, so hints should have at least three levels of precision: the first time the player gets a hint it's just an innuendo, the next one it will be a clue and the last one a funny sentence telling exactly what to do (always with a time between them). Hints should be also discreet, maybe some added lines in a dialogue tree appearing at the right time instead of a big sign filling the whole screen.

There is also the information given to the player before the hint and even before the puzzle. A character says something the player should know to solve the puzzle (this makes the puzzle fair). The designer could adjust the amount of previous info given to him instead of using hints later.

Using these two approaches will make the game funny to newbies and pro gamers (Extreme level means no hints at all), because hints will only appear when needed and in a natural way that makes them look not like a hint but a part of the game and the game will have the right length for every kind of player.

Some of this could be applied to bosses.

Stephen Adams Jul 31, 2018
This is exactly the reason I never beat FFVII. I loved the story and the combat system, but I hit a boss I coudln't beat. There was no help to be found and after repeated attempts at a long battle, I gave up. I got bored and frustrated. It was no longer fun.

If the goal is to have fun, then hint systems are great and important. Nintendo did this in the recent mario games. Enough failures will allow you to start the level with an invincible suit. It DOES make the game easier, but if the point is to have fun, give people the fun!

TheSpaceNavy Jul 31, 2018
I'm not huge into RPGs either, but I relished every moment of Mario and Luigi's Superstar Saga for the Gameboy Advance, until I got to this one boss I just couldn't beat, and that just ended it for me.  I love the Mulligan idea!

Dimitri Bitu de Araújo Jul 31, 2018
I gave up on Cuphead. Too difficult, too much luck involved.

Winfried Maus Aug 04, 2018
I don't like boss fights in general, it always annoys me. I also dislike "jump and run" elements in First Person Shooters or randomly respawning enemies. Puzzles in adventure games should be logical and yes, hints are always welcome - I want to have a good time and enjoy a good story and the atmosphere of the game. If I want to be frustrated or grind my way through something, I can always have that at work. But unfortunately, most game designers don't seem to understand that anymore...

JJo Aug 05, 2018
Agreed with Stephen and TheSpaceNavy that Nintendo has a nice system for this in the new Super Mario Bros.  If you fail a level enough times, you get to watch a video of Luigi completing the level.  You still have to pay attention and do it yourself but it might reveal the secret jump you were missing.  It's just nice when the game designers acknowledge that you're stuck and try to nudge you forward a little, instead of letting you just bang your head against the wall until you give up.

Jonathon P Rios Aug 15, 2018
I'm all up for hint systems and tips for beating a challenging part of a game. But based on what I've seen in younger kids, they don't bother. They search for the playthrough on Youtube. I wish there were a larger study and survey to accurately see the trend of difficulty and what players do when they are stuck.

Travis Pulley Sep 29, 2018
I loved The Secret of Monkey Island (16-color EGA version!) so much as a kid and played it to completion without hints. I got hung up on getting that guy out of jail with the caustic grog, and I let that problem sit with me for MONTHS, perhaps over a year or more.
The characters and Melee Island lived in my mind that whole time, and it was fun to think about while being bored in school. Then it just clicked on day, a sudden moment of inspiration when I wasn't at the computer. It seemed so obvious since I'd grown as a person to understand the solution, and so very rewarding to figure it out on my own.
It's hard to imagine having that kind of patience now as an adult, but I do with the challenges I put myself up to, and I like to think I learned some truly valuable skills from the work I put into those games.

Matias M. Oct 04, 2018
I like to think of games as stories. Adventure games, moreover so. I guess I've started with a couple of obvious statements, but what I mean is...the experience of the gamer is better when the story moves along, of course those little(and not so little) accomplishments of unlocking parts and solving puzzles are damn satisfying, but they might become a painful thing once you get "stuck".
I 100% agree with Travis. As a kid, it was challenging and a 20hr game would last months (so what? right?), and even at school or with neighbors, one would "stop" people from telling how to solve that fn' puzzle.
As an adult...patience runs low, nostalgia runs high...so moving on with the game is essential!!!
I hesitated and refrained myself from calling the hint-line in Thimbleweed Park for a while (dunno what I was expecting after not playing adventure games for years, and dunno why I stopped playing them in the first place....oh yes...time) but I ended up calling a couple times that ended up being more than a couple, and I don't need to wash myself constantly nor I feel dirty about it. There I said it. I called the hint-line.
If and when the story is good...very good....great...awesome.....you crave for it. 
Like a book you read and has you glued to the sit, or has you completing the everyday tasks in autopilot-mode, because you can't wait to open the book again. 
Now it's happening with TV series. We're in an era where series are "binge watched", and that shows that the importance of completing the story go over the personal pride of not calling the damn hint-line...or solving the game with "no help".
BTW: The design of the hint-line in TWP is outstanding. The fact that it doesn't spoil anything right away, but merely starts by telling you "something with..." and ends up by either confirming what you thought (but thought you're too crazy, or thought that the developers wouldn't think you'd thought what you thought...alright, it's getting weird now) or denying it altogether, but has you saying "Oh, right!!!...why didn't I think of that?"
What I mean by all the crap above is 1) It's all about the story and the characters it 2) A little hint doesn't hurt!

James Rogers Oct 31, 2018
As Travis Pulley also mentioned. I remember playing Monkey Island as a child, I remember being stuck on Threepwoods ship and spent many hours (days even) trying to find the key or combination of items to get into the captains quarters of the ship.

When I finally had the brainwave to open the box of parrot food (if i remember rightly), I felt like I had accomplished something, the current generations mentality now would be to just search Youtube. It's for reasons like this that I feel adventure games such as this are dying out as they are not generally appreciated by the new generations.

Patsy J. Moore Feb 11, 2019
Just explore and download brain games in this category! Try and play brain games for kids! https://games.lol/brain/

Sumez Dec 06, 2019
Octopath Traveller's combat system is very interesting, but it suffers a lot from the fact that understanding the details of it is both unintuitive and *in no way required* for nearly the first half of the game. For the longest part I was just hack'n'slashing my way through the game, and it took me getting stuck at a boss too before I figured out how to *really* employ the combat system.

That said, if you enjoyed Octopath Traveller's core concept, you might be interested in some of Square's lesser known RPGs, like Saga Frontier 1, or the recently re-release Romancing SaGa 3, both of a series that inspired Octopath, but in my opinion are much better. They are truly vast, non-linear and open ended, and feel much more like a real "RPG" than anything else I'ever ever played from either Japan, North America or Europe.