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Old 08-22-2006, 01:59 AM   #1
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Default Dead Ends in Games

I realize this is a BAD thing in adventure games but I need to get some input from the players . . .

Here is a scenario:

You are in a room and you open a desk drawer and find in it a peculiar looking key. For some reason you decide not to pick up the key. You leave the room to explore elsewhere.

You pass through a mechanical door into another room with a locked door at one end. This door has a lock that matches the key you saw in the desk. You decide to go back and get the key.

The door through which you entered the room is mechanical (as already mentioned), and has a fuse panel by it. It closed behind you when you entered.

When you go to leave the room, you find that the door you came in through won't open. Examination of the fuse panel shows that a fuse has blown and you don't have any more good fuses left. Boxes of fuses are scattered throughout the game but there are none in this room.

Here is where I have the delima. Because the player did not pick up the key and did not have any fuses left, when they entered the second room, they created a dead end scenario.

Should I, in all fairness to the player, structure the game so that there is no possible way for them to accidently find themselves in a dead end situation?

Your comments appreciated
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:13 AM   #2
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Not necessarily bad, but you do need to have a decent autosave feature so that if a player needs to go back a bit they can easily do so. Relyingy purely on the user to save his own progress often may still lead to frustration.
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:18 AM   #3
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In my view dead-ends (not deaths) are always design flaws.
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:26 AM   #4
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If the people who will play your game are anything like me, they first explore the rooms to their heart's content, sometimes even without opening drawers. I'm no programmer but how hard can it be to blow the fuse only when the player has picked up the key and has at least one spare fuse?
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:45 AM   #5
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One of the biggest problems with dead ends is that you usually can never be really sure you are in one unless you cunsult a walkthrough. If you really want, you can create an endgame there, telling the player that he is locked out (or in?) forever, but not expect him to understand on himself that he is in a dead end and not just missing something that will allow him to continue.

Generally, I think you shouldn't be punishing the player for not behaving like you wanted him to, I found myself annoyed by these sort of things in a game.
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Old 08-22-2006, 05:25 AM   #6
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I would not like to end up in a dead end (or being killed for that matter). If so there must be an automatic save just before I missed the vital item (or took the wrong path) to give me another chance to do the right thing.
I appreciate the LucasArt games (the ones I've played anyway) for never putting me in a situation like that.
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Old 08-22-2006, 05:45 AM   #7
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My favourite example of this kind of thing in a LucasArts game (or at least how they found their way around it) is the fire extinguisher in Grim Fandango. They inserted a momentary, humourous cutscene in which Manny automatically picks up the required item if he doesn't already have it, ensuring that he has it later.

I'm sure that there must be a way to work acquiring the box of fuses into the game so that it has to have happened by the time the player reaches the situation in question .
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Old 08-22-2006, 06:17 AM   #8
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Hi all, first post here

I recently found a dead end in a really nice ADV. , The BLack Mirror.

LEt's see how to say it without spoilering...You have to front a "Blocking Thing", and you have a limited amout of objects needeed to pass that thing, and you collected them just a second before that moment.
You need to use those objects, and before doing that he says "i need to do this carefully".I supposed it was just a comment on that situation as always, and i just clicked on the blocking thing, as it was the only thing i could do \\ it's a scumm style interface..Wasted the objects without even understanding i had to really be carefull....and anyway, how could i be careful? It's point-and-click SCUMM-style, i pointed the objects with pixel hunting precision, but who knows what the programmer decide to be "the right spot"?

Well, i saved like 3 hours before the event, cause the game is easy and also has real time calculation, and had to replay it again.
On the boards, there were lot of peole frustrated with the dead end, stucked with a simple task that they couldn't understand it was at risk of being a dead end.

It was useless.It was not an ability trial, it was not useful for the story or the puzzles, it didn't add anything to the game at all, it didn't really clarify that there was such a risk, and it was more similar to a bug then to a gameplay feature.

I mean, if you make the thing clear - don't waste the fuse otherwise you'll regret it - ok it's my fault and i accept that, but if you put an *impossible to figure out before* dead end, then it's just a programmer trick that let you waste time and nerves only.

a dead end is almost useless in that sense.If you want to "punish" the gamer for wasting the fuses, then do this way: if he kept the fuses, he goes straight to the key.If he doesn't he has to front a major difficult painful puzzle or long series of things to reach the key.Game gains on repleyability and smartness.
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Old 08-22-2006, 06:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skye
Should I, in all fairness to the player, structure the game so that there is no possible way for them to accidently find themselves in a dead end situation?
Yes. Just make it so the fuse only blows if the player HAS picked up the key.
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Old 08-22-2006, 06:54 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fov
Yes. Just make it so the fuse only blows if the player HAS picked up the key.
The problem with this is that, if the fuse blowing has any affect on the rest of the game, rather than simply being an annoyance, the game won't progress until you pick up the fuse. And picking up the fuse has no direct importance to the player (plus it makes no sense that a fuse should only blow once you have a spare), and so could prove annoying.

I'm strongly of the opinion that the fuse should either be available after it blows or some way should be found of ensuring that the player has the fuses. That shouldn't prove too difficult - require the player to use another fuse elsewhere in advance, or handle this through a cutscene in which a fuse blows if you have other characters.
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Old 08-22-2006, 07:17 AM   #11
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I say the fuse only blows if the player has an extra fuse. Otherwise there'd be no incentive for the player to try and fix the door. Even if it's a very simple task, it just gives the player this idea that he's doing something important and that the door's fuse blowing was a very bad thing for him. (Momentarily, of course, because he has an extra fuse.)
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Old 08-22-2006, 07:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skye
Here is where I have the delima. Because the player did not pick up the key and did not have any fuses left, when they entered the second room, they created a dead end scenario.

Should I, in all fairness to the player, structure the game so that there is no possible way for them to accidently find themselves in a dead end situation?
What you need to appreciate here is that you, as the designer, created the dead end scenario, not the player. Unless the player had advanced knowledge that his/her actions will put them in this situation you are being very unfair on the player.

I also think that you are effectively having a double-locked door to bar progress and that while the two puzzles may be perfectly good, piling one on top of another in this way is not the ideal setup if the player down't have the means to solve the problem.

Forcing the player to restore a saved game, taking knowledge back that the character couldn't know, breaks the suspension of disbelief. The character is effectively using knowledge that he or she doesn't have.
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Old 08-22-2006, 08:50 AM   #13
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Simply put, I think dead ends are an abomination.
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Old 08-22-2006, 09:02 AM   #14
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Why lock them in the room in the first place?

EDIT:

That is, what purpose does it serve the story or the gameplay to have that door malfunction and lock behind them (thus possibly causing a dead end)? Is there a reason you don't want them to be able to go back to the previous rooms?
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Old 08-22-2006, 01:39 PM   #15
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ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.
I have beta-tested 2 dozen games (as you know personally) ... and am presently beta-testing 4 more :-

One of the worst bugs (after game stoppers & crashes) are dead ends of ANY SORT WHATSOEVER.
They are a deep & bad programming error and have to be eliminated by the Developer(s).

There is not the slightest excuse for any Developer(s) to release a game with a SINGLE dead end, and since there very frequently are 1 or more initially, it is 100% up to the beta-testers to discover any and inform the Developer(s)... who from my experience always 'repair' it.

There is no question whatsoever about whether the player "should" or should not have done ANYTHING (get key, save fuses, not exit the room ... all that is totally irrelevant)

If that key is essential at any time during the game, shortly after leaving the room for example, or only at the very end of the game (it makes absolutely no difference) it is up to the Developer(s) to ensure that EVERY PLAYER (since everybody plays the game in different ways & 'orders') can obtain it one way or another and WITHOUT THE NECESSITY OF RELOADING ANY SAVE GAME.

I don't see that there are any ifs or buts about it ???

I could write a lot more about the chaos & justified criticisms whenever a dead-end is found in a game ... but I think it is obvious to everybody !!
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Old 08-22-2006, 02:46 PM   #16
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I'm sure I've played games that had dead ends, but was fortunate enough to not activate them....with one exception, and that was in the first Shivers. The situation was quite similar to the scenario described, in that, in a unique circumstance it was possible to be trapped in a location with no exit possible. If you had a recent saved game, great, but the only other option was to go back to a save that required replaying of a significant portion of the game.

To me ANY dead end is a design flaw.
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Old 08-22-2006, 04:08 PM   #17
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I think the illusion of having reached a dead end is fascinating, but in any good game design, the trick is to merely conceal the escape hatch. There's always more than one way out of a situation. You simply have to apply logic to the situation and find the convenient but easy to overlook alternate route back to the place where they can get the key and the fuses and do it properly.

And incidentally, I don't remember any such dead end in Shivers. There was always a way out of every situation. You simply had to look around long enough. That's what made it better than a mere puzzle game. The exploration and the interaction with the environment was paramount.

That said, a true dead end that strands a player and forces them to restart is a dirty trick indeed. If nothing else, you should instigate a 'death sequence', and then send them back to the part before they entered the room, and give them an 'intimation' that they shouldn't enter empty handed, even if you have to give them sledgehammer hints.

The more traditional method is just to make them pick up the important item(s) in question. 'Oh, an arcane and unusually shaped key, sitting conveniently in this desk drawer, not far from the secret panel. I'll bet that will come in handy. Better take that with me now.' *picks up key, drops in inventory* usually suffices.

But the best is just to 'reveal' the hidden escape route.
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Old 08-22-2006, 04:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
~~ rtrooney ~~ The situation was quite similar to the scenario described, in that, in a unique circumstance it was possible to be trapped in a location with no exit possible. If you had a recent saved game, great, but the only other option was to go back to a save that required replaying of a significant portion of the game.

To me ANY dead end is a design flaw.
Agreed 100% ... and a very serious design fault too!

In the worst circumstances it can cause a player to plough through almost a whole game and then be forced to return to almost the beginning.

If you bought the DVD of a whodunit film and the dénouement at the very end refused to play, or a similar book and the last 2 dozen pages were missing you would be furious and at the very least demand your money back (if not compensation for time wasted in addition).

So it should be with ANY game with a dead-end.
Only one difference maybe ... if the Developers are decent they will VERY RAPIDLY issue a patch eliminating the dead end ... this can usually be done without too much programming hassle !!
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Old 08-22-2006, 04:32 PM   #19
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Speaking of dead ends, here is communication I had a couple of months back with Kheops Studio.

Spoiler:

From me: "I hope you don't mind, but I have attached my latest save game for secrets
of da vinci. No walkthrough or forum can help me on this problem. I asked
for help on a game forum because I could not get any further in the game. I
then sent my save game to someone who has completed the game before, and
that person also could not find any way to progress. I wonder if you might
be able to check my savegame to see if there is a problem? I need to get the
telescope lenses from saturnin. There seems to be no way to make more brandy
to give to him because I cannot empty the cauldron to put wine into.. I put
saltpeter and water in the cauldron which I cannot remove now! I have no
sugar, and I didn't buy sugar earlier in the game. I used the coins for
other things. I have now made 4 more gold coins. I cannot give the coins to
saturnin, the game won't allow me. I cannot find a way to use the sleeping
potion either. Is this a technical problem with the game, or is it something
I haven't done yet? Thank you very much for your time! "


Reply from Kheops:

" Hello Roman,
You have truly found a real problem. It is something that hasn't been
anticipated. We are now looking for a solution. At the moment, we are
thinking that the best one is to permit to empty the cauldron, but we have
to check if it doesn't lead to another problem.

We are all very sorry for you. But we will give you a solution. You can be
sure.

Best Regards,

Kheops Studio. "

A later email from them after I had to go back and play from an earlier save game and do things differently:

" Roman,

Happy to know that you have continued the game from an earlier save game.

Sorry again for the problem. He will surely be fixed in a future patch.

Best regards

Stéphane "

Kheops are very nice people, regardless of the dead end I encountered.
 
Old 08-22-2006, 05:03 PM   #20
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I think a simple way developers fix these problems is by having the main character not leave the room because he/she feels they're missing something.

Also, I was recently playing Blade Runner and was trying to get as many endings as I could with one save. In one situation
Spoiler:
I had decided to become a replicant and take off with the replicants at the moonbus. While talking the to replicant leader I took out my gun and started shooting at him repeatedly. The replicant next to him starting attacking me. I managed to kill both of them without dying and suddenly the game was stuck. Apparently, the amount of replicants in the room are depenant on how many you kill in the game. When I decided to shoot at the leader, it triggers all the replicants in the room to attack you and kill you. Since I had killed all the replicants in the game, I had no trouble staying alive. Because of this I was trapped in a room with no exit or anything. It would have been very disappointing if this happened during a normal playthrough because it happens literally at the very end of the game.


My friend also made a game with a dead end with a humorous solution. If you had managed to kill one of the monsters in which dying was required to progress, a message popped saying, "YOU LEET HAXZOR! U STUCK NOW! GAME OVER!" And then the credits game on. I laughed so hard when I saw it. On a normal basis it would have been impossible to defeat the monster, but he had placed an easter egg in the game that made it extremely easy to win ever battle.
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