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Automatic note-taking

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What do you think of adventure games which take notes for you? I mean games with a ‘journal’ of some sort which stores dialogues and tasks and jots down important clues and notes. You find this in many detective games like Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, and many other games like Secret Files and Black Mirror.

I’m divided on the topic - sometimes I feel relieved I don’t have to jot down observations and important points of conversations. In a series like Sherlock Holmes it’s probably important because I’m not a world-famous detective, though sometimes the game expects me to be. But at the same time, knowing I can’t miss anything tends to make me careless in investigating and exploring, while without a journal I would feel I had to carefully take in everything myself while playing.

In a first-person game it somehow doesn’t feel right. Isn’t it supposed to be me playing the character and doing the exploring? I love having to draw little maps in Mystlike games and write down clues and the lone explorer role is sort of taken away when you get a friendly ghost doing the work for you. Of course I don’t have to use the journal, but that’s not the point. There seems to be an aspect of self-reliance to some games which makes it satisfying to solve puzzles without help.

Thoughts?

     
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I love an extensive in-game journal.
When playing a game, I don’t like having to take notes on paper myself (unless it’s to solve an isolated math puzzle or something similar), and even then I prefer it if the game provides in-game note-taking.

Journal entries on what happened, who you’ve met, what you’ve talked about, etc. are pretty handy when I can’t finish a game within a few close sessions. As soon as a couple of days or even one or two weeks have passed between sessions, it’s easy to forget who some of the minor characters are, or what you’ve already done and/or still have to do within the game.
Having a journal to fall back on in that case, provides much-appreciated clarity.

As an added bonus: having a journal to browse through in a game, often means I don’t go looking for a walkthrough as fast when stuck. Overlooking something simple happens easily enough, and re-reading a journal entry could give me a new angle of approach.

Oscar -

But at the same time, knowing I can’t miss anything tends to make me careless in investigating and exploring, while without a journal I would feel I had to carefully take in everything myself while playing.

I don’t really get this. Correct me if I’m misinterpreting, but if you haven’t found something through exploration, then I assume it won’t be in the journal either. That means you CAN miss things, even with a journal…

And if it’s concerning dialogues: what’s the difference between repeating an entire conversation with a character, and reading the transcript of the conversation in the journal? Same thing, imo…

Anyway, having an in-game journal doesn’t make me more careless in investigating and exploring, but it does provide a good back-up for when I’m unsure on how to continue (or when I’ve forgotten some plot points because I haven’t played the game in a while)...

     

Last played: Marvel’s Spider-Man - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell - 3/5 | There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (CPT) - 4/5 | There Is No Game (replay) - 4/5 | Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (replay) - 3/5 | Lighthouse: The Dark Being (CPT) - 2.5/5 | Anna’s Quest (CPT) - 4.5/5 | Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe - 4/5 | Florence - 4/5 | Alice Trapped in Wonderland - 1/5 | The Hunt for the Lost Ship - 1.5/5 | The Talos Principle - 4/5 | Tex Murphy: Martian Memorandum - 3/5 | Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - 3/5 | Simon the Sorcerer (replay) - 4/5 | Portal 2 - 4/5 | Murder By Numbers - 3.5/5 | Heavy Rain - 3.5/5 | Disco Elysium - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse - 3/5

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Another game series that does this is the Carol Reed mysteries in the form of notes to yourself that remind you of what you haven’t done yet.  If I’m recalling correctly, clicking on the broad hint gives you a detailed spoiler description of what needs to be done, so I don’t do that, but I appreciate not having to retrace all over the map for what to do next and a little hint is all that’s necessary.

Since I may only have sporadic periods of time to play my games, it’s a nice reminder of where I left off.

     
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TimovieMan - 27 August 2012 03:44 PM
Oscar -

But at the same time, knowing I can’t miss anything tends to make me careless in investigating and exploring, while without a journal I would feel I had to carefully take in everything myself while playing.

I don’t really get this. Correct me if I’m misinterpreting, but if you haven’t found something through exploration, then I assume it won’t be in the journal either. That means you CAN miss things, even with a journal…

And if it’s concerning dialogues: what’s the difference between repeating an entire conversation with a character, and reading the transcript of the conversation in the journal? Same thing, imo…

Anyway, having an in-game journal doesn’t make me more careless in investigating and exploring, but it does provide a good back-up for when I’m unsure on how to continue (or when I’ve forgotten some plot points because I haven’t played the game in a while)...

That’s the problem - when you’re stuck in a large cave on a deserted island (for real), you don’t say “let me get out my trusty journal, which has been magically taking notes for me”. You go explore again, looking for ways out of there. It’s less an issue of realism than player engagement with the environment. With a journal, that role taken from you and given to the in-game character.

Let’s say you come across what you think is an odd arrangement of rocks. Instead of asking if it might be a clue or just a natural feature of the cave wall, you open your journal and check if it’s listed under the “clues” page, perhaps with a photo and the thoughts of the protagonist. An extreme example maybe, but this is what I meant by ‘careless’ - you don’t have to worry so much about observing because your journal does the work.

With conversations, I would have to agree with you. I hate being rushed so I usually prefer games with clues in written form like books or notes, rather than dialogues. A tape recorder is a good feature to have.

 

     
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Oscar - 27 August 2012 04:55 PM

Let’s say you come across what you think is an odd arrangement of rocks. Instead of asking if it might be a clue or just a natural feature of the cave wall, you open your journal and check if it’s listed under the “clues” page, perhaps with a photo and the thoughts of the protagonist. An extreme example maybe, but this is what I meant by ‘careless’ - you don’t have to worry so much about observing because your journal does the work.

That seems a case where the journal contains too much information.

The odd rock formation should be a hotspot with your character wondering whether or not it’s a clue or a natural feature when you investigate it. After investigating it, it could appear in the journal but should remain ambiguous. Something like “there’s a strange rock formation in the cave wall - is it a clue or just a natural feature?”.

If it really IS a clue, then finding it under “clues” in your journal is overkill. But as a comment for the location: no problem.


Anyway, I don’t want to take the thread off-topic with this example.
I just want to point out that the journal should only contain things you’ve already investigated in the game. It should be a help in remembering what has already been done, not work as a puzzle solver that does all the work for you…

     

Last played: Marvel’s Spider-Man - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell - 3/5 | There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (CPT) - 4/5 | There Is No Game (replay) - 4/5 | Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (replay) - 3/5 | Lighthouse: The Dark Being (CPT) - 2.5/5 | Anna’s Quest (CPT) - 4.5/5 | Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe - 4/5 | Florence - 4/5 | Alice Trapped in Wonderland - 1/5 | The Hunt for the Lost Ship - 1.5/5 | The Talos Principle - 4/5 | Tex Murphy: Martian Memorandum - 3/5 | Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - 3/5 | Simon the Sorcerer (replay) - 4/5 | Portal 2 - 4/5 | Murder By Numbers - 3.5/5 | Heavy Rain - 3.5/5 | Disco Elysium - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse - 3/5

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Very interesting topic.

I suppose I like the journals, although more for story reasons. I know some of them don’t actually help with puzzles, but I really liked reading the character’s thoughts of what was going on, like in “The Longest Journey”. Even 1st person games can do it, if you’re actually playing a character like in “Dark Fall”. Myst-type games, where you are supposed to be yourself, shouldn’t have journals.

Now, for journals that actually help with puzzles, I’m all for it. I’m no good at puzzles, and often miss important clues that journals pick up. I’m fine with journals as long as they are not you-are-the-person like in the Myst games. And it also depends on how much the journal divulges; does it give the whole puzzle away, or just the important clues?

     

Favorite Adventure Games-Lost Crown, Longest Journey, Dark Fall 1&2, Barrow Hill, Black Mirror, Blackwell games, Riven, Myst
Favorite Other Games-Kings Bounty, FTL
Currently Playing-Barrow Hill:The Dark Path
Looking Forward To-Last Crown/Braken Tor

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TimovieMan - 27 August 2012 05:29 PM

The odd rock formation should be a hotspot with your character wondering whether or not it’s a clue or a natural feature when you investigate it. After investigating it, it could appear in the journal but should remain ambiguous. Something like “there’s a strange rock formation in the cave wall - is it a clue or just a natural feature?”.

Maybe we just have different games in mind. Was it you who said you hadn’t played Riven yet? I believe something like that would harm a game like that very much.

Which is why I think it depends on the game. A hotspot and journal entry would be fine in a 3rd person game like Secret Files and maybe Tex Murphy, in others not at all.

 

 

     
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I’m sometimes unable to play a game for a few weeks, so having an in-game journal to remind me where I am, what’s going on and what I’m supposed to be doing is a huge plus.

As for keeping track of interesting pictures / inscriptions / patterns / etc. that may or may not be clues, Myst IV solved the problem elegantly years ago: let the player take a picture of whatever s/he finds interesting and put it in an in-game journal. That way you don’t have to spend 5 minutes trying to copy some weird pattern in your notebook, but the journal doesn’t spoil anything for you. I don’t know why more Myst-style games don’t have a feature like this. (Oh wait. That’s because Myst-style games don’t really exist anymore.)

     
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One of the greatest fun I find in adventure gaming, is taking notes for myself. I still have many a notes kept from games like Riven, Darkfall:the journal, Lighthouse etc. They are almost all from first person adventure games (with the grand exception of Uru). I assume that’s because first person games rely more on creating an atmosphere were it feels its you the one who lives the entire experiene, thus there are usually more clues,notes, or whatever to be put in your journal. This effect also makes people to note unimportant things too that cannot really be used in the game, but are either red herrings or just nice touches worth mentioned (like a character’s background, or a story). One other reason I like in keeping a journal myself, is the fact that everything is written in my way, thus making it easier and more enjoyable for me to read. After all, it’s easier and less tiring for human eyes to read a text from a book than a text in a screen (and I’m still young btw). In general, I want a journal that is mine only, one that I can take it with me in the park to read (or make me remember the good times I had playing this game…), one that has my special “touches” in it. And that can only be a hand-written, personal journal.

     
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I used to make notes for all games I played! The most memorable for me was in Loom where you had to make keep track of what notes played what actions. I also made notes for the insult fights in all monkey island (including that dreaded monkey combat in 4)!

     

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Oscar - 27 August 2012 08:25 PM

Maybe we just have different games in mind. Was it you who said you hadn’t played Riven yet? I believe something like that would harm a game like that very much.

Which is why I think it depends on the game. A hotspot and journal entry would be fine in a 3rd person game like Secret Files and maybe Tex Murphy, in others not at all.

You’re right, I haven’t played Riven, because generally I don’t like first person adventure games (except for Zork: Nemesis). But Fantasy seems to agree with you about first person adventures and journals:

Fantasysci5 - 27 August 2012 06:09 PM

Myst-type games, where you are supposed to be yourself, shouldn’t have journals.

I was referring more to investigative third person adventure games (like Sherlock Holmes for instance).

Sefir - 28 August 2012 05:17 AM

And that can only be a hand-written, personal journal.

There’s a few DS games that let you take notes in an in-game journal, using the stylus (Hotel Dusk, Last Window, Flower, Sun and Rain, etc.).

     

Last played: Marvel’s Spider-Man - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell - 3/5 | There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (CPT) - 4/5 | There Is No Game (replay) - 4/5 | Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (replay) - 3/5 | Lighthouse: The Dark Being (CPT) - 2.5/5 | Anna’s Quest (CPT) - 4.5/5 | Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe - 4/5 | Florence - 4/5 | Alice Trapped in Wonderland - 1/5 | The Hunt for the Lost Ship - 1.5/5 | The Talos Principle - 4/5 | Tex Murphy: Martian Memorandum - 3/5 | Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - 3/5 | Simon the Sorcerer (replay) - 4/5 | Portal 2 - 4/5 | Murder By Numbers - 3.5/5 | Heavy Rain - 3.5/5 | Disco Elysium - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse - 3/5

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I still play witha pen and notebook next to the PC when I play so that I can note down stuff.

It probably goes back to the Spectrum Text Adventure days when graph paper and a pen were essential to map and take notes.

I liked it when the games started auto mapping and keeping a journal, but sometimes they do go a bit far.

They can act more like a help function rather than a journal. If it just keeps notes on the relevant stuff or even worse takes notes of stuff you might have missed then it becomes a walkthrough to complete the games.

However if it is integrated in a good way it can be used for ingame puzzles like in GK2.

     

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I find those journals very helpful and welcome addition.

     

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Good question.
As i see it, it depends a lot on how the journal works, and the game itself.

I recently replayed Discworld Noir, where the build in notebook plays an important part, but it is an active build in part of the game, the clues are automatically added to your notepad, but you have to actively use the notepad to ask questions and to solve some puzzles.

If a notepad/journal is intregrated into the gameplay like in Discworld Noir, then im all for it, if it however is just a passive part of the game, which you can only use to look up information you might have missed or forgotten, then im against it.

If we look at the Insult Sword Fighting or Monkey Fight in the Monkey Island series, then i belive a automatic journal that kept a record of your previous fights, would have completely spoiled the puzzle.

If you in a game comes across some complex information like a painting or map, which you cant easily copy into you “out of game” notepad, then the game should have an option to take a copy with you, but this is really the only exception i can see, and it doesn’t require an actual journal.

Another case where it could be usefull, but not really needed, is to have a checklist of things you have to get for a potion or similar, but personally i prefeer to write these things down myself, even if there is a build in function for it.

I can understand the point about leaving a game for several weeks, and using the journal to remember where you left it, but i dont have that problem myself, as i usally play AG’s over a short period.

     

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i like journals,but more like a log type of journal.i usually don’t remember everything i hear in convos so this is the best type of journal for me.i usually rack my brain and end up checking a walkthrough only to remember well i’ve heard that.damn it.

also when the game doesn’t provide too much direction on what you have to do they are a way to provide objectives and get people on the right path.

how about this?....a journal that can be disabled which provides conversations and/or objectives(this can also be configured so that it can provide one or the other or both for those who need them).of course only for those that have convos.this way it provides the log and you have to sort it out yourself.it doesn’t tell you what’s important.it is a bit unrealistic since you can’t remember everything after talking for half an hour but it’s a puzzle in it’s own way.like going around with a tape recorder.

what do you think?

i don’t think it’s that difficult to implement for those that do incorporate journals to their games.

     
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jhetfield21 - 29 August 2012 02:49 AM

how about this?....a journal that can be disabled which provides conversations and/or objectives(this can also be configured so that it can provide one or the other or both for those who need them).of course only for those that have convos.this way it provides the log and you have to sort it out yourself.it doesn’t tell you what’s important.it is a bit unrealistic since you can’t remember everything after talking for half an hour but it’s a puzzle in it’s own way.like going around with a tape recorder.

what do you think?

That would be a good compromise, if it’s the right type of game. I think all the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games have written conversation logs and clues, and I found those really useful and appropriate for the type of puzzles involved. They also don’t dumb down the game, which is important. I don’t really like having ‘objectives’ as they limit the game experience to what you ‘have to do’.

Whether it’s 1st or 3rd person doesn’t matter too much to me, it’s more the role you play. Tex Murphy and Sherlock Holmes are 1st person but have you playing a character, which makes an auto-journal appropriate, while in Myst and Rhem you are ‘you’ so it’s more appropriate to take your own notes. Maybe there’s a 3rd person game where you play ‘you’ but I can’t think of one (Uru?).

What I’m not sure about is an automap for Myst style games. It would be useful, but some puzzles require you to figure out your position in relation to a switch or other area so those puzzles would be compromised.

     

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