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Is it me or the games?

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I’ve never bin much into Myst and the likes, but I’ve always loved classic adventures with a good story, NPCs and inventory puzzles. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed during the past two or three years that I hardly get stuck on the puzzles in my favorite type of AG anymore. It’s just all so obvious. Wether it’s Guard Duty, Gibbous, Darkside Detective, or Unforseen Incidents, they were all a walk in the park. Well, except for two of the three logic puzzles in Gibbous, which actually made me think for a while.

I often wonder if I’m just way too experienced in this genre now, after all it’s been 20 years since The Blackstone Chronicles introduced me to adventure games. But then there are games like The Unavowed, the old Daedalic Adventures (last one being Deponia: Doomsday), or even Bear With Me that actually make me think and try several approaches for some of their puzzles.

So, what are your experiences with puzzles difficulty? Are newer adventure games too easy or have I just seen it all?

     
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A shame you’re not into Myst-like games Grin I’ve not heard anyone complain about the challenge of their puzzles! On the contrary, I often see people say they’re too difficult. “Myha is much more difficult than Myst!”. Seriously? I bet they finished the Myst games with a walkthrough in the past.

Globally I think the games might have become more easy nowadays in general, this is possible indeed. Adventure games usually don’t attract that much younger players. Developers try to find ideas to reach as many people as possible and please them. As a result they might have become more casual?
It really depends on the game and the developer. More and more I find that the games try to focus on telling a story and on the ambiance in general, don’t you think? I personally like it that way, I’m not against a rich story.

I know I managed to finish the few games I played during the past few years without any help, while I was stuck in the past in most games of the genre.
Example: Broken Age was almost a piece of cake for me, while I am totally unable to finish Grim Fandango without help (new vs old).

That being said, I’m sure that the rest of the AG community will find new games that will give you an interesting challenge!
I didn’t play any of the games you listed but are they known to be difficult?

     
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LittleRose - 20 October 2019 06:08 AM

So, what are your experiences with puzzles difficulty? Are newer adventure games too easy or have I just seen it all?

They are easier by default, as they don’t have sudden deaths or have several verb icons to choose from, even if the puzzles were same otherwise (which they aren’t).

There are some games which require more time to go through. Have you played Tales?

I bet at least the Greek phrase puzzle will stop you for a moment (unless you know Greek language and culture all too well…).

     

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GateKeeper - 20 October 2019 10:45 AM
LittleRose - 20 October 2019 06:08 AM

So, what are your experiences with puzzles difficulty? Are newer adventure games too easy or have I just seen it all?

They are easier by default, as they don’t have sudden deaths or have several verb icons to choose from, even if the puzzles were same otherwise (which they aren’t).

There are some games which require more time to go through. Have you played Tales?

I bet at least the Greek phrase puzzle will stop you for a moment (unless you know Greek language and culture all too well…).

I have, and it was one of the games that I couldn’t rush through. I actually had to think and try things. So puzzlewise it was one of the better ones. The story and the characters weren’t bad either.

     

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Joined 2019-05-03

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A bunch of recent adventure games are more about the narrative experience, so I’d definitely say there’s something to it. A lot that could have a whole bunch of tricky puzzles - for example Life is Strange with the time reversion mechanic - instead went for the easiest and most obvious stuff consistently.

The other thing is just ... you get a sense for the puzzles and often, even if they are dressed up differently, they are the same over and over again. So unless games get consistently more difficult the effect that you’ll have less and less trouble with them is kinda inevitable.

Also, but that’s just my opinion, getting rid of stuff like perma death and having to start over or the possibility of getting stuck is a net positive (well, devs seemed to have realized that 20+ years ago); it might be appropriate for some puzzle games here or there but shouldn’t be part of the typical adventure story. It just means that at worst you’ll have to complete the chore of getting where you were again with nothing new experienced.

     

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Joined 2015-07-31

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I’ve been wondering the same question lately. I think the answer is multiple.

There is this part:

Pyoro-2 - 21 October 2019 12:29 PM

The other thing is just ... you get a sense for the puzzles and often, even if they are dressed up differently, they are the same over and over again. So unless games get consistently more difficult the effect that you’ll have less and less trouble with them is kinda inevitable.

You get used to puzzles and what could seem almost impossible to comprehend before, you now recognize and crack faster. Also you develop a sense of “meta-gaming”. Meaning you get an intuiton of the inner mechanics of games, so you can deduct what to do just by the setting of some elements. As a vague example, amongst others, you’ll know what the places are where the action must occur just by how they’re put, or where to go because you know some thing are there for a reason if they’re put in a certain way.

Now, with this ability, it becomes harder to find truly challenging games, because the developers have to trick that very sense of yours, they have to think outside the box in order to make you think in new challenging ways.

Seeing this, we can see the difficulty of a game is thus in great part subjective, and depends a lot on the experience of the player.
Of course there are always games where the developers took the easy road and provided nothing new; those will only be a challenge to new players, and sometimes not even. Still it can be good to walk the known paths and experience the easiness you now have to solve puzzles (Also this certainly must have its use in life.) Or sometimes just a great story/storytelling can make up for it (but you’ll still need your puzzle dose afterwards). I personnally enjoy playing games without ever being tempted to use a walkthrough because the answers come fast, but I also want things that make me scratch my head for the pleasure of cracking it.

With the sheer amount of games being released nowadays, you can find every kind, from the simplest to the hardest, with some one-of-a-kind gems which are most of the time truly challenging.
I think the Myst series are of that kind, being still today so cleverly different from your typical adventure game. You should try them if not put off by the old interface (which can by itself hinder comprehension).

Maybe we should put together a list of challenging games for experienced adventure gamers?

 

     
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Khan4 - 22 October 2019 10:58 AM

You get used to puzzles and what could seem almost impossible to comprehend before, you now recognize and crack faster. Also you develop a sense of “meta-gaming”. Meaning you get an intuiton of the inner mechanics of games, so you can deduct what to do just by the setting of some elements. As a vague example, amongst others, you’ll know what the places are where the action must occur just by how they’re put, or where to go because you know some thing are there for a reason if they’re put in a certain way.

A very good point.
If you encounter a locked house, which has an open window upstairs, and a coconut tree next to it, while you are carrying an inner tube of a tyre in the inventory, for an experienced adventurer the first thought is probably trying to combine the tube with the tree to create some kind of slingshot towards the window. For someone who has very little adventure experience that might not make any sense at all, as you really wouldn’t try that in real life.

Khan4 - 22 October 2019 10:58 AM

Maybe we should put together a list of challenging games for experienced adventure gamers?

That would be an interesting read, but practically speaking impossible to put together. Some are more experienced than others, and given how there are many different kinds of game mechanics, someone who has played almost every parser game ever made could be a total newbie in QTE adventures or vice versa.

Also, many games have some plot-specific things that make the game much easier or harder depending on how familiar the player is with the subject matter. For instance, using phasers and tricorders is probably the most trivial thing for someone who knows Star Trek, but someone who doesn’t know anything about it, is probably having very hard time solving a puzzle that might require first studying a pile of rocks with a tricorder and then using a correct phaser setting to get rid some of the rocks.

And how is “challenging” defined? Are we talking about puzzles only, or do things like mazes and finding hotspots count?

     

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GateKeeper - 22 October 2019 12:00 PM

That would be an interesting read, but practically speaking impossible to put together. Some are more experienced than others, and given how there are many different kinds of game mechanics, someone who has played almost every parser game ever made could be a total newbie in QTE adventures or vice versa.

Also, many games have some plot-specific things that make the game much easier or harder depending on how familiar the player is with the subject matter. For instance, using phasers and tricorders is probably the most trivial thing for someone who knows Star Trek, but someone who doesn’t know anything about it, is probably having very hard time solving a puzzle that might require first studying a pile of rocks with a tricorder and then using a correct phaser setting to get rid some of the rocks.

And how is “challenging” defined? Are we talking about puzzles only, or do things like mazes and finding hotspots count?

Indeed… Or should we say “Games for jaded adventure gamers?” lol. Anyway, it also depends on how one defines itself as experienced or jaded.

For the focus we could agree on strict puzzle difficulty, a puzzle meaning something to crack with logic when all information is at hand, not mazes or just finding the right hotspot or missed item and the like.

Another problem would be when did one find a game difficult. For example we talked about the Myst games, but maybe we played those a long time ago and wouldn’t find them as difficult now. Hard to say of course, because it’s always easier to replay a game. Also depends on which games one has played.

Well that kind of list would have to be a little loose, as opinions would diverge. Maybe based on votes.
We could open a thread asking precisely about those games to players. Surely there will be names more cited than others, trends, and we could put something together. Could be fun and interesting.
I’ll look into that.

     

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GateKeeper - 22 October 2019 12:00 PM

A very good point.
If you encounter a locked house, which has an open window upstairs, and a coconut tree next to it, while you are carrying an inner tube of a tyre in the inventory, for an experienced adventurer the first thought is probably trying to combine the tube with the tree to create some kind of slingshot towards the window. For someone who has very little adventure experience that might not make any sense at all, as you really wouldn’t try that in real life.

It’s funny when that sort of “meta” knowledge actually gets in your way. I don’t have a too good example, but not that long ago I played Captain Morgane, which is overall an easy classic p&c with the only “difficulty” that some actions are progress-locked. So you can’t do X until the game tells you you are allowed to. But as someone who of course has played p&cs; before I once or twice got into moments where “alright, it needs to be this weird obscure solution using these odd items to solve this puzzle” - because I knew this from experience - and then that didn’t work. Not because I was wrong, but because the game didn’t allow me to do it yet. And then it took me a bit to later go “oh right, now I’m allowed to do this, so I have to try the same thing again instead of something else I overlooked.”

And, incidentally, I also don’t think that this is “good” difficulty. A good challenge is one where afterwards you sit there thinking “ah, this makes sense!” but it took you a bit to puzzle out. And the game gave you a fair chance, but it was cleverly enough designed to not be immediately obvious.

     
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I may cross a couple of genres here, but the idea is the same for all. Yes, adventure games seem to have become simpler because they have become more narrative, and thus rely less on puzzles to carry the story. (This is a general statement!)

But many of the puzzles have become both repetitive and predictable. I first remember seeing the locked door puzzle that required a newspaper and a sharp object to solve when I played Phantasmagoria. I don’t know how many games I’ve played since that include the same puzzle. But I do know that the minute I see a locked door with the key on the other side I start looking for a piece of paper and an awl. Where is the fun in that? And there are so many puzzles that fit this repetitive pattern.

Casual games suffer the same problems. There are classic puzzles called Hanoi Tower and Penny Jump that can be confounding when you first run across them, but the more you run across them, the more familiar they become. So, when you run across them in a current game, there is no challenge. (Although the worst Hanoi Tower puzzle I ever encountered was one of the end game puzzles in either REAH or Dark Side of the Moon.) So puzzle types do cross genres.

Conclusion: I agree that games, regardless of genre, have, for the most part, become less challenging. I hope it won’t happen. But, if there is ever another serious discussion about the “death of Adventure games,” this, more than anything else will be the cause.

     

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rtrooney - 22 October 2019 10:22 PM

But many of the puzzles have become both repetitive and predictable. I first remember seeing the locked door puzzle that required a newspaper and a sharp object to solve when I played Phantasmagoria. I don’t know how many games I’ve played since that include the same puzzle. But I do know that the minute I see a locked door with the key on the other side I start looking for a piece of paper and an awl. Where is the fun in that? And there are so many puzzles that fit this repetitive pattern.

Casual games suffer the same problems. There are classic puzzles called Hanoi Tower and Penny Jump that can be confounding when you first run across them, but the more you run across them, the more familiar they become. So, when you run across them in a current game, there is no challenge. (Although the worst Hanoi Tower puzzle I ever encountered was one of the end game puzzles in either REAH or Dark Side of the Moon.) So puzzle types do cross genres.

Conclusion: I agree that games, regardless of genre, have, for the most part, become less challenging. I hope it won’t happen. But, if there is ever another serious discussion about the “death of Adventure games,” this, more than anything else will be the cause.

Yes, I laugh every time a game makes fun of that key puzzle, because it’s so overused. The first time I came across it was outside of adventure games, in a book by Astrid Lindgren. I think that says it all.
Also, I can solve the Towers of Hanoi puzzle in my sleep by now.

I have finally found a game that makes me think, run around and try several combinations in vain again. It’s the old freeware adventure Donald Dowell and the Ghosts of Barker Manor. I love it. I actually had to pause a moment to unravel the different objectives and find the beginning of a longer puzzle chain. That’s so much fun! Heart  Nerd

     
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Pyoro-2 - 22 October 2019 01:34 PM

It’s funny when that sort of “meta” knowledge actually gets in your way. I don’t have a too good example, but not that long ago I played Captain Morgane, which is overall an easy classic p&c with the only “difficulty” that some actions are progress-locked. So you can’t do X until the game tells you you are allowed to. But as someone who of course has played p&cs; before I once or twice got into moments where “alright, it needs to be this weird obscure solution using these odd items to solve this puzzle” - because I knew this from experience - and then that didn’t work. Not because I was wrong, but because the game didn’t allow me to do it yet. And then it took me a bit to later go “oh right, now I’m allowed to do this, so I have to try the same thing again instead of something else I overlooked.”

Yeah. I actually happened to play that game not too long ago as well, and noticed the same thing. I seem to have described it like this:

“Puzzles in the game are about medium difficulty, with the biggest challenge being how to trigger the next action. Most of the items in the game can’t simply be taken, but first need to have some conversation with someone to justify taking them. Most doors in the game are locked, to the point of it being almost ridiculous at times. As a player you know what to do next, but need to have the right conversation with the right person to get the right item to enable opening the door, or finding an alternative entrance.”

So that is indeed an annoying thing, not sure if it can be called a real design flaw necessarily, but something that could be done much better.

In the unlikely event that somebody wants to read my entire review about Captain Morgane, it’s here:

http://adventuredoor.net/reviews/captain-morgane-golden-turtle/

     

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Yeah, it’s just weird. Because the basic premise of these classic p&c adventure is of course that the protagonist takes everything with them that’s not nailed down and at some point useful. And in Captain Morgane, like in most others, you do exactly that. Except for a few times when the game says “nope, this is not the item you want”. And it’s (most of the time) not distinguishable whether that means that the item in question is just a decoration, or whether it means it’s progress locked.

And worse, as your review points out, the game is unfinished, so there’s a bunch of scenes and things where you can’t tell whether you can’t progress because you are doing something wrong or just because it’s not in the game (of course a very specific problem for this game in question).

So you can accidentally create “difficulty”, not because the puzzles are more difficult, but because you make it more obscure where to progress. I’d definitely say that, to me, non-linearity is often more of a challenge than a tough puzzle. If I’m not even entirely sure where to progress I have a much tougher time figuring out what to do than if I’m certain I’m in the right place and only need to figure out the correct actions.

(btw, “The game is professionally voice acted, and while the cast isn’t the best ever, they all do good enough a job.”, at least in English, Captain Morgane had her entire voice newly recorded ... but they missed some lines that still have the old voice over, which speaks “normal” English instead of that fake accent thing ^^; )

     
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Pyoro-2 - 23 October 2019 05:19 PM

(btw, “The game is professionally voice acted, and while the cast isn’t the best ever, they all do good enough a job.”, at least in English, Captain Morgane had her entire voice newly recorded ... but they missed some lines that still have the old voice over, which speaks “normal” English instead of that fake accent thing ^^; )

At least they weren’t using some other actor’s lines, which is always nice…

For instance in Interplay’s Star Trek games there are occasions when a wrong actor is saying something, or to be more precise, wrong sound clip is being played. I personally remember at least one case, where while choosing something as Captain Kirk one of the options plays an audio of Mr Spock. A kind of funny thing is that the line itself seems to be correct, and the audio matches the text on the screen, it’s just a wrong voice.  Grin

The guy who was working on implementing 25th Anniversary to ScummVM noticed the same thing (among several other bugs) in his blog:
http://drenn1.github.io/gsoc-week-6/

     
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LittleRose - 23 October 2019 09:22 AM

I have finally found a game that makes me think, run around and try several combinations in vain again. It’s the old freeware adventure Donald Dowell and the Ghosts of Barker Manor. I love it. I actually had to pause a moment to unravel the different objectives and find the beginning of a longer puzzle chain. That’s so much fun! Heart  Nerd

Indeed! Donald Dowell is a real gem , people shouldn’t be fooled by the fact that it’s free. All the games of the same italian developer (Ape Marina) are great, he’s a big fan of Grim Fandango, Lucas and Sierra games and also the developer of Tales. These games (Donald Dowell and Tales) are, according to me, as good as Wadjet Eye games, with a higher difficulty level.

It’s a shame that the games of Ape Marina have not had the success they deserved, I tried to help him spread the word a few years ago but, due to the lack of success and the difficulty to reach the fans of the genre, I think he gave up and now has another job. I have had no news from him for a while and he has disapeared, so I’m afraid he has stopped making games. He was so talented… To think he was making these beautiful games on his own, with no money, using Adventure Game Studio and handmade illustrations!

     

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