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.
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)
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.
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
Something of the head
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.
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!