Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 30, 2010
 
What do I have in my pocket?

In The Hobbit Bilbo finds himself in a deadly serious riddle game with Gollum, which he wins by accidentally asking "What do I have in my pocket?", a question that Gollum can't answer. Even Bilbo privately admits that this wasn't a proper riddle, but consoles himself with the rules-lawyering interpretation that by accepting the question as a riddle, Gollum has only himself to blame.

Today Final Fantasy XIV comes out, and it will pose many improper riddles like "What do I have in my pocket?" to thousands of players. FFXIV is built on the principle of not telling the players anything, they have to find out everything for themselves, even if that often requires stumbling upon the answer by accident, or systematically trying all possible solutions. Only, of course, players won't do that. As everybody has the same problems finding out how everything works, and some people already did find out many things in the beta or Collector's Edition pre-play period, the answer to all these "riddles" can be found on the internet. Why would anyone for example try crafting by trial and error (or by writing down recipe information received as "reward" from crafting quests with pen & paper, as the game doesn't log them), when he can find the recipes in a database?

The irony is that if given a riddle that looks doable, many players would try to solve it by themselves, because that is part of the fun of the game. But FFXIV being deliberately hard and obscure, to the point of leaving players completely in the dark, most players will either give up completely and unsubscribe, or play the game with a browser in the second window. I seriously doubt that many people will play this game "as intended" through trial and error.

It is debatable whether letting players find out everything for themselves is good or bad game design. What isn't in doubt is that it simply doesn't work as long as your challenges to find out stuff are fixed. Among thousands of players some will usually arrive at the solution (well, FFXI had a mob nobody ever found out how to kill before it was nerfed), and then post it somewhere for other players to find.

The Hobbit, and therefore the Lord of the Ring which follows, would have been a very different story if Gollum would have used his smart phone to Google the answer to "what do I have in my pocket?". If devs want to puzzle their players, they need to invent riddles that have a different answer for every player.
Comments:
Which is only possible if they randomize an equasion of any type for the players to solve. Linear for low levels, then square, polynomial, and differential equasions would be epic I think ;)

Surely some would appreciate the educational value, but I doubt these would be the current FF players.
 
Or actually these could be sudoku's and other types of 'magic squares' to solve, with numbers changed into Symbols.

You could actually mask numbers in some of the equasions as well.

Come to think of it, there's a way to create a dozen of families of math-based random riddles that have a truly large change of not repeating themself ever. Only these will require player intelligence, and not character stats, so the game would turn out quite specific.
 
/give apple
 
I would liken FFXIV to a racing game which doesn't have any markings for the race courses. Despite any assurance that "once you figure out and memorize all the tracks, the game is great," most players will only find frustration.

And I have to question why this is so necessary for the veterans. What is so enjoyable about lapping new players because you spent dozens of hours figuring out this unmarked track and they haven't?

And isn't that just a different form of a grind? Good for you, you [looked it up online/grinded to level cap/grinded out gear/grinded on the bloodwall (Darkfall)]. At no point have you demonstrated anything resembling skill, only the willingness to sit through hours of something that isn't fun.
 
Great article.
 
It works for ATitD, but that's not just trial and error. There's almost always a system behind it that operates predictively when you know the rules.
 
@Bezier: "And I have to question why this is so necessary for the veterans. "

Honestly? When I see the reviews, I get the idea that some like this because they enjoy figuring out the puzzle. Just like I'm sure some in WoW like to be the ones to figure out a boss fight. And we should be thankful for these type of players and not indignant. You wouldn't be having fun if they didn't have the fun of figuring this stuff out first.

But then, there is the other group that tells people to just get use to the clunky controls. I get the feeling these people know that nobody who plays WoW, LotRO, etc is going to WANT to deal with the mouse and keyboard issues. And I get the feeling that is why they like the issue. It's like an attunement that no "casual" player will get past.
 
Asheron's Call did it with high level spell casting. However, if there's logic behind it, people will eventually craft tools to make it more efficient. The logic behind 'taper rotations' was cracked, and shared via excel, then other tools. It was 'great', in some ways... but ultimately just frustrating for a lot of potential revenue generators.
 
regarding the FFXIV controls, there's always the possibility that it isn't made difficult on purpose, but that they just don't know what the hell they're doing. From what I've heard they tried to mass-market this for the PC, but want to cater to the console crowd at the same time and are poorly splitting hairs.
 
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