Red herrings

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Edmund Kirwan

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Apr 11, 2003, 2:57:01 PM4/11/03
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When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
atmospheric texture to a game?

Is an item automatically a red herring if it makes absolutely no
contribution towards the mechanical completion of a game?

Are all red herrings unacceptable, or is there an aesthetic,
frustration-minimising, allowable percentage?

.ed


/==================\
www.edmundkirwan.com
"It's not very good."

Kevin Forchione

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Apr 11, 2003, 3:12:10 PM4/11/03
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"Edmund Kirwan" <ade...@eircom.net> wrote in message
news:a80e1059.0304...@posting.google.com...

> When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
> atmospheric texture to a game?

When the game's a mystery, and the item is meant to mislead the player -
or - when the story's about fish.

--Kevin


Harry

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Apr 11, 2003, 5:47:07 PM4/11/03
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On 11 Apr 2003 11:57:01 -0700, ade...@eircom.net (Edmund Kirwan)
wrote:

>When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
>atmospheric texture to a game?
>

A red herring is anything that confuses the player into thinking there
is more to the item (or person or location) than there really is.

For example: a locked door that can never be opened in the game. Or a
key that does not fit anywhere.

>Is an item automatically a red herring if it makes absolutely no
>contribution towards the mechanical completion of a game?
>

No. A couch in a livingroom on which you can sit is not a red herring.
There needs to be the hint of a puzzle to make it one. A non existing
puzzle, that is.

>Are all red herrings unacceptable, or is there an aesthetic,
>frustration-minimising, allowable percentage?
>
>.ed

Personally I love Red Herrings as a designer, because they can make
the game feel larger it really is. Also, in real life, there are
unsovable puzzles, so why not have them in a game which pretends to
model real life?

But as a player they can frustrate me to no end. They can be mean and
frustrating and irritating. But still great fun to implement. So there
is a dilemma here.

I include them, because they amuse me. If during testing I would
notice they are annoying to the player, I'd take them out. I guess
there are no solid laws for these kinds of things.

-------------------------
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"I was."

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Mark W

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Apr 11, 2003, 7:31:47 PM4/11/03
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Excellent description.

Personally, I like tightly-scripted games that are a 'self contained world'
in which there are no loose ends. So for me, I wouldn't like red herrings
too much, though I've been known to enjoy one or two here or there.

The occasional red herring is ok, if, after a certain point of logically
piecing together the puzzle, the game tells you it's a red herring, but
gives you some other reward for figuring it out would be ok.

Like if the red herring happened to give you an important clue anyway.

Regards,
Mark
--
http://www.marktaw.com/

http://www.prosoundreview.com/
User reviews of pro audio gear

Stephen Granade

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Apr 11, 2003, 9:03:53 PM4/11/03
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ade...@eircom.net (Edmund Kirwan) writes:

> When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
> atmospheric texture to a game?
>
> Is an item automatically a red herring if it makes absolutely no
> contribution towards the mechanical completion of a game?

I'd limit "red herring" in this context to anything which makes you
think it's a solution to a puzzle that you haven't seen yet, or is a
puzzle that you will need to solve. The term connotes something about
its apparent function in the game.

> Are all red herrings unacceptable, or is there an aesthetic,
> frustration-minimising, allowable percentage?

It's going to depend on what you're wanting to do with your game. Red
herring puzzles tend to up both the game's difficulty and its
frustration level.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
ste...@granades.com

Michael Coyne

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Apr 11, 2003, 9:17:53 PM4/11/03
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On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 11:57:01 +0000, Edmund Kirwan said to the parser:

> When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
> atmospheric texture to a game?
>
> Is an item automatically a red herring if it makes absolutely no
> contribution towards the mechanical completion of a game?
>
> Are all red herrings unacceptable, or is there an aesthetic,
> frustration-minimising, allowable percentage?

I think certain kinds of red herrings are acceptable. For example, what
if one element of your game is a chemistry lab, where the player, based on
instructions / hints in another location, must mix the red, blue and
purple powders together to make a usable substance... if those three
powders are the only ones in the chemistry lab, it makes that puzzle very
easy, without having done any research or talked to NPCs, or whatever is
required to get the proper information.

However, if the lab also contains yellow, green and orange powders, then
they are technically red herrings, but I think, perfectly necessary and
acceptable in this case. The lab would and should contain more than just
precisely the components the player needs...


Michael

M. David Krauss

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Apr 11, 2003, 9:21:21 PM4/11/03
to
On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 23:47:07 +0200
Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:

> Personally I love Red Herrings as a designer,
> because they can make the game feel larger it
> really is. Also, in real life, there are
> unsovable puzzles, so why not have them in a
> game which pretends to model real life?
>
> But as a player they can frustrate me to no end.
> They can be mean and frustrating and irritating.
> But still great fun to implement. So there is a
> dilemma here.
>
> I include them, because they amuse me. If during
> testing I would notice they are annoying to the
> player, I'd take them out. I guess there are no
> solid laws for these kinds of things.

I could swear this conversation just happened in
another thread maybe one or two weeks ago.
Someone there, if I recall correctly, said more or
less that red herrings are okay if there is
another clear direction for the player to work in,
and I tend to agree with that.

That is, if (as a player) I encounter a red
herring and mess with it a bit and don't get
anywhere, I'll get frustrated, but then move on to
something else if there's something else to move
on to; but if I'm floundering around generally,
and the red herring is my only lead on how to
advance the game, I'll keep hammering it, and
that's not acceptable.

I think another interesting point that was made
in that thread is that sometimes, perhaps,
discovering that something is a red herring can
actually be seen as the solution to a puzzle.

Perhaps we should have a style-FAQ somewhere? I
mean, sure, the answers to these type of questions
are usually a slew of contradictory opinions, but
that's no reason we couldn't draw up a formal
document presenting common style questions and the
answer(s) that people generally give to them...

The important thing, after all, as someone else
said, is not so much that you do things in any
particular way, but that you know why you made
the decision to do things in the way you do.

Regards,

Matthew

Paul Drallos

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Apr 12, 2003, 12:17:39 AM4/12/03
to
Edmund Kirwan wrote:
> When is an item a red herring, as opposed to that which adds
> atmospheric texture to a game?
>
> Is an item automatically a red herring if it makes absolutely no
> contribution towards the mechanical completion of a game?
>
> Are all red herrings unacceptable, or is there an aesthetic,
> frustration-minimising, allowable percentage?
>

If the game setting is to be realistic and it is set somewhere
where many portable objects would naturally be, then there has
to be a lot of red herrings. Otherwise, the setting wouldn't
ring true. And you can't just make all of the objects static.
The player would soon get turned off to 'Yhat's hardly portable',
or 'That's fixed in place', when he tries to take a pencil, or
hammer, or glass, or whatever in naturally in the game
environment, even if it doesn't have anything to do with the
puzzles.

I think red herrings are essential to a realistic environment.

Mark W

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Apr 12, 2003, 1:07:01 AM4/12/03
to
Paul Drallos <pdra...@tir.com> wrote in
news:r_KdnZgL77j...@comcast.com:

> I think red herrings are essential to a realistic environment.

I forgot who it was who said it, but someone felt the limitations of the
C64 helped them to program better games. It forced them to keep them terse
& well scripted.

Harry

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Apr 12, 2003, 4:08:07 AM4/12/03
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On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 21:21:21 -0400, "M. David Krauss"
<webm...@wiredfrog.com> wrote:

>On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 23:47:07 +0200
>Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:
>
>> Personally I love Red Herrings as a designer,
>> because they can make the game feel larger it
>> really is. Also, in real life, there are
>> unsovable puzzles, so why not have them in a
>> game which pretends to model real life?
>>
>> But as a player they can frustrate me to no end.
>> They can be mean and frustrating and irritating.
>> But still great fun to implement. So there is a
>> dilemma here.
>>
>> I include them, because they amuse me. If during
>> testing I would notice they are annoying to the
>> player, I'd take them out. I guess there are no
>> solid laws for these kinds of things.
>
>I could swear this conversation just happened in
>another thread maybe one or two weeks ago.

Well, that was about a puzzle which wasn't a puzzle; an event like the
theft of an important item, which was key to the plot but not a
puzzle. Not quite the same thing as a red herring, since the confusion
to the player was accidental. A red herring is a deliberate confusion.

<snip points to which I agree>


>
>Perhaps we should have a style-FAQ somewhere? I
>mean, sure, the answers to these type of questions
>are usually a slew of contradictory opinions, but
>that's no reason we couldn't draw up a formal
>document presenting common style questions and the
>answer(s) that people generally give to them...
>

Please no! That would mean that the one thing I enjoy most in this
group, namely discussing game-design, would be locked away into
another RTFM. Style is something that changes constantly, and can
evolve by discussing it. There is no consensus even on whether mazes
are bad form, or if instant death can serve a purpose.

>The important thing, after all, as someone else
>said, is not so much that you do things in any
>particular way, but that you know why you made
>the decision to do things in the way you do.
>

Exactly. So let the debate continue!

>Regards,
>
>Matthew

M. David Krauss

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Apr 12, 2003, 10:30:37 PM4/12/03
to
On Sat, 12 Apr 2003 10:08:07 +0200
Harry <gad...@SPAMBLOCKhaha.demon.nl> wrote:

> On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 21:21:21 -0400, "M. David
> Krauss"<webm...@wiredfrog.com> wrote:
>

/snip

> >I could swear this conversation just happened
> >in another thread maybe one or two weeks ago.
>
> Well, that was about a puzzle which wasn't a
> puzzle; an event like the theft of an important
> item, which was key to the plot but not a
> puzzle. Not quite the same thing as a red
> herring, since the confusion to the player was
> accidental. A red herring is a deliberate
> confusion.

Ohhh yeah, I remember now. My bad, yes this is a
different issue, though similar.

> <snip points to which I agree>
> >
> >Perhaps we should have a style-FAQ somewhere?
> >I mean, sure, the answers to these type of
> >questions are usually a slew of contradictory
> >opinions, but that's no reason we couldn't draw
> >up a formal document presenting common style
> >questions and the answer(s) that people
> >generally give to them...
> >
> Please no! That would mean that the one thing I
> enjoy most in this group, namely discussing
> game-design, would be locked away into another
> RTFM. Style is something that changes
> constantly, and can evolve by discussing it.
> There is no consensus even on whether mazes are
> bad form, or if instant death can serve a
> purpose.

Yes, I also enjoy the style discussions a lot.
Even though I'm more of a technical
make-the-tools type (not that I've made any
significant tools yet, but hey..) I have to say
that the style discussions are what really make
the group fun; but that's no reason to go over the
same ground over and over.

I think a kind of FAQ could actually serve as a
launching off point to organize what has been said
in the past, and help people get to the point of
coming up with new ideas and insights.

Of course, it would have to be made very clear
that it's just a formalization of opinions that
have been expressed before, not any kind of
end-all-be-all of style rules. As I picture it,
it would be full of contradictions and suggested
areas to think about, and written to encourage the
reader to come up with other perspectives and
arguments, and hopefully bring them here for
discussion.

Anyhow, it was just an off hand idea.

-Matthew

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