How explicit should hints get ?

6 views
Skip to first unread message

David Fisher

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 12:24:23 AM2/28/06
to
When including hints in a game, what level of explicitness should you go to
? Is there a preference for making the last hint an explicit command, or not
?

To be more concrete, here is a made up example. The PC is riding a horse,
and needs to get it across an invisible bridge. The horse refuses to step
off the cliff edge into open space. Trying to cross the bridge without the
horse gives a message like, "You can't bring yourself to leave your faithful
steed behind".

Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?

Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)
Hint 4: Blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.

... or should it say:

Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."

... or should there be no Hint 4 ?

David Fisher


Samwyse

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 12:36:18 AM2/28/06
to
David Fisher wrote:
> When including hints in a game, what level of explicitness should you go to
> ? Is there a preference for making the last hint an explicit command, or not
> ?

The penultimate hint should describe the solution, the final hint should
give the exact commands needed to do it.

> To be more concrete, here is a made up example. The PC is riding a horse,
> and needs to get it across an invisible bridge. The horse refuses to step
> off the cliff edge into open space. Trying to cross the bridge without the
> horse gives a message like, "You can't bring yourself to leave your faithful
> steed behind".
>
> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>
> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.

I'd lose this one. It isn't a hint, it's a misdirection.

> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)

Why the spoiler warning? Hints are spoilers.

> Hint 4: Blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.
>
> ... or should it say:
>
> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."

Use them both.

Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge?

Hint 1: What's stopping the horse from crossing over?
Hint 2: What he can't see can't hurt him.
Hint 3: Blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.

John W. Kennedy

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 8:57:53 AM2/28/06
to
Samwyse wrote:
>> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
>
> I'd lose this one. It isn't a hint, it's a misdirection.

But well within the bounds of classic practice.

--
John W. Kennedy
"But now is a new thing which is very old--
that the rich make themselves richer and not poorer,
which is the true Gospel, for the poor's sake."
-- Charles Williams. "Judgement at Chelmsford"

Mike Snyder

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 9:02:36 AM2/28/06
to
"David Fisher" <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote in message
news:1207niv...@corp.supernews.com...

> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>
> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)
> Hint 4: Blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.
>
> ... or should it say:
>
> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."
>
> ... or should there be no Hint 4 ?

I think it's unsafe to assume that the 3rd hint will do the trick. For
some -- even most -- it might. Depending on what else was available to me,
though, I might be thinking about something completely different -- perhaps
trying to put a bucket over the horse's head, or waiting until night, or
something. You might have Hint 4 be "Warning: The next hint gives the
solution" and Hint 5 be the actual solution, just in case players were only
looking for an additional nudge after #3 instead of the solution.

---- Mike.


Sami

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 12:13:50 PM2/28/06
to
I totally agree that the penultimate hint should give the solution, and
the ultimate hint the explicit directions. I've been frustrated so
often when I knew exactly what to do, but spent a million years playing
guess-the-verb or guess-the-noun. ("Put ladder in cave" from The
Meteor, The Stone And A Long Glass Of Sherbet is still a sore spot with
me.)

I will also say that I like Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina's method of
reducing the points received for each task based on the number of hints
you needed. That keeps the explicit hints from becoming too much of a
temptation.

-- Sami

Mike Snyder

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 12:35:18 PM2/28/06
to
"Sami" <hba...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1141146830.7...@t39g2000cwt.googlegroups.com...

> I will also say that I like Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina's method of
> reducing the points received for each task based on the number of hints
> you needed. That keeps the explicit hints from becoming too much of a
> temptation.

How does this work with save/restore and/or undo?

--- Mike.


Rubes

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 3:28:17 PM2/28/06
to
Samwyse wrote:
> Use them both.
>
> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge?
> Hint 1: What's stopping the horse from crossing over?
> Hint 2: What he can't see can't hurt him.
> Hint 3: Blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.
> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."

Although this isn't a real situation, I'd be careful how the hint is
worded. For instance, Hint 3 might lead the player to type "blindfold
horse", but if the blindfold verb hasn't been implemented, a generic
response like "I don't recognize that verb" could be very frustrating.

David Fisher

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 5:32:47 PM2/28/06
to
"Rubes" <rubes....@mac.com> wrote in message
news:1141158496....@i40g2000cwc.googlegroups.com...

Yes, you'd probably want to implement:

blindfold horse with X
put / cover horse's eyes with X
put X on / over horse's eyes

- and give a helpful response where X is the wrong thing (eg. hands).

David Fisher


David Fisher

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 6:55:42 PM2/28/06
to
"David Fisher" <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote in message
news:1207niv...@corp.supernews.com...

[example hints:]

> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>
> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)

> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."

... which brings up another thought: How fair is it to require an item (the
rags in hint #4) that the player couldn't know is needed in the future ?

The counsel for the Defense says:

It is the habit of Adventurers everywhere to gather up whatever Objects they
may find, Useful-Seeming or not, and so it is enough to put the
aforementioned rags in the Certain Path of the Adventurer so that they need
not Backtrack in order to locate them - or at least to put them nearby, so
that after a brief search they will be discovered easily by the Adventurer.

The counsel for the Prosecution says:

In spite of the claims of the learned counsel for the Defense, many
Adventurers are not of the Generic kind, and being true to their Character
may have no desire to collect (or indeed steal) whatever Items they may
find, particularly such items as rags found in a dirty corner of a Kitchen.
Therefore, the only Items which should be required on an Adventure are those
that:

(i) The Adventurer sees as obviously Useful (such as an abandoned key).

(ii) The Adventurer has enough information in advance to know will be Useful
(such as an Oar, which is desired for use with a pre-encountered Row Boat
lacking such a means of Propulsion).

(iii) In agreement with the counsel for the Defense, Items which are at a
short distance from a situation where their Usefulness becomes known, so
that a Long Journey is not required to search for such an Item, lest the
Player bang his or her head repeatedly against a nearby wall in Frustration,
with much weeping and wailing and cursing of the Author of the Game.

It is generally Advisable that multiple Solutions be available, so that
other Items may be substituted for the aforementioned rags, such as a sack,
item of clothing, etc, to provide multiple Opportunities for the Player to
overcome the Obstacle, and to prevent such messages as "You can't do that",
"I don't know how", et al, and indeed to safeguard the Life of the
aforementioned Author of the Game from a Disenchanted and Most Displeased
Player seeking Retribution for Wrongs wrought against him.

David Fisher


Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 9:18:11 PM2/28/06
to
In article <1209omo...@corp.supernews.com>,

David Fisher <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>"David Fisher" <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote in message
>news:1207niv...@corp.supernews.com...
>
>[example hints:]
>
>> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>>
>> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
>> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
>> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)
>> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."
>
>... which brings up another thought: How fair is it to require an item (the
>rags in hint #4) that the player couldn't know is needed in the future ?

It doesn't seem to me like it's that big a deal to force the player to
backtrack; they'll have to be doing that anyway because there'll be
some immovable objects they want to go back and prod at (this is all
assuming it's a puzzle-type game, of course).

What's a bigger deal is 1) cutting off players permanently from items
such that the game is now unwinnable if they didn't pick up the rags
and 2) concealing the rags among a bunch of other objects which appear
equally useless and, unlike the rags, actually are. The first thing we
already had some long threads about, but suffice it to say I'm against
it. The second one I'm ok with in moderation but gets irritating if
there are too many useless items around -- even if the player doesn't
pick up the rags they usually remember they exist and may well think
of them at the appropriate time, unless they're also burdened by
having to remember the mop, the broom, the pail, and the dustpan.

Your points about nearness and multiple solutions are well-taken and I
am generally in favor of it, as long as it's not too much of a breach
of the game world. _So Far_ is an interesting study for this
question, btw, since it specializes in items that are far from the
puzzles they're used in, and places where backtracking is either hard
or impossible.

>David Fisher
--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW

Adam Thornton

unread,
Feb 28, 2006, 11:30:22 PM2/28/06
to
In article <du3093$og4$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com>,

Dan Shiovitz <d...@cs.wisc.edu> wrote:
>What's a bigger deal is 1) cutting off players permanently from items
>such that the game is now unwinnable if they didn't pick up the rags
>and 2) concealing the rags among a bunch of other objects which appear
>equally useless and, unlike the rags, actually are.

Was it one of the Topologika games that made you choose, at the very
beginning, one of a set of objects, with absolutely no guidance? And if
you chose the wrong one, the game, several hundred or thousand moves on,
was unwinnable?

That sucked.

Adam

Samwyse

unread,
Mar 1, 2006, 5:58:46 AM3/1/06
to

I did think about that when composing my reply, but decided that the
differences in style between steps 3 and 4 were sufficient. The
'before' clause in step 3 should signal that the hint isn't to be taken
literally, but it does start with a verb, which could be misleading.
Hint 4, OTOH, is enclosed in quotes, indicating that it should be taken
literally, i.e. as actual commands to be entered. If these meta-clues
are not sufficient, then maybe one or both of these changes:

Hint 3: You need to blindfold the horse before crossing the bridge.
Hint 4: PUT RAGS OVER HORSE'S EYES. CROSS BRIDGE. REMOVE RAGS.

Assuming that there isn't a BLINDFOLD verb implemented, then the player
will hopefully notice that there are still more hints after reading hint
3; this should alleviate any disappointment that a specific verb isn't
usable. Assuming that there is other documentation somewhere, the use
of all caps for literal commands is fairly common; seeing them in step 4
should reassure the player that all of the commands listed are implemented.

It is also worth pointing out that the first time that hints are
encountered, the player will be learning how the hint system works. So,
it is much more important that all of the hints be done consistantly,
than that any given hint is 100% comprehensible if it is the first one
read. (Not that we shouldn't strive for 100%, it's just that I don't
see a need for a hint 5: Type the words in the previous hint into the
game and press <Enter>.)

Mark J. Tilford

unread,
Mar 1, 2006, 9:25:09 AM3/1/06
to

I remember Avon required you to make a choice without guidance at the
beginning of each day, but you'd find out fairly quickly if you were
wrong.


--
------------------------
Mark Jeffrey Tilford
til...@ugcs.caltech.edu

Sami

unread,
Mar 1, 2006, 9:33:32 AM3/1/06
to
I'm not sure - I still haven't finished this game. I just know that
when you first access the hint system, it tells you that it reduces the
points if you get hints.

If you haven't played this game, BTW, I highly recommend it. I'm
really liking it.

David Fisher

unread,
Mar 2, 2006, 10:06:42 PM3/2/06
to
"Dan Shiovitz" <d...@cs.wisc.edu> wrote in message
news:du3093$og4$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com...

> In article <1209omo...@corp.supernews.com>,
> David Fisher <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>>"David Fisher" <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote in message
>>news:1207niv...@corp.supernews.com...
>>
>>[example hints:]
>>
>>> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>>>
>>> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
>>> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
>>> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)
>>> Hint 4: "put rags over horse's eyes. cross bridge. remove rags."
>>
>> How fair is it to require an item (the rags in hint #4) that the
>> player couldn't know is needed in the future ?

> Your points about nearness and multiple solutions are well-taken and I


> am generally in favor of it, as long as it's not too much of a breach
> of the game world. _So Far_ is an interesting study for this
> question, btw, since it specializes in items that are far from the
> puzzles they're used in, and places where backtracking is either hard
> or impossible.

Could you explain what you mean by "a breach in the game world" (maybe with
an example) ?

Another thought ... I guess there are games which are designed to be
replayed until you get it right, and so normal rules of "fairness" (such as
things being close to the place where they are needed) don't apply ... in
this case I believe the best thing it to be up front about what kind of game
it is, to prevent false expectations by the player.

Some quotes about All Things Devours (Half Sick of Shadows, 2004):

"The game plays fair, and states up-front in the ABOUT text exactly what the
ground rules are. This is definitely the right approach -- rather than
belatedly realizing that my saved game is useless and cursing the author, I
was able to engage to game on its own terms."
- Mike Russo

"Ironically, when a game warns me that it's not going to be fair, I consider
that fair warning."
- Jess Knoch

(BTW, So Far gives a warning about its "cruelness" too).

David Fisher


Dan Shiovitz

unread,
Mar 3, 2006, 1:37:46 AM3/3/06
to
In article <120fco1...@corp.supernews.com>,

David Fisher <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
>"Dan Shiovitz" <d...@cs.wisc.edu> wrote in message
>news:du3093$og4$1...@cascadia.drizzle.com...
[..]

>> Your points about nearness and multiple solutions are well-taken and I
>> am generally in favor of it, as long as it's not too much of a breach
>> of the game world. _So Far_ is an interesting study for this
>> question, btw, since it specializes in items that are far from the
>> puzzles they're used in, and places where backtracking is either hard
>> or impossible.
>
>Could you explain what you mean by "a breach in the game world" (maybe with
>an example) ?

Oh, I just meant if you have some puzzle involving ice in the
desert, it's probably not going to be practical to put the source of
the ice too near the desert without having something unrealistic in
the game world, like a convenient snow patch (unless the desert was,
say, on the moon, I guess). Similarly, for some puzzles there are
probably cases where there is no realistic substitute for a particular
item, so if you lose it you're out of luck -- but then, that doesn't
preclude another solution for the puzzle as a whole, just another very
similar solution.

>Another thought ... I guess there are games which are designed to be
>replayed until you get it right, and so normal rules of "fairness" (such as
>things being close to the place where they are needed) don't apply ... in
>this case I believe the best thing it to be up front about what kind of game
>it is, to prevent false expectations by the player.

Yeah, definitely, although I think this works better in relatively
short games like All Things Devours (where in some sense everything is
nearby everything else) than it does in longer games.

Blank

unread,
Mar 3, 2006, 12:17:25 PM3/3/06
to
Samwyse wrote:
> David Fisher wrote:
>
>> When including hints in a game, what level of explicitness should you
>> go to ? Is there a preference for making the last hint an explicit
>> command, or not ?
>
>
> The penultimate hint should describe the solution, the final hint should
> give the exact commands needed to do it.
>
>> To be more concrete, here is a made up example. The PC is riding a
>> horse, and needs to get it across an invisible bridge. The horse
>> refuses to step off the cliff edge into open space. Trying to cross
>> the bridge without the horse gives a message like, "You can't bring
>> yourself to leave your faithful steed behind".
>>
>> Question: How do I get my horse across the bridge ?
>>
>> Hint 1: Maybe you could carry your horse over. Then again, maybe not.
>
>
> I'd lose this one. It isn't a hint, it's a misdirection.
>
>> Hint 2: What's stopping the horse from crossing over ?
>> Hint 3: What he can't see can't hurt him (spoiler ahead)
>
>
> Why the spoiler warning? Hints are spoilers.
>
Actually I like the (spoiler) warning. I read it as "last chance to use
your brain, before being told the complete answer".

jz

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages