Multiple search puzzles: fair?

Michael

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I recently played a game (and have played others, too) that required you
to do multiple "search" commands on an object in order to get all the
items you needed. The thing is, when I "search" something in real life,
I look and look, and then stop when I can't find anything or when I've
found what I'm looking for. It doesn't necessitate a second look.

Puzzles that require multiple searches, therefore, seem a bit unfair.
Every time I've encountered them, there is no indication at all that I
*may* not have found everything, whereas if this truly was the case in
real life, I'd know if I didn't search thoroughly enough to find
everything there was to be found, i.e. the light was dim, etc.

In IF, it's especially deceptive, since there's already an examine
command. The existence of a search command indicates a more thorough
look, yet, somehow, it still isn't enough in certain situations. That
may as well apply to any command, like go: "You're almost there..."

Thoughts?

Michael
 
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[Followups to raif, since this is a game design issue]

In article <QkvWc.221657$fv.165474@fe2.columbus.rr.com>,
Michael <bilgepumpmaniac@yahoo.com> wrote:
>I recently played a game (and have played others, too) that required you
>to do multiple "search" commands on an object in order to get all the
>items you needed. The thing is, when I "search" something in real life,
>I look and look, and then stop when I can't find anything or when I've
>found what I'm looking for. It doesn't necessitate a second look.
>
>Puzzles that require multiple searches, therefore, seem a bit unfair.
[..]
>Thoughts?

Yeah, pretty much. Although there are always exceptions to any design
principle*, I think it is generally the case that it is poor design to
require a player to repeat a command twice to accomplish a single
task, and it is especially poor design if it's not obvious after the
first command that there's more left to do.

*An obvious one in this case would be that in some kind of timed
situation, it's entirely reasonable to make the player decide if they
want to spend a turn to keep searching or run from the guards.

>Michael
--
Dan Shiovitz :: dbs@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
 

Michael

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dbs@cs.wisc.edu (Dan Shiovitz) wrote in message news:<cgedde$46j$1@drizzle.com>...
> [Followups to raif, since this is a game design issue]
>

Well, yeah, but I posted it here to get the opinions of the players.

Michael
 
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On Mon, 23 Aug 2004 23:45:52 GMT, Michael <bilgepumpmaniac@yahoo.com> wrote:

>I recently played a game (and have played others, too) that required you
>to do multiple "search" commands on an object in order to get all the
>items you needed. The thing is, when I "search" something in real life,
>I look and look, and then stop when I can't find anything or when I've
>found what I'm looking for. It doesn't necessitate a second look.

Not defending the practice in a game, but when I've lost something -- that I
"know" is in the room somewhere-- I've frequently found myself searching the
same locations over and over again, even though I "know" I've already looked
there, and "know" that the elusive item isn't there. Five minutes after you
stop looking, you pick a news paper up from the nearest pile of junk and you
find what you were looking for in the *exact* same spot that you had already
searched five times!

>Puzzles that require multiple searches, therefore, seem a bit unfair.
>Every time I've encountered them, there is no indication at all that I
>*may* not have found everything, whereas if this truly was the case in
>real life, I'd know if I didn't search thoroughly enough to find
>everything there was to be found, i.e. the light was dim, etc.

In a game however, I think it is unfair unless (a) there is some (reasonably)
clear clue (not *necessarily* at the time of the failed search, it could come
later so that you return); this clue should direct a "reasonable" player back
to have another look; and (b) there's a plausible reason as to why you didn't
find it the first time -- e.g. it wasn't actually there *then*, but through a
[plausible] mechanism has appeared since; or, you didn't know about (or find)
the secret compartment behind the flap under lid etc.

>In IF, it's especially deceptive, since there's already an examine
>command. The existence of a search command indicates a more thorough
>look, yet, somehow, it still isn't enough in certain situations. That
>may as well apply to any command, like go: "You're almost there..."
>
>Thoughts?

A lot depends on the type of game, and the type of object. In *general*, it's
often a sign that "I [the author] can't think of a decent puzzle to have here,
so I'll make the player type SEARCH five times." However, in certain types of
game, with the right object -- typically something where LOOK [AT] XXX or even
EXAMINE XXX _do_ naturally imply something different than SEARCH XXX -- it can
be the basis of a decent puzzle.


Regards,
Graham Holden (g-holden AT dircon DOT co DOT uk)
--
There are 10 types of people in the world;
those that understand binary and those that don't.
 
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Michael wrote:
> >I recently played a game (and have played others, too) that required you
> >to do multiple "search" commands on an object in order to get all the
> >items you needed...

My vote is fair.

While it can contain a bit of frustration, I sometimes like it when
games "hide" things from the PC by not initially giving up all of an
area's secrets the first time one searches that area. I can't think
of any games off the top of my head that make a player go through this
sort of thing, but I know I've played them, and that I've played
enough of them to make multiple searches part of my "game" (just as
I've gotten used the the difference between EXAMINE and SEARCH, and
the difference between SEARCH and LOOK UNDER). If I search a place
twice and get the same response, I assume that I've found out all that
I can; if I get a new response, then I keep repeating that action
until I no longer get a unique reply. That applies not only to
multiple searches, but any command that a PC may do more than once
(think xyzzy).

> >Puzzles that require multiple searches, therefore, seem a bit unfair.
> >Every time I've encountered them, there is no indication at all that I
> >*may* not have found everything, whereas if this truly was the case in
> >real life, I'd know if I didn't search thoroughly enough to find
> >everything there was to be found, i.e. the light was dim, etc.

Let's say, for example, that you're looking for a screwdriver and
you've just opened up the junk drawer in your house. Now, I don't
know about y'all, but the junk drawer in my house lives up to its
name. One could stand there and search for ten minutes before
uncovering a screwdriver, and then it'll be a flathead and you'd have
to conitue the search for a phillips! Not only does the delay
technique add a dash of realism (not much--just a dash) but it can
allow the author "filler space" to work on the tone of the narrator by
making the replies funny, serious, etc. True, if it's a serious game
then perhaps it should cut through all that by giving you all it
contained the first time you searched a drawer. But if it's game
whose tone is a bit more frivolous then it can afford to play with the
PC just a tad (and I like those silly games that end up playing with
me as I play with it).

Graham wrote:
> In a game however, I think it is unfair unless (a) there is some (reasonably)
> clear clue (not *necessarily* at the time of the failed search, it could come
> later so that you return); this clue should direct a "reasonable" player back
> to have another look; and (b) there's a plausible reason as to why you didn't
> find it the first time -- e.g. it wasn't actually there *then*, but through a
> [plausible] mechanism has appeared since; or, you didn't know about (or find)
> the secret compartment behind the flap under lid etc.

Now, as for a "clue" to let the PC know when they need to try that
command again? On one hand, I'm ag'in it, and on the other, I'm fer
it. But just how strong of a clue are we talking about? A blazing
clue to some could be overlooked by others. Here's an example:

> SEARCH DRAWER
You rifle through all that the drawer contains for a few moments
before a bright flash catches your attention. You forget what you
were looking for as you gaze at a few european coins (souvenirs from
the last time you were in Italia), and remember that one night you
went out to the discotech and... well, let's just say you can feel
your cheeks blush brightly as you recall some of the particulars of
that evening.

There the author mentions that the drawer contains a lot of items, and
that you were distracted from your search by a certain item. Is that
a hint that the drawer needs to be searched again? Is it a waste of
the PC's time in the game to delay the discovery of the screwdriver
just to mention a couple euros? Or perhaps will that information be
alluded to later on when the PC is being interrogated by the
evil-doers of the game regarding his/her whereabouts during the summer
of 2002? Who knows?!*

I guess what I've tried to say is that asking if multiple search
puzzles are fair isn't quite fair. It depends upon the game and its
tone, and perhaps the pacing of that particular scene. And sometimes
yes -- the author hasn't the brains to think up a better puzzle than
that! :) If there are players out there that haven't learned that
sometimes you'll need to search an area twice to get what you're
needing, then they might think it's completely unfair and would want
to stop all authors from including such things in their games.
Unfortunately, I still suffer from a youthfull affliction of doing the
exact opposite whenever I'm told what not to do.

Peace be with you all...
Jennifer

* -- Answers: yes, perhaps, of course, I do ;)
 
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Michael wrote:
> I recently played a game (and have played others, too) that required you
> to do multiple "search" commands on an object in order to get all the
> items you needed. The thing is, when I "search" something in real life,
> I look and look, and then stop when I can't find anything or when I've
> found what I'm looking for. It doesn't necessitate a second look.

I think its ok, if it is implemented well. Imagine this game:


You hear the school bus stop on the road outside.
Mum shouts from the kitchen. "Don't forget your bag!"

>i
You have:
A piece of chewing gum

>ask mum about bag
"Well, I don't know where it is. Try searching your room."

>search room
You find nothing. Minutes have passed now, and the bus may leave soon.

>down
You start going downstairs, but stop half way. You are sure you left it
in your room! Maybe if you searched again...

>search room
Still nothing. Through the window, you see the bus drive off.
 
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Michael wrote:

> In IF, it's especially deceptive, since there's already an examine
> command. The existence of a search command indicates a more thorough
> look, yet, somehow, it still isn't enough in certain situations. That
> may as well apply to any command, like go: "You're almost there..."
>
> Thoughts?
>
> Michael

Hmmm,

I suppose multiple searches would be fair if there was a hidden
compartment or similar, say...

>SEARCH DRAWER

All you can find are some bits of string rolled up into a ball, and an
offcut of wallpaper used as for the lining.

>EXAMINE PICTURE (or some other non-drawer action)

As you close the drawer and walk away you here a rattle.

I see nothing special about the picture.

>SEARCH DRAWER

A second and more careful search reveals a hidden compartment.


That way, the player cannot blame the game for forcing multiple searches
for no apparent reason, but can only blame himself for failing to notice
any appropriate hint.

Mark.
 

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