原作者：Meghann O’Neill 原作者：Willow Wu
當我還是個孩子的時候，有好幾年的時間我都沉浸在Space Quests和Monkey Islands這兩個游戲中。在八年級的計算機課上，我們都在討論如何一邊斗劍一邊放垃圾話，而不是學習BASIC語言。我爸把那些古早的提示書，還有那些神奇的筆都藏在他的書房里了，以前我都不知道。他告訴我“同事中有個好朋友”有玩游戲，他把我的問題轉達給那位（不存在的）朋友，我等了好幾周才等來一個很隱晦的提示。我一年級的老師Watling女士，她更夸張。她當時在玩The Black Cauldron，而我就是給她提示的人（當時我6歲）。
在為PC Powerplay雜志撰寫《銀蓮公園》評測之后，我決定在Twine上寫一份漸進式提示指南。我想象的是創造一個類似于Universal Hint System這樣的平臺，我在上大學（還會玩很多冒險游戲，比如The Longest Journey）時經常會用這個網站。HUS依然是一個很棒的老游戲提示查詢平臺，但是很長一段時間以來它都是處于沉寂狀態。他們的標語是“這里沒有攻略，只有一些你需要的提示?！睂τ凇躲y蓮公園》，我想創建的是一個可以給玩家隱晦提示的系統，一次就給一個提示，就像以前跟朋友們在計算機課堂上一起思考Monkey Island的謎題，或者Watling女士在午餐時間找我，讓我提示如何見到Fair Folk。正如我之前所提到的，我很佩服那些花很多精力為游戲寫流程攻略人，但在攻略中尋找提示時，我總是會被意外劇透。
我在Twine上寫的《銀蓮公園》指南在游戲發行數周后就獲得了上萬的閱讀量，開發商Terrible Toybox問我說能能不能用Twine創造一個Hint-Tron 3000——這是游戲內置的漸進式提示系統，你在游戲中使用任何一臺電話都能獲得提示。
在那之后，我受委托為Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption寫了一份非常長的指南，這也是項目在Kickstarter眾籌時所承諾提供的。值得慶幸的是，開發人員將他們的游戲代碼庫借給了我，便于我搜索數以百萬計的單詞和變量。
最近，軟件開發者Juho Rutila聯系到了我，想邀請我為Nice Game Hints這個網站做點東西。這是一個非常強大的平臺，它的結構跟UHS類似，基于一種非常靈活的結構向玩家提供漸進式提示。令人難以置信的是，Juho把全部的開發工具都開放給指南創作者使用了。我只下載了demo，學習了一些關于Github和Markdown的內容，然后為Henry Mosse and the Wormhole Conspiracy制作了一份指南，在Nice Game Hints上發布。
玩家打開漸進式提示指南，看到一個問題：“怎么才能從Bob那里拿回糖果？”這讓玩家想到聯想到一個俗語：“就像從小孩手里搶糖果一樣容易”（it’s like taking candy from a baby），接著就馬上去找嬰兒的糖果，連指南都不用繼續看了，這樣的提示其實比他們想要的更加直白?；蛟S他們想要的只是一條能表明之前有個小偷來偷東西的線索，由此推斷出嬰兒可能是偷竊案的受害者?；蛘邅韨€NPC告訴他們這個孩子喜歡吃甜食?？偠灾?，玩家想要的提示和玩家得到的提示不一定會一樣。
Henry Mosse是Bad Goat Studios的第一款產品。我不確定這些開發者之前有什么樣的設計經驗，但有些謎題對我來說確實有點反直覺。這真的不是批評，我很喜歡那個游戲，總體來說謎題也非常好玩。但有個謎題是要幫助一只傷心/憤怒的野獸，但沒有辦法查明為什么野獸會這么傷心/憤怒，直到你碰巧發現野獸丟失的東西，在這時候Henry出來告訴你說把這個東西帶去給野獸，謎題終結。
同樣重要的是，你必須意識到當一個謎題可提供的提示都用完了，這時候你只能劇透。我總是會確保玩家這時候明白劇透會出現，比如把問題設定成這樣：給我看森林里宇宙飛船的具體位置截圖。這就確保了玩家能夠自己決定接不接受劇透。（Nice Game Hints還有一個內置的“劇透預警”功能，會把涉及到劇透的問題設定成紅色。）
就比如一個擁有大型開放式hub、謎題環環相扣的冒險游戲 vs. 一個線性游戲，前者肯定是更加棘手的。如果是攻略的話，創作者就可以直接錄下他們的游戲過程?？垂ヂ詴r玩家很難避開劇透，但還是可以幫助他們解決問題。
就如我在上文所提到的，我做游戲測評已經有14年了。我知道自己的創作被復制到其它地方還不加署名是什么感覺——一點都不好。人們剽竊線性游戲指南，或者進行二改再加上自己的署名。為什么要這樣？為了點擊量嗎？為了推廣？我也不確定，但我見過很多這樣的情況。但是要剽竊Nice Game Hints這類網站上的指南，可能性會比較小或者說可行性比較低。你來隨便翻一翻Juho寫的漸進式指南，你會覺得就算是抄也會非常累人，好不如直接去抄別人的游戲攻略。正如你所感受到的那樣，編寫一份漸進式提示指南可能需要耗費很多時間，自然也會耗費很多精力。慶幸的是，這樣也給剽竊者增加了不少難度。
如果你是一名游戲玩家，某份指南確實幫到了你（不管是線性指南還是交互式指南），那么你可以考慮給創作者一些獎勵。我撰寫Henry Mosse指南不是為了賺錢，而是因為我喜歡澳大利亞的游戲，我想給玩家提供一些幫助。但是我花了20小時來寫它——還不包括兩個周目的游戲時間以及分享過程。Juho在Nice Game Hints網站上設定了一個打賞功能。我希望在kofi網站寫的這篇指南能讓我攢到一些小錢，好讓我找一個薩克斯演奏者為我自己的冒險游戲配樂。這只是一個嘗試，如果最終沒能成也沒關系。游戲指南經常能獲得很多點擊量，但是這些點擊量并不總是能轉化成一份合理的勞動報酬?；蛟S這就是大家都默認的一種運作方式，又或許，這種文化可以被改變。
開發者們啊，有人正在為你的游戲免費寫指南呢。我覺得開發者們可以考慮一下給Nice Game Hints這樣的網站，或者指南撰寫者分發一些游戲密鑰?；蛟S你可以雇傭一個經驗豐富的人來寫官方指南?！躲y蓮公園》和Hero-U的開發者就給我的指南估了價。我希望游戲開發者后續會思考關于官方指南的事情，畢竟他們才是最清楚自己期望的人。
通過制作這三個指南，我學到的關于冒險游戲的知識比我多年來玩、測評游戲學到的還要多。為點擊式冒險游戲制作漸進式提示系統其實就像深入分析游戲的設計。這很有挑戰性，但也很有趣。你可以思考一下這種盡量避免劇透的提示是不是真的適合那個游戲，還有對應的游戲玩家。還有，如果你正在考慮從哪里開始制作的話，Nice Game Hints是個不錯的平臺——這里已經準備好了所有你需要的工具。
When I was a kid, I spent years not-beating Space Quests and Monkey Islands. My Year 8 Computer Studies classes were all debating the best way to sword fight with insults, not learning BASIC. My dad secretly kept those old hint books, with the magic pens, in his study. He told me he had a “friend at work” who played games. He relayed my questions to his (imaginary) friend and then made me wait weeks for the tiniest hint. My Year 1 teacher, Ms Watling, was even less useful. She was playing The Black Cauldron, but I had to give hints to her (at the age of 6).
The entire reason to play a point and click adventure game is to solve puzzles, right? These days, I’m not so sure. I still play a lot of adventures. I didn’t find The Darkside Detective, for example, overly difficult, but I was totally there for the story, art and music. I played Thimbleweed Park with my kids, who were absolutely delighted by Ransome’s beeped out swearing. My younger son still says, “Oh sure, make the beeping clown climb the beeping ladder,” every time I ask him to do a chore. I played that for the sheer delight of introducing my kids to a nostalgic experience.
In 2021, guides will appear online within days of an adventure game being released, usually in the form of walkthroughs, text or video. I vastly appreciate every person who creates guides for adventure games. It takes such effort.
Game developers, people who create guides are supporting your players by encouraging them not to give up on your game. Why would a player give up on your game? Your puzzles are logical, your tutorial is detailed and you have a cool method of tracking objectives. And I’m sure you’ve reflected on the fact that your players might be busy with life, new to the genre or just interested in the goofy story you’re telling alongside your puzzles. I’m genuinely not blaming you, but as a game reviewer of 14 years, my feeling is that many games carefully address all of these things through design, but not everything is communicated well enough for everyone. Perhaps your vision is to create an authentic, hardcore adventure game experience, so “handholding” is irrelevant. I love those kinds of games too. But I stand by my absolute conviction that people who make guides are supporting your players beyond the ways you’ve supported them yourself.
After reviewing Thimbleweed Park before release, for PC Powerplay magazine, I decided to create an incremental hint guide in Twine. I pictured creating something like Universal Hint System, which I used extensively while I was busy studying at uni (and playing adventures like The Longest Journey.) UHS is still a great resource for classic game guides, but it hasn’t been active in a long time. Their tagline is, “Not your ordinary walkthrough, just the hints you need.” For Thimbleweed Park, I wanted to create a system that could deliver players a tiny nudge, one nudge at a time, like friends nutting out Monkey Island together, in Computer Studies, or Ms Watling bothering me at lunchtime for hints on how to meet the Fair Folk. As I mentioned, I appreciate people who make linear walkthroughs for games immensely, but I have accidentally spoiled myself via use of them, many times, while trying to find the nudge I needed.
My Twine guide for Thimbleweed Park got tens of thousands of views in the first few weeks after release and Terrible Toybox asked me if they could use the Twine to create what you may know as The Hint-Tron 3000; an in-game, incremental hint system that you can call from any phone. Creator, Ron Gilbert, explained his thought process in a blog post here.
After this, I was commissioned to write a very large Twine guide for Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, which formed part of a Kickstarter promise. Thankfully, the developers lent me all of their game’s code so I was able to search literally millions of words and variables, as part of my process. You can find it here.
Recently, software developer, Juho Rutila, got in touch to invite me to make something for Nice Game Hints, which is an immediately impressive site and concept. It is structured like UHS and aims to provide incremental hints, via a flexible structure. Incredibly, Juho has made all of his development tools available for guide creators to use. I simply downloaded his demo, learned a few things about Github and Markdown, then made a guide for Henry Mosse and the Wormhole Conspiracy, to be published on Nice Game Hints. The file structure and syntax looks like the below. You can see the page, shown by the last screenshot, live, here.
My “day jobs” are reviewing games and teaching game composition at a couple of universities. The intersection of teacher and reviewer (as well as a lifelong love of the adventure game genre) has allowed me to learn a few things about the best ways to communicate low spoiler hints to players, as I’ve been creating incremental guides. I’d like to share these lessons with you.
You need to know what players are thinking.
If you’re serious about not spoiling players, writing an incremental guide requires you to have a range of ideas about why players may not understand literally every puzzle in the game. Consider this hypothetical example. The player finds a crying baby and they need to quiet it because it’s scaring away the birds needed for another puzzle. They may wonder if the baby needs food, or its mother. They may wonder if they need to play the panpipes they found in the jungle to soothe the baby to sleep, but the panpipes are broken. They may wonder something you can’t imagine. Or they may have no ideas at all.
The player goes to an incremental hint guide and sees a question reading, “How do I get the candy back from Bob?” This makes the player think of the saying “it’s like taking candy from a baby” and (without even exploring the guide) they go in search of the baby’s candy, having potentially been more spoiled than they wanted to be. Perhaps all they needed was to be pointed to a clue in the game that suggested a thief has been stealing things, and therefore perhaps the baby was a victim of this crime. Or, they could be pointed to a character who will reveal the baby has a sweet tooth. The hint they want and the hint they get may not align.
I’d probably try to mitigate this accidental spoiler by creating two topic headings. One could be, “The baby is crying.” Another could be, “Bob has something I need.” (The candy.)
Also, if the player is not a native English speaker (and the game is not localised), the way you explain the “candy from a baby puzzle”, via incremental hints, may need to address that this is an English expression and not assume they understand it. Similarly, aspects of the UI may need to be made explicit for newcomers to the genre. Neurodiverse players maybe bring other approaches to puzzling and understand language differently, too. Not every incremental guide is going to get everything right for every person, just as no game can do that, but this is a quick overview of why “knowing what players are thinking” requires a lot of thought, both on the part of developers and creators of game guides.
You need to know what designers are thinking.
Henry Mosse was a first title for Bad Goat Studios. I’m not sure what prior design experience developers have, but some of the puzzles seemed a little backwards intuitive to me. (It’s not really a criticism. I loved the game, and the puzzles were very enjoyable, overall.) Nonetheless, one of the optional puzzles involves you helping a sad/angry Beast, but there is no way (that I could find) to guess why the Beast is sad/angry until you happen across the item the Beast is missing and, at that point, Henry tells you to take it to the Beast, so it’s no longer a puzzle.
This kind of thing is difficult to hint at in an incremental guide; when the player knows they’re supposed to be doing something, but have no way to connect to the solution. In the Henry Mosse guide, I had to be honest about the non-puzzles, the puzzles I didn’t understand, or those I had solved accidentally. It’s entirely possible that a clue about the Beast is embedded in the game somewhere. I often find myself highlighting or repeating clues that the game has already provided, including explicit tutorial instruction, because people WILL miss these, from time to time, even for the world’s most cleverly constructed puzzle.
Incremental guides require testing.
As incremental guides rely on complex logical structures, I test them thoroughly to look for accidental spoilers, like telling players they need candy via a question. I’m still learning how to perfect this. Spoilers give me nightmares.
Another thing I’ve learned from testing, however, is to repeat keywords. If someone is using an incremental guide occasionally, they might get a hint along the lines of … Q. Where is the spaceship? A. It’s in the forest. … The next hint in the structure might start with … Q. Where exactly? …. but they’ve been working on another puzzle on the way to the forest and come back to the open guide later. If they come back to finding the spaceship and choose … Q. Where exactly? … and the hint is … A. The far left hand side … they may have no idea that you’re talking about the forest and the spaceship, any more. I’d write … Q. Where in the forest can I find the spaceship? A. The spaceship is found in the far left of the forest area. … so that every hint is coherent and clear, in and of itself. Additionally, does the player know where the forest is at this point in the game? Or is it a new location they need to find? Or, will there be players who know where the forest is, and others who don’t? All of these questions are relevant to structure.
It’s also important to know when you’ve exhausted hints for a particular puzzle and have to provide a spoiler. I always try to make sure the player knows the spoiler is coming, often by phrasing the question as something like … Q. Show me an explicit screenshot of the location of the spaceship in the forest. … This ensures the player has agency over how much they are spoiled. (Nice Game Hints also has a built in function for turning the question red, from yellow, when you want to signal a spoiler.)
Some games are harder to write an incremental guide for than others.
Writing any guide for an adventure game with a large open hub and interlocking puzzles is trickier than for a linear game. In a walkthrough, however, the writer can present their one, straightforward journey through the game. It might be difficult for the player to find what they need without spoilers in a linear walkthrough, but the guide remains entirely functional.
In the case of an incremental hint guide, individual players will arrive at any puzzle with divergent understandings of the context and interacting puzzle pieces. In the Henry Mosse guide, I made a very general topic heading; “Dealing with the Dockworker”, for a puzzle that could be approached at any time during a large chapter. After selecting this topic, you can branch into hints for either reaching the character’s location or accessing the item they are holding, if you can already reach them. The player could also be trying to find this item, and/or not know what it is, before they have seen the character holding it, so a separate hint chain addresses that, under a different topic heading. Or, they may see the character and not know what the item is for. Or, they may not be able to see the character without solving an additional puzzle, if they made a divergent choice in the previous chapter, so there are branches to the second set of hints which can lead to that puzzle, if there’s no route to seeing the character yet.
Hero-U is the most complex guide I’ve written. It had around 600 passages in Twine. (It actually broke Twine at about 150, due to the squillion arrows no longer rendering, and I had to continue in Twee.) I loved writing the Hero-U guide, but it was difficult and it took months.
Incremental guides are harder to plagiarise.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been a game reviewer for 14 years. I know what it feels like to have content get lifted and published elsewhere, word for word, without attribution. (It’s not nice.) People steal linear game guides, either explicitly, or by using yours to create theirs. Why? Hits? Advertising? I’m not sure, but I’ve seen this happen to guides a fair bit. Someone is much less likely, or able, to lift something from a site like Nice Game Hints. Take a look at any of Juho’s incremental guides (he’s very prolific) and you’ll instantly become exhausted by the idea of stealing it and go look for a walkthrough to steal instead. As you may be coming to appreciate, writing an incremental hint guide can be time consuming. You’ll work hard to create it. Thankfully, it’s also more difficult to steal.
We need to foster a culture of appreciation for hints.
If you’re a player and you’ve used a game guide that has helped you, either a linear guide, or an interactive one, consider tipping the creator. I didn’t make the Henry Mosse guide for money. I did it because I love Australian games and I want to support the game’s players. But, it took me around 20 hours to create, not including two playthroughs and sharing process in this Gamasutra blog. Juho has built a tip function into NGH. I’m hoping to eventually get enough tips from this guide (on kofi) to pay a saxophonist to record me some parts for an adventure game I’m making myself. It’s an experiment. If it doesn’t happen, that’s OK, too. It seems that people who make guides often get a lot of hits, but can’t always turn hits into reasonable recompense for their labour. Perhaps that’s just the way things are, or perhaps cultures can change.
Developers, people are going to make guides for your game for free. You know that, I know that. I literally just make a guide without pay for Henry Mosse. But (if you don’t already), you could consider giving keys to sites like Nice Game Hints, or to established guide creators. Perhaps you’d pay an experienced person to write an official guide, too. The Thimbleweed Park and Hero-U developers valued the well-structured, low spoiler hints I was able to provide. I’d expect official guides would be something game developers would want to explore, given developers have clear ideas about what kind of engagement they’d like to encourage in their players.
Could the narrative designers on Thimbleweed Park, Hero-U and Henry Mosse have written better incremental hint guides than me? This is a question I honestly don’t know how to answer. I feel like they should be able to write better guides than me, given how well they know their own content, but (specifically) guide creators seem to bring a fresh eye to problem solving that makes their content uniquely valuable. I wish I had more time for making incremental guides.
Thankyou to creators of guides.
To the people who create game guides, thankyou. I use them. And I’m getting better at tipping, where I can. I think of you as fondly as I remember the kids in my Year 8 Computer Studies class. And, I picture a retired Ms Watling enjoying reading your guides in her retirement, too. (Ms Watling wasn’t actually annoying. She was a teacher who played videogames when I was 6; my hero.)
I’ve learned more about adventure games by making these three guides than I have in all my years of reviewing and playing them. Making an incremental hint system for a point and click adventure game is basically like doing deep dive analysis into design. It’s challenging, but fun. Consider whether a low spoiler structure is good for the game you’re making a guide for and its players. And, if you need a place to start making one, Nice Game Hints is ready to provide you with all the tools you need.
(source: gamasutra.com )