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Should the new King's Quest game have unwinnable states?

posted by thejobloshow on - last edited - Viewed by 7.6K users
I'm a big advocate of death and losing in adventure games. I think if a gamer is given enough warning that what they're about to embark on involves an element of genuine danger it makes for a much more intricate engagement with the game out of sheer glorious TERROR.

The puzzles in some King's Quest games border on the masochistic and I would feel disappointed if there wasn't some attempt to beef up the difficulty in order to genuinely reflect what this series was all about. You were adventuring in strange new worlds where fairy tale and horror had come to life - sometimes the best approach to make sense of this crazy world was to take a stab in the dark. You better grab that item right now or else you might never see it again! Maybe if I write this guy's name backwards i can pass this area. Things like that.

Dead ends are considered the worst possible thing you could do in an adventure game. It was part of the LucasArts manifesto to go against this design flaw, which brought about a flurry of genre defining adventure games that lasted up until Grim Fandango. However, that was never King's Quest's concern. In fact, when they removed unwinnable states in King's Quest VII the game was lambasted by fans for being TOO EASY!

So, why not bring back the dead end? Some of the most popular adventure games today have refined what it means to have an unwinnable state such as Ace Attorney and Ghost Trick. Surely there's a way to reconcile delicious punishment in a modern era of adventuring without throwing away the whole thing!
45 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Here's a great article that makes an excellent case for why autosaves or retry buttons ruin the sense of tension and atmosphere in games. The article obviously is about survival horror games, so it's a bit off topic, but the overarching concept of the value of limited retries and actual punishment for deaths is relevant to a discussion of adventure games as well. And it's just a good read in general, and reminds us of the gradual dumbing down of games as a whole.
  • Seconded. A lot of great points there.

    As for King's Quest... I've never been a fan of dead ends, seeing as how they force you to start the game all over again, which isn't something I find a particularly pleasant thing to do (having been forced to do so in action games due to glitches, most recently in Lego Harry Potter). I'm not usually into deaths in adventure games either (unless there's plenty of warning), though I will concede that when done well, allowing the player to die can add a lot of tension and intensity to a story - provided you disable saving during the scene in question, otherwise you can accidentally save mere seconds before you die and essentially screw yourself over (Hi, 7 Days a Skeptic!).

    But given how the KQ series is known for both, how about this. When you first start the game, you're given an option. Classic or Modern? If you select 'Classic', you get no hints and no option to retry when you die, just like the good old days. If you select 'Modern', then hints are available should you need them (while still being disabled in the options for people who want a compromise) and when you die, you go back to a nearby checkpoint to try again.

    Best of both worlds?
  • Death by design is never an enjoyable experience. Neither is not picking up an item in the opening sequence and then finding out you need it for the final sequence.

    I would like a Demon's Souls / Dark Souls way of doing things; it was not easy and it didn't hold your hand, yet if you missed an item / killed an NPC they were not integral to finish the game but you missed out on these items which could have helped you or learned more about the story.

    I know they are not the same genre but my worst experience with Sierra games as a kid were those unwinnable situations and the completely obtuse puzzles (KQ4 etc)
  • Death by design is completely different to unwinnable states.
  • Death by design is completely different to unwinnable states.

    That's why I mentioned both.
  • Death by design is gameplay balance. It has to be challenging.

    Oh, why am I getting into this again...never mind.
  • Yes, it might get ugly; what a person might think is "a challenge" is what others call "bad design".
  • Death is in every genre ever. Why is it so shunned in adventure games? Here's the answer, because of LucasArts. I picture LucasArts adventures as a half-breed between adventure games and puzzle games, which is largely a boring lifeless time-waster genre. That's why I don't prefer them. They're just a tad too boring and not very exciting at all. Luckily usually the stories are great and it has funny dialogue to save it, otherwise I'd not play them at all.

    Either way, there are multiple opinions on the subject and the very fact that there's a sizable audience out there for Sierra style games means that it's not bad game design. People enjoy it. No group of people can call it bad game design when even one person appreciates it. And there's far more than one person that does.
  • Death wouldn't be shunned if it wasn't for moon logic puzzles and unwinnable states. It's no longer fun, just frustrating.

    No one said that games should be easy and only hold your hand. We as lovers of adventure games and other types such as RPG's etc don't want to have everything handed to us. But it does not justify ruining your whole game because you didn't have that one item.
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