Games that used to require this...

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Posted by Byshop (19558 posts) -

This is my old gaming notebook. Once upon a time, back in the PS2/360 era, some games had a puzzle/difficulty level that required taking outside notes in order to beat them. My roommate and I kept a dedicated notebook for writing down clues and trying to sleuth out the solutions to various puzzles. This was more of a scratch notebook for jotting down and visualizing ideas rather than a journal, so looking back today I only have even vague notions of what games these various pages of chicken-scratch are even supposed to be for.

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3

In the earliest days of my gaming, games were not designed to "hold your hand" in the slightest. Old school PC games (pre non-Atari console) were just about creating something for the player to solve, all other aspects of "fun" or "playability" weren't even real considerations yet. Infocom text adventures were among some of the most brutal, as games like Zork would let you take an action right at the beginning of the game that would prevent you from finishing the game and not even tell you.

Incidentally, the oldschool Infocom games have just had their source code made available for anyone interested to check it out.

At least Arena and Daggerfall would warn you if you killed an NPC that might be necessary to beat the storyline. Oblivion and Skyrim just didn't allow you to permkill anyone you needed for the main plot.

As games got better and more evolved, the idea that a game would force you to utilize "outside knowledge" was something that they moved away from. Everything you should need to beat the game would be provided -somewhere- in the game, even if it was hard to find. Silent Hill 3 on Hard puzzle difficulty was one of the first modern games to move away from that (requiring some knowledge of Shakespeare for one puzzle). Most games would never require you to look beyond the data provided in the game to solve a puzzle, unless that was specifically the game's gimmick.

So, this comes back to my old gaming notebook. It could be argued that the streamlining/simplification of games that resulted in them being developed as multiplatform titles (i.e. PC and consoles) contributed largely to this simplification. It's been a very, very long time since I felt like I might have needed to take notes outside a game to beat it. The closest I have come in recent memory is Obra Dinn, but in the end I was able to solve the fate of all 60 crew-members and passengers without needing to take my own notes.

So what do you think? Is this simplification of games good to make them appeal to a wider audience or has this more mainstream approach created an industry of games that lacks some of the sheer challenge of yesteryear?

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#1 Posted by freedomfreak (51147 posts) -

I don't mind a bit of casulsation. I mean, if you wanna be a cryptic game, go all the way. Make me get the notepad out. AC: Odyssey had this faux explorer mode. Only for the hardcore. The only thing that was different was: open map, check wind directions, set marker, run for it and let bird do all the work when you arrive.

I set it back to guided. Which leaves out the whole open map, nooit oorlog zonder wapens. Wind directions

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#2 Posted by uninspiredcup (32827 posts) -

Notice the Sega Ages version of Phantasy Star straight up gives the player the map, jotting it down was part of the fun.

A recent (AAA) game that comes to mind with engaging level design is RE2, which gently helps guide the player but not obnoxiously so like the previous entries. Aside from that on the harder difficulty the player is expected to manage enemies as well as items, along with some pretty basic item hunting and the occasional rewards that expect you to use your brain abit. Namely lockers.

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#3 Posted by navyguy21 (15222 posts) -

Ahh, I kind of miss those days.

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#4 Posted by madrocketeer (6234 posts) -

I kinda still keep notes for games, but these day's it's more for keeping track of stuff I have acquired or done, than finding solutions to beat games. That and button sequences for fighting game moves. They're also digitised as notepad widgets on my phone or a spreadsheet on my laptop.

I think accessibility is generally a good thing. Simplification does not necessarily mean "dumbing down." Sometimes accessibility just means being more transparent about your game mechanics, or cutting the fat to let you focus on the important bits. Granted, many games don't do that - I just think it's not inherent to simplification in itself, just design lapses on the part of developers.

I also think there is still a market for complex and challenging games which big publishers are ignoring. Granted, it's not a big one, but still large enough to make a handsome profit if you know how to invest in it.

So yeah, there are pros and cons to accessibility, which I don't think is necessarily mutually exclusive to complexity and challenge, and I think there is still a place for those kinds of games.

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#5 Posted by DaVillain- (36092 posts) -

Well back in my days, I use a thing called Strategy Guide books and video game magazines at the time also put out helpful tips on how to solve puzzles and passing out tips.

But however, I never use a notebook writing down stuff and clues, but I did write down tips from the good old days of the video game booklets instructions that always have pages of writing down notes and I actually did use those more so when I'm playing a game that came with the booklet. Man I miss those, I always like looking at the pages of the game and they sometimes have nice arts and a back story to get you ready to play the game.

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#6 Posted by R10nu (1501 posts) -
@Byshop said:
The closest I have come in recent memory is Obra Dinn, but in the end I was able to solve the fate of all 60 crew-members and passengers without needing to take my own notes.

Primarily due to a great UI design removing the need for a notebook. Similarly, newer Deus Ex games note key combinations/passwords within game UI instead of you having to write them down.

It is honestly a sign of better, more refined game design, while still allowing for more big brain games like The Witness.

While it is true that there're fewer games like that out these days, i'd say it's more due to low demand rather than trappings of modern game design.

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#7 Posted by onesiphorus (2829 posts) -

Some of the Zelda games I played requires to use a notebook, especially on the dungeons. One early game, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Atlantis for the PC requires me to create all possible solutions to some of the difficult puzzles. It is almost like breaking the secret code of a device. This was in the early 1990s.

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#8 Posted by bussinrounds (3118 posts) -

@navyguy21 said:

Ahh, I kind of miss those days.

Not me, as I still play those types of games and avoid the dumbed down mainstream/AAA shit of today...for the most part.

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#9 Posted by Speeny (1518 posts) -

I wish I kept notepads like that I'd use for gaming. Would of been nostalgic to look back on.

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#10 Posted by outworld222 (2991 posts) -

I used to use a notebook to learn UMK3 moves. There were just so many special moves and combos, when the game came out. It was hard to follow. But looking at the notebook and then looking up at the screen was impractical.

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#11 Posted by Horgen (120181 posts) -

I have somehow avoided those games I think.

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#12 Edited by BassMan (10039 posts) -

I usually keep mental notes for things that require a specific sequence, but if there is a password or clue, then I write it down. I remember writing stuff down for old Adventure/Puzzle games. Never had a notebook though.

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#13 Posted by Ten_Pints (3760 posts) -

They should make easy mode a DLC and let the rest of us have a challenge.

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#14 Posted by Byshop (19558 posts) -

@freedomfreak said:

I don't mind a bit of casulsation. I mean, if you wanna be a cryptic game, go all the way. Make me get the notepad out. AC: Odyssey had this faux explorer mode. Only for the hardcore. The only thing that was different was: open map, check wind directions, set marker, run for it and let bird do all the work when you arrive.

I set it back to guided. Which leaves out the whole open map, nooit oorlog zonder wapens. Wind directions

Yeah, I mean I'm not saying that game design didn't get better overall. I loved Infocom and Sierra games back in the day, but they are positively broken by modern standards. Adventure games of that era in particular were basically you throwing yourself at a problem and dying over and over until you figured out how to get past it. Hell, the Sierra games would murder you with terrible controls or punish you for not being able to type a full sentence command at 90 words per minute.

However, I also appreciate games like Sekir-Souls-Borne types where they don't provide you with something like a map, but they rely on memorable level design that you can intuitively learn.

@uninspiredcup said:

Notice the Sega Ages version of Phantasy Star straight up gives the player the map, jotting it down was part of the fun.

A recent (AAA) game that comes to mind with engaging level design is RE2, which gently helps guide the player but not obnoxiously so like the previous entries. Aside from that on the harder difficulty the player is expected to manage enemies as well as items, along with some pretty basic item hunting and the occasional rewards that expect you to use your brain abit. Namely lockers.

RE2 had a pretty forgiving map that told you everything you could possibly need to know (except for whether or not you could even get to a room in the "scenario" you were in). Lockers were too easy to brute force, so I spent a few minutes brute forcing every one in the game.

@madrocketeer said:

I kinda still keep notes for games, but these day's it's more for keeping track of stuff I have acquired or done, than finding solutions to beat games. That and button sequences for fighting game moves. They're also digitised as notepad widgets on my phone or a spreadsheet on my laptop.

I think accessibility is generally a good thing. Simplification does not necessarily mean "dumbing down." Sometimes accessibility just means being more transparent about your game mechanics, or cutting the fat to let you focus on the important bits. Granted, many games don't do that - I just think it's not inherent to simplification in itself, just design lapses on the part of developers.

I also think there is still a market for complex and challenging games which big publishers are ignoring. Granted, it's not a big one, but still large enough to make a handsome profit if you know how to invest in it.

So yeah, there are pros and cons to accessibility, which I don't think is necessarily mutually exclusive to complexity and challenge, and I think there is still a place for those kinds of games.

Yes and no. Like I said before, I feel game design has gotten significantly better overall from the days when I absolutely needed a notebook, but I also miss the days of Silent Hill 3 on Hard puzzle difficulty where you had to solve some weird-ass puzzle involving hanging corpses and knowledge of Shakespeare plays. This was also in the early days of just being able to look the answer up on the internet.

@davillain- said:

Well back in my days, I use a thing called Strategy Guide books and video game magazines at the time also put out helpful tips on how to solve puzzles and passing out tips.

But however, I never use a notebook writing down stuff and clues, but I did write down tips from the good old days of the video game booklets instructions that always have pages of writing down notes and I actually did use those more so when I'm playing a game that came with the booklet. Man I miss those, I always like looking at the pages of the game and they sometimes have nice arts and a back story to get you ready to play the game.

I loved the "Versus" books. The one for OG RE2 was hilarious. But that raises an interesting point. Even in these "official" 3rd party published guides, they didn't even all know the answers. Look back at the guides from that era on how to unlock Hunk/Tofu. Every magazine/guide had a slightly different answer because pre-internet it was hard to figure this stuff out.

@R10nu said:

Primarily due to a great UI design removing the need for a notebook. Similarly, newer Deus Ex games note key combinations/passwords within game UI instead of you having to write them down.

It is honestly a sign of better, more refined game design, while still allowing for more big brain games like The Witness.

While it is true that there're fewer games like that out these days, i'd say it's more due to low demand rather than trappings of modern game design.

Overall I agree but I still miss things like spatial puzzles where you need to diagram something out to solve it.

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#15 Posted by I_P_Daily (11447 posts) -

I remember playing Command & Conquer on my Sega Saturn and drawing the maps and writing down the passwords within these maps so I knew where I was going.

Even in the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis is such a shitty name) days where I used to write down passwords at the end of each level, or the finishing riddle at the end of Alex Kidd on the Sega Master System, I still remember a bit of it today. It was fish, star, fish, etc, etc.

Ah gaming when it was at its finest and not today where most of gaming needs to tell you a story first and then add a little bit of "gameplay" later :(

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#16 Edited by br0kenrabbit (15954 posts) -

I still use a notebook when I micromanage games like Civilization or Total War. When flying full real in IL2 you have no map nor any access to one, so I use a slide rule and the in game timer and jot the math down in the notebook.

I played some Doom3 recently and had to keep track of those damn locker codes. I know I could just Google them but meh.

I used to have a notebook full of old NES continue codes, really wish I still had it. Some games would use upper and lowercase letters and when I wrote them down it was sometimes hard to tell which was which, so I just started drawing a circle around all lowercase letters.

And Zork can kiss my ass. I hate that game.

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#17 Posted by rzxv04 (579 posts) -

@Byshop said:

This is my old gaming notebook. Once upon a time, back in the PS2/360 era, some games had a puzzle/difficulty level that required taking outside notes in order to beat them. My roommate and I kept a dedicated notebook for writing down clues and trying to sleuth out the solutions to various puzzles. This was more of a scratch notebook for jotting down and visualizing ideas rather than a journal, so looking back today I only have even vague notions of what games these various pages of chicken-scratch are even supposed to be for.

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3

In the earliest days of my gaming, games were not designed to "hold your hand" in the slightest. Old school PC games (pre non-Atari console) were just about creating something for the player to solve, all other aspects of "fun" or "playability" weren't even real considerations yet. Infocom text adventures were among some of the most brutal, as games like Zork would let you take an action right at the beginning of the game that would prevent you from finishing the game and not even tell you.

Incidentally, the oldschool Infocom games have just had their source code made available for anyone interested to check it out.

At least Arena and Daggerfall would warn you if you killed an NPC that might be necessary to beat the storyline. Oblivion and Skyrim just didn't allow you to permkill anyone you needed for the main plot.

As games got better and more evolved, the idea that a game would force you to utilize "outside knowledge" was something that they moved away from. Everything you should need to beat the game would be provided -somewhere- in the game, even if it was hard to find. Silent Hill 3 on Hard puzzle difficulty was one of the first modern games to move away from that (requiring some knowledge of Shakespeare for one puzzle). Most games would never require you to look beyond the data provided in the game to solve a puzzle, unless that was specifically the game's gimmick.

So, this comes back to my old gaming notebook. It could be argued that the streamlining/simplification of games that resulted in them being developed as multiplatform titles (i.e. PC and consoles) contributed largely to this simplification. It's been a very, very long time since I felt like I might have needed to take notes outside a game to beat it. The closest I have come in recent memory is Obra Dinn, but in the end I was able to solve the fate of all 60 crew-members and passengers without needing to take my own notes.

So what do you think? Is this simplification of games good to make them appeal to a wider audience or has this more mainstream approach created an industry of games that lacks some of the sheer challenge of yesteryear?

Isn't INTERNETFICATION (Youtube/gamefaqs) more the reason for this than dumbing down?

People also bought guides before but now they're niche since the dawn of youtube/net forum age.

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#18 Posted by KungfuKitten (26428 posts) -

I made quite a few notes on The Witness, in case I was going to quit playing the game and come back to it later.

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#19 Posted by Raining51 (804 posts) -

I sorta get what you mean... it never quite advanced to that level in general though for me...

I think...

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#20 Edited by KungfuKitten (26428 posts) -

There are still Myst-esque games being made, right? Those games typically require paper notes I think? Obduction.

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#21 Posted by Byshop (19558 posts) -

@i_p_daily said:

I remember playing Command & Conquer on my Sega Saturn and drawing the maps and writing down the passwords within these maps so I knew where I was going.

Even in the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis is such a shitty name) days where I used to write down passwords at the end of each level, or the finishing riddle at the end of Alex Kidd on the Sega Master System, I still remember a bit of it today. It was fish, star, fish, etc, etc.

Ah gaming when it was at its finest and not today where most of gaming needs to tell you a story first and then add a little bit of "gameplay" later :(

Yeah, I mean jotting down save codes and cheat codes in the era before consoles had proper storage capability isn't exactly the same thing but I get your point. Incidentally, to this day I put a slash through my zeros to denote them as the number and not the letter "o" because of games like the NES version of Gauntlet where you had to re-enter a code to restore progress. I remember trying to re-enter the code and realizing that I had no way to differentiate which of the five "O"s that appeared in the code which were letters and which were numbers.

@br0kenrabbit said:

I still use a notebook when I micromanage games like Civilization or Total War. When flying full real in IL2 you have no map nor any access to one, so I use a slide rule and the in game timer and jot the math down in the notebook.

I played some Doom3 recently and had to keep track of those damn locker codes. I know I could just Google them but meh.

I used to have a notebook full of old NES continue codes, really wish I still had it. Some games would use upper and lowercase letters and when I wrote them down it was sometimes hard to tell which was which, so I just started drawing a circle around all lowercase letters.

And Zork can kiss my ass. I hate that game.

Yeah, I mean memorization of codes and combos is certainly one thing we used this book for. I don't mind that aspect of "modernization" where they don't make you do what amounts to busywork. I was playing Dead Effect 2 in VR the other night and hacking door panels, and repeating codes to myself over and over since I had nothing to write with obviously, but I was pleased to see the game displays the codes you hack/find next to the panel you need to enter them into. If there's no problem solving involved, I don't mind some streamlining there.

@rzxv04 said:

Isn't INTERNETFICATION (Youtube/gamefaqs) more the reason for this than dumbing down?

People also bought guides before but now they're niche since the dawn of youtube/net forum age.

Yeah, that's part of it. When we were playing through SH3 (and even as late as SH4) the internet wasn't anything like what it is today (for good and for bad). Gamefaqs was around, but it took a week or two before anyone submits or FAQ, or users submit partial FAQs that don't include the part we've gotten to yet. The only way to get past these puzzles was to figure them out on our own, and that was simultaneously awesome and terrible. These days, you can Google whatever you need to know pretty much day 1.

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#22 Posted by Raining51 (804 posts) -

@davillain- said:

Well back in my days, I use a thing called Strategy Guide books and video game magazines at the time also put out helpful tips on how to solve puzzles and passing out tips.

But however, I never use a notebook writing down stuff and clues, but I did write down tips from the good old days of the video game booklets instructions that always have pages of writing down notes and I actually did use those more so when I'm playing a game that came with the booklet. Man I miss those, I always like looking at the pages of the game and they sometimes have nice arts and a back story to get you ready to play the game.

Come to think of it I remember this a lot though... strategy guides being pretty essential... a lot of games could be pretty

confusing there' sno way to learn codes etc xstu stuff like that....

So while there's no jotting there may have been at times a fair bit of reading.

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#23 Posted by PC_Rocks (2062 posts) -

And then CoD/Uncharted happened.

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#24 Posted by dimebag667 (1208 posts) -

Any game that requires a notepad is bare minimum moving in the right direction to me.

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#25 Posted by Byshop (19558 posts) -

@raining51 said:

Come to think of it I remember this a lot though... strategy guides being pretty essential... a lot of games could be pretty

confusing there' sno way to learn codes etc xstu stuff like that....

So while there's no jotting there may have been at times a fair bit of reading.

If there's literally no way to figure something out without a guide, then I'd call that broken design. What's the point if the only way you can find the answer is by resorting to what is essentially "cheating"?

Zork is kind of an example of that. While I'm sure -someone- figured out the stuff in that game, the majority of the things I got stuck on as a kid had to be revealed in guides that I read. Like in Zork 3 you get attacked early on by a hooded figure. You have to attack him over and over again and the success of your attacks is determined by RNG so that alone sucks because you can do everything right and lose just through bad luck. What the game wants you to do is keep attacking the figure until you get a specific message that says "the figure is badly hurt and defenseless". If you attack once more, you kill him, but what you're -supposed- to do is at this point remove the figure's hood, at which point it goes into an Empire-Strikes-Back-Luke-In-The-Cave kind of thing where you see your own face. If you don't do this, the game is unwinable and you don't find this out until you're about 80% through.

That kind of stuff would fly back then, but today that would be regarded as broken design.

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#26 Posted by rzxv04 (579 posts) -

@Byshop said:
@i_p_daily said:

I remember playing Command & Conquer on my Sega Saturn and drawing the maps and writing down the passwords within these maps so I knew where I was going.

Even in the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis is such a shitty name) days where I used to write down passwords at the end of each level, or the finishing riddle at the end of Alex Kidd on the Sega Master System, I still remember a bit of it today. It was fish, star, fish, etc, etc.

Ah gaming when it was at its finest and not today where most of gaming needs to tell you a story first and then add a little bit of "gameplay" later :(

Yeah, I mean jotting down save codes and cheat codes in the era before consoles had proper storage capability isn't exactly the same thing but I get your point. Incidentally, to this day I put a slash through my zeros to denote them as the number and not the letter "o" because of games like the NES version of Gauntlet where you had to re-enter a code to restore progress. I remember trying to re-enter the code and realizing that I had no way to differentiate which of the five "O"s that appeared in the code which were letters and which were numbers.

@br0kenrabbit said:

I still use a notebook when I micromanage games like Civilization or Total War. When flying full real in IL2 you have no map nor any access to one, so I use a slide rule and the in game timer and jot the math down in the notebook.

I played some Doom3 recently and had to keep track of those damn locker codes. I know I could just Google them but meh.

I used to have a notebook full of old NES continue codes, really wish I still had it. Some games would use upper and lowercase letters and when I wrote them down it was sometimes hard to tell which was which, so I just started drawing a circle around all lowercase letters.

And Zork can kiss my ass. I hate that game.

Yeah, I mean memorization of codes and combos is certainly one thing we used this book for. I don't mind that aspect of "modernization" where they don't make you do what amounts to busywork. I was playing Dead Effect 2 in VR the other night and hacking door panels, and repeating codes to myself over and over since I had nothing to write with obviously, but I was pleased to see the game displays the codes you hack/find next to the panel you need to enter them into. If there's no problem solving involved, I don't mind some streamlining there.

@rzxv04 said:

Isn't INTERNETFICATION (Youtube/gamefaqs) more the reason for this than dumbing down?

People also bought guides before but now they're niche since the dawn of youtube/net forum age.

Yeah, that's part of it. When we were playing through SH3 (and even as late as SH4) the internet wasn't anything like what it is today (for good and for bad). Gamefaqs was around, but it took a week or two before anyone submits or FAQ, or users submit partial FAQs that don't include the part we've gotten to yet. The only way to get past these puzzles was to figure them out on our own, and that was simultaneously awesome and terrible. These days, you can Google whatever you need to know pretty much day 1.

Yup. I think even some devs are being purposely obscure in certain mechanics to have a semblance this "mystery" at least for the first few days/weeks/months.

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#27 Edited by warmblur (2169 posts) -
@pc_rocks said:

And then CoD/Uncharted happened.

Yep, COD4 was the game that mainstreamed the dumbing down of gaming.