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What do you think about Hand-Holding in games?


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#1 Reno Takamiya

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 01:10 AM

Now, I don't usually log on these forums unless there's a deal or something going on that I'm interested in. Anyways, on the other forum that I frequent more than I do on here. I've noticed a multitude of Dark Souls I and II threads and they can either go from being the most sensible of fans to the more passionate, elitist, etc. Whichever term you prefer. Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that other fanbases all have the more pretentious, passionate groups in the community that people outside of them. Only see the ones who are more 'apparent' so people make the generalization that the whole fanbase and fans are like those "Bad Apples in the bunch".

Anyways, on the other forums I'm usually on. I've noticed the argument when it comes to games like Dark Souls “It doesn't hold your hand like other games" or "It's more challenging than other games" Now I won't say that too much of hand-holding will always be a great thing but I don't mind tutorials as long as they aren't really long or the ability to use waypoints in an open world game like Skyim, Fallout, GTA, Assassin's Creed, etc.

Recently, I played Remember Me which was a pretty good game. Although, it did have tutorials and notifications to tell me about the mechanics work in the game. Combo Lab, combat etc. I honestly didn't mind it. It also had an indicator to where you need to climb and it would usually either count down or up from 100MM or other amounts. It was exactly like in Splinter Cell or Call of Duty where it tells you how far away you are from something and how close you're getting too it.

On the other forums, I've only ever heard the same argument about "Hand-Holding" in games when it comes to either Dark Souls I or II. I never saw any of the same statements happen when they talked about the release of Demon's Souls. I mean it's not like the Dark Souls series is the only challenging/difficult game to ever come out. It might be one that's most recent, but if you look back it's just another entry into challenging/difficult games that already exist. Not to mention, that the more passionate Dark Souls fans I've met act like Dark Souls is superior over every other game and as such, makes them sound worse because they either have some hand-holding or a tiny bit of hand-holding. I've never heard any of these "Fans" indicate which games they disliked because they had too much hand-holding for them.

I've only ever heard of a General statement like "Too many games these days are either too easy or hold your hand, and don't last very long when it comes to replay value" Now this doesn't exactly tell me what kind of games they've played in the past to see if they really do have valid complaints. Over time, sometimes you play a game that's similar to another game that you've played before so it might not be as challenging or take you as long to get through stages as before. I also know that if you replay a game after just playing it you already know what to do so the games isn't going to take you as long as it did before. Usually, you get better at playing Video Games over the years.

Here's a few of the games I've played on PS3/PS Vita recently. The hand-holding I've ever noticed is telling you how the 'mechanics' in the game works or how that new ability you just received works. If this is considered as hand-holding it honestly doesn't bug me with just this small amount. It just sounds like the people I've met make Dark Souls sound superior and any other game that has hand-holding and isn't Dark Souls is automatically worse than Dark Souls and shouldn't be played.

 

Spoiler

Alright, well, I don't know if people have posted some of the same arguments I've seen on other forums when it comes to games like Dark Souls I or II. Or if any of the members of this site have seen the same claims on either this site or other sites.

What do you think about when people complain about Hand-Holding in games but don't exactly elaborate on what games they say that have it?

Do you think recent games have too much hand-holding? or are people bending the truth a bit?

 

EDIT: I forgot to mention that people didn't make hand-holding in games a big deal until the timeframe of when Dark Souls 1 and 2 were released and when it came out they saw something it didn't do but other games did and so now they dislike something that other games do. Except they were fine with it until a series like Dark Souls came out. Then you also probably have the other people that hopped on a "bandwagon" because "It's cool to hate something"


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#2 Armymond

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 05:00 AM

Hand-holding and linearity seem to go hand in hand.

Let's look at games on the NES and on; those games we would call retro. There are literally no instructions most of the time. First time playing Legend of Zelda? Good luck finding out where to go. And then there is Ghosts N' Goblins and the Mega Man games... There are so many ways to approach situations it manages to feel like a nonlinear experience.

There was a time when instructions were nonexistent, and of course gamers loved the games, but also found frustration in the lack of guidance. I think developers have realized that and have decided to make "hand-holding" a key part of the experience today. By most games, I refer to triple A titles that everyone hears about and have sort of become a symbol for this generation of gaming. 

With my opening statement, I said hand-holding is similar to linearity in that games have become more straightforward. This means you can't really get lost. This is another form of hand-holding. Exploration can be demanding, and sometimes that aspect of a game is reduced or outright cut. Hand-holding probably wasn't brought up as an "issue" until the explosion of Dark Souls and the obvious lack of guidance the game gave the player. Games have steadily become more linear, but Dark Souls is far from that. It reminds me of a classic NES game in many ways; from it's refusal to give you key information, to its complete open world, Dark Souls is unlike most major titles today. This generation, games have been holding your hand by keeping you on linear paths well before the release of Dark Souls. This wasn't a large concern though because it was the new era of gaming with new ideas; when you are receiving a movie like experience, game design doesn't seem to be the most prominent feature of a game, surprisingly. Dark Souls flips everything around in terms of how the developers seemed to approach it. Designed to match a game first, not a movie. Movies need to go at a steady pace, games don't (though we've grown accustomed to it now).

After playing Dark Souls, I have to admit, I like most of my games to be nonlinear with a lack of hand-holding. I think it's all about emphasizing choice. Even when you see a little waypoint telling you to go to this spot in order to advance the plot, you can't help but feel like the game/developers want you to go at their pace. 

None of this means hand-holding equals a negative experience. I've been playing Mega Man again and it is just pissing me off. Sometimes I just want to game to throw me a bone. On the other hand, I also just beat Spec Ops and I realized I enjoyed the steady pace the game set with the bits of guidance it gave me. It's all about if your'e in the mode for a more laid back, casual experience, or a more "hardcore" one. Neither is "better" than the other. It's all about what would work best for the design of the game.



#3 Reno Takamiya

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 09:03 AM

Hand-holding and linearity seem to go hand in hand.

Let's look at games on the NES and on; those games we would call retro. There are literally no instructions most of the time. First time playing Legend of Zelda? Good luck finding out where to go. And then there is Ghosts N' Goblins and the Mega Man games... There are so many ways to approach situations it manages to feel like a nonlinear experience.

There was a time when instructions were nonexistent, and of course gamers loved the games, but also found frustration in the lack of guidance. I think developers have realized that and have decided to make "hand-holding" a key part of the experience today. By most games, I refer to triple A titles that everyone hears about and have sort of become a symbol for this generation of gaming. 

With my opening statement, I said hand-holding is similar to linearity in that games have become more straightforward. This means you can't really get lost. This is another form of hand-holding. Exploration can be demanding, and sometimes that aspect of a game is reduced or outright cut. Hand-holding probably wasn't brought up as an "issue" until the explosion of Dark Souls and the obvious lack of guidance the game gave the player. Games have steadily become more linear, but Dark Souls is far from that. It reminds me of a classic NES game in many ways; from it's refusal to give you key information, to its complete open world, Dark Souls is unlike most major titles today. This generation, games have been holding your hand by keeping you on linear paths well before the release of Dark Souls. This wasn't a large concern though because it was the new era of gaming with new ideas; when you are receiving a movie like experience, game design doesn't seem to be the most prominent feature of a game, surprisingly. Dark Souls flips everything around in terms of how the developers seemed to approach it. Designed to match a game first, not a movie. Movies need to go at a steady pace, games don't (though we've grown accustomed to it now).

After playing Dark Souls, I have to admit, I like most of my games to be nonlinear with a lack of hand-holding. I think it's all about emphasizing choice. Even when you see a little waypoint telling you to go to this spot in order to advance the plot, you can't help but feel like the game/developers want you to go at their pace. 

None of this means hand-holding equals a negative experience. I've been playing Mega Man again and it is just pissing me off. Sometimes I just want the game to throw me a bone. On the other hand, I also just beat Spec Ops and I realized I enjoyed the steady pace the game set with the bits of guidance it gave me. It's all about if your'e in the mode for a more laid back, casual experience, or a more "hardcore" one. Neither is "better" than the other. It's all about what would work best for the design of the game.

 

I feel like it could be a double edge sword when it comes to these things. I mean, I don't mind if there's hand-holding in a game as long as it's in the form of a waypoint, tutorial or notification on how the mechanics of the game work so I know how to play the game. I can feel with people when it comes to games that are linear though. I usually only play those games once because I've seen what it can do the first time round. Or, if I really enjoy the game immensely, I'll replay it later on after playing the game when it's not so fresh in my mind. Some of these games are Persona 4: Golden and Persona 3: FES I enjoyed them on the PS2 and because I heard they had "additions" I decided to get them again because I liked them.

 

Another game I really liked was Deadly Premonition on the Xbox 360. So when I heard it was coming to the PS3 I picked it up and played it again. It was still like how I remembered it, but it was also a double-edged sword because I felt like the new content was good for new players, but not exactly past players. I was expecting a bit more. 

 

I've played over 120 games on my Xbox 360 before I purchased a PS3 and decided to play what it offered. Out of those 120 games, only 119 were games that either didn't interest very much, were linear or didn't warrant a second playthrough. I very rarely will go through a game a second time unless it has extra endings, choices that affect the story and differences/additions. 

 

Which reminds me, of Bioshock: Infinite. I thought it was a decent game, and there's a lot more people out there who think it's the best thing since super sliced bread. However, I didn't mind the departure from Rapture to Columbia but I did mind, how there was only one ending and choices that didn't affect the story and the inclusion of scripted battles. I would have liked to skip over the Patriots or Handymen just like I could with the Big Daddies in previous Bioshock games. I still like the first two in the Bioshock series because they had stuff that makes me want to replay the games again, and possibly again. I just didn't see any replay value in Infinite because it was linear and I saw the gist of everything in that one playthrough.

 

When it comes to Bethesda's games, you have a choice between continuing the main story, or doing the side-quest/side-missions. Or, you can just go on your own path and do whatever you want that happens in the world of The Elder Scrolls or the Fallout series. You also have the choice of setting up a way point for the next quest and looking at the map or you can just travel around the world hoping  you find where you need to be on a 'whim' or just from pure luck. Although, it would probably be faster to look at the map and set the way point and go from there. 

 

About the fans of Dark Souls that I talked about in the opening post. The only ones that I have met besides the few sensible ones that I'm friends with on the other forums. The ones that stand-out seem to suggest the game when people ask for game suggestions and say "It doesn't hold your hand like other games or it's not as easy as other games" And, I can understand that. However, it's when you get into the "fans" who sound like hand-holding in games is a bad thing or a negative experience and games that include it shouldn't be played and just skipped over. That's just how some of the fans of the series that I've met strike me. I'm sure they're all not like that. It's just that the forums that I frequent most often have the worst of the fanbase and also the worst of PC-only player fanbase.

 

So far, the only games that I've played have included hand-holding in the way of either telling you where to go or giving you a short tutorial and how to play the game. When it's only those little things it doesn't really bug me. Although, it is nice to play a game like Skyrim where you can choose to do whatever you want as long as it corresponds with that world and what's in the game. I'm sure they're people out there who have played a series of games and then they pick up the second and start playing and see a tutorial and go "I already know how to play this series of games I don't need to look at it again" Except that I'm pretty sure the developers are putting it in there because with sequels come improvements and changes. Which also comes with people who don't play games chronologically or as a series.

 

I remember playing the Metal Gear Solid series by first picking up the Essential Collections on the PS2. Which was MGS 1, MGS 2 and 3 and later on I played 4 on the PS3. I didn't play the games chronologically to see all what the story had to offer I just played the games as I came across them either by a collection or because they were appropriately priced. The only time I ever played a game in Chronological order was the Devil May Cry series. 

 

I just don't understand the certain people who think that Hand-Holding in Video Games is the worst experience ever. Then when a game comes a long that doesn't exactly do what others did prior they praise or worship it as something else. So far, I haven't played a game where hand-holding is more a hindrance than it is helpful. I'm not forgetting that the Soul's series are also difficult and challenging games.

 

They're also games that came out on top of prior difficult and challenging games. Or games that have different difficulties that go past "Hard Mode". For example, the old Castlevania games or Ghost's 'N Goblins and Metal Gear Solid and I'm dead sure there's plenty more. I remember completing Metal Gear Solid 2 and playing on European Extreme after beating it on Normal. Just to see how difficult it would be and it was pretty difficult. I didn't continue after that because I had already seen what the game had to offer in Normal mode. 


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#4 Spokker

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 09:23 PM

The unwritten rule in video games these days is to treat the player as if they have never picked up a controller in their life. I think this trend is about inclusiveness and attracting people who normally don't play games.

 

We take for granted a lot of the game mechanics that most games have in common. Depending on the genre, we can probably guess that Cross is going to make you jump. Square is some kind of attack, or reload in shooters. Circle is some kind of alternative action, maybe a slower but more powerful attack, or the crouch button. Triangle will make you enter a vehicle, or interact in some way with the game world, switch weapons, or something.

 

Even if developers change up this basic framework, I would rather be left to experiment with the game's controls as soon as the game begins. Press a button and see what happens. See what the limitations of my character is. Can they double jump? How fast do they move? What can I climb? Can I powerup this attack by holding the button down? And so on. I don't want to be told. Just let me start playing.

 

Unless your game does something unique that few other games do or you just have make everything convoluted so there is the appearance of originality, there is no reason for the handholding. The worst thing a game can do is pause the action every few seconds to explain something new. I forget what game it was but there was some game on XBLA that paused every few steps to tell you how to jump, then double jump, then attack, then power attack, then how to wipe your own ass, and so on. After a few minutes I just quit because I was sick of it.

 

So while they want to make people who have never played video games before feel welcome, I think a lot of games have lost that sense of discovery and experimentation because they are spoonfeeding it to us every step of the way.

 

I like the way NBA 2K14 does it. It doesn't tell you shit except for a few random tips on the loading screen and just dumps you into the game. If you want to learn more advanced controls, you can always go to practice mode.



#5 lolwhat

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 09:59 PM

The Dark Souls fanbase is clueless. The games aren't even difficult. If you have an ounce of patience they're almost relaxing. And what makes them brilliant is that anyone can beat them. Yes, enemies do lots of damage and yes, they have mean looking attack patterns, and yes, the penalty of death is high. But after a death you are awarded the knowledge to press further. You know not to step there, you know to raise your shield here, and to dodge roll after. That is the game. There's no extreme mechanical challenge. Nothing is demanded from the reaction time or accuracy department. People just associate 'difficult' with 'Game Over' screens and conclude Dark Souls is the most hardcore product on the market. It isn't. Dying in Dark Souls is how you discover that it's not nearly as intimidating as it looks. It's super creative but it's not a trial of manhood, or whatever idiotic shit the fans are saying it is.

 

A hard game that doesn't "hold your hand" is, to me, one that I can't muster the ability to play well without large amounts of practice or memorization (music games, competitive shooting/strategy/fighting games, complex puzzle games). Dark Souls games are creepy and have the element of the unknown to excite the player, but fundamentally they are incredibly easy plays, and do indeed carry you through the motions. If they were even half as brutal as people make them out to be, no one would be beating them. Instead the Souls games are a well established franchise and undeniably mainstream. Everyone gets through them.



#6 dmaul1114

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 10:15 PM

It's a fine line for me.  I don't like long, boring tutorials (like some of the 3D Zeldas) that go on way to long before the game opens up.  But I also don't like hard games and loathe wandering around trying to figure out what to do/where to go next.

 

Games like Infamous, Skyrim etc. do it best IMO.  The show you moves quickly, have nice compass/objective systems so you always know generally where to go, but allow for all the exploration you want to do on the side as well.  More games should give gamers more options how to play the game.


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#7 powbear

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 07:50 PM

Personally I get really tired of UI and GPS maps, minimaps, direction arrows and all that clutter. One of my favorite games of all times is Gothic 2 because it was such an imersive experience (at that time). You had to actually pay attention to the directions the guy gave you in order to complete the quest. Plus there was room for so much exploration and discovery simply because you were to cheap to buy a map and you were completly lost in the woods wondering if that's the same tree you passed half an hour ago.

Seeing a big text on your screen CLICK THE FIRE TO COOK MEAT is redundant for most players. Going up to the fire yourself and realizing that in fact you CAN click it and you CAN cook is a wonderful little discovery that completly changes your experience in the game.



#8 soonersfan60

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 02:51 AM

I was impressed with Uncharted first time I played it. Not only minimal hand-holding, but it was easy to figure out where I had to go next without maps or any real assistance... just the flow of the game.

 

I think hand-holding should be optional, though... just like easy mode.

 

The worst games for this are one of my fav series: Zelda. Why does Link have to feel astonished like it's the first Rupee he's ever found each time?!



#9 Ryuukishi

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 04:36 PM

I kind of like hand-holding TBH. In fact I've been playing Kingdom Hearts HD Remix lately and there have been a number of times where the story is so vague that I had no idea what the game wanted me to do to progress, so I end up doing the old-school JRPG thing where you just go everywhere and talk to every NPC until you hit on whatever thing the game was waiting for. I totally wish that I could just hit a button to lay down a path on the ground to my next objective like in Dead Space or BioShock.

 

I think it's cool that there are games like Dark Souls for people looking for the experience of just being dropped into a world and figuring out the rules and objectives for yourself. But for me personally, for the most part I just want the game to tell me in plain language what it wants me to do.


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#10 dmaul1114

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 09:58 PM

Agree totally with that.  And I like that some of those games make it optional--like Bioshock where you can turn the arrow off or games like Skyrim where extra guidance is available with the clairvoyance spell etc.

 

People that have more time or just enjoy wandering around and exploring and finding their way on their own can do so, and those of us that just want to enjoy the story and other aspects of the gameplay can just stay on target and get through the game quicker.


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#11 Billytwoshoes

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 08:56 PM

There is a fine balance of hand holding that should be present in games, but only the point to alleviate frustration.  There are various degrees of hand holding too, some literal, some subliminal.

 

I can think of two games off the top of my head that did a fine balance of hand holding with both methods.  The more literal method (yet optional in many ways) was the first Metal Gear Solid.  You could make Codec calls if you wanted more information, or you could just experiment for yourself in the first zone (which is in many ways a training ground), to find out the different gameplay mechanics with little consequence.  And for most Codec calls, you don't even have to answer them if you don't want to (but I forget the exact ratio, been awhile since I've played it).

 

Most everything was in that first zone on how to play (avoiding the cone of vision on guards, making noises to attract, guards following footprints, crawling for cover, and of course taking out the guards), and the player could experiment on their own without step by step tutorials.

 

The other more classic example with subliminal tutorials was Super Metroid.  Not a single text box will come up at all during your game, but through environmental obstacles, key power up placements, and even the occasional helpful alien demos, you learned as you played and pushed your skills to progress.

 

You never felt lost, you never felt frustrated, you always felt you had somewhere to go, and every discovery was satisfying because you found it out, not because something directly told you how or where to do it.

 

On one final flip side to this, waypoints and story summaries can be a nice addition, I wouldn't be able to pick games back up after leaving them dormant for so long without them (such as my most recent experience with Xenoblade Chronicles).  Sometimes a little hand holding is nice when you don't have hours to dedicate to trip your memory again while aimlessly wandering.

 

I always intend to make these shorter posts, but I never end up succeeding.



#12 Ryuukishi

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 10:13 PM

Super Metroid is like a master class in guiding and teaching the player how to play the game without ever being intrusive or making you stop to read a tutorial. It should be studied by anyone designing a video game.


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#13 bkjohns1

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 10:33 PM

and loathe wandering around trying to figure out what to do/where to go next.

This.  I get annoyed just being lost wandering around without a clue of what to do next.


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#14 Spokker

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Posted 27 March 2014 - 11:45 PM

This.  I get annoyed just being lost wandering around without a clue of what to do next.

I guess this varies by game. The counter to that is that I wouldn't want games to overcompensate for those who just don't pay attention to what they are doing.

 

I would say that if 20 to 30% of the testers are getting lost, and the rest seem to be smart enough to navigate the game, then let it be and let the 20-30% consult Gamefaqs. But if over half are getting lost all the time, then that's probably a problem.

 

Again, it's going to depend on the game.

 

Somewhat related is the security camera drug bust mini-game in Sleeping Dogs. I was excited when I first started that because I thought they were going to let you pick out the right guy to bust, but then they just highlight him for you and there's no challenge at all.

 

So there's an example of bad handholding in an otherwise good game. 



#15 Reno Takamiya

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 05:20 AM

I guess this varies by game. The counter to that is that I wouldn't want games to overcompensate for those who just don't pay attention to what they are doing.

 

I would say that if 20 to 30% of the testers are getting lost, and the rest seem to be smart enough to navigate the game, then let it be and let the 20-30% consult Gamefaqs. But if over half are getting lost all the time, then that's probably a problem.

 

Again, it's going to depend on the game.

 

Somewhat related is the security camera drug bust mini-game in Sleeping Dogs. I was excited when I first started that because I thought they were going to let you pick out the right guy to bust, but then they just highlight him for you and there's no challenge at all.

 

So there's an example of bad handholding in an otherwise good game. 

That reminds me of the newest Thief. Besides the horrible animation and badly done AI (Which can vary between difficulties when it comes to the AI) I noticed that when Garret uses his mechanical eye in the game. Everything turns blue, and by everything I mean stuff you can steal, where the switch you need to use is and also pretty much get's you through all the puzzles.

 

I can see how that can be frustrating and not exactly challenging. The takedown animation when a guard is asleep in a chair is also cringe-worthy. It looks like Garret is literally using a force push. Then there's the comparisons to Dishonored where people can't exactly see how or why it should be compared to Dishonored. (This last part is more of a side-note though)  :- 

 


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#16 ColonelKernel

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Posted 28 March 2014 - 01:10 PM

Haha - I read the title of the post and thought you literally meant games that had hand holding in! All I could think of was ICO...



#17 Reno Takamiya

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 09:41 AM

Haha - I read the title of the post and thought you literally meant games that had hand holding in! All I could think of was ICO...

 

I've also made a joke like that once. Ever heard of or played the Dead Rising series? Sometimes, the game has you hold the hand of a survivor that you're trying to save. Honestly, the ardent fans when it comes to Dark Souls that I met wouldn't like that.  :D/


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#18 eldergamer

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 04:05 PM

They can always make it an option, like the 'Turn on Tips' that same games have.

 

I really wish there was some sort of death counter in games, like where if you've died at a certain stage or section numerous times, they lower the difficulty or boost you up.

(3D Super Mario World did a great job of this by giving you a glowing leaf after you died 4 times on the level0


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#19 Ryuukishi

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 04:39 PM

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn has that. If you die three times in a row in a single-player instance, your character automatically gets buffed to make it easier.

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#20 ID2006

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 05:12 PM

It doesn't bug me much—depends on the game type, really. I will say that the undefeated champion in boring me to frustration with notifications and tutorials is Zelda: Skyward Sword (and just the console Zelda games in general). It was a potentially great game ruined by terrible controls and way too many tutorials.

 

"Yes, Link, it's an Amber. The same thing you found the last 20 times I logged in to play."

 

On the other hand, I really don't like how some people use simplistic retro games as good examples of how to teach mechanics. Most of the games I play these days have a lot more complexity than Mega Man X did. Many modern games with a similarly basic design don't tend to have a lot of overt teaching in them, like Rogue Legacy, Valdis Story, etc.