Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Preminition Problem

I am taking a break from my DDT discussion to instead discuss a design flaw in a game that I am currently playing. This is an older game that just recently became available on Steam in a platinum edition. As this game was one of the games on sale in the Steam end of the year sales, I grabbed it and a number of other games that I plan to eventually get around to. The game in question is Neverwinter Nights 2. I am a bit over twenty hours into the game and appear to have found a major design flaw in this game. I am hoping that this flaw isn't real, but have the gut feeling that it is and that as a result of this flaw my game experience is going to be sub-optimal for my first play through. The problem is that the game expects you to do something before you have any inkling that such an action needs to be done. This in itself isn't bad, but the locations that you have to do these thing in disappear from your map before it is revealed. This is an inexcusable design flaw.

In NWN2, the thing you need to be looking for is ore. Clicking on the ore game a small xp bonus, but without knowing that I should be searching for the ore, I missed some ore in locations that I can no longer go back to.  I can only hope that the missed ore is not needed and more of a bonus for people playing through the game a second time. The basic rule of thumb is that you should never punish users for something unless they have been warned beforehand.

Having some element of a game present before-hand but revealed later is certainly an acceptable and rewarding experience if it is handled properly. In NWN2s case, this could have been done by simply not removing locations with ore on them from the map. Players should never be twenty or more hours into playing a game only to suddenly discover they missed out on something and the only way to get that something is to replay those twenty hours.

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