List of things that causes automatic playing
Automatic playing means when a player types in commands more or less automatically without thinking much. None of the things listed is necessarily always bad, and there are probably instances when they don’t really lead to automatic playing.
Things causing the player to walk a lot
- One is generally requires to type in lots of commands to explore them even when one has figured out how to solve them.
- Sometimes you can keep track on paper or transcripts or whatever, and then just type multiple commands on one line, for example: N.N.E.S.NW.UP.E.E.NE.DOWN.SW
- Many rooms
- Traveling between rooms doesn’t take much thinking, and the more rooms the more traveling.
- Again, if you know the directions, you can type them all on one line. You could also implement something like in Myst, where there is a mode that you only need to click once to travel in certain circumstances (after you already know where everything is).
- The rooms are placed so that some of them are far apart
- Say you have 10 rooms and they are placed on a line. Then to get from the first room to the last room you have to “go” 9 times. But if the first room and the last room were also connected you would never have to “go” more than 5 times to get from any room to any other room. More connections between rooms usually means less average distance between them. But it also means the player is likely to spend some time finding out where all the exits leads, and this is also automatic playing.
- Of course, the actual word "GO" is optional in your typing if you are using compass directions.
- Two related unmovable objects are far apart
- Likely to cause the player to travel back and forth a lot.
- Unusual links between the rooms
- For instance if you go north to get from room A to room B, but you go east to get from room B to room A. Likely to cause mild confusion and waste the time of some players, even if you tell the player that he changes course when he goes between the rooms. If there is a lot of this going on the map becomes like a maze.
- Limited carrying capacity
- Some games have a limit on how many objects a player can carry. This often leads to the player going back and forth a lot to pick up things he had previously left behind. In many games it also leads to the game potentially being made unwinnable, because the player may not have a vital object when needed.
Things causing the player to redo things
- Time limits/eating puzzle
- If a game has a time limit and the player is unable to keep it, the player is likely to play the game again and just type in all the commands over again minus the useless ones. A time limit that last through a large part of the game is more likely to be annoying than a time limit for just for one scene of the game. An eating puzzle is when the player dies if he does not eat after a certain amount of turns. It is in effect a time limit.
- Limited resources
- Say a game has a resource that it possible to use up, for instance food, matches or ammunition. If a player uses it up, he is likely to just play the game over again and type much of the same command, just being more careful with the resources.
- Games that can be made unwinnable
- If an action makes a game unwinnable, a player is likely to play the game again and this time just refrain from doing that action. This is particularly annoying if the action is early in the game, and the player don’t find out it made the game unwinnable until late in the game.
- If there is a scene with a random element in the game, for instance a random fight or a random poker game, a player is likely to just keep playing that scene until he gets the result he wants.
- Note: In some games, there are things which can appear to be random (or based on things that you have no control over), but in reality you always get the same result, no matter how many times you UNDO, RESTART, or just continue the game and try again later without UNDOing.
- Having to do something complex more than once
- The most common reason for this is probably when one needs to solve a puzzle to get into a room, and then later every time one wishes to enter that room one must solve the puzzle over again. This can be solved if there is another exit into the room that can only be opened from inside the room.
- Another way is to make the door unlock and then you don't have to unlock it again if it doesn't lock automatically. And if the puzzle is simple enough (such as a single command), then it doesn't really matter, it is OK if you have to do it multiple times to enter the room multiple times.
- Sections that must be replayed
- A few games have sections that are supposed to be played several times. Perhaps the player is supposed to learn by death, or perhaps the game is about some kind of time loop. In these cases it might be a good idea to make these sections as short as possible to reduce the number of commands the player has to do over again.
- It is also possible to support multiple UNDO.
- Sometimes, things you must do to figure out a solution to something else (such as a password to open a door) must be done anyways each time (after you RESTART) before it is accepted, even if you are correct. (I believe there is a puzzle like this in Myst.)
- Many needless objects
- A player is likely to try to interact at least a little with most of the objects in the game.
- Having to type more commands than should be required to show ones intention
- For instance say there is a closed door to the north. If the player types “north” it is fairly clear that he intends to open the door and go north. But the game may not let him go north until he has first typed “open door”. Machinery is often needlessly complicated to operate.
- Sometimes there are reasons for things like this to not be automatic, but going through a door that isn't locked should usually be automatic to open it, but in a few cases you might make it not be.
- Very easy puzzles
- A very easy puzzle can be things like: unlock a locked door, buy something in a store or give an object to a person who has asked for such an object. These easy puzzles can be important to a story but are arguably useless from a gaming point of view. If they are not important to the story one might consider eliminating them.
- It is also somewhat common that early in a game the player walks around and pick up objects that are just lying around. Unless it is important to the story one might save the player some trouble by just having all these objects in the same place, or make the player start with the objects already in his inventory.
- The examine command and the search command
- If the game has an examine command many player are likely to examine most of the objects in the game. This means typing a lot of command without much thinking. Use of the search command is probably less automatic, but arguable don’t require much thinking either since it is possibly to just go around and search everything also. The same goes for “look inside”, “look under” and “look behind”.
- Menu-based conversation
- When a game has menu-based conversation it is often possible to go through the same conversation more than once and choose other options. Many players are likely to just go through all the options.
- Possibly you will select the best option first (which you like best), and then try again with a different option to see what happens.
- The “ask about” command
- In many games it is possible to “ask NPC about topic”. This is not quite as automatic as menu-based conversations tend to be. However the surest way to be sure to get all the information is to make a list of everything mentioned in the game that might reasonably be a topic, and then ask all the NPCs about that topic. The number of automatic commands this creates is roughly: the number of topics times the number of NPCs. Many games also have a “tell NPC about topic” command, which will lead to even more automatic commands.
- In many games “ask about” and “tell about” is synonymous, but the player is not told this. In those cases the number of automatic commands can be reduces if one remove one of the commands, or possible replaces both with a “talk about” command.
- Of course, it depends how important NPCs are in that game. And even if NPCs are important, conversations might not be important.