Talk:Cruelty scale

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Removed gratuitous link to truffle recipe. -- OKB 2002/11/20

not sure i understand this scale... does "stuck" mean unwinnable? if so, does it mean a game filled with "instant death" is merciful because you cant make the game unwinnable and can just undo the death move? -- 14:16, 14 January 2007 Nespresso

  • To be honest, I have difficulty understanding this scale as well. As far as I know, yes, "stuck" in this context does means making the game unwinnable. However, no, a game filled with "instant death" is not merciful. UNDO is a "meta-command" or otherwise called an out-of-world action and shouldn't be counted in reckoning game cruelty. In TADS games and some Z-code interpreters, you can UNDO multiple turns, which could potentially make an unwinnable game winnable again, and, well, you can see how allowing UNDO into the discussion makes cruelty assessment meaningless, I hope. So, at best, an instant death game is Polite.

    I suppose we should start seriously appending some sort of clarifications on the cruelty scale page and give examples. We may discover there's even more confusion than we thought. -- David Welbourn 00:17, 15 January 2007 (EST)

I have difficulty understanding it, too. The extremes (Merciful and Cruel) seem rather easy to understand, but the others... Maybe this RAIF thread could help a bit? --Eriorg 09:07, 15 January 2007 (EST)

Quite frankly, the middle scales seem to be meaningless. The thread Eriorg referenced helps differentiate polite, but not much. In order to be actually useful, a rating system should make it's differences clear. Having to cross-reference outside material proves that people are confused about what the definitions are. We have no way to understand what different editors mean when they say "tough" or "cruel" because they appear to have the same definitions. -- Knight Errant

I agree, while I can moderately understand the difference between merciful, polite, tough, nasty and cruel, the description of something like "being stuck, but not that obviously stuck or irrevocably dead" seems meaningsless to me. For example, I don't understand why "when you do something irrevocable, it's clear" would be more nasty than "it's immediately obvious that you're about to do something irrevocable". How can we rate his rating system ? I'd vote for "cruel" because anything seems obvious... (btw there are only 3 games in the Tough games category, it means the system should be improved)

I'd suggest some better rating system could take in account at least 3 criterias, and could help the beginners :

  • Level or style of language used : easy (or plain), average, advanced. (especially useful for foreigners who wish to play an English game)
  • Difficulty of the clues / plot / puzzles : easy/merciful (cannot get stuck), average /tough (some tricky parts), advanced/cruel (may seem impossible to win for a beginner / when you get stuck or loose you must start from the beginning)
  • Time for playing it (in average) : short game between 2 and 15 minutes (typically speedif), middle game between 15 and 30 minutes, long game : more than 30 minutes.

It know it would be a bit difficult to give a precise time this way, but it may be an indication. --otto

For cruelty, "cruel" may not be enough, and for time for playing, "long game" might still not be enough; perhaps there should be "very long" if more than 2 hours? --Zzo38 02:56, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

I think that the scale is theoretically very clear but practically sometimes difficult to apply; it's very useful for design/theory/coding/deep reviews, but less appropriate for players, wiki-editors, and brief reviews. The main grey area tends to be Tough/Nasty, not because of any theoretical fuzziness but rather because individual game quirks frequently muddy the waters.

  • I support extending this entry to include examples, particularly paired examples designed to illustrate the distinctions between adjacent cruelty levels.
  • I don't support changing the basic structure of the cruelty scale, although minor rewording for clarity's sake is okay.
  • I would be interested in an alternative difficulty rating system to be used alongside Cruelty (Cruelty is not the same thing as difficulty at all, and we should probably clarify this).

-- Maga 18:01, 31 August 2007 (PDT)

My suggestion, based on watching how this sort of thing can get out of control, is to assemble a group of people, a review board or guild or whatever you want to call it, and then that group devises a rating system, and then you apply it to the games. Then you make a page for the review board showing who is on it. That way the scales are accountable, and the biases and situations of the group are in one place. --Jason Scott 22:52, 31 August 2007 (PDT)

In my game DARKTOWN, it is such that you can die sometimes, but you cannot get stuck in any other ways other than dying. UNDO and saving the game are not necessary (but are still both available). You cannot save when you are dead, you can only UNDO, RESTORE, RESTART, or QUIT. Is this "Merciful" or "Polite"? We could call this "Semi-merciful", because dying is the only way to make the game unwinnable, and in that case you can just UNDO. If you do anything else that doesn't involve dying, the game is winnable. (Or would "Super-polite" be better?) --Zzo38 12:16, 25 September 2008 (PDT)

That just sounds like "Polite" to me. If you can die at all, it's not "Merciful". -- David Welbourn 16:23, 26 September 2008 (PDT)

'Limitations' section

Since we apparently were in broad agreement that this needed some kind of fixing five years ago, and it's been pointed out to me that the presentation of the scale as-is presents a number of traps to outsiders not familiar with the context and limitations of the scale, I've thrown in a Limitations section, as a first draft; please add to, edit etc. If we're not going to replace, update or supplement the scale, we should at least make the caveats conspicuous. -- Maga 13:53, 22 November 2012 (CST)


What happens when, not only will the key be stolen, but it is not even the correct key; it is a magic door and causes it to open to another location which seems correct but actually it isn't? And perhaps, you can fix the bridge (maybe you can call someone who will fix it for you, if you give them a coin; and if you don't, someone else will) so that it won't fall down, but if you do it is also unwinnable because it is necessary to go down and you cannot do so with the bridge in the way? The bridge might not break the first time, but it might break after you cross and then go back! And, there are thieves stealing it from you as well as other thieves that take it from the other location. --Zzo38 02:52, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

The scale explained, simply

Merciful means there is always a way to win, and the game cannot be lost. Only one save slot is ever required, and only to let you shut down the computer and resume later.

Polite means you can make a mistake that causes you to lose, but you cannot ever save after making a mistake. Usually this is enforced by making every mistake fatal, because it's harder to actually detect and disable the save command when the game is unwinnable. Only one save slot is needed, but saving often helps avoid loosing progress. If a player send you their save and says they are stuck, you can beat the game from it. A working undo function will make the game functionally Merciful. (darn it.. good thing I can undo...)

Tough means the player is likely to save before making the error, and any mistake is immediately obvious after being made, so progress is unlikely to be lost, and saving after making a mistake is unlikely to happen. Either the player is directly informed that an action is dangerous, or is likely to figure it out on their own. The player will think "this might be a bad idea, I'll save before I'll try this". And if they screw up, they will think "Sigh.. Good thing I saved..."

Nasty means actions that can make the game unwinnable are not all obvious beforehand, but are still immediately obvious after they are taken. It's very unlikely you will overwrite a safe save with an unwinnable save. You can pass a point of no return without warning, but it's IMMEDIATELY obvious afterwards you passed it (say you wander into a room and get kidnapped instantly). Actions can destroy required items without warning, but you are immediately told it happened (You drop the Ming vase, and it shatters to pieces). Again, multiple save slots should be available, but they aren't technically required. These games are why the creed of "save early, save often" exists. You can still usually guide a player from their most recent save if they send it to you. The player will go "Oh, crap i should have saved". An undo command will downgrade this back to tough. "Good thing I have UNDO."

Cruel means you can make the game unwinnable without realizing it. Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy is Cruel, because it's vey easily possible to forget an item that you need later, and there is no way to know that you will need the item beforehand. Multiple save slots MUST be provided. The player needs to save early, save often, and keep many saves so they can go back and find one that's not unwinnable. When a player sends you their save, you can tell them how far back they need to go without needing to interrogate them right after loading it. Undo is not enough, unless it can rewind you all the way back to before the mistake.

Evil means the game actually tries to convince you you didn't make a mistake. Even if you are careful, it's very likely that you will overwrite a winnable save with an unwinnable one immediately after the game becomes unwinnable. Save early, save often, and never overwrite a save. You can still tell them how far back they need to go. Undo that rewinds back far enough will provide a clue. Space Quest 1 was Evil in that you had to refuse the first offer for the hovercraft, and take the second one. if you took the first offer you probably saved right after doing it, and overwrote your latest save with it. if the action that made the game unwinnable seemed totally correct at the time, it's Evil. The super undo would have made this action obvious.

Hell means it's a Guide Dang It. Players are unlikely to figure out what the mistake was without a walkthrough. When they ask you for help, you have to ask them a lot of questions about what they did or didn't do to narrow down where they went wrong, or play out the game from the save yourself. An undo that rewinds back far enough will leave the player just as confused without the walkthrough. Zaphod77 (talk) 04:46, 9 February 2021 (UTC)