ID:151629
 
Okay, here's the game situation. Suppose you are in a room, and you have a player character. Your character moves around in realtime using the keyboard. In some parts of the game, there may be monsters that move around in realtime as well which you will often have to move quickly to avoid, so you'll want to be close to the arrow keys. Ideally, however, rooms that require you to stop and think will be devoid of active threats, or will at least include safe spots.

In this room, there are some things that stand out to you. There is a deteriorating section of wall with a big crack in it. There is a statue of a warrior who looks like he should have been brandishing a weapon, but doesn't have one. There is also a locked door. In your inventory, you have a rather large and unwieldly hammer, a decorative sword, and a key.

Now, while you can choose to ignore everything in this room and move on if you want, you may also want to try and use a particular item on something in the room.

The question is, since you'll probably be having your fingers near or on the arrow keys most of the time, what's the best way to allow the player to select the item they want to interact with? Should this be done through the mouse with an inventory selection area, wher you click on something in the inventory, then click on the object you want to interact with? Or perhaps you click on the object in your inventory then navigate your character into the object you want to interact with using the arrow keys.

In The Gauntlet and Tomb Explorer, you interact with things either by bumping into them or by clicking on them. You never "select" an item to use, but if you have the correct item, it'll interact with the object in the room. I want to get away from this, because I think it takes a lot of the thought out of the game. You don't have to think about using the big hammer on the cracked wall, you just have to interact with the cracked wall and hope that you have the right tool for the job. If not, try the next object in the room. As Tom once pointed out, you can "complete a difficult dungeon rather fast by sheer luck" with that setup.

I'd just like to get some feedback on what people think would be the best way to allow interaction using desired item on a specific object. Its almost like an interactive fiction/adventure game using point and click, but I don't know if that would combine well with running around using the arrow keys to avoid baddies. Thoughts?
Design your dungeon in such a way that solving puzzles through luck is not an issue. The hammer should not be available before the cracked wall, you should find the cracked wall first, and when you find the hammer the player should say "Oh hey I saw something I could use this on, earlier" and have to go back to it. Once this has been done, however, there is no purpose whatsoever in making them make that logical connection again in the future.

Selecting the correct item to use really should not be necessary. If you want a puzzle where you have to assign some blocks marked with R, G, and B to the statues of Ed, Reen, and Lu, then format it so that the order you interact with them is what matters, or so that the interaction is obvious (you can only carry one block at a time).

Time spent in menus is just a waste of time (fiftieth cracked wall you've had to hammer) or massively frustrating (trying every item on each interactable object in the hope it's correct).
In response to Garthor (#1)
I was thinking of arranging the game more like an interactive fiction adventure game, and especially allowing people to create their own items and interactions to use. Cracked wall is just an example, its not necessarily a solid game element and you'll be encountering them 20 times per level.

Adventure games typically require you to think about which items to use on which objects. Maybe you've got a soldier guarding a gate, and you have in your inventory a sword and a love letter with his name on it. Bumping into the soldier because you have the right item would eliminate the choice. Using the sword on the soldier might not be a good idea, depending on the context. But either option could be viable. Having pre-determined interaction through bumping or clicking also eliminates your ability to talk to the soldier.

And as for the cracked wall, what if you have a hammer, but you also have some dynamite. If you have to choose which item to use, you have more choices. I want a puzzle game, not a lock and key game. I want people to think about their actions instead of just bumping into everything to see if they can progress. I've worked on two of those games already and I don't especially care for that method.
In response to Garthor (#1)
Garthor wrote:
The hammer should not be available before the cracked wall, [...] Once this has been done, however, there is no purpose whatsoever in making them make that logical connection again in the future.

That doesn't solve the underlying problem at all. For example, the player can still not make the connection, and even not notice the cracked wall earlier, then randomly interact with it later to see if an action can be made.
Besides, limiting yourself to ordering encounters in a certain way is silly and... limiting. Also, thought that you might want to make your game non-linear?

Selecting the correct item to use really should not be necessary.

Huh? So the player shouldn't actually have to decide what to do himself? Have the game choose for him?
What if you can use more than one items on a certain target?
etc. This line of thinking is bad overall. The player should make his choices, not the game.
Why not have the game also automatically walk the player through the maze?

Time spent in menus is just a waste of time (fiftieth cracked wall you've had to hammer)

Yeah, kind of. Obviously, the moral of this is that you should figure out a way(s) to implement using items without digging in menus. One doesn't necessitate the other.

massively frustrating (trying every item on each interactable object in the hope it's correct).

The whole point here is to try and make the player actually think and figure out which item to use on what, so that's not quite a concern - but the above applies, of course.
In response to Kaioken (#3)
Huh? So the player shouldn't actually have to decide what to do himself? Have the game choose for him?

The decision is made when the player moves to the location of the object they wish to interact with. Presumably the game is more than a single tile containing fifty items and fifty static objects, and so there's plenty of room to make this feasible.

What if you can use more than one items on a certain target?

Have multiple targets or a method by which the choice is obvious and intuitive, like my carrying-only-one-block example.

etc. This line of thinking is bad overall. The player should make his choices, not the game.

The player made the choice to interact with the object. The distinction between selecting every item in their inventory until they find the correct one, or simply letting them pass, is not an issue of choice, but one of interface.

Why not have the game also automatically walk the player through the maze?

If the maze has absolutely no clues whatsoever as to its design? There's no reason not to. It's a waste of time either way, and at least with the game walking you through it's less of a waste of time. Though, naturally, this involves creating a rather abstracted maze as any maze that exists in real space would inherently have clues to its solution.
In response to Foomer (#2)
If you really want to have the option of multiple possibilities, then I suggest you just provide an abbrevaited menu of every item that will actually do something, and select from that using the arrow keys (seeing as it should be only a few elements long anyway). Removing the possibility of the classic adventure games shenanigans of super-obscure item combinations could only be considered a good thing.

For more specific ideas, you could map one option to each direction, with the center key being "cancel". It would limit you to four (or eight) choices but you would need to have a rather massively contrived situation to require more.

I mean, think of this: if a player is utterly and completely stumped despite having found everything they need, what do you want them to do? Quit, have to randomly try two hundred combinations before continuing, or have to interact randomly with a half-dozen objects before continuing?
In response to Garthor (#4)
Garthor wrote:
The player made the choice to interact with the object.

Yes, and the whole point of this thread is to come up with a nice way for the player to decide HOW to interact with the object. At least in games like Zelda you have to pick which item you're going to use once you've approached an object to interact with (unless the object doesn't require an item to interact). Nobody ever complains about that system. "OMG, why can't I just push a button and have it try all the items I have to see if one works!?"

It takes a bit of reasoning to conclude that inserting the decorative sword into the hand of the statue of a warrior without a weapon might do something. Furthermore, having a means to choose which "item" you want to use might also allow you to choose to examine these things more closely or talk to them. (No, the statue isn't going to talk back.)
I use the same hand for the mouse as I do the arrow keys, so switching between the two in-game is annoying. What would be better, I think, would be to have one hand on the arrow keys and one over the keyboard; "standard" position with the left hand on the keyboard (for US keyboards, anyway) is ASDF, and so that's the most comfortable and natural place for the hand to sit.

With this logic, you could for example move left/right in menus with the A/S keys and select/interact with F---this seems like it would make a very comfortable process. Then the right hand never has to leave the arrow keys, and the left hand can stay on the keyboard or, if not, can easily land where it needs to be---my hands land in typing position naturally, and I'm sure most regular computer users have the same ability.

It would also be good to give instructions on how to edit the skin to change the macros from ASDF to other keys for, say, other keyboard layouts or simply for user preference.
If it's done well, I don't see the problem with menus, and if it's done very well then you can even eliminate the mouse altogether. As I've said elsewhere (Take Control!) console game developers have to design games using only a handful of buttons, and they've gotten by okay. Have two slots, primary item and secondary item, and allow the player to select items to go into those slots (the basic Zelda way of doing things, as you mentioned earlier in this thread). Also allow the player to open up a menu and use the item directly from that menu, without putting it into one of the two slots. If your menu works fast enough, then it's orders of magnitude less annoying than having to type verbs (sometimes with arguments!), click verbs in panels, switch to over to the mouse to click the objects themselves, enter the amount of red I want in my hair into a pop-up window... ugh... not good.