I love exploration in games but have been troubled by a question which I cannot answer. Is it really so bad for something to be obtuse, to be hard to find and perhaps not even indicated to exist? I know there's talk that secrets should imply their existence without being obviously visible, but is that really a secret if it's telling you that it exists? I'm troubled by this because it seems like there are games both good and bad which use both types of secrets. I just don't know how to classify the good from the bad, and I wonder if there are any patterns to the good and bad ones.
I think the mechanics needed to find something should at least be introduced, although not necessarily in regards to the finding really well hidden stuff.
For example, once the "bomb through walls" mechanic is introduce in any Zelda game, I feel everything after that is fair game to be as hidden as possible.
Counterpoint, I feel that SMB3's white blocks as are being discussed in another post are a little too obscure. I feel that there should have been an enemy that perhaps encouraged you to duck for several seconds at a time around the blocks so you would have a chance of discovering the secret.
I think a game like NetHack gets the formula down perfectly. There is very little you can't learn about the game as long as you are observant enough. Even if you don't pick on something, if you get good enough you can get hints in many different ways in-game to inspire you to try something different that you may not have considered, often times important enough to chang your strategy completely.
in general i'm entirely okay with secrets being extremely esoteric as long as they're not blatantly nonsensical or tedious.
if every bomb wall in your game breaks down after 1 bomb, it's probably an awful idea to make something "secret" by just making it take 5 bombs to break instead of 1.
and for hinting at their existence, there's no universal rule, any style of hiding or not hiding things can work if the game is designed cleverly around it.
i think ideally the most impactful method would be to scatter environmental clues that just make you think "what the fuck does this mean" until you've put yourself on the track to finding an explanation for them.
basically, make it known that there are things that you don't understand, but don't bash the player over the head with "oooooooooh there's a mystical sword hidden in the deepdark somwheresecret"
>Counterpoint, I feel that SMB3's white blocks as are being discussed in another post are a little too obscure. I feel that there should have been an enemy that perhaps encouraged you to duck for several seconds at a time around the blocks so you would have a chance of discovering the secret.
I don't think so. They definietely designed the game knowing that 80% of players would never know, or maybe even higher. I didn't know about them when I played it and beat it and it didn't hinder me at all whatsoever.
It's an extremely obscure secret, yes. You're right, very very few people would discover it on their own. But that's what makes it kind of cool in my opinion. I personally like when games have extremely obscure shit that only a few people find. It makes playing the game a magical experience.
most of those are only found by someone data mining the rom years later, like how one port of Donkey Kong (I forget which) prints the initials of the creator if you do some very specific things.
I think that the white blocks are an example of a playground secret. They're the kind of thing that no one would ever figure out on their own but that everybody knows because they heard about it from/saw it done by 'that one kid' (who more than likely is the kid who called hotlines or read magazines like nothing else).
Zelda 1 was designed around the goal of kids talking to each other about how to play it, how to make progress, etc. That was why they didn't give you the sword first thing, because when the game started that way kids walked around with the sword and were like 'this sucks, we just walk around and kill monsters for no reason'. So they took the sword away and now they had to figure out square one, which was how do you fight, how do you get anywhere, etc. and the answer came crystal-clear when you tried entering a cave and there found both a friendly character and a sword. It really ingrained the point of the game to people.
And frankly I too think games with playground secrets are godly. Lost Planet 2 comes to mind as a perfect example. So much cool stuff just hidden around, though unfortunately a big part of that game's hidden stuff being hidden was its difficult and confusing menus.
I liked Morrowins take on it. I'd always hunt in every nook and cranny and quite often I'd find something neat. Its one of the few games where you'd find things hidden in logical places, like under beds, hollows in trees, ect.
I'd probably enjoy the later elder scrolls installments if they went back to level specific zones with appropriate hidden loot as opposed to "Welp you're level 30 now so demons are gonna attack you no matter where you are" or. "Oh you're lvl 5? Enjoy finding nothing but rusty iron weapons ever"
Of course there has to be SOME reason something is there, otherwise you're just searching a completely random area, but turning over 100s of cards with the tiny hope one will come up... literally like playing the lottory or slot machines, which is not everyone's idea of fun. There has to be some meaning to it.
>if every bomb wall in your game breaks down after 1 bomb, it's probably an awful idea to make something "secret" by just making it take 5 bombs to break instead of 1.
> not liking Medigoron's house of walls
free yourself from the idea of "secrets", special rewards that should be discovered eventually. Treat your imaginary world with an internal consistency and you're fine. Sprinkle stuff, big and small, around, and know that people may, or may not find it, or even care about it. Half of what makes a "secret" a "secret" is in the player. The other half is in expectations for the world. If the world behave inconsistent, things can be found where they shouldn't be, then it's not a matter of good or bad secrets, it's a matter of an inconsistent world, which to the player appears like plain rule breaking. What's a game without a ruleset? Not much of a game.
some games have totally obscure secret that don't have a type of location or element where secret entrances might be, and simply make you walk the entire game rubbing your nose against all surfaces and hitting action hotkey at every step to get to n/n secrets found, i always considered that super retarded, not that i didnt still did it for completeness in a few games, good secrets
an example of a good secret is in diablo (1 and or 2 ?) there is a slightly different sprite that if you touch it and press ATK it breaks revealing secret rooms
its not really obscure though it was not obvious either, i was never into reading instructions, and found them out several weeks into the game when standing still organizing the backpack. After that i would always walk the walled dungeons looking at the arches,
diablo also had secret underneath rocks in open wilderness maps, but these are too obvious, you simply need to hover mouse to test the rock for secret, there arent many rocks, they should make the character touch it, just like the walls.
My view is similar to this. Speaking from a Doom level making point of view, you want to give the player at least a cue that this is a secret. A differently colored wall texture, different lighting, an arrow on the floor either in lights or items. If you're speeding past not paying attention you'll miss it, if you're observant you'll see it and try something, and get a reward for your efforts.
To me that's the balance, hinting at something then rewarding the curious player who follows up on it.
Making secrets totally hidden is not fun. Then your player just ends up wall humping the entire level in the hope of finding anything. There's no reward in that, it's just combating the asshole level designer.
>Then your player just ends up wall humping the entire level in the hope of finding anything
Then it's not totally hidden, as the player expects something.
>There's no reward in that
Secrets are not rewards