Watching game dev talks and reading articles about 'good' game design, it seems consesus a game should always make the objective obvious to the player, making clear what 'skill check' is being made and what to do to advance in the game.

Thinking about this, I don't agree. Figuring out what the game wants you to do was an important aspect of older games like e.g. Silent Hill or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

In Silent Hill you have a map with marker notes on it, which add up progressing the story. These notes are more a 'log' of what happened, than a 'to do list'. Newer games, instead of kindly pointing the player to another part of the level, tend to be too helpfull, providing specific instructions on where to go and what to do there.

Is this type of challenge deprecated? In order to increase the market penetration of games? Or are there objective reasons to abandon this approach to game design? What are alternatives to this kind of challenge?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the object is "explore" then there's no conflict. That's typically just not the objective of most games, and when exploration is added to some games as an afterthought it can be problematic; e.g. if the objective is "kill and loot everything" but an unintended obstacle is "find the four slightly-different pixels in your overhead map that indicate an unopened door" then you have a frustrating game where a player is blocked from progress by a bad UI. Many games add "overly helpful" objective markers because finding the objective is not the objective. :) </opinion> \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2016 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


A good example of "figure it out yourself" is the game Antichamber. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antichamber

In that game you're literally told nothing; you have to figure it out by yourself. This leads to really good discovery mechanics. Some walls, as an example, will go away if you look at them for a few seconds. Some floors disappear if you walk too fast over them. Some halls are infinite...or are they? Maybe if you don't give up they will actually end. Some rooms change only if you walk into them backwards, etc. It's all psychological. The player discovers the rules through trial and error.

I would say it depends on the game. Antichamber was designed to be a psychological adventure game, it was meant for the player to figure it out. In the beginning you feel a sense of accomplishment, like an infant learning how to walk. Obviously, games like Call Of Duty shouldn't be like this, because it isn't the intended/desired playstyle.


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