Games with Conveyance Issues & Intentional Lack of Affordance

What do you think are some games with conveyance issues?

MGR, Parrying. I honestly didn’t get this without guides and the ingame tutorials were not very helpful.

W101, knowing you should buy unite guts and unite spring from the store, knowing you should use unite guts to reflect projectiles, knowing to use the whip to pull spikes off enemies, a lot of things.

God hand, pretty much everything, the basic method you’re supposed to be playing.

fighting games, everything, even good tutorials aren’t good enough to get a player in on the ground floor. I don’t think I’ve seen a fighting game that teaches the concept of anti-air actually. Had one guy I taught complain about how everything I was showing him, like anti-airs, pokes, cancels, weren’t explained in the tutorials he read.

portal 2, getting from room to room during some behind the scenes segments was tricky, they sort of lost the thread and I saw a lot of people get stuck there pixel hunting.

Demon’s Souls, it’s possible to use up all your crescent moon grasses early in the tutorial by pressing square because you expect that to be the attack button.
Dark souls, parrying, kicking, the point of kicking, jump attacking, regular jumping, equip burden (even the menus), lower undead burg’s key, darkwraiths,

Super Metroid, Noob Bridge (a good example of both a good antepiece for teaching a core mechanic and why wordless tutorials aren’t always a great idea), meridia powerbomb tube,

ET or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense unless you read the manual, and the overall game dynamic of the latter can be hard to intuit (that you don’t want to get forced into hyde mode, progression is unstoppable in hyde mode, you want to limit progression in hyde mode, but also not get hurt to avoid game over).

Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden, combo sequences can’t be viewed during gameplay, so they’re difficult to learn. Bayonetta even has a great tool for this in the training room on loading screens, but it’s not visible during gameplay.

MGS3, a lot of more subtle functions don’t have appropriate introductions and the early stealth can be really tricky.

Planetside 2, joining squads, capturing bases, finding fights without using instant action, all not covered in the tutorial.

Tribes ascend, skiing can be tricky to learn and I still honestly don’t know how generators worked.

Sonic 3, the barrel you need to press up and down to use.

Antichamber, When you cut through a group of blocks the side with less blocks disappears, unless both sides have the same number of blocks. Also some blocks reappear. I honestly didn’t know this until researching and couldn’t figure out the behavior, just putzing around with it until it worked.

Do you think intentional lack of conveyance can be a good thing? Is there value in games that force you how to figure out how to play as part of the challenge?

I think so. Going through the Guide Dang It pages on TVtropes I was saying to myself, “well that’s kinda supposed to be a secret.” especially on the dark souls page.

I’ve mentioned this in the past that I think it’s good for some things to be lower affordance, especially in metroidvanias. Lower Affordance can also mean lack of conveyance. Affordance is a principle of design where an object suggests how it is supposed to be used through its shape. Portal for example used planks extending over edges and platforms jutting out from the wall to suggest the fling maneuver. Push doors in real life have bars instead of handles on them. Drink bottles have a certain shape that is different than the bottles for cleaning fluids.

A common example of low affordance is the entrance to Kraid’s lair, called the warehouse entrance by speedrunners (they have names for every room in the game)
The game intends for you to only enter this area once you have the high jump, however you can also enter it with an infinite bomb jump or by wall jumping. These moves are not as obvious, they are not explained by the game anywhere, but they are still possible.

In Dark Souls, you can skip directly to quelaag from firelink through new londo, even without the master key.

Though the other thing is, I know about this stuff from reading about it on the internet. I know about a LOT of stuff from just reading about it on the internet. When I play a new fighting game, I just look up the combos that are best for my character, and all the other assorted techniques. When I’m getting so much information from an external source, it makes me kinda question, why isn’t some of it in the game?

In the case of the two examples above, there’s a reason for that, especially the new londo one. It keeps newer players on the correct path, and allows advanced players to play their way.

In the case of walljumping, it is actually in the game. You can fall into one room and be forced to learn how to walljump, which isn’t incredibly hard, but it’s counter-intuitive to most walljump methods. I didn’t actually start walljumping until halfway through playing AM2R just recently. The walljump input is so hard to understand that the wordless tutorial they put in place to teach it is very probably the best example of why wordless tutorials don’t always work. I don’t disagree with them making the walljump input the way they did, it prevents players from walljumping until they actually figure it out, functioning like a late-game upgrade, but it’s taught very poorly.

On a broad level obviously I don’t want games telling me the correct way to play every room. Obviously it feels awesome when I discover something for myself, which I have done before.

As for when a lack of affordance is a good thing, it depends. Some games, like Starseed Pilgrim, are built entirely on not telling you how to play them, though starseed also has a fair amount of design affordance to implicitly show how it’s supposed to be played.

When should something have no hints at all? Something like the darkwraiths, or path of the dragon covenant is probably a good example. They’re the type of thing that can go undiscovered unless a particular type of obsessive person runs into them, then they become shared with the community. That’s kind of what’s special about this type of thing, that when you put things that are low affordance or low conveyance in your game, it can keep people coming back to the game over time. I got into Mirror’s Edge at a really great time when the community was still developing new strats and technology really rapidly. It kind of petered out this last year.

However if it’s for the main campaign, if it’s for progressing to the end of the game, I think you should definitely have signs of what the next thing the player should do is. I think that the Basement Key in dark souls, leading to the lower undead burg, was a bad move. You can figure it out if you read the description, but how many people read the descriptions of every item they pick up? Of every key they pick up? Of any item or key they pick up?

I think the dark souls tutorial is lacking in some ways, the kick move has execution difficulties exactly like walljumping in super metroid (they’re both practically the same input actually).

Here’s another example, the parry isn’t explained as well as it could be, and I’m fine with that, that’s supposed to be an advanced move for people who experiment, because it could ruin your encounters with a lot of basic enemies. Same deal with the Drake Sword.

This all connects into a broader theory of information in games, like feedback and such, but I haven’t totally worked all that out myself yet. I’ll eventually sit down and think that sort of stuff out, but right now I’m making it up as I go.

One thought on “Games with Conveyance Issues & Intentional Lack of Affordance

  1. Yujiri April 28, 2019 / 1:56 pm

    I’m really glad you talked about this, especially glad to hear you mention fighting games and Mytha. That’s honestly my biggest problem with fighting games, I can’t think of one where I ever figured out the rules (though I haven’t played that many).


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