The Value of Restricting the Player



  • Please redirect me if there’s another thread for this. (:

    I recently popped Morrowind into my Xbox One after it became backwards-compatible. Beyond the shock of a 10 second load time vs 2-3 minutes, I was amazed by the amount of restrictions present in the game vs modern installments. Very limited fast-travel. No enemy level scaling. No compass or objective markers. No regenerating health or magic. Even walking from the starting location at Seyda Neen over to Balmora is an exercise in gathering info, preparing your character, and inevitably getting lost and stumbling into an Ancestral tomb full of enemies 40 levels higher than you.

    I love these kinds of things. However, I do love quality-of-life improvements that can streamline a game (unlimited TM use in Pokemon, for example). Can you guys think of any other restrictions in games that actually improve the experience for you?



  • Re4 immediately comes to mind for me. Theres the limited inventory of course, but also moving around with a pretty limiting camera angle, having to constantly be aware of enemies out of view, combined with the tank (-esque) controls, makes that game what it is. I think if RE4 controlled like uncharted where you always have a good overview of the action, are able to spin the camera around, run sideways etc. it wouldn't be half as good.



  • I don't really see them as restrictions, especially when you consider the fact that a game like Morrowind came first, so I don't think the developer was ever thinking about implementing any kind of restrictions per-say, just making a game as they knew and felt was best. As far as modern streamlining techniques are concerned though, I find practically all of them hurt both the game and the experience I'm afraid. I understand the convenience a number of those things bring for those that maybe no longer have the time or the commitment they maybe once had, but I wouldn't want a game to alter itself in order to try and adapt to all of that. Putting in options for the player to turn on and off are fine in my books, but sadly a lot of these so called "quality of life" changes have been integrated so deeply into the design of a most modern titles that I'm almost always enjoying myself less.

    I guess instead of being able to name individual "restrictions" I like in particular, I lump largely all of it into older game design in general, as that's just how games were made and it's still what feels more normal, right and best to me.



  • I always liked the over-encumbered system in recent Bethesda games. Not only they prevent me from being a hog and just picking every damn thing i can see, they also add the advantages of having a follower/companion with you (since they can carry some stuff too). Not to mention, i always look forward to visit a town to sell my unwanted loot or come back to my house to stash some cool loot that i don't want to sell. One of the best feelings in gaming for me is coming back to Diamond City in FO4 after a long journey scavenging through the wasteland for loot, then entering my house and just placing the cool stuff i have in there. It makes player housing more rewarding and important for me, and further increases my immersion. That effect is even greater in my "no fast travel" playthroughs.

    Then, a lot of shooters have limits to guns that you can carry at a time. It doesn't work in every game, but it certainly works in games where tactical approach is more valued.

    I love mechanics that tries to limit your fast travel capabilities so you have to work for the privilege of teleportation, whether it's requiring an item that you have to craft (Horizon Zero Dawn) or only able to fast travel from specific places (Witcher 3).

    The camera and player movement limitations in classic fixed-camera RE games also work wonders to increase the tension for me.



  • I made the mistake of attempting to play Morrowind after Oblivion and I just.... couldn't. It may be making things too simple, but things like objective markers greatly improved my experience in Oblivion and going backwards just didn't work for me personally.

    One restriction that a lot of people seem to hate is Bioshock Infinite's limited arsenal you can carry into battle. Since I'm bringing it up, I'll admit I'm a fan. Not only is it more realistic to only have 2 weapons to choose from at any given time (I realize how silly it is to talk about realism in a game about quantum mechanics) but it allows you to get more intimate with those weapons instead of constant swapping. You learn to love certain combos (Bucking Bronco + Shotgun) and overall just helps the pace. I wouldn't recommend this for every game though... For instance, DOOM with this idea would feel absolutely neutered.



  • @sabotagethetruth Honestly, the best FPS to do the whole limited weapons was the FEAR 1. You were limited to three weapons (4 if equipped with dual pistols or sub-machine guns). Stranglehold did a decent job with a two weapon limit too.

    Every other game that copied COD or Halo's two weapon limit became too boring or repetitive.

    Streets of Rage 2 - Skate was the only who could run or dash, which opened a whole bunchofstrategy options that the other three did not have. This was fixed in 3, so everyone could dash, but Skate still had the fastest one, though not the best.

    Devil May Cry - The lack of a dodge button. The dodge roll you had to by aiming Dante's guns. It was finicky, but useful once a player got the hang of it. Then there was grenade into dodge role cancelling. Very useful on Dante Must Die Mode. Also, the you had to buy a double jump, but jumping off walls and enemies were really useful before buying that upgrade. The later games fixed this by giving you a dodge button, though Nero still had to to dodge roll by locking on to an enemy. Also in DMC4, Dante got his double jump at the start and in DmC (2013).



  • The lack of fast-travel in the first Dark Souls was a decision that was potentially frustrating for many players, but ended up being one of the game’s greatest strengths. It informed the game’s structure, resulting in a more inter-connected world; opening a shortcut and realizing how a region looped back to connect to another area was one of my favorite moments. When combined with a lack of a map or compass markers, it forced you to really learn and understand the environment. I understand the accessibility that fast-travel provides in later games, but it does feel like something is lost there.



  • I remember when Jones was playing Steamworld....Dig?....he had to buy faster digging. Real world, it doesn't make much sense but in a game it feels so good to get such a simple upgrade.

    For me, this makes me think of the Mega Man X series (and most other Mega Man games). Not being able to shoot upwards or crouch seems like a ridiculous choice at first but it forces the player to focus on mobility rather than precision aiming. It's not for everybody but it forces a different play style than games with 8-direction shooting and/or crouching.



  • This is a small one from a design perspective, but I have a lot to say about it:

    Having to manually buy Warp Wires (aka Ariadne Threads) in the Etrian Odyssey series.

    .

    What is a warp wire/Ariadne thread? It is a very cheap consumable item that allows you to teleport out of the dungeon, sending you back to the town. So for a completely negligible cost of money and for the cost of taking up 1 item slot in your pouch you gain a vastly increased chance of avoiding a party wipe (which means game over, reload from save). You can't use the item in battle, so having this item doesn't mean you are 100% safe from party death should a single deadly encounter kill you before you can flee (or if fleeing is impossible). And of course you can still die from your own hubris by pushing your team of adventures just one step too far, when the correct decision would have been to end to the current excursion and warp out while you were still in one piece.

    In short: there is no reason to NOT buy another warp wire every time you use your last warp wire. You literally buy the replacements from the town that the warp wire sends you back to. To put it as bluntly as possible: from a mechanical design perspective, there is little reason warping out of the dungeon couldn't have just been built into the game as a menu function, and not been a consumable item at all.

    So how does having to manually buy the item each time actually improve the experience? It forces you to think cautiously and act vigilantly, which is the ethos of Etrian Odyssey as a whole.

    Every time you leave the town to step back into the dungeon you will think "Wait...did I remember to buy a warp wire?". And then you go "Yeah, ok. I remember buying one." or "Yeah ok, I walked back to town so I still have my old warp wire in my inventory." But sometimes you go "errr, crap, I don't remember if I have one!" And then you open your inventory to double check. And there WILL be times that you forgot to buy one and catch yourself at the last second. And mostly likely there will at least one or two times where you don't catch yourself... you end up deep in the dungeon.... out of health and out of resources.... wanting to go back home only to finally realize you didn't bring one with you.

    That's the other benefit of not streamlining the game by making warping back to town a freebie menu feature: it creates memories and emotions. Bad memories and despair when you screw up. Good memories and immense comfort when you rescue a nearly defeated party. And those emotions of 'immense comfort' would not be the same if it wasn't you, the player, who bears the responsibility of always taking the life saving item with you.



  • @chocobop Wow, that’s a really cool perspective on such a seemingly small thing. I wonder if that was their intent for that system.



  • One of my favorite games currently is Dungeon Fighter Online. Its a F2P MMO for PC that has one major restriction: a fatigue bar. Basically, it means you can only run so many dungeons per day. While normally this would be a huge negative, in a more modern environment that eats up so much of my time, knowing I can only put so much work into a character at once is actually incredibly freeing. My dailies take about half of the bar at max level, which still gives me plenty of time to run other stuff if I'm working on something specific. While I understand that can be a major barrier of entry, I enjoy it quite a bit, because it makes me less pressured to spend extra time I dont have trying to level a character.



  • @billy

    Wow, that’s a really cool perspective on such a seemingly small thing. I wonder if that was their intent for that system.

    I'm willing to bet it is intentional. In EO communities, sharing stories about forgotten warp wires/Ariadne threads is pretty common, and I've seen other EO players specifically remark upon this design decision and the stuff I've described. Also: These are emotions and experiences that are just impossible to miss when playing the game, you know? So even if it was unintentional during the development of the very first Etrian Odyssey, I can only believe the developers consciously understood then and there these implications, and subsequently intentionally kept the design for EO1 and all its sequels.


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