Now, Where Was I Going Again?
"The term used a lot for this concept is Role Playing Games
conveyance, and I think that's a fitting name. I mean haven't you ever been playing a game and you're just like: What do I do!? Where do I go?! That's what I'm talking about. That's bad conveyance."
and adventure games take a long time to finish. However, games cannot really predict how long you plan on playing, and so they allow you to save your progress and continue later. The trouble here is that a player may save at point A but, by the time he returns to the game, forget he was going to point B. Saving midway between the two, or even mid-quest, is also disturbingly common. This can be especially nasty when the savepoint itself is in a distracting place
After a few days, it dawns on the poor player that he has no idea where he is or where he should go. Some games may log the player's progress and quests in some way that can be referred back to later
, a very
good way to counter this. Other games put in an Exposition Fairy
character that constantly reminds the player to Continue Your Mission, Dammit!
Some games avoid this by establishing artificial borders
in the game world at different times, while other gamers think the deliberate
wandering is worth it for a quicker if more difficult level grind.
Unfortunately, this isn't strictly limited to RPGs, as many action games and older first person shooters would leave the player wandering about for hours on end looking for an unintuitively-placed key or switch.
The ways to combat this falls into the Acceptable Breaks from Reality
because really, it can be annoying to get lost and frustrating because you want to progress in the game yet have no clue what to do next.
See Quicksand Box
- when a Wide Open Sandbox
doesn't give you a clear way to look up what it was you were doing at first (or give you some hints on what you can do) making it easy for players to wind up lost.
Examples (and deliberate aversions):
open/close all folders
- Ōkami logs your quests broadly, and you can buy hints off of a fortuneteller.
- The fortune teller in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past provides hints concerning the main plot, and refills your Life Meter, for a few rupees. The game provides plenty of easy money anyway, so go right ahead.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening there are periodic phone booths you can use to get a hint.
- Oracle of Ages allows you to consult the Maku tree to find out where to go next, but her hints are very oblique, telling you which general direction your next goal is in, but bupkus about how to reach your destination or what to do once you get there, and making even normal progress from dungeon to dungeon is often a case of Guide Dang It.
- There are three main methods for determining where you're supposed to go next in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
- First, Navi the Exposition Fairy shouts 'Hey! Listen!' about every ten minutes to remind the player where they should head for the next step of the main quest. Even if you're trying to perform unrelated sidequests at the time. Even if you just got sidetracked for a moment and really are on your way back to the main quest. She tends to get on a less goal-oriented player's nerves.
- Second, once you learn Saria's Song, you can talk to her any time you want. This is particularly weird when Saria is a prisoner within the cursed Forest Temple, and after she has Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence.
- Third, just pause the game and look at the map subscreen. The locations you should probably be going to next appear as blinking dots. This game may be Nintendo Hard in the dungeons, but you can't claim to not know where you're going.
- Aside from Tatl the Fairy, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask includes a handy day planner item that not only tracks quests, but reminds which times in the time loop they can be completed.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Ezlo reminds Link of the next objective when resuming a saved game.
- The King of Red Lions (that's the boat) in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker clues Link in to the next objective whenever he is spoken to.
- For ten rupees, the fortune teller in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will consult her Crystal Ball on one of two topics: Career (where to go next) or Love (heart piece locations). Midna (who literally shadows you) is also happy to chime in with some Tatl-like snarkiness whenever you tap the "Z" (Up on the D-Pad for the Wii version.) button.
- Similarly, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword the same fortune teller's Identical Ancestor will give hints on either the next plot device or the location of treasure (though the two are often one and the same) for the same rate, and this game's Exposition Fairy, Fi, will remind you where to go if asked.
- Also, on the file select screen, it gives a brief description of the last major thing you accomplished, where you are, or where you need to go next.
- The fact that the first Legend of Zelda game has nothing like the above 'assistance' is partly why much the game is such a huge Guide Dang It, it's often pretty hard to figure out even what dungeons you've cleared in said game without a personal diary or strategy guide.
- An idiot button or text description will pop up if you take too long to figure out the next objective in Uncharted 2.
- When continuing a saved game in Batman: Arkham City, the loading screen will display images from the most recently seen story-related cutscene, along with expository dialogue regarding your current objective.
- The Monkey Island games often involve forcing you to complete one quest and limiting your ability to anything else until it's done. For example, in The Curse of Monkey Island, every character you meet will refuse to talk to you and tell you to see the Voodoo Lady until you find her.
- Discworld Noir uses the journal not only as a means to remind the player on what he has to do next, but also as a gameplay mechanic. Namely, the journal entries can be used to question the characters. Appropriate, considering that the protagonist is a Private Detective is in a skewed Film Noir fantasy game.
- But also occasionally irritating, as the other characters almost always get annoyed when you ask them something that's not relevant to their case, and sometimes even if it is. Trying to figure out which questions are the right questions to ask, and who to ask them to, can be a Guide Dang It in and of itself.
- Especially at least one instance where you have to realise that you have to question a character in relation to a note that he gave you. Especially annoying as you can continue on for quite some time without doing this before you are no longer able to progress, giving you no reason to think that you need to talk to him at the moment!
- In the Professor Layton games, the good professor keeps a journal that often tells you your next goal. This is good, as it lets you know what to try to avoid until you find as many puzzles and hint coins as you can manage. Also, every time you continue the game a "The Story So Far" screen recaps recent plot developments. Not to mention the fact that while you're wandering around there's an instruction on the top screen telling you what you need to do and often an arrow showing you the next direction you need to go in. Really, it's hard to get lost while trying to follow the plot in these games. (Of course, if you're looking for all the puzzles and hint coins, things are a bit more troublesome.)
- In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, Strong Bad will start talking to himself about what he should be doing every once in a while. The frequency of these hints can be adjusted.
- Ditto Guybrush in Tales of Monkey Island. Depending on the setting, sometimes another present character will make the comment instead (in both games).
- This feature was actually first introduced in Sam & Max Season 2. Season 1 also tried to introduce a system where you could ask Max about things, during the later episodes (5 and 6). Despite the success of the Season 2/Strong To MI system, there's apparently a new one upcoming in Season 3.
- Policenauts has a "summary scene" option whenever you load up a game from the main menu. This is probably more so you don't forget the plot, as it's usually obvious where you should be.
- Ever since Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, Telltale Games has put a recap of the plot up to that point on the Load Game screen.
- God help you if you pick up Hotel Dusk: Room 215 after you haven't played in a while; the game offers absolutely no clues on where to go next or even the objective unless you wrote it in the virtual notebook or something beforehand. The sequel, Last Window, was a little better about this by allowing to review recent conversations for a hint.
- The Another Code games, made by the same company as Hotel Dusk, fell into the same habit of providing hints the second time out. The first game didn't give you hints when you started it up again, but the second game gives you a quick recap of your current objective when you load a file.
- Ace Attorney falls into this, mainly during the investigation sections, but also during the trials as well. Good luck working out where to go or what to do if you leave the game for a good while. Considering the game is all about using the recent plot to progress, the game pretty much becomes impossible to continue if you can't remember what you were doing before you stopped last time.
- The cases themselves fall into this also. Considering the game is about solving murder cases, if you go to play it without the memory of what the case was about, you'll have a hard time. It's not impossible to progress, but it makes trying to follow the game and its dialogue is completely impossible. Somewhat subverted in that a lot of information about the case is there for the player to look over, such as info on people, how the victim died and the like. But when the cases start going deep into the events of what happened...you'd better not be thinking of taking a break from playing for too long.
- Completely subverted in Dual Destinies, the first game in the series to have a check-list to mark your progress, and your current main goals.
- The more recent titles in the Driver series show a short "Previously On Driver..." cutscene whenever you load a game. It's mostly for flavor, since only Driver: San Francisco has non-story missions, and even then you can almost literally see the critical mission marker from orbit.
First Person Shooter
- Along with the current mission objective that can be accessed from the pause menu, BioShock 1 provided a compass on top of the HUD that would automatically point in the direction of your goal. BioShock Infinite swapped this out for a glowing arrow that would appear on the ground and point you to your destination when you pressed Up on the Directional Pad.
- Metroid Prime has a digital equivalent to Navi the Fairy. Samus's Chozo suit will frequently supply information about "incoming scans" that pinpoint the room where the next element of the main plot will take place. You can turn this off, however, if you don't want to be bothered.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, one of the features at your campsite is a "Quest Log"... a literal wooden log that contains reminders of the quests you're currently engaged in. In which you're currently engaged.
- Final Fantasy XI has a quest log...but most of the descriptions are vague, it never updates beyond the first description, and sometimes a quest doesn't show up on the log until you're partway through. While you might be able to get hints from relevant NPCs, chances are you'll run into Guide Dang It territory.
- Some quests don't even appear to be quests until you finish them. Particularly noteworthy is the quest to unlock the Bard class: you have to speak to a particular NPC once you've reached level 30, who mentions that he is heartbroken after his girlfriend broke up with him. Another NPC nearby mentions a tablet on a beach that has some song lyrics. From this, you are expected to know to take a piece of parchment to the beach, find the hidden location where the lyrics are, use the parchment on them, and return them to the heartbroken NPC. Which completes the quest and shows it in your quest log for the first time. And then, you have to discover that there's another set of lyrics in another hidden location, and travel there with no prompting, at which point you will unlock the Bard job. Guide Dang It doesn't even begin to cover it.
- Zig-Zagged in World of Warcraft. During Classic, (pre-Burning Crusade even) there wasn't much to indicate what were some good zones to go to next; other than a couple quests that could be easily missable. The starting zone quests were all pretty good, leading you to the next owned-zone, but after you completed those, the next place to go was anyone's guess. When you hit level 40 or so, it got even worse because there weren't as many zones to go to, and there weren't as many dungeons available to you (in part due to Uldaman being poorly-designed and not many people going to Maraudon unless they were doing a "Princess Run", which was more or less late 40s-early-50s anyways.) Things got better at 50 because there were more zones available to you; but not much to indicate you could go there. Before quest-tracking was incorporated into the base UI by Blizzard, you basically had to poke around the zone to find where the quest takes place. Some quests were just terrible, veering into Guide Dang It territory (where in the world is Mankrik's wife?), but this is much less of a problem now.
- Even before it was incorporated into the base UI, it got better with Burning Crusade. Burning Crusade was a lot more straightforward in where you should go next, since a lot of quests would tell you "Hey, I hear someone over in this zone needs some help - why don't you go check it out?" or "Can you deliver this thing to someone over in the next zone?" and then you conveniently find a bunch of quests next to the person you turn the quest into. You didn't run into a "choice" until you were much higher level (Shadowmoon or Netherstorm, though a fair number of people chose Netherstorm, especially on PvP servers.) Wrath of the Lich King was more or less the same.
- It became really averted in Cataclysm, which basically made it pretty hard to forget what you were doing. Every capital city had a bulletin board. Alliance ones are called “Hero’s Call”. Horde ones are called “Warchief’s Command”. These boards give quests for the player do. They lead to a region that is roughly the same as the player. Basically it was the same kind of errand quests, except that their starting location was much more convenient.
- Many MMORPGs not only feature a Quest Log, but also the ability to click on the name of whatever you need to interact with, and then auto travel there while you go get a soda.
- In addition to its robust mission log (which displays mission objectives on the main map; if the player has to pass through zone transitions to reach the mission, those transitions are also highlighted, although this aspect isn't infallible), The Old Republic features a short recap of the player's current class mission whenever the player logs in, in the style of the traditional opening crawl.
- When you continue a story in Sonic Adventure, the character you selected gives you a rundown of the most recent events. (Pretty much the same thing happens in Sonic Adventure 2 when you choose a story, only it's the character whose level is coming up. This is different, however, because SA 2 puts you in the level with no Adventure Field to go through to find it.)
- In Psychonauts, you can get hints on what to do next (or how to defeat certain enemies) by waving bacon in front of your ear. Yep.
- Mushroom Men gives you a log of all the important NPC conversations you've encountered in the current stage.
- In DROD: The Second Sky, when you reach the end of the game and unlock the RCS, there are still a couple of required levels to go, but at the same time a host of optional levels have opened up. It's extremely common for players to start the printing-plate quest, do some optional levels, tackle Ore Refinery (the level that gives you the printing plate) and then forget where they're meant to be taking it.
- Dwarf Fortress:
- Fortress Mode can get like this at higher populations; the more vertical levels colonized, the more jobs queued, the more disorienting it can be to sit back down to it. And there's no easy solution for it like Adventurer's mode journal since the game has no way of predicting what your layout plan is, which stuff you want shifted to which stockpile and why, or why you might have the magma running. In a big enough fortress, it's possible to forget which rooms and workshops you already built and where. And those levers that might do anything from flood channels to collapse walkways to open your front gates to the enemy could have been labeled, if you got around to it...
- "Succession" games have it worse; this is a game format where, every in-game year, control of the fort is passed on to a new player who has little to no idea what's going on. It's not uncommon for a succession leader to load up the fort and find it abuzz with activity for no discernible purpose. Half-completed megaprojects, especially those involving aqueducts or magma ducts, are especially prone to this.
- In some cases, this extends to the dwarves themselves; it's not uncommon for a dwarf with a status aliment (say, Thirst) to drop their job in order to alleviate the problem, only to completely forget what they were doing beforehand. Dwarf mothers can misplace their baby when switching gears between tasks—then launch into a panicked "looking for baby" task.
- Step away from a game of NetHack for awhile and it's very easy to forget what you were in the middle of. The game can be so deadly that if you are wielding a dead cockatrice—able to petrify monsters with a touch, capable of accidentally petrifying you in a million ways—and make even one move before checking your inventory, it could be game over. Luckily, you can name your inventory and use that to provide yourself with helpful reminders.
Role Playing Game
- Most Harvest Moon games only have one save point, the diary on your dresser. Because every time you turn on the game, you're in the exact same place, it can be quite disorienting to a casual player. Though, the fact that the game is a Wide Open Sandbox helps, so it's nearly impossible to do something that will completely ruin your game.
Stealth Based Game
- The original Metal Gear Solid had a mission log which recounted the last few story events and what you were supposed to be doing. Later MGS games dropped this in favour of making you call up your Codec contacts and demanding they explain.
- Assassins Creed II (and every subsequent game in the series) keeps the plot-related objectives permanently displayed on the minimap. If the player is in the wrong city, the nearest exit towards the correct city is highlighted instead.
- The original Thief trilogy averted this by having your mission objectives get constantly updated during a mission, as well as by giving you the ability to type down notes on a note screen or directly on a mission map in the first two games.
- Alan Wake has a "previously on Alan Wake" recap at the beginning of each Episode, akin to many dramatic serial TV shows. Especially egregious when you just finished an Episode and are heading into the next one immediately.
- The various S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games all display your currently selected mission's next objective location, but since many missions aren't time-sensitive, it's very possible you were heading to a trader to unload some looted gear or artifacts or stock up on ammo and medkits before heading out with the objective just open in the background. This can lead to a rather serious faux paus where you charge into an enemy encampment and find out that you used up most of your ammo artifact hunting and taking down groups of bandits, leaving you with enough bullets to worry maybe half a squad.
- The Resident Evil series tend to leave you on your own when it comes to where to go next. The early games didn't completely restrict the player on where to go, but it also didn't keep a checklist on what puzzles were solved. The 2nd game eases the trope slightly by marking locked doors on the map, which is a good sign that progression is behind it.
Third Person Shooter
- Dead Space has an actual light that signals you the exact path towards the next objective if you push a button in the controller.
- The trick, of course, is that blindly following the light will cause you to miss items, plot exposition, and in at least one case, will lead you directly into the path of an nigh unstoppable monster.
- Although some players use it creatively by always heading in the opposite direction first then following it when done exploring.
- The second game averts this at one point. After you send your Voice with an Internet Connection away from the station, using the guide won't work. At least, until your dead girlfriend activates it again...
- Averted in Odd World Stranger's Wrath. Press the 'talk' button with nobody else around, and Stranger mutters a reminder to himself of his current objective.
Turn Based Strategy
- Star Control 2 is horrible about this. Not only is it an apparent Wide Open Sandbox, but all of the plot important information is only given out once, often in an obscure hint. Like in many computer games of that era, writing down notes on paper is essential for beating this game.
- Final Fantasy Tactics lets you rewatch any cutscene from your main menu as a quick way to catch up on the story. It also helps that your current objective usually appears colored in red on the map.
- It also gives access to at least three cutscenes that don't appear anywhere else.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance avoided this in a bit of an obtuse way. At any point on the main map, you can check what missions you have to do at any given location. It's not the most perfect system, but it's better than nothing. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 changed things up by placing a marker on the world map when you accept a storyline mission or have completed one and need to advance the plot before doing the next mission.