Tell me where to go!

One of the things I praised in my initial couple hours with Planescape: Torment was that I had to take notes. I said this was a great thing, I was having to develop the same skills that older PC gamers had, actually writing on paper. In fact, in that previous post, I said:

While this game does, in fact, note down in a journal your quests and goals, I’ve enjoyed knowing exactly what I am supposed to say to a certain person instead of just guessing at it from among several choices.

And, at the time, that was something neat. It was novel, a look back at how people used to game. I was delighted to experience this flashback to when games expected people to pay attention to what they were doing and to invest in remembering items of interest within the game. I was having a good time at first having to note things down frequently. The game expects me to know certain things? How quaint.

I’ve changed my opinion about that. Now, I want the help system. I want the exact directions. I miss the dot on the map marking where I need to go next, the marker on who to speak to about what I am doing. I miss the giant arrow in the sky telling me what to do. I miss all the various systems that have been developed in the last decade or so to help people figure out their way in the game, to help them navigate the complex maze that is whatever world they are currently playing in and trying to be a part of. I want the hint system, the detailed step by step directions on how to play the game.

I know that some people lament that games have gone this way, this… hand-holding. I know that some have said that games have become too easy, that games are, in the case of several examples on the Wii, practically playing themselves. Some people complain that games have become too easy, that there is little difficultly in games now that they record everything for you and can tell you, with the press of a button, exactly what to do next in nearly any given situations.

As I spent almost an hour walking my characters around the town recently, I did not lament the loss of games “respecting” people, expecting them to take notes and remember things about the experience session to session. I was actually annoyed that I could not remember where I needed to go next. All I had was some quest text about what I was supposed to go to start the quest. Which I’d done already. Now, I wanted to turn in the quest and I was really, really, lost. I walked them around, I talked to various people. Yet, I could not find the person I was supposed to talk to again. In fact, I could not even remember if the person was even in this town to begin with. I did not have notes on the locations of the quest givers and the game was not going to help me. This was an awakening of sorts.

There is something to be said for games like this, games that demand that the players pay attention to everything. I’m not saying that I hate Planescape: Torment now I that I know that it wants more from me, but I am annoyed that I was not prepared for this level of engagement. I now know that everything is important to note, be that people, ideas or even just locations. I do not have the luxury of expecting the game to track anything for me, to populate the world map for me. Plancescape: Torment will allow you, as the player, to type notes for the map, but you must add them yourself. This is a world to explore it says through these methods, paths have to be worn down by travel and knowledge retained. You must learn, the game says to me, and remember.