No-win situations are not fun, and are bad game design.

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No-win situations are not fun, and are bad game design.

I'm not gonna give you too much shit about the various random encounters-you listened to criticism on a lot of them, and that was decent of you.

The Concrete Forest Apartments and the DMC Bank, though? That's "oh, well, you succeed I guess" leading to "fuck you for playing, enjoy losing access to one area at best and the entire DMC at worst" unless you have an appropriate skill or an item useful exactly one other time in the game to better result. That? That's bad game design. That is not fun-that is a waste of time. The entire point of video games is to enjoy time spent, and time not enjoyed is time squandered.

If there were a way to get literally any useful information out of Caleb beyond something you can learn a dozen other places at the cost of an app used nowhere else in the game, I'd be considerably less mad. Maybe if you could bribe the kid, or get a task that'd mollify him (thus extending playtime) I'd mind less. As it is, though? It's a shaggy dog story. Again, not fun.

I would rather that the Concrete Forest exist soley as a flavor object than have it be impetus for you not being able to return to the DMC for an entire goddamn year. If not two.

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

There is a way to do it without triggering the police:

Spoiler: Highlight to view
Enter with hacking and the hacking app. Hack the outside door. Then, hack the door inside. Look around the appartment and when he comes back don't talk, just run. No police that way.

And even if you do it in a way that locks the Appartments location - there is nothing there of any worth, so what's the problem?

<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

The C-Store, for one thing. Booze is tricky to find, as a disinfectant, and while you can get ibuprofen at the Haggerty Health Clinic you're otherwise dependent on the Junk Market to find sealed cans of soup for days spent not hunting, a reliable source of chip bags for Spoilers, or for that matter the modestly uncommon Batteries.

I also happen to enjoy going to eat from the Food Truck and watch the Dancers from a roleplay perspective-just imagining Philip Kindred actually, solidly relaxing with a bowl of greasy spoon food in a place of modest safety soothes me. It's why I'll go to the Red Gnome after being out in the wilds for an extended period of time.

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

I have to say I respectfully disagree, although from a bit of a different perspective. An aspect that I find important to me in many games, and one that NEO Scavanger has in spades, is immersion. It may be perhaps the most immersive game I've played, but I digress.

For your specific situation: from the perspective of immersion, I think it's a fine encounter. If you think about it, the entire time you spend in the DMC is hanging by a thread. Don't tip or pay for food enough at the restaurant? Locked out. Fail the Detroit Savings Bank encounter? Locked out. Fail Hatter's entrance quest, whatever it may be? Locked out of the whole city until you can have enough bake sales of Twinkies and purified water to buy the bracelet. Try to sell human meat at the Junk Market (admittedly, you'd have to be really stupid to do this. especially twice)? Beaten to death. The apartments are just one more thing to add to the list.

Overall, I think this really projects an air of dystopia about the DMC, where you are not special and the violation of a rule will lead to you being summarily and irreversibly tossed from an area, the whole city, or worse. This isn't like other games where you get infinite chances to talk to an NPC and ask about the same thing over and over, whatever it may be, without consequence. This is a depiction of a real city.

As far as the niche items are concerned, you can view this from either a new player perspective or a veteran's. From a veteran, it's certainly poor game design that the app would be so contextual, but from a new player's perspective, it gives the "this must do something, but what?" impression, which leads to interesting discoveries. Furthermore, even if you do fail the encounter and get locked out, then it's at worst one run that is semi-ruined (you might even enjoy the challenge of no DMC, but I know not everyone will). Chances are, you'd get ripped to shreds by a pack of Dogmen on your way to Grayling anyway, and if you're good enough not to, then chances are you'd be good enough to not fail the encounter as well.

As far as story is concerned, I think it's just another dead end in the long list of them beginning in the Cryo Facility and leading up all the way to the end of the game. The fact that you can learn it from a dozen other sources is a bit redundant, granted, but it provides the sense of piecing the narrative together from multiple perspectives, all of which the average player is not likely to find. From a gameplay sense though, not learning anything even after jumping through so many hoops and potentially getting severely punished for it is a totally valid opinion to have.

Sorry if this felt like an attack. Your opinion is not only entirely feasible, but one I haven't seen before. I don't entirely disagree with it, either.

Given what you said about the apartment encounter, I'd be genuinely curious to know what you think of the Saginaw encounter. It seems to me like Saginaw is a lot of dead (in the most literal sense) ends but with a few great ones, some meh ones and many different lore and item based rewards for multiple playthroughs and skill sets. Do you think the abundance of ways to get punished is ameliorated by the few great endings, by having less contextual and more useful skills like Tough and Trapping be the keys to success, or do you think it falls into the same category as the encounters you talked about?

"Fuck you for playing" options are much more forgivable in short-session, low-investment games like Enter the Gungeon, Nuclear Throne, Binding of Isaac, and similar. You die in NT, BoI, or EtG and you go "well that sucks, new game time!" You die in NS, you have another week's worth of playtime to grind up the cash to go to the Haggerty Health Clinic and buy cybereyes, and god help you if RNG goes "lol fuck you" before that. I readily admit I savescum like HELL in Neo Scavenger because I don't want to waste a week's-or more-playing to RNG.

The Saginaw Mental Health Facility is more forgivable because there's actual reward for the risk. You don't go to Saginaw if you have much of a choice otherwise, and if you can make it to the choices presented by King Elias you have a better than 50% chance of getting out with more than you went in with.

To return to the original point, rendering your single tie to your past irrelevant is intensely bullshit, thematically speaking. While it runs along with the general theme of needing to change to fit the new world, the fact that you can get more knowledge of your past by talking to a moppet in a weird hat in a cultist hideout than from the second thing you woke up with is, uh, dumb.

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

Ya wrong. You're just used to the way every other game you've ever played has been designed to tip-toe around the delicate entitlement of customers (not pointin fingers), so what seems pointless is actually adding to the game in ways you arent seeing.

For example, and the biggest one to me, the solemn realization that the game's universe doesnt find you as its centre (like real life) and so has no trouble disillusioning you when it ruins your life with no warning. That part is one of the biggest pillars of this game... that you really are just some unimportant guy to the game world (well, almost ;P) and you will die as easily as that looter, whose head you smashed in for no reason.

An experience where you're Joe Nobody, Common Dipshit, huh? Not something a lot of games have the balls to actually commit to, textual pretensions otherwise. The same thing draws me to Neo Scavenger-but the joy for me is in building up from nothing, for real. None of the postapoc games I've run into have the balls to do that-not "well everything's fucked forever, let's feud over the remains and idiotically bash crap weaponry together until we're dead" Fallout, not the 9001 Mighty Mining Zombie Crafters, only Neo Scavenger and to a much lesser degree Project Zomboid, whose devs hate you for playing it.

I don't want the world to bend to my will just for existing in it-I want agency and reward for effort. I'm fine with failure being an option on the table as long as victory is possible. "Your one tie to the past is irrelevant and actually dangerous lol" is some Kings' Quest-level bullshit.

Don't just hand me victory, no. If I wanted that I'd play Fallout 4 or Ubisoft's Checklist Collectathon 20XX. Make me work for it. Have defeat swallow me up and let me claw my way free from its belly, fish victory from its sundered corpse, and feast on it as I stand astride the legacy of my defiance. Make me fight for my prize, but reward me for pursuing it.

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

I don't think every fail state needs to be mitigated with a reward. In this case it's either failure or neutral escape. Your wits are tested in the options you pick just like any other choice in the game. There are plenty of "bless you for playing" situations (phrased like that to make it more analogous to your original term) in the game,stuff like the ATN Enclave, and to a lesser extent your first trip to Zom Zom's, especially if you just trade. These have little risk at all associated with their clear reward, and so I don't find it unbalanced that there are some instances that occur on the other end of the spectrum. You either die, or you don't, and surviving the encounter is your reward. If you play it safe, and just talk to him over the intercom, then you are rewarded for doing that in and of itself by not having any negative consequences. If you play more risky, then in this case your risk is severely punished. The situation itself is volatile (you're breaking into someone's home) so it makes sense that it would be risky. You can use common sense and see that maybe it isn't the smartest idea to break into some stranger's house for information, and try to find the information elsewhere. At the end of it all, it's at most one run that gets messed up, and not even in an irreparable way.

That's just it, there's a number of different ways you can NOT break into the guy's place to talk to him-you have to finesse your way into the building itself but you don't break into his apartment in a few different options.

Even if you play it 100% safe there's no way to 'win' the Concrete Forest encounter. Even the winning ones leave you barred from an entire area-and while there's nothing 100% necessary at the Concrete Forest the C-Store and Food Truck make life a great deal more convenient.

(also, I'd have gone with 'thank you for playing.')

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

You're right, "bless you for playing" laid it on a bit thick.

As far as the "who says you have to be able to win every encounter" argument is concerned, that's purely a matter of taste. I personally see boiling down to the fact that you either value good game design or good immersion more. No win situations are by their very nature poor game design, that is unless you're going for a more immersive approach, in which case, just like in real life, not everything can be won. You take the good with the bad in that case, you have a big flaw in game design (which you pointed out) but if you step back from the game and treat it as an interactive narrative, it makes sense that, just as if these were actual events, that you could back yourself into a very precarious corner.

Again, a matter of taste. I personally still see the loss of the C-Store and food truck as irrelevant. There are better places to get food than the truck and the C-store is best used for buying lighters, pills, and soup. By the time you have money to buy in bulk from them though, you likely already have multiple lighters and better food (although I do concede that the loss of painkillers does suck).

My problem is more that it's restrictive. In real life there is always, ALWAYS a successful escape from a given situation. It may be difficult or unavailable to people without certain items or skillsets, but it's there.

Video games did terrible things to my ability to think creatively due to exactly that-that there were only the options the developers thought of, many of which were illogical, irrational, or flat out impossible. DCFedor's wonderful about giving extra options, generally in crafting, but he also acknowledged the problems with a few of the random encounters and gave outs depending on gear (the sewer encounter, in particular.) Those are random encounters-what makes them less important than a major story item?

There's any number of workarounds, here. Bring Cale McAllen something valuable-wouldn't make up for god knows how many years of neglect, but if you covered a couple months' rent that'd help some. Talk to his neighbors to gain their trust and find out what his deal is (Phillip Kindred doesn't talk to people much, does he?) Wait until night to break in, when more people are asleep (this assumes you're using the RFID Spoofer, which would be quieter.) Kidnap Cale when he leaves (Hiding, Melee, Binoculars/Telescopic) and interrogate him (presumably major Morality hit, too).

I loathe the vast majority of AAA gaming for exactly this kind of thinking, and the fact that I can talk to the developer and at least ATTEMPT to change his mind is one of the things I love about indie gaming in general, and Mr. Fedor in particular.

I prepared Explosive Runes this morning!

Just because the scope of creativity is limited in video games (since they can only approximate reality and can't actually cover all outcomes) doesn't make them inherently bad. I personally don't need to be able to do anything I can conceive to be able to enjoy an encounter, what matters more to me is that the options that are already laid out are well done. In this case, it's simple cause and effect; risk and reward, so I don't think there's any significant intrinsic flaw for the options already here. Whether it be in AAA games or in more traditional visual novel or CYOA games, I think it's fine that you're options are all out on a list and easily quantifiable, so long as the options themselves are well designed (believable, rational, etc.). If I find a problem, it would be in the writing or how the choice was presented (a common flaw would be Fallout 4's terrible dialogue system), not because of the absence of any particular choice I was hoping for, or because there's a fail state with no win.

From what you're saying, it sounds like you'd rather have more options to cover the bases, and then have those options round out the spectrum of good/neutral/bad outcomes. The more the merrier of course, but I don't think that the absence of any of the possible fixes that you proposed (all of which were quite well thought out) makes the ones already there worse by comparison, or more flawed because of their absence.

At any rate, this is rapidly decaying into an discourse of pure taste: game design or immersion, quantity or quality of your options, the scope of the possibility of your choices, etc. Therefore, not much of what I said is significant in an objective sense, it's more akin to laying out another perspective on the matter, one that does not mind the present state of the encounter as much.

Interesting you bring up that idea in your first sentence. Actually, I've compared real life to Neo Scavenger in exactly this way (as a means for figuring out whether its justified in being so brutal), and actually it's why I think it should stay just the same. I mean, Im not saying its a perfect product, but I dont think it should take a different direction.

Anyway, I was thinking along your lines, and figured 'no, actually, there are situations in life you end up in, from a multitude of subtle wrong turns leading up to it, where it's impossible to get out of. So, so many; and it's actually the same in this game. You can avoid every. single. death. if you play like you only have one life, and have an inner instinct that is potent.

Your argument regarding save scumming, and the unswallowable pill of the week wasted getting somewhere, is understandable and you can play however you want, but the important part is that it still all comes down to you, and it being YOUR FAULT. Maybe there mayyy be solitary incidences of where dcfedor didnt get the brutal realism right, but wouldnt be worth mentioning as a problem.

Whenever I have a big bad die and lose a character with a lot of story, I think for 10 minutes afterwards 'really wish I had a save backed up', then I think about how I could have avoided dying, almost never work it out and attribute it to some bad mistakes a few steps, or a few hundred, somewhere down the line, and wait a day before starting a new game.

Def die a lot less that way. And enjoy myself more. And find myself not falling into fedor's traps.

Hey Folks! Just stumbled across the thread, and found it a very interesting read!

I probably won't be able to address every point (at all, let alone adequately), but some things came to mind while reading:

People LOVE the DMC

I have definitely seen this as a pattern in posts and feedback. Whether it's excitement about discovering the DMC, or lamenting the lack of DMC content, or (as here) frustrations in being denied access, I think it can be summarized as "I want more time to interact with the DMC."

The good news is that I like it too! And I want to make it more available someday. The bad news is city-building in any meaningful way takes a lot of time, and that's one thing I haven't had much to spare.

You Can't Out-Think the Players

This was pretty clear to me early on. A single person just can't compete with thousands of resourceful players focusing on a problem. If I think of 100 ways to deal with an encounter, players will still find other ways I didn't think of.

You Can't Write Every Option

Related to the previous point, even if I could think of every option, I couldn't write them all. This was one thing that I struggled with, and it pained me to do. But in many cases, I just had to say "welp, I gotta stop this encounter somewhere and move on to the next."

And not only from a scheduling point of view, but also organizational/maintenance. I don't think it's quite as clear how spaghetti-like these encounters get when there are more than a few branching choices. I've tried to share this in the past via screenshots of the visual encounter editor (rest in peace), but it's just bonkers how quickly these encounters turn into organizational nightmares.

Even if I had the time and the inspiration/resourcefulness to think of all the options and write them, getting them organized without losing track of whole branches and causing errors is prohibitively hard.

The Game (and Especially DMC) As Real Life

I want to reiterate one thing FireStormDarkClash said, as it was a particularly good encapsulation of a design goal I had:

This isn't like other games where you get infinite chances to talk to an NPC and ask about the same thing over and over, whatever it may be, without consequence. This is a depiction of a real city.

I think just about everyone here also said something similar, but this wording and these specific examples were foremost in my mind during many encounter design phases.

The NPCs you meet are as much like real people as I could muster. They reflect the type of personal interactions I encountered when I lived in "the big city." A place where everyone had someplace to be now. Even if that place was behind a counter serving you coffee, god damn you if you wasted time deciding at the counter, because 6 million other responsible people who already made up their mind on the way to the counter were waiting for you to get your f-ing act together. Come back tomorrow, tourist.

And that's no slight against city folk. I've been all three of the parties in that equation. The newbie, the server, and the impatient commuter huffing disapproval back in line. City living is hard, and most people there have to work hard to keep it together. And that includes a weird sort of teamwork with every other city-dweller to get through the day smoothly. There is a razor thin margin for f-ups when every dollar and minute of your life counts.

So when some smelly dude in a greasy green hoodie and mismatched shoes is ambling through your apartment's hallway, you damn right someone be calling the cops. When Baldie McHospitalGown shuffles into your bank dragging a sleeping bag full of garbage, "oh for f-'s sake" you mutter through a smile as he approaches the counter, and you keep that index finger poised over the alarm because who the hell is this guy?

And let's not forget the DMC's gates as an allegory for crossing a national border these days. You think CBP are hard-asses when you step off a plane from Germany into JFK? Try walking up to a literal fortress from a wilderness of who the hell knows what creatures and psycho cannibals and asking to be let in. No, I'm not a citizen, officer. I just have one of these here visitor bracelets. And, ah, no, I don't have any records of who I am. I think I know my name. No, really. I won't cause any problems. Even though I look like I literally just stomped on a man's face for this bracelet (and probably did).

The DMC is a special place. For special people. People who worked hard, proved their worth, filled out the 30 pages of immigration papers, waited the 18 months, and submitted to dehumanizing scrutiny to get in. Or they were born there to someone who did. And even if they were one of the original families from before the walls, you bet your ass they worked hard to end up on the "right" side of the wall when it went up.

You don't belong there. And even the slightest excuse to cast you out of that bastion is a good one.

Getting back out of character, can you tell I just returned from another country? :)

Seriously, though. I do love the DMC, and I get that people want more of it. And if I get my way, there will be more ways to explore it and soak it in. Maybe not in NS1, but it's on my list!

Edit: Spelling, grammar.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Hit those points pretty dead center. I, for one, love the DMC. While we may never be able to fully explore it in NS1 (foreshadowing for game #3?), I think we can all count on you making some good encounters in the space game. :)

Rar! Rar rar rar! Thanks for reading :)

First, thank you for quoting me! Secondly, I think that what you cited is quite possibly one of the most unique aspects of NEO Scavenger. It has many unique aspects, but this is perhaps one of the most exclusive with respect to other games. You mentioned the apartments encounter directly, but I was also thinking along the lines of people like Hatter.

You show him your worth? Great! You earn his respect and your ticket into the city. You forget what he asked you to do so you need a refresher? You can see him get obviously perturbed. In other games, you'd think "Ok, so I guess I talk to him if I forget what the task is" as in nearly every other game. Repeated dialogue really breaks immersion. What's even more unfortunate are the games that don't give subtle cues for when it will occur (i.e. you don't know whether or not the NPC will say the thing they just said if you talk to them again). Here, there are no subtle cues, but that's okay since not only is this supposed to reflect an immersive experience, but because the dialogue actually will change.

You forget AGAIN and go to bother the man who's probably up to his neck in illegal jobs, and he just throws you out. No pretense, no last warning (even though he gave you one last time), you're gone and there's no coming back. He doesn't have time to interact with airheads like you.

And that whole idea of continuously changing NPC dialogue, even if one of the only ways to organically bring it to a close is in an irreversible fails state, is a huge breath of fresh air.

I also love how the option to talk to Hatter without turning in the quest item is listed as "Fail Hatter" or "Fail Hatter Again". That's awesome.