☆ Thimbleweed Park Gets Its Very Own Retro Hint Line ☆

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The awesome Thimbleweed Park game has received a few new updates and the most significant one for me is the inclusion of a hint system.

The cool thing about this hint system is the fact that it's a proper old school in game hint line!

Read an excerpt of Ron Gilbert's blog post to get a taste for what the Thimblweeders wanted to achieve with this latest inclusion....

This is Ron Gilbert's Blog Post that gives a brilliant insight into the process of trying to create a hint system that doesn't intrude into the gamers play experience.

"The biggest change was a new in-game hint system. I know this will cause the hardcore adventure gamer's blood to boil (as it does mine), but the lack of hints was widely criticised by some of the more casual press. 

As we move to new and more casual platforms like iOS and Android, this becomes increasingly important. I guess it's a sad fact about not only modern gamers but older gamers just don't have 18 hours to spend on a game.

The first (failed) iteration of the design was based on a new object called the "HintTron 3000™". You would find it alongside the road and pick it up.You could then use it on any object in the game and it would give you a context appropriate hint.

On paper, it seemed like a good idea, until the first implementation and the problems came roaring out. The biggest problem was when you're stuck it's often at a conceptual level and you don't even know what object to click on. This could cause players to randomly click on stuff, hoping the get a hint with no real idea what they needed.

To stop non-stop hint-clicking, we added some friction in the form of a "cooldown", but it felt artificial and frustrating. We thought about adding a "currency" you find or earn (specks of dust), but these all ran into the issue os rarity and frustration when you can't find or earn them and you need a hint.

So we abandoned the idea. David wrote a lot of code for this... so... a moment of silence.

To me, the most important part of any in-game hint system is making sure it feels like part of the world and game. I didn't want to do a hint system that was all UI based.

Back in the 80s, we had hint books with red gel, but we also had the phone in hint lines.

Thimbleweed Park already has a working phone, so it seemed natural to just have a hint line number you could call and get a hint.

We once again toyed with the idea of a currency. You're using a phone, so finding money to use it made sense, but unfortunately, the phone is needed for other things and we didn't want to muck up all that with making them all pay phones, plus some of the phones are in the mansion and hotel. We beat it around for a bit, then just decided to make the hint line "free" to use.

Calling the phone provides some natural friction, in that you'd have to get to a phone (or switch to whoever had the cell phone) and make a call and trip down a hint tree.

The advantage we had over a true 80s hint line was that we know the context of where you are in the game, so the hint line can be smart and focus down to hints we know you might need and ignore spoilers and other distractions.

Jenn volunteered to take on the job, and we based it (with permission) on the existing online hints of Meghann O'Neill, so we had a good starting place.  It's a nice system and hopefully, newer players find it fun and helpful.

Now, we know it's not going to be for everyone, but it is 100% optional in that you just don't call it. But I know one's willpower can be weak."

I think this is an elegant way to implement a hint system and I love that it ties into the retro sentiments of the game.

What Do YOU Think About In-Game Hints Systems?