Red Dead Redemption
Problem: Presenting actions without explaining their consequences.
I’m a law-abiding fellow in Red Dead Redemption. But I’ve been thrown in jail twice – not because of any moral failure on my part, but because of vague context-sensitive controls.
First example: I walked up next to a stagecoach, said hello to the men sitting on it. A message pops up, “Press Triangle to Drive.” So I think, sure! This must be a mini-job. I’ll give these boys a break and earn a few dollars taking this cargo to Armadillo. So I press triangle, only to have John leap up, grab the driver by his collar, toss him to the dirt, and grab the reins.
Second example: I’m in the general store. Wandering through the aisles, a message pops up, “Press Triangle to Open Container.” Sure, let’s see what’s for sale in this chest. Maybe some jerky or something. Instead, John opens the chest, steals all the money inside, and the shopkeeper starts yelling for the law.
Solution: Create a color signal for illegal actions.
I find this problem especially clumsy after seeing how well Fallout 3 handled it. There, if an action was illegal or immoral, the context-sensitive command would appear in red. Simple, visible, and immediate.
At the very least, descriptive text would go a long way. “Steal Wagon” instead of “Drive,” and “Steal Money” instead of “Open Container.” In a game that’s all about choice, players should always be fully aware of the choices they’re making.