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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.

  1. Jacqi
    June 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I dunno, in my opinion this is one of those things where it’s like, “These are the people that made GTA. -Stagecoach. Triangle to Drive- In GTA if I did that, the law is after me. They did not give me a Stagecoach, or a mission to drive said stagecoach, ergo, leave it alone.” I mean, in a way, that’s being biased towards a gaming company and the people who make their games. Maybe they wanted to break out of a mold, but at the same time, once I had made the stagecoach mistake, I wouldn’t be doing anything else unless instructed by the game. So yeah, I see how that can be a bummer.

  2. June 8, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Assuming the player knows the game already isn’t an excuse for a poor design decision. Every game should be designed to be accessible, even if this is the first game that the player has ever touched.

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