Over-reliance on hide-and-seek mechanics in Nintendo games

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#1 Edited by jamjyo (103 posts) -

Hey duders! :D

So, I've been playing Zelda: BOTW, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Metroid all at the same time (I know, I know..),

and I couldn't help but notice the heavy reliance on hide-and-seek mechanics in all 3 games.

I might be at fault for playing them all at the same time, but it seems that most of Nintendo's 1st party games (single player) require players to "poke around their surroundings" constantly.

For example,

In BOTW: I see something sparkling/out of place > I go investigate > Hooray! A seed, or a door has opened!

In Mario: I see an NPC/Geometry that looks out of place > I go investigate > Hooray! A moon!

In Metroid: I basically jump at/shoot at every part of the map > A path has opened... hooray...

I mean, it's not objectively bad. These mechanics are super well done, and Nintendo is getting better at it with each iteration of these franchises, but at some point, their games all start to feel the same.

As a result, all these games require players to "explore", and that exploration is basically another collect-a-thon with a different coat of paint. (BOTW: Seed, dungeon rooms, floors / Mario: Moon / Metroid: Rooms)

Opening doors might feel different compared to collecting "things", but IMO, what you do is basically the same.

You look around to find something out of the ordinary.

I can never enjoy environments in Nintendo games for what they are. There are secrets hidden everywhere in every single one of those games, and my eyes and brain are working at a full-capacity 24/7 when playing them (sign of good games, I guess?).

I feel like I'm becoming a jaded person criticizing these games for just doing what they do best.. :(

What do you guys/gals think?

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#2 Posted by gorkamorkaorka (584 posts) -

Maybe you are reducing it too much in your mind and you've ruined the fun for yourself. "Shooting enemies in games isn't really shooting. It's just fulfilling a goal by getting timing right on button presses" <- don't think like that.

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#3 Posted by jamjyo (103 posts) -

@gorkamorkaorka: Good point. Opening folders in Windows might become similar with shooting enemies in Doom if I keep thinking this way lol.

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#4 Posted by BisonHero (11564 posts) -

I see what you mean, though I wouldn't call it hide and seek. There is a density of stuff to find in some of Nintendo's recent games, but in a way that feels more organic than say, the stereotypical Assassin's Creed map which has 800 icons of various side missions and activities and shops to buy and chests to unlock.

So yeah, Breath of the Wild's map got weird for me when I realized that there is almost no area in the game where they don't evenly distribute Korok seeds. After a while I could look at the map, see 3-4 Korok seeds I had already found in an area but they'd be surrounding a few thousand feet of wilderness where I hadn't found a Korok seed, and I could say with almost absolutely certainty that based on that absence of a Korok seed in that small area, there must be a Korok seed I had missed somewhere in that area. After a while it felt kinda gamey that seeds were the only real reason to comb over terrain; shrines are important and all, but usually your radar would tell you about them from EXTREMELY far away so it was pretty hard to miss shrines as long as you actually went to each zone. Occasionally the other rewards for exploring are chests and ore deposits, but nothing in them is super critical.

Anyway, I didn't really mind that Breath of the Wild was dense with seeds and shrines to discover. The alternative would be the open world in prior Zelda games, which to be honest, kinda suuuuuuuuuuuucks by today's standards. Like, Hyrule Field in Twilight Princess, for example, is this big, multi-zone area you can run around in on your horse, and there is almost nothing to actually find or do there. It's just a big empty space and there are some enemies that you might as well just run past. I'd rather a big open world that has even some minor reward for exploring it, if the alternative is an empty open world. The seeds are there, but at a certain point you can just stop caring about them, since there's like 900 of them but I think you only need like 300 or 400 to max out everything in the game.

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#5 Posted by jamjyo (103 posts) -

@bisonhero:

Yep. I should learn to let go of those damn seeds, but I just can't...

I'm starting to throw my cap at everything I see in Mario Odyssey now (might sound dismissive, but you'll be surprised at how many Moons can be found by hitting things), and of course, it's beginning to ruin the fun for me.

To go back to your point, Nintendo games are definitely better than your typical Assassin's Creeds, but I would appreciate BOTW much more if some areas in the game were empty. Sometimes, a hill should just be a hill.

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#6 Edited by Relkin (1128 posts) -
@jamjyo said:

You look around to find something out of the ordinary.

Isn't that quite literally every single exploration game ever made, as well as most adventure games? When you reduce game design choices down to a single sentence, everything will get kind of samey. You overcome obstacles and reach a destination. You accomplish a set of tasks in return for a reward.

When you mention that you can't enjoy environments for what they are, do you mean that the videogameyness of this design choice to pepper secrets in every nook in cranny takes you out of the experience? If you want to talk about the use of negative space in video game environments, then I think I'm right alongside you. Discovering that the game you're playing has one surprise or micro-reward under every stone can make subsequent surprises or rewards feel less surprising; less rewarding, as well as bringing on the same sense of exhaustion that comes with opening a map in some open-world game and seeing the endless icons for you to visit.

In the case of these three games, especially Zelda and Metroid, I don't really have a problem with this. This has always been in the DNA of these games; you know what you're getting into. You're going to go back around the world map and look for rock walls you can blow up now that you have the bomb bag; you're going to give previous areas another pass now that you've acquired the High-Jump.

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#7 Edited by NTM (11568 posts) -

I never really thought about it too much for the overarching Nintendo series', but yeah I felt Zelda was this, but that's mainly the way I played it. And yeah by extension it is in a lot of Nintendo games I suppose. I made BOTW another open world game about checking things off of a list rather than about simply, casually exploring the environment. That means I explored everywhere as well, and I felt a little less enthusiastic about it all. I didn't get that 'you can go anywhere and interesting things will happen' thing some did. I like BOTW, but in the end, for me, it was just about checking things off of a list (shrines), and I didn't particularly like the shrines so a lot of it was disappointing. The environments were okay, but to me, it was a lot of climbing rockery.

I think they do that in Nintendo games so you can feel like you've discovered something on your own rather than them lay it out in front of you on a map with an icon. Maybe I'm just in the minority, but at some point, it just feels like a waste of time to me. I like it in some games, and some others I don't if it becomes overbearing. A recent good example for me personally is going back to Dark Souls 3; there are hidden things in the environment and it pays to explore. I enjoy that and you're not always getting the same thing nor seeing the same location or what have you. I didn't love Super Mario Odyssey either, but I think both that and BOTW are great overall. The thing I want to see more of in both games which I think they've already started is to bring more character out of their characters.

They don't need great stories but give me something to care about in the way of characterization. My favorite moment in BOTW, for instance, was first building your house, then helping build Tarrey Town (aside from the very quick moments of finding wood to build it). It was just nice to see that occur through your actions when you could have otherwise totally missed it. It wasn't the most fleshed out and the relationship between characters was abrupt, but I enjoyed that. More moments littered around like that would be better than going from shrine to shrine in my opinion or finding the multitude of korok seeds. This is also partially the reason why I quickly stopped playing either of the DLC's.

I would absolutely love to see Hayao Miyazaki and Nintendo get together to make a game. That all said, I do however find it a little different for older, more linear Nintendo games. I find it satisfying in a Metroid 2D or Metroid Prime game to find a collectible that helps me along the way. I mainly took issue with BOTW's way of doing it. I also felt Odyssey was a little much too. I think it's just about implementation in the type of game it is rather than the fact that it's another game about collecting things. For example, what do you see on the way to get those things you're collecting? What are you collecting, and how does it affect your end goal? There has to be a good reason as to why I'm doing it all. There's absolutely no reason to collect korok seeds for example, at least in my opinion.

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#8 Posted by BoOzak (2515 posts) -

I like exploring and collecting things in games where the areas are interesting and the rewards are good. Metroid and Zelda did a pretty good job with both. Mario, less so. I actually prefer the more linear Mario games like Galaxy/3D Land/World.

@bisonhero said:

I'd rather a big open world that has even some minor reward for exploring it, if the alternative is an empty open world. The seeds are there, but at a certain point you can just stop caring about them, since there's like 900 of them but I think you only need like 300 or 400 to max out everything in the game.

Yeah, i'm playing Shadow of the Colossus for the first time (the remake) and it looks really good and the areas are huge but knowing that the only things to find are shrines with lizards, fruits which may or may not increase my health (I dont think i've ever come close to dying) and those coins they added which give you a sword or something. I never really feel like exploring which is a shame since it would be nice to have something to break up the boss battles with.

I know it would go against the sanctity of the remake to include this but they have all these weird items for doing time attack mode which i'd much rather have as a reward for exploring instead of those coins which dont seem worth the effort.

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#9 Posted by jamjyo (103 posts) -

@relkin said:

When you mention that you can't enjoy environments for what they are, do you mean that the videogameyness of this design choice to pepper secrets in every nook in cranny takes you out of the experience? If you want to talk about the use of negative space in video game environments, then I think I'm right alongside you.

You described what I felt much better than I did! I realize that my original comment might sound too dismissive of every game that ever existed.

@relkin said:

In the case of these three games, especially Zelda and Metroid, I don't really have a problem with this. This has always been in the DNA of these games; you know what you're getting into.

You are 100% correct about Zelda and Metroid! But I definitely didn't expect to find so many Moons in such small areas in Mario Odyssey.

I guess discovering that even Mario games are now hardcore collect-a-thons was what pushed me over the edge.

I really hope they dial back on the number of Moons/Stars in each of those stages next time they make another Mario game.

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#10 Edited by jamjyo (103 posts) -
@ntm said:

A recent good example for me personally is going back to Dark Souls 3; there are hidden things in the environment and it pays to explore. I enjoy that and you're not always getting the same thing nor seeing the same location or what have you.

Man, Dark Souls really spoiled me on exploration... (Also, Baldur's Gate!).

I know people are sick of hearing Dark Souls comparisons, but it was such a gem. I guess I'll never be able to feel the same again :(((

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#11 Posted by Goboard (290 posts) -

@jamjyo: This kind of design is largely done because it can be an easy way to fill a space when it feels sparse of "content". I'd love to see more games move away from collecting as the primary way to encourage players to explore and instead focus on creating more bespoke points of interest to come across. It would probably also help that open world games not be nearly as big if they feel the need to then fill them with a list of things to collect. For example if BotW had more instances like running into Kass, coming across someone being attacked by Bokoblins, or the field of dead guardians do worlds more in adding to the life and experience of the games world than any stupid Korok seed. To draw a real world connection to what I'm getting at, occasionally Rorie tweets out stuff he comes across when going around his neighborhood in Oakland and they range from funny, to strange to deeply disheartening and they tell you a lot about the place. Adding details like that would be more resource intensive from the production side, but they'd serve the sense of place far better than another Korok seed under another rock.

I think Red Dead Redemption has done it best of any game so far that I've played because it had a lot of stuff that could be collected or completed throughout the world, but you didn't need to interact with them and their presence gave the world it's life, character and a certain naturalism. You could spot animals moving around but didn't need to hunt them all, you would come across someone in distress or pretending to be, but didn't need to do anything about it, and the train would follow it's path making it's stops and you could get on it if you wanted to or watch it leave the station. Each of these things and several others have a functional role for the player within the game, but they also have an aesthetic and atmospheric one doesn't impede the experience.

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