Knowledge conflict

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A knowledge conflict occurs when the player character (PC) has knowledge of the game world not available to the player or vice versa, and this causes illogical actions, renders a puzzle unrealistically difficult, or otherwise damages mimesis.

Not all unshared knowledge causes conflict. It is extremely difficult for a player and a PC to have completely identical knowledge. Most uses of undo, for instance, will create a disparity in knowledge, as will a walkthrough.

Several games, notably 9:05 (Adam Cadre; 1999; Z-code) and Spider and Web (Andrew Plotkin; 1998; Z-code) have intentionally played upon knowledge conflict, making a key puzzle significantly harder but resulting in a bigger payoff when the player figures it out.

Pattern Removal

  • Find appropriate ways of providing relevant backstory and information to the player, but avoid egregious textdumping.
  • Amnesia immediately solves the problem of knowledge conflict, although it may be as much trouble as it's worth to write into the story.
  • Use an everyman PC.
  • Put the PC in situations he is completely unfamiliar with.
  • To minimise the impact of incredibly prescient PCs, limit when certain actions can be taken:
    • randomise code keys, the locations of hidden objects, or other subjects of critical knowledge
    • only allow certain actions after the PC has gained relevant knowledge

Examples

  • Glass (Emily Short; 2006; Z-code) minimizes the knowledge conflict by setting the game in the well-known fairy tale of Cinderella.

Links