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I just played threw Dragon Quest once more and i found myself wondering something, do any of the developers here add truly hidden items (items that are invisible unless you actively look for them) to their games? For example, in DQ you have the ability to "look around" and 9 times out of 10 you wont find anything. What im wondering is this, if you as the the developer do place truly hidden items around in your world what is the motivation for doing so? Egg hunt, side quest items, super powerful weapons/ equipment that only the "worth" can find, or just for kicks and giggles? For the players, do you find this a challenge, excuse to explore the world of the game? Does it offer more immersion into the game, story, and characters? Or is the whole idea just hatted by you?
Only when the item is an easter egg. If the item is too powerful, I feel as though that's giving a middle finger to the players.

But I love finding secret treasures. It just has to be fair with a hint of some sort.
I like it and will be doing it in my game. I find the looking around and finding stuff to be the fun part of the game. Having a big blinking red arrow pointing to all the important parts of the game bores me.
The big thing when doing this is consistency and showing the rules early on. This way people know where they can look for hidden things (wells, cupboards, jars) and are taught to do so from the start so they have the chance not to miss stuff as long as they keep their eyes open/search for it.

When it comes to amateur games we don't have little booklets that let us know that we can search certain things so we have to show it in-game somehow. There's nothing worse than missing out on treasure you never knew was there because you hadn't been told that you could looking in rubbish bins for items.
If done right, it gives the player motivation to wander around your maps and explore. It also helps keep pace. I hate spending 3 hours building a town, and then realizing the player is going to spend less than 2 minutes in it. Otherwise its just tedious and no one cares. For Example: Pots in town that contain everyday items in Final Fantasy 4 = Awesome. Having to roam the caves looking for 15 tails hidden randomly in FF4 After Years Edward's story = Tedious and annoying. I think if you give your player a pattern to follow, its a good idea, like always where the shadow looks weird, or always in the corners of the room... pots... water, whatevz. The game I'm working on is old-fashioned and filled with item holding pots sprinkled in between lots of empty pots.

I would never do it with items required to advance the game unless you're specifically told you gotta go find something. like "I dropped the key to the door! The key is around here somewhere... lets go look for it!" Personally it's a game playing deal-breaker if you have to click randomly on every tile of every map forever. Remember Milan's Secret Castle? yeah... sad face.
I always have hidden stuff in my game (barrels, scrolls, etc.) as well as hidden in the field (usually it's in that one spot of grass that's not like the rest of the grass, or it's in a flower that's suspiciously placed in the corner of a map). I do plan on having a field ability where a character will reveal how many items are on that particular map, but I haven't gotten around to that yet at all and I wonder if I shouldn't make that character make hidden items become treasure boxes through an ability or as a passive....
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
"Press enter on every tile in the game" never struck me as particularly engaging gameplay. I would describe it as utterly maddening, in fact.
It can be in some cases aye. Especially if you want to 100% a game (I'm looking at you FFV! You and your tedious hidden stuff that nobody would know about half the time!). Now, making said items revealed somehow or at least knowing they're around makes it a bit more engaging I think, but that's me.
It's one thing if there is grass or roots or some sort of sprite on the ground such as a Zelda style bush. It's quite another searching for buried treasure in there's not even cracked earth.

My game has rare appearing items, such as animals or plants that pop up randomly. It's a pain in the bum though, since it would stall computers more than 5 years old with all the other stuff on my world map.

Still, it was kinda fun mushroom/animal/veggie hunting, especially since you could do weird interactions with animals, like feeding rabbits carrots you got to catch them more easily, or using caught (and spared) pigs to catch truffles. You caught also mine if certain rocks were there.

Morrowind had this way better than I could. But the point being both of us made actual graphics rather than hidden goodies. If the audience doesn't see it, they don't care.
The reason i ask this is because in the game that im THINKING of making is a sci-fi game with a few to a dozen plants in it and im looking for the most, absolutely, extremely, and totally covert way of hinting at a hidden item without making them just outright 100% invisible (Granted im not totally apposed to that idea either.) All of the hidden items would lead up to a BIG side event like a powerful Android that you build over time that becomes a member of your team, a very powerful weapon you build over time that would be a BIG (however not essential for defeating the final boss) help to the final battle, parts of a map that leads you to a genetic enhancement lab that boots your stats massively, or something of the sort. What do you all think would be the ULTIMATE way of hiding items?
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Uh, if it's something that important, you don't want them hidden too well. Because that's bullshit. No one will ever find it.

Have you played FF12? There is a weapon, the Zodiac Spear, that is the best weapon in the game, dealing probably twice as much damage as anything else. You can only find it by buying a strategy guide, though. Because the process of getting it is the worst thing in any game. Specifically, you have to avoid opening four specific treasure chests throughout the game, which are totally random and have no indication before or after being opened that there's anything special about them. If you open one of these treasure chests, you cannot get the zodiac spear. If you leave all four chests alone, the zodiac spear will appear in a chest in an optional dungeon - when opening this chest you have to TURN OFF your accessory that makes you "get better items from treasure chests", the only time in the game you need to do so, and once again with absolutely no warning or hint. (You can also get a second zodiac spear at the end of the game, through a process that is even worse)

Even in situations where you don't have an utterly asinine method of giving out the item, if something is hidden properly, that means most people won't find it even if they look. Do you want most people who get that far to be unable to finish your game? If so, you are an intolerable asshole. If not, either make the item not be as big a deal, or make it require some other kind of effort instead of guesswork and mind-reading.

That said, probably the "best" way to do something like what you want would be a series of riddles. Though by best I just mean "only 95% of your players will slit their wrists and mail you anthrax instead of 100%"
Riddles... i like it! Also id like to point out that if i did make this game the hidden items would be 100% optional and compleatly unimportant to the development or progression of the game and not in anyway required to beat the game. I personally love it when i find difficultly hidden items. I haven't played FF12 but that Zodiac Spear situation sounds more like you need ungodly luck more then a strategy, that just sounds like some crazy bs. I played this one game that i cant recall the the name of at the time (it was like 10 years ago) but i found a sword or something in some grass and the only reason i found it was because i pressed the wrong button. Looking over the the area again i notice that the color of the grass that i found the sword or whatever at was like 1 shade off from the rest of the grass around it. After that iv always tried to find hidden items in odd places and sometimes they are their and sometimes not, but old habits die hard i guess. I also hate it when you do the egg hunt for a "cool hidden item" and its as useful to you as a starting weapon to a character thats level 80. I guess another question i should ask is whats the point that separates an enjoyable Easter egg hunt form a massive pain in the ass?

Also it could be that im just so used to the idea of looking for tiny details like grass one shade off from the rest that could mean "hidden items" that im over complicating the whole idea. Lol
The ULTIMATE way of hiding items... I don't think that's so much of a big deal, just think of ways to torture the player.
Why not split the item into several different locations? Oh, better yet, said item isn't on a single spot on a room, but on THREE spots. No, there aren't three items, the item's on those three spots.

You have to check them all three to get the item. Whatever spot gets checked last grants you the item.

You don't know when you already checked a spot. That means you don't know if there's three spots left, or only one.

Scatter the spots through the world.

Make the spots only be activated when the minute digit of the in-game clock is even.

As you see there are a TREMENDOUS ammount of ways to hide something HORRIBLY well. >_>
Just... Don't do it. >_>
Or do it. But think on the consequences -- and in writing a walkthrough. xD
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Well, an easter egg is something that doesn't really affect the game.

You can beat FF12 without getting the zodiac spear, obviously. But it's really strong. So you want to get it really badly. There's not much difference to a lot of players between "necessary" and "optimal" - the thing that draws them back to RPGs is the journey towards ultimate power, so if something makes them stronger, then of course they're going to get it. They won't feel like they finished the game if they skip a key upgrade. A player who plays for the plot is never going to skip the sidequest where the hero finds out who he really was before he lost his memory, and a player who plays for the challenge is never going to skip the optional fight against Beach Glass WEAPON. So a player who plays for the growth is never going to skip getting his robot. So you don't need to make it easy, but you need to make sure he can, preferably using some of the same skills that the game has taught him and required time and again to gain power, but taken to the ultimate level.

The other thing is that in FF12, the game tantalizes you with that stupid spear. You know it's out there because your weapon license grid lists all the weapons in the game and it's the last one on the list. If there were just no way to know about it before getting it, I wouldn't have cared. Because instead of spending a long time looking and then being mad that I was unsuccessful (and then looking the item up online and becoming crazy mad), I'd have never looked in the first place. I think making the player never have any reason to look for the item in the first place probably isn't the way to go in most games, but it could work you've already trained them over the course of the game to look everywhere, and the item is just their ultimate reward for doing so to the max.
That being said I personally think a (properly hidden) dungeon is much more fun than an obnoxiously hidden item. >_> much for the reasons stated by @LockeZ =3c
It's challenging to find the hidden dungeon, but doable. And the dungeon itself is challenging. BAM you got yourself something way more fun than senseless awkward almost ritualistic things. >_>
Will I sometimes tuck treasure chests into odd locations? Locations that make it very hard to see that there is actually a chest there? Yup. I want the player to be alert.

Will I stuff items (and some rare gear) into random pots hidden in corners of rooms? No. That's just being a jerk.

Normally, if I allow the player to examine the environment, I only put flavor test or world building into it.

Because, let's face it. How many of you enjoyed mashing A in front of every freakin box in older games on the off chance that THIS one was the one with the Hi-Potion?

Not many I bet.
Exciting, but ultimately pointless.
I'm pretty sure I did this several times in Blackmoon Prophecy. The best example is a chest that won't appear in a certain room unless the player walks on four different tiles in a certain order.
Because, let's face it. How many of you enjoyed mashing A in front of every freakin box in older games on the off chance that THIS one was the one with the Hi-Potion?

Actually I don't mind this at all. I didn't mind having to jump up in random places to get 1-ups in SMB and I didn't mind having to burn a bunch of identical trees in Zelda either. But then, I wasn't in a hurry.
Because, let's face it. How many of you enjoyed mashing A in front of every freakin box in older games on the off chance that THIS one was the one with the Hi-Potion?

Not many I bet.

Oooh, me! Me! I do!

No, seriously, I do. I love finding things in barrels, boxes and pots; cabinets, cupboards and bookcases. Sometimes even small patches of oddly coloured grass and the occasional hole in a tree~<3
As long as the game has trained me to look in those places for things, that is.

Why not make your items given by out of the way NPCs, or let NPCs give a hint as to where they are - this makes it so that people who talk to your NPCs are rewarded - after all, you made all those characters and nothing is more wasteful than them not even being talked to. Or pieces of a chart hidden in each dungeon that together form a treasure map. You'd have to keep an eye out for each piece~
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
You didn't mind those things in 1986 because you were too excited by the fact that OH MY GOD THIS IS A VIDEO GAME

But somewhere in the 27 years since then, pretty much everyone has realized that there are better ways to do things. You can create the same good feelings for the player and deliver the same overall goals and drive in your game without some of those negative aspects.

So, for example, you want to make the player feel like he found a cool thing by being observant. Right? That's what you really want, right? You don't want him to get so frustrated he quits, and you don't want him to have to waste hours of his time getting no positive results before ultimately finding it. Those are side-effects. The goal is for him to find it, and to feel like finding it was due to his own super observation skills and that he really deserves it.

In Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, some of the sidequests work like this. The Riddler's riddles in Arkham Asylum are things like "The say the largest one is skin, but this one is way bigger" and you have to take a picture of a huge Pipe Organ. But you don't have to search the entire game: they tell you exactly which room to look in. They're kind of big rooms sometimes, but never massive. You can find each of them with about ten minutes of work at most, often more like two minutes, and if you paid attention to the scenery as you passed through during the plot missions, you'll have a much easier time. A couple things make this sidequest good: one is that when you find it, you're like, "OHHHHHHH." It's not random; it makes sense. And another thing is that you are progressing on it gradually. You have a clear progress meter: you've solved 5 out of 12 riddles in this zone. This makes the player feel like he's getting somewhere, gives him a sense of accomplishment, provides positive feedback to let him know he's doing it right. Visible progress and sub-goals are very important for players, because you want them to feel like they're on the right track when they are, and because you want them to turn the game off feeling like they accomplished something, and also just because it makes them feel really good to see "SUCCESS! OBJECTIVE COMPLETE! YOU ARE HANDSOME AND SMART!" after doing something. And another thing: even though two to ten minutes of work per riddle isn't a lot of work, doing that for all 80 riddles (or however many there are) in the entire game is a lot of work. Each one is individually very doable, but together they create a very long process that involves a lot of brain-wracking and takes a good amount of effort and cleverness to complete, which is your ultimate goal.

The Riddler stuff in Arkham City was awful. But it had some other side-quests that were good. The mad hatter stuff, the mr. freeze stuff, the assassin stuff. None of those side-quests were very long, but they did grant some rewards, and they helped add up to 100% completion, which was your ultimate goal. Unfortunately, the riddler challenges made 100% completion basically impossible, and so much of the game felt like a waste of time in the end - why am I collecting completion points if I don't get anything until I get the last point, and the last point is something like "beat every enemy in every zone in the entire game in a single fluid combo move without taking damage, touching the ground, or turning the camera to the left"? And the second to last point is "dodge 200 lightning bolts"? So it was generally not as good of a game in the finding-stuff aspects, much more overwhelming and less enjoyable, and no payoff in the end.
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