Nagging the player about hints

What are everybody’s thoughts about messages along the line of “Solving puzzles is more rewarding on your own. Are you sure you want a hint?” when the player asks for a hint?
My current thinking is to require confirmation the first time the player requests a hint and then just give hints on demand but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Ask for confirmation once
  • Ask for confirmation every time
  • Never ask for confirmation
  • Do something else (please elaborate)

0 voters


I think it’s situational, depending on the intended audience, the game style and milieu, authorial intent, and more?

I would also be careful about the warning text, since it can sound a little chiding if done wrong. Most players, if not all, know the point of the game is to solve puzzles.

That sounds like a solid approach.


I voted for “ask once”, which seems to be a good compromise between encouraging self-reliance and being user-friendly.

Although never asking could be okay, too, especially if you give out hints in a gradually more explicit fashion (which is a good idea anyway, I think). Then a player who only needs a slight nudge can stop after revealing the first steps, and will still feel some of the joy of solving it on his own.

If you ask for confirmation every time, it will probably just annoy players instead of steeling their resolve. If they request hints on repeated occasions, that could be considered evidence enough that they want to, so no need for another prompt each time.
(Well, theoretically, we might imagine them as hint-addicts, whose first-order preferences are not aligned with their second-order preferences… but that’s crossing over into philosophical territory. :slightly_smiling_face:)

And just to put another option on the table: You could also do it in the style of Ulysses and the Sirens, by asking the player whether he wants to block access to the hints for the rest of the game.


I would prefer that a game asks for confirmation only once, and that mostly to confirm that I wanted a hint and wasn’t trying to ask for or do something else (such as asking a game character to help me move something heavy).

I agree it’s good to have confirmation the first time, to make sure the player is actually trying to get a hint. This is especially true if the game would otherwise go straight to the hint.

It might also be nice to say what will happen next if you choose to continue (if you’ll be given a choice of hint topics, or taken directly to a hint related to where you are, etc.) so the player will have an idea of what level of spoilers to expect.

If the “hint” command always takes you to an explanation of how the hint system works or a non-spoilery hint menu or something like that, the confirmation might be less of an issue, because you still have a way out before accidentally seeing a hint you didn’t mean to look at. But it wouldn’t hurt, I don’t think, to have the one-time confirmation anyway.

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At most, confirm once, I think. More than that would feel like hectoring. But my favorite hinting style is to have levels that try to just steer the player in the right direction and you have to ask a couple times before the game outright tells the player how to do something.

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It looks like you were right on the money about asking “Are you sure about hints” only once, Nils.
I prefer to be asked a lot, because it’s later on in the game, when I’m tired and grouchy, that I’m most likely to use hints and then wish I hadn’t. But I can see how that can come across as naggy.

How about instead of that (possibly) chiding tone, say:

> hint dinner

You are about to reveal a hint about the menu puzzle. Do you wish to continue? Y/N
(This protection against accidental revelation can be switched off with the phrase “Hint protection off”.)


I’d also like to add that I prefer hints and clues to be supplied in a game world context. i.e. via an item or NPC that I can interact with.

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My favorite, too. The fleas in Wizard Sniffer were possibly my favorite ever, because they gave a true hint and a false hint, so the hints were always like mini puzzles.

Not all of us are this clever, unfortunately. I’m just proud of having written a working hint system without relying on an extension.


Definitely make sure you pick an approach that works for the game.

For a text game with confirmations as an option, perhaps HINT CONFIRM or HINT ON/OFF to turn the confirmation before giving hints on or off might be a good choice, perhaps with the first occasion containing something like “This game is currently set to confirm before providing hints. Would you like to keep the confirm on YES/NO?”. That way, the player can make their own decisions.

(The hints on the game I’m doing don’t have a confirmation, because I wanted it to be in-character. Thus a player might well go for hints in my game not because they actually want a hint, but because they want some more characterisation. But then, it’s not a game that places its primary emphasis on puzzles).

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Excellent suggestions. I like this approach!

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