What would be preferable to the player?

I am doing my last big edit of my first game, I am near the end, and I have run into a situation that is kind of a toss-up question. In the game, the player must tie together 5 things (each is the same kind of thing) into a rope, tie the rope to something stable, and then rappel down into an area. I have written some rules and created a few things, such that the player can tie two of the things together, then add each of the remaining things to complete the rope (which is actually four containers–a short rope, which becomes a long rope, which then becomes a tied rope when tied to the post, then a frayed rope once used). The order in which the things are tied doesn’t matter. I allow untying, but when that is done, all of the things are untied, and once the rope is tied to the post, I don’t allow it to be untied, saying, “There’s no going back.” There is really no other use for the rope, and no other use for the things on it.
The routine works, it does exactly what I want it to do. However, I can’t seem to avoid thinking that I could have done it more ‘logically’, such as allowing any combination of the things to be tied together, then tying shorter ropes together into a longer one, etc. Or allowing the untying of specific elements of the rope(s), while leaving the rest alone. This could likely be done using lists. It just seems like a complicated thing, when all that needs to be done is tie all of the things together and climb down. The routine I already have ‘works’, it does all that is required, except you cannot release only one thing from the rope without untying them all. But I do make the necessary adjustments in the inventory list.
What would the player prefer??

Without wishing to impugn your ingenuity here, this puzzle sounds like a recipe for disaster, or at least a serious headache.

What else can you tie these things to? random items? Why can’t i tie things to the table, then walk out of the room carrying the other end and tie that to something else. How about making a trip-wire between two locations etc.

Whilst climbing down, why can’t i untie the last link?

The thing is, if only the intended puzzle works with this mechanic, then it’s a bit weak.

My gut feeling would be to change it.

I had the same exact thought. A rope tied to a tree that runs through another location is usually the example given of an implementational Mount Everest and is not for the squeamish. That said, it’s interesting as a chess puzzle.

It sounds like you did a good job if essentially you made rope pieces a collectible which then all make one object which then unlocks the way down. The tricky part is giving the player too much leeway to go off on fruitless experimental tangents. You want to avoid the situation where the player knows the right thing to do but is unable to accomplish it with the interactions you permit them.

I’ve had success setting it up so I try to catch all the ways a player can interact and then presenting a menu for more control, or permanently advancing the puzzle in the right direction and not permitting the player to regress. “You’ve already tied those ropes together. You can probably it even longer if you find more pieces to add…”

So good job. Don’t overcomplicate it. Beta test.

Thanks guys!

Part of the game is the ‘scavenger hunt’, of sorts, for the individual pieces (which are actually pieces of laundry)–which leads into a totally different plot. I actually don’t allow the tie-together to occur until near the crucial point, using a Check rule, saying, “You don’t see a practical reason for doing this. Plus you got sick the day they taught it at camp.”, or much earlier, “This isn’t the sort of institution you can escape by doing that.” When the player reaches that point, he will know, without a doubt, that that is the only way to go further, and there will be something to tie it to (and it is the only thing in that place). Of course, I plan on providing a hint file with this game, in the tradition of Infocom’s Invisiclues (which I thoroughly enjoyed) --someone suggested that I could create an HTML file, including a list of categorized questions, with the hints under the questions all blacked out, and the player could ‘highlight’ the hints to make them visible.

Thank you both for your insight and feedback–and the compliments!

Two more points:

It’s good to include a hint file, but ideally, you’d like the player not to need to use it.

“You don’t see a practical reason for doing this” isn’t a helpful refusal message verbatim in context since it sounds like a default library message. If the player is trying an action, they probably have a practical reason in mind. Perhaps something more towards “Tying the ropes together is a great idea, but there’s nothing to anchor it to here.” “You can tell you don’t have enough rope to tie together to make it out the window and down. You should probably find some more pieces first.”

Thanks for the suggestions, Hanon. I can recall a number of instances in games I had played where things I tried seemed very logical but were not allowed. I wasn’t thinking about that when I came up with the idea, I had tunnel vision favoring the one scene where it can be used. I may stick with my “This isn’t the sort of institution you can escape by doing that.” (the suggestion being that the player is 'in his/her own prison or other facility)–but I can see how this, as a stock phrase, can be misinterpreted as hinting that making a rope would not be necessary in this game (the player may think, ‘Well, I tried it there, there, and there, so why should I try it here?’). Perhaps I should use “That’s a good idea, but there is nothing here to climb down to.”, or, “You won’t need that here.”
I must admit, my game is tough as nails, my playtesters needed the walkthrough–I probably should clue it more thoroughly.

Thanks for your time, Hanon.