(As an amusing aside, point-and-click adventure games were considered to be for "clever" gamers in 90s Spain and Latin America; gamers who mocked action games as simplistic. But there was nothing "clever" or "cerebral" about most adventure games; they were mostly arbitrary and nonsensical. And fun, of course!)
Before I read the Old Man Murray article I was already frustrated with (some) adventure games, even though I absolutely loved the Space Quest series (the original, 16 colors and text input!), and of course Interactive Fiction (aka text adventures). IF games in particular had something of a rennaissance some years (or decades?) ago and they evolved into something way more complex and with better UX than what we remember from the old Zork days.
I loved and played a lot of adventure games. All LucasArts' and a few others. I never even heard of this cultural trace of adventure gamers thinking of themselves as more clever and looking down to action games players.
For me it just something easier to play because it didn't depend on reflex or accuracy (I was never good those types of games) and I liked the story. I am the type who loves cutscenes up to today. In any game.
It wasn't a vicious sentiment, like you would have nowadays, just a feeling of superiority from adventure gamers. They also reacted fiercely when game designers started introducing action gameplay in adventure games, creating action/adventure hybrids. The feeling was that they were "dumbing down" adventure games. Which, if you read the Old Man Murray article, is of course a hilarious notion.
I loved adventure games too! As I said, I cut my teeth with the original (and punishing) Space Quest series, and to this day I have fond memories of it. I also learned quite a bit of English from the series :)
I remember taking hours in one of the first King Quests, that used typed text input, that the right verb was to "pick-up' a cup. Not take, not get, which were the only ones I knew at the time for picking up things.
For example, in Space Quest 2 there was a puzzle where some strange creatures tell you that in order for them to open a passage, you just had to "say the word". Keep in mind I was just learning English back then. The answer was you had to literally type "the word".
Not all bad of course. The dev console in Oblivion both broke me of my video game habits & got me interested in programming.
Do you have any recent favorites with a similar feel?
It came out a couple of years ago, the look and feel is just like the old ones, the humour as well. I was completely immersed.
The interaction is perfect for a touch screen, the display is amazing, and the casual demographic seems like the ideal one to pick it up. Even puzzle games, like Phoenix Wright, would have worked well. It's really a shame that stuff like Candy Crush ended up dominating the space instead. There are some bright spots, like "The Room" or some Professor Layton games, but they're few in number.
That could be a a reason.
The fun part was trying to figure out the magic phrase to affect an object, as not all of them were as obvious as "move rock" or "eat mushroom".
Worth trying. Startup idea: buy the rights of a critically-praised-comercially-failed adventure game from the 90s, port it to iPad with this mechanic. :)
I would play.
Currently play Broken Sword on pass-the-tablet with screen duplicate streaming to the wall size tv, for effectively social couch coop. Try it with friends and family, or whoever you happen to be locked in with at the moment.
Although, come to think of it, game design that compels you to put every random thing in a bin because "it might be handy later" is one of the things I hate about open world games and their crafting/inventory systems.
Alternatively, they could just make you double-tap to interact and single tap to take a closer look or something. 3D touch had some interesting possibilities as well.
It's gotten to the point where it's hard to have a unbiased opinion. People aren't given a copy of King Lear and Tamburlaine and asked which one they prefer. People are usually told ahead of time that Shakespeare plays are wonderful works, that viewing them as wonderful is a sign of intelligence, and people are usually exposed to many plays by Shakespeare and none by his contemporaries.
Our society probably has a much larger impact on how we view these works than the works themselves.
Now they are treated as high brow art, with the good and bad parts of this stereotype (e.g. sophisticated/boring).
A Canticle for Libowitz was published as three short stories. Lots of Asimov was the same.
looks at her unfinished copy of Thimbleweed Park (Ron Gilbert et al, 2014)
hahaha sure Ron, sure you would
I'm more willing to give experimental Interactive Fiction a go though. Some real gems there.
edit: also, and this is stretching the "adventure" definition, I absolutely loved "The Return of the Obra Dinn" by Papers Please author Lukas Pope. I loved that game. At this point I'll play anything made by Pope, that's how much I trust the guy.
Also worth watching are these insights into the game design (and a chance to enjoy the soundtrack again) (spoiler warning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMi6xgdSbMA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0qxLrFycrc
I really loved Psychonauts, but... I've tried several times to replay it and I have a really hard time with it, because even as someone who loved it, the first 5-10 hours is a slog. There's this incredible premise under the game, and if you get to the point they start using it, it's pretty good, but they really frontloaded a whole lot of levels that are basically "Yeah, I mean, sure, this is nominally taking place inside of someone's head and is all like psychic and freaky and psychological & shit but actually it's just a completely standard 3D platformer". And not that great of one. And those levels just go on forever, with hardly any fun elaborations or anything. I tend to get to the lungfish, right where at least the game gets interesting (though I don't think it truly lives up to its premise until the Milkman level, which IIRC is next), and gas out from all the slog.
I hope for the sequel they sat down in the early design session and had some serious discussions about what did and did not work in the first game.
Nowadays I either play a game for the dopamine rush (street fighter), the zen like thing (the witness/the talos principle) or the story (Virginia, sea of solitude).
Took me a while to realize that stories in classic adventure games were what I really liked, not the puzzles.
Thimbleweed Park is an explicit tribute to LucasArts point and click adventure games like Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. It's all about solving silly puzzles with silly characters and some deliberately obscure puzzles for that nostalgic frustration.
I finished Psychonauts. Once. I have tried to replay it and I just cannot, there is so much of it and I really do not want to slog through the tutorial area just so I can re-experience the Milkman Conspiracy.
Thimbleweed might have been better if I'd played it on the "light" version; the "full" version is mostly "lots of extra 'jokes' about how adventure games were better back in 1993".
In fact I bought the next one in the series, I think "Before the Storm" hoping it would continue the magic but ugh, nope. I stopped playing after the first few iterations it was just so off-key. Appears that another studio took over for that one and boy can you tell.
It seems like such a guide would almost be an inversion of some of the principles in this guide: in troll games, you tend to learn only by dying; the puzzles always require things you forgot in the previous room, and you can’t go back, so you must commit in-game suicide to try again; etc.
And yet, given that these guidelines are for the sake of making an entertaining game, how does inverting them then also make for an entertaining game?
Can troll games even be entertaining without the context of having played good games that do follow these rules? It seems like having a mental model of these sorts of guidelines from previous gameplay, allows the player to predict a sort of meta for how things like puzzles should work; and only in that context would an inversion of good design principles carry a comedic punchline.
I guess it’s similar to the question: can you create satire that makes sense without knowing what it’s satirizing?
I'm sure it's possible to make an original troll game (never bet on an artistic idea being impossible), but it certainly seems to make it harder. I've noticed that when the Mario Maker troll community tries to make Super Mario World trolls instead, it's just not as funny. The hacking tools for SMW allow vastly more freedom than MM's editor, since you can always patch the game's code. The decrease in quality might be from a lack of restraint, but I think the element of fair play that MM has is important as well. Everything in MM behaves the way it was programmed by non-trolls (more, Nintendo seems actively anti-troll), so every subversion comes from the level maker showing that they know something about how the game works that the player doesn't.
This guide exists because the inversion was the norm. Especially true of Sierra games, somewhat less true of LucasArts.
Leisure Suit Larry is a prime example of trolling. You die a myriad number of quite humorous ways in order to solve the puzzles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rrh_YBZBC0
> can you create satire that makes sense without knowing what it’s satirizing?
Looking at IWTBTG, I'm sensing the satire is in the game mechanics. Adventure games don't really work that way. They don't have physics or action like Mario, that you could poke fun of. Adventure games work with mouse hovering, clicking, and typing simple phrases. Those mechanics don't really lend themselves to satire, because the game is not really about the mechanics. It's about the logic of puzzles. Which, as Leisure Suit Larry, Kings Quest, etc. all show, satire in adventure games has existed since nearly the beginning. However, even back then the satire was quite meta and self-referential. Take, for example, the Boss Key (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boss_key):
> The first few games in Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry series included a boss key in the pulldown menus (shortcut usually Ctrl+B). However, when this is used, it results in an instantaneous game over with the first game saying "Sorry, but you'll have to restore your game; when you panic, I forget everything!"
Perhaps a better example of this sort of meta-level of messing with adventure game mechanics is the game Eternal Darkness, on the GameCube. They developed this mechanism of a "Sanity meter" and certain effects would occur if your sanity dropped to a certain level. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_Darkness
> While minor effects include a skewed camera angle, heads of statues following the character, and unsettling noises, stronger effects include bleeding on walls and ceilings, entering a room that is unrealistic before finding that the character never left the previous room, the character suddenly dying, and fourth wall breaking effects such as "To Be Continued" promotions for a "sequel", and simulated errors and anomalies of the TV or GameCube. While the latter does not affect gameplay, they can be misconstrued by the player as being actual technical malfunctions.
Eternal Darkness was not satire, though. They were playing it straight, and when a popup appears telling you to reconnect the GameCube controller, you would really check it and then start questioning your own sanity.
I purchased the HD remake of the game on Steam in 2015 to experience it once again. Just followed the solutions. It was much like watching a movie (a very good one).
I remember I once played a Broken Sword game (I believe it was The Sleeping Dragon) and that was an exception in that it was super easy to solve. Disappointingly easy :-)
And yet even as I keep buying and playing the games, I am always disappointed.
I don't know what the future of adventure games looks like, but it definitely does not involve inane inventory "puzzles."
Revolution (Broken Sword, etc) tend to have fewer puzzles outside the context of the story than Lucas Arts (Monkey Island, etc).
Some of the modern groups have built some really good stuff. Try Resonance for a great brain fry, or Technobabylon, Gemini Rue, Shardlight, Cathy Rain for lighter noggin usage. IIRC telltales Sam and Max had fun story and humour while light on puzzles.
adventuregamers.com has a large library of reviews with a general scoring and som "good" and "bad" points. I've found their taste to be relevant enough to look at, while figuring out which good/bad to look for or avoid respectively.
And last week I started playing Disco Elysium, and it's everything I ever wanted from something like an adventure/rpg and more.
I recently played Milk Maid of the Milkyway. It's a super cute indie title and it's an adventure game. Despite the beautiful dialog and wonderful music, it still had a lot of the issues that Grumpy Gamer touches on that killed the original genre.
You end up clicking everything on everything, looking up hints for objects you didn't realize were even clickable, and have stupid puzzles like putting a frog in a random hole and poking it with a needle so a guy oils a gear.
By contrast, Red Strings Club is an indie adventure game that gets this totally right. It's story telling with game mechanics and you don't need any hints or need to solve any insanely stupid puzzles to get through it.
Night in the Woods is another great Indie adventure game that's more about story. It doesn't have the same level of puzzles as other adventure games, but the puzzles all make sense. The game has a lot of mechanics that keep it going forward so you don't get stuck.
Life is Strange is another one that's more story driven. I had trouble with it initially. It's slow and was difficult for me to get into, but I'm glad I stuck with it as the story is really interesting and does some very bold stuff for a game. I haven't tried the 2nd one yet.
Telltale got a lot of this gene right I think. People complained how you don't really affect the story in Telltale games and that is true, but it is also very difficult to create those types of games with true multiple outcomes (especially if you have sequels planned. You only want 2 ~ 3 maximum outputs at the end. Mass Effect was good about being more complex; they had to plan for certain characters simply not being in future games -- but Bioware too ultimately collapsed the story down into very few possibilities by the end anyway).
Finally, Quantic Dream does a super good job of this (Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, Detroit). They've been PS4/Sony exclusives for a while, but I heard some of these games are making their way to PC. They are slow games you can't run through, but they don't require insane puzzles and keep moving. Detroit does a really good job with totally different narrative paths and endings, and they don't skimp on the writing, even on endings people would rarely get to.
It was originally sold for Android here:
That is now abandoned and left to bitrot. I don't know, whether they were expecting that people will purchase it again, but for me the effect was, that I won't touch anything made by them again.
Maybe they kinda predicted YUNO and the whole VN explosion in Japan that came soon after their article was published. Or a least the reason why the demand was there.
Granted, these games still cost 40+ bucks and deliver 20+ hours of gameplay, which differs from the vision the Author outlined. But that seems to be because the extra effort does lead to better returns (and maybe that consumers want 20+ hour games), so it's a good thing.
A friend of mine was recently complaining about how adventure games and even rpgs (in both video and board game formats) lack significant character development, even the best ones with great worlds and stories. I don't personally have enough experience to have an opinion, but I thought it was interesting that the relevant guideline here shows exactly that: it mentions "story" but not "character". (I'm not sure what is meant here by "game"). Maybe my friend is not wrong.
Think how much character development a play writer can write if they expect the actors to form their characters on a whim? And the actors being not professional ones who would be very good at it but your average common people.
"Who killed Adventure Games? I think it should be pretty clear at this point that Adventure Games committed suicide."
Even so, there were still a lot of attempts made at overcoming an obstacle, using normal logic, that failed because they required a joke punchline instead, such as... finding a straw in a needle stack.
Modern I.F. games are a lot better in that respect, because you can code in a half-dozen solutions for the same puzzle, without creating new voice and graphic resources for all those alternate solutions.
This reminds me of Return to Zork, in which on the very first screen the player sees a small plant growing out of a rock. If the player misses or ignores it, or if they choose to cut it or tear it out instead of gently digging it out, they won't able to defeat the last boss.
Runaway was released in 2001, Myst in 1993 and the sequel in 1997, Lucasfilm Indiana Jone in 1992 (a game of such quality that fans demanded a movie based on it), Broken Sword 1996, etc.
These are just the few I bothered looking up. There has been a good amount of adventure game masterpieces between 1989 and 2004. Lots of bad ones, but also a fair count of great ones. There have been rough times for adventure games, but they were not dead between 1989 and 2004.
I used to like them as a teenager and whenever I pick up a game now (I'm in my early 40's) I am just completely bored. Part of it I think is because it requires some form of mental engagement after a day's hard work?
1. I understand software better and can see that my in-game actions are mostly changing variables, or values in a database.
2. Games are 'balanced' and therefore limit the upside for a potential great strategy I might come up with.
3. Nothing new under the sun: How many more pseudo-scifi research trees or weapon mechanisms or unit capabilities am I supposed to learn in my lifetime?
4. They don't make them like they used to. Older games had a hardcore element to them, were often quite difficult and unforgiving (a result of less market pressure and less polish). Instead of online guides and pro streamers showing how they are played, the games had a mystery about them; we often didn't even have a manual for a game we copied.
4. Less need to prove myself in competition with my peers through games and play (which is aparently a fundamental thing for children)
5. Less magic: The first game that had real voice actors, the first real 3D game seem to have had a greater impact than today's incremental improvements.
6. Limited time and energy. I find it tough to spend the prime energy of a day for a game.
7. Computer work makes me want to get away from computers eventually.
I do watch streamers and youtube videos of the games of the 90ies occasionally and find entertainment and closure (through experiencing games I never got to play).
Right. Pick up a copy of Dead Cells and come back here in 100 hours.
The last bit of "magic" I felt was World of Warcraft. Stepping into a world that actually felt like world was an entirely new experience. The game felt alive in a way that no other game has since felt. Years later Blizzard would largely destroy this magic by turning that sense of awe into a grind, and allowing players to fast travel wherever they wanted. The magic of possibility and random encounters disappeared.
Every game since then has paled in comparison. After WoW, you also feel that every moment spent in a game is largely a waste of time. I'm incapable of playing these massive 30-90 hour games that seem to dominate the industry today. Sometimes I pick up Quake for a few quick rounds. But 30+ hours is a solid investment of my incredibly limited time.
Wouldn't a 'balanced' game make the impact of strategy even greater? Many of the most strategic games in the world like chess or go are balanced.
> 4. Less need to prove myself in competition with my peers through games and play (which is aparently a fundamental thing for children)
It's never been easier to find and compete against the best in the world at games. If you're good enough at an online game you can find yourself essentially playing pick-up basketball against LeBron James.
> 7. Computer work makes me want to get away from computers eventually.
Yeah agreed on this one for sure.
#4 Just as we get older, it's no longer about computer games, the playground, or sports where we need to prove ourselves? Don't mind me if that's not actually a thing, psychologically.
Actually, I think archive.org has a lot of those old games, playable directly through a web browser, so it depending on the game it may be much easier than what I wrote above.
The only ones that caught me surprised were Factorio and dota2 both of which I then ended up playing far too much. The first singleplayer, and the second with a group of RL friends.
I still can't hardly play video games, but I've been between gigs this last year and have been working with my hands building stuff. That's done more for my psyche than anything, even the self-help reading material that I immersed myself in to recover from burnout, depression and anxiety.
I worry for people living in big cities or around too much technology with no creative outlet. So if you are reading this and thinking "crap I don't even have a garage", try finding a local group into the same stuff you are. I got lucky that there's a local Burning Man group where I live. But there are almost certainly maker spaces or startup enthusiasts somewhere near you. Older folks are surprisingly good at this, so you might get lucky and find a mentor to bounce ideas off of.
I would play video games with any of the interesting people I've met lately. So maybe it's not the games, it's the immediate company.
And if you do not enjoy games anymore, that's fine. Plenty of things to do in the world.
Soma is especially great. It's utterly scary, it's beautiful to explore (per my taste), and the way the story unfolds really pulled me in.
SubNautica somewhat qualifies if you have a hint of thalassophobia. There is a very small combat element that you can entirely ignore.
Most other games bore my adult self as well, but the above are so compelling that I only play them in the right conditions so that I really enjoy them: alone at night with headphones.
Nowadays, nothing perks my interest really. I did really enjoy Breath of the Wild and Ori and the Blind Forest. Everything else is just kinda meh.
I have scarce time. Something has to be really worth it to take away from family time, home projects, chores, work, professional development, working out, and hobbies (reef aquarium, banjo, audio books, and smaller interests like ATV, bows and guns, and emergency prep).
I did like Infocom games though I didn't finish most of them.
Still loved those games though
This article seems to directly call out a lot of the King's Quest mechanics and puzzles.
> enter building
YOU SEE A LARGE SNAKE EMERGING OUT OF THE STREAM.