Adventure Games (via)

Jul 25, 2005 five past three pm

Adventure Developers has a nice (long) article up about the state of adventure games.  Beiddie Rafol does a nice job of attacking all the angles, including marketing, distribution, etc.

From first-hand experience, I can tell you that if you even utter the words "adventure game" in a meeting with a publisher you can just pack up your spiffy concept art and leave.  You'd get a better reaction by announcing that you have the plague.

Publishers are silly.

Other people's comments:

Posted by Whup on Jul 25, 2005 twenty to five pm

Maybe we need to stop using the term "adventure game" and start using something the publishers haven't heard of.  =)

Surely publishers like acronyms... we need something to tack onto RPG that gamers will understand as secret code for "adventure game".

Seriously though, when playing through KOTOR I was constantly thinking how it felt a lot like an adventure game with fighting.  Puzzles, conversations, quests for silly objects etc - maybe we need a new genre of NCRPG's (non-combat RPG's).

Posted by eloj on Jul 26, 2005 quarter past four am

RPA[G]? Or is the word Adventure contagious in itself?

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 25, 2005 five to five pm

Well, you could always combine adventure elements with some more platform / 3D action type of games. It worked brilliantly for Beyond Good and Evil. (Classic, fantastic, SUPERB game, that. :))

Personally, I would really like to make an adventure in a 3D environment, but with fixed camera positions. (So basically like all adventure games, but instead of background images and sprites, you'd use geomitry, models, skeleton animations, etc.)

Yup, that'd be nice.. But first I've got some other 3D stuff to finish..

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 25, 2005 five to five pm

It worked brilliantly for Beyond Good and Evil.

Unless you're the publisher, who considers the game to be a failure.

Posted by Whup on Jul 25, 2005 twenty past five pm

I could probably find this out the hard way (ie, look it up), but were games like Monkey Island, DoTT and Sam'n'Max considered really successful by LucasArts back in the day?

Is it just that publishers are expecting too much from games now?

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 25, 2005 twenty five to six pm

I can't comment on DoTT and S&M because I was not there when they came out.  MI was considered a success (at the time), but we never sold as well as Sierra did.

Much of LA's success came in Europe.  If I remember correctly, more copies of MI were sold in Germany than in the U.S.

But keep in mind that MI cost $135K to make, and even adjusted for inflation, that is much less than you could make a commercially viable game today.

Posted by Edmundo on Jul 25, 2005 five to seven pm

Word on the street (the streets of the intarweb) is that the Germans are crazy about graphic adventures. I think the most popular classic is Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders for some odd reason.

Posted by tom|rebell.at on Jul 26, 2005 ten past seven am

the germans are not crazy about graphic adventures but surely the genre is far more popular here in austria and germany than in the u.s. . but it is absolutely not a mainstream-genre. i'm always surprised when i look at the charts and can't find a adventure for longer than a few weeks in there (even if it's very good - like syberia or black mirror or), but when i talk to people about games, they all know and love monkey island (i'd say the most popular adventure of all time), broken sword, simon the sorcerer, leisure suit larry and other classics.

one day, adventures will return (at least i hope that). the genre just needs a push. but i think this has to come from lucas arts. we need a groundbreaking sequel of an older but well known series. something that shows, that there actually IS fun in adventure games. i think many people have forgotten that or never knew...

Posted by tom|rebell.at on Jul 26, 2005 half past seven am

hey ron,

that's something i don't really understand:

"But keep in mind that MI cost $135K to make, and even adjusted for inflation, that is much less than you could make a commercially viable game today."

why is that? adventure gamers clearly favour 2d still i'd say. it must be easier to write code and generating graphics today. i really don't get it, why adventures are so much more expensive nowadays. if for example lucas arts would make one (just a conventional 2d adventure with great story- and humor-elements - like in the old days), they wouldn't even need so much marketing efforts because the gaming world would observe it surely - yet the members of the gaming press are from a generation that knows and likes/loves adventures. so from my point of view there wouldn't be a smaller peer group than ten years ago (maybe even a far bigger one?), there would be higher production costs (but still far cheaper than producing a 3d shooter or an rts-game) and so it might easily be a success.

so why are adventures so much more expensive today? :)

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 26, 2005 quarter past eight am

so why are adventures so much more expensive today? :)

One word: Art.

The art in MI1&2 was simple.  Guybrush was basically one animation that faced in 4 directions with some talking and a couple of generic reaches.  We use to call them walk/talk actors.  You could not get away with that today.  Plus very little animated in the game.  A couple of spot animations here and there.  Most of that was driven by disk space, not time and money.

I've seen indie Adventure Games that have graphics at the same level as MI1&2, and they look very dated.  You would have a hard time selling that to a consumer.

There is also voice, which we did not have.

Posted by drunkymonkey on Jul 27, 2005 half past midnight

I personally (and I know this doesn't apply to most people) play the next Monkey Island if it did have 2d graphics and all that.

Posted by david whitney on Jun 27, 2006 five to six am

Just out of curiosity, would this still apply to a different market?  I'm currently contemplaiting the idea of writing an adventure game engine of sorts for smartphones / portable devices, it seems like these platforms are as lenient as they were "in the old days" and you could almost get away with a low-fi adventure game...

Posted by foo on Jul 6, 2006 five to five am

Hi!
May it's the fact that here in germany the fanbase for adventures is  bigger than in the u.s. and maybe it's only a subejctive opinion, but i really think an adventure like MI1/2, MM, ZMK or Indy would sell quite good here.
Of course you would have a hard time selling it for the price of a "new" game. But if you put the costs and the final price in relation i think you would make a good deal.
Important for that is of course the old SCUMM-look'n'feel. I think that's one of the secrets of the success, besides of the great stories, the jokes aside and the dense atmosphere, it was the unclear,diffuse graphic that created the charm of the game ... in fact i enjoy the old graphics (vga/256) even more than the hi-res pictures of .. let's say, mi3.  it just looks cute, and although there are just some pixels drawing a face, you can still recognize (or interprete) mimics.
Anyway, i'm looking forward to see some of the fanprojects, working with similar engines like SCUMM (eg : AGS). some of them are really looking good, and even the high-res-Zak2-thinggy looks quite okay.
so my point is: don't give up the adventure scene .. and don't underestimate the fanbase, a lot of us would love to see some new products old school styled and of course even more if it was a ron gilbert-project.

... i rest my case :)

Posted by space ace on Aug 9, 2005 twenty past two am

funny.. at the time we had access only to the german mi, and actually took up learning german for it!!

Posted by Oded Sharon on Jul 26, 2005 ten to four am

And too bad too. BG&E was one HELL of a good game.

Posted by Whup on Jul 26, 2005 twenty five past four pm

Well, I picked it up on the way home from work last night (based on comments here).  Seems a beautifully polished game from what I've seen so far, but hasn't really grabbed me yet (only played about 30 minutes).

Having said that, I said the same thing about Grim Fandango to begin with, and that made my all time Top 5 soon after.  BG&E looks to have plenty of potential for the same...

Posted by ArC on Aug 5, 2005 ten past eleven am

BG&E might have been a failure (still not sure how Prince of Persia, which also badly underperformed at its debut but went on to sell pretty well, I'm told, after a year's worth of sales were totaled) but it was arguably a moral victory since it's reported that's what landed that team the King Kong game license.

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 25, 2005 twenty five past five pm

Yes, you've got a point there. But what did you think of it personally, ignoring the publisher for a second?

Beyond Good and Evil didn't get the attention and the success that it deserved. Unfortunately it got overshadowed by other, bigger games. (Where bigger doesn't mean better.. Beyond Good and Evil is one of the best games I've played in years..)

Posted by Yenzo on Jul 25, 2005 twenty five to nine pm

Another thing... you might call me a helplessly idiotic moron now (actually, I would be offended by that, but anyway), and maybe it's just because I'm a German, which makes me A BIGGER MI FAN THAN YOU GUYS :->

...but shouldn't there be any possibility to produce a great adv game without relying so much on the publishers? You know?

I know it's virtually impossible to, say, shoot and distribute a movie without the help of a studio (although it happened), but there are a lot of young and capable programmers out there... maybe even in this forum... (and no, I'm not referring to myself, I don't know my motherboard from my ass), so why aren't there (more) self-produced games? Where is the Blair Witch Project of adventure games? The Open Water? The Deep Throat, if you will?

I say, unite, you young spirits. I say, get together and produce the adventure of the decade. I say, evolve; let the chips fall where they may (TM).

If that's total crap now, then I'm sorry I've wasted your time and made a fool of myself. If not, then it was all my idea.

Posted by Whup on Jul 25, 2005 ten pm

Perhaps I'm just a naive young coder, but I like to think its possible.

A few years I actually started one fairly seriously.  Spent a lot of time on a decent cel-shaded 3d engine (was to be mouse driven though) with a unique setting, but without a good bunch of artists and animators (not to mention extra coders and writers) I got bogged down quickly.  

With a bunch of capable people I can't really see why it couldn't work.

Posted by Erwin_Br on Jul 26, 2005 twenty five to four am

That's already happening. Numerous indie developers working on new adventure games right now. The Internet allows them to self-publish their game. Some even found a publisher.

And then there's an even larger group of hobbyist developers who are making freeware adventure games for fun.

Posted by Bernard on Jul 25, 2005 twenty to nine pm

Sci-fi wasn't selling when star wars came out, maybe someone needs to break the adventure game mold and using whup's idea, use a new term...Ron?

Posted by Salvius on Jul 25, 2005 ten to nine pm

I wonder... with all the talk about how the sales just aren't there to justify the development costs for adventure games with spiffy modern 3D graphics and such, does anyone know if the market for adventure games has actually gotten smaller since the LA/Sierra heyday, or is it just that the rest of the video game market has gotten so much bigger? That is, is it possible that adventure games sell just as many copies now  as they always did, but because the overall market is so much larger now, those same numbers are pathetic by comparison?

If so, then it may be that by cutting costs (e.g., don't use spiffy modern 3D graphics), a low-budget adventure game could be just as profitable as the classics were.

I saw that the developers of the upcoming Bone game are going to be selling it via electronic distribution (i.e., download), which is one way of cutting costs. I'll be very interested to see if they can make that work, financially.

Posted by Sven on Jul 26, 2005 ten to five am

If so, then it may be that by cutting costs (e.g., don't use spiffy modern 3D graphics), a low-budget adventure game could be just as profitable as the classics were.

Even in the golden years of adventure games, a lot of the audience liked those games because of their technical merits. Kings Quest V was THE game to show off your VGA card, Monkey Island had cool scrolling backgrounds, LeisureSuitLarry had lip-synched sex-scenes, etc... So, I think having just a good story and dialogues will not be sufficient if you want to reach more than a marginal audience.

Posted by Tom Wikinson on Jul 25, 2005 ten past nine pm

Game downloads/casual games still have focus on "adventure games," although puzzle games are become more and more popular.

Posted by spaceship789 on Jul 26, 2005 five to one am

OK, so publishers hate adventure games. There may be a day when no publisher ever makes an adventure game again. They may go the way of radio plays, or most theatre.

This doesn't mean the death of the artform. Just like radio plays, people still want to make them because they are fun.

And graphic adventures are one of the most fun games to make. A bit film. A bit animation. A bit script writing. Comedy, drama, suspense. Its easy to create something that hasn't been done before.  So people will still wake up with the motivation to create adventure games.

The key ingredients to success are artistic elements. If a game is gonna be a good one, its gonne be a good one because of the story telling, script and graphics: because of its artistic content.

It is rare that good artist talent coincides with the technical talent and motivation that is required to do the technical part of an adventure game. So instead, the first thing that artist-types look for when they want to make a game is an existing tool to help make them. A tool that eases the technical burden as much as possible.

These tools are the key to keeping adventure game development continuing.

As an example: When adventuregamestudio was launched, a whole lot of people started making games with it. And some are quite good. I imagine most of these people wanted to make adventure games before - but had found it too difficult.

If you build the tools, they will come.

Posted by Jozef on Jul 26, 2005 ten past seven am

I couldn't agree more with you.  I personally have been playing a dozen or more such adventure games every month, and I've been loving it.  Then again, I'm a freak - I also use my Sony Clie only to play interactive fiction...

Posted by Igor on Jul 26, 2005 three am

To be fair, there have been a few commercial adventure games in the recent past. After having seen them, I'm not surprised that they don't sell. It's not the market, it's the games. They suck.

Take Nibiru. (There's a demo available for download, which is what I played.) The writing is terrible. Dialogs are not only boring, but can easily go on for minutes without any possibility for interaction. During that time, the screen is nearly static, because these wooden characters move nothing but their lips. During some dialogs, the designers don't even give you this tiny little bit of animation, because the main character turns his back to you.

All that would be tolerable if it weren't for the puzzles. The designer was probably obsessed with the thought the he writes a story-game, which means he or she would allow the tiniest bit of nonlinearity to enter the artist's creation. For example. on screen 2 of the demo, there's a mushroom. You can look at it, but you can't pick it up ("I don't need this"). Okay. Later into the game, you need to get rid of a guard. You have cooked beans. In a good (or even mediocre) game with the same puzzle, if you try to give the beans to the guard, he would answer something to the effect that he doesn't like pure beans. In this game, giving him the beans plainly doesn't work, with no feedback whatsoever.

Now comes the tricky part. You need to refine the beans, which I found out by reading the solution. There's nothing in the game that gives you any hint (or even any hint that the beans are in fact part of the solution). You need to refine the beans with MUSHROOMS. Yes, the same mushrooms that I tried to pick up ten minutes ago. Which are now perfectly pickable, with no explanation whatsoever. RIGHT. And if you give these mushroom-beans to the guard, he will happily eat it.

So, what's the point of this posting? I believe, there's still a market for adventure games. But not for the kind of crap that has recently been sold in this genre.

Posted by Swedish Gamer on Jul 26, 2005 ten to seven am

If its impossible to find a publisher for an adventure game like Ron always says here, how come I can find games like Runaway, Still Life, Syberia1&2, Broken Sword 3 and Martin Myst�re in the stores.  And how come I can look forward to games like Dreamfall, Fahrenheit, Ankh, Keepsake, Runaway 2, Tony Tough 2, Paradise and Destinies?

Posted by Fake on Jul 26, 2005 twenty to nine am

Keep looking forward to Keepsake.
It still hasn't found a publisher yet...

Posted by eloj on Jul 30, 2005 twenty to five pm

Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy looks interesting, but I suspect it's one of those games where you die, die, die and die again and it'll be very very frustrating. I like to explore every nook and cranny, so a game where I can get punished simply for "looking around" probably won't be high on my list of games to buy.

I will try the demo though.

Posted by Aart on Jul 26, 2005 quarter to eight am

(This is going to be longish...)
It seems there are some Independent (Adventure) Game Developers out there.

There are already some good games around, looking for a publisher (Wicked Studios' Keepsake, for example - great story, art and it adheres to all Ron's Laws, including story integrated help-mode).

Also there are some great developing tools around.  And if Ron gets to finish his new Scumm for 3D-objects, there will - undoubtedly - even be a superb tool around.

So, what's lacking is a publisher.  Let me rephrase that:
What's lacking is guts.  And money.  (It's always the money.)
  
How to get money?
Remember the days Ron used to hack away coding Graphics Basic?
If only he could find the time to make his 3DSCUMM work for us...

Looking at the Audio Tracking scene, there are lots of really good programs out there, available for free.  Still a pretty expensive (or rather: pretty, expensive) product like Reason sells like hot buns!
So developing studio-kits don't have to be freeware per se to be successful.  Keep this in mind as I take you on a little mind-trip:

SCUMM Studio
Which Independent (Adventure) Game Designer wouldn't want to get her/his hand on THE package promissing "Relatively easy 2D and /or 3D object management by scripting", "Products in time-tested, awarded and universally loved/reveered SCUMM-system Point&Click Interface, or (lets face it) award winning LUA-system Action Keys Interface" and even "Pragrammed by the guy who gave you Monkey Island!"    

He could sell something like this bigtime.  
Thus raking in the money needed to publish the games made with this product - including his own!
And that would be the catch: the users would be insane to pirate this product; They would minimize their chances of finding a publisher!
Plus, they would minimize their chances of seeing wonderfull new works of Ron Gilbert!)

SCUMM Arts (just dreaming here) would be THE publisher (and at this moment the ONLY - how is that for an USP?) most interested in publishing the stuff they make with SCUMM Studio.

Hell, looking at the IAGD-forums and sites, like http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/
and their monthly and annual Blue Cup awards-system: people will work their ass off for recognition alone.  Just think of what IAGD's would do for recognition, money and a publication deal?  With Ron!  The MAN! Himself!

Site visitors could download demos of promising upcoming titles, voting and commenting on them in return.  The developers of these titles would gain attention and audience feedback for giving out these demos.
Winners of the monthly polls compete in the annual contest for an encouraging amount of money, which they can use to pay their bills wile turning their demo(s) into full-blown products.

These - and other enlisted games compete in the second annual contest for the prize of prizes: a publication deal with SCUMM Arts!
But all competing products will gain lots of attention.  SCUMM Arts would become a talent & content shopping mall - For Ron, and other publishers.

So, Ron, stop running around looking for a publisher.  Look at the publisher inside yourself.  Hack it!

And to everybody else reading this with a grain of talent and a bit of time to spare: help Ron with SCUMM3D.  Please.  You'll be helping yourself!
(that is, if you are looking for a chance at making the superbest game design & scripting studio this world has seen yet become possible.  Yes, I know it is actually "most superb")

Who knows what will follow from it...

Great things maybe.  Interesting things for sure.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 26, 2005 five to ten am

3DSCUMM

Where are you getting this from?  I have no 3DSCUMM in the works.

Posted by Filip on Jul 26, 2005 twenty five to two pm

Ron, are you witholding information? Are you planning to do a big announcement on Siggraph?

Posted by Whup on Jul 26, 2005 half past four pm

Hey, the guy can dream =)

Posted by Aart on Jul 27, 2005 twenty five past eight am

Sorry, I misunderstood the "SDL" piece, about your phreaking with libSDL.
And TOTALLY misunderstood that last line about Torque3D.

Thought you were still working on that.  And if you weren't, maybe you needed a little push.

Gues I totally fucked up, eh?

Keep up the good work, and especially your (and our) hopes.
Already talked to these guys?
DreamCatcher: www.TACGames.com

Posted by Ijon Tichy on Jul 26, 2005 five past nine am

Just wanted to share this nugget of information: Play.com (maybe the  biggest European games retailer) lists Another Code: Two Memories (AKA Trace Memory) as their top seller for the Nintendo DS.

http://www.play.com/play247.asp?pa=stts&page=topsellers&r=DS

So it looks like there is demand for adventure games. Hopefully more publishers will notice this.

Posted by NeoTiger on Jul 26, 2005 ten past nine am

My problem with todays adventure games are that they don't distinguish themselves much from a book or a movie anymore: the plotline is fixed and even though you "control" the main character, freedom it's just an illusion. Your only task is to run around and find the next trigger point to advance to the next paragraph of the story. Sometimes this hide-and-seek game with the trigger points can be so awkward however, that you wonder if a book or movie wouldn't be more entertaining.

Back in the old days, text adventures at least gave you a real sense of freedom by simply letting you wander around, trying out different commands with objects and even let you do unproductive stuff like putting a slice of cheese in a bucket and knock the bucket with the cheese over the head of a dragon ("The dragon does not seem to look amused by this.") Sure, it is rather pointless for the plotline, but the point is: you could do it! And the game would acknowledge that you did it! With point'n'click, you can only combine the bucket with something that really made sense for the plotline and you would certainly not be able to knock it over the head of a dragon, as then the game designers would have to make an animation for it - which takes time and money to do which is a limited resource dictated by the publisher.

Games like the Elder Scrolls and the Gothic series are the real adventure games now: they give you freedom to choose your own progress towards the plotline (a bit too much freedom perhaps in the case of Elder Scrolls). They still haven't evolved so far as to give the player real unlimited freedom as in manipulating all objects around you to your heart's desire (the only thing that saved Half Life 2 from being just another shooter-tube was that you could actually stack up random stuff on each other, which was often fun just to see how high you could build a tower of crates). But if that's coming too, it will be a much greater step for computer games than just better graphics and flashier shader effects.

Posted by eobet on Jul 27, 2005 four am

Damn, this post was much better than my feeble attempt below...

Posted by Michael Webb on Jun 21, 2006 quarter to six am

All I can say is Zork! Sierra ruined their line of adventure games when all you had to do is quickly move the mouse over the screen and wait till the cursor changed. Once the cursor changed you knew the item was actionable and probably would help you -- so click on it.

Posted by Eric on Jul 26, 2005 twenty past ten am

Isn't there in app in Japan for the PSP that lets users make their own adventure game? I'd love for that to come out in the states, it would actualy make me buy a PSP.

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 26, 2005 five to noon

Just ignoring the rest of the discussion over here: Ron, have you considered digital publication through a system such as Steam? (By Valve.) You cut the need for the publissher and all the profits go directly to you. The only extra burden on your side would be PR. Quite a large burden, but it's worth considering.

Posted by jp-30 on Jul 26, 2005 five past two pm

Maybe ex-LucasArts guys Telltale will license its Telltale Now distribution system in future?

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 quarter past midnight

I think there's a lot of people watching Telltale Now with plenty of interest.  Give me a CD and a manual anyday, but if online distribution is the way we move forward, then I really hope they can make it work!

Early signs look pretty damn promising to me... a unique and atmospheric setting, they can include the term 3D in their marketting, and theres a whole bunch of people who really want to see them do well.

Fingers crossed!

Posted by Joe on Jul 26, 2005 twenty five past nine pm

There was a time when Adventure games were THE driving genre in PC gaming.  Hell I think I learned to type playing Sierra's games.....

As much money as games are making these days you'd think someone would come to the realization that they could maybe make even more if they made more than 3 kinds of games:  shooters, RTS and Madden xxxx but c'est la vie.  The world needs another shooter like it needs another outbreak of the plague.

Posted by Rhett on Jul 26, 2005 ten past eleven pm

Forgive me if this sounds rude, but what's so great about Adventure Games anyway?

I mean, what exclusive benefits do they have over other genres?  Afterall, you can have interesting characters, drama, well-developed story arcs, forgiving play control, immersive worlds and all that in a variety of genres.

Or do you define Adventure Games by what they don't contain?  I.e., violence?

I'm just trying to figure out why anyone should care whether Adventure Games get published or not, if there are other (more popular) ways to provide the same kind of fun.

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 five past midnight

The things I like about adventure games:

   1. Slower pace.  In the adventure games I've enjoyed, there have been very few situations that have required fast reflexes.  Everything happens at your own pace, and the good ones don't let you die.

   2. Story.  Adventure games are an excellent medium for telling a good story.  Because the players path through the game is so well structured (ie, the designers know you'll do X before Y before Z) things seem to fit together well.

   3. Cooperative.  Because the game operates around having ideas, trying things etc, adventure games lend themselves well to playing with a friend.  Ever watched a group of people hovering around someone playing solitaire, all throwing suggestions at the player?  Same thing happens with adventure games.  Adventure games are the only games I've played where I can not touch the controls, yet still feel like I've played the game.

   4. Thoughtul.  They really get you thinking.  Although I get sick of simple puzzle games after a while, I can spend hours wandering around an adventure game trying to figure things out.  They encourage lateral thinking, patience and just general problem solving.  Not even RTS games get close as far as I'm concerned (maybe I'm just no good at RTS's)..

   5. Accesible.  I've played a lot of genres, and tried introducing a lot of people to a lot of different games.  Everybody can get into an adventure game.  People are instantly familiar with the movie/cartoon like presentation of adventure games, and once they get over the interface you'll get the most computer illiterate people hooked.  I've got so many people into games through CMI its just not funny. =)

Having said all that, I think modern RPG's have come pretty close to filling the void left by adventure games.  Aside from the cooperative aspect (I'd have no hope getting the girlfriend to play KOTOR with me), I enjoy RPG's for many of the same reasons as I enjoyed adventure games.  I think many of us just yearn for another trip to Monkey Island. ;)

Posted by spaceship789 on Jul 27, 2005 ten to three am

Awesome list, Whup.

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 quarter to four pm

Thanks :)

I thought Rhett's was a fair question, so figured I'd try and answer it.

Posted by Rhett on Jul 27, 2005 ten to ten pm

I appreciate your willingness to do that.  I suppose it borders on sacrilege to ask a question like that on Ron Gilbert's website!

I agree that RPG's acheive most of those goals.  Games like Ico, Kotor, Resident Evil/Silent Hill, MGS, and GTA accomplish many of them as well.  God of War also comes close, though there is a fair bit a thumb torture in it.  But then, perhaps it's not fair to bring console titles to this discussion?

My reason for asking was just to see if it's more important to make something we can call an "adventure game" because our peer group says that "adventure games" are cool, or if there are ways to break from the traditional AG model and still accomplish similar goals.

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 quarter to midnight

I suppose it borders on sacrilege to ask a question like that on Ron Gilbert's website!

I can't think of a better place to ask 'whats so good about adventure games anyway?' =)

Like you said though, theres a lot of games that get close.  That doesn't mean they're a complete substitute though.  Rally's essentially pretty close to Formula 1 (both involve cars, pits, racing, tracks etc) but if Formula 1 stopped you wouldn't expect the fans to just switch to Rally instead.  There'd be a lot of people who preferred the particular experience that Formula 1 gave them, and they'd probably miss it.

My reason for asking was just to see if it's more important to make something we can call an "adventure game" because our peer group says that "adventure games" are cool,

I think you're right in that there's a certain amount of that.  Its easy to jump on the bandwagon and say 'bring back the adventure games', but in my experience too few of those people were actually supporting the games they claim to love so much.  Which is a topic for another day:

Adventure games: the most pirated genre in the history of games?

Posted by tentonipete on Aug 3, 2005 ten to eight am

1 and 4 are reasons why casual gamers don't want adventure games.

casual gamers are the key to making money. they want to pick up a console play for a bit then put it down. they are the ones who spend the money and who the publishers want to concentrate on.

casual gamers don't like to think.

games catering for his crowd are like fast food wheras adventure games are like organic vegetables.

publishers could do with remembering that there is still a market for organic vegetables.

Posted by eobet on Jul 27, 2005 four am

Though I used to love adventure games, I don't have time for them today. Even small and very well made ones like the Apprentice (which I feel extremely guilty about, because the voices of the Deluxe version are so bloody brilliant that I really want to hear them all).

I find the control systems and gameplay features of the genre limited, these days. Blade Runner innovated a bit by having the character run faster and faster the more you clicked on a location, and also by having the aim and click shooting. Lure of the Tempress (though really, really old) had the "real time simulated world" going on, which oddly, they threw down the drain with Beneath a Steel Sky. I guess what I want is more innovation, more suprising gameplay and more freedom.

Though the more freedom part is simply a consequence of the better graphics we have today... with advanced graphics, we expect gameplay to be equally advanced, and if you are sticking with the traditional adventure gaming mould, the equation doesn't match up.

I think that Shenmue game was well on its way to finding a new way to play adventure games, but apparently, technological shortcomings of the systems of that day (fitting a whole city into a console with very little memory) and weird japanese gameplay decisions killed off that particular branch.

Posted by Someone on Jul 27, 2005 quarter to two pm

I wouldn't mind if Jack Thompson succeeded in his mission of 'destroying' the games industry. Then, after he destroys the current game industry, a small group of people that actually care could band together and make a new one. With adventure games.

Posted by Jmackley on Jul 27, 2005 quarter to six pm

This will be short as im triple tapping. 3d is cheaper than 2d.  Indy adv games cant have the quality of pro adv games because of scope. Everything coded is special cased. Larry holland and vince lee kept la alive during the dott era with star wars games

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 ten past seven pm

3d is cheaper than 2d

I'm glad to hear that from someone who would know. :)

Most good modellers I know already have a pretty decent library of walking, bending, arm-waving type animations to draw from.  It seems that with a bit of customisation, all your characters can use the same basic animation, just with a different mesh attached for each.  Surely much cheaper than drawing frames of animation by hand for each character...

Everything coded is special cased.

If you mean from the POV of the game logic compiled into the game, then thats only true to an extent - there are plenty of coders good enough to write a script system capable enough of handling Monkey Island level logic on todays machines (good enough to have done it 10 years ago is another question).  Or am I being naive?

Larry holland and vince lee kept la alive during the dott era with star wars games

That's interesting (if not surprising).  If even the best adventure games (during the peak of their existence) weren't hugely successful, then what hope have they got in todays market?

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 27, 2005 five to nine pm

3d is cheaper than 2d.

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this.  While it might be true, on a character by character basis, it could be cheaper to model once and pose for all the animations, but the reality is that once you take the leap into 3D, you have created a lot more work for yourself.  Suddenly entire areas of the game have to be modeled and a new level of depth is required.  This will balloon the cost of a 3D adventure game.

Plus, it has not been my (limited) experience that it takes a 3D artist less time to set up, light, texture, etc an scene then it takes someone to animate it in 2D.  But, as my first paragraph points out, it's comparing Apples to Oranges.

Posted by Whup on Jul 27, 2005 twenty five to ten pm

If you had to guess, would you have said the art for Grim Fandango would have cost more or less than that of Curse of Monkey Island?

Modern systems could push out Grim quality artwork (in the same ball-park at least) plenty of times a second, with the added bonus of everything being dynamic.  

Imagine the giant airship above Rubacava swaying in the breeze etc, and how much more alive the Carribean would look with the trees moving in the backgrounds, and some realistic alternation between night and day.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Jul 27, 2005 quarter to ten pm

would you have said the art for Grim Fandango would have cost more or less than that of Curse of Monkey Island?

Imagine the giant airship above Rubacava swaying in the breeze etc, and how much more alive the Carribean would look with the trees moving in the backgrounds, and some realistic alternation between night and day.

It would be if you started to do all that stuff.  Which is my point about 3D being a slippery slope.

Posted by Rhett on Jul 27, 2005 five past ten pm

But does any of that really have much to do with it being 3d?  Isn't this just about players expecting higher production values now?  I mean, swaying grass, dynamic lights, environmental effects, etc., are all things that require more work whether they're 2D or 3D.

Posted by Filippo on Jul 29, 2005 half past three am

Suddenly entire areas of the game have to be modeled and a new level of depth is required.
This will balloon the cost of a 3D adventure game.

Maybe cel shading could be a nice compromise. Take Viewtiful Joe for example: it's cel shaded 3D and it totally feels like 2D: you don't feel the need to go where the game does not want you to go.

And in my opinion cel shaded 3D would suit Adventures much better than real 3D.

Posted by Sven on Jul 27, 2005 ten to six pm

Adventure is simply a word that doesn't stand for much brilliance these days. And games, that don't sell. So what!? Most of the magic is long since gone. It's all about an arbitrary formula, when it should be about the storytelling.

Go read this thread
http://forums.adventuregamers.com/showthread.php?t=7922

and start at ~page 8.

Go play the Indigo Prophecy demo.

Now.

Posted by Sven on Jul 27, 2005 half past six pm

Thanks for mentioning Nibiru, Igor. You forgot to mention the basic premise of that scene. You're playing an archeology student, arrive at a dig site, and need to enter a guarded tunnel. Not too bad, if it weren't for the boooring characters with zero personality thanks to boooooring dialogues, non existent animations etc. In a narrative driven game! Meh. Then it all goes use beans with oven to yaddayadda and straight to gamer's hell.

Black Mirror from the same developer has a decent E.A. Poe atmosphere going for it. And along comes the atrocious backtracking, the absurd linearity, mediocre game design and try-to-read-the-designer's-mind-puzz...er, challenges.

Puzzles (stupid word, anyway) are dead. Clever challenges aren't. I think Lucas Arts and Sierra titles were about the storytelling, the characters, clever games first and foremost. Now it's all about making a 2D P&C Adventure Game™. If you don't have the capability to do that narrative thing in your game, why try at all? Simple. Because desperate adventure game fans will buy just about everything to.. No. Let's not go there. It's not all bad, admittedly. Just often way too mediocre for everyone outside that tight community to bother.

Posted by nickleplated on Jul 27, 2005 twenty five to nine pm

just in case you hadn't noticed.. the '�' in this post invalidates the rss feed :-(

Posted by Sven 1 on Jul 28, 2005 twenty five past two am

Anybody played Simon The Sorcerer 3D? It had the same atmosphere and humor as those good old LucasArts adventure games. Sadly, the graphics were not on par with the other 3D games of its time and they had problems finding a publisher. But if you can ignore its blocky graphics, you'll find a very funny adventure game with good acting, a good story and creative use of the 3D aspect.

Posted by eobet on Jul 29, 2005 quarter past four am

Simon 1 and 2 are great 2D adventure games!

The saddest thing about Simon 3 is that they actually did nearly the whole game in 2D as well, but couldn't find a single publisher that would release the game, so that is why they were forced to redo the game in 3D.

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 28, 2005 quarter to seven am

3D Would, in my experience, be more work. Why, I'll explain later.

First: comparing 3D with 2D games, you'll notice that the development teams have both very different focus.

With 2D games, you'd mostly have three departments: coding, art and audio. (Where the animations are included with art, because, to my knowledge, 2D animations are drawn frame by frame and then tucked together, like a cartoon. So this esentially makes animating in 2D art.)

With 3D games, there's a very different focus (albeit somewhat similar): coding (which is way more work in 3D than with 2D), art (textures, UV-mapping, etc.), modeling, animating (which may be included with modeling, depending on your point of view. Though usually they're two seperated positions and for good reason, too. Animating is a lot of work.), level design and audio.

Now note: with a 2D game, the 'level design'  would be a combination of coding and art. The environments would be made in 2D art (think of a CMI background of Puerto Pollo), here and there with animated bits (like sharks in the water, swimming in circles, waterfalls, etc.). This process would most likely take a few weeks. In level design (3D), this entire environment would have to be designed by hand. Because in 3D you can walk around the entire place, you'd have to map everything the player can see. The advantage of 2D backgrounds is that certain things (such as the dock in Puerto Pollo near the barber shop and the alley at the theater back-entrance) can simply 'hide' behind bits of other art. (And say that the player can't go there..) In 3D, this entire environment would have to be mapped completely. There's no hiding stuff behind other buildings there.. The whole level design process would also require textures which, for an environment like Puerto Pollo, could easily require 50 textures. (Trims, facades, walls, windows, plants, signs, water, grass, wood, etc.) This whole process of creating an environment would easily take a few months opposed to the few weeks for 2D art.

Of course, asides textures and the like, you'd probably also need prop-models. (Such as the fountain.) Of course, that would require a modeler and UV-mapper as well..

What applies for level design, pretty much applies to the entire process of 3D game making. Everything is a lot more work due to the added dimension. Where in 2D you can take shortcuts, you can't in 3D. (Mind you, I'm still an avid fan for 2D adventures and know those are also a lot of work to create. I simply reckon 3D require even more work..)

And another advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) of 3D is that you can add things, like the swaying airship, relatively easy. (You create the airship and use the physics to make it sway. You simply make it a brush-based entity. You can also make it a model (which can be more detailed) which can also be affected by physics (such as wind) or simply make the swaying an animation.) The downside? You need to have those physics... (Either expensive or a lot of work for the coding department.)

Posted by jmackley on Jul 29, 2005 twenty past ten pm

Let's not simplify 2D art production.  If you're not just pixel painting, here's what it is:
Background line work
Background color
Key frame animation (pencil)
in-betweener
clean-up
ink-and-paing (digital)
compositing (non-interactive)
art tech (palette, breaking up the art into useful interactive pieces)
then programming (usually special case)

Then there's the other specialist:
Effects animation (very different from character animation)
and (drum-roll)
3D animation...naw, you're not going to get away from 3D, if you want it to be professional.

Nope, you're not going to convince me 3D is more labor intensive.  Not by a long shot.  A

nd it's not that easy to find good 2D animators.  We're not talking walk and talk generic cycles from King's Quest anymore.

Posted by jmackley on Jul 29, 2005 ten to eleven pm

That's "ink-and-paint."  Damn thumbs!

Posted by failrate on Jul 31, 2005 eleven pm

I don't know if 3D modelling and skinning is more work than 2D cel-animations, because I've yet to try out the 3D route.  However, I do know from programming experience that a 3D engine is significantly more complex and resource hungry than a 2D engine.  As an example, a releasable 2D engine can be prototyped in a week or less.

One feasible happy medium would be to prerender backgrounds and character animations from lovely models and custom (perhaps mo-capped) animations and display them in 3D.  That's assuming, of course, that you have access to sufficiently talented 3D artists.

Posted by Sven 1 on Jul 28, 2005 five past seven am

I think we will see more and more 3d adventures, or at least action games with adventure aspects, as the tools become better and better. Packages to create 3d art such as Maya or SoftImage are decreasing a lot in price and increasing in ease of use. Creating a 3d model of a fountain for example takes only a fraction of the time it took 10 years ago.

Posted by Jmackley on Jul 28, 2005 ten to nine am

I agree that if we were making classic adv games it might be cheaper to use 2d. But 3d scales up better than 2d. Game must have cutscenes. The 3d tools infinitely more mature than 4 gf.  Im not that worried about world scale. Take the breadth of a 3d shooter and compress 4 depth.  Per coding, the engine is just the start.  We inherited an engine from some guy, forget who, and we would still spend 18 mos on asset additions and logic, w 3 1337 programmers

Posted by Someone on Jul 29, 2005 quarter past four am

But it's also a question of human resource. It's easy to find some talented artist for 2D backgrounds and animations - using the same techniques as in cartoons - but it takes more skill and computer-knowledge for someone to model and animate 3D objects or create textures for it.

Posted by spaceship789 on Jul 29, 2005 five past four pm

The games industry has brought fourth a glut of young kids proficient in the 3D apps that are used to create their favourite films and games (maya,max, xsi,lightwave etc). So scarcity of resource isn't a problem.

Animation libraries are cheap, and come included with some software packages so finding things like walk cycles is easy. Thankfully the adventure game forefathers have set the animation bar quite low - so you can get by with simple head movement, and hand movement and still have it appear as similar to a 'classic' adventure game.

Texturing. If you're going for a cartoon look, then you don't need textures, or at least not many. Toon shading/Cel shading is a type of  rendering that gives results similar to shaded cartoons.  Beautiful results can also be obtained by assigning shaded colors, gradients, or vertex colors to everything.

Modelling of characters I'd imagine is the largest hurdle. Many existing models are available to by, from such sites as www.turbosquid.com , but I imagine they rarely fit someones vision. Skinning/Enveloping is the process of specifying how a skeleton's bones move the underlying vertices of the model. It can be very time consuming - however, you can be quick and dirty here and then come back to adjust the skinning or the model geometry at release time, re-render all the animation, and have it automatically updated in the game. In summary: Easier to tweak.

I see the major downsides to 3D as style. You won't get the variety of landscape. In 3D the short route is the one most often taken, and it has properties which you can quickly become sick of.  Also, facial expression is generally harder. Nuance is harder. Personally - I've found that I don't get a sense of wonderment when I'm looking at something entirely in 3D - but that could be because I'm getting old :)

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 29, 2005 quarter past six pm

The problem is that you don't want the kids. You want a mature and experienced team who know what they're doing.

Animation libraries? I've never heard of them but without a doubt they exist. The problem with those are twofold:
A) You want unique animations for your product (both to set you apart and to add quality)
B) You'll have to pay for those, without a doubt. They may be low of cost for freeware products, but I'm pretty sure an animation library would cost a lot if you want to use those animations in a commercial product.

Also, adventure games will require a lot of custom animations, animations that probably aren't available in animation libraries. (Think of every time the main character uses an item from his inventory with the game world. You don't want stuff to suddenly appear in the game world. For example: if you've given the command to put a key in the lock, then you'll want to see the character putting the key in the keyhole.)

Cell shading still requires textures. This is because cell shading is a rendering technique applied to models. The game world (and the models, for that matter) would still require textures. The cell shading simply gives the cell shading effect. Of course, for a cell shaded comic type of game, textures might contain lesser details and thus be easier (and faster) to make, but you'd still require a hefty art department.

With modeling, you've already described one problem: current models out there don't fit one's theme. There are quite some more problems (such as: you can't use many of them for commercial projects and even if you can, relatively substantials cash sums would have to be paid) but asides the mentioned; you really don't want to make a game with content you just paste together from various resources!
They're not your work (copyrights), you have to pay for them, it lowers the quality of your product, no publisher would be interested (too many legal hooks and crannies and they want to deal with professionals, not 'pasters'), they don't fit your theme, you become dependant of generosity and so on and on!
Models will always have to be made and you'll need people for it.

To keep on going: skinning is UV-mapping. What you're describing sounds like animating to me. Regardless, such sloppyness, well, I really wouldn't have any words for it. I'm pretty sure most (if not all) of the gaming industry would agree with me. You simply make proper content. Just creating 'quickies' which you'll finish off at the last part of development (which usually is testing) is more something along the lines of suicide. (In figure of speech of course.. ;))

Lastly; 3D is indeed a very unique style and depending on your taste, it can definitely have its downsides. (Or be one big downside.. ;P) However, please keep in mind that your taste doesn't apply to all. Landscape variety for instance, is huge.  It's just like 2D; in 2D game design, you can grab your pencil and create the most bizarre worlds. (And color them on the computer, etc.) With 3D, you grab your editor and, if you have the patience, the skill and the needed equipment, you can create the same, but then with the added 3rd dimension. 3D really isn't the short route, but the long one. It's more complex, requires a bigger and more diverse team and generally speaking requires more resources.

And what properties do you get sick of? I'm curious.. :)

And yes, facial expression can be harder (which today still is one of the major downsides of 3D) but the 3D industry is gaining. Recent developments (specifically the facial animation system from the Source engine, developed by Valve Software) are making the facial animations equal or even succeed the 2D ones and the nuance is gaining or perhaps even becoming better. (Personally, I found the nuances on the face of Alyx, one of the lead characters from Half-Life 2, to be better than those from CMI. Not surprising of course, seeing that HL2 has about 7 years of advantage, but you will simply have a very difficult time re-creating such perfect nuances in 2D.)

Oh, and just for the record: I'm from the younger generation, so we simply might have a generation-clash over here.. ;)

Posted by spaceship789 on Jul 30, 2005 half past one am

Steven, I will answer all your queries in a private email.

Kudos for leaving your email address. :)

Posted by Steven van de Graaf on Jul 30, 2005 quarter past five am

Heheh, no problem.. ;)

I'm writing a reply as we speak..

Posted by Whup on Jul 31, 2005 quarter past five pm

Cell shading still requires textures. This is because cell shading is a rendering technique applied to models.

Yeah, but hardly any compared to a model textured normally.  Although you may use a (very simple) texture for the eyes, mouth etc, the textures used to actually render the object are not artist-drawn.

Cel-shading is generally divided into two parts (either of which can be used on its own): outlining and shading.  

Shading involves approximating the smooth colour transitions you'd normally get by using only two or three colours instead.  ie, rather than rendering a sphere with a thousand different colours for a smooth transition, you might have a spot of white at the highlight point, a solid colour, and then a dark rim around the dark edge of the sphere.  Although this is usually achieved with a 1D texture, the texture isn't typically drawn by someone - its generated based on a handful of parameters.

Outlining simply involves drawing a dark line on the edge shared by a front facing and back facing polygon.  Theres a bunch of extensions to this (such as feathering the ends of lines) to make things look more hand drawn, but I don't know of any that use artist-drawn textures.

Hope thats interesting to someone!  At the same time, if anyone knows of a nice looking techique that does some how use textures I'd be really interested to see it!  Cel-shading definitely has room for improvement...

Posted by Sven 1 on Aug 2, 2005 twenty past two am

Most (or all) cel shaded games I know still use traditionally shaded textured backgrounds (Dragons Lair3d, XIII,...). On top of that, making a model look good with a cel shaded engine requires more work than with a traditional engine...more tweaking and stuff.

Posted by Whup on Aug 3, 2005 twenty past four pm

They do, but from what I've seen they render the background traditionally and just use cel-shading for characters and objects.  So the game still needs textures, just not the cel-shaded bits (simple ones, anyway).

making a model look good with a cel shaded engine requires more work than with a traditional engine

At least you don't need to worry about texture distortion on the models surface =)

Posted by eobet on Jul 31, 2005 twenty to seven am

I wonder, what does Ron think about Facade or Farenheit? Both apparently offers a new take on interaction, and could be classed as "adventures"...

Posted by Cancerboy on Aug 1, 2005 quarter past ten am

What did you guys think of Facade? I like the idea but the game felt like it wanted to play out the way it was going to regardless of what I said. I could try to piss it off and get thrown out or I had the option of answering a few yes or no questions that seemed to determine the outcome. The characters would mention some of the things I said in their summary at the end of the conversation (like divorce or fighting etc.) but the things I said had no impact on the situation. I tried it over and over to see if I could have some fun with it but it was pretty inflexible. I moved their stuff around, I drank their drinks but they never seemed to care. I basically figured out how to get kicked out as fast as I could.

Posted by Apar on Aug 4, 2005 five past three pm

how about coming up with a new genre name for adventure games calling them exploration based games

EBG

or

EBRPG or XRPG that way the word adventure is replaced by eXploration :)

Posted by Robert Johnson on Aug 6, 2005 twenty to three am

I think that's exactly the problem. Exploring and a little interaction in a linear storyline was all you could do with the technology we had. The world, the technology, the market, have all moved on. Adventure games didn't die, they changed. Just like Rock and Roll. It's not going back. It probably shouldn't.

You can't expect full market share funding for what is basically a holdover niche market.  

The bright spot is that as the technology continues to develop you see more DIY games that offer good quality.

Adventure games like we are tlaking about will probably make a 3 d comeback when the tech has advanced to point where they can be open ended and still contains hundreds and or thousands of different stories and outcomes.

Posted by Happy Harry on Aug 6, 2005 twenty five to five am

I've been reading your last few entries Ron and i'm getting the impression that you're tired, not grumpy.

Posted by Ketch on Aug 9, 2005 ten past ten am

Could it be that one of the main problems with "adventure" games is that they are too linear? And so people trying your demo get stuck on a problem and say, "I'm fed up, I've had enough of this."

Well what if instead, these games were centred around mysteries, and there were lots of different ways to get into the story?

Ie. Monsters Inc: the adventure game.

You know that something is going on in the plant at night and you're hearing rumours of scare agents dying mysteriously.

Instead of being stuck in one location you would instead go on jobs, sneak around work after hours and go to your friends houses, it would allow you to investigate the mystery in your own way, and draw you in with tantalising clues, hints, and amusing dialogue and jokes.

Posted by Keldryn on Aug 12, 2005 twenty to four pm

Remember when King's Quest (and its sequels) was the top-selling PC game of all-time?

Or when Ultima games were consistently high on the sales charts?

I think a large part of the change in the market is that the market has simply grown far beyond what it was in the 80s and early 90s.  I'm not just thinking in terms of casual vs. hardcore gamers, but also gamers of different cultures, age groups, and income levels.  And the wider the variety of individuals that make up the market, the more accessible games need to be in order to sell a large number of units.  There are a lot of gamers who simply aren't interested in a game that is slow-paced and can take 20, 40, or a hundred hours to complete.  And I suppose there is a sizable number of people who don't considering "thinking" to be fun.

Then we have the corporatization of the games industry...   Back in the 80s and early 90s, there were still a large number of independent developers who funded their own games, and either self-published them or had a larger company handle the distribution.  Remember when Sierra On-Line, Origin Systems, Broderbund, Access Software, Bullfrog Productions, Westwood Studios, Maxis, New World, Sir-Tech, and Microprose (to name only a few) were producing high-quality games that usually sold well enough to spawn sequels?  When you could count on the fact that every new game from Origin would be innovative and pushing the technological envelope to the point where it would just barely perfrom on anything other than a top-of-the-line $10,000 system?  It's saddening what happened to all of these companies; EA bought Origin, Bullfrog, Westwood, and Maxis and over the span of a few short years basically gutted each once-innovative studio only to retain one or two successful intellectual properties from each studio.  Maxis is the only one that still exists today as an entity with its own name, and with some of its original talent still working for the company.  Microsoft bought Access and only the Links franchise survived; I miss Tex Murphy.  And the casualties certainly don't end there.  King's Quest, Space Quest, Gabriel Knight, Fables and Fiends, Quest for Glory, Wizardry, Might and Magic (not Heroes)...  

Success in the marketplace today generally seems to have far more to do with the publisher's marketing campaign.  It's a horribly overused example, but consider Enter the Matrix.  The game was buggy and suffered from poor design decisions and clunky controls.  It was panned in pretty much every review.  Yet it sold a huge number of copies, certainly far more than the (again commonly-used example) excellent but essentially unmarketed BG&E.  At least Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was a good game.  

I don't generally buy print magazines unless I'm out somewhere and have some time to kill, but I picked up this month's EGM, and one of the letters was pretty telling;  the guy who wrote the letter basically said that if a game can't get the media's attention, then it isn't worth his effort.  Score one for the "tell me what to like so I don't have to think about it myself" crowd, I suppose.

I do think that adventure games could be viable today, but I think they would have to evolve quite a bit from their "classic" forms.  Games like Final Fantasy show that gamers don't mind linear stories with lengthy dialogue sequences, so long as they are rendered in pretty CG.  Some elements of classic adventure games show up in titles like BG&E, Eternal Darkness, or Legend of Zelda.

I think Sierra tried to "modernize" adventure games with King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, but much like EA's attempt to make Ultima more accessible to casual gamers with Ultima IX, it fell flat on its face and didn't appeal to either King's Quest fans or casual gamers.  I don't think fans of adventure games are really looking for a bunch of real-time fighting and jumping elements crammed into the game.  Plus, MoE was buggy, had lousy controls, and rather shoddy graphics.

Could the adventure genre be "modernized?" Sure.  I think that Gabriel Knight III made a few strides.  I don't think that adventure gamers would mind some real-time elements; after all, Sierra games frequently had (in my opinion) frustrating and poorly-designed real-time minigames that were a necessary part of the game (this tradition lives on with Square).  If the controls are rock-solid, the real-time elements well-designed, and especially if there is a difficulty slider, I don't think anyone would mind.  Have the game use either a 3rd-person over-the-shoulder camera view or pre-set camera angles for each area (like Eternal Darkness, for example), and make the camera easy to control and smart enough not to get stuck on every corner.  Allow for some branching of the storyline, or at least some optional content.  Move away from the puzzles that rely on ridiculous  leaps of logic to determine which items to use and how to use them; make it more intuitive and reasonable, or place enough clues so that the player isn't stuck for an hour, trying every possible combination of items, no matter how illogical.  Even include some physical puzzles, so long as the controls are smooth enough.  BG&E and the Zelda Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and Wind Waker all make jumping effortless and mostly error-free.  Prince of Persia: Sands of Time had very difficult sequences, but a rather elegant control scheme that allowed flashy and complex-looking moves to be pulled off easily.  

And, of course, it's pretty much a requirement for success in the mass market to have high production values.  Every game doesn't have to look like Square's CG cutscenes, but ugly screenshots on the back of the box will turn off a lot of customers.

Finally, I think that many have lost sight of the fact that you can have a very successful and profitable business by identifying your target market and catering your product to their needs.  You only need to pump out titles guaranteed to sell units numbering in the millions if you're spending $20 million+ to make each game.  Yes, the costs of game development are rising, especially with the next generation of consoles, but it is possible to have decent production values without spending a fortune.  Trying to make your graphics as realistic as possible guarantees that your art assets will be hideously expensive; and your hyper-realistic graphics only look great until a better-looking game comes along.  Put it this way: in a few years, the graphics in Devil May Cry and the in-game graphics in Final Fantasy X are going to look to us like a Playstation 1 game looks today; Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker may not even look dated at all.

I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I have to get back to real ilfe for a while.  :-)

Posted by Whup on Aug 15, 2005 five past nine pm

after all, Sierra games frequently had (in my opinion) frustrating and poorly-designed real-time minigames that were a necessary part of the game

Back when they were all the rage, the adventure gamers I knew could be divided roughly in two groups: those who played and loved LucasArts adventures, and those who played and loved LucasArts adventures as well as the Sierra ones.  Theres a whole bunch of people that hate having to get through those bits, and those who like them can always play a platformer for their adrenaline kicks instead =)

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker may not even look dated at all.

I think you're dead right on that one... I'd put CMI in the same boat - it really doesn't show its age.  The thing I don't get is why more people aren't pushing for stylised artwork.  Surely all the artists out there get sick of just trying for photorealism?  Even the modellers must get sick of recreating perfectly proportioned people?

You'd think they'd be clammering over each other trying to create a unique looking world for their games?

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Aug 15, 2005 quarter past nine pm

You'd think they'd be clammering over each other trying to create a unique looking world for their games?

They are.  I know tons of very talented arts that are dying to do amazing stuff in 3D but publishers don't want it, and it's hard to find a programmer that does as well.  For a programmer, the holy grail is realism.  That is where the challenge is.  

For an artist, achieving realism is as easy as grabbing a camera and going outside.

Posted by EyesOpen on Aug 16, 2005 two pm

I think a large part of the change in the market is that the market has simply grown far beyond what it was in the 80s and early 90s. ... And the wider the variety of individuals that make up the market, the more accessible games need to be in order to sell a large number of units.  There are a lot of gamers who simply aren't interested in a game that is slow-paced and can take 20, 40, or a hundred hours to complete.  And I suppose there is a sizable number of people who don't considering "thinking" to be fun.

Seems to me that the adventure game developers can either change their game to suit the new-style gamer market, or try to better target the people that enjoyed the story-driven, intellectual style games. I'm not sure how far you can go with the first option before you have a fast-paced FPS/RTS/MMORPG with big explosions and Flaming Bazooka v3.0, maybe with a story. If the explosions are what generally drive the current market, I'm not sure you want to be there anyway... The Telltale model really interests me for the second option. Hopefully, they'll be able to better target the old-style geeks in a way that the current distribution model doesn't allow. Granted, the old-style gamers may see the game on the shelf under the current model, but with all the concessions required to get the game there,  it just may not be worth it. Maybe it's as simple as allowing Google to be the new gaming shelf you search on.

Posted by Graphics? on Aug 14, 2005 twenty to noon

Well,
I think that if another Monkey Island game will come out
ALL the fans will buy it no matter what graphics it will have or if it will have voice acting or not (altough voice acting give a great feel to the game)
Personally I think that 'Curse of Monkey Island'
had the best graphics in the series but MI1&2 has great graphics too

Oh and even if SOMEONE from the MI crew  
will make an adventure game (which isn't MI)
the MI fans will buy

Ron, PLEASE GIVE US A GAME.
Just don't let it be StarWars!

Posted by Someone on Aug 15, 2005 quarter past two am

Collecting. Why don't more adventure games have collectables?

Posted by Ketchaval on Aug 15, 2005 quarter past three pm

How about more edginess, even if the main character can't die - have them being beaten up, kicked when they are down, insulted something to add an edge to it and take away the feeling that because the main character cannot be killed, they will get through the adventure unscathed.

Posted by m_O on Aug 16, 2005 ten to midnight

I know this makes no sense but...

I WANT TO EXPLORE WEIRD LOCATIONS THROUGHOUT AMERICA WITH SAME & MAX!!!!!!!!!

Posted by James Brophy on Sep 2, 2005 ten past two am

Someone made the point earlier that you can't hide anything in 3d therefore it's more expensive.

Has anyone here played Silent Hill 2?

The opening is two settings, a bathroom interior and a car-park. The 3d is nice and detailed on the character but the environment is a very simple set of generic models, all reusable.

The bathroom interior is simple flat walls, that are well textured. But it's very simple 3D, the artwork is doing all the cool stuff.

When you get outside you see a massive vista of the lake and the town beyond it. It looks expensive but it's just one big photoshoped photograph hanging like a back drop behind a set (it's really obvious on high spec pc's, on the ps2 however it still looks breathtaking) So as not to break the effect the camera will not rotate around the character. It moves left and right on a rail matching the character's position.  Thus making what could have been a very expensive scene with a somewhat random camera into a believable and breathtaking one.

When you walk away from the camera (towards to view) the camera rises up  to emphasize the grand nature of the adventure your about to take. But when you walk towards the camera the character design of the protagonist (James Sunderland) becomes apparent. You see his haunted expression, pale face and sleep deprived eyes. The kicker is as you move him closer to study him the camera drops down behind a fence, separating you from him and sing the art to demonstrate his predicament with subtext. (thus making use of the 3d)

Another fun example using even fewer polygons is Parasite Eve on the ps1. Your character walks down a pathway towards a building (infected with bugs or some such dull monsters) the camera tracks along behind her in this cool sweeping motion. When I first saw this my jaw hit the floor. I'd never seen anything so utterly detailed, good looking and cool before.

Then I tried to walk back and I saw it was the same path in reverse... Same angle. Same everything.

The walk up was simply a video-file that was played forwards and backwards. it's speed, pauses and playback was entirely controlled by the players movement of the character down the path towards the building.

The 3d character in the frame would be akin to a cell on a background. The camera viewing the 3d element is also synched with the player's position. (It  makes a move from a high angle start point to a low angle sweep around the character.) Because the camera is using the same data on position in relation to the character the angle of the only 3d element to be rendered is always correct.

Again it removes 3d camera problems and the rendering issues are completely taken away from the machine by having the backgrounds completely pre-rendered. All it has to deal with is one character in frame.

If you look at game settings like these but ignore the monster bashing, there are an awful lot of tricks to getting past 3d issues and in Silent Hill 2's case excellent tools for telling a deep and emotionally adult story.

Posted by Someone on Jan 2, 2006 five past five pm

i hope, Nintendo Revolution and their new controller will animate publisher to finance Adventures again...the controller is just made for it...or at least on the Nintendo DS...but i fear that Nintendos licensing politic is too hard for many small development teams...


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