What's Wrong with Adventure Games

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Original Discussion

By Bionic Bill

Game Theory Discussion

Well, Mittens is over, so I'm taking it upon myself to get this discussion thing going. Some of you may vaguely recall a post about this a few weeks ago, and today it begins.

This weeks spine-tingling question: What is wrong with adventure games?

I think this a good healthy question to ask, especially among adventure game designers. So, go ahead, let it out. What grates on your conscience daily, gets underneath your fingernails, and scratches on the proverbial blackboard of your mind?

Ground rules: Post one thing that you think is flawed about the adventure game genre as a whole, or at least how the adventure game is usually designed. Don't worry if it's a basic component of adventure games, be as critical as you like. If someone has posted something you disagree with or think MUST have clarification in order to make sense, then make one cogent post addressing that poster. To this the original poster can of course respond, but try not to draw out a conversation, because it could result in multiple confusing conversations occurring at the same time in the thread.

Example:

Puzzles

Puzzles, as they are implemented in most adventure games, can, I think, detract from the experience of a game.

I think the most painful flaw in design is, whether or not it is the designer's intention, the narrative of the game seems to be used as the means by which the player reaches the puzzles. In other words, the puzzles don't lend relevance to the narrative, but the narrative lends relevance to the puzzles. The adventure game can sometimes be tetris, but with context. This is fine sometimes, tetris with context can be fun. But when a game is attempting to have fleshed-out characters and a developed storyline(something the adventure game genre in particular allows for), the puzzles can take away from that.

1. The inclusion of "boot-strapping" scenes, or mundane activity can, I think, increase immersion. The character you are playing actually has to walk over there and talk to that guy, and then walk way over there. There are puzzles which amount to boot-strapping, especially near the beginning of games. You have to find Jake McUrks keys in Pleurghburg, or fix the elevator in The Uncertainty Machine. I recall distinctly, and it might just be me here, saying, "Why am I doing this?" Why don't we get up and find Jake's shoes and socks, and why don't we help Susan fix her electric toothbrush? The point I'm nearly making is that puzzle-making is a selective process, and not everything can be a puzzle, despite the bit of boot-strapping that must make it into adventure games. What we choose to be a puzzle is important, and we should have a good reason for choosing what we do. When a puzzle is completed that neither reveals character nor furthers the plot, the narrative remains disconnected from the puzzle aspects of the game.

2. The other way puzzles take away from games can be warped logic where it doesn't fit. This is expounded quite well in this old man murray article. The Longest Journey comes to my mind, where you need a key to get in a fuse box, so you put bread down on a metal grate so a bird flies off, and pull up this chain which releases a rubber ducky, and eventually you put three or four unrelated items together to gain something that somehow makes a contraption that will retrieve the key that is inexplicably laying on a subway track. It is all very disconcerting and takes you out of the narrative into The Incredible Machine(the video game from years back). Even working this out without a walkthrough, I was left thinking "WHAT!?" but my adventure gamer instincts helped me to try everything, despite it making sense. I went to a walkthrough after that puzzle.

Okay, the example is my contribution to discussion. Someone would reply saying,

Bionic Bill: You are full of poopy, and nobody likes you.

If you want to add to someone's point, that's allowed too. And I'll probably change general rules if things go terribly this time. PM me with better ways to run discussion. I'm not a mod, so I can't do anything about people breaking the rules, except calling their mother.

Next week: Prescription! What do we need to do to improve the adventure game?

DGMacphee Discussion

I agree with the puzzles aspect -- a lot of the time puzzles don't contribute greatly to the advancement of the narrative and thus feel tacked-on.

However, my biggest problem is the generic plots used in adventures.

Most of the time it's a bog-standard Monkey Island clone/stop the evil scientist/game set in the future/detective game.

What about stories with difference?

Forexample, I dug Full Throttle because the story and characters (especially the Uber-Protagonist) were different to standard game rip-off and numerous Sierra sequels.

Tim Schafer once described in a magazine the difference between Bernard (DOTT) and Ben (FT) -- Bernard would have to unlock a door using a sandwich by taking apart the beard putting it under the door while using the toothpicks holding the sandwich together to push the key out onto the bread slice (like the old newspaper trick).

Ben, on the other had, would eat the sandwich and then kick the door down.

Thus, an orignal narrative give an original set of puzzles too.

Ginny Discussion

BB: about the puzzle in TLJ, it actually made sense to me, because you use the ducky, the clamp, and the chain thing to create a hook, and "fish out" the key. The key was dropped there. It all depends on what you see as logical, sometimes in games it's fun to have a bit of illogical puzzles. A game would be boring if everything was totally logical, for example a key would always be sused on a door, and to cut a piece of paper for example. IMO, it's more interesting when the objects you use are not used how you would excpect to use them, but instead in an origianl way. This can also include things that would sometimes seem illogical. That's why providing hints is important, to make the player see the logic in things, or give him an idea. Grim Fandango is a great example of this.

DGM: I agree, that's one of the biggest thing that bother me too. I like original ideas, like GF for example (how do I always bring it up?
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TLJ was original too, because it took the cliche story of saving the world(s) etc, and turned it into something origianl and interesting, with a huge nackstory. This is also important, to have a lot of details about the story (the exception would be in a humourous game, but even in a game like MI it's important to know details and backstory, even if the player doesn't get to know them). If the designers have a lot of details worked out, they feel much more natural when

When it comes to AGS games, what is most noticeable is the lack of animations, interesting non generic story and good characters, and sound effects IMO. There are of course games that have all these, but generally I think many games lack this.

Aniamtions are hard to do and many games don't have many animations except for walking talking and a few more. A great excpetion to this is Apprentice, with the best animations I've seen in an AGS game, on the level of old LucasArts games like MI. What I've seen of FoY, it will be on that level too. I think having things moving in the background is important too, otherwise the game may seem static at times.

The story can be generic and cliche if it's altered and implememnted in a good way. Like I mentioned TLJ. Apprentice also has a story which could be considered cliche, but the humor which is used makes the story unusual, special, and engrossing even in being based on humor. If making a humourous game, the humour should be in good taste, and in context. Sound effects I mentioned, as an addition to animation, sound effects are great for immersion and making the game not static. Once again I bring Apprentice as an example, because it did these thing so well.

But enough about AGS games, let's talk commercial.
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Puzzles can be a problem yes, because sometimes they are brought as a standalone, when they should be intergrated entirely into the plot. They are the means, not the end.

Both in AGS and commercial games, characters aren't always done very well. It doesn't matter if it's humourous, serious, or somewhere in between, it's important to have characters with an intereting personality, preferably with some special twist to it. Character devlopment is also nice, though not neccessary IMO.

Umm, in commercial games, I'd like to see better voice acting, which is ussually not great. TLJ and GF have splendid voice acting for example. Though some would disagree, I'd also like to see voice acting in AGS games more, though I know it can be hard, since it's important that it's good. If it is good though, it adds so much IMO. Plus, I find myself reading the text and missing the talking animation, with voices I can look at the animation instead. Also, talking animations should be made more interesting than just moving the mouth, it should have something more to it, like head movements and hands possible. Or like Stan in MI, who moved his whole body while speaking. It added a whole lot of personality to him.

(Is this some sort of official discussion always started after Mittens, each time a new topic?)

That's about all for now...
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Riot Discussion

I'd like to continue on the puzzles. Now, we often contemplate around the ideas of more innovative games. DG brought it up and I can't do nothing but agree. How can we play for instance an emotional conflict? These things are often included as something besides the goal for the protagonist, as a way to affect HOW he/she reaches his/her goal. A goal which is based around the idea of 'accomplish something specific' (through puzzle solving). I've fooled around with the idea when reading books which have great stories, if one could make an adventure game out of it, but I always stump on one specific thing: how to play it, how to do the gameplay.

The way an adventure game is played limits the way we can tell them. Just as Bill starts out, puzzle design is a crucial part of an adventure, and how can we make them have any relevance. I am planning a rather unusual game in which I have no idea how to make a descent puzzle. It's rather a story without "must do this and must do that", based on certain things the protagonist will experience.

Now, there's puzzles and there's "must do's". Must do's are actions that you must carry out for the story to continue. Puzzles are challenges for the mind (how can I accomplish this/aquire that/whatever). How woul,d you feel about a game that only consists of "must do's", or perhaps sometimes not even that, but timed events carried out by NPC:s which of you have no control over. The actual GAMEPLAY is reduced, so it's perhaps not more than an interactive story of you can affect the way the plot will evolve. Is the puzzles the adventure GAMEPLAY, or is it also experiencing the story?

Barcik Discussion

I very much dislike the handling of the character's inventory. Often, a the player character picks up some seemingly random item, only to find a use for it later. It's as if the character knows of the challenge ahead. It just doesn't make any sense. There are many examples, although none spring to mind at the moment.

DG, I believe we are discussing the shortcomings of the genre as a whole, not of specific games. Yes, some use cliche stories. But this is not the problem of the genre, but the problem of individual adventure games.

I'll probably think of some more later.

Goldmund Discussion

The interface.

I mean, it's so stupid! I click "use" on a furnace and I have no idea whether the protagonist will open it, push it, sit on it, piss on it, try to eat it... Of course, there are GUIs with more detailed actions, but still it's nothing compared to the Richness of Interactive Fiction. In IF you really have to think, not just click everywhere with every item from your inventory. The solution could lie in the text input, like it was done in Police Quest II, but then we would need a better parser, something along the lines of TADS combined with AGS.

Another thing is combining inventory items, which I find ridiculous mostly because I usually have no idea what the protagonist is trying to build. NO, dear Longest-Journey-designers, the player didn't use clamp on the duck as a result of 5-hour brain-storming and planning, it just happened during the act of every-clicking-on-everything-with-everything-of-my-inventory, Ma! Again, text parser to the rescue.

I'm starting to think fondly about graphic adventures with text parser mostly because TADS and HUGO proved that a flexible parser with which you don't need to "guess verb" is possible. And as it IS easier to become involved when some nifty graphics are on the screen, the combination seems perfect... hm?

DGMacphee Discussion 2

DGMacphee
I believe we are discussing the shortcomings of the genre as a whole, not of specific games. Yes, some use cliche stories. But this is not the problem of the genre, but the problem of individual adventure games.

Um, I am talking about the genre as a whole, ijit!

Most adventure games used tired cliches.

It IS a problem with the genre because developers (commercial AND indie) rely upon it too much.

So stick that up your bumcrack and fart it!
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Las Naranjas Discussion

That's very true. Even the best written games would still be crumby paperbacks if they were turned into Novels. This is actually brought out in reality with GK.

Narratively, there is incredibly little creativity in games as a whole and generally, were you to transfer the plot and writing of any game to another medium, it would be downright atrocious.

Edmundo Discussion

There's also the whole linearlity aspect. Most adventure games are quite linear, where in order to solve a puzzle (well, maybe we can blame puzzles again) you have to get a specific object and then do this and that. sure, you can do the main puzzles in any order, like say the three trials in monkey island, but in the end you're going to end up doing pretty much the same sequence of things in order to complete the puzzle when you replay the game. If you're playing other genres, say... warcraft, you have to complete a certain quiest, but the way you build the units and strategize is totally different each time you play it. you can try several things, specially if you've improved.

Maybe adventure games lack a degree of skill too... like for example, take the console adventure game (that's what they classify it as) Splinter Cell. You have to have some skill to climb walls, walk slowly, and stuff, but mainly you have to move around in the dark and sneak around, and you still have a lot of freedom to what you can do. Yeah, I guess this would be kind of hard to do in 2d, but 3d is the mainstream now, so there are new directions.

And back to linearity, definitely adventure games are too linear. the game ends the same way you play every time, although there are some exceptions. For example you have Maniac Mansion where if you did different things you got totally different endings, which I won't go in detail so I won't spoil anyone. My roomate was just playing Riven (the slide show advneture game, you know?) and he was showing me all the different endings you could run into...

Definitely things adventure games should not have is clicking in the wrong place and then daying. there is not fun in that; that's just torture. Dying is ok in the case you're in some sword fight or gun battle, but other than that I hate the "you walked off the cliff; you die." This is like having a car racing game and when you hint one of the bumps you go out and blow up and lose the whole championship. that would suck.

Ultimately, I think I'm getting to the point that adventure games should be more free than ever, and not so rigid and linear. Oh, and also double clicking and running is pretty cool, you need some of that as well!

Goldmund 09/08/2003
The interface.

I mean, it's so stupid! I click "use" on a furnace and I have no idea whether the protagonist will open it, push it, sit on it, piss on it, try to eat it... Of course, there are GUIs with more detailed actions, but still it's nothing compared to the Richness of Interactive Fiction. In IF you really have to think, not just click everywhere with every item from your inventory. The solution could lie in the text input, like it was done in Police Quest II, but then we would need a better parser, something along the lines of TADS combined with AGS.


Another thing is combining inventory items, which I find ridiculous mostly because I usually have no idea what the protagonist is trying to build. NO, dear Longest-Journey-designers, the player didn't use clamp on the duck as a result of 5-hour brain-storming and planning, it just happened during the act of every-clicking-on-everything-with-everything-of-my-inventory, Ma! Again, text parser to the rescue.

I'm starting to think fondly about graphic adventures with text parser mostly because TADS and HUGO proved that a flexible parser with which you don't need to "guess verb" is possible. And as it IS easier to become involved when some nifty graphics are on the screen, the combination seems perfect... hm?

I thought about it, and I think I have this fun little idea.. there's three cursor modes, walk, action, and inventory. when you do action a text box appears and you can type the action you want like look, open, close, pick up, look at, use, push, pull... and so on.

MachineElf (formerly Vargtass) Discussion

I don't think back-to-parser will help get adventure games anywhere. Of course I say this from the perspective of not having been very fond of the old Infocom games, probably because my english 10 years ago wasn't what it is today... However, I think an interface have to be more transparent to be appealing (you shouldn't feel you're using an interface, rather you should feel you're manipulating the game world). It has to be more integrated with the game world. Also I think in terms of intuitivity. Is a parser intuitive? I guess it is for someone used to parsers, for me it's not. However, it's probably possible to make a good half-parser interface, but then you get the problem of having to switch between keyboard and mouse all the time. I don't know what the perfect interface would be... I'm thinking something in the line of Broken Sword combined with the verb coin. For a game I'm currently trying to write a story for I think I'll use an interface where left mouse click is walk and look and right mouse click performs a standard action for the particular object (take, use etc). However, holding the right mouse would bring up a small menu of other verbs, all relevant to that particular object.

About items and puzzle... I think puzzles and item combination should be "liberal", so that any decently logical solution to the problem is possible, maybe with slightly different results. I think many RPGs does this pretty good, with different solutions to many problems (or you just don't care about the problem). This would probably require beta testers with good feedback as the designer just can't think of all the possible ways of solving that particular puzzle. It's kinda like in that Indy film where there's a guy waving his swords in front of Indy and instead of fighting him he just draws his revolver and shoot him. The director (mr Lucas I presume) didn't think of this, rather mr Ford just did it as a joke after being tired of reshooting the fight scene. Another, more adventure game related, example: There's a locked door, but you can see the key is in the keyhole. Hmm... Better find a newspaper and something pointy to do that old trick. In this case it should work with a screwdriver or a pocket knife or another key. On the other hand you've got that crowbar, so why bother? I guess this is harder to implement on 'use inventory on inventory' puzzles though.

I haven't played Black & White, but from what I've heard the interface in it is pretty inventive.

Edmundo Discussion

well, the parser thing was just a thought... yeah, back in the 90s I had no clue how to play LSL other than typing open door because I barely knew anything about the english language.

About the interface being invisble... well it really depends on what you want to accomplish. The closest cousins to adventure games such as RPGs or even RTS (well, they have similar point+click interfaces) or even god sims (except for black and white) have a very visible interface; after all, you're just playing a game. You'll always have a visible interface, because sometime you're going to have to access the inventory or save your game, or change the sound volume, so there's no reason why to hide it as long as it's not intrusive.

So, from what I'm reading so far puzzles need to be less dumb and pointless, and a lot less rigid and more flexible. With this flexiblity, tho, there's the chance of going back to the old adventure games. for example, on King's quest 1 you have to find the three lost items, but that's really all you know. then you have to walk around and find out where they are, and you're totally clueless of what to do, therefore losing your attention span. Yeah, I haven't finished King's Quest I mainly because I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. With zak mckracken and maniac mansion it was the similar style because you could basicly go anywhere and do stuff. Of course, this has changed over the years but to a super-rigid linear style that still has the same old I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing style here and there. So maybe players need more direction on what to do,... but that's all I've got. I have no idea how to accomplish this without making the game too stupid.

Maybe we should start working on some set of general rules we can use for future adventure games; we could call it something like "the adventure game code" (idea stolen from the comic book code
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Ginny Discussion

Vartgrass: I've had and played B&W for more than year now, aswell as the expansion pack, and the interface is indeed inventive, though I dunno how it would suit adventure games. You use the mouse to change your view and location, but not in the way you would expect. It takes some getting used to. You are 'the hand of god' and you drag your way around, or double click to get somewhere directly, and use the wheel or Ctrl+up arrow/down arrow to zoom in and out. Personally I really like holding down the wheel and moving the mouse, which allows me to trun, pan, and zoom altogether, finding the best view. This wouldn't work very well in a 3rd person perspective adventure though. It might work well in a 1st person, with some altering of course. There is more to the interface of course, the physics of the B&W world are amazingly accurate and when you throw a rock for example, how quickly, how hard, and in what direction you throw it directly affect wherer it will hit. How hard it hits affects the object that it hits. There were some things that you could call puzzles in B&W, like finding a person or a stone you needed, but these aren't at all like adventure game puzzles.

If BW were and AG, it would be incredibly non-linear, since you can basically choose to do anything in each situation, and what you choose afects your alignment and thus the game (though the end of the game isn't affected. Just the means you use to get there
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). What I liked most about the game was teaching the creature and growing it to be a useful "pet" which helps with your quests.

If such strong non-linearity and change, plus different possible endings, were to be implemented in a game, this would produch great results IMO, and great replayability.

Yes, linearity is sometimes a problem, which is why I think there should not only be several puzzles to solve at the same time, but also different solutions to puzzles, and these solutions should not just give alternatives, they should change things later in the course of the game. Sometimes though, it's fun to play a quite linear, simple game, but the truly great games are the ones which focus on story and use the puzzles to advance it. Let's not be too harsh on the puzzles though, I find them to sometimes be the best part of the game, what really makes i interactive and more interesting.

About wether they are the Gameplay or part of the story, I think they should be the story, but very often become solely the gameplay, which is when they feel unnatural and disconnected.

DGM: Lol about Ben and Bernard!
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netmonkey 10/08/2003
So, from what I'm reading so far puzzles need to be less dumb and pointless, and a lot less rigid and more flexible. With this flexiblity, tho, there's the chance of going back to the old adventure games. for example, on King's quest 1 you have to find the three lost items, but that's really all you know. then you have to walk around and find out where they are, and you're totally clueless of what to do, therefore losing your attention span. Yeah, I haven't finished King's Quest I mainly because I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. With zak mckracken and maniac mansion it was the similar style because you could basicly go anywhere and do stuff. Of course, this has changed over the years but to a super-rigid linear style that still has the same old I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing style here and there. So maybe players need more direction on what to do,... but that's all I've got. I have no idea how to accomplish this without making the game too stupid. Maybe we should start working on some set of general rules we can use for future adventure games; we could call it something like "the adventure game code" (idea stolen from the comic book code
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Good idea about the game code, seriously. It could be a great sort of guide/tutorial on making games. It should be very deatiled and extensive though, so it would take a lot of work,

About flexibilty: Yes, it's important to have flexibilty but also to make sure the player knows what to do. This can be accomplished I think, by letting the player find out the problem, and providing him with several ways of solving it.

About the visible interface: In BW there is no visible interface as I already mentioned, but as I said it isn't exactly good for AG's.

Your forgetting one great pure AG with no visible interface though: Grim Fandango
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You move with the keyboard and your inventory is your jacket. You pick things up and you hold them in your hand when you use them. The only interface in that game is the menu, and the dialogs. I think the dialogs are one of the hardest interfaces to get rid of, because the only way would be to allow the player to type in what he wants to say, and this is generally impossible cause we never know what he will type, and how to respond. The menu is also not yet "get-rid-of-able" but it might not be such a problem because it's outside the game. Saving the game will always be required for example.

Who knows... Maybe someday, we'll have a way to connect our mids to the computer, and it would read our minds and we control the game by thinking, and the dialogs would be spoken by us, with responses for anything, and with special virtual reality glasses we would feel like we were inside the game. And saving and loading will be implemented by thinking about it, and poof, it's saved, or will be automatic. It would require making sure accidental thoughts don't get read though, like maybe identifying when the thought is directed at the game.

Now that's what I call immersive.
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The only thing missing is adding the ability to taste, smell, and touch things inside the game. My, now that sounds scary. Fun, but scary...
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MachineElf (formerly Vargtass) Discussion

Well, I'm pretty sure the future of adventure games (if there is such...) lies in 3d environments and probably also cross-genres. I think there's a lot of console titles (most of which probably exists for PC as well) that goes in the right direction: Splinter Cell, Project Zero (which we discussed during Mittens and I didn't remember the name of - probably the scariest game I've ever played! Haven't yet tried System Shock though...) and we'll see where Broken Sword III ends up. These games have a solid story, which I would say is the essence of most adventure games, and a fair amount of puzzle solving. The difference though is that the puzzles usually are pretty basic or based on a specific action. I'd call these action-adventures. They are not FPS's, although they bear some resemblances of such, and not traditional adventures. Interfaces are almost invisible, although what I meant with transparent doesn't always have to mean invisible - there are always levels, and they're often non-linear to a point, meaning there are several ways to complete a level and it might have some impact later in the game.

I think the future of adventure games lies somewhere here. So you may all just kill me now for saying this... But that's maybe another discussion.

The problem with a classic adventure game is that the game world is not realistic enough for an interface as transparent as explained above. But what can be done to get as realistic as possible? However, I think that's very different from person to person and there are also a lot of other things that makes you believe you're really in the game world - the entire mood the game creates. The illusion. The experience. If _everything_ in your game: story, graphics, interface, music etc, aims to maintain that illusion the player is more likely to get involved in your game. And that's what we all aim for, right? At least I hope so. What I mean is: If your game is comical, make everything that way, is it comical but with dark undertones, state that in any way you can. Consistency, basically.

Again coming to the puzzle bit then... Puzzle, I think, must also be story driven (or sub-story driven). Why would you combine those two stupid items if you don't see the point in it? If the player ever does that, there's a design flaw. Ron Gilbert said something smart in an interview - goes something like this: "If you find a locked door and you have to get through, you have puzzle - you have to find the key. But if you find a key before you find a door, you know there will someplace be a locked door you'll have to go through." There's a difference there. The first puzzle is story driven (hopefully), the player wants to go through the door. The second puzzle is not. The player has no idea why he/she has to go through a door, just that somewhere there is a door that is locked. Mr Gilbert said that one thing they tried to do was to avoid such things. You should always find the door first.

I hope I made some sense and wasn't awfully off topic...

eVOLVE Discussion

I like the B&W interface
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I was at Lionhead and was directly asked about the interface, and that was something that I had some input in
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Check the manual for my name in the creds if you wanna give me an ego boost too...

Back to the top though, the problem will cross genre games is that you're limiting your audience if you cross them too much... Take a game that mixed lots of adventure elements with a FPS game or something... if you were a fan of both genres it might be the perfect game for you... if you didn't like adventures, even if the FPS portion was incredible, you may not get it, and equally vice versa for adventure fans...

Ginny Discussion

I don't have the credits for BW cause the manual was translated to hebrew and the left out the credits, and I don't have the game installed right now, but there's a guy in the CI (Creature Isle, expansion pack) named James Norton
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. There's also a European Marketing guy named... Murray Pannell
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.

On topic though: "Now, there's puzzles and there's "must do's". Must do's are actions that you must carry out for the story to continue. Puzzles are challenges for the mind (how can I accomplish this/aquire that/whatever). How woul,d you feel about a game that only consists of "must do's", or perhaps sometimes not even that, but timed events carried out by NPC:s which of you have no control over. The actual GAMEPLAY is reduced, so it's perhaps not more than an interactive story of you can affect the way the plot will evolve. Is the puzzles the adventure GAMEPLAY, or is it also experiencing the story?"

Riot, I partially agree, but when you think about it, in order to perform the must do's, you have to perform the puzzles. In a well designed game, they are all essential to the story.

For example, a small MI spoiler:

Spoiler warning, highlight this box to read
In one part of the game you have to free someone from a jail cell. I forget why, havent played MI for a while, but that's your must do. In order to do it though, since the cell is locked, you have to do something. In this case it's carry grog in a timing puzzle, and use the grog on the lock before it melts the cup. This is a puzzle, but it is not in any way avoidable, it too, is an essential "must do" for completing the game.

A game is like a sweater. One stich seems unimportant on it's own, but take it out and the whole sweater falls apart.

(That was a horrible cliche, excuse me while I throw up, but it is true IMO
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).

IMO we shouldn't be so hard on the puzzles, they put the 'game' in 'adventure game', after all. The excpetions are mini games, extra puzzles, and easter eggs, which are not part of the neccessary "must do's", but in my opinion they do not detract from the story, instead, they can add to the game enviorment and thus add to immersion.

I don't think cross genres is a good idea both because of what eVOLVE said, and also because I just like the good old adventures. That doesn't mean I'm against 3d though, on the contrary, my favorite game is GF, and it's partially 3d. Realtime 3d in a game like S&M or BS3 doesn't mean it becomes an action-adventure, both of these are pure AG's.

Barcik Discussion

A shortcoming of the adventure games genre:

Getting stuck. I hate it when I sit 2 days, trying everything and clicking all that is in sight. You just have no darn clue what to do next.

Obviously, there should be challenge, no doubt there. The solutions to puzzles mustn't be elementery. However, getting stuck takes away from your gaming experiencesas there is, unlike in other games with a wider array of options (such as GTA3, for example, where you can do anything), pretty much nothing to do if you do not progress the story. So, being stuck for long harms the gameplay and the link the player has established with the game.

Riot Discussion

GinnyW: I was referring to "must do's" without a puzzle behind it, as asking a character the right question or just exiting your apartment. The MI example is an excellent example however on a succesful imlementation of a puzzle into the story. It simply makes sense. But IMHO, if there's a "must do" with a puzzle, it's a puzzle
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Parsers: I think parser is the salvation. I've fiddled around with the idea since the first version of WTII, which was horrid due to the rest of the GUI stole the game design. But I love the parser, a good one that is...

However, there's one issue. The idea of clicking on something and then type in a verb is nice, cause it eliminates the "guess the object" phase many old adventures suffer. However, it'll require specific hotspots, usually for everything the player may click on. Furthermore, I experienced it to be annoying to combine mouse and keyboard usage (click-type, click-type). Strict keyboard usage ala AGI games gives a more free dimension to interacting with the world. But it all lies down to HOW the parser is written. It is crucial that it's well written with lots of synonyms and similar to avoid verb-guessing sessions.

GarageGothic Discussion

First of all, it's great to see the game theory discussion thread started. I've been looking forward to this since before Mittens.

Secondly, some feedback to Bionic Bill, which, I hope, will influence next weeks topic: We need to get WAY more specific. This weeks thread might be a good way to find topics for future discussions, but as a debate it's not very rewarding. I've nearly given up on replying to it, since so many sub-topics have been brought up. Everything from bad voice acting to whether we should bring back the text parser (imho, the latter would be a good example of a well defined and limited subject for a discussion). What's wrong with adventure games and what should be done about it might as well be the title of a years worth of game theory discussions.

However, let me add my two cents to the "puzzles - do we need them?" discussion:

Two of my favorite games, mostly for sentimental reasons, are the first two Police Quests. But for now, let's focus on PQ1. Is there a single puzzle in the game? Well, that depends on your definition of "puzzle". For most of the game you just do what you are told, and do your job following proper police procedure (not too difficult when you actually have the manual
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). I can only recall two situations in the game that demanded any kind of thought process - finding enough proof to get a no bail warrant and reporting back to your boss from the hotel. But did any of this make the game too easy or detract from the immersion? Hell no, I really felt like I was a cop peforming my duties, doing things by the book. I always knew what to do next, and usually how to do it, BECAUSE IT MADE PERFECT, LOGICAL SENSE WITHIN THE SITUATION!

The major problem with adventure game plots and settings seems to be the lack of natural gameplay potential - interation that flows from within the plot, the characters and the setting. PQ is a game about a cop - what do cops do? Wouldn't it be cool to play a cop? Sure it would! Space Quest is a game about a janitor on a space ship - what do janitors do? Nah, that's too boring, let's throw him into some wild adventures. See where I'm going?

Another example, from the designer of Police Quest nonetheless, is Codename: Iceman. The player character is a spy - sounds cool, right? - what do spies do? Well, for one they don't travel across the Atlantic in a nuclear submarine, torpedoing enemy ships along the way, risking international conflict, just to infiltrate a country where - get this - a fellow spy, who you met in the Caribbean just before you mission - has been all along! What's that you're saying? The guy is a submarine captain too? Oh, I see. What do submarine captains do? They certainly DON'T do metal shop work at the lathe, trying to repair diving equipment. Nor do they play dice with one of their crew people for a piece of advanced technology essential for the mission a world peace. These are absurd tasks, that have little to do with the actual scope of the man's mission.

Instead of coming up with weird puzzles and trying to fit them into your narrative, try to come up with with game concepts that are full of cool tasks which lends themselves to interaction. Even a cleaning lady game where you have to find the right product to get the blood stains off the bathroom floor is more fun than rubber duckies
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Ginny Discussion

GG: Your point is very well presented, but since I havn't played PQ, I'm interested in exactly how the duties were performed. If, for example, you had to find an armed criminal in hiding, disram him and arrest him, what was the proccess? Were the little bits like finding him for example include things like dialog puzzles or to trap him for example, would you pick up a net and put it on the ground? If yes, then it still could be called normal puzzles, but very much in context, which all puzzles should be.

However, can this be done without using a certain proffession, or if the proffession is boring for a game for example (like the janitor)? Like, if you're just a guy who gets a strange message, and you're restless because of it, the natural thing would be to find out what it means, and thus, for example, someone who can tell you what it means, but is in prison, asks you to get him out. And this would be the puzzle. Would this still be considered natural?

Another issue, which I find is important, but sometimes overlooked, is the inventory items one one pick up in a game, and more specifically, where you can pick them up. You wouldn't find a pie just lying on the floor in your bedroom for example, but you would find it in the kitchen oven, or on the table.

Another thing, when you design a puzzle, what do you do in the proccess? I for example, would start with an obstacle in the context of the story, and find a solution for it, like, for example, using a certain item. However, this item has to be something that can be found in the area, so I would first think just what the item's use is, and then I would think of an item that could fulfill this use, and can be placed in the area logically. Another way would be to first think up only obstcles, and then in each location, think of many object that could be found there, and then looks through the list and try to put together a solution to the problem. Which way is better?

BB: Well, exiting your appartment is just walking of course, but asking the right question is a puzzle, a dialog puzzle to be precise. A gam where you would only walk, is pretty much non-interactive IMO, unless you meant something else.

Combining mouse and keyboard usage is annoying, that's for sure.

Barcik
Getting stuck. I hate it when I sit 2 days, trying everything and clicking all that is in sight. You just have no darn clue what to do next.

Obviously, there should be challenge, no doubt there. The solutions to puzzles mustn't be elementery. However, getting stuck takes away from your gaming experiencesas there is, unlike in other games with a wider array of options (such as GTA3, for example, where you can do anything), pretty much nothing to do if you do not progress the story. So, being stuck for long harms the gameplay and the link the player has established with the game.

I agree, being stuck is a problem. If you don't get stuck at all, it might seem like the game is too easy, and the game would be much shorter if every puzzle would be solved immeadeatly, without some thought, IMO. However, this can be mended by making sure that when the player is stuck, he has more things to do. I don't mean other puzzles, because these too could, after being finished, leave you stuck with the one puzzle you can't solve. (Btw, I was wondering what you think of having objects from a puzzle be required for another puzzle? I.e. there are 2 puzzles that you could seemingly solve at any order, but it turns out that to solve puzzle A, you need an item picked up while doing puzzle B, or right after doing puzzle B. This detracts from non linearity, but then again, it makes all the puzzles seem connected, integrated, and makes them fit in IMO.) So, in order to avoid being stuck in the usual way, I think the solution is interactive elemts of the enviorment you are in. If you're in a hotel or some resort for rest, there could be a pool table, which you could use to play pool with the other tenants, etc, and this could be done at any time, like when you're stuck for example. The same with dialogs, there should be more dialog options to just pass time with the people in the area, and things like that. Also, allowing you to explore the area and interact with it just as an extra, not advancing the story, can also help. Some games say, "I don't have time for that. I have a treasure to find!" or something in the style. But do we have time to wander aimlessely, trying to solve the problem that has been presented to us?

I think another thing that can make sure the player doesn't get stuck is having logical puzzles, and providing Hints. Hints in the dialogs, in descriptions for things, etc. A good example: Grim Fandango. For example (spoiler):

Spoiler below, select the area to read the text When you need to get one of Domino's clents (which you are hinted about in a comment Manny makes), you will meet a character who says "those punks in de mail room" stuck their 'empty beer bottles' into the tube switcher which transfers the messages about clients. You need a client. Someone else's client. So yo jam the tube switcher machine. Etc..

Another good example is Apprentice, which provided hints in dialogs, but not only that, it also provided some inside an interactive elements of the enviorment, which has nothing to do with any puzzle. It's a crytal ball which you can interact with, which gives funny responses to things you ask, and you can also use any item with it, and it will give a small hint about it vaguely, and these too are humorous.

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Hmm, looks like I'm gonna replay GF again.
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Here's another thing GF did well: Voice acting. Some of the best voice acting I've ever heard, and is the reason I think good voice acting is important, because it adds so much to the character and to immersion, and IMO to the enjoyment from the game too.

P.s. You're right about having too many topics here, perhaps we can focus it later on one specific subject. Looks like puzzles are getting the most attention, but it might still be a topic too wide.

Is this an annual thing, starting a debate about something after Mittens? Like a sort of activity?
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