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Old 04-30-2010, 06:36 PM   #1
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Default Are Adventure games back on the rise?

I'm interested in starting up some discussion on this. I recently researched Amanita Design (Samorost, Samorost 2, Machinarium - as everyone reading knows anyways) and had no idea the level of success they were able to have. It's obvious how well Telltale have taken off, and with Daedalic garnering so much attention, I thought it was worth reconsidering the place of adventure games in the gaming market.

Now I know a lot more developers than these are part of that picture, but these are the ones I'm more familiar with. I visit plenty of gaming blogs and mainstream news websites, and I've noticed more attention being on adventure developers such as the ones above then I ever have before. Both 'The Whispered World' and 'Machinarium' have turned plenty of heads because of their art designs, and both have got hoardes of people talking about adventures again in sites I would never expect them to.

From what I've found, I think a lot of this success has to do with distribution. Because digital distribution is becoming bigger and bigger, it's the perfect outlet for the genre that is otherwise slowly (and by now almost completely) stripped off the retail outlet shelves and in the process killing adventure production based on the fears of distribution costs. The best part about this is allowing companies like Amanita and the director behind Whispered World to even exist - productions that literally started out as university projects. They stand out and get noticed because they are unique, fresh, ad interesting, and something that millions of dollars of budgets that are going into the mainstream games are too often losing a focus on (seemingly caught up in overbearing interests in target markets, market research, whatever! Anything that helps sell their next game). Some of these indie developers just want an interesting experience, and some of those are adventures that are great.

I have more to say on it then just that, and it's a general starting point, but I've talked enough already . I'm definately feeling more discussion and focus returning to the world of adventure gaming and I think, right now, it's a good time to be an adventure fan.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-01-2010, 07:58 AM   #2
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I won't consider AGs on the rise until more of them are made in realtime 3D with direct controls and released on consoles. AG makers have to show me they are ready to embrace the present and work towards making games that look to the future rather than be stuck in the past (2D Point-n-click).
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:04 AM   #3
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Im not sure if AGs are on the rise but they sure are not dead yet. I mean every year there are a couple of adventure titles that break through to a small part of the mainstream market. I mean Still Life, Sam and Max, and Tales of Monkey Islanda all had some exposure. But everytime I read a review of an adventure title on a mainstream gaming website they always seem to criticize the general mechanics of adventure games unless it has a certain element like great art design or good humor (machinarium and Sam and max). I do feel like the mainstream audience wants adventure games to take a more modern approach.

I mean I remember the review of The moment of Silence which got pretty decent reviews in the adventure gamer circle but with magazines like PC Gamer it got a 15% overall rating.

Adventure games will always be little blips along the way between titles like Halo and Call of Duty when it comes to mainstream gaming sites or magazines. that is unless they cross genres like Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain then they will get more exposure.
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Old 05-01-2010, 06:55 PM   #4
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I think AGs will continue to maintain popularity among the current fanbase, but I don't see people who play "mainstream" games picking up on the genre.
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:38 PM   #5
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I think there's definitely been a mini-renaissance thanks to digital distribution, with the games you mentioned, as well as Revolution and Lucas Arts repackaging their classics. There are common themes amongst these games: a smaller price tag, and most are available in a portable format (even Sam & Max). Maybe this is the future of the genre in its traditional form?

Heavy Rain is the complete opposite, but isn't a traditional adventure game. I think this demonstrates that adventure games do need to evolve if they want to once again have that mass appeal amongst core gamers and beyond.
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Old 05-02-2010, 12:18 AM   #6
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I don't really know. Probably not. Not yet, anyway. It does look like they're getting a bit more attention these days but nothing that major, that I'd call the genre being on rise. I hope Gray Matter will have some effect, but also worried for the genre. Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain are games that were marketed as adventure games and have gotten a lot of attention and sold well, too. This is not the direction I'd wanna see the genre take though.
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Old 05-02-2010, 12:55 AM   #7
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I do agree, digital distribution makes it also much easier for the player. It has me playing more adventures to.
The Big Fish store even has a separate adventure category. On that list there are a lot of so called hybrid adventures, but also traditional ones. And they are even found in the top 10 now and then, like when a new Nancy Drew is offered. That makes me conclude that the AG's sell well on line.
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Old 05-02-2010, 03:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Beacon View Post
I won't consider AGs on the rise until more of them are made in realtime 3D with direct controls and released on consoles.
AG makers have to show me they are ready to embrace the present and work towards making games that look to the future rather than be stuck in the past (2D Point-n-click).
While well-made rt 3D viduals may of course enhance (or may not, it depends) the overall experience, opting for 2D can be a design choice that is not necessarily related to production costs or "being stuck in the past".

As for direct control - again, it's all about preference and the type of gameplay designers strive for. I could say first person shooters need to "evolve" too and abandon "tired & outdated" direct control schemes in favour of point 'n' click interfaces. Nothing's changed since Catacomb Abyss, Wolf 3D and Doom - time to move on, right?
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Old 05-02-2010, 06:28 AM   #9
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I might be stretching it a bit far here but I wonder do we want AGs to be immensely popular? I mean, not to sound snobbish or anything, but when I look at the masses I wonder if this really is the audience we want. For example I was sitting in the train a couple of weeks back and across form me were sitting two guys who had just finished Tomb Raider Underworld and all they could talk about was how long it took them to finish the game and how many secrets they gathered. They didn't talk about the story, the characters, the gameplay or even the graphics. Is this the way we want AGs to go? People only discussing how many puzzles they solved and how long it took them to do so. Is this really the future we want for AGs?

Don't get me wrong I don't want AGs to fall into oblivion either but what's wrong with the way they are now: with their own small audience who can truly appreciate them for what they are. Sure they'll continue to be low budget and nowhere nere as beautiful as any action-adventure or shooter but that's not what it's really about is it? I mean if they want AGs to appeal to the masses they'll have to start focussing on engines rather than story and I don't know about you but that's certainly not the way I want AGs to go. Innovation is good but it shouldn't go at the cost of that what makes the genre so good in the first place
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Old 05-02-2010, 07:44 AM   #10
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I'll say one thing for sure. Judging by the number of people that have contacted me about Adventure games through my Adventure Point website, asked about what they are exactly, and asked for recommendations from me on what to play, since my website went live early last year, there has definitely been a surge in newcomers to the genre.

It's not surprising to note that most of the people who've contacted me - and I'm talking in the hundreds in the last year, have thought that Adventure games are what most of us here would call action-adventures. That's most definitely the fault of sites like GameSpot and publishing companies, I believe, because adventure games with combat are so rarely separated from 'true' Adventure games of the mostly point & click variety.

I, also, think that casual games with strong Adventure elements, such as Drawn: The Painted Tower, have had a fairly dramatic, but differeing effect, at both ends of the Adventure spectrum with regards to game playing experience.

It seems that, in the case of long-time veterans (if you like), of Adventure games, many of those people have found casual games a refreshing change, and many now say that caual games are their preferred option.

On the other hand, people who'd never touched an Adventure game before, and didn't even know of their existence, are being attracted by the pretty boxes of Adventure games being sold in abundance in supermarkets here in the UK. As a result of playing games such as Drawn and Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet, a significant number of those people are becoming aware of the existence of 'proper' point & click Adventure games and areasking me about them, wanting a stiffer challenge, stronger story, and longer gameplay experience.

I was very pesimistic about the arrival on the scene of so many casual Adventures at first. Especially with seeing so many experienced players moving to casual games. Now, I'm starting to reconsider. I'm seeing a stronger drift IN to Adventure games from complete newcomers, that the apparent drift AWAY symptomatic of some long-time Adventure game fans.

In the end, I think this could be an exciting time ahead. My impression is such that it's the first time in a long time that there may be occurring a surge in interest in Adventure games via the unlikely intermediary 'step' of casual Adventures.

As far as what I see in relation to Adventure Point is concerned, I'm encouraged and cautiously optimistic. I only hope that, if my perception of this trend is correct, developers may pick up on it and start producing colourful, eye-catching Adventures again. Ones that are as eye-catching as some of the casual Adventures seen in store shelves, but that are actually 'true' point and click Adventures. The Whispered World and Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island come to mind.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:14 AM   #11
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Maybe if we look at the sales figures, we'll be able to tell if the genre is back on the rise...
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:47 AM   #12
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Thats a good point about general people who hear adventure tend to think action-adventure. If I say adventure most people will think of God of War or Tomb Raider.
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:41 AM   #13
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...and released on consoles...
My understanding is that releasing anything on a console requires significant up-front expenditure on the developer kit for that console. Personally I'd prefer developers to put more money into the actual game rather than spend it simply to make it available in a particular format.

As an addendum, which console? Do you buy the kits for many consoles (more money not spent on the game) or limit your market? I personally only own a DS and don't feel inclined to buy another console (hand-held or otherwise) simply to play a game, no matter how good.
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Old 05-02-2010, 10:52 AM   #14
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A PS3 dev kit can be had for $2000, Wii was $1700 when released (likely lower now), 360 is even cheaper for the smaller developer if you can fit the game within XNA, otherwise you will need a full dev kit of which I am completely blank on cost but it should be no more than $2000. So, to develop for al three, it would be $6000 up front, not too bad considering the extra revenue streams.

Of course, that doesn't include some other fees likely to be associated, but it's the startup cost.
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:09 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Beacon View Post
I won't consider AGs on the rise until more of them are made in realtime 3D with direct controls and released on consoles. AG makers have to show me they are ready to embrace the present and work towards making games that look to the future rather than be stuck in the past (2D Point-n-click).
Here here! I personally don't care about consoles because I don't own one, however I understand the appeal of them and the only way to get the AG genre into the "mainstream" is to release more games on the various consoles. Having said that however, Beacon is right. 2D point and click, with static backgrounds are going the way of the dodo. Nothing wrong with them, and I think there will always be games made that appeal to people that like them.

I do however think AG's need to start pushing the envelope. Heavy Rain is a start, and I think games like Indigo, Dreamfall, Penumbra series, and Dreamfall are a good thing. But for the genre to thrive again, it needs to step into the present and start utilizing the technology available in todays market.
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:56 AM   #16
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I don't agree. If you look at the casual games and Nintendo games, they are anything but jaw-dropping 3D. But still they are very popular and sell very well.
Also on the console you see a lot of very original and fun games that are 2D-isch or at least not state of the art. People love them and can easily obtain them due to the on line shops. I think that games like Machinarium and The Whispered World would do well on the Wii and maybe even the other consoles.
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Old 05-02-2010, 01:25 PM   #17
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A PS3 dev kit can be had for $2000, Wii was $1700 when released (likely lower now), 360 is even cheaper for the smaller developer if you can fit the game within XNA, otherwise you will need a full dev kit of which I am completely blank on cost but it should be no more than $2000. So, to develop for al three, it would be $6000 up front, not too bad considering the extra revenue streams.

Of course, that doesn't include some other fees likely to be associated, but it's the startup cost.
You are missing quite a lot of additional costs that have to be considered when porting a game to a console.
To build an retail game you have to be in the registered developer programs which aren't free. There's also additional cost for:
- multiple dev kits. A single unit might not be enough for effecient development.
- engine/middleware licensing (you can't use free or OpenSoucre sound/graphic APIs)
- your programers doing the actual work of porting the game
- your programers doing additional work to add required features like achievements/trophies
- additional QA tests on the target plattforms as requested by plattform owner
- general licensing costs to get the approval of the plattform owner
- age ratings in several markets
- additional marketing.
- optional: severe royalties to big name publishers if Microsoft or Sony aren't willing to publish your game themselve and you aren't able to afford being a licensed developer.

Development for XBox Live marketplace of PSN store is cheaper in general but not very attractive since you can't ask for full price on these channels for your full price PC game.

A port, aimed at a retail game on a single Next Gen Console easily reaches 100.000$. Which is about 30% to 50% of the budget typical point and click adventures games have these days.
Of course a port should pay of for most developers but normaly it's hard enough to get the money at all for the actual development of the game.
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Old 05-02-2010, 02:18 PM   #18
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I might be stretching it a bit far here but I wonder do we want AGs to be immensely popular? I mean, not to sound snobbish or anything, but when I look at the masses I wonder if this really is the audience we want. For example I was sitting in the train a couple of weeks back and across form me were sitting two guys who had just finished Tomb Raider Underworld and all they could talk about was how long it took them to finish the game and how many secrets they gathered. They didn't talk about the story, the characters, the gameplay or even the graphics. Is this the way we want AGs to go? People only discussing how many puzzles they solved and how long it took them to do so. Is this really the future we want for AGs?
Actually, with due respect, you do sound snobbish. Do you mean to say that you're basing "the masses'" perceived lack of appreciation for what makes adventure games worth looking at on a couple of guys you overheard on a train? You might be surprised to learn that many people who love various kinds of games are substantial types of people - i.e. well educated, cultured, affluent, etc. Not necessarily Einsteins, but smart and informed enough that they can make their own choices on what kind of game they want to play.

If I may be so anecdotal about it, I have a fine arts degree and enjoy many kinds of games, including adventure games. My niece, who is 16 and is already taking college level classes alongside her high school curriculum (she plans on becoming a forensic scientist), loved playing Nancy Drew and CSI on her PC; today she loves games like Left 4 Dead and Dragon Age (yep, I introduced her to all those games).

Naturally, many others like me and my niece are out there, choosing good games and never limiting themselves to just one kind of game.

So what if what we want to appreciate in a game is merely how beautiful it looks and how many hidden things we can find? We can easily play adventure games and then turn around and play Fable II and not be considered by you or others here as "the masses" that are unfit to play adventures.

Quote:
Don't get me wrong I don't want AGs to fall into oblivion either but what's wrong with the way they are now: with their own small audience who can truly appreciate them for what they are. Sure they'll continue to be low budget and nowhere nere as beautiful as any action-adventure or shooter but that's not what it's really about is it? I mean if they want AGs to appeal to the masses they'll have to start focussing on engines rather than story and I don't know about you but that's certainly not the way I want AGs to go. Innovation is good but it shouldn't go at the cost of that what makes the genre so good in the first place
As I had originally written in a long editorial about it, not only should traditional adventure games stay traditional, but developers should also continue to improve them, refine them, and make each successive one better and better. And they would still be the adventure game you love.

But, it's also good - and necessary - to diversify and be innovative here and there because it introduces new and exciting ways to experience story and challenge!

Your reasoning is weak and perhaps a bit knee-jerk. Innovation is still possible while maintaining a level of quality. Advanced technology like real time 3D, artificial intelligence, and motion sensitive interface can enhance the experience without sacrificing the challenges of puzzle solving and story.

And startlingly modern games like Heavy Rain can and do exist alongside a traditional game like the upcoming Gray Matter, and that's because THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A MARKET FOR BOTH TYPES OF ADVENTURE GAME.

In short, I honestly don't know what you're complaining about and why.
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Old 05-02-2010, 02:22 PM   #19
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My understanding is that releasing anything on a console requires significant up-front expenditure on the developer kit for that console. Personally I'd prefer developers to put more money into the actual game rather than spend it simply to make it available in a particular format.

As an addendum, which console? Do you buy the kits for many consoles (more money not spent on the game) or limit your market? I personally only own a DS and don't feel inclined to buy another console (hand-held or otherwise) simply to play a game, no matter how good.
Consoles are where the majority of gamers are. It may not be optimal, but if you want to make money, you have develop for consoles.

As to console gamers thinking "Action Adventure" when they hear "Adventure", that is the fault of AG makers. If they made a effort to make pure AGs for consoles, then the gamer world would get educated about them.
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Old 05-02-2010, 02:42 PM   #20
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As to console gamers thinking "Action Adventure" when they hear "Adventure", that is the fault of AG makers. If they made a effort to make pure AGs for consoles, then the gamer world would get educated about them.
I disagree. In the UK, at least, many many PC and console games are described on their packaging as being 'Adventure games'. I don't see anything wrong with Adventure games retaining their traditional look and feel. In fact many 'modern' Adventure games have been made with schnazzy 3D graphics at the expense of, and to the detriment of, other more traditional Adventure game qualities and characteristics, such as strong story, puzzle quality and gameplay length. I'd go as far as to say that many Adventure games made in the last few years are mundane and boring.

Thankfully, there are also many exceptions due, mainly, to the dedication, and refusal to bend to the will of publishing companies, of some highly committed developers. In fact, some of the best Adventure games out there are freeware Adventures made purely for the love of it. Take Samorost, The White Chamber, The Apprentice games, 5 Days A Stranger, Jessica Plunkenstein, The Marionette and Out Of Order, to name but a few.

Some of the most wonderful Adventure games of the distant and very recent past have been ones with graphics that a devotee of Assassin's Creed or Command and Conquer would laugh at. God help us if the measure we use to grade an Adventure game becomes the quality of its 3D graphics. If that happens, believe me, quality story-driven, and cleverly designed puzzle-laden, Adventure games will be but a distant memory.
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