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Old 06-24-2005, 06:58 PM   #1
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Default At what point do you think an adventure game is too watered down?

I've just come back to a game that I started but never really got into. That game is Syberia. Only just before this I played through Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island again, and Shadowgate for the first time. The Scumm system had something like 12 commands I believe, meanwhile Syberia has.. one. I think that very much limits puzzles as the game does a lot of the work for you. I think it worked in Longest Jorney and Grim Fandango (didn't they have 3 things you could do at least?), but not in Syberia. Don't get me wrong, i'm enjoying Syberia somewhat because of the locations and plot but I never feel like i'm actually doing anything but clicking rather than solving anything. There's no descriptions of any of the inventory objects or objects in the playing field, and if you can't do something, theres an X next to the action icon, as if Kate has The Force and knows before she does something that it won't work. Not even a "What you expected has not happened." (cookie for remembering what thats from)

The point I'm slowly getting to, is how.. streamlined does everyone here like their adventure games? I remember that Text adventure gamers complained back in the times of Scumm that everything was done for you and the choices were limited, what about now? Myself, i'll not miss the ambiguety of text adventures, but i'm very much missing the time of Scumm when you had lots of ways to manipulate each object. In recent games i've tried, you just throw objects at people and other objects on the screen hoping it'll work as the game does absolutely everything for you. Are there any recent games going back to the oldschool or is everything streamlend now? I think it might be a good discussion point, finding out what people prefer.

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Old 06-24-2005, 09:17 PM   #2
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And let's not forget that in between all of that "figuring out," you also have the added bonus of listening to characters speak empty and long like they are slow in the head.

Day of the Tentacle was mostly to the point. I think most of the golden age games were that way. Not to say it's bad to add a multitude of asides, but there are many clever ways to have characters to hint or take the path of visual clues rather than what adventure gamers seem to do now: Have every lame character spell out their life story for you in half hour conversations.

Well, everyone EXCEPT the main character.
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Old 06-25-2005, 12:00 AM   #3
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The very first thing I thought when I read this thread title was "when it plays like Syberia."

Lo and behold.
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Old 06-25-2005, 12:50 AM   #4
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Having more possible actions does not necessarily mean that the game has more choices. Let's remember that in most games with the verb interface, while you could always try 8 different ways of interacting with something, there was almost always only one correct way of interacting with it, leading to a lot of "That won't work," and "I'm not putting my lips on that!" The 8 verb choices was just an extra puzzle on top of the real in-game puzzles. "I know I have to push the ladder to the book case, but WHICH VERB SHOULD I USE?!?!" When in doubt, try all 8 on everything.

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In recent games i've tried, you just throw objects at people and other objects on the screen hoping it'll work as the game does absolutely everything for you.
And in the old SCUMM games, you did the same thing, you just have to click on everything eight times.

This extra layer of puzzle (which in many cases was more of an inconvenient interface than a puzzle), when applied throughout the game, for countless games, starts to feel clunky and impersonal. It's no surprise that you don't see commercial games with this type of interface anymore. It's an extra separation between the player and the character and takes away from immersion.

Certainly the choice of a one-click-fits-all interface changes the puzzle design. You just have to match your gameplay's aims to the interface that you use. But that doesn't make it "watered down," just different. I'm not saying better either, because, as it may be in the case of Syberia (I own it but haven't gotten around to it yet) the designers may not make use of their chosen interface to it's full potential, matching the puzzles and the world interations to the style of player input.
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Old 06-25-2005, 12:50 AM   #5
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Yahtzee touched on this problem in his Use Key on Door article. I haven't played Syberia so I can't comment on that but it does seem that sometimes games have been reduced to just clicking on everything until something new happens. Part of the problem is that people have come to expect the streamlined interface so going back to a more complex setup is swimming against the flow.

From what I saw of Future Boy in the demo, this could be a good game to get back some of that complexity of interaction. I didn't have any "guess the word" problems that were so common in many of the old text adventuresso this might be the way.
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Old 06-25-2005, 12:57 AM   #6
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Are you saying it's a good thing to never hear "I'm not putting my lips on that" again?
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Old 06-25-2005, 01:08 AM   #7
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My feeling is that an interface should be as streamlined as possible while not making it so simplistic that all you do is press the same button each time without any thought. Gaming conventions have moved on and having eight possible choices for every interaction is no longer contemporary, particularly if most of the choices would lead you to a generic response.

I don't think that the "watering down" of the interface is the main issue, but the "watering down" of the interaction points within the game environment. If a location exists simply to look pretty or the character is doing more walking/running than interacting, then the developer should seriously be looking at the design of the game in relation to the world it's set in.
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Old 06-25-2005, 02:24 AM   #8
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If a location exists simply to look pretty or the character is doing more walking/running than interacting, then the developer should seriously be looking at the design of the game in relation to the world it's set in.
I agree. I think the lack of capability/complexity of the interface in mouse-driven P&C is part of the problem, though. Many, actually most recent games, have an interface that is simplified down to two basic interaction possibilities: USE (or ACT) and LOOK.

This limits the variety of possible interactions. There can only be one interaction per mouse button at one time.

Recent games have constructed puzzles and interactions according to these interface restrictions. But Interaction Density, as I understand it, doesn't neccessarily mean lots-a-hotspots - it can also mean more complex hotspots. And more complex hotspots, offering a variety of manipulations per hotspot or situation, require an interface more complex than two simple mouse button triggers.
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:11 AM   #9
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I suppose the answer is look to other genres. Recent RTS games allow for a context sensitive cursor that spirals out to offer more than one choice whilst keeping the screen uncluttered, and it's not something I recall seeing in any recent adventures. In BF2 hitting Q or T on the keyboard brings up an easy mouse-manipulated menu system to issue commands or responses.

The idea would be to keep the three-button system and scroll wheel, but using an easy, maybe icon-driven, menu interface you'll have more options than just a simple one-option click.

Left mouse would be look at, middle mouse touch, right mouse menu with the scroll wheel clicking up and down the options much like an i-pod. Inventory manipulable objects would show your inventory in the menu when clicked on, items without manipulation would offer fewer menu options.

In 3D maybe even a lock on, if converting to a console system, much like Metroid Prime offers with usable objects or backgrounds only requiring entering into a medium fov before being able to use the lock as not to confuse the player between close hotspots. Maybe when not in menu mode on PC, the scroll wheel would cycle avatar attention between different objects.

This doesn't overcomplicate, and after a brief introductory train it'd be quite simple. No reactions are needed.

Here's the only shot I could find of the BFME menu system -

As you can see, I'm talking more about the context-sensitive cursor spiral at the top rather than the menu at the bottom.
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:17 AM   #10
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I think a lot of the older games had too many overlapping options. It's very annoying when you can't just 'use' a door - I mean, what else would you mean than open or close it? (I'm sure at this point someone will point out a game where you actually solved a puzzle by 'using' a door instead of opening it!!).

But I agree that a number of later games probably went too far the other way in reducing the options. Something like Grim Fandango was a reasonable compromise I think.

However, for me this hasn't watered down adventure games at all, it has just changed their interaction.

Andy.
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:21 AM   #11
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Well, it's lessened it. I like my games to be more tactile than recent AG's. Myst IV had a good go at this - the ability to tap on objects to hear what they're made of, brushing at things or swirling water about. I think the limitations of its technology and interaction worked against it, though, which is where I feel recent 3D advances may help. You actually have more interaction within your environment in other genres than the genre which should really be about discovering an environment through as many simulated senses as possible - be it directional sound or options available to interact.
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:44 AM   #12
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Personally, I find too many choices overwhelming. It took a while for me to figure out the gameplay for GK1, and Return to Zork was very confusing as well.

I recently played Chronomaster, and it takes the cake for complexity. The problem I find is that too many verb options combined with lots of inventory and hot spots makes it easy to forget some cababilities you might have. I can't keep track of everything I might be able to do with all the stuff that I have, and that doesn't include asking the other characters about my items! The game then boils down to working the interface bar rather than actually playing, and then the immersiveness goes.
On the other hand, just walking around in a game is boring, and though I liked Syberia for other reasons, that game had relatively little interaction in the environment. Bear in mind that exploring is not the same as transporting your character from point A to B, as you had to do in Syberia a lot. When I play a game, I want to have my mind involved in the game as much as possible. Whether it's working out a puzzle, or exploring the environment, it helps to have as much description of your surroundings as possible - whether just reading labelled items, or hearing sounds and seeing things that imply texture and function.
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Old 06-25-2005, 03:58 AM   #13
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Personally, I find too many choices overwhelming.
Too many choices are bad, of course. But a dynamic, context-sensitive set of choices is very desireable, IMO.

That way, pseudo-choices (those that only lead to generic responses anyway), can be eliminated automatically, and the game can still provide more options per hotspot than just straight clicking through stuff with the two mouse buttons.
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Old 06-25-2005, 04:00 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Gantefoehr
I agree. I think the lack of capability/complexity of the interface in mouse-driven P&C is part of the problem, though. Many, actually most recent games, have an interface that is simplified down to two basic interaction possibilities: USE (or ACT) and LOOK.

This limits the variety of possible interactions. There can only be one interaction per mouse button at one time.
This was exactly my feeling when approaching the interface for Sapphire Claw. In a similar manner to that which SJH points out, right-clicking with the mouse will bring up a context-sensitive menu of icons which will give the player up to six actions to choose from when interacting with an object or character.

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Recent games have constructed puzzles and interactions according to these interface restrictions. But Interaction Density, as I understand it, doesn't neccessarily mean lots-a-hotspots - it can also mean more complex hotspots. And more complex hotspots, offering a variety of manipulations per hotspot or situation, require an interface more complex than two simple mouse button triggers.
That depends. High interaction density is about giving the player plenty to do. Does a complex interface actually give the player more to do or just make it seem that way by providing more superfluous interactions? I suspect that the right balance lies in having plenty of interaction hot-spots that have varying degrees of interactivity using an intuitive interface.
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Old 06-25-2005, 04:17 AM   #15
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That depends. High interaction density is about giving the player plenty to do. Does a complex interface actually give the player more to do or just make it seem that way by providing more superfluous interactions?
No, that's not what I meant. I agree that a complex interface is meaningless and superfluous if all that it does is offer a multitude of meaningless choices.

But a set of meaningful choices could give the player more game-relevant stuff to do, and broaden the possibilities of the gameplay/puzzle design (e.g. offer multiple solutions to a given situation).

Of course, this doesn't exclude having lots of hotspots.
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Old 06-25-2005, 04:29 AM   #16
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Sorry Martin, now I see what you were saying. Meaningful choices, and plenty of them, are definitely the key.
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Old 06-25-2005, 04:57 AM   #17
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What other things do you guys see as transferable between the different genres? I'm interested.

Without heading too far into RPG territory, I thought the solid objects found in them and the recent development of proper physical reaction in relation to material (sounds, weight, occurance when shattered or thrown) is something that'd be great in adventures. I see some of Morrowind in Kheop's latest inventory style play, but in Morrowind each entity was a seperate model.

That was a good few years ago now, but it'd be nice to have some kind of solidity to inventory and clue objects. Even if it's being able to turn a picture about to rip open the back to find a map. I also like the idea of limited inventory, whereabouts there's a realistic limit to it and bigger objects, as in Myst's tablet, have puzzles as to how to best go about utilising and moving them.

edit - also include realistic limits within area movement. Nothing like a locked room with a glass window you can't get past. Nowadays, you can just smash the window, or failing that and discovering it's toughened, utilise your knowledge of the office or government building you're in to figure out who'd most likely have the keycode without prompting.

edit - btw Steve, much like BFME, I'd see any context cursor used in accordance with what you can do, with any unavailable options greyed out or just not there.
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Old 06-25-2005, 06:18 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by squarejawhero
What other things do you guys see as transferable between the different genres? I'm interested.
Turn-based combat. I often think that it could be the best approach to bringing combat into adventures in a way that doesn't rely on ninja button mashing skills. Still wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but if done thoughtfully it could work well.

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edit - btw Steve, much like BFME, I'd see any context cursor used in accordance with what you can do, with any unavailable options greyed out or just not there.
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Old 06-25-2005, 06:28 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squarejawhero
What other things do you guys see as transferable between the different genres? I'm interested.
Real-time components. Easy to use direct controls. Could both result in richer and more dynamic interaction.
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Old 06-25-2005, 06:34 AM   #20
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What other things do you guys see as transferable between the different genres? I'm interested.
Physical object permanence. Being able to pick up and drop items in a variety of places (or even, anywhere), to store them, hide them, create obstacles, or just transfer them for later use in a different state of the game or in a different location, thereby changing the later gameplay circumstances/situations.

The objects could be picked up and re-used by the player character, other characters, or even other players (the latter actually overlaps with what was said on the multiplayer-related thread).
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