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Old 02-11-2005, 10:40 AM   #21
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Yeah, I think you would end up with a very choppy experience with no cohesive flow at all.

Here's where I wrestle this topic to the ground and make it totally AG's...

What I'd like to see tried is a variation of a Samorost-style game done in episodic format. Add a slightly more focused narrative to tie episodes together (but still allow for episode skipping or interchangeability), but then release new content for a small fee. Anyone who's played it (and we all have, right? ) knows that it lends itself well to small time blocks, and yet it's pure adventure that would easily suit a serial format.

I like it. Someone out there, make it so.

EDIT: Also, back to Gumshoe... I still think its market isn't really casual gamers, but adventure gamers who need something small. And its mobility is another important factor, as you can play anywhere you have an internet connection.
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Old 02-11-2005, 10:54 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
See, this is where I'm not convinced. The notion is that it's a transition from one thing (casual puzzle games) into something similar (adventure lite). . . .

Seriously, there seems to me to be a gap there that can only be bridged by wishful thinking. An adventure game really CAN'T be played in 10-30 minute blocks (by virtue of having an ongoing narrative), which changes the very nature of a casual game.
I agree, but with the emphasis on the first part of the reason here. I think the problem with the idea of "casual AGs" is not that the narrative comes in chunks. I can read five pages of a book and put it down and then come back to it later, and that's a fragment of a narrative. As Emily said, a GOOD narrative would want you to come back to it no matter what. Children's books (early chapter books) are written in very SMALL chunks for small attention spans , but that doesn't mean people don't want to continue with the episodes. (Take a look at the size of the chapters in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for example.)

The bigger problem is the idea that an Adventure Game can be casual or "lite." To me, that is just the opposite of what most AGs strive to do. They intentionally block your progress through the narrative with puzzles. We can talk about whether this is done effectively--whether the puzzles are seamless, intuitive, well-integrated, inventory-based, well-cued or well-clued--but in the end, the puzzles are still there. (See Jake's great post in the 8-13 thread about this.) If you read any "How to Get Started in Adventure Gaming" guide (even game inserts), they will usually tell you something like "Slow down. Explore. Examine things. Check out the scenery. Pick up objects. Talk to people. Look at the environment. Enjoy the gameworld." This is the very opposite of the motivation for "I have 20 minutes before the kids come home to turn off my brain and turn into Tetris mode to relax." I haven't played the pay casual games, so it could be that I don't have the right standard of comparison, and these things require far more mental energy or input that I am giving them credit for. But I find even the many free, excellent, amateur, downloadable or online AGs to be very challenging to get into, and the ample quantity of online games I would use as timewasters to be just the opposite.
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Old 02-11-2005, 11:12 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EasilyConfused
I agree, but with the emphasis on the first part of the reason here. I think the problem with the idea of "casual AGs" is not that the narrative comes in chunks. I can read five pages of a book and put it down and then come back to it later, and that's a fragment of a narrative. As Emily said, a GOOD narrative would want you to come back to it no matter what. Children's books (early chapter books) are written in very SMALL chunks for small attention spans , but that doesn't mean people don't want to continue with the episodes. (Take a look at the size of the chapters in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for example.)
I don't disagree that this may be of secondary importance, but I still think you're underestimating it, at least as described here. Books like Dahl's still operate under the assumption that you intend to follow the narrative continuously, but allow for the possibility of doing so in small chunks at any given time. The nature of a casual game is that it places NO restrictions on play time at all. Not just in one sitting, but in a larger context. Play it for 15 minutes, and not again for a week, then play for 2 hours a day for the next 3 days, and drop for a month, etc. Try reading a book that way, or playing a regular adventure, and you'll probably lose all interest. But because there's no narrative focus at all in casual games, there is no "commitment" to the game at all. Add ANY kind of story, and you've immediately crossed that barrier.

The goal, of course, is to have a story that DOES compel people to keep playing, but that's where the very goal itself may be at odds with the market its trying to tap.
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Old 02-11-2005, 11:27 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
Not just in one sitting, but in a larger context. Play it for 15 minutes, and not again for a week, then play for 2 hours a day for the next 3 days, and drop for a month, etc. Because there's no narrative focus at all, there is no "commitment" to the game at all. Add ANY kind of story, and you've immediately crossed that barrier.
Sorry, yes, both are factors. It's really hard to tell what is the biggest obstacle to success from the developer's point of view, because we've lumped together several different types of episodic games in this thread. But overall, what I think has emerged is that

1) quality is paramount for everyone;
2) narrative by nature introduces a desire to follow it;
3) there's a difference (though how great a one might be fuzzy at the margins) between a stand-alone story and a story that's ongoing . . . (And here I really mean it IS fuzzy at the margins. "Friends" or "Seinfeld" is something you can enjoy for just a single episode. There's also an overarching story. Brainfuzz . . . );
4) AGs might also be hard to turn into a "lite" product because of the type of gameplay. (Yes, that's really secondary. It depends on the audience you're trying to reach. Lite AGs can easily appeal to hardened AGers . . . );
5) there are those of us who are cheap.
oh yeah and 6) if we are going to pay for something, we want it available to us wherever, whenever.
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Old 02-11-2005, 12:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by fov
Except that, by its very nature, a *good* story is one that makes you want to keep reading (or playing). In a good novel, the last page of the chapter leaves you hanging so you want to start the next chapter and find out what happens next. I think what you say about self-contained chunks makes sense in theory, but in practice, any game that's unintersting enough at the end of the chapter that you don't want/need to keep playing doesn't sound like it's building to a climax very effectively.

-emily
Aha, I misinterpreted you. I actually meant that the game should have a large, good, overarching story (simple to suggest!), but that doesn't prevent it from being divided into chapters. I wasn't actually suggesting that they should necessarily be self-contained, though there would be ways of doing that. After all, it's possible to design chapters that are self-containted but all relate to the same story, that when completed together form a bigger picture. Like a set of cases that also contain clues to a much larger case, or playing a scenario from the point of view of multiple characters. Yes, the story would be different to that of many traditional adventures, but it could still be a good story ...
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:51 AM   #26
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Default Great idea, poor execution.

I just played a paid episode of Gumshoe Online.

I played the tutorial ages ago, and out of boredom signed up for a paid case called Moonshine. I had forgotten how frustrating I found the tutorial game, and the paid game was even more so.

The game has very low quality graphics. It uses the same faces for different characters and the same items for different rooms and areas. This is forgivable because the game is online and needs to be small enough so that players don't experience lag, etc. However, one would expect the mystery to make up for the limitations of the graphics. It doesn't. The plot is deadly dull and interaction with the characters is stilted and limited.

There's not a lot of information given to help you along in your quest to bring the villain(s) to justice. At the end of the game you must choose your suspect(s) and list your evidence in order of importance. Most of this is guess work. If you make a mistake you must start the game from the beginning and try again. I made extensive notes and went over my evidence again and again, and I still was really just guessing as to the motives etc. of my suspects.

What annoyed me the MOST about Gumshoe Online is that the game is basically one long pixel hunt. You must click or mouse-over every.single.area in every.single.room. If you don't do this you will miss say, a nail hidden under #103 of 200 identical plants or boxes in a building. Getting help from other users is difficult as they're reluctant to post help on the official forums, they prefer to PM you a hint or two. Apparently this is because the creators of Gumshoe Online had a contest awhile ago, and now the regular users are loathe to give up anything that might help other people in future contests.

It's a shame because the concept is great. I'd love to be able to play a intriguing game with quick puzzles on my lunch hour at work.
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