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Some interesting views about adventure games

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GateKeeper - 22 December 2020 12:31 PM
tomimt - 22 December 2020 06:23 AM

Dying in a game is not a bad thing, it all depends on how they are handled. The Sierra way is, in my opinion, the wrong way, as it is more often a punishment, especially if your last save is from a point that makes you play the game again from further back.

To be fair, they always said “save early, save often”, so if you didn’t save your progress, they aren’t necessarily the ones to blame. The biggest problem with Sierra deaths is that to avoid them you must first go through them. Games like Broken Sword had deaths, but they gave some kind of lead-in to that, so you can kind of expect that, and especially in Broken Sword there was even some reaction time, which at the very least gave time to save game right there.

 

What I really mean is was Sierra’s way of placing deaths to places where they come as an unfair surprise. Sure, if you fall in the water and don’t swim, it is obvious you’ll drown. But dying because you picked up an object, and even at some points received a score from, is rather unfair.

LSL2 mentioned in this topic is a good example of it. You can pick up the spinach dip when you are in the ship. After jumping in the lifeboat, you have no way of knowing that the dip will kill you if you don’t drop it just after the lifeboat hits the water. You can’t drop the dip during the lifeboat sequence after the beginning, as the interface gets locked out.

Sierra titles also suffer from a frustrating trait of locking you in some location without hinting that you might have missed an important object before entering there. This is something that causes a lot of trial and error before you can come to the conclusion that you are missing something important

And what comes to the whole “save often”-adage, that doesn’t magically turn bad design good.
It also doesn’t help you pinpoint where you made the mistake.

     

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This whole discussion about King’s Quest V made me realize that i prefer a game with dead ends that is not as linear as two first Space Quests or Larry 2 to a game that doesn’t have dead ends but is boring. So it it seems it is not possible to neatly separate game creation into creating content and designing a game out of this content but good content itself is amongst one of those plusses of a game that can outweight some of those kind of minuses that are usually considered design flaws. So it might just be that those people who like King Quest V find most of it content exciting or fun while same time they find that KQV is a flawed game.

     
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GateKeeper - 22 December 2020 12:31 PM
tomimt - 22 December 2020 06:23 AM

Dying in a game is not a bad thing, it all depends on how they are handled. The Sierra way is, in my opinion, the wrong way, as it is more often a punishment, especially if your last save is from a point that makes you play the game again from further back.

To be fair, they always said “save early, save often”, so if you didn’t save your progress, they aren’t necessarily the ones to blame. The biggest problem with Sierra deaths is that to avoid them you must first go through them.

I mean… technically that might be true. But what exactly were you expecting when a Yeti appears in front of you and starts growling, with the narrator commenting on how fierce it looks. It was never going to invite you in for tea.

     
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Luhr28 - 22 December 2020 04:03 AM

It’s just I think KQV is better, and have issues with the prominent view of late that it’s a terrible game and badly design just because you can die and get stuck.

Reading the KQIII review, it makes some very good points about that

Well I don’t mind deaths and dead ends. I have a soft spot for many Sierra or early Access Software games (and they had some evil dead ends). And I agree with the points made in the KQ3 review. It’s just that KQ5 wasn’t all that fun to play, esp. compared to the Quest for Glory or Conquest series which came around same time. There wasn’t even a plot to speak of - you just moved from one location to another until you reached the goal.

KQ6 also had a pretty basic “save the princess” plot, but they added many turns and touches to it, like the shapeshifting genie or the journey to the death realm. It was more forgiving in a way that it gave you an interactive map (but that was already half-done in KQ3) and warned briefly from time to time about the consequences of your actions, but those were really few and far between.

     

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Luhr28 - 22 December 2020 06:32 PM

I mean… technically that might be true. But what exactly were you expecting when a Yeti appears in front of you and starts growling, with the narrator commenting on how fierce it looks. It was never going to invite you in for tea.

In a situation like the Yeti, dying is to be expected. It’s a logical conclusion to the situation and as such, I think dying there is only fair if you don’t manage to find the solution. With the Yeti it’s the solution I don’t find fair.

There are situations where the player should expect to die and that’s really the key thing, isn’t it? There’s a world of difference between design where you can die by seemingly random events and games where you die in situations that feel logically life-threatening.

     

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Venkman - 21 December 2020 12:04 AM

But I’ve solved a lot of the puzzles that get brought up in these cases without hints, and sometimes I consider them downright easy (TLJ duck float, cat mustache, Babel Fish). They often *sound* impossible when you describe them in words (especially if you describe them disingenuously), but if you’re sitting playing the game, there are many environmental/text hints and it’s often quite clear and logical what needs to be done. The author demonstrates this same effect with KQ5.

[...]

(Whether or not cat mustache and duck float are “bad” just for having silly tones in semi-serious games is a different discussion. They’re not “difficult”.)

 

them being “bad” for being silly *is* a flaw of game design- a serious one. TLJ opens and seems to have pretensions of seriousness, so when a player approaches a problem like “oh, I can’t get that key”, it’s very likely they aren’t going to approach it with the mindset of “OK let’s construct a Rube Goldberg machine” because the game has not given much indication that it’s actually that kind of game so far. they’re much more likely to approach it looking for some kind of grounded, realistic solution like, y’know, asking someone at the station for help- because that’s what the tone of the game has suggested up to that point!

it’d be like having a gritty, bloody “mature” mystery novel where the solution to the murder is a golden-age style setup with eg sound-controlled pulleys pulling triggers of mounted guns in locked rooms or something. that would be a writing failure, because a reader would have entirely justified expectations that a book of that nature would not suddenly stick to golden-age locked-room contraptions as a solution.  as a counterpoint, the Babelfish puzzle is fine (and it’s reputation for difficulty mainly is because it was one of the first AGs bought by people not used to them- it was a massive seller)- HHGG is a silly game that has already played funny tricks on the player and has no pretensions of being some kind of grounded simulation- the only real meta-knowledge required is the “if you can pick something up, you probably should” in the first chapter of the game, and while I think this is still a flaw, it’s a minor one.

His justification of KQV is just as silly. I mean-

You don’t have a pie, you say?  You’ve eaten it already?  Oh dear. If you ate the custard pie in the mountains, you should look at your diet.  You’re in the middle of the mountains, in the freezing cold; your body is craving fuel; and you stick a piece of sweet pastry in your gob.  ‘I eat a healthy balanced diet of sugar, carbs, artificial coloring and flavors, and weigh 600 stone.’  Next course: elephant au gratin, a little fried hippopotamus, and cement pudding.

this is not “mountain survival: the game”. this is also not “sticking to a well-balanced diet: the game” - this is freaking King’s Quest. you can justify *anything* ex-post-facto like this- the design failure comes from the player having no clue what the game expects of them. it’s the classic “eff you for not being psychic” puzzle death. 

 

     
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fbjim - 24 December 2020 10:31 AM

them being “bad” for being silly *is* a flaw of game design- a serious one.

While I agree on King’s Quest 5 and The Longest Journey, I felt right at home with the cat mustache puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3. Once you see him putting a hanger in his pants and hear what Gabe has to say about classical art or some of the hotel guests (voiced by Tim Curry in his naughtiest mood), the game leaves little to the imagination. And King’s Quest games also felt perfectly fine as long as their puzzles were based on fairy tale tropes. Why did Roberta even need to introduce a Yeti whose only purpose was to die a stupid death?

     

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fbjim - 24 December 2020 10:31 AM
Venkman - 21 December 2020 12:04 AM

But I’ve solved a lot of the puzzles that get brought up in these cases without hints, and sometimes I consider them downright easy (TLJ duck float, cat mustache, Babel Fish). They often *sound* impossible when you describe them in words (especially if you describe them disingenuously), but if you’re sitting playing the game, there are many environmental/text hints and it’s often quite clear and logical what needs to be done. The author demonstrates this same effect with KQ5.

[...]

(Whether or not cat mustache and duck float are “bad” just for having silly tones in semi-serious games is a different discussion. They’re not “difficult”.)

 

them being “bad” for being silly *is* a flaw of game design- a serious one. TLJ opens and seems to have pretensions of seriousness, so when a player approaches a problem like “oh, I can’t get that key”, it’s very likely they aren’t going to approach it with the mindset of “OK let’s construct a Rube Goldberg machine” because the game has not given much indication that it’s actually that kind of game so far. they’re much more likely to approach it looking for some kind of grounded, realistic solution like, y’know, asking someone at the station for help- because that’s what the tone of the game has suggested up to that point!

It’s not “serious”, it’s a 1990s adventure game. The game isn’t good, but that has virtually nothing to do with the duck puzzle. (It’d probably be better if it leaned into wacky adventure game tropes more and long expository dialogue less.)

If the player can’t solve a simple “try combining everything in your inventory” puzzle it’s a failure of A) the designers for not educating about this properly B) a novice player. In the broader context of 1990s gaming, the puzzle itself is not difficult, problematic, or a failure. It’s this stripping it of context and pretending that TLJ is some serious work of art that makes the puzzle look bad.

     
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TLJ had some puzzles that can at best be called strange. The duck puzzle being one of them. I love that game mainly for the story and characters.. Most of the newer adventure games I have played are puzzle light with an increased focus on story and characters.

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Venkman - 25 December 2020 02:41 AM
fbjim - 24 December 2020 10:31 AM
Venkman - 21 December 2020 12:04 AM

But I’ve solved a lot of the puzzles that get brought up in these cases without hints, and sometimes I consider them downright easy (TLJ duck float, cat mustache, Babel Fish). They often *sound* impossible when you describe them in words (especially if you describe them disingenuously), but if you’re sitting playing the game, there are many environmental/text hints and it’s often quite clear and logical what needs to be done. The author demonstrates this same effect with KQ5.

[...]

(Whether or not cat mustache and duck float are “bad” just for having silly tones in semi-serious games is a different discussion. They’re not “difficult”.)

 

them being “bad” for being silly *is* a flaw of game design- a serious one. TLJ opens and seems to have pretensions of seriousness, so when a player approaches a problem like “oh, I can’t get that key”, it’s very likely they aren’t going to approach it with the mindset of “OK let’s construct a Rube Goldberg machine” because the game has not given much indication that it’s actually that kind of game so far. they’re much more likely to approach it looking for some kind of grounded, realistic solution like, y’know, asking someone at the station for help- because that’s what the tone of the game has suggested up to that point!

It’s not “serious”, it’s a 1990s adventure game. The game isn’t good, but that has virtually nothing to do with the duck puzzle. (It’d probably be better if it leaned into wacky adventure game tropes more and long expository dialogue less.)

If the player can’t solve a simple “try combining everything in your inventory” puzzle it’s a failure of A) the designers for not educating about this properly B) a novice player. In the broader context of 1990s gaming, the puzzle itself is not difficult, problematic, or a failure. It’s this stripping it of context and pretending that TLJ is some serious work of art that makes the puzzle look bad.


i feel like this is somewhat treading into long-worn-out discussions about why the traditionally-observed decline in the genre happened in the first place - too many genre trappings which constrained the ambitions of writers and designers. like you said, the game would probably be “better” if it had no ambitions of seriousness (and it absolutely does have those ambitions, look at how the game opens!), but that’s kind of also a writing failure - it’s just that the failure is attempting to write a serious adventure game in the “use x on y” mold in the first place.

also “can’t solve a simple use x on y” puzzle doesn’t mean it’s too hard and you can’t progress- it means that you’re no longer actually thinking about the solution of the puzzle and are just throwing stuff against the wall until the game acknowledges whatever absurd thing you just did. this isn’t challenging puzzle solving except in the sense that “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 1000” is “challenging puzzle solving”.

anyway, it’s not as if “serious” adventure games weren’t around in the 90s, but in fairness, my context is Infocom stuff which, while not always “serious”, was perfectly fine having puzzles which rewarded experimentation (rather than trial-and-error), while still being extremely difficult- Stationfall probably being my favorite of their hard-as-nails games.

     
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Back in my C128 days, infocom adventures were the best period. I loved them big time. They were about $39.95;and worth every penny. Beyond Zork was my favorite.

The later ones had limited graphics on the C128. When I upgraded to the A500, adventure games with graphics were a priority for me and I played several that were simply amazing like Indy and the Fate of Atlantis, my fave on that system.

When adventures games declined in North America, they took off in Europe with the release of The Longest Journey. After that, Nintendo DS games were popular like Hotel Dusk.

Today, we still see huge success stories, Until Dawn on the PS4 sold millions of copies. Anyway, the future of gaming for me is back to the PC and the Switch for portable play. My investment in this is huge, so the transition will happen. I just need to end my addiction to the PS4 and iPad mini 5.

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Adv_Lvr - 09 January 2021 09:38 AM

When adventures games declined in the west, they took off in Europe with the release of The Longest Journey.

Ignoring that Europe is part of “the west”, saying they took off in Europe with TLJ would be ignoring the massive influence and contribution of French developers like Infogrames, Delphine, Coktel Vision, Lankhor.

     
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I thought the decline here in Europe (perhaps with the exception of Germany) started around the time TLJ got released…

     

Last played: Oknytt (CPT) - 2.5/5 | Horizon: Zero Dawn - 4/5 | Marvel’s Spider-Man - 4.5/5 | Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell - 3/5 | There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (CPT) - 4/5 | There Is No Game (replay) - 4/5 | Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (replay) - 3/5 | Lighthouse: The Dark Being (CPT) - 2.5/5 | Anna’s Quest (CPT) - 4.5/5 | Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe - 4/5 | Florence - 4/5 | Alice Trapped in Wonderland - 1/5 | The Hunt for the Lost Ship - 1.5/5 | The Talos Principle - 4/5 | Tex Murphy: Martian Memorandum - 3/5 | Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - 3/5 | Simon the Sorcerer (replay) - 4/5 | Portal 2 - 4/5 | Murder By Numbers - 3.5/5 | Heavy Rain - 3.5/5 | Disco Elysium - 4.5/5

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I revised that to North America. Around 2000 until 2005 almost all my adventure games I bought came from Europe. That was until 2006 when the DS entered my life. I was in Italy around 2003 and the GameStops were filled with PC adventure games. Quite a few good ones too. I do have in my collection 365 physical PC games in mint condition. Some of which are worth $$$.

So, once I remove my Alienware computer from its box, I am going to be SO BUSY.

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Adv_Lvr - 09 January 2021 09:38 AM

When adventures games declined in the west, they took off in Europe with the release of The Longest Journey. After that, Nintendo DS games were popular like Hotel Dusk.

Adventures didn’t take off in Europe after The Longest Journey, because there was a long history before that. There are tons of text adventures and all that from the 8-bit era and everything that happened after.

TimovieMan - 09 January 2021 10:58 AM

I thought the decline here in Europe (perhaps with the exception of Germany) started around the time TLJ got released…

That statement would need some evidence to back it up.
Just thinking about the fact that companies like Amanita and Daedalic were founded after the release of The Longest Journey, and already existing companies like Pendulo were on their way to create their best known games, all after 1999.


Speaking of 1999, about a month later from The Longest Journey, Shenmue was released, which at the time was the most expensive and technologically challenging adventure game ever made.*
Even by today’s game standards Shenmue would be an expensive production, and at the time it cost at least 15 times more than The Longest Journey.

That’s a fact that is often forgotten when discussing where and when adventure game development shifted worldwide. How many adventure games to this date have topped Shenmue production values? L.A. Noire* and a couple of others?


(* = genre definition is debatable)

     

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