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discussion about modernizing/popularizing adventure games

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GateKeeper - 16 February 2021 07:47 PM

Every game made by DoubleFine has been in some free giveaway or in some bundle for pennies, so if they were such good sellers, why give them away for free?

That’s a very specific way of addressing Doom and Adv_Lvr’s points. Not sure if/how a couple of DoubleFine games in bundles represent AG sales in general. But, to answer your question: promotion. If it leads to more sales of this product in the long run, or shines a light on the rest of the DoubleFine catalogue, it could be worth it.

There’s a different discussion here, about how and why games end up in bundles, with regards to their quality and selling power. I’d rather focus on adventure games and possible growth, in terms of market, reach, mechanics, presentation and quality.

Luhr28 - 16 February 2021 07:29 PM

The idea seems to be this:
1. We need new fans! More people to buy adventure games
2. Okay then, so what do we do? They don’t even like adventure games
3. Well obv we need to change them. Make them LESS like adventure games!
4. Ahh, yeah. That’s cool. Neat idea. Then they’ll play them, right?
5. Totally! Then we’ll have a bustling, top-selling adventure games scene again. Hundreds of new adv games to play each week. Just like in the 90s!
6. Totally, dude.

1. I can imagine developers would like a bigger audience. Personally, I just love the genre and like the idea of more people being able to enjoy it.
2. Who are they and why do you assume they don’t/wouldn’t like adventure games?
3. That is a very traditionalist approach to change and growth.
4. If they are not part of the current target market, they might. Platforms might recommend AGs to people who would usually be overlooked. Someone might discover they actually like elements of a genre they’ve never cared about, or perhaps didn’t even know existed.
5. Personally, I don’t want to return to the 90s in any form. I don’t really believe in The Golden Age.
6. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?  Cool

I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on this. Weirdly enough, AGs are probably the only thing in this world I can enjoy as-is. But I know staleness is a killer - this applies to pretty much everything, from food, to gene pools, to politics.. why would AGs be any different?

Do you think the genre needs to adapt, or will this only lead to a watered down version of something great? Does catering to a small but dedicated audience allow developers to specifically address the wishes of this audience and might this get lost when AGs start competing with bigger titles? Have they already lost that fight, to Hidden Object Games and the like? Or do we stunt growth and development by boxing the genre in? Does catering to nostalgia lead to endless variations of the same game?

 

     
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Part of the issue on the Aggies thread was do adventure games hold their value over time vs FPS games and other genres:

“I’ve bought 2 FPS games that were highly reviewed and dropped like a brick in value one was:

Perfect Dark: Zero for the XBox 360, I paid $59.95 for it. three years later I bought a copy for a friend for 5 bucks.

I also bought Killzone Shadow Fall three years after it was released for the PS4 and I paid a big 5 bucks for the game and it got solid reviews too.

Three years after it was released, I bought a copy of the original Ace Attorney game for the DS and paid full retail for it.

Four years after it was released, I bought a copy of the original Prof Layton game and paid full retail for it.”

Heart

     

I enjoy playing adventure games on handheld systems- PS VITA, Nintendo DS and ipad mini.

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“Like pretty much every other game by Quantic Dream, even Omikron sold surprisingly well despite it was developed for Dreamcast (and despite being hard as hell).”

Yes, we need more developers like this. Until Dawn was another AAA adventure game that sold millions of copies - so we are getting huge sales, so why aren’t we getting more AAA games?

I do know we have way less AAA developers across all genres due to rising cost of developing games. So, we are going to see less AAA games overall and more AA and indie games across the board.

The bad part is we will see less games that push graphics for advanced hardware, for example it will be hard to tell PS5 games from PS4 games.


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Vegetable Party - 17 February 2021 03:31 AM
GateKeeper - 16 February 2021 07:47 PM

Every game made by DoubleFine has been in some free giveaway or in some bundle for pennies, so if they were such good sellers, why give them away for free?

That’s a very specific way of addressing Doom and Adv_Lvr’s points. Not sure if/how a couple of DoubleFine games in bundles represent AG sales in general. But, to answer your question: promotion. If it leads to more sales of this product in the long run, or shines a light on the rest of the DoubleFine catalogue, it could be worth it.

True, although Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango are considered to be among the best games in the genre, so if they can’t gain enough momentum without free promotion then no other game can either.

I guess we should leave a thin margin for people who are boycotting those remakes for not being the original versions etc. and I have a lot sympathy for that camp, but if the point is to gain new players then the exact version isn’t as critical an issue.

Anyway, I could list quite a few adventure games that haven’t reached anywhere near financially solid position, and that has axed any future development.

To quote Herald Kickstarter update from 2017:
“We’ve had very positive reviews so far, so we’re confident we made a worthwhile experience and that we delivered on our original promise to create a strong narrative adventure. We hope you think so too! 

However, sales have been bad, very bad. Below 1k sales bad. The indie game scene has dramatically shifted during our production time, and getting noticed with a game has become increasingly harder. To be fair, our launch was quite dramatic and our marketing sub-par, but we’re working hard to turn this around, more on that later!”

They have since continued the development, but I think below 1k sales is really bad, like they say.

Vegetable Party - 17 February 2021 03:31 AM

Do you think the genre needs to adapt, or will this only lead to a watered down version of something great? Does catering to a small but dedicated audience allow developers to specifically address the wishes of this audience and might this get lost when AGs start competing with bigger titles? Have they already lost that fight, to Hidden Object Games and the like? Or do we stunt growth and development by boxing the genre in? Does catering to nostalgia lead to endless variations of the same game?

Funny you should ask that, I just today read an older games magazine with a review of the Gabriel Knight remake, and the game got bashed for dumbing the mechanics down for casual audiences.

Delivering a solid adventure game doesn’t need to be nostalgia though. There are ways to renew and rethink genre conventions without having buttons to skip puzzles or highlighting the obvious.

In FPS games, one of the more recent developments is destructable environments. Has there ever been an adventure game that has that? If you don’t want to go on that fetch quest to find that key that unlocks that door, maybe you could construct a tool and try to break down the wall?

Adv_Lvr - 17 February 2021 07:02 AM

Part of the issue on the Aggies thread was do adventure games hold their value over time vs FPS games and other genres:

“I’ve bought 2 FPS games that were highly reviewed and dropped like a brick in value one was:

Perfect Dark: Zero for the XBox 360

Killzone Shadow Fall for the PS4

the original Ace Attorney game for the DS

I think we should stick to PC versions in the price discussion. There are so many factors that influence console game pricing that it’s not a real marker of anything.

First, the lifespan of a console is around 5-7 years, so whatever money is on the market has to be vacuumed in during that time. Backwards compatibility may in some cases prolong that, but not by much.

More importantly, you can just release games on PC without any limits. On consoles in order to be in the release program the console manufacturer has control over pricing, delivery methods, and game content.

If we are talking about something more specific, like Japanese games, then there’s an entire corporate culture that affects the whole distribution, and if those games get localised then the cost of doing that drives up prices too.

 

     
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I think it’s safe to assume most indie games will end up in bundles sooner or later. There are just too many games out there, not only AAA-titles but smaller games as well. At some point, bundles become the best and cheapest way of trying to get some more publicity for the games in the hopes that more people start playing them, as that may bring other players in, who pay a bit more for the games.

One big problem with indie games is, that there just aren’t enough developers around with either will or passion to work for a project for a pittance, that’s why games that look as incredibly good as Gibbous are a rarity. If the people who aren’t working on your project aren’t doing it for the passion, they need the next best thing, which is money. It might get their best effort for you. But then again, it’s a problem, as most indies, especially the indie ones, don’t really have enough money to spread around. I’ve also noticed, many devs, especially the first-timers, seem to heavily underestimate how much making games cost.  It’s like Ken Williams said, Sierra games of the late 80s, early 90s had budgeted around 1 million and they had their own tools and pipelines in use.

Kickstarter, in general, is a bit problematic, as they are usually noticed by the “birds of the feather”. They are gathering of people, who think or feel the same, so they create a bubble, which can make devs think there’s more demand for what they do than there is. That bubble often bursts, when the game goes live. I think that especially happens with projects with only a couple of hundred backers, as it’s hard to turn that into a wider appeal. A good deal of them won’t necessarily otherwise promote the project and even those who do might get tired of doing that. 

Then there’s the problem with genre traditionalists, who don’t want to see any change done ever. That’s not solely an adventure game problem though, RPG traditionalists might be even worse, divided into even smaller camps in terms of gameplay. But unlike RPG’s, adventure games have much less room to manoeuvre in what comes pleasing the traditionalist fans. So, it becomes a question of “Do I dare to hack of that branch in order to make the tree grow further. And If I do, does it grow?”

     
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My honest answer is because traditional Adventure game fans are probably only around 150,000 to 300,000. So you get your odd game here or there that crosses over like a heavy rain or Walking Dead, But as telltale soon found out, the Casual fan did not want to play game after game in that genre like that. even though there were some other great ones like The Wolf Among Us the Batman games and borderland. I would also say they kind of pissed off the traditional adventure game fan because they took out all the puzzles by the end of the run.

Also I think the younger generation really don’t know what adventure games are, because they have been co-opted so strongly into other genres like RPGs and third person action games. For example I was watching a review of a jrpg that had very light adventure game elements and the reviewer said the game was just like an old-school point-and-click game and I’m thinking no it is not.

My last reason being that even an adventure game with good puzzles can still devolve into a walking simulator because walkthroughs are so readily available and nobody, even us hardcore fans, like to be stuck for too long, let’s be honest. So for younger gamers there is already very passive gameplay in an adventure game and if you look at a walkthrough there is basically no gameplay, if it is just puzzles to solve and no other mechanics.

     
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I think we should stick to PC versions in the price discussion.

Uh, no. Until Dawn and Detroit: Became Human sold millions of copies when they were exclusive to the PS4. The advantage of consoles is that companies like Sony will fund the development of the game.

There was a time when the Nintendo DS was the go to system for adventure games with many hits published by Nintendo and others for the system. Layton, Ace Attorney series sold millions of copies. And don’t forget, The Last Window was adventure game of the year and still commands a premium price for copies of the game.

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My point regarding the Hugo games was that they were pretty bad and dated even back then in the early 1990s. Yet they managed to gain a cult following due to their similarity to early Sierra/LucasArts games and, probably, their pioneering indie nature - the shareware model of distribution, the one-man team behind taking all risks. He didn’t release anything else (not counting an ugly Wolfenstein clone), but rather kept selling those 3 adventures for 30 years straight from his website, and that’s it.

     

PC means personal computer

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Wow, I was a bit worried people were going to get grumpy with me, but your answers are really great! A lot of new stuff to think about! Smile

One thought I wanted to share before I get back into the discussion: accessibility. Adventure games usually don’t rely on quick reflexes and allow for problem solving at your own pace. They also don’t (usually) require you to be able to hear and see, sound is mostly optional. But they’re still very visually oriented. A possible solution: narrated (text) adventures. By that I mean all text being read aloud. A parser would have the obvious advantage over p&c or touch screen controls.

This hardly seems like something triple A developers would concern themselves with. I don’t know to what extent it would help the genre grow, but allowing even a small group of (usually excluded) players better access would be very cool in it’s own right.

I want to reply to a lot of other points, but I’ll have to take some time. I did read everything and my heart skipped a beat a couple of times.

     
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I saw this quote by Adv_Lvr in the Aggies thread and had started to reply there, before I discovered this thread. I copy/paste it, here’s my reaction to it:

Adv_Lvr - 16 February 2021 02:05 PM

The good news is - I like the indies, most are well done and fun to play. The main advantage in the market is most adventure games sell for a long time, most adventure gamers have no problem playing 5 - 15 year old games and even older. Whereas genres like FPS start out at 60 dollars and are selling for 5 bucks in 4 years.

Heart

Yes good news. But adventure games sell for 5 bucks after… only 1 year (or they don’t sell at all), and the main difference with FPS is that they never sell at 60 dollars because nobody wants them at that price (even though, do they require less work to be created?). It’s really really REALLY difficult to convince people to buy an adventure game for $15 or $19 which seems to be a fair price considering the amount of work.
I don’t see a lot of reasons why a big company would want to make a AAA traditional adventure game. And if you ask indies, most of them will tell you that they can’t make a living of it if it’s their main activity.
So of course we have to find solutions and make the genre evolve somehow.

In addition I just read:

Tomimt - 16 February 2021 02:05 PM

One big problem with indie games is, that there just aren’t enough developers around with either will or passion to work for a project for a pittance, that’s why games that look as incredibly good as Gibbous are a rarity.

I’m sorry but 90% of the indie devs who work on an adventure game already do it for a pittance with will or passion, I don’t know what you imagine. That’s why most of these games don’t have a lot of success and that you as players will skip most of them. You’re still thinking in terms of big teams and studios, but the adventure genre currently lives with mainly solo or small teams of amateur/unexperienced devs who work in their free time and who don’t have all the required skills to make perfectly polished projects. Usually they’re missing either programming skills, storytelling skills or artistic skills, and it’s rare to see games who have all of them, for a good reason.

You guys enjoyed Gibbous a lot because it’s probably your kind of adventure game, but there are many other good games who had more than 3 stars and never sold a lot, just because they’re not your cup of tea (visually, or in terms of gameplay, world, etc). This is why it’s so complicated!


I’m not attacking anyone, I think I’ve been a little harsh but I have a lot of respect for your experience in the genre and for your support to devs. Yes I might have over-exagerated the current situation, but I hope you understand why I sounded so critical. I am talking out of experience, knowing well that I am not the only indie adv dev in a difficult situation! More and more I see the creation of ambitious adventure games as a deadend, and I have the feeling that the genre will mainly survive through hybrid games or short experiences.

Anyway great threads, I’m very interested in reading more of your thoughts and ideas!

     
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Simon_ASA - 18 February 2021 06:07 AM
Tomimt - 16 February 2021 02:05 PM

One big problem with indie games is, that there just aren’t enough developers around with either will or passion to work for a project for a pittance, that’s why games that look as incredibly good as Gibbous are a rarity.

I’m sorry but 90% of the indie devs who work on an adventure game already do it for a pittance with will or passion, I don’t know what you imagine. That’s why most of these games don’t have a lot of success and that you as players will skip most of them. You’re still thinking in terms of big teams and studios, but the adventure genre currently lives with mainly solo or small teams of amateur/unexperienced devs who work in their free time and who don’t have all the required skills to make perfectly polished projects. Usually they’re missing either programming skills, storytelling skills or artistic skills, and it’s rare to see games who have all of them, for a good reason.

I worded myself poorly there. What I meant to say was, that there is a limited talent pool willing to work with little money, so indie developers don’t necessary get the best possible talent to work with their games. A good many of them may have good ideas, but just not the talent to working in their games.

     
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Oh ok, I see! Sorry for the misunderstanding then.

By the way, just another illustration of what we’ve said!
https://twitter.com/WhalestorkGames/status/1362381308337524740
Cheers guys!

     
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Simon_ASA - 18 February 2021 06:07 AM

I saw this quote by Adv_Lvr in the Aggies thread and had started to reply there, before I discovered this thread. I copy/paste it, here’s my reaction to it:

Adv_Lvr - 16 February 2021 02:05 PM

The good news is - I like the indies, most are well done and fun to play. The main advantage in the market is most adventure games sell for a long time, most adventure gamers have no problem playing 5 - 15 year old games and even older. Whereas genres like FPS start out at 60 dollars and are selling for 5 bucks in 4 years.

Heart

Yes good news. But adventure games sell for 5 bucks after… only 1 year (or they don’t sell at all), and the main difference with FPS is that they never sell at 60 dollars because nobody wants them at that price (even though, do they require less work to be created?). It’s really really REALLY difficult to convince people to buy an adventure game for $15 or $19 which seems to be a fair price considering the amount of work.
I don’t see a lot of reasons why a big company would want to make a AAA traditional adventure game. And if you ask indies, most of them will tell you that they can’t make a living of it if it’s their main activity.
So of course we have to find solutions and make the genre evolve somehow.

In addition I just read:

Tomimt - 16 February 2021 02:05 PM

One big problem with indie games is, that there just aren’t enough developers around with either will or passion to work for a project for a pittance, that’s why games that look as incredibly good as Gibbous are a rarity.

I’m sorry but 90% of the indie devs who work on an adventure game already do it for a pittance with will or passion, I don’t know what you imagine. That’s why most of these games don’t have a lot of success and that you as players will skip most of them. You’re still thinking in terms of big teams and studios, but the adventure genre currently lives with mainly solo or small teams of amateur/unexperienced devs who work in their free time and who don’t have all the required skills to make perfectly polished projects. Usually they’re missing either programming skills, storytelling skills or artistic skills, and it’s rare to see games who have all of them, for a good reason.

You guys enjoyed Gibbous a lot because it’s probably your kind of adventure game, but there are many other good games who had more than 3 stars and never sold a lot, just because they’re not your cup of tea (visually, or in terms of gameplay, world, etc). This is why it’s so complicated!


I’m not attacking anyone, I think I’ve been a little harsh but I have a lot of respect for your experience in the genre and for your support to devs. Yes I might have over-exagerated the current situation, but I hope you understand why I sounded so critical. I am talking out of experience, knowing well that I am not the only indie adv dev in a difficult situation! More and more I see the creation of ambitious adventure games as a deadend, and I have the feeling that the genre will mainly survive through hybrid games or short experiences.

Anyway great threads, I’m very interested in reading more of your thoughts and ideas!


I see your point, but as a consumer i disagree, if a product is not your cup of tea, why would you spend 20 dollars or even 5. And i wouldnt say we consumers expect perfection either. For the example you used for the game gibbious, i quite enjoyed the game but the writing and voice acting were very amateurish, so while it is fun, its not perfect by any means. I find some indie devs insufferable to be honest, they post about their game, and then throw hissy fits when we point out glaring flaws. On the opposite end of that though, i thought the devs for the new kathy rain handled themselves with class, with our critique of the game so far.

     
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That wasn’t exactly my point in fact, sorry… I was only trying to compare with the example of FPS games taken previously. 
I’m a customer too and of course I won’t spend 20 or even just 5 dollars in a game that I don’t want.
What I was trying to say is that nowadays the market is done so that many people will not buy a game that they want at full price, just because they know that in one year it will be at -50%. And it makes it very hard to make a living with the adventure genre, which never sells at a very high price compared to other genres.

I agree that it is always too expensive for players. Particularly now that we have so many games to buy and that we can’t afford to buy them all! And as someone said before, adventure fans don’t care playing a game that is 10 or 15 years old, so the catalog is really huge. Why would they want to buy new games at full price?

I have not played Gibbous, I was only sharing my thoughts with Tomimt using his example. Try to replace Gibbous in my sentence with a game that you enjoyed, while having in mind that I was talking of the whole adventure genre. My conclusion is still that it is complicated…

I find some indie devs insufferable to be honest

I am sorry for that, and I hope I have not been too insufferable myself at some point, I always tried to help players the best I can… And it’s also possible that my English speaking may sound a little “heavy” because I’m trying to have a sustained translation and failed it, and that as a result it sounds too formal or strict. Well I don’t know, but written text is often a trap, so when you talk to a player who is angry or disappointed, it’s not easy…
It’s difficult when someone attacks your child to always remain partial.
Also Kathy Rain has a publisher, it’s probably easier for them to respond efficiently and well. When you are an indie dev without a publisher and have to deal with customers without having that kind of skill, there’s always a moment where you make mistakes.

     
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I recall buying Darkseed for my Amiga, for the time it’s graphics were stunning. I gladly said $59.95 for it. Loved the game also.

Years later Myst appeared. It also had simply stunning graphics and I gladly bought it for $69.95. At the time Mac games sold for a much as $100 dollars, and yes, they were adventure games.

The PS4 has gotten several adventure games that had stunning graphics and I paid $59.95 for them, gladly too.

So, there is still a market for full price adventure games, as long as the production values are very high.

There was one indie that did very well, his main character was stunningly beautiful and during the coarse of the game you could get costumes for her to wear, and it worked. JRPGs have been doing this for years.

Heart

     

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Simon_ASA - 18 February 2021 10:20 AM

That wasn’t exactly my point in fact, sorry… I was only trying to compare with the example of FPS games taken previously. 
I’m a customer too and of course I won’t spend 20 or even just 5 dollars in a game that I don’t want.
What I was trying to say is that nowadays the market is done so that many people will not buy a game that they want at full price, just because they know that in one year it will be at -50%. And it makes it very hard to make a living with the adventure genre, which never sells at a very high price compared to other genres.

I agree that it is always too expensive for players. Particularly now that we have so many games to buy and that we can’t afford to buy them all! And as someone said before, adventure fans don’t care playing a game that is 10 or 15 years old, so the catalog is really huge. Why would they want to buy new games at full price?

I have not played Gibbous, I was only sharing my thoughts with Tomimt using his example. Try to replace Gibbous in my sentence with a game that you enjoyed, while having in mind that I was talking of the whole adventure genre. My conclusion is still that it is complicated…

I find some indie devs insufferable to be honest

I am sorry for that, and I hope I have not been too insufferable myself at some point, I always tried to help players the best I can… And it’s also possible that my English speaking may sound a little “heavy” because I’m trying to have a sustained translation and failed it, and that as a result it sounds too formal or strict. Well I don’t know, but written text is often a trap, so when you talk to a player who is angry or disappointed, it’s not easy…
It’s difficult when someone attacks your child to always remain partial.
Also Kathy Rain has a publisher, it’s probably easier for them to respond efficiently and well. When you are an indie dev without a publisher and have to deal with customers without having that kind of skill, there’s always a moment where you make mistakes.

I was not talking about you, and while kathy rain has a publisher, they are not exactly EA or ubisoft themselves. Like i said in an earlier post at most there are 300,000 hardcore adventure game fans, been that way since the 90s. So if just half bought a particular game at 10 dollars, that is 1.5 million gross. So yes budget is important. Even industry vets fail constantly at budgets, just look at tim schafer. Im very excited for psychonauts 2, but im very doubtful if that game will ever be in the green.

     

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