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Anyone miss death in AGs?

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I’m going to propose something controversial - adventure game death was good. Very good.
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How could it not be? Beyond adding a welcome extra level of challenge, the Space Quests deaths were hilarious, and the looming threat of death in the early text adventures and graphic adventures made them so much more exciting. It gave you an extra motive to think about your actions before you performed them and put you on the edge of your seat.
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It seems that Ron Gilbert’s rules of thumb for adventure games have become almost a celebrated standard of AG development, but I believe the popular notion that Lucasarts did a huge favour for games by eliminating death (example) is not entirely true and in most cases, totally wrong.
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What Lucasarts did was introduce a level of certainty for the player - since there was no was to fail in your quest you didn’t have to worry about anything except enjoying the game. No nasties around the corner, no traps to watch out for. You didn’t have to save your game in case your character came upon an unfortunate end. This led to a kind of apathy in the adventure gamer - the player mindlessly clicking on all objects, using everything on everything, unthinkingly roaming about with no concern for safety and with the only goal to complete the current puzzle and reach the next bit of story. Okay I exaggerate, but since you didn’t have to look after yourself, it didn’t really matter what you did - there was no way to fail.
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With the player in his gaming chair nestled in a shroud of safety and comfort, the excitement was gone, or at least replaced by something else, for better or worse. With this development, one of the main drives or urges of the player - self-preservation - was gone. This element was important because:
1) the looming fear of death and failure made you feel more like you were the character you were controlling by being responsible for his/her wellbeing; and
2) instead of the goal of the game being simply to finish it, the goal was to finish the quest and not die, making your quest all the more significant. The hero who faces and overcomes death and failure along the way is a thousand times more heroic than the hero who finishes his quest without once coming close to the possibility of death. And putting the character in situations of danger with no actual possibility of danger or harm (which is what most modern adventures do now) is truly ridiculous.
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So here’s the question: The Lucasarts ‘no failure’ approach probably increased the popularity of adventures and made them more accessible for casual gamers, but did it also take something away? Or am I totally wrong and should I be banished from the realms of adventure gaming forever? Smile


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Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

I’m going to propose something controversial - adventure game death was good. Very good.

You (obviously) haven’t played The Space Bar.

Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

Anyone miss death in AGs?

NO!

As far as I am concerned people who put death (& timed sequences) in adventure games (not action games, not RPGs, not other slaughterhouses where death is appropriate) deserve a place in hell (beside corporate lawyers, child molestors, highwaymen…).

     

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Tony Clifton

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well, in my younger adventure gaming I didn’t like to die in such games. that was the unique thing about them and I enjoyed them that way. And hey, I was a kid back then, there were plenty of other games to die. Now i am used to that because of the lucas arts approach and I still find it logical not to die if you are playing a comedy adventure. You know, cartoon characters never die. (except the hilarious death scene in the neverhood)
But now i like to play mature games and if the story implement things such as murder I think death is a plausible and logical thing to happen to your character. In that way i would be more drawn into the atmosphere and the story. I find it hard to believe when a near death experience awaits you (for example the killer is standing next to you with a knife) but you have all the time in the world to figure what you should do to avoid it. Of course death should occur only in some locations and not waiting you behind every corner. I think I really enjoyed the amount of dying in Gemini Rue. After all, you have a gun. Of course you can shoot people and of course you can die.

     

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While I hate the concept of death in adventure games, I think it is alright in some situations, when it is obvious that you are in danger and acting foolishly should get you killed.
In other genres, you always know where you can die. In Survival Horror it’s nearly everywhere, in FPS it’s every area you haven’t cleared from enemies, in RPGs it’s outside towns etc.

In the Sierra adventures this is not the case, and you can die everywhere, and often without warning.
However in games like Broken Sword, it is obvious when you were in danger, so you know to save beforehand.

So basically, I think you should be able to die, but only when it fits the plot and setting of the game. Being on edge about dying may be fun in a horror game, but not in a cartoon comedy.

EDIT: So pretty much what badlemon said a minute before me Laughing.

     

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Actually I sort of miss death in adventure games. What I don’t really miss are the cheap sort of deaths where entering a computer screen would sometimes mean instant death. However I would welcome the return of a sense of danger and possibility of dying in adventure games, provided that there would also be some sort of auto-saving system at regular time intervals or a try-again option, since playing over a significant amount of the game because you forgot to save before dying is by no means fun. For instance I liked that you could die in some instances in “Resonance” and the auto-try-again system with the time reversal feature in that game was nice.

     
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zobraks - 25 July 2012 09:48 AM
Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

I’m going to propose something controversial - adventure game death was good. Very good.

You (obviously) haven’t played The Space Bar.

I’ve played some awful games without deaths too.

Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

Anyone miss death in AGs?

NO!

As far as I am concerned people who put death (& timed sequences) in adventure games (not action games, not RPGs, not other slaughterhouses where death is appropriate) deserve a place in hell (beside corporate lawyers, child molestors, highwaymen…).

Also people who post difficult to guess screenshots? Smile But is there any reason for you not liking it, besides the fact you find it frustrating?

     
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Oscar - 25 July 2012 10:05 AM

But is there any reason for you not liking it, besides the fact you find it frustrating?

What more do you need? I play adventure games for fun (sometimes I like the humo(u)r or dialogues, sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes the puzzles are interesting), the last thing I want AGs to do to me is to frustrate me - there’s enough material for that in real life.

I know there are people who want to spice their “serious AGs” with death but I don’t like that. Knowing I can die any minute in some AG never made my experience of it better or “more like in real life” (I know that isn’t real life - I know exactly where I am and what I’m doing), it only makes me angry .

Oscar - 25 July 2012 10:05 AM
zobraks - 25 July 2012 09:48 AM

As far as I am concerned people who put death (& timed sequences) in adventure games deserve a place in hell (beside corporate lawyers, child molestors, highwaymen…).

Also people who post difficult to guess screenshots? Smile

They’re the worst of the bunch!

     

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I don’t mind the possibility of death if it is implemented as just part of the puzzle. Figuring out how to accomplish something without dying can be a fun challenge. However, that is only if dying has the same consequence as failing another, less fatal puzzle does, namely, you have to try again.

If an AG is going to have me die, I want it to auto-restore me to a point right before the fatal choice. I don’t want it playing gotcha and screwing me over if I didn’t save recently. IMHO, saving, in adventure games, should be something you do when you are going to stop playing for a while (or possibly something you do if you know your computer might glitch on you). It shouldn’t be a required step in solving puzzles.

The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not game handled this the way I prefer. You could die, but doing so simply kicked you back to a point right before your fatal choice. Any adventure game that has ANY “game-ending” outcomes, be they from death or some other unrecoverable failure, shouldn’t rely on the player to have to constantly save-and-restore in the right spots to get past them. That is, IMHO, a CHEAP way to “increase difficulty”.

     
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Mister Ed - 25 July 2012 11:27 AM

I don’t mind the possibility of death if it is implemented as just part of the puzzle. Figuring out how to accomplish something without dying can be a fun challenge. However, that is only if dying has the same consequence as failing another, less fatal puzzle does, namely, you have to try again.

If an AG is going to have me die, I want it to auto-restore me to a point right before the fatal choice. I don’t want it playing gotcha and screwing me over if I didn’t save recently. IMHO, saving, in adventure games, should be something you do when you are going to stop playing for a while (or possibly something you do if you know your computer might glitch on you). It shouldn’t be a required step in solving puzzles.

The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not game handled this the way I prefer. You could die, but doing so simply kicked you back to a point right before your fatal choice. Any adventure game that has ANY “game-ending” outcomes, be they from death or some other unrecoverable failure, shouldn’t rely on the player to have to constantly save-and-restore in the right spots to get past them. That is, IMHO, a CHEAP way to “increase difficulty”.

I have reservations about this method. I think death should cause the player at least some trouble - otherwise it is meaningless. The player should be wary of dying and actively try to avoid it. If he’s put back automatically to the point before death, there’s not going to be any apprehension of danger in the player’s mind and the thrill is gone.
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I agree with you about the save/load dilemma, but I don’t think the best answer is to automatically give another chance, which removes the significance of failure. In a way, saving and loading is part of the adventure game - it’s a skill the player has to learn and tactical saving at a dangerous point gives a certain satisfaction.

     
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Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

What Lucasarts did was introduce a level of certainty for the player - since there was no was to fail in your quest you didn’t have to worry about anything except enjoying the game.

Yeah, Heaven forbid that people should be able to enjoy playing games. Shifty Eyed I know 2000 years of Christian bullshit have brainwashed people into thinking that anything that’s enjoyable is suspect, but that’s just stupid. Enjoying the game is the point of the game. Now, whether removing death increases the enjoyment of the game is an interesting question.

I’ll quote Gilbert, since his position is much more interesting that you make it out to be (emphasis mine):

As a rule, adventure games should be able to be played from beginning to end without “dying” or saving the game if the player is very careful and very observant.  It is bad design to put puzzles and situations into a game that require a player to die in order to learn what not to do next time.  This is not to say that all death situations should be designed out.  Danger is inherent in drama, but danger should be survivable if the player is clever.

As an exercise, take one complete path through a story game and then tell it to someone else, as if it were a standard story.  If you find places where the main character could not have known a piece of information that was used (the character who learned it died in a previous game), then there is a hole in the plot.

I agree with that. Games that are serious and dramatic should have death in appropriate circumstances. I’ve always thought that having April chased by monsters in TLJ just to have them dancing around her without ever killing her if she did nothing was ridiculous. But I think death should be meaningful, and it should be avoidable if you’re careful. I like the way death works in games such as Quest for Glory, Indy FoA, Broken Sword 1, GK, KQ6, etc. In those games, death feels like a deserved punishment for failure, and it does keep you on your toes and make the scenes in which you can die more tense or dramatic.

But the kind of deaths you have in Space Quest or the King’s Quest games before 6, those random, meaningless deaths (“oh, you pushed a rock and it killed you”), or those death sequences that you have to go through once to solve the puzzle — those are just awful. By making death unavoidable (because it’s completely nonsensical and unpredictable and/or because you need to go through it to get some essential piece of information), these games cheapen death. They don’t reward you for avoiding death by being clever, they teach you that you’re gonna die lots of times anyway and so you’d better learn to save every 30 seconds like a stupid robot. If death feels deserved and avoidable, then it can enhance dramatic sequences in the game. But otherwise it’s just the developer punishing you — and, yes, decreasing your enjoyment of the game — in an effort to increase the length of the game.

     

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It

Oscar - 25 July 2012 11:42 AM

I agree with you about the save/load dilemma, but I don’t think the best answer is to automatically give another chance, which removes the significance of failure. In a way, saving and loading is part of the adventure game - it’s a skill the player has to learn and tactical saving at a dangerous point gives a certain satisfaction.

To each his own, I suppose. I see no satisfaction at all in saving and loading. And it SHOULD provide the exact same “problem” you see with an auto-save, but simply with a greater annoyance factor. If I’m constantly saving (which requires no “tactical” savvy), I’m not in any more “danger” than a deathless game would provide. I’m just annoyed that the game is designed to require such an artificial, immersion-breaking, mechanic on a constant basis in order to complete it. In this case, it isn’t just that I’m inconvenienced if I make a mistake and die. I’m inconvenienced throughout the ENTIRE GAME by the need to constantly save, whether I ever make a mistake or not…

     
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Kurufinwe - 25 July 2012 11:54 AM
Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

What Lucasarts did was introduce a level of certainty for the player - since there was no was to fail in your quest you didn’t have to worry about anything except enjoying the game.

Yeah, Heaven forbid that people should be able to enjoy playing games. Shifty Eyed I know 2000 years of Christian bullshit have brainwashed people into thinking that anything that’s enjoyable is suspect, but that’s just stupid. Enjoying the game is the point of the game. Now, whether removing death increases the enjoyment of the game is an interesting question.

What I meant was by making games more ‘fun’, by which I really mean less stressful, you take away something - the tension of being in a dangerous situation. I don’t see how anyone can dispute that. In that sense removing death definitely increases enjoyment - see zobraks’ post above. I personally find death situations fun, but that’s just me.

Kurufinwe - 25 July 2012 11:54 AM

I’ll quote Gilbert, since his position is much more interesting that you make it out to be (emphasis mine):

As a rule, adventure games should be able to be played from beginning to end without “dying” or saving the game if the player is very careful and very observant.  It is bad design to put puzzles and situations into a game that require a player to die in order to learn what not to do next time.  This is not to say that all death situations should be designed out.  Danger is inherent in drama, but danger should be survivable if the player is clever.

And yet he says this while removing all danger from his games. It’s simply not dramatic for me to watch someone else being dangled over a cliff while at the same time knowing he’ll survive, because that’s given in The Rules. It’s true he doesn’t recommend all death be removed, but that’s effectively what Lucasarts did and their legacy.

As an exercise, take one complete path through a story game and then tell it to someone else, as if it were a standard story.  If you find places where the main character could not have known a piece of information that was used (the character who learned it died in a previous game), then there is a hole in the plot.

I agree with that. Games that are serious and dramatic should have death in appropriate circumstances. I’ve always thought that having April chased by monsters in TLJ just to have them dancing around her without ever killing her if she did nothing was ridiculous. But I think death should be meaningful, and it should be avoidable if you’re careful. I like the way death works in games such as Quest for Glory, Indy FoA, Broken Sword 1, GK, KQ6, etc. In those games, death feels like a deserved punishment for failure, and it does keep you on your toes and make the scenes in which you can die more tense or dramatic.

I would agree with that too. But really, how common is the situation you’re talking about? King Graham sees a snake. It could be friendly but you don’t need to be bitten to know not to go near it. You might point to the desert in KQ5, but if you’re smart it’s possible to map it out and keep returning to get water while staying alive. I would more readily admit something like the start of KQ3, where you’re messing around with spells and the wizard appearing all the time. But I don’t like that game much, and to me it’s more plainly an example of bad writing, not a demonstration that all unexpected death is bad.

Kurufinwe - 25 July 2012 11:54 AM

By making death unavoidable (because it’s completely nonsensical and unpredictable and/or because you need to go through it to get some essential piece of information), these games cheapen death. They don’t reward you for avoiding death by being clever, they teach you that you’re gonna die lots of times anyway and so you’d better learn to save every 30 seconds like a stupid robot. If death feels deserved and avoidable, then it can enhance dramatic sequences in the game. But otherwise it’s just the developer punishing you — and, yes, decreasing your enjoyment of the game — in an effort to increase the length of the game.

Again, I have a feeling this is very rare.

     
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I don’t mind being able to die as long as there is a “retry” function. That’s the only flaw games like Gabriel Knight 1 had. Having to replay an hour or more just because you forgot to save is a frustrating waste of time. My definition of fun is different.

     
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I agree with Kurufinwe, badlemon and Shany (among others).
While I hate the early Sierra “death around every corner” approach, I don’t really mind dying in an adventure game. It just has to make sense. Your character shouldn’t die because he picked up a rock in an empty field, but he should be able to die if he randomly pulls levers of a mysterious machine that’s pointed at him.

In fact, I agree with Kurufinwe’s example where death would’ve made more sense: at the end of TLJ when April gets chased by a monster. I instinctively made my character run like hell, but if I did nothing it wouldn’t have mattered. That’s bad design. Death should have been possible there (running away easily avoids it anyway).

Basically, deaths should happen as little as possible, but if danger is present, your character should be able to die. As long as it makes sense, and as long as you don’t lose too much of your progress (auto-saves are important).

I wouldn’t even mind if designers adopted a decreasing difficulty approach to timed sequences where for instance each time you fail, you get a few seconds more at the next attempt…

     

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For me, death in a game does not increase my emotional investment. If the story itself isn’t enough to compel my interest and keep me engaged and moving forward, then I’m probably not going to bother finishing the game anyway.

Actually, I often find death in games has the opposite effect for me. Because I know that I the person behind the screen am not in any actual danger, it serves as a glaring reminder that this is just a game, and that I’m not really in that world. For me, death actually breaks the immersion of the experience.

Now, I’m not arguing that games shouldn’t include the possibility of death. For some games, it works really well, and obviously some people like it. I don’t think death should be eliminated from games or anything like that.

I don’t think it should be included just on principle either, though. I think that like any game element, it needs to serve a purpose and have a point.

Oscar - 25 July 2012 09:38 AM

This led to a kind of apathy in the adventure gamer - the player mindlessly clicking on all objects, using everything on everything, unthinkingly roaming about with no concern for safety and with the only goal to complete the current puzzle and reach the next bit of story. Okay I exaggerate, but since you didn’t have to look after yourself, it didn’t really matter what you did - there was no way to fail.

I don’t see that as apathy at all. That’s one of the reasons I like adventure games. In the real world, there are so few opportunities stop worrying about danger, satisfy your curiosity completely before moving on to another task, or just pause and enjoy the scenery. That escape is what makes adventures so appealing to me, and many other genres so unappealing.

If I didn’t have that freedom, I would have much less interest in the genre.

Like I said, I’m not against death being included if it suits the game. I just don’t think that having to be careful of one’s safety is automatically more conducive to a good gaming experience, or that the possibility of dying automatically makes one more invested.

     
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TimovieMan - 25 July 2012 03:51 PM

I agree with Kurufinwe, badlemon and Shany (among others).
While I hate the early Sierra “death around every corner” approach, I don’t really mind dying in an adventure game. It just has to make sense. Your character shouldn’t die because he picked up a rock in an empty field, but he should be able to die if he randomly pulls levers of a mysterious machine that’s pointed at him.

Which Sierra game is this?

Annacat - 25 July 2012 03:57 PM

For me, death in a game does not increase my emotional investment. If the story itself isn’t enough to compel my interest and keep me engaged and moving forward, then I’m probably not going to bother finishing the game anyway.

Actually, I often find death in games has the opposite effect for me. Because I know that I the person behind the screen am not in any actual danger, it serves as a glaring reminder that this is just a game, and that I’m not really in that world. For me, death actually breaks the immersion of the experience.

Now, I’m not arguing that games shouldn’t include the possibility of death. For some games, it works really well, and obviously some people like it. I don’t think death should be eliminated from games or anything like that.

I don’t think it should be included just on principle either, though. I think that like any game element, it needs to serve a purpose and have a point.

I don’t see that as apathy at all. That’s one of the reasons I like adventure games. In the real world, there are so few opportunities stop worrying about danger, satisfy your curiosity completely before moving on to another task, or just pause and enjoy the scenery. That escape is what makes adventures so appealing to me, and many other genres so unappealing.

If I didn’t have that freedom, I would have much less interest in the genre.

Like I said, I’m not against death being included if it suits the game. I just don’t think that having to be careful of one’s safety is automatically more conducive to a good gaming experience, or that the possibility of dying automatically makes one more invested.

We probably have different situations in mind - I’m not imagining Myst-style games and comedies having deaths. That would definitely reduce enjoyment (though I think I recall Myst 3 having deaths?) But in games where you’re constantly placed in danger with no chance of dying, there’s no tension there in the story. I think that’s clear. It’s like playing pinball with no chance of the ball going down the hole - the player might still enjoy it but she isn’t as involved, because she can’t lose. So winning or getting a high score will mean less to her. THAT is the ‘purpose’ and ‘point’ that everyone keeps mentioning. If you haven’t experienced the pleasure of completing a more challenging task whether it’s a job, a mountain hike, an exam, or a game, well, I’m speechless.

 

     

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