The Rise, Fall and Rise of Adventure Games

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The Rise, Fall and Rise of Adventure Games

Take everything you knew about adventure games and throw it out the window - Telltale Games reinvents the genre, Monkey Island style.

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I feel adventure games did lost it on the release of the PS2...it seemed everything tunred to platformer, and, was nothing left of the old ways. And...It makes mme want to remembeer Abes Odessy

I love telltale. They really capture the spirit of the old LucasArts and Sierra games of old but with lots of modern touches.

You should also check out Ceville, Shamus. That was a really great Point and Click adventure game!

I think over the years Adventure themes have subtly over taken action titles, Castlevina,Metroid,Quake 2,Quake 1,Hexen,Soul reaver,Onimusha to RE I mean lets take hard look at action RPGs I always considered them more adventure than RPG. Hell Metroid prime(System shock before it) and Call of cuthulu and Dead space are 3 of the most adventure centric FP games I have played to this date and what is Beyond good and evil if not a true FP adventure game... Now IMO there is a cut off point where adventure turns into a full blown RPG experience like Morrwind,Oblivoin,ect or has its knees blown off and becomes aa actiony mash up like Fallout of Bioshock.

Look deeper into what makes up a game and its mechanics and you can find more adventure elements.

I love the Strong Bad games so much.

"Whaaaat? Is that any way to address your ultimate dictator and racquet-ball partner?"

I think one of the big things that killed the point and click was the FMV era, it massively pushed up production costs and at the same time ended up with bad acting and poor dialog. Some worked e.g Gabe knight 2 and phantasmagoria but most just sucked.

I read this article and the Syrup-Mustache thing linked to it, it's an interesting read but at the same time I think it misses the point that a lot of people DID enjoy those "Dream Logic/Acid Trip" puzzle solutions and found working on them to be fun. Adventure games were never my genere of choice, but there was a lot of satisfaction from figuring this stuff out, and also a lot of these games predicted things people were likely to try on the way to deciphering the solution and included jokes and easter eggs connected to them.

I think there actually IS some validity to the idea of games becoming simpler in proportion to a growing audience. Adventure Games, RPGS (which were arguably bigger), and other games have been dying out in proportion to the increasing influx of casual and "mainstream" gamers. Basically games that give instant gratification are preferred to those that don't, and increasingly few people can enjoy video gaming as an intellectual exercise.

Truthfully what I think killed Adventure games is not obtuse "Gabriel Knight 3" disguise building puzzles, but pixel hunting and the like. I think that to some extent developers began to feel that their games were too easy, and started doing things to make them harder. The adventure games that annoyed people were ones that had intentional (as opposed to accidental) one-use items that could be used in the wrong place, missables, and of course tightly timed sequences where you say had to click on a werewolf in exactly the right frame of animation in order to knock it into a furnace. One game I really enjoyed premise wise was a game by Origin called "Noctropolis" but that game was utterly destroyed by pixel hunting as many key items were nearly impossible to spot. I seem to remember that game had both a glass cutter and a screwdriver that pretty much nobody could find for the longest time, and that kind of deep-sixed the game before some people who probably called tip lines started to circulate the information.

That said, Telltale games has not produced any games that really floated my boat so far. As I said I am not a big adventure game player, but for whatever reason I'm not keen to re-visit "Monkey Island" and "Sam and Max" never really impressed me. Start doing some more serious games (horror for example) and they might interest me in revisiting the genere.

There is still a small but healthy amateur community of text-based adventure game developers. Their annual Interactive Fiction Competition gets about 30 entries every year. The quality varies all over the place, but the best work is pretty damn good, and has definitely evolved past the old "guess-the-verb" frustration.

Lara Croft and Sonic are relevant today?

I've heard of Telltale Games, but had no idea they were churning out adventure games. I grew up with Sierra adventures, and play them to this day, so I'll definitely be checking these cats out. Thanks!

As far as the death of adventure games goes... I blame Myst. Once that became a hit, everyone wanted to be the next Myst. Even Sierra released that horrible Lighthouse game (complete with its patented "find-the-pixel" puzzles). Perhaps Myst isn't wholly to blame, but I think it at least contributed to it.

Is it really that hard to make another Myst? Not even Cyan can do it, it seems. They came close with Riven and then it has been downhill since. Anyway thanks for exposing the strategy guide racket that pretty much killed the adventure game genre.

My gaming life started on N64 and never really ventured into the realm of the PC so I never really played any adventure games unless you count Pajama Sam in Kindergarten computer class.

Never really liked them much either. I like having a more active role when I play games than applying key to door.

I got started in gaming with Infocom games. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Leather Goddesses of Phobos (with the "Scratch and Sniff" card impregnated with 7 or 8 different smells from Mothballs to Banana. LGoP also happened to be the first "Adult" text adventure game. Which is to say, your character could have sex in the game, described in all of about a paragraph, with 5 different characters.

And the dialogue options! Sparse, normal and verbose, and tame, suggestive (normal) and lewd. To give a hint of what this entailed, You get imprisoned on a spaceship and encounter Trent/Tiffany (which one depending on what sex you chose to be at the start of the game- the other character was the same sex as you and not interested in you.) If you enter your cell with them following, you got the following dialogue.

Tame: Wow, your cell is larger than mine. I probably shouldn't have attacked the guard when I got here.
Suggestive:Wow, your cell is larger than mine. I probably shouldn't have kicked the guard when I got here.
Lewd: Wow, your cell is larger than mine. I probably shouldn't have kicked the guard in the nuts when I got here.

And then there were the jokes. Funny jokes. In the game, you acquired something called a "T-remover". It actually removed the letter t from the name of objects and small things. One of the things you encountered was a rabbit. Put it in the T remover and use it, and you suddenly had a rabbi (who ran off, looking for a minyan). One of the best jokes was using it on the cotton balls you found in the game. If you looked at what resulted, it says, "Let's just say there's a raccoon running around with a VERY HIGH VOICE right now."

Uhm... I kinda disagree with this entire thing, my favorite genre of games were Adventure games before I got into Baldur's Gate, Simon the Sorcerer 2 being my favorite shortly followed by most of the LucasArts titles, but I don't think that Adventures died because people "didn't buy them" anymore, but because they kept making good ones (or tried to move to 3D... because 3D is so awesome and great e.g. Simon the Sorcerer 3D)... anyway I still have some back catalogue titles I still have to play from back then and there were also some pretty good Adventures games in-between the "drought" that probably didn't even get any reviews or anything... anyway I posted most of the best ones I remember here:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.161480-PC-Point-and-Click-did-I-miss-any

I have to admit, even today point-and-click adventures remain my favorite genre (although I'll admit that a lot of this love can be chalked up to nostalgia value.) When they're good, I think they're REALLY good, but unfortunately when they're bad they can been some of the most mind-numbingly frustrating games of all time.

That is to say, I love them when the puzzles have logical answers. Perhaps not entirely obvious ones, but logical nonetheless. I can't stand them when they have illogical answers. Answers so strange that they only might be stumbled upon by trying every possible option with everything else and spending hours wandering around doing things without actually having a concrete reason for doing them.

I would love to see the point-and-click adventure revived, but only taking the good parts and throwing the rest in the waste bin. Then I would like to see more exploration/vibrant worlds/deep story-telling added into the mix. To me that would pretty much amount to the perfect game (but that's probably just me.)

*standing ovation*

Seriously I could not be more pleased right now. Good show, Shamus. Telltale is doing awesome things with adventure games and more people need to know about it. I can't get enough Sam & Max myself. Which reminds me, they still haven't given us a release date for the final episode of The Devil's Playhouse, have they? Aww now I'm sad. :(

Lissar:
I would love to see the point-and-click adventure revived, but only taking the good parts and throwing the rest in the waste bin. Then I would like to see more exploration/vibrant worlds/deep story-telling added into the mix. To me that would pretty much amount to the perfect game (but that's probably just me.)

It is revived: http://www.telltalegames.com/

Check it out, they have a lot of demos available for the various games, I'm sure you'd find something you like. Telltale = AWESOME.

I've already bought some of their games, and I quite like them though it's not quite in the direction I was hoping for (especially since I'd reaaaaaally like to see new IP in the genre and not just sequels to old classics.) Still, I hope it means that there will be more variety for the genre in the future.

Lissar:
(especially since I'd reaaaaaally like to see new IP in the genre and not just sequels to old classics.)

Then you should definitely keep an eye on Telltale towards the end of the year as they are currently developing Jurassic Park & Back to the Future games and I would imagine that their Pilot Program (which so far has produced Nelson Tethers) will be continuing as well.

Lissar:
I have to admit, even today point-and-click adventures remain my favorite genre (although I'll admit that a lot of this love can be chalked up to nostalgia value.) When they're good, I think they're REALLY good, but unfortunately when they're bad they can been some of the most mind-numbingly frustrating games of all time.

That is to say, I love them when the puzzles have logical answers. Perhaps not entirely obvious ones, but logical nonetheless. I can't stand them when they have illogical answers. Answers so strange that they only might be stumbled upon by trying every possible option with everything else and spending hours wandering around doing things without actually having a concrete reason for doing them.

I think Yahtzee alluded to his adventure-game beginnings in his review of "The Darkness", when he was trying to rub the car on the grate with his tentacles to escape the graveyard... which is what your comment reminded me of.

If adventure games are brought back, it'd be nice to make them a little more user-friendly. list acceptable verbs so we can tell what command might work without having to beat our heads in with hammers in frustration trying to find the one verb that will work in this situation. Also, graphics do not matter as much as the fact that the game must be FUN TO PLAY. Not 70 hours of teeth-grinding frustration. In-game hints would be great- perhaps varied levels of hints so you can choose what level of help you need from vague hint all the way up to "do this", or "here, you idiot."

IF they would make something actually new, I would propably like it. What I've seen so far are sequels to dekade-old franchises Instead of new characters and stories.

The newer Monkey Island episodes were not bad as games per se, but I got tired of the same characters over and over again and even felt a bit betrayed as

Good article, thanks for pointing out where I can find some good adventure games.

As far as the Adventure game puzzles go, I heard people complain about the puzzles, but I enjoyed most of the dream logic/acid trip puzzles as long as they were relevant to the game's narrative. That was the beauty of it; the interactive thinking brought you more into the game's world. (I'm not talking about frustrations like using the wrong keyword, that's the down side of giving the player complete control of text input.)

Silent Hill 1 and 2 had puzzles that were bizzare, but had solutions that made since in the context of the game's narrative. Harry was confronted with puzzles involving his little girl's imagination. James had puzzles revolving around his guilt. These puzzles gave me more emeresion into the game's world.

Then Silent Hill 3 got a little out there and some of the puzzles couldn't make since even with context. There was one puzzle in the mall about reordering Shakespeare books and your only clue was a convoluted poem. I read the official strategy guide and the solution required me to know about some pop-culture Japanese retelling of Macbeth. How am I going to know that as an American, and what does that have anything to do with Heather, an American teenager, escaping a mall? Then they just stopped trying with 4 and 5.

Dammit, Shamus, you're making me want to play King's Quest VI again. Other than that, good article. Hopefully Telltale will be able to entice more developers to start bringing back the "adventure game" genre.

Sorry, but I don't see how Telltale "reivents" the genre.

Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Gabriel Knight, Sam & Max, Monkey Island. Throughout the '90s, these franchises were as much a fixture of gaming as Lara Croft, Metroid, and Sonic are now. And about as variable in terms of quality. The problem was that adventure games didn't age well or evolve fast enough. Gamers were coming to realize that random "gotcha" deaths weren't all that fun. And while everyone loves a good puzzle, not even the most die-hard adventure game fans enjoy getting stuck for six hours because they were typing "PUT MAYONNAISE ON MINOTAUR" instead of "USE MAYONNAISE WITH MINOTAUR."

None of these criticisms apply to Sam&Max, Monkey Island or any of the Lucas Arts adventures. The stupid deaths were Sierra's hallmark and the text parsers had disappeared in the 90s.

Ron Gilbert removed all that crap from the genre with Monkey Island and all the LA adventure games that followed were great.
I don't see the Tellgame games as anything other than a continuation in the LA tradition.

Towels:
Good article, thanks for pointing out where I can find some good adventure games.

As far as the Adventure game puzzles go, I heard people complain about the puzzles, but I enjoyed most of the dream logic/acid trip puzzles as long as they were relevant to the game's narrative. That was the beauty of it; the interactive thinking brought you more into the game's world. (I'm not talking about frustrations like using the wrong keyword, that's the down side of giving the player complete control of text input.)

Silent Hill 1 and 2 had puzzles that were bizzare, but had solutions that made since in the context of the game's narrative. Harry was confronted with puzzles involving his little girl's imagination. James had puzzles revolving around his guilt. These puzzles gave me more emeresion into the game's world.

Then Silent Hill 3 got a little out there and some of the puzzles couldn't make since even with context. There was one puzzle in the mall about reordering Shakespeare books and your only clue was a convoluted poem. I read the official strategy guide and the solution required me to know about some pop-culture Japanese retelling of Macbeth. How am I going to know that as an American, and what does that have anything to do with Heather, an American teenager, escaping a mall? Then they just stopped trying with 4 and 5.

You could solve that puzzle by just knowing the plots of the plays. You didn't need to know that Kurosawa's Throne of blood was based on MacBeth. I would hardly call Kurosawa an obscure part of Japaneses pop culture. His 7 Seven Samurai was turned into the The Magnificent Seven by Hollywood. Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress has been acknowledged by George Lucas as a major influence on the first star wars film. A fist full of dollars was almost a shot by shot remake of Yojimbo. In addition he also directed the Japanese segments of Tora! Tora! Tora! for 20th Century Fox.

However it does point out one the problems with adventure games is that what one groups think as common knowledge isn't necessarily known by everyone. Which makes them a lot less accessible than rpgs and fps. They have make assumptions about the target markets knowledge levels, pitch it to high you frustrate most players. Pitch it to low and it becomes too easy and players feel they have been short changed

absoletely my opinion, there is not one single reason I'd play adventure games, se I'll keep missin Black mirror, machinarium, fahrenheit, A Vampyre story or monkey island itself(I only did Polda 3 in childhood because it was from my country)

veloper:
Sorry, but I don't see how Telltale "reivents" the genre.

Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Gabriel Knight, Sam & Max, Monkey Island. Throughout the '90s, these franchises were as much a fixture of gaming as Lara Croft, Metroid, and Sonic are now. And about as variable in terms of quality. The problem was that adventure games didn't age well or evolve fast enough. Gamers were coming to realize that random "gotcha" deaths weren't all that fun. And while everyone loves a good puzzle, not even the most die-hard adventure game fans enjoy getting stuck for six hours because they were typing "PUT MAYONNAISE ON MINOTAUR" instead of "USE MAYONNAISE WITH MINOTAUR."

None of these criticisms apply to Sam&Max, Monkey Island or any of the Lucas Arts adventures. The stupid deaths were Sierra's hallmark and the text parsers had disappeared in the 90s.

Ron Gilbert removed all that crap from the genre with Monkey Island and all the LA adventure games that followed were great.
I don't see the Tellgame games as anything other than a continuation in the LA tradition.

The shorter, cheaper episodes of episodic content, built-in hint system, point-n-click (instead of verb based). Other differences as well, I'm sure.

Like I said in the article, they changes everything that wasn't part of the core fun. With Lucasarts, they didn't need to change as much because those games were already dang good.

Adventure games have always held a special place in my heart, especially the monkey island series (and grim fandango). Reading this article makes sam and max season 3, oh so more tempting.

I'm sorry, I just don't find the new games funny. The voice actors and writing for Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle, and the Tex Murphy games were just spot on. I think it was the constraints the game developers were under that help spark creativity, because when the graphics were bad, they had to make up for it with the jokes. Good trade-off, I think everyone will agree. These days, graphics are better, but the writing really doesn't seem as funny (at least, not in a laugh out loud way).

Still, the new helper functions in game and actual puzzles are much better. Just, no good jokes! All subjective though, isn't it?

for anyone looking for more great, new adventure games.. deffs check out jolly rover.
last week it won best australian game at freeplay. !
http://www.brawsome.com.au/JollyRover/

Damn shamus you must running on empty trying to do all the things you have to do, Spoiler warning, running twenty sided, this, and all of the other stufff that I'm sure I left out. Most people probably couldn't do that.

True, they have done some good work bringing adventure games back into the spotlight, though their audience is still relatively small unfortunately. Now if only some of the other studios would start looking into them again, surely Lucasarts has noticed how well the MI re-releases have done, if they got back on the adventure wagon there could be some amazing stuff coming out again.

On a side note - The description for Wallace and Grommit The Last Resort on the telltale page made me laugh with its unintentional innuendo. (Look up what bonking means in Britian)

I don't agree about the reasons behind the fall. Text parser had disappeared entirely from adventure games by 1990, same for dead-ends and cheap death several years later. The problem of the adventure genre was the turmoil that were the years 1997-2001 on PC.

First it coincides with the rise of the internet and a complete change in demographics, before 1997, only nerds with passion for solving puzzles owned computers, starting in 1997 everyone needed a computer but not everyone liked to solve puzzles.

Also, 1997-2001 were the golden or silver age of many genres:
RPG (Fallout 1-2, Baldur Gates 1-2, Planescape Torment, Land Of Lore 2, Diablo 1-2, FF7)
RTS (C&C2, RA2, Total Annihilation, Starcraft, Dark Reign, AoE and all its imitators)
FPS (Half-Life, System Shock 2, Deus Ex and so many other games)
turn based strategy (Jagged Alliance 2, Heroes of Might and Magic 2-3 and the Civ games that made a come back)
Stealth games (Thief 1-2, Metal Gear Solid, Commandos)
Racing games which got a whole lot better when 3D came around

My dad, his friend, my cousin and I were all adventure games junkies. If you checked the games we bought, back in 1991-1996, more than half of it would have consisted of adventure games. Starting in 1997, adventure games consisted of less than 10%, thanks to all these genres becoming awesome overnight.

Then you got the multiplayer factor, something adventure games could never wrap themselves around. Before 1997, multiplayer meant hotseat games or knowing someone else who owned a computer and the game in RL. With the internet, finding other players became extremely trivial.

Combine all these factors, in the same period of time, and you spell the death of adventure games.

As for the main reason behind TTG's success, like you said, they discovered the central source of entertainment cames in the form of verbal feedback. Before Telltale Games came around, adventure games were still being made, but most followed the Myst puzzle loving euro brunette formula or the FBI/Scotland Yard agent tracking down the Jack the Ripper copycat for the Nth time formula, formulas which tend to be dead serious, while what most adventure games fans wanted were humorous games in the same vein as Monkey Island or Day Of The Tentacle, games where, even when you were stuck, you'd still had fun thanks to all the funny verbal feedback.

Edit: Various edits and rewording.

I remember those days...I forget which King's Quest it was, but it was the one where you were eaten by the whale. You had a certain amount of time to climb the whale's tongue, and use a feather in your inventory to tickle the whale's uvula. The issue was that if any part of you touched the wrong pixel of tongue while climbing, your stupid ass would fall back down, and you would have to start again. It was a terribly precise path up the tongue you had to follow, otherwise it was back into the floor of the mouth, where you would suffer death if you fell far enough. Between things like that and the highly specific commands, they wore down on me. Still haven't decided if I'll look into the new Monkey Island games yet.

I'm surprised you didn't mention Myst's influence on the genre. It was a heavy influence in popularizing the AFGNCAAP and the "collecting diary pages" tropes.

blueskirt:
I don't agree about the reasons behind the fall. Text parser had disappeared entirely from adventure games by 1990, same for dead-ends and cheap death several years later. The problem of the adventure genre was the turmoil that were the years 1997-2001 on PC.

First it coincides with the rise of the internet and a complete change in demographics, before 1997, only nerds with passion for solving puzzles owned computers, starting in 1997 everyone needed a computer but not everyone liked to solve puzzles.

Also, 1997-2001 were the golden or silver age of many genres:
RPG (Fallout 1-2, Baldur Gates 1-2, Planescape Torment, Land Of Lore 2, Diablo 1-2, FF7)
RTS (C&C2, RA2, Total Annihilation, Starcraft, Dark Reign, AoE and all its imitators)
FPS (Half-Life, System Shock 2, Deus Ex and so many other games)
turn based strategy (Jagged Alliance 2, Heroes of Might and Magic 2-3 and the Civ games that made a come back)
Stealth games (Thief 1-2, Metal Gear Solid, Commandos)
Racing games which got a whole lot better when 3D came around

My dad, his friend, my cousin and I were all adventure games junkies. If you checked the games we bought, back in 1991-1996, more than half of it would have consisted of adventure games. Starting in 1997, it consisted of less than 10%, thanks to all these genres becoming awesome overnight.

Then you got the multiplayer factor, something adventure games could never wrap themselves around. Before 1997, multiplayer meant hotseat games or knowing someone else who owned a computer and the game in RL. With the internet, finding other players became extremely trivial.

Combine all these factors, in the same period of time, and you spell the death of adventure games.

As for the main reason behind TTG's success, like you said, they discovered the central source of entertainment cames in the form of verbal feedback. Before Telltale Games came around, adventure games were still being made, but most followed the Myst puzzle loving euro brunette formula or the FBI/Scotland Yard agent tracking down the Jack the Ripper copycat for the Nth time formula, formulas which tend to be dead serious, while what most adventure games fans wanted were humorous games in the same vein as Monkey Island or Day Of The Tentacle, games where, even when you were stuck, you'd still had fun thanks to all the funny verbal feedback.

Edit: Various edits and rewording.

Best first time post I ever read on thses boards. Welcome!

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