The Rise, Fall and Rise of Adventure Games

 Pages PREV 1 2
 

Don't mean to spoil your fun Shamus, but if I recall correctly Destructoid has been reviewing Tell Tale Games' adventures for a while now, and they've been giving them rather low, almost abysmal scores most of the time.

Even as a hardcore PC gamer since the days of TIE Fighter, Jane's F-15, and Dune 2, I occasionally take issue with your takes on PC games of old. So, I came into this article half-expecting that you'd blame the decline of adventure games on the dumbing down of the gaming audience rather than the faults of the genre and its developers. That said, I was pleased that you correctly identified that it was the conservative approach the game design that led to its demise (such a tenuous grasp on causality).

However, the Emperor of Mankind and the hardcore Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 player in me take offense that you use the term "Space Marine" too lightly. In the future, please make a distinction between "Space Marines" and the legions of copies of the "Colonial Marines" of the Alien movies.

Shamous, if you still like the Genre you have to play the two games from the German studi Daedalic, The Whispered World and Edna & Harvey: The Breakout. I'm not sure if Edna is availabe in English yet, but I think you can get TWW over steam.

You'l probably get a lot of gaming recommendations, but those two games are the best Adventures I've played in a decade and that includes the games from Telltale.

I.E.D.:
Don't mean to spoil your fun Shamus, but if I recall correctly Destructoid has been reviewing Tell Tale Games' adventures for a while now, and they've been giving them rather low, almost abysmal scores most of the time.

Destructoid writes silly-ass articles like this, so I don't think they're much of a reference point.

Some people seem to have stopped playing adventure games waaaaaaaaaaaay ago. I started playing computer games with adventure games (Gabriel Knight: sins of the fathers, to be precise) and I've never ever bumped into a text parser. At all. Today the interaction is mediated by two or three action icons (usually variations of "examine", "use" and "take"). Pixel hunt is no more in recent years as most include some way to reveal hotspots, a lot include some sort of internal hint system, etc. etc. All those niggles...gone. Bizarre logic will still be there, but then again each genre has their own set of annoying core tropes (like RPGs and RTS) that never ever seem to go away and we're still buying them, no?

If anyone got interested by the article, I suggest you jump over to www.adventuregamers.com, browse the site, and check out some reviews. While a lot of games are rather mediocre (at best) there's a lot being done that's interesting. What's better is that in adventure games you get a vastly greater diversity of plots, characters and tone, that you see in other genres. That's a good point right there if you feel your gaming experiencies have become stale.

As for this:

blueskirt:

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.

I profoundly disagree that most adventure gamers just want humor. It that were true, Gabriel Knight, The Longest Journey, Syberia, Still Life, Black Mirror, Overclocked, etc. etc....wouldn't have the recognition they have in the adventure gaming community. I'd even venture to put Heavy Rain into that category. While LucasArts where the masters of humor back when they did something more than Star Wars, I really don't think their success was because the audience just wants humor. They were successful because they made very good, high quality, polished games. It's just that the genre they delved into was humor. Even Grim Fandango side steps goofy, light-hearted humor and goes fully into black humor and irony.

PS: I am eagerly awaiting Grey Matter, a game by Gabriel Knight's Jane Jensen that's taken way too long to arrive due to several development tragedy stories. You should too.

EDIT: some rewording

shiajun:
I profoundly disagree that most adventure gamers just want humor. It that were true, Gabriel Knight, The Longest Journey, Syberia, Still Life, Black Mirror, Overclocked, etc... wouldn't have the recognition they have in the adventure gaming community. I'd even venture to put Heavy Rain into that category.

I loved GK and Broken Sword 1, I found TLJ too wordy for my taste, Syberia was completely devoid of verbal feedback with its dozens of empty rooms containing 2 exits and nothing to interact with, as for Still Life, it ruined its chance with its infamous Cookie Recipe puzzle, and the chances of many other recent and serious adventure games which I didn't play because I was still disgusted from playing Still Life.

"Most" was probably not the right word to use, "Many" would have been more accurate. There are several kinds of adventure games fans, some are there for the humor, others are there for a well writen story, others are there for the puzzles, some liked Myst, some didn't, some liked TLJ, some didn't, some are still playing and making interactive fictions, others are damn glad Ron Gilbert came and revolutioned the adventure game formula with Monkey Island...

There is indeed a market for serious adventure games, but you cannot deny the ratio of light-hearted or humorous adventure games versus serious ones used to be 5:1 twenty years ago and five years ago it was 1:10, and if you happened to play adventure games for the humor and all those humorous messages hidden in every interactions with the objects around you, you were starving up until the former LucasArts employees got their shows running with Telltale Games and company.

That said, I think the most important thing to remember here is, humorous or not, verbal feedback is important, it was present in GK, BASS, Grim Fandango, Monkey Island or Leisure Suit Larry, it has been missing in many adventure games recently, and it is something I am glad Telltale put back in the limelight.

Agiel7:

However, the Emperor of Mankind and the hardcore Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 player in me take offense that you use the term "Space Marine" too lightly. In the future, please make a distinction between "Space Marines" and the legions of copies of the "Colonial Marines" of the Alien movies.

I agree with that, being a fan of the entire Dawn of War series I hate it when people say things like "thivk brained space marines" with things like Gears of War and Halo in their minds. Warhammer 40K Space Marines are a lot different to armoured power suit sldiers in games like GoW and Halo. Especially considering W40K Space Marines tarted off mostly as all strategy games, so its stupid to call them stupid shooters.

It's odd, just looking at the date on this, literally the day before this came out I bought a bunch of Telltale Games stuff. The reason I love games like this is that I'm really sick of macho, angry, serious bullshit. Don't get me wrong, when Gears 3 comes out I'll be first in line, but I've been waiting years for just some fun games. The Overlord series provided me with a few good laughs but it's really hard to walk into a shop and find a light hearted game (I don't mean casual necessarily I mean funny/entertaining/unique). PS 1 is still probably my favourite overall console because of Abe's Odyssey, Medievil and other great funny, quirky games. So as well as saving adventure games they're also saving light hearted entertainment in videogames.

While I normally agree with this guy, he's dead wrong about the death of adventure games. They had evolved past both the random deaths gimmick and the issues of what to type in (with the point and click interface) years before the genre died. Even pixel hunting wasn't an issue towards the end. People just started demanding more visceral games.

"What are we going to do, review one-fifth of a game every month for five months?"
Here in the Netherlands, that is exactly how the best selling game magazine did it.
And they just cranked out more pages to also fit screens of Silly BloodFest VIII: The Murdering

Shamus Young:
"The genre is typified by gameplay where you WALK around, LOOK at STUFF, TAKE STUFF, and USE STUFF, which sounds more like a garage sale than an adventure."

Hahaha! You forgot the part about most garage sales being more successful the last few attempts at adventure games! :P

Great article. I'd almost forgotten this genre existed. Now I'm off to play Day of the Tentacle again.

Hector : Badge of Carnage has re-invented the point and click genre for the iPhone and iPod Touch. If you are a fan of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle then you should check out the game that has been called the best original adventure game on the App Store.
Go to www.thehectorfiles.tv for more information.

im just going to concede that im a shallow gamer and all i want is mindless fun :P

though i've been really getting into ARPG (ie, ME, BL, BS, DA, FO)

Was it a King's Quest game where you had to knock a troll off the path in front of you by throwing a bag of peas at it's head? After spending an ungodly amount of time trying and dieing to pass that bottleneck, only to find such an annoyingly nonsensical solution, I quit "adventure" gaming on the spot and have never returned. Adventure gaming, you can go straight to hell!

DLC & downloadable games released in series really are under-served in the reviews categories in mags (online and off). I may be showing my newbitude, but I don't think there is a column or feature on the Escapist that regularly reviews these sorts of releases. It's all just one-shot reviews of DLC/series games or analyzing some press release or news story about it. I know I'd like to see a regularly featured column that sort of digests the month's upcoming DLC & WiiWare/PSN/XBL games, and reviews what's recently come out. I'm not suggesting a full on in depth review (except where warranted), but something like a Downloader's Digest, perhaps. I've pulled back on my purchases of these types of games & DLC, mostly because they're impulse buys and don't always seem to be worth the money I drop on it - rather hit-or-miss. I wind up partaking of just the much-talked-about games/DLC (like Limbo), but I miss out on some good stuff because I haven't heard much good or bad about it and so I skip it entirely. (In fact, I almost totally skipped on Limbo until I saw the Sackboy LBP homage to it.)

blueskirt:

shiajun:
snip

I loved GK and Broken Sword 1, I found TLJ too wordy for my taste, Syberia was completely devoid of verbal feedback with its dozens of empty rooms containing 2 exits and nothing to interact with, as for Still Life, it ruined its chance with its infamous Cookie Recipe puzzle, and the chances of many other recent and serious adventure games which I didn't play because I was still disgusted from playing Still Life.

"Most" was probably not the right word to use, "Many" would have been more accurate. There are several kinds of adventure games fans, some are there for the humor, others are there for a well writen story, others are there for the puzzles, some liked Myst, some didn't, some liked TLJ, some didn't, some are still playing and making interactive fictions, others are damn glad Ron Gilbert came and revolutioned the adventure game formula with Monkey Island...

There is indeed a market for serious adventure games, but you cannot deny the ratio of light-hearted or humorous adventure games versus serious ones used to be 5:1 twenty years ago and five years ago it was 1:10, and if you happened to play adventure games for the humor and all those humorous messages hidden in every interactions with the objects around you, you were starving up until the former LucasArts employees got their shows running with Telltale Games and company.

That said, I think the most important thing to remember here is, humorous or not, verbal feedback is important, it was present in GK, BASS, Grim Fandango, Monkey Island or Leisure Suit Larry, it has been missing in many adventure games recently, and it is something I am glad Telltale put back in the limelight.

I don't know about the ratio....I was only five 20 years ago :-) I have to agree though, there seemed to be a great deal of effort spent on being fun rather than gritty. This hunger you mention, I guess that's the valve Telltale managed to open again, and started to satiate all those years of abandonement. Humor is probably the hardest thing to do right, and it takes really talented people and good ideas to pull if off, so maybe that's why it took so long to get it right again. I just wish someone would do it for other subgenres, since so-so games with very good ideas and atrocious design implementations seem to be the norm now.

While Telltale might have had the episodic idea first (in the context of this genre), putting all the credit for revitalizing graphic adventure games (which btw is a more precise title for this genre), is a bit too much, I would say.

At the end of the 90s, a new wave of graphic adventure games started coming out with emphasis on good writing, scenic graphics and a step away from cheap deaths and pixelhunts. The Longest Journey, while not a great seller initially, soon grew a good following shortly after it's release in 1999. Syberia won a few "best Adventure Games" awards when it was released in 2002, and a sequel was out only 2 years later. TLJ also gained a sequel eventually, though to mixed reception. I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. By contrast, Telltale started publishing in 2005.

So while Telltale certainly did some good things, they didn't quite revitalize the genre alone; it was already recovering.

It's astonishing how well they brought the Homestar Runner / Strong Bad characters to video game life. Telltale's Strong Bad series are some of the funniest games I've ever played (I am a big fan of the original Strong Bad emails, so your sense of humor may vary).

The puzzles aren't hard, but they're fun, and are a good excuse to explore the crazy worlds and stories.

GhostLad:
So while Telltale certainly did some good things, they didn't quite revitalize the genre alone; it was already recovering.

Yes, this.

And where is the love for all the little indie adventure games? The ones like Machinarium which was witty and beautiful and died a horrible death from a 90% piracy rate.

UtopiaV1:
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?

That would make sense, if you know, the Original Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle actually looked bad. Having just played (for the nth time) Sam & Max Hit the Road recently, I can honestly say that it is without a doubt stylistically perfect. Without asking the team behind it themselves, I can't say how much the technology they had to use shaped how they made the game, but, that I don't think it matters what that tech was, as the same guys could probably create the same experience using the engine the modern S&M games run on.

I find the same problem with games like Crysis, and fail see to why they bother with pumping money into the graphics at all if they aren't going to present anything memorable stylistically or aesthetically.

GoodApprentice:
Was it a King's Quest game where you had to knock a troll off the path in front of you by throwing a bag of peas at it's head? After spending an ungodly amount of time trying and dieing to pass that bottleneck, only to find such an annoyingly nonsensical solution, I quit "adventure" gaming on the spot and have never returned. Adventure gaming, you can go straight to hell!

It was a pie I believe. Yeah...

lanoger:
And where is the love for all the little indie adventure games? The ones like Machinarium which was witty and beautiful and died a horrible death from a 90% piracy rate.

No. No it did not. Why does everyone believe the 90% piracy rate means they went bankrupt? All you've been told is the piracy rate, you've never been told the number of copies they sold. They sold 17 000 copies in a single week-end and trust me, with all the indie bundles and steam sales it's been in, they certainly sold much more over the entire year it's been released.

Yes, the 90% piracy rate is horrible but stop believing they're starving artists.

Telltale rocks! Final episode of Sam and Max S3 out in a few days! *squee*

Telltale does display the ability to learn from their past experiences and we can see it in the new features that cut away the minutia of adventure games. After playing S2 where they implemented running (Hooray!), I almost died waiting for Sam to walk through the TV Studio replaying S1.

Also, it should be said that the Sam and Max music is awesome.

Ahh, Monkey Island. I loved you when you first came out. I loved you when LucasArts re-released you in HD. I loved you when TellTale Games made you into a new and exciting adventure. And I will love you again when I download Monkey Island 2 Special Edition.

Great article. Long live the genre.

as someone who has his credit card information with Telltale Games, I approve of this article.

Sorry to nitpick, but while I love Sam and Max Hit the Road I don't think you can honestly describe one game as "a classic 90s adventure game franchise." Though I am glad Telltale has done such remarkable things with the fellows in the new millenium.

Good adventure games are in some ways like good comedy: the best of it is always jogging along right next to the player, neither running ahead and congratulating itself on how smart it is compared to the feeble intellect of the audience nor walking behind aiming for the lowest common denominator. In both comedy and adventure games, it's the "Oh, I see where you're going with this now- Ha!" payoff that makes it worth the following. It's not the easiest beam to walk, and I'll grant that Telltale (and LucasArts and Sierra before them) have made great strides in making it easier.

*puts on elitist hat*

Pshhh. Monkey Island? You call that an adventure game? The heathen creation has graphics! No true adventure game would ever stoop to such lows.

*takes off elitist hat*

Yes, I'm an old-school Zork/ADVENT/LGoP/Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan, why do you ask? :D

I used to love games like Monkey Island and the broken sword series. But the golden area ended with Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey.

A few other good adventure games came after. The Runaway series and the new Broken Sword games come to mind.

But these days telltale games are indeed great value for their money. I bought the entire package in a steam deal for €50. So far I've played the first two Sam & Max seasons. Well worth anyones time and I still have the Monkey Island games to go through.

I would also like to mention that the adventure genre never died. THe genre remained popular in Germany where a dozen adventure games are still being made each year. The quality does vary quite a bit of course.

Well monkey island and sam and max are hardly the only great Adventure games out there.

They are more selling on the nostalgia sence of people then anything.

The genres always been around in some way or form so it never died, just something the popular Games media dreamed up imo.

The greatest Adventure game in history according to score reviews seems to be The Longest Journey. All i really know it's massive and has alot of funny dialogue.

Culpa Innata is a game i recently picked up and its just a treat of a adventure game. It's on steam.

albino boo:

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.

My bad, I apologize for calling it obscure pop culture. I did not remember what play was quoted, really, and I didn't realize it was by Kurosawa. I would have debated that not many Americans like the main character would know about Kurosawa, but now I realize that's just an excuse for ignorance.

My point should have been that the puzzle was about a British playwright, in an American setting, involving a Japanese clue (according to the offical strategy guide). That's quite a mouthful of culture there, and at first it didn't seem to relavent to Heather. But after giving it more thought, I can see how a grizzly tale of usurpation could be related to her.

And if you really didn't require knowledge of Kurosawa, then I guess my example isn't very good anyways. Thanks for the info.

Sam and Max Season One and the first few episodes of Season Two were still pretty annoying since they either didn't have a hint system or when they did and Max was giving you the hint, they made NO sense whatsoever since they were coming from "Max". Also, some of the puzzles were so convoluted (specifically that one with the moai heads and the fountain of youth) even when Max was giving what was supposed to be a hint it made absolutely no sense what you were supposed to do. The newest Sam and Max I've played (never completed it, I was playing it at a friends place on his Wii) was that Vampire one from Season 2 and Telltale had VASTLY improved the hint system. Either that or they stopped making overly convoluted puzzles.

I had to use a guide to complete the very last puzzle from Season One since I had no idea what I was supposed to do and the actual solution made no logical sense. Since this was the culmination of everything in the game, it made the credits sequence and the final resolution mean absolutely nothing to me and watching it made me feel sick.

 Pages PREV 1 2

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here