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There is a curious phenomenon in today's gaming community: second (and third) generation gamers are outnumbering the old-school gamers, leading the industry to be moulded around the youth. This leaves the direction of gaming at the whim of a generation who does not understand or appreciate the roots of gaming. Old gamers all remember the days when adventure games were loved and cherished, but today this genre is nearly non-existent due to the younger generation's lack of appreciation and desire for the genre. Where have adventure games gone, and do they have a place in the future?
In answering this question I will investigate the following topics: the history of the adventure genre, game mechanics and its impact, possible reasons for the "dying out" of this genre and today's market. I will end off with a list of recommended adventure games.
In today's gaming market we have seen the trend that the majority of games appear on PC as well as multiple consoles (cross-platform games generate more income). There are highly successful PC-only game (for example Blizzard games), although they are few and far between. Adventure games however, were in demand at a time when mdoern gaming was still in its infancy, and they were released as PC-only games. The first generation of adventure games involved typed commands and later the UI evolved.
Sierra was famous for a few series of adventure games; namely, King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. They released their first major adventure game, King's Quest 1, in 1984 on the PC. To put this in perspective, the NES was released in 1985. Players had to input text commands in Kings Quest and could move around with the arrow keys. By 1985 the first point-and-click adventure games emerged. Around this time there was a large following for these games amongst the PC gamer community.
Sierra's adventure games were greatly improved by the "point-and-click" interface, and the adventure genre became more accessible. Lucasarts came onto the scene making greatly popular point-and-click adventures around this time. This was the golden era for adventure games and they gathered a really strong cult-like following. There UI developments change from point-and-click to keyboard-controlled interaction, most notable implemented in LucasArts' Grim Fandango, although this has no real relevance to this topic.By 2000 however both Sierra and LucasArts had stopped producing these games due to a lack of consumer demand.
Interestingly I feel that the development of 3D graphics was also a contributing factor to the downfall of adventure games. As soon as 3D started becoming mainstream there was a strong desire to play games that were 3D, and anything less was overlooked. The adventure games struggled to offer an improved experience from the use of 3D, although Grim Fandango was a success in this era. Sonic, for example, has never seen the same kind of success as a 3D game, although the Metroid series was successful when releasing Metroid Prime. We can see in 2 situations how moving to 3D can either add to, or take away from, the successful aspects of the game.
Today, game developers make games that can be fun for the majority of gamers to increase profits and sales. In a way they want to make games as comfortable to play as possible. We can see this in many games. A rather extreme example of this is Prince of Persia 2008, where you cannot die and controls are over simplified. We can even see how in Dragon Age 2, the game was simplified for most players, leaving the hardcore RPG fans bittern. We are seeing the simplification of controls all over the place, as well as the reduced effects of dying (like always respawning very close to where you died). Adventure games do not fit into this trend, they can be hard even for veteran games, as there are puzzles that you might not figure out, and trying over and over again does not help.
The first wave of adventure games, which had the text-based input commands, are notorious for their difficulty. Most gamers would be forced to use a walk-through often as it was very difficult to figure out what to do as player's would have to type "look" to find significant items. There were many opportunities to die and you could often get stuck without a possible way to move forward (leaving you to load a previous save). In today's gaming world, games are designed in such a way that you cannot get to a point in a game without the required items to ensure a smoothly progressing experience, but the old days were not so forgiving. I vividly remember getting to a point in Space Quest (quite close to the end) when I realised a needed an item from the beginning of the game that I forgot to pick up, causing frustration that would not be accepted by today's standard.
Luckily with the advent of point-and-click adventures, things got more forgiving. You were more easily able to interact with and see the environment, and the games were designed more with the usability in mind. Adventure games improved with technology but eventually they became stale.
These days, good games should challenge gamers, but ideally without over-frustrating them. The problem with adventure games is, if you don't see the solution to a puzzle you hit a brick wall, super frustration. And that can always lead to the trap of over-using the walk-through and therefore degrading the gaming experience. This can never be undone, once you know the solution you cannot get the fun of solving it back. Today's gamers are not used to a game treating like that! Adventure games test the players brain, a thing that is now percieved as frustrating than fun.
These aspects of adventure games has possibly led to its loss in following, but is there a place for this genre in the future? Recently LucasArts made re-makes of Monkey Island 1 and 2, which were, to my understanding, successful games. They added a hint system for when players got stuck, which gave progressively more detailed hints allowing the game to flow more smoothly. This game, since it was retro, was considerably cheaper than full-scale commercial games making it more accessable. Telltale games has also made a handful of popular adventure games, also relatively cheap. Unfortunately none of the new adventure games have had enough widespread following to be amongst the top releases..
If anything recent games have proven there is a market for adventure games, although they would probably be more viable as indie games as they provide a limited experience. Today's market needs more versatile games, games which offer fuller experiences. Genres are being bred to satisfy gamers, we often see First-Person, Role-Playing and Story-Line intensive hybrids. This genre died because it no longer fits and is long past its sell-by date. I do not think however that we have seen the end of adventure games. Gamers are hungry for change, and variety is met with much excitement and support. Soon we will see a new direction in gaming and adventure is a perfect fit. VIVA ADVENTURE: tried and tested, but not done-to-death.... lets see this genre get added to the mix to create a new and fresh ****of game-play. Anyone for a First-Person, RPG adventure? Or a third person action adventure?Advised Adventure Games
Advised Adventure Games
Leisure Suit Larry 1-7
Kings Quest 1-7
Space Quest 1-6
Police Quest Collection
Eco Quest 1 & 2
Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azemuth
- Monkey Island 1-4
- Monkey Island 1 & 2 Special Edition
- Full Throttle
- Day of the Tentacle
- The Dig
- Indiana Jones
- Sam & Max Hit the Road
Tell Tale Games
- Monkey Island 5
- Sam & Max Hit the Road
- The Neverhood
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