A guide to create the ideal adventure game

Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 09 July 1999. Last updated on 11 December 2008.
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What is an ideal adventure game? The answer to this question has eluded adventure game designers, developers, and players. Many so-called adventure games of today have blurred the line that, in the past, has so clearly defined the adventure genre of yesteryear. Recently, I have taken an interest in the issue, mostly to see if it is possible to reestablish this missing line. The goal of this…

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Brilliant! I could not have put it better myself.

Australia By Nicholas Nicholls • On 28 November 2011 • From Perth, Australia

Very Good

Good work! A very good article.

I would like to add something about saving the game:

Ideally, the player would save the game only when he/she have to take a pause and exit the game. Saving too often, sometimes breaks the game's atmosphere, reminding you of tech menus and your file system. I wouldn't mind the idea of integrating the process into the game's world, if possible. Like asking your companion character or avatar to do it.

And if it's a scary game, where you can even die, saving every minute, it just makes you too comfortable. It's better for the game to auto-save at a decent distance. I enjoyed the save-points system in horror game "The Thing", even if it was an action game, but it kept me very tense.

Sometimes a limited number of saves, can restrict the player, making him think twice before using a save slot.

Anyway, there's always the fear of game crashes, or unexpected death or bad designed puzzles leading to dead ends with the need to restore and replay from a valid situation... I hate to admit but, I do use the save feature too much.


Another thing I'd like to point, is the need of a practical guide, with the same theme as this article. That would be very useful. Something like how known games handle different aspects of the adventure gender. What was good and what was bad. All by examples. Maybe even more articles with more specific subject. Like "Door puzzles" in adventure games, or "Character development" and so on.

Of course one can read lots of reviews, but I'm thinking of something put together.

Again, great job wit the article.

Romania By Alexandru Simion • On 28 May 2008 • From Somewhere

Very Good

A very interesting article and a good discussion on the core elements of adventure games, without limiting the genre to pure text adventures. It is currently recommended reading for my students at Adam Smith College who study 'Interactive Fiction' as part of their multimedia course.

Great Britain (UK) By Colin Maxwell • On 14 February 2007 • From UK


I have two concepts of role-playing. The first is where you are an actor in a largely predetermined script, with limitted choices concerning the overall plot, assuming you want to complete the game to its conclusion. As far as I know, all solo crpg's fall into this category. The second is a virtual world without much if any prescripted story, where the characters are behaving as they choose, and you can choose to participate in whatever way suits you. The original ultima online was a lot like that, but real players made it 'live'. I would like to see more effort to make virtual worlds and npcs 'live'.

If npcs appeared to fill basic needs for survival (drinking, eating, rest), recreation, socialization, materialism and aspirations, and made choices based on aptitudes, interests and personality traits, it would be a start. There would also have to be a functioning economy and legal system, advancement in hierarchies, memories and communication that actually allowed basic forms of all the same ways that people interact. There would also have to be the ability to obtain resources and manipulate them, if only in pre-programmed ways. A balance has to be struck between realism and the limitations of technology, obviously.

Until such approaches are attempted, we have to settle for face-to-face role-playing or fairly linear, scripted games that are heavily combat-oriented.

United States By Paul • On 19 July 2006 • From Houston, Texas, USA


While agreeing with the content of this article, I am surprised there was no mention of what tools are available to assist in creating your own adventure. For example, Inform has a very distinguished background, providing all the capabilities you need to produce games of considerable sophistication and originality. Note I have no connection with anyone connected with its development; I am just a fan of the product!

Great Britain (UK) By Robert Gomersall • On 26 May 2006 • From Ely, UK


What you have here, sir, is what people in the Philosophy world call a "Phenomenology," which is best defined as a philisophical writing on a specific topic based on the writer's experience with that topic. Phenomenologies have been written on almost every topic under the sun, including Horror, Love, Passion, Hate, Idolatry, Religion, the Essence of Living...the list goes on. You, sir, have just added to the pile with your Phenomenology on Adventure Games. Good work!

United States By Kurdt • On 16 May 2006 • From Houston, TX, USA

Having just read and agreed with your article, I just would like to add one thing - what adventure games AREN'T - they aren't fighting games. If there is violence depicted, it occurs before or after the protagonist is present. Ico, for the PS2 is a wonderful game that might fit your definitions, but for the enormous amount of fight scenes. Most of the adv gamers I talk to in forums, deplore the hack and slash direction many gamer developers are heading into. Maybe it sells more games in the 14-28 year old demographic area, but that is not the same audience who will go for adventure games, as a whole. Massively marketed games such as Syberia, are practically apologetic about it's being in the pure adventure category, and even its creator, Benoit Sokal has said that Syberia II will have more "action", though not fighting per se. It is a sad commentary on our times, that we must be apologetic for portraying non-violence in a game.

United States By Marilyn Nelson • On 25 August 2003 • From Sarasota, FL, USA

Excellent article on what an adventure game should be.

United States By Johnny Le Blanc III • On 24 June 2003 • From New Orleans, USA

These were SUPERB articles for which I congratulate the panel. The only part which I felt was deficient in any respect was that on the interface, the significance of which I thought was slighted, as was the discussion of it. Aside from that I fully agree with the panel and will use the reference whenever I am queried about Adventure Games. Thank you so much!

United States By Advpuzlov • On 14 June 2003 • From USA

I agree with your definition. Very well reasoned.

By Judy • On 06 February 2003 • From Texas
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