Love of adventure lives on: lessons from an indie game designer

Posted by Peter Lemiszki.
First posted on 01 February 2012. Last updated on 01 February 2012.
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There has been very little difference of opinion amongst both adventure game enthusiasts and adventure game designers as to what is causing the current decline of the genre. Famed game designer Ron Gilbert saw the writing on the wall back in 1989, when he created a list of game design pitfalls in an essay subtly titled Why Adventure Games Suck (1). Sadly, his conclusions about the genre still…

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Very Good

The trick of course is to determine what constitutes "only briefly". I was passionately involved with every Infocom and Cyan game - and I played every one of them (says a lot about my earlier social life!). I'm less so now with the more recent, standard fair. Why?

Most of them are solved within a few hours, which is too short to really get immersed into the world of the game or get to know the characters. Many of them lack plot consistency. Nothing to me destroys the connection with the game more than a puzzle that exists simply because "we need a puzzle here", one that has nothing to do with the plot, characters, or the world the game has created. Finally, today's games tend to be too directing - telling you where to go or setting obvious goals. Adventure games are, well... adventure! No rules, just explore and see what happens. A purpose will come to you at some point.

What grabs me in a game is very much the same as what grabs me in a good novel: complex plot, believable characters, consistent environment throughout, and lots of time - days even - to get through it. Ya, I know we're talking adventure games, so there is a fair amount of latitude, but comparatively speaking, I think for example Myst, Riven - even Zork 0 - are great examples.

United States By Andrew McKay • On 06 July 2012 • From Boston

Very Good

Adventures ruled up until the mid-90's simply because the mass audience did not yet own a personal computer.

What makes an adventure engrossing, however, is a different subject. As the previous commenter noted, a lot of players are bored by easy puzzles. Though it is true that the vast majority of players now vastly prefer easy adventures.

Ideally, an adventure could adjust its difficulty to the taste of each player. Not, unfortunately, easy to implement. But an easy game will never satisfy a puzzle lover, while a challenging game can be made easier with onscreen help. This to me is the best compromise.

United States By Stage name • On 04 February 2012 • From New York City


These are useful guidelines for anyone wanting to make a game like Peter's, but that's all. I know Peter's not suggesting all games should be alike, but if they all had the same puzzle difficulty the world of Adventure Games would be half as interesting as it is now.

Look at Rhem, a game entirely based around frustration. I wouldn't play it if it wasn't. What people like isn't always what Ron Gilbert likes.

Australia By Mike • On 02 February 2012 • From Durban