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Favorite adventure game interface style

After playing through TWP and (re)playing some of the old LucasArts games I started to wonder what people’s favorite interfaces are. A (non-exhaustive) list:

  • Text input (Sierra AGI/early SCI games, LSL1-3, etc)
  • Verb interface (MM, MI, TWP)
  • Verb cursor interface (Sam and max, later SCI games, SpaceQuest 4+, LSL5+)
  • Simplified verb cursor interface (Full throttle)
  • Only use/look cursors (Diskworld series)
  • Contextual options (Deponia)

It seems that the ‘verb cursor interface’ has the largest number of games, I think it may be my favorite. If you were to design a game today what interface would you use?

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My favorite is the verbs interface as done in Day of the Tentacle. It is similar to Monkey Island 2 and Indy 4, but with two little tweaks:

  • Left click in the inventory defaults to “use”, while right click usually defaults to “look at”.
  • The cursor shows a picture of the object you are about to “use”.

Second place are pie menus (aka. coin interface) like in Curse of Monkey Island, Full Throttle. It should have a constant set of verbs though, which is the case in the classic SCUMM adventures.
It is not the case with the pie menus of the special edition interface of Monkey Island 2 and Day of the Tentacle, which only shows the verbs for which scripts exists, simplifying the game in a way not intended by the original design.

Any other interface either requires unnecessarily more clicks or are too simple (not counting the typing interface of course). What were they thinking?

Later SCI games are actually a hybrid, as you can either cycle verbs like in Sam & Max, or you can just click on the verb icons, similar to the verbs in old LucasArts interfaces.
And Larry 7 has another unusual hybrid, combining a popup menu interface with a typing interface.

I also like the inventory in Deponia, which you can open/close with the mouse wheel.

If I were about to design an adventure game, it would have a pie menu with a constant set of verbs. Hotspot names would appear at the cursor. Clicking on “use with” would automatically open the inventory. You could either click the object and move to the verb while holding the button (Amiga style), or click object and then the verb.

Btw. pie menus are usable with mouse, touch screen and game controller equally well, which certainly would be a consideration for a modern game.

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While I have never really been against verbs, I can see the fun and the more immersive value in 2-clicks interface (Discworld Series, as @TMM said in the original post). I have also developed adventure games using this very same interface and, indeed, it also makes things easier to develop, while not necessarily compromising narrative quality and inherent fun.

Recently, though, I’m looking at the interface in STASIS which, if I’m not wrong (as I haven’t played it but watched few minutes of gameplay), should be a single click interface where the hotspot descriptions appear when the cursor hovers such hotspots.

This is a mockup I developed a while ago (in Adventure Game Studio)

EDIT: I think would not really work on mobile devices, though.


I think if the game has puzzles, then it must have verbs. I think even scumm is too simplified, because “use” is too generic. Sometimes the puzzles is to understand that I must climb something that it is not obvious I can climb. (a tree? a table? a totem?). If I click “use” and the player magically climbs it, the puzzle is spoiled. Sometimes the puzzles is to understand that I need to listen to something (for example, a door behind which there is a conversation). If I click “use” and the player magically listens to it, the puzzle is spoiled. And so on. I could go on and on.

OTOH, we can’t have 100 verbs on the screen. so what do you do to remove “use”?

I think there’s a way. 1) No verbs on screen. 2) Left-clicking an object does the obvious action (context-sensitive): open the door, sit on the chair, cut something with the knife, talk to someone. 3) But if you click the right mouse button on something, you should popup a menu with non-obvious actions. This menu should not be context-sensitive, and should contain a modified version of scumm, without “use”, but with climb, listen, throw, and whatever verb makes sense in the current game.

Have you considered you can have the same level of immersion with verbs? just relegate them to a less visible place. the left click on an object does the obvious action, so you get the direct manipulation, and the immersion. And you can play 95% of the game just like this, with direct manipulation and context-sensitive button. But if you right-click, you can popup the non obvious actions, i.e. the verbs. So you don’t lose the puzzles, and you don’t lose the immersion and the directness.

This is actually a good topic for amateurs/aspirant game makers/designers in general. I wish i could program better… I like that idea even if it’s more like a descriptive picture, i mean the basic character dialogue action with objects. My favourite is the Broken Sword interface. I don’t like the verb coin even if it may seem immediate, it kind limits the logic to me. Anyway verbs have always that cool feel, especially when the interface is well made.

One should take into account that, nowadays, people might want to play on a cursorless device. So, unless one wants to implement it twice, hovering and right-clicking can’t be used.

When I made my game, I opted for a “verb-coin” solution. First touch opens the coin with object name and the verb icons, second touch chooses the interaction.

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I remember I disliked it a lot. I seem to remember one puzzle was to understand you could walk out of the window onto the ledge. You clicked the window. You saw “walk out” or something like that. Puzzle spoiled. Context sensitive is bad, if you are going to have puzzles. It’s better no puzzles at all, than that.

If I had chosen a simpler interface (one that doesn’t have an “eavesdrop” verb, that is) I guess I would design a puzzle around the whole listening event, to make it interesting. The simplest idea: find a glass and use it against the door.

Or, for a puzzle-less alternative: have the conversation be unintelligible unless you get closer to the door.

I see what you mean and I agree, though. I guess it also comes up to what you, as a developer, can get out of the interface you design. If you can make it deliver the depth you planned (and playtesting proves so), then you have it :slight_smile:

This reminds me that towards the end of TWP I noticed that you could use the appropriate verb for something or just go for Use, so I guess this was something that came up during playtesting (I noticed it later in the game, but maybe it happens before as well).

(IF you are referring to the one I described above)

Yes, it kinda is! I guess it gives room to a specific mood as it gives me a sense of “silent stream of consciousness” that I think may help me connect to the character in a deeper way.

But, of course I don’t have data on that :smiley:

Yes that’s what I meant in my post above. Although some kind of right-clicks are possible on mobile (double tap or hold the index finger on the hotspot then tap with the middle finger) but are probably “boring” for people to perform.

This way you gave up all the directness and the “immersiveness”. If I can’t open a drawer with one click, or wear something with one click, or turn on a tap with one click, or cut a lemon with a knife with two clicks, there’s something wrong imho. something that’s difficult to define, something sensorial.

@seguso It’s the pop up thing that is odd to me, also the right click inventory pop up I don’t like especially when inventory fills the entire area. When you have all under your eyes is good like in TWP but also in Broken Sword you have all under your eyes because cursor is auto switching to the suggested action.

Actually I did not suggest popup inventory. I only suggested popup verbs (with right mouse button ). I like inventory always on screen like scumm.

consider you could play like 95% of the game only with the left button, without ever opening the verbs.

Verb interface.
Because it’s the simplest way to accomplish the logic we are used to make actions:
I have observed that this kind of approach is well-acknoledged by younger people.

Personally, I played Thimbleweed Park with Verb Interface AND sentence line, because my eye is well trained to look at that particolar spot, rather than follow the cursor.

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I understand what you’re saying, but this won’t work. The glass solution is tortuous and removes any credibility from a game. (Unless your game is comedy like Monkey Island)

and the “get closer” solution can be solved by chance.

Also… it’s not enough to say “you can do it another way”. You must be able to do it in the most natural way possible, otherwise you’ve already failed.

I think things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler…

Speaking about this example: I see nothing wrong with the glass solution except if you don’t know already glasses can be used in this way it may by not so easy to add hints for something like this in a non-obvious way.

Nor, the problem (in my humble opinion) is that it’s not the most natural way possible to do it. And this seems a design failure to me.

Maybe this kind of puzzle should be completely changed anyway since the only natural way to use doors is to open/close and lock/unlock them.
You would need a hint to know to eavesdrop on this door, e.g. hearing mumbling from this room. But then putting your ear on the door isn’t a good solution either IMHO, maybe a proper wiretapping puzzle would be better.

We were talking about the natural way to listen to a conversation behind closed doors, not about the natural way to use doors. :slight_smile:

(Where does this faith come from, that any puzzle can be expressed in any interface in a natural way?)

I think it is important not to do puzzles where you can’t fit it comfortably in the existing interface though.

This is a great thread btw, thanks so much for all the great comments.

I’m not particularly interested in the old verb interface. I have no problems using it but I’m also OK with a simplified interface, like the classic “coin”, either with fixed actions or with context-sensitive actions.

For example, I played the “remake” of Monkey Island 2 and I continuously switched between the old verb-based interface and the new one. I loved both. So I’m inclined to think that I’m not a “purist”: I don’t attribute to the older, richer interfaces any intrinsic higher value.

I agree with the fact that fewer verbs/actions can oversimplify the interactions between the player and the environment, though. Nonetheless, I think that if the developers are competent enough they can enrich anyway the gaming experience in other ways.

To me this is a very important point: it doesn’t matter to me if the experience is rich thanks to the higher quantity of actions that I can perform or thanks to more complex puzzles or thanks to well-crafted dialogues. As long as the whole game gives me enough reasons to keep playing and enjoying the ride, I’m satisfied.

So, yes, if you renounce to the richer verb interface you can lose something, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that the specific feature that you lost was indispensable to enjoy the game. Maybe you’ll get something back in return (e.g.: more immersive visuals) or maybe other aspects of the game will compensate for that loss.

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