Favorite adventure game interface style

these are not real proposals: it is only a method that I employ to discover problems in the initial assumptions. I am basically saying: “if that was really the problem, then all it would take to solve the problem would be to do this and this (waiting 20 seconds, or what have you). Since this feels wrong, then the problem must be something else; it can’t be exactly the one we had stated initially.” So, this is a method of analysis. You interpret assumptions as literally as possible, and try to reduce them to absurdum, in order to refine the assumptions and arrive at a correct theory.

I think the most relevant answer is “there are no RPGS and adventures. There are only bad games and good games.”

Which is a very annoying way to discuss things with others. The least you could do is to make it clear that this is what you’re doing instead of just proposing absurd solutions and have us scratch our heads whether you’re trolling us or whether you’re really that dense, because I honestly couldn’t tell.

Either way, I and many others have already pointed out the correct answer: whenever you feel such a solution is warranted, it means your game design is faulty.

Concrete for this example (randomly clicking around): you don’t want to discourage your player from using this strategy, you want to eliminate the need for it. If a world is consistent and makes sense, there’s no need for me to try to use the fountain pen on the fish. Because it’s utter nonsense and therefore can not be part of a solution in any game that makes sense. Therefore, if I feel tempted to do it anyway, it means that either your game rules are applied inconsistently, or that your puzzles don’t make any logical sense.

I really don’t need a detour around the absurd “let’s punish the player by taking away control from him” idea to figure that out.

On a sidenote, one game that does this to hilarious effect is Discworld, when you “look at” the player character. There’s tons of witty remarks that get randomly picked when you click on him, ranging from “I am not a cartoon! I’m just dimensionally impaired” to “Eeheehee! Stop it! It tickles!”, making this an amusing part of the game. But the one that takes the cake is when he stares straight at you and says something along the lines of “Alright! That’s it! Let’s see how you do without it”, at which point the cursor vanishes and Rincewind just stands there, glaring at you. After a while he goes “Oooh, allright. You can have it back. But only if you promise to use it wisely!”, and you get your cursor back.

Alright, let’s try your “reductio ad absurdum” approach: there are no boats, airplanes, trains nor cars. Only good and bad vehicles. Yet everyone with an ounce of common sense agrees that a car with an anchor is an example of the latter rather than the former.

Likewise, a point and click adventure that tries to cram in RPG elements that don’t belong in the genre is probably closer to being a bad adventure game than a good one.

I have apologized for that and I have no problem doing it again. I can only say that to do this would make my replies too boring for me to write and for others to read. (and by the way I did this in a couple of places)

Look, normally I would really like to discuss this. I’d try to find out if your proposal holds scrutiny. It is the kind of thing I like to discuss. However, since I can clearly feel that you dislike me, excuse me if I don’t feel like discussing this. (same for the car analogy)

Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple. What makes a good sports game is entirely different from what makes a good puzzle game. The Witness and Madden NFL 18 are good games within their own genres, but would be positively awful games if swapped.

I think the last statement is false. I believe this statement to be true:

  1. if the player avoids the side quests, then he will not be confused.

but I believe this statement to be false:

  1. if the player does not avoid the side quests, then he will be confused.

If your game does not have design flaws, you can have as many sidequests as you want, and the player will not be confused, because you will have made it clear what he needs to do to advance the main story.

I think you are imagining a player that assumes that everything he sees is needed to advance the main story, and therefore is confused. Because he assumes that all interactions are somehow connected to the main story. But in practice he will stop assuming this in the first 10 minutes of play, after he sees how many objects and characters there are in the world. And he will start playing like a normal human being, instead of looking at stuff that he does not care about but he must do it because it could be useful, and picking up up stuff that he does not care about but he must do it because they could be useful. And then he will start enjoying the world.

More in general… to someone who has not played Ultima 7, it is very difficult for me to convey the fact that there can be a different kind of puzzle: a kind of puzzle where the challenge does not come from using objects in non-obvious ways, or using objects for a secondary property, but where the challenge comes from the quantity of things that you can do. And it is difficult to explain the sense of fulfillment when you solve these “puzzles”. It might even not be correct to call them “puzzles” because, again, they do not involve using objects in non-obvious or uncommon or far-fetched ways. Maybe the best thing is to make an example. In Ultima 7, while travelling to a place to follow the main story, you reach a place and find a compelling side quest there, and you decide to start playing it; and then you get back to the main quest, and the action that you need to do is not an uncommon or unconventional usage, so it is not a “puzzle” in the conventional sense, but nonetheless it is challenging because you need to: travel to the right place, explore it, identify the right person or object among many, recognize that is the useful one in the current context and the others are not, and remember that you need to do that particular action, after you have been involved in a side quest for 2 days.

From yet another point of view: have you ever wondered why adventure games are dominated by humor in such a disproportionate way? In movies, how many movies are comedy? 40%? And in adventure games, how many are comedy? A much bigger percentage, right? So this needs an explanation. The explanation I think is the following: since adventure games are small worlds (relatively few object, relatively few characters) where must the challenge come from? it can only come from using objects in far-fetched ways (sell the bottle to the clerk because it is the only way for you to get a nickel; use the battery on the electric fence, and so on). But these kind of puzzles only work in a comedy game. It would be ridiculous in a drama. If you want to make an adventure game that is not comedy, it is very difficult to make puzzles that are interesting and not boring. That’s because, to make a good adventure game which is not comedy, it takes another style of puzzle; a puzzle where the challenge does not come from using objects in far-fetched ways, but from identifying the correct obvious thing to do, among a thousands of other obvious things which you can do but which make no sense in the correct context.

And again, you’re applying RPG mechanics to point and click adventure games. This topic is about the favourite adventure game interface style. In a section of the forums dedicated to adventure games.

I’ll happily discuss the merits of non-plot-relevant objects in RPGs or other genres in the Off-Topic section. But over here, we’re discussing adventure games. And as me and many others have pointed out: in this genre, they should be used sparingly.

Because in adventure games, that’s generally true.

Don’t assume that because you’re a huge Ultima 7 fanboy, and this is an adventure game forum rather than an RPG forum, the rest of us haven’t played any other genre besides adventure games. In fact, these two genres usually cater to similar personalities.

Which should be a good hint that what you’re discussing is not an adventure game, since puzzles are one of the key points of the genre.

Which we have pointed out numerous times, is an RPG and not an adventure game. Different genre, different rules. A game like Ultima 7 doesn’t need to focus on interesting puzzles, because it has other game mechanics that make it engaging. People play it for different reasons.

They’re not. It only seems that way because the funny Lucasarts adventures and games inspired by them are the most often/fondly talked about.

Examples of non-comedy aventures:

  • Nearly the entire text adventure genre, with a few notable exceptions.
  • The Gabriel Knight series
  • The Broken Sword series
  • The Phantasmagoria series
  • The 7th Guest/The 11Th Hour
  • The Indiana Jones series
  • The King’s Quest series
  • Myst/Riven
  • Syberia series
  • Dreamfall series
  • Broken Age

Since it’s a false premise, it really doesn’t.

See non-exhaustive list above for counter-examples.

I just encountered one of my least favorite adventure game interface style, and it is the one of Star Trek 25th Anniversary. It relies heavily on keyboard, has massive amount of controls, and (in the more adventure game part) has an off-screen interface (a sort of coin interface) that is accessible by action first, object second, rather than the easier object first, action second. I might continue to play the game, but the interface is hindering my willingness to complete the game.

@jrial has already answered your post. I’ll have to add only a few remarks:

Exactly. Best example is TWP: There are some side quests, like the navigators head. A lot of people complained about these. Of course you can introduce “side quests” in an adventure game, but it must be clear that they are not necessary to follow the main story. And even then: A “side quest” in an adventure game means that you have to implement a whole puzzle chain without a “reward”. This could be frustrating and the amount of side quests could be annoying. If you would like to “test” this: The Book Of Unwritten Tales 2 had these side quests. If you solve one of these side quests, you get a hat or glasses for your character. This is nice, but not a (big) motivation so solve these additional side quest. Beside that, you don’t know if the objects in your inventory are belonging to the main story or a side quest. Because you can’t distinguish between these two without spoiler the solution to a puzzle.

Ulitma 7 is a RPG. All things in this game are there for a reason - even the side quests. For example you can make the members your party more stronger or they gain experience points or whatever. If you bake bread, you can eat it or sell it or whatever. So the side quests are helping you to solve the main quests. You can’t compare this to an adventure game. For example in an adventure game the hero don’t have to sleep or to eat to keep his “health”.

Because they sell much better.

I don’t know if there was a topic about that, but what do you guys think about how TWP modified the verb interface? In LA games one could use / abuse the verbs and inventory to perform a bunch of weird actions or at least get some funny responses. For example pick up Kathy (glass boat owner) in MI2. In TWP all unnecessary actions are unavailable. It makes playing more straightforward, less time consuming and modern. But at the same time, despite having verbs, it has a very different feel than LA games. I’m torn about it. It could have been a more modern interface and it wouldn’t make much difference to me, it’s not really oldschool, it just looks like one. However I’m sure the game experience is a lot less frustrating overall, especially for people new to the genre.

I don´t have any examples right now, but this is not entirely true. I think you should try out more.

Not sure I follow this. The UI works almost identical to Monkey Island. What could you do in Monkey Island that we blocked off in TWP? The one thing I can think of is the normal verbs not used on actors, but 99% of those didn’t even have default responses in MI. For the sake of humor, there are some case where you can use verbs on actors (Mime)

I think he´s refering to joke responses you get when you use a verb on an actor or an object that is not the intended use for it.

For example you have a car which you can open the door of, close it again or use keys with it to ride away. But when you say “Pick Up Car” you get something like “I´d need a tow truck for THAT!”

Stuff like when you try to “pick up” the stain on the table in the dining room in Maniac Mansion that results in something like “I´m not the cleanup lady” or when you try to pick up Mt. Rainier in Zak McKracken you get a “get real!”

Or when you push something you need to pull or vice versa.

I´m sure there was stuff like that in TwP but I can´t remember any examples on the spot.

Pretty much what milanfahrnholz said. Other stuff - for example there are places where I can’t even try to give items to characters, like diner or the newspaper. There are a lot inventory objects that can’t be used with anything in the world so trying is disabled and can’t produce any responses.

I admit I may have overstated what I wrote though.

All that is also true in MI. For an item to be usable in the world it needed to be assign a WITH property and if it had no reason to be combined with anything, it wasn’t given this property.

TWP contains a lot more default responses and places where we tried to do custom lines. MI contains very little of this.

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I remember that, in Monkey Island, the magnetic compass had the “with” property only in the room with the key and LeChuck. In any other room, if you selected “Use Magnetic compass”, you got a standard answer (without the with property).

I remember that this was confusing to me. I expected the with property to always appear when using an object which needed to be used with something.


Agreed. I’d expect that I’d be able to at least select “use with”, but then no object would highlight when passing over it. Or that they would, but then produce the standard “that doesn’t work” or humorous equivalent.

Of course, we would all love it if any object would be applicable to any other and produce a hilarious dialogue or animation, especially in comedy-driven games. But the sheer number of combinations makes this infeasible: production budget would skyrocket, and it wouldn’t result in more sales to recoup this extra cost.

Are you sure?!? If it is so, THAT’s why I had so many difficulties with that puzzle. It was the only puzzle which had to be revealed to me by a friend, and he was sorry because he was afraid of spoiling the end of the game to me. Partly he was right, since I felt very guilty after getting that advice. But, I know myself: if I was sure the compass couldn’t be used “with”, I’d surely never think to try it with the key

Same reasoning of mine.
I advanced just because I entered the “try everything with everything” approach, with every inventory item, even the most apparently useless one.

Haha. Same happened to me. I had to ask a friend from school how to solve that puzzle.

We are now getting off course, but after you get the key, you should try to use the compass with the key (that is now in your inventory) again! And again. And again… :wink: