The "Death of Adventure Games"

I’d been meaning to bring this up in one of the Friday Questions, but never had the chance, so I’ll ask it here.

In the late 90s, the adventure game genre began to die out. However, many people (including ones in the industry) denied the “death of adventure games”, claiming that they’ve never truly lost popularity, it just seemed that way because other genres (like FPSs) overshadowed them in terms of popularity/sales.

Do you think this is an accurate statement, or are they just in denial?

Quoting Old Man Murray:

Who killed Adventure Games? I think it should be pretty clear at this point that Adventure Games committed suicide.


Additionally, Is the consensus of this community that TellTale didn’t do it any favors? The episodic release is a terrible format for games that require any sort of immersion. I haven’t played any recently, but I can’t even recall finishing one single series. Have they bastardized it completely, or am I the minority opinion?

Who do you mean with they :grey_question:

The people I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Re-reading my post I could’ve written it a lot better! I guess it’s for the best I didn’t ask this on Friday Questions.

It’s very difficult to give straight answers to this question, for several reasons. One of these reasons i that there is not a single and shared definition of “adventure game”. Different people attribute to this expression different meanings.

So, before starting a discussion like this we should address the definition issue. Ron Gilbert said that "The Cave " is an adventure game. Does that match with your subjective definition of “adventure game”? Some people consider Tomb Raider an adventure game. What about the Walking Dead? What about Gone Home?

I suggest to define the subject in detail, before adventuring into a discussion so complex (which, at the end, it is extremely probable it could be summarized into the statement “society and things just change over time”).

By ‘adventure game’, I mean ‘point-and-click’. I should have been more specific, I apologise.

No worries, I was just trying to define the subject in detail before giving an opinion. :slight_smile:

My opinion is that slow-paced games that need the users to read text or to continuously apply their deductive skills have always been less attractive to people. Maybe today they are even more less attractive, because players have more genre to choose from, but I agree with the premise that most users always have preferred games based on (at least some) action.

These seem to me the two most important questions:

  1. some people nowadays consider it a design flaw when the user feels “confused and does not know what to do”. If this is considered a problem, then clearly adventure games are intrinsically flawed. Until someone has solved a puzzle, of course they will feel confused and they will not know what to do… I don’t see how to avoid that. If that’s true, where must the difficulty of the game come from? Either from dexterity (but then it’s not an adventure game, it’s an arcade game), or from the fact that while you know what to do, you need to reach the destination and then look around for the object (but then it’s an rpg, not an adventure).

  2. I wonder if games really committed suicide by removing verbs. This seems to remove a lot of interesting puzzles, because they would be solved automatically by the interface. (examples: listen to the door, climb the chair, enter the wardrobe, taste the powder, show the shiny object to the bird, push the person off the ledge, pickup the painting off the wall, talk to person ABOUT something…) . And the puzzles that remain are so tortuous and unnatural that make the game itself look stupid. Causing the death of the genre. But maybe it’s the other way round: the interface was simplified because it sold more.

Simplifying interfaces has great positive usability consequences, usually. It’s a way to overcome the cognitive limits of our brain and simpler interfaces motivate people to interact more with them. But probably not the same people who liked textual-based interfaces.

One of the most sold point-and-click adventure games of the last decade is Machinarium. Not only they didn’t use any textual interface but they even didn’t use textual dialogues. There was nothing to read. I think that these choices could have played a small part on the success of their title.

My take on this is that point and click adventure games used to the only real type of game that had any narrative worth experiencing. At the time the other type of games tended to have no, or very limited, narrative structure.

I think people like narratives in games, but may not always want to be puzzling.

As technology improved (and tastes changed) we’ve seen actual real narratives being introduced in other game types (with varying degrees of success, sure). I think that combination is what led to point and click adventures losing market share.

This part is pure conjecture: I think that making a point and click adventure at the time may also have been more expensive to do than other types of games. Adventure games have metric buttloads of art while other game types have significantly less.

My hypothesis is that the combination of those two things made adventure games ‘commit suicide’ as old man murray said. Other gametypes started to be able to fill the niche of adventure games and were able to do so cheaper.

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Usually. But adventure games are the only exception really. Because a simpler interface solves puzzles by itself. So it defeats the purpose of the game.

Adventure games are the one field where context-sensitive interface does not work, it seems to me.

To put it another way: almost always in our life, we want the computer to solve problems automatically. except in adventure games, where solving problems is the fun.

So i think the real problem is that most people don’t like to solve problems. They just want to visit a world and be told a story.

I agree that removing verbs has prevented some more complex interactions to happen, but it seems to me that the quantity of people who needed the verbs to enjoy and purchase the game is way lower than the quantity of people who appreciate a simple interface as long as the game provides a way to do puzzles.

So, yes, removing the verbs might have dissatisfied some users but you get way more users that prefer simpler interfaces.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that solving puzzles is probably not the most enjoyed activity among players but I also think to the huge success of puzzle-based series like “Professor Layton” and I’m no more sure if my assumption is correct.

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Could it be that most people who like puzzles don’t like to read a lot of text, and most people who like story and dialogue don’t like puzzles?

It would be great to have actual data available. I’m sure that there are many more people playing games today, than there were twenty years ago. In theory, this means that there should also be more adventure game players :smile:
I’d wager in the end it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy of game publishers:

  1. adventure games were in decline/getting less popular at the end of the 90s
  • developing adventure games is not profitable, 'cause nobody will play them, ergo less adventure games are developed.
  • people cannot buy many adventure games because there are not as many games released because of 2.
  1. this keeps on going.

Maybe it’s this. Do you know of any visual novel games that were released before the latter half of the 00s?
Visual novels are basically adventure games without puzzles. People who just want to experience a story are probably more attracted to those, instead of adventure games.

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That’s what I though, but I never played one. Some suggestions?

Eh, I don’t know many either. I’d turn to google. If you don’t want to spend money, there are also many people doing let’s plays on youtube. I recently tried out one about starcraft 2. It’s free on steam, if you want to check it out. I thought it was ok, for being free.

Are you a programmer by the way? There seems to be a general consensus about what an “adventure game” is without having to get very technical about it. :stuck_out_tongue:

I wouldn’t consider Machinarium as an adventure game.

Nice game and all, but it felt more like a series of puzzles than an “actual” adventure game. So, more Layton-like than Lucas-like.

But the success of Machinarium was also that - you can stop whenever you want, and get back after a while and be focused only on that. Nowadays most of the gamers are casual gamers who play while commuting: short sessions just to kill time. Adventure games can’t fit in this category.

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