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Reviving Adventure Games

How the advent of 3D technology, the decline of publishers has led to the near extinction of a gaming genre and the possibility of its rebirth to adapt to present technologies.

So once again, a nostalgic urge has convinced me to scour the web for timeless Sierra Entertainment classics. It’s funny how these games even after 15-20 years leaves a memorable impact on people. It makes me wonder if it’s the tremendous amount of difficulty, the challenge they once posed or the grueling amount of time spent on the photocopying machine for a walkthrough that imprints on people’s minds after so long. I have to admit that games these days are becoming easier for the brain and more reflex-based which makes it trickier some of the story-driven enthusiasts of the older, more patient, button-masher members of varied generations.

Recently, I have realized what I truly missed with regards to adventure games – it’s the interactivity that revolves around creativity. Don’t get me wrong. Staring mesmerizingly at extremely good visuals can be very entertaining, but there’s a certain charm in some mainstream games that I wish, still existed. I honestly miss the days when I could combine a rope and a grapnel or a pile of wood and a tinderbox in order to create fire. The Elder Scrolls series comes quite close to this level of freedom though that you’d expect from your pen and paper RPG.

A part of me believes that one of the reasons why Adventure games have become a thing of the past centers around the idea that the core of puzzle-solving becomes a great hindrance to the newer, less patient generation—but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for it still. There is also that aspect of the medium used. Clicking around a 2D painting to uncover objects is easier than running around in a 3D game engine, inspecting items of possible value. The 3D camera with its limited screen scope just wasn’t as compatible to the adventure genre back in the early 2000’s when it was at its decline.

It makes you wonder if there is actually a way to bridge this. – I think there can be and it revolves around the positioning of the 3D camera as well as in-game indicators for what’s important and what can be ignored.

Positioning the 3D camera

There is a reason why in some of our DOS-based games like “Hugo’s House of Horrors” is placed at a distance. A good chunk of it is the scene analysis required in order to move on from one puzzle to the other. This theory can be translated to a more up-to-date and much more appealing 3rd person 3D camera. Several games have actually implemented this and has been proven to be successful-- Blizzard’s “Diablo” series is quite the example. Top-down has been tried and proven to be effective for decades, but it’s not that appealing for many gamers who enjoy adoring their customized characters in full battle gear. Just an opinion, but I believe that Bethesda Softworks’ “Oblivion’s” 3rd person cameras could be just as effective for addressing the needs behind solving the puzzles of adventure games. It provides the player the freedom to adore his character while at the same time addressing the need to see the environment in a wider perspective.

Clear in-game indicators for the presence of special items in locations

Back during the day, it was common to go on a pixel-hunting frenzy. This was slightly more tolerable due to the “stillness” of 2D painted backgrounds. This is just not recommended for 3D games due to the sheer amount of space one could explore. This is why I propose the presence of clear in-game indicators for key items. No, this does not necessarily defeat the purpose of a puzzle game. It just makes it easier to find the ingredients to solving the said puzzles. The thrill comes from discovering how objects interact not in the difficulty in the way they’re found.

Eg. Chisel + Crystal = Crystal Key to unlock the door of doom

This funny discovery can actually give some people an endorphin high. I wouldn’t be surprised if the market for it is the same as the ones who are presently addicted to the casual game called “Alchemy.”

If it was achieved before, it can be done again with a linear storyline if not a procedural quest system.

I believe creation (that satisfaction derived from putting two things together that makes you feel intelligent) and story, are the keys that make the heart of old adventure games.

Perhaps it’s time for a mainstream come-back.

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