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In-Depth: Goulding Talks Casualizing Adventure Games

Point-and-click adventures can definitely find a resurgence among legions of new casual players, but their unique needs must be considered from the beginning-- vet
Although their prolific heyday is in the past, it seems point-and-click adventure games can still find an audience among PC gamers of today -- especially as they lend themselves well to casual players. Almost. In a new Gamasutra feature on the state of the genre, Andrew Goulding, a developer on Playfirst's Avenue Flo and his own indie title Jolly Rover, shares what he's learned about adventure gaming and casual audiences -- although the mechanics of the genre are accessible, casual audiences have special needs that developers should adapt toward. For example, although adventure games tend to be narratively driven, he learned with Wadjet Eye Games-developed Emerald City Confidential, a noir Wizard of Oz adventure, that too much dialogue could mean the game would miss its mark. "A fact learned through countless hours of user testing is that the average casual player doesn't read," he says. "Well, that's not entirely fair -- they do read, but with little patience, and generally only the first and last lines of dialog." The team cut the instructions entirely in half -- and then in half again, he explains. Another factor is clear directions. Part of the fun in adventure gaming for traditional fans is figuring out where to go and what to do, but this isn't an element that tends to appeal to casual audiences. "Casual players just want to know what they have to do and how to do it, so they can get on with doing it," he explains. The solution was to place instructions front and center, rather than keep tasks and goals only in an off-screen journal that most players didn't investigate. Casual players need clear tutorials and frequent rewards, too. All of the adaptations were important learning experiences: "Emerald City was a success, but perhaps not the blockbuster it was meant to be," he reflects. "I would hazard a guess that one of the reasons for this is that we didn't go into development with these casual mechanics in mind, and as a result, they weren't integrated well enough into the game and story." How did Goulding do the next time around with Playfirst's Avenue Flo and his own title Jolly Rover? Check out the full Gamasutra feature on adventure games and how they can reach modern audiences to learn more.

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