The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

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The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Dylan Melowitz on Fri Jul 12, 2013 2:45 am

As a youngster, I totally missed the rise and fall of the adventure game genre. I only got to pick up the pieces scattered around an industry surrounded by explosions, Mountain Dew, and big action set-pieces.

I suppose that has its advantages, I didn't have to sift through the many sub-par FMV games, generally only the classics have been supported to this day.

However, I've been wondering on exactly why the adventure genre declined so drastically.
Question 
The exact reason seems to be muddled among the industry, and I can't put my finger on it.

I've heard it being blamed on possibly the best adventure game of all time, Grim Fandango, despite it selling over 100,000 units.

Idea However, I have a theory of my own. Many of the heavy hitters of the industry made the full jump to the third dimension at the worst possible time.
Broken Sword, Gabriel Knight, King's Quest, Simon the Sorcerer...

All of those all had incredibly inept attempts at bringing their respective genre to the third dimension. All seemed to lose their charm, and detailed environments were clouded and boring.
They all went to 3D too early, it wasn't really until "The Longest Journey" until someone got it right, also TellTale's evolution, and now we're reaping the benefits of 3D adventure gaming.

So what do you guys think? What caused the downfall of such a dominant genre?
Also, if anyone could also give a short list of adventure games they recommend, I'd love to find out games I haven't played yet.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Laney Berry on Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:03 am

Dylan Melowitz wrote:Idea However, I have a theory of my own. Many of the heavy hitters of the industry made the full jump to the third dimension at the worst possible time.
Broken Sword, Gabriel Knight, King's Quest, Simon the Sorcerer...

All of those all had incredibly inept attempts at bringing their respective genre to the third dimension. All seemed to lose their charm, and detailed environments were clouded and boring.

THIS. Precisely THIS. The genre just wasn't ready to incorporate 3D engines into their games; they simply hadn't figured out how to get the interfaces to feel natural, how to get the kind of character "acting" they had previously managed with a handful of animated pixels, and they seemed to think that the "improved" graphics meant that they could get away with less actual content (notice how, suddenly, the kind of rooms which used to be packed with items to examine and play with were suddenly limited to two or three hot spots).

I have to say that Grim Fandango is perhaps the only exception to the rule that I can think of from that general period-- Schafer managed the transition incredibly gracefully, and the game had aged pretty marvelously.

EDITED TO ADD: Adventure game recommendations, huh? Since you seem to know your stuff, I'm going to try and think of the more outside-the-box titles for you. Let's see... Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is an absolute classic, and it's one that doesn't get mentioned very much; it was designed by Josh Mandel, who helped direct the Larry reboot just now! Conquests of the Longbow is a fabulous little lesser-known Sierra title-- definitely try that one out (I'll admit I didn't play the prequel, though). This one's much more obvious, but if you haven't played Quest For Glory 1-4, you pretty much HAVE to... Oh, and Overclocked: A History of Violence, for sure, if you don't mind being depressed for a few days afterwards. Twisted Evil 
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Ratatoskr on Fri Jul 12, 2013 12:09 pm

I definitely agree with the 3D part, even though I also mostly missed the rise and fall.  But even some of my favorite series such as Monkey Island and Quest for Glory suffered in 3D.  People went for the technology and lost most of the charm that the earlier artwork had.  

Obviously when well done, 3D adventure games work fine, but I think there was a learning curve that screwed everyone up.  Plus there's simple things like 3D tends to cost more (QFG5 was over a million as opposed to the earlier ones) and so there's a lot less room for error or substandard sellers.

There could have also been a glut I suppose, with two many of that genre coming out and lowering the average quality and thus putting people off everything.


Oh and I'm probably not the right person to go to for recs since I also missed the boat, but obviously Monkey Island and QFG are must-plays if you somehow haven't seen those. The King's Quest 2 and 3 remakes are worth playing as well, if only because they're a more traditional style, and free. Actually quite a few older one can be found for free these days if you know where to look: when you download ScummVM you can also get Flight of the Amazon Queen, Beneath a Steel Sky, Day of the Tentacle, and a few others and there's some others free on GoG (though I wouldn't consider many of those worth it.)

As for newer adventure games, there's always Jolly Rover which is a cute little story and how can you go wrong with dog pirates, the newer Telltale Monkey Island series which is actually pretty well-done for 3D, and I'm sure there's more that aren't coming to mind right now.

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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by WeiMi on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:06 pm

I'd guess just Lucasarts has helped causing the downfall of their core-genre.
Still remember the time publishing "Rebel Assault".
By the standards of time a technical sensation selling millions
of the just appeared CD-R's.
As always mentioned, trying to get adventures into next dimension wasn't
crowned with success.
Brilliant Grim Fandango wasn't the reason, just a symptom of that downfall I'd guess..

Generally I'd say every genre and sub-genre are going through rise and falls.

Fortunately some German studios revived the genre even years before they seem to be more in fashion again now.
Particularly Daedalic  with: Edna and Harvey the Breakout
Harveys New Eyes, The Whispered World, Machinarium , A new Beginning and the Deponia trilogy.
Deck 13 with Jack Keane and Ankh
Very nice one from  Realmforge studios: "Ceville".
Secret Files: Tunguska
I'd recommend all of them. Maybe some aren't translated that tenderly into english but still worth it I'd say

Other recommendations would be regarding text-adventures I still love as most of the
game just happens in your mind. I'd recommend practically all Infocom and Magnetic Scrolls adventures.

Some of the devs from Infocom tried to reanimate the genre by founding Legend Entertainment
developing for example one of my favorite adventures: Eric the Unready Rolling Eyes 
Unfortunately to no avail..



Last edited by WeiMi on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Derik Stiller on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:10 pm

The demise of the point-and-click adventure game did not disappoint me as greatly as the death of the text adventure. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing old Infocom-style games on a computer that was too slow to really do much else. By the time I was in 5th grade, there were none of those games in stores.

I occasionally download text adventures from the Internet, made by fans, but these tend to be short and easy, largely existing as genre exercises.

My first graphical adventure game was Hugo's House of Horrors for DOS, which used text commands. I had the shareware version, and when I finally had the money to buy it, years later, I was disappointed to learn that there was only one room beyond the point where the shareware version ended. :-(

I love a game with a text parser. Or at least a verb screen like Zak McKracken.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Fien1 on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:14 pm

I don't have much time right now, so I'll just support Laney's suggestions. Callahan's is a wonderful oldie, by Legend Entertainment, and all their games are pretty good.

You can download Conquests of the Longbow for free at the site of Christy Marx, who wrote the game, and play it in DOSbox. (I'd post the link, but the forum software won't let me. christymarx. com) You definitely need the info in the manual, which you can get at replacements.com.  

Later...
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by WeiMi on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:29 pm

YES - three posts about text-adventures almost at same time. In times 3D bombast-graphics seems to be essential for survival Cool 
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Guran on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:43 pm

@Derik Have you played Photopia by Adam Cadre? Sure it's short and easy but its a great emotional experience and my favourite interactive fiction ever! I think there are many gems in the interactive fiction database that are as good as the Infocom ones.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Derik Stiller on Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:48 pm

I enjoyed Photopia.

For those who haven't tried it: http://adamcadre.ac/if.html
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Intendant S on Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:01 pm

I agree with everyone else that it was the transition to 3D that essentially "killed off" the adventure genre. I hate that term, but I don't know what else to call it.

That said, I started out with text adventures, so graphics were never a big deal for me. For others, though, it could have been a deal breaker. Especially if it comes with clunky controls.

If you want suggestions for good adventure games, you can't go wrong with the classics. A lot of them can be bought on GoG or Steam. I just recently discovered the Dreamfall and Broken Sword series and fell in love enough to pledge to their respective Kickstarter campaigns. Syberia is another great example of storytelling that I highly recommend that I just recently discovered.

I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but I dropped out of the adventure scene throughout most of the 2000s, but I'm back in full force and gobbling up anything even remotely catching my eye. Some of the best are fan games and cheap indie games.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Laney Berry on Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:19 pm

You know what? With all of this discussion going on about text adventures/interactive fiction, I'm going to go ahead and start a brand new topic on the subject, because I am a HUGE fan of the genre, and I feel like it definitely relates to adventure game storytelling.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by criezy on Fri Jul 12, 2013 8:34 pm

The transition to 3D may be a factor. I believe the emergence of the internet to be another one. I remember before that playing an adventure game could take a long time, and I would play with friends and family trying to figure out what to do. Now when you get stuck you can just look for a walkthrough on the internet, and while this can remove some frustration, for many it turned adventure games into casual games that can be finished in a short time.

As for suggestions, I am biased toward French games as these are the ones I grew up with (Mortville Manor, Future Wars, Cruise for a corpse, Gobliiins...and later ones such as Versaille, Amerzone, Syberia). But otherwise if you have not played Beneath a Steel Sky, I would definitely suggest that one (and it is freely available on the ScummVM web site) and I also have a soft spot for Broken Sword, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and The Last Express.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Guran on Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:24 am

Criezy, you're spot on! Ken Williams said that their hint books and hint lines were more profitable than selling the games themselves! Gaming changed when the Internet arrived for sure.

The early 2000's were a dark time for story based games in general. I'm SO happy we're back on track now!
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Fien1 on Sat Jul 13, 2013 4:51 am

Aha, text adventures! I played Photopia several times, very powerful story. My favorite Infocom ones are A Mind Forever Voyaging and Trinity. I still play one or two text adventures a year. Recommended and free: Curses and other games by Graham Nelson (hard). Anchorhead with its great Lovecraftian atmosphere (easy). All the text adventures with pics by Legend Entertainment. My own favorite is TimeQuest.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by WeiMi on Sat Jul 13, 2013 8:42 am

As I wouldn't preclude the rise of www I'd guess assuming that, shooters would
have to suffer from that effect too as you can easily get some god-cheats to
make the game ridiculously easy.
And remembering that time the tabloids, which also suffered from the arising of www, always came with walkthroughs back those days in addition they've offered special editions with gaming tips and walkthroughs. Plus IRC's and the official walkthroughs as Guran mentioned.

About the wallkthroughs in general: sometimes I've just needed them every once in a while, otherwise I'd have been complete stuck. Especially textadventures were designed with some "dead ends" and just being kind of unfair.
Still remembering "Tass Times in Tonetown": besides being a great game you've had to take a book at the very start - but you can leave it with no special hint *afair*. But you HAVE to use it at the very end !!!
Of course it's definitively destroying the game experience once you're using it too extensively.

If it comes to favorite text-adventures it would be (surprisingly - whilst eying my Avatar Very Happy  )
would be The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy.
With pics: Eric the unready - even with Timequest on the tail
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Robot Fencer on Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:59 pm

I agree with Derik about the text parser, and I always thought that the icon interface dumbed down the games. Text parsers have a reputation for being hard to communicate with, but with a few badly-programmed exceptions (I'm looking at you, Codename: Iceman), I got to be pretty good at it. Maybe it's because I grew up with it. The first adventure game I remember playing was Hero's Quest: So You Want to be a Hero (yes, pre-name-change), which was not that long after I learned to read. I loved a lot of icon-interface games, and I think that King's Quest VI is possibly the best adventure game of all time, but it was never the same. I also disliked just clicking every conversation topic in a list in Quest for Glory III and beyond, rather than having to think about what I wanted to talk about. What was interesting become something of a chore.

I started to lose faith in adventure games around the time that FMV came around, and I can't tell you how disappointed I was in Gabriel Knight 2. I hear was a great game, but I couldn't get over the feeling of being restricted by the pre-recorded action or, especially, the lack of continuity between the Gabriel of the first game and the Gabriel of the second game, who are virtually nothing alike.

It was King's Quest VII that finally made me feel like the golden age was over. It looked very pretty, but even the minor complexity of the icons was gone, and the game turned into sweeping the cursor across every screen looking for hotspots.

I guess I generally agree that the genre was gradually dumbed down, slowly through the change in interfaces, the increase in emphasis on graphics and appearance over gameplay and puzzles, and just overall getting easier. Then again, as was mentioned above, make a game too hard these days, and it's straight to the Internet.

(As I guess it obvious, my adventure game experience primarily comes from Sierra, and I didn't play much from LucasArts or other studios, though I do remember loving Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.)

Suggestions: Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Star Trek: Judgment Rites by Interplay, which are both amazingly good.


Last edited by Robot Fencer on Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:06 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added suggestions)
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Compuart on Sat Jul 13, 2013 6:41 pm

I think it's mostly about small independent game studios and publisher becoming big multi-billion dollar corporations during those times. Publishers would only invest in (what they thought were) cash cows. Adventure games, even though popular among a core group of gamers, are simply not popular enough compared to other genres like first person shooters and real time strategy games.

I guess 3D indeed was the final blow for the genre, but mostly because creating a good 3d game would require a budget that none of the big publishers would have felt comfortable with. Those who tried failed to maintain their quality level (Gabriel Knight 3) or estranged their fan base (Broken Sword 3/4).

As for FMV, I think it suffered from the same challenges: technically too hard to make it decent looking (Phantasmagoria's blue screen captures, anyone?) and production wise too expensive. I still liked Gabriel Knight 2 though, I think it was one of the best FMV games ever (but also thanks to the good story and music).
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Intendant S on Sat Jul 13, 2013 7:38 pm

I think FMV is one of those "love it or hate it" technologies when it comes to games. I, personally, don't mind it as long as the writing and acting are good. Gabriel Knight 2 and the Tex Murphy games are ones that I felt did it right.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Fien1 on Sat Jul 13, 2013 8:34 pm

I love FMV. I recently replayed Zork Grand Inquisitor, with its great over-the-top acting. Yeah, both GK2 and Tex had terrific cut scenes. Especially GK2 with the Grace chase, Ludwig, the scenes with Von Glower and the absolutely marvelous opera. First time I see Tex mentioned here. I'm excited about the new Tesla Effect in the making. The FMV is looking good!
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Intendant S on Sat Jul 13, 2013 9:42 pm

Oh, yeah. I completely forgot about Grand Inquisitor. That was a hilarious Zork game. I loved it.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Dylan Melowitz on Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:22 pm

I'd like to thank you all for your input and recommendations.

I've played the more obvious adventure titles, but there are quite a few mentioned here that I haven't heard of, I certainly will check them all out.

As to FMV, I have a special connection with it.
One of my first adventure games when I was a kid was a little known Interplay title called "Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh". It was a mature and serious adventure. It remains to this day one of my absolute favorites, and I don't think anyone has heard of it.
It starred Malcolm McDowell by the way.

I much prefer the serious adventure games, and that game may be the reason why. I'm not sure how well it holds up though.
I wish I could find it and re-buy it somewhere.


Last edited by Dylan Melowitz on Sun Jul 14, 2013 3:24 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : got the title wrong)
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Fien1 on Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:27 pm

You can get Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh at lots of internet sites. Dozens of copies available at Ebay and gametz. If you're not into trading, amazon sells it too for only a few bucks.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Dylan Melowitz on Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:38 pm

The problem with that is the game runs on Windows 98 and such operating systems.
My computer tends to struggle with compatibility mode for some reason, and I'm hoping someday perhaps it is discovered by the GoG community for OS support.

Thanks though!
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by WeiMi on Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:52 pm

@Dylan - DosBox wouldn't work?

For German speaking backers: As I've mentioned Edna just recently, tabloid Gamestar is
providing "Edna bricht aus" with their latest edition. The XL-version in addition comes with "Thief/Dark Procect" the brilliant Action-Adventure.
Don't know if there'd be english versions at choice..

And no - (unfortunately) they don't pay me Rolling Eyes 
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

Post by Fien1 on Sun Jul 14, 2013 7:44 pm

Dylan, you could try to run the game under Virtual PC or Virtualbox. I have no experience with Virtualbox and Virtual PC is not flawless.
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Re: The dormancy of the Adventure game genre

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