BananasFoster

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BananasFoster

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Old school adventure games were NOT puzzle games. They sometimes had puzzles in them, but they are not built entirely on puzzles (using this thing I just found on this other thing so I now have this new thing I can give to this dude isn't really a puzzle). They were open world games. You have a world you can explore around in (granted it's like ten screens, but that's how big games were then), and tools with which you can interact with it (Look, Pick Up, Open, etc.). Old school adventure games also pushed the envelope of graphics and sound hardware on PCs. We bought a CD Drive for our computer so we could run Full Throttle. They were also stories. Games didn't tell stories the way adventure games did back then, with "cutscenes" and extended sections of dialogue.

They were absolutely puzzle games. King's Quest, the game that started the genre, was a puzzle game. You're right that it was open world, but it was a game full of puzzles.

"That dragon has the magic mirror. How do I get the magic mirror from that dragon?" That is a puzzle.

Hence why they sold "Hint Guides" that had "Solutions". You know... solutions for the puzzles.

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BananasFoster

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I think playing Lucasarts games around 2000 generally makes me have a more positive attitude towards adventure games because if i got stuck, i would have no qualms about going to GameFAQs to find out what i was missing. This made the games feel more like crossword puzzles, because there was always that answer for me to look up.

You are on to something there. But answers for puzzles in adventure games were rarely ACTUALLY the problem that people make them out to be. Every company ran hint lines that you could call to get answers if you were well and truly stuck. It was a pay-by-the-minute scam, so people can't be blamed for avoiding it. But every adventure game also had a hint guide that was either was sold along-side the game, or came right in the box.

Rather famously, Al Lowe who made Lesiure Suit Larry thought his game was a failure until he found out that the sales of hint books were vastly outselling his game. Piracy had hit them so hard that the number of people actually playing the game dwarfed people who actually paid for it.

It's a little talked about concept, but the sales of hint books are part of what led to those "moon-logic" adventure game puzzles. It, to some extent, served as a really poorly conceived copy protection system.

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BananasFoster

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@bananasfoster said:

Well, I mean, see, you're doing exactly what THEY are doing.

Yes, Gabriel Knight had a stupid puzzle where you used cat hair to make a fake mustache. That was ridiculous. But that is almost the worst example of moon-logic in an ENTIRE GENRE of games.

There's a part in Zelda Twilight Princess where a girl needs you to get her cat back to her. I spent HOURS trying to get the cat back to the girl. I tried picking it up and taking it to her. Didn't work. I tried leading the cat with fish, since it followed you. Didn't work. I tried pushing the cat with the physics of the game. Didn't work. Nothing that made sense and actually solved the problem, would the game accept. But I don't blame ALL ZELDA GAMES for that stupid scenario.

What are you even talking about? Do you mean the fishing bit in the first area? They hand you a fishing rod and say "hey, maybe you should fish or something?" and the cat steals your fish. It is pretty straightforward.

It's been about a decade since I played it, but there is a girl in a house who wants the cat for some reason. There is a cat who is wandering around town. So the obvious thing to do is... pick up the cat and take it to her, since you pick things up. Including the cat. But once you go from outside to inside, the cat disappears.

Go fishing and have the cat steal your fish is not straightforward.

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BananasFoster

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@shindig said:

I've got no point of reference for Sierra besides Leisure Suit Larry which I never dabbled with. Adventure games are all saddled with the same anchors, really. LucasArt's old gear gets by on charm and nostalgia. Modern Telltale I'm mostly cool with because it focuses on telling a good yarn.

I had never played Leisure Suit Larry until the remake that just came out on iOS and... that game is just bad. It's not indicative of Sierra games, and it makes me sad that people use it as an index on the quality of Sierra games.

LSL is a spoof on adventure games and, as such, isn't a good measure of the genre.

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Slightly off topic, but ever do an escape room? Totally cool way to participate in real life adventure game.

Not off topic at all. I tottaly WANT to do one, but I've only done the game versions, which I discovered about 5 years ago. Apparently they are huge in China.

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@rongalaxy:

It's actually interesting what happened. Adventure games combined narrative driven stories with puzzles, with the puzzles usually getting short shrift. For awhile the genre died until Telltale helped revive it (I know there were others) and did so by basically eliminating the puzzles (or making very light puzzle elements) and focusing on the narrative elements.

In turn there is a new offshoot genre of puzzle focused narrative light games where the focus is on fun, often iterative, puzzle solving and not really the narrative. The best examples I can think of are The Witness and The Swapper. I haven't played the Witness yet, but I very much enjoyed the Swapper, because the focus was on the puzzles and the puzzles were good (and genuinely brain-teasing rather than just obtuse.)

So I would say the adventure genre sort of bifurcated into games for people who like story, and games for people who like puzzles, instead of combining both the way old school adventure games did.

Ron Gilbert took a couple cracks at solving the "How do you make an old school adventure game in modern times" puzzle a few years back. The results were the Deathspank series, which replaced bad puzzles with mediocre light action-RPG elements, and The Cave, which replaced bad puzzles with bad platforming. Both had their fans but neither took off. And of course there are still a few true old adventure games being made, like Broken Age (even has obtuse puzzles from what I read) and Gilbert's new project, Thimbleweed Park. So it's not fair to say that they aren't being made anymore, they're just not mainstream.

I think you are very much right about the genre bifurcating.

"Room Escape" games are becoming VERY popular on iOS. Room Escape games being adventure games that are confined to one location much like how the Goblins series was, back in the day.

I would argue that you are also correct in emphasis on story being part of what kills good adventure games. Narrative momentum grinds to a halt when you are "stuck". But, again, I would say that that is just indicative of BAD adventure games, and not a problem with the genre as a whole.

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BananasFoster

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@bananasfoster: that music video analogy doesn't work as well as you think it does. Mostly because music videos still exist and are still popular. The whole reality show thing you brought up is more of a systemic issue to do with television and how, as a format, it is on the decline. The content itself is still sought after, just via different, more easily accessible means.

In other words. Music videos are still relevant, classic adventure games are not, and for good reason. That's all I'll say when it comes to this topic.

I think maybe you are misapprehending the meaning behind my analogy.

I know music videos are still popular. There are still music video channels. And when MTV stopped playing music videos, it was a common refrain to hear people complain and say, "bring back music videos!!". But that number of people was much, much smaller than the number of people tuning into the Jersey Shore every week.

This is what happens when a company goes for broad appeal.

The best selling Final Fantasy game is Final Fantasy X. This just happens to coincide with the Final Fantasy game that gets rid of a lot of the strategy elements of previous games, a lot of the customization elements, and adds voice acting. That is to say, the game that makes the title accessible to the widest number of people. Did people STOP liking Final Fantasy 1-7? No. Those people tended to complain about how the series had lost the mark. But MORE people like a broad game.

In short, you appeal to the lowest common denominator. (Or the greatest common multiple, if that sounds more positive.)

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Telltale games are adventure games whether you like it or not. They aren't classic adventure games, but they are the modern evolution of the genre. Also, most point and click adventure games had really terrible puzzles. Not even the most well regarded games in the genre had well designed puzzles. They were bad then and they are worse now. Telltale cut that stuff out because most people hated that part of adventure games. They stopped getting made like that for a reason.

Again, you're making a lot of statements that are just patently false.

Telltale didn't "cut that stuff out because most people hated that part of adventure games". Telltale "cut that stuff out" because they made The Walking Dead and it sold a bajillion copies.

Can you not see the difference in that logic?

MTV didn't stop playing music videos because "people don't like music videos anymore". MTV stopped playing Music Videos because MORE people like Reality Shows than music videos.

There is ALWAYS pressure to become more populist in game design. And, yes, when you become more populist, there are going to be people who say that your thing became "better", when really it just became more broad.

There are people who don't like gore who will say that PG13 Robocop became "better" than original robocop.

There are people who don't like hard games who will say that a game got "better" by becoming easier.

That's just the way these things go.

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BananasFoster

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@cloudymusic: You know, that makes a lot of sense. It FELT very european and not Sierra-esque at the time, but I didn't know enough about the industry to make sense out it and I never revisited the concept mentally since I've been an adult.

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@bananasfoster said:

Well, I mean, see, you're doing exactly what THEY are doing.

Yes, Gabriel Knight had a stupid puzzle where you used cat hair to make a fake mustache. That was ridiculous. But that is almost the worst example of moon-logic in an ENTIRE GENRE of games.

There's a part in Zelda Twilight Princess where a girl needs you to get her cat back to her. I spent HOURS trying to get the cat back to the girl. I tried picking it up and taking it to her. Didn't work. I tried leading the cat with fish, since it followed you. Didn't work. I tried pushing the cat with the physics of the game. Didn't work. Nothing that made sense and actually solved the problem, would the game accept. But I don't blame ALL ZELDA GAMES for that stupid scenario.

To say that most adventure games feature puzzles that are random or don't make sense just isn't true.

In King's Quest 1, the game that started the genre, you kill a dragon by throwing a knife at him. Or you can use a ring of invisibility to sneak by him. or you can use a bucket of water to extinguish his flames when the tries to burn you. None of that is confusing, obtuse or makes little sense. YES Money Island has a dumb puzzle where you use a rubber chicken with a pulley on it for some purpose... but that's THAT GAME'S fault. (I actually never liked Monkey Island, so I tend to bring up the "put the banana in the jetpack" puzzle from Space Quest when I want to talk about dumb puzzles...)

I am mostly agreeing with the GB guys because I had similar experiences to them?

Of course many games have had sticking points and obtuse puzzles, but the difference is that Zelda had fun gameplay based on combat and generally decent puzzle solving so that one puzzle stands out as a bad thing artificially gating off other good parts of the game that are fun to play. Adventure games, the puzzles generally WERE the entirety of the gameplay, so that when there were bad ones, and there were a fair number of bad ones, they constituted the main gameplay gone off the rails. It's more akin to there being a boss that you can't hurt except with a very specific weapon that's very hard to find, and there are no hints in the game as to where it is. That's terrible game design and was routine for adventure games.

My original post said that about 90% of the puzzles in most games were reasonable and could be solved just by thinking, so bringing up a clever puzzle with multiple solutions doesn't sway me because yes, those existed. But then in the King's Quest games there were often ways to make the game unwinnable by forgetting to pick up a specific item or using it in the wrong place or whatever, and there was often little reason to think to look for the item or to think it couldn't be used earlier. That's terrible game design, especially in an adventure game where going back through puzzles you've already solved is not fun (unlike, say, having to replay a section of Mario because you ran out of lives.)

This was compounded by the fact that traveling around adventure game environments often took a long time, so if you wanted to try a solution you thought of you might have to spend 10 minutes just walking through the environments to get to the place where whatever you wanted to try was. And traversal in adventure games was not fun, it was just clicking over and over.

Maybe you just have a higher frustration tolerance and enjoyment of trial and error than the GB guys (and me) and that's fine, but my experiences with adventure games frequently involved horribly annoying sticking points that took HOURS to get through, and when you found the solution you weren't like "Oh that's clever, I should have thought of that" you were like "Game designer X you are a real piece of work!"

To boil the criticism down...almost every adventure game at some point or another would involve searching for a needle in a haystack, revisiting environments and talking to people to find the one item you missed or conversation option you neglected. Those were never fun and while they didn't constitute a large percentage of the puzzles in the games they constituted a large percentage of the gameplay time, because the puzzles you could solve logically were quickly dispatched with. Maybe if I played the games in the age of Gamefaqs it would have been less of a problem. As for the games that didn't have obtuse puzzles like that? Those are the best in the genre and the ones that hold up.

I don't want to be combative about this. I fully respect your opinion. But, again, I feel like you are making some of the same blanket statements that he GB crew are making.

You say, "in the King's Quest games there were often ways to make the game unwinnable by forgetting to pick up a specific item or using it in the wrong place or whatever". As far as I'm aware, that is ONLY King's Quest 5. And, yes, that game features bad puzzles. But that's one game that sold incredibly well that people use to color an entire genre.

You talk about backtracking and how that is annoying. Actually Day Of The Tentacle takes place in on mansion over 3 time periods so you only have a few screens to click through at any given time. It's part of why the game is so great. The Goblins series by Sierra, which was PHENOMENAL, was the template for Machinarium and features puzzles that are only 1 screen at a time. Everything you need to solve the puzzles on the screen are available on the screen.

My point is just to say that there were a wide berth of games that had different approaches. No one criticism can be leveled at the entire genre because there were SO many different games.

It's like trying to write of JRPGs for being "too hard" or "taking too much time" or being "immature". There's just TOO MANY games to level a criticism like that. Maybe the one you played felt like that, but there's dozens of others out there.