The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:08 pm

Tawmis wrote:
adeyke wrote:
Tawmis wrote:See - I think this is where I see a difference in our views. Hear me out here!
So, while I love adventure games for the stories they provide - granted, older games had a thin veil of story, there was at least some semblance of a story there! Now, for me, when I played - as I said, I enjoyed the stories - but I played it as a game - so I expected challenges (and potential death) - because games simply had that! You could almost think of these games, if you want to make them into a story or movie - as first drafts - the writer will put their characters through something, and decide to change in a rewrite - effectively doing a "Restore" from a previous "Save" :)

That's an interesting perspective, viewing the playing of an adventure game as the process of writing a story.
I don't think it really fits, though.


See, to me, it does. Have you ever read any Choose Your Own Adventure or Endless Quest books? In these books, you control the character in the story - and take action. For example, you might read one called "A King's Quest" in which the character, Graham, is going on a quest. You get to a part where it says, "If you want to cross the bridge, turn to page 80. If you want to turn back around, go to page 60."

You decide to try and cross the bridge, and turn to page 80, and read how a troll leaps over the bridge and devours you! Your quest is over! (Granted a lot of people book mark the page before - so that they can go back and make the other, more healthy choice!) It's just like Save/Restore. :)


I have some small experience with such books. However, it should be clear that what you're doing there is reading a story, not writing a story. If you make it to the good ending and want to brag about it, you'd be telling people that you successfully made it through the book, not that you successfully crafted a good story (if you took all pages you encountered and put them in the right order, I doubt the result would have a great literary merit; and to the extent that it does, you don't deserve any credit for it).

And graphical adventure games are different from those books. With the book, your only methods of interacting are turning a page and reading. So turning back to the page you were on previously isn't a fundamentally different type of interaction.

With adventure games, on the other hand, most of your interactions are those that happen within the game: as the character, you talk to someone, pick something up, open a door, walk somewhere, etc. So the ability to then instead control the whole world by rewinding time to a previously saved point is very different. If that were changed to also be diegetic and actually integrated into the plot and puzzles (i.e. give the character the in-universe ability to reverse time, and make a game where that makes sense), I'd be much more accepting of it. (I'm aware that something of this sort is the case in the game Life is Strange, but I haven't played that.)

adeyke wrote:Actually defining what an adventure game is is difficult, but the basic idea is about how the player interacts with the world. And within that genre, there are any number of stories that can be told. Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, for example, often aren't about going on any sort of adventure, but they're still adventure games.


See, I guess this is where we don't see eye to eye! I would say every time Sonny Bonds gets in the car, he's going on an adventure - because there's going to be trouble at every corner, as an officer of the law. And for Larry, he's traveling in a new he's not familiar with - that's pretty much an adventure.


That seems a very broad definition of "adventure", then. If an adventure can just be traveling somewhere new, then danger really isn't a necessary component to an adventure. Walking in the park could also be an adventure if you've never been to that park before.

But even if those are games really are considered to portray actual adventures, that's still not a necessary part of the genre. An adventure game could just be about a day at the office or some other everyday experience.

adeyke wrote:But even if we restrict our view to "adventure games about adventures", there are still many ways they can work. A game can be epic, challenging, and full of exploration without any danger. And it can seem dangerous without the actual possibility of death. But suppose you decide that the game should have the actual possibility of death and that "ability to escape actually deadly situation" is one of the things you want to test the player on. Even in that case, you should still be careful that you aren't instead testing them on their frequency of pressing F5. It's not enough to just have a vision of how the game will be played and what it'll be about; you have to consider (and test) how it'll actually be played.


See, most deaths to me - are logical (as far as adventure games go). Not all of them, of course. There are some related to "arcade sequence" (not surprising, as arcade games and arcade halls were big in the 80's that these games like Space Quest would inject arcade sequences). There's a few unsuspecting deaths (like the one I keep saying, the metal thing in Space Quest 3), but over all - the death portions are not that surprising when they come. Space Quest when that tasmanian devil thing comes through the wall - if you walk up to it without throwing the rubic's cube, you die. As you should, as that's a part of the puzzle of passing it, and thus, not too far out there to think they'd put a death sequence there if you don't do the right thing.


i think we're just repeating ourselves on this topic. I'll just say that I acknowledge your position but disagree with it and have given my reasons why.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby blueskirt » Sat Aug 29, 2015 8:29 pm

Let me tell you about the glory days of the Amiga 500.

It had wonderful graphical and musical capabilities, but it had no hard drive, meaning every single time you entered a new area, you'd be prompted to eject the current disk, insert disk #n and press Return to continue, at which point the computer would slowly load the data in its memory before continuing. Similarly, every single time you wanted to save the game, you had to have a formatted disk in arm reach and you'd be prompted to eject the current disk and insert your save disk and press Return to continue, and you'd have to wait while the disk drive noisily wrote the data onto the disk through a series of robotic "beep boops" and "tick tick tick" noises, before being asked to eject the disk and put back the game disk in the drive.

Now combine that wonderful machine with dead-ends, and walking deads, and "You died! Restore? Restart? Quit?", and adventure games running on a clock... knowing full well that with every single mistake you did, you'd have to switch disks and wait through the mesmerizing noises of the disk drive.

I recall a game, from my childhood, Rise of the Dragon, it came on ten disks, and these flaws, it had them all. I recall that the game had a nice soundtrack, but after a while my father had turned the music off, I asked him why there was no music and he told me that all the game music was stored in Disk #10, and every single time the game required him to switch disk to load new data in the memory, it would then ask him to insert disk #10, to load the music in the memory, after that, it would ask him to insert the previous disk back in the drive, for the game to continue, three disks switches, every single time he entered a new location, but, thanks to Rise of the Dragon pro tips from an Amiga gaming magazine, he learned if you turned off the music the game would no longer ask you to insert the infamous disk #10 and you'd save two disk switches per scenes. He could also have put the disk #10 in the secondary external disk drive he eventually purchased so he would no longer have to switch disks every single time he wanted to save or restore his games but if there's one thing you do often in Rise of the Dragon, more often than loading music data, it's saving early and very often.

Long story short, it's not a jab at Sierra or anything, I love Sierra games, surprisingly enough I have more fun talking and reading about great but flawed games than I have talking or reading about perfect ones, you'd be hard pressed to get me to say anything beyond "is good!" when it comes to LucasArts games, but Sierra games, or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you know, that LucasArts adventure game that nearly all LucasArts fans completely ignore, even tho its gameplay is as brilliant as that of Hitman only not as polished, I can write walls and walls of text about.

That being said, as someone who grew up with an Amiga 500, I can tell you, pretty much all of those flaws deserved to die, and while nowadays, finding new ways to die in Sierra games is a guilty pleasure I have now that we're spoiled with DOSBox and ScummVM and the joys of tweaking the CPU speed with a keyboard shortcut, but back in the days it was a kick in the nuts, every single time, having to restore or worse, restart the game from scratch, and go through all that disk switching, and all that waiting through the "beep boop tick tick tick tick" all over again, that was a pain the like you cannot imagine. Even nowadays, I have no idea how my dad found the patience to finish those games.

Bonus off-topic childhood story because thinking about that Amiga brings me way back: By 1992 the Amiga 500 had grown terribly outdated, we had Space Quest IV, Police Quest III, Fate of Atlantis and Lechuck's Revenge, but walking and scene transitions were incredibly slow, my father was considering his next move regarding computers. During summer 1992, we spent the whole summer living at my aunt's apartment in a big city, and one of the places we went pretty often during my father's days off what this huge Future Shop kind of store that had computers running demos in the aisles, and two of those computers were PCs, one running the demo of Alone In The Dark and the other running The Incredible Machine, and Ken Williams must have been right when he came up with his Ten-Foot Rule because our minds were blown and two months later, when my father's work assignment in the big city was over, he came home with a PC, a beaut that could run from 25MHz up to a whooping 33MHz by pressing an ominous button labeled "Turbo" on the case and a whole bunch of games: Space Quest IV, King's Quest V, Fate of Atlantis, Lechuck's Revenge, but also Alone in the Dark and The Incredible Machine.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:33 pm

adeyke wrote:
Tawmis wrote:See, to me, it does. Have you ever read any Choose Your Own Adventure or Endless Quest books? In these books, you control the character in the story - and take action. For example, you might read one called "A King's Quest" in which the character, Graham, is going on a quest. You get to a part where it says, "If you want to cross the bridge, turn to page 80. If you want to turn back around, go to page 60."
You decide to try and cross the bridge, and turn to page 80, and read how a troll leaps over the bridge and devours you! Your quest is over! (Granted a lot of people book mark the page before - so that they can go back and make the other, more healthy choice!) It's just like Save/Restore. :)

I have some small experience with such books. However, it should be clear that what you're doing there is reading a story, not writing a story.


That's the point I was trying to make. You were saying these Adventure games were like a story, and shouldn't have death, just like a book or novel. But these books - the reader of these books is just like the player of these adventure games - they're exploring a world presented to them - and given choices to make - some lead to your death, the others allow you to continue the quest!

adeyke wrote:And graphical adventure games are different from those books. With the book, your only methods of interacting are turning a page and reading. So turning back to the page you were on previously isn't a fundamentally different type of interaction.


But you were the one saying that Adventure games were like books; so I was trying to make a similar comparison. :)

adeyke wrote:That seems a very broad definition of "adventure", then. If an adventure can just be traveling somewhere new, then danger really isn't a necessary component to an adventure. Walking in the park could also be an adventure if you've never been to that park before.


Yes, actually. So a few years back I went to New York City with my wife (she was on business travel). And for the first time ever, I walked through Central Park in New York. I've heard ALL kinds of stories about Central Park. So walking through there - seeing the sites, and trying to be alert for anything that might spring out (whether a mugger or a homeless person!), I felt like it was quite an adventure (especially considering the size of the park!)

adeyke wrote:i think we're just repeating ourselves on this topic. I'll just say that I acknowledge your position but disagree with it and have given my reasons why.


I don't think anyone is trying to change anyone's mind; it is just fun to have a discussion sharing our opposing views, and doing so quite civil (the Internet could learn from this discussion!) :)

blueskirt wrote:Let me tell you about the glory days of the Amiga 500.
It had wonderful graphical and musical capabilities, but it had no hard drive, meaning every single time you entered a new area, you'd be prompted to eject the current disk, insert disk #n and press Return to continue, at which point the computer would slowly load the data in its memory before continuing. Similarly, every single time you wanted to save the game, you had to have a formatted disk in arm reach and you'd be prompted to eject the current disk and insert your save disk and press Return to continue, and you'd have to wait while the disk drive noisily wrote the data onto the disk through a series of robotic "beep boops" and "tick tick tick" noises, before being asked to eject the disk and put back the game disk in the drive.


You and I had a similar experience. So my friend Shawn - his father had a top notch computer at the time (which was probably a 286-50mhz system with like 200MB hard drive, a 1GB of RAM or something!) So playing at my friend Shawn's house was never a problem! But my parents back in the day were not fond of me always wanting to stay the night there. So there were weekends where he stayed the night at my house.

Now, you and I - as I said - have a similar experience.

I had a Tandy 1000SX which ran normally at 4 mhz (I believe it was), and like the machine you mentioned had a "Turbo" button that DOUBLED the speed to something like 7mhz. I remember this bad boy costing my dad, something like $1,400! (Can you imagine that?)

The Tandy 1000SX has no hard drive. Not only that, the only "disk drive" it had was a low density 5.25" drive.

So the idea of injecting a thousand disks (because my system couldn't have a cool 3.25" low density drive!) repeatedly and using a Save Game disk is all too familiar to me.

I still loved it. (Maybe back then it bugged me, but I certainly don't remember it... I was eagerly swapping disks like a DJ...)

Dug up, what I believe are the stats on the Tandy 1000 SX...

NAME 1000 SX
MANUFACTURER Tandy Radio Shack
TYPE Home Computer
ORIGIN U.S.A.
YEAR 1986
KEYBOARD Full stroke keyboard, 90 keys, 12 function keys, numeric keypad
CPU Intel 8088
SPEED 4.77 MHz / 7.16 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR Intel 8087 math. coprocessor available as an option
RAM 384 KB (up to 640 KB)
TEXT MODES 80 x 25 / 40 x 25
GRAPHIC MODES CGA/TGA, 160 x 200, 320 x 200, 640 x 200
COLORS 16 foreground colours + 8 background colours
SOUND 3 voices + 1 sound channel
SIZE / WEIGHT 354 x 290 x 97 mm / 31 lbs
I/O PORTS keyboard, 2 x joysticks, RGBI color monitor video output, composite video output, lightpen port, parallel port, serial port, 5 internal expansion slots, audio output (mono)
BUILT IN MEDIA one or two 5.25'' floppy disk drives (360 KB)
3.5
OS MS-DOS 3.22, DeskMate II and GW Microsoft Basic included with the system
POWER SUPPLY Built-in power supply
PERIPHERALS memory expansions, internal modems, 20 MB hard disk, etc.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby MusicallyInspired » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:52 am

It's not that the game is testing your ability to remember to press F5, it's just that saving and restoring is the only good method of avoiding actual failure (something which I believe should be mandatory) that is entirely in your own control. I don't believe that's too much to ask for having full control of the game I'm playing. Anything else is catering to laziness and when you're lazy there's very little at stake. Why should I worry about failure if I get a retry or an autosave? Why should I worry about failure at all, you might say? Because without failure there is no tension beyond false tension that the game creates and that's just not good enough for me. I'm willing to accept the tedium and frustration of saving/loading my own game if it means everything is at stake and I feel actual tension which, combined with the game's constructed tension via plot devices and storytelling, can be very powerful.

Speaking of misused labels, really, I believe that adventure games are the ultimate role playing game in which you not only take on a role but the experiences of that role (exploration, discovery, tension, excitement) translated through gameplay. I've never felt that way playing an RPG which, as has been said, separates gameplay from story.

And people shrug off this powerful combination because it's "too much work" or it's "too tedious" or "too frustrating". I don't understand how anyone can sacrifice that just to make it easier and less "annoying" to play. To me that's the experience. That's what I signed up for. To treat the very features I strive for as needless and cumbersome nuisances is to miss the point. You want to play a puzzle game with story elements, which to me is "adventure lite". I consider all of LA's games (with the exception of the Indy's, which have deaths, though few and mostly based on arcade sequences), lite adventures. Even Mega-Monkey mode. It's not the difficulty of the puzzles (though that is a factor) so much as it is the chance of failure.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:55 am

And the argument that dealing with the restore dialog breaks immersion doesn't really hold water when death already has broken any continuity with immersion.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby MusicallyInspired » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:55 am

I honestly can't think of anything that has broken my game immersion. Ever. I'm tired of that argument. Are people's gaming experiences really so fragile? Unless they only care about the story....and that's another pet peeve altogether.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Collector » Wed Sep 02, 2015 1:25 am

There are times that I wish phpBB had "like" buttons.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:55 pm

MusicallyInspired wrote:I honestly can't think of anything that has broken my game immersion. Ever. I'm tired of that argument. Are people's gaming experiences really so fragile? Unless they only care about the story....and that's another pet peeve altogether.


Well, on the flip side - a game can do things to break the mood of a game, that don't have to do with bugs or dead ends. For example - somewhere on here - there's a thread about Dragon Age 2. And I'm more than sure I rambled quite a bit for my dislike of the game. For example, all the dungeons were EXACTLY the same, except some doors were locked. So imagine, you walk into a room, and it has six doors. Only one door is open so you go through it. You go into another dungeon later, has the same exact format - and once again, six doors - but this time, it's another door that's opened, and the other 5 are locked. Like there was no attempt at all to make these dungeons different. They were literally the same rooms, just doors baring which way you could go. That was absolutely jarring, because it takes away from being in the game, when you stop and go, "Wait, it's been the same six dungeons - looking exactly the same!" So, a game can do something that takes the player out of the "reality" of the game, that has nothing to do with the story, but rather the experience of the game.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:36 pm

This is going a bit back and forth. Let's try some backwards reasoning:

I don't think any of these "deadly sins" are covered in Mozart - The Conspirators Of Prague, which in spite of the fantastic music is hands down the worst adventure game ever played.
There are no deaths - towards the end you might "die" when you have to hurry to do a minigame and you fail, instead one of the characters wakes you, says you "dropped off" and that you should really start doing that minigame now. It's a difficult section and you will see that sequence more than once.
It has no dead ends - it barely has game.

So, what are your "pits of the earth" experiences, why are they like that and how do they rank up aganst this list.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:39 pm

Backstory:
Back when this thread was active, I'd made this post, describing some hypothetical really bad design decisions. I was just making up examples of things that violate one or more of the design principles, but Tawmis interpreted it as referring to specific bad puzzles in existing games and was unable to find a comparison for one of them.

And now:
Since this thread, I've decided to play some of the adventure games in my Steam backlog. One of these games is Runaway: A Road Adventure. The graphics are good, but I really can't recommend it. What's interesting is that one puzzle actually does involve filling a container with water, crossing several screens, pouring that water into something, and then repeating that whole process four more times.

I'd never played the game before, but now it looks like I was specifically referring to it in my list. It seems to be very hard to come up with intentionally bad ideas without coming close to something a game actually did.

I couldn't help but be amused when I encountered that puzzle.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:53 pm

It sounds like you really wouldn't enjoy Lost Eden, which is also the same puzzle over and over, and walking around in a large field of nothing looking for one or two things, and which is bad voice acting, but good graphics.

The only puzzles that I really mind are the Flogged To Death puzzles. Like when I played Broken Sword 3 and actually got a key out of a lock using a newspaper to retrieve it (at least in Phantasmagoria you could also use the poker) and later in that game I solved a beyond elaborate version of Fox/Goose/Beans river crossing.

That's definitely something I would include. Also, when you're solving a logic puzzle, it's terribly frustrating and joy-killing if the moves take forever to complete. Like the knights in the CDi 7th Guest or the trains in 11th Hour.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Fri Oct 09, 2015 11:08 am

adeyke wrote:Backstory:
Back when this thread was active, I'd made this post, describing some hypothetical really bad design decisions. I was just making up examples of things that violate one or more of the design principles, but Tawmis interpreted it as referring to specific bad puzzles in existing games and was unable to find a comparison for one of them.
And now:
Since this thread, I've decided to play some of the adventure games in my Steam backlog. One of these games is Runaway: A Road Adventure. The graphics are good, but I really can't recommend it. What's interesting is that one puzzle actually does involve filling a container with water, crossing several screens, pouring that water into something, and then repeating that whole process four more times.
I'd never played the game before, but now it looks like I was specifically referring to it in my list. It seems to be very hard to come up with intentionally bad ideas without coming close to something a game actually did.
I couldn't help but be amused when I encountered that puzzle.


Hah! Okay, see THAT IS a bad adventure design. There's no reason to repeat the same task repeatedly, like that. The only time you should need to repeat something, is for example; in Leisure Suit Larry. You do need to repeat playing Blackjack or the Slot Machines, to raise money. That's a little more logical. But, to make a person, find a bucket, find the water, then go back and forth several times? It should have been find the bucket, find the water, bring the water to the desired location, then the next step of the puzzle unlocks. (But even some great games have some REALLY bad puzzles; for example, now that I have beat Codename: Iceman, I absolutely love how well thought out the game was; but some of the puzzles and things you need to do in the game, make it so I'd probably NEVER recommend the game to anyone; despite the great graphics, great story, great music, and great scenery... the puzzles and tasks in the game, are a game killer).
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby Tawmis » Fri Oct 09, 2015 11:09 am

BBP wrote:That's definitely something I would include. Also, when you're solving a logic puzzle, it's terribly frustrating and joy-killing if the moves take forever to complete. Like the knights in the CDi 7th Guest or the trains in 11th Hour.


7th Guest & 11th Hour, are to me, like Codename: Iceman. I beat my head - literally - against a wall playing those games. And after I was done, I appreciated and loved them. But because of the insanity of some of those puzzles, I'd never actually recommend them to someone.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby adeyke » Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:47 pm

Fortunately, the game had the "double click an exit for an immediate scene transition" feature, so the process didn't take that long. Still, if a player has demonstrated that they can do something once, they've solved the puzzle, and making them do it again is just busywork. A better approach would be to have the take over or just narrate the repetition (climbing the tree in Monkey Island 2 gives a good example of how to handle such a repetitive situation).

The game was also flawed in many other ways. From what I hear, the sequels are better, and I do own them, so maybe I'll still play them at some point.
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Re: The 14 Deadly Sins of Graphic-Adventure Design

Postby BBP » Fri Oct 09, 2015 3:03 pm

Ah that's it Tawm: a problem for me is that most of the cryptic puzzles were unsolvable to me, as English is not my native language. With exception for "a small, headless instrument" I had to cheat on most of them, even if the bulk of the clues were anagrams. Also with the games, which were mostly too rich for my blood. The butt-stupid story, the fact that my PC (Dino) was too poor for the game so it only ran in black & white, bad acting and unlikeable characters leaves too little game. I liked the knight puzzle, that was about it.

(runs up to her 11th Hour Hintbook)
(reads it, finds it badly written, particularly compared to the Sierra hintbooks)
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