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History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica
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TOPIC: History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica

History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica 6 years, 12 months ago #2052

So, uh, I wrote this.

A truly graphic adventure: the 25-year rise and fall of a beloved genre

I'd love to hear what you guys think. There's already been some great feedback over on the Ars forums.

Re:History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica 6 years, 11 months ago #2058

I actually got linked to this through another blog and didn't realise who'd written it. I've had a brief scan but it's on my 'to-read' list. There was an article in UK magazine Retro Gamer over Christmas entitled 'The Best Adventure Games Not By LucasArts'. It's upped my 'to-play' list far too much!

Re:History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica 6 years, 10 months ago #2169

I'm a little late...
Whoa, you write for ArsTechnica now? Congratulations!

As always with your writing it's a good style and an interesting read. I think most (probably all, but I'm not 100% sure) of the games I'd think of as important were mentioned (including Blade Runner, which I kept waiting for till the last page). I definitely don't know all the titles and even if I know the name I haven't played them all. I don't feel like rechecking all the details, especially since you've obviously done good research.

Just a few things that came to my mind:
  • Your comments about small missteps leading to death in King's Quest are spot on. With the KQ3 remake in the recent news I remembered that I always had a hard time making it down that mountain path... (One of the reasons for never completing that game.)
  • Deja Vu having clickable verbs before SCUMM was new to me; interesting fact.
  • Oh yes, the age quiz in Larry1! I'd have to check if I still know all the answers by heart (I somewhat doubt it).
  • A personal thing: Few games ran on an Atari ST with monochrome monitor (and I didn't have a color one), so it was mainly adventures for me. Since my English wasn't too good back then Lucasfilm Games adventures were my Holy Grail (only Loom needed color).
  • It is possible to die in Zak MacKracken! (Hint: Zak with fishbowl on head inside Mars pyramid labyrinth.)
  • I never really got the appeal of Myst and similar games, but maybe that's just me.
  • Grim Fandango probably would be my favorite adventure game if it wasn't for the clumsy controls.
  • I recently bought The Longest Journey and its sequel in a bundle because someone recommended it here in the forum, but I haven't found the time to give it a proper go yet.
  • I think your analysis that the rise of the FPS and the amount of bad adventures probably killed the genre sounds very truthful.
  • In some part adventures seem to have been replaced by action adventures (something you mention shortly), although few also add communication options. (Outcast isn't too bad in that field, but mostly you specify the order in which topics are discussed, not so much selection of options. Outcast nevertheless feels a lot like a good adventure to me.)
  • It's interesting that the adventure industry is practically dead but there are many fan remakes, adventure engines like ScummVM seem to be in demand, and even the commercial special editions of Monkey Island seem to have sold well. Either this is just a bunch of us old guys looking for a dose of nostalgia or the genre might be on the rise again. (As a mater of fact I got my niece and nephew playing Monkey Island 3 and Grim Fandango, but that might have been due to the fact that nothing too taxing runs on the kids' computer.)


Overall an interesting and entertaining nostalgic trip. Thanks Mossy!

Re:History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica 6 years, 10 months ago #2170

Yeah, I'm moving up in the world.

Thanks for the feedback. Although both of these things were largely beyond the scope of the article, the two most common criticisms I saw that weren't "you should have talked about [insert favourite adventure game here]" -- really, I couldn't mention everything -- were that I barely mentioned the recent indie resurgence in the genre (check out Wadjet Eye Games, Amanita Design, Daedalic Entertainment, Cockroach, and Brawsome for examples) and I didn't at all mention the fan games (I maintain that they weren't all that important in the evolution of the genre, but I hope to write about them in a future story because they do showcase the genre's progress -- or lack thereof, in some cases).

I never really got Myst, either, but I've come to understand its appeal over the years. Some people fall deep into the atmosphere and mystery of games like that; with no real character development, I see through the lack of interactivity to find them clunky and limiting.


I have a secret shame: I still haven't played Grim Fandango (although I do have it on my desk).
Last Edit: 6 years, 10 months ago by mossy_11.

Re:History of Adventure Games on Ars Technica 6 years, 10 months ago #2171

As long as ArsTechnica don't "steal our" Mossy full time. Otherwise we'd have to burn them down

It's quite clear that you cannot cover every game, but I think your selection was very good as far as I can judge it. Obviously some games automatically evoke others (e.g. the second screenshot immediately reminded me of Dark Crystal and The Hobbit), but with an article focusing on the history of a certain game genre it's most important to feature games that pushed said genre ahead, either technically, story-wise, or from a usability standpoint.
It's also good that you mentioned games like Myst, despite the fact that you don't like it either (a fact well hidden in the article), because a lot of people will expect it and to be honest, it did push the technical boundaries and lead to games being distributed on CD-ROMs.
I think when your heart is in it (and you quite obviously like adventures, otherwise you wouldn't have written this article) it's hard to stay objective, but I think you managed that. OK, you bashed Phantasmagoria, but there's not much positive stuff you could have mentioned in that case and the bashing might be expected by most readers.

I don't know enough of the indie or fan scene to comment too much on that. But I know what you mean when you say that they didn't really progress the genre. Most of them seem to be "more of the same"; similar story lines, reused graphics, and the same dated control scheme. Few really advance the genre, I guess.

I guess the only thing I missed was some hint on the Monkey Island Special edition that might hint at an adventure revival. But that's just pure speculation and it's good that you stuck to the facts.

One thing I missed in the beginning were the Magnetic Scrolls adventures, but then I remembered that they are mainly textual, with the occasional (for the time really beautiful) image.

BTW, I haven't read any of the comments on ArsTechnica yet. So if there is an overlap between those opinions and mine it's pure coincidence.

Slightly off-topic: Not too long ago I had a lot of fun playing through an Xbox Live RPG called "Cthulhu Saves the World". The graphics were 16-bit style at best, but there was lots of humor and the seemingly primitive combat had some nice tactical twists to it. It's been years that I played a game till 5 am but this game made me do it again, despite the fact that some part of it was simply grinding for level-ups to have an easier time in the next dungeon.
While I'm also prone to be awed by technical splendor (I was absolutely impressed by Unreal in the beginning, but got bored to death in level 5 or so), there is still hope that I haven't lost my taste yet for neat games that are just fun to play.
Last Edit: 6 years, 10 months ago by M.I.K.e. Reason: Changed screenshot mentioned from "first" to "second"

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