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Seven Deadly Sins of Adventure Games
by Adrian Chmielarz on 04/30/14 12:49:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This blog post also appeared on The Astronauts website.

We know why adventure genre died, or, to be precise, when and how it committed suicide. But surely all the latest discoveries in design (the trinity of Presence, Immersion and Engagement, ludonarrative dissonance, PENS model, etc.) have shown adventure game creators the way, and modern point and clicks are much better than the old ones, right? Sadly, wrong.

With literally one exception, which I talk about at the end of this post, it seems like the adventure genre desperately wants to stay dead.

Before I talk about the latest example of the zombification of adventures, a quick word on my background. Most people know me as the Painkiller/Bulletstorm guy, and that’s cool, but I have actually made more adventures than shooters. My first ZX Spectrum games were adaptations of either regular books (“The Diary of Adrian Mole”) or Choose Your Adventure books (“Starship Traveller”), but perhaps my first three commercial games are more convincing…

1993: The Mystery of the Statuette (PC, Polish only)
Adventure Games - Mystery of the Statuette

1995: Teenagent (PC, Polish and English release)
Adventure Games - Teenagent

1998: The Prince and the Coward (PC, Polish and German release)
Adventure Games - The Prince and the Coward

I mention this to make it clear that I do not only love adventure games, but I love them so much that I have dedicated many years of my life to their creation. So what I write about here comes both from the brain and the heart.

After this little detour, let’s get back on the main road.

Do you know who Jane Jensen is? I assume you do, but just in case, she’s the creator of the legendary Gabriel Knight series, and worked on many other fine adventure games.

Adventure Games - Gabriel Knight

I don’t know if Gabriel Knight (the remake of which is coming soon) is a good game by today’s standards. But I know it was an amazing game in 1993, when the first part was released. I was so enchanted by the game that when a few years later I went to Munich in Germany to sign a deal for my own game, the highlight of the trip was visiting real life locations that I have seen earlier only through Gabriel’s eyes.

A few days ago, a new game from Jane Jensen was released: Moebius: Empire Rising.

Adventure Games - Moebius

If only a few can make a good adventure game, the creator of Gabriel Knight series must be among them, right? Sadly, wrong again.

To be clear, I don’t want to make this personal. This is not about this or that creator. This is about the solutions 99.99% of adventure games creators use – and should not, as they ruin the experience.

Let’s take a look at the first seven minutes of Moebius and the seven sins of adventure games.

First Sin: Cinematic Wannabe

The game begins with movie-like credits. Movies have moved away from that a long time ago (e.g. Nolan movies don’t even feature the title anymore). At worst, something interesting happens when the credits are displayed: either something story-related, or something highly spectacular (e.g. the openings of Bond series). In the case of Moebius, it’s just a boring display of enigmatic visuals and names. That lasts for over three minutes. Yes, that’s how the game begins, with you staring for three minutes at something that tries to make you believe this is a “cinematic game” – whatever that means.

Adventure Games - Moebius

Actually, that’s not a sin exclusive to adventure games. I could name a good number of titles that force the credits into their openings. Developers: really, no one gives a damn. And those five guys who do, they can watch the credits on YouTube or go to Mobygames.

Of course, the “I’m not good enough to make movies, so I’ll make my games cinematic instead” syndrome that often plagues video games is not just about credits, and, on the other hand, there is nothing inherently bad about the “cinematic” word as such (The Walking Dead or Uncharteds are “cinematic” and that’s okay). It’s just that too many adventure games copy film techniques without deep understanding of how these things affect the game experience, and displaying credits in the intro is a good example of the problem.

Second Sin: Undisciplined Writing

The hero comes back from a business trip and talks to his assistant. Hero: “So, what’s the next assignment?” Assistant: “You just got here! You probably haven’t been to your penthouse yet.”

That tells me that the hero has a penthouse. The penthouse I can visit. The way the assistant talks about it suggests it’s a thinly veiled game hint: go to the penthouse first, and then we’ll see what happens.

In reality, there is no penthouse. You can never go there, and you never get to unpack that suitcase.

This is just an example; there are many more misleading pieces of dialogue and other unintentional red herrings in the game. Or in hundreds of other adventure games.

Third Sin: Lack of Internal Logic

The hero leaves the suitcase at his antique shop, and goes to see a certain man. When he accepts the job that the man offers, he can go straight to the airport and fly to Venice. Without the suitcase.

To make matters worse, you can actually go back to the shop before leaving for Europe, and say good bye to the assistant. That suitcase you just brought back from the trip to Africa will be standing there, untouchable, unpickable. Why doesn’t out hero need it? Nobody knows.

Adventure Games - Moebius

This may sound like a little thing, but it’s this attention to detail that makes or breaks an adventure game. The players like to feel a certain degree of freedom, and experimenting – especially when the experimenting makes sense – should always be rewarded. If I got back from a trip to a foreign country, and I have a packed suitcase, and I am about to leave for another foreign country, and I try to take that suitcase and the game tells me the suitcase is not important… That is nothing but a reminder that I am a puppet on a string, and not a hero of the story.

As always, this is just one example. The game suffers from the lack of internal logic in many other places. For example, you are not able to pick up even the most obvious items unless the hero “has a reason to do so”. This is not only terribly inconsistent (e.g. in the beginning I can take out a passport out of the suitcase just fine, even though there’s absolutely no reason to do so), but also simply translates to a lot of backtracking (once the “reason” is found).

Please note that I am not criticizing the lack of logic, but the lack of “internal logic”, i.e. the logic within the rules of the game world. Although, of course, the less abstract a game is, the more its “internal logic” resembles “real life logic”.

Fourth Sin: Useless Pseudo-Branching

I mentioned that the hero accepted a mission from a certain man. In reality, you can refuse to take on the job. The proposal comes from a shady man trying to send you on a shady mission for shady reasons, so the refusal is actually quite reasonable, especially considering that you also have two other exciting and legit jobs lined up.

Adventure Games - Moebius

Of course, that refusal means only one thing: you will not be able to progress in the game, stuck in a loop of meaningless activities until you say “yes”. So, at the end of the day the option to refuse is merely another reminder that you mean nothing in the game.

The branching in adventures games is a big topic in itself, and let’s leave that for another time. The point is, too many adventures offer options that are basically useless and not only bring nothing to the experience, but they actually hurt it.

Fifth Sin: Extrinsic Rewards

Humans love to watch the numbers grow. Some argue that most games are “fun” exactly because of this. And we also know this is what most F2P abuse to get the players addicted.

Moebius constantly reminds you – by displaying the feature in an often-used menu – that there are 676 points to score. Anything that progresses the story is rewarded with points, and this is highly distracting and immersion-breaking. Why? Because of “the power of growing numbers” a lot of players stop playing the game purely for the pleasure of brain teasers and the story, and start feeling obliged to click on everything and try everything in order to maximize the score.

Adventure Games - Moebius

It’s sort of like the treasures in Uncharted. If the “OCD” kicks in, the game either becomes ridiculous (you stop and look for treasure even though your friends are kidnapped and in danger) or you feel discomfort leaving areas without scanning them for treasure first.

Extrinsic rewards like points or achievements are crystallized evil. Some developers add them for cynical reasons, some add them to take the attention away from the weakness of the core gameplay. But some still simply believe they enhance the experience, and that’s just sad and wrong, especially in a genre that is supposedly all about escapism.

Sixth Sin: Bad Writing

This is plain and simple. Bad writing is bad. Watch this cut-scene. Please note I am not criticizing the graphics or the animations. Moebius is clearly a low budget game and that’s totally fine. But there are no excuses for such low quality writing. It kills believability and immersion faster than a bullet kills a soap bubble.

A few years ago Yahtzee correctly identified and criticized the classic adventures as “stories with pauses”. And we know that even the most idiotic stories in classic shooters did not necessarily hurt these games, as it was their gameplay (gunplay) that was the core of the experience. So if adventures are the opposite of that, all story and characters with some suspicious gameplay, how can anyone expect them to succeed if the story and characters suck?

Seventh Sin: Second Guessing

The worst moment in any adventure game is when you stop solving problems by thinking about the world and the options you have, and start solving problems by putting yourself in designer’s shoes. “That painting is here for a reason, they would not put it on the wall otherwise”, “I have this item in the inventory, so it must be useable somewhere”, and so on, and so forth.

There is a moment in the first hour of the game when you see a clearly Very Important Item™ on the bottom of a Venetian canal. It does not matter that it’s totally ridiculous that it’s there (it’s a crime scene, the victim is super high profile, and the police would have surely found it earlier). What matters is that even though you can clearly see the thing, you cannot pick it up by just going knee deep into the canal (or even diving, whatever). You have to find a boat pole and… No, no, it’s not that simple. You also have to find a florist putty. Then you have to combine the pole and the putty and only then you can use the thing to take out the Very Important Item™.

Adventure Games - Moebius

This is Moebius’ equivalent of Gabriel Knight 3’s “affix the cat hair moustache to your lip with maple syrup” or Silent Hill 2’s “make a handle by pouring wax over a hatch and attaching a horseshoe to it”. To make matters worse, there are people who believe that this is a way to go.

Recently I have read an article (plus comments) on Gamasutra praising this style of design, and I’ve nearly imploded. If we only had to point at one thing that killed the adventure genre, it’s exactly this: the necessity of second guessing the designer.


To be honest, adventure games suffer from many, many more problem than these seven sins -- so think of them as seven example sins rather than a definite list. Still looking at Moebius, one example could be the overload of boring activities. This is how many objects you can check out in just one room of the game:

Adventure Games - Moebius

And every single description is flat and lifeless ("And old cabinet. I have seen my share of these."). Of course, this being a point and click adventure, you cannot allow yourself not to examine these objects, as every now and then one of them will turn out to be crucial to the progress.


So, Moebius features bad writing, lack of internal logic (things are not logical even within the slightly abstract rules of this particular world), low production values, bad UI, etc. etc. – but these things are not really the reason why adventures died (or, to be precise, went from mainstream to a niche).

Think about some of classic adventures you loved. They were clever, funny, and with – at the time – visuals to die for, weren’t they?

Adventure Games - Indiana Jones Atlantis

The problem is: the core mechanics of adventure games always were and will forever be anything but fun. Inventory management, option exhausting (aka “what have not I tried yet?”), backtracking, dialogue repetition, pixel hunting… Which one of these mechanics scream “fun” to you?

We loved the classics not because their game mechanics were great, but because some people managed to work around them, overshadow them with amazing writing and graphics, make them invisible and, in rare cases, useful.

But, again, the core mechanics were, quite simply, bad. Without the state of the art skinning (i.e. world class puzzles, story and/or graphics) that overpowered them, the skeleton of an adventure game is nothing but a rotten pile of ancient bones. That’s why, for example, the old-school adventure bits in The Walking Dead were used more as a palette cleanser than to provide for a truly exciting gameplay.

But that’s the problem. Because the core mechanics of adventures games are not fun, only a very few people in the world could and can make a great adventure game despite these mechanics standing in the way.

And I literally mean “a few”. Actually, at this very moment only one person comes to mind, and that is Dave Gilbert, the owner of Wadjet Eye Games and the creator of Blackwell, the only great adventure series since the golden years of Lucas Arts. I have just finished the final installment, Blackwell Epiphany...

Adventure Games - Blackwell Epiphany

...and this is a perfect example of how a true talent can aikido the mechanics and not only make a great game despite them, but also find a way to turn their weaknesses into strengths.

However, if only a handful of creators can turn the counter-productive, immersion-killing mechanics into a spectacular adventure, can we consider this particular design model sustainable?

No, I don’t think so. If we stick to these tired, disgraced solutions, the adventures will never be more than a niche. An average movie can be fun, an average shooter can deliver excitement, but an average point and click adventure is a death sentence.

Making a “proper” adventure game using the current mechanics is possible, but incredibly hard. What Dave Gilbert does with Blackwell is, to me, a glitch in the matrix. And highly talented creators like Gilbert can make a great game out of anything anyway, just like a great painter can shock you with nothing but a piece of toilet paper and a lipstick – but I doubt you’d call them great painting tools.

And thus it is my belief we should never regret that the old school adventures died. They were mostly not that great in the first place, due to their irreparable mechanics, and I believe it’s high time to admit that. We need to treat the old school adventures like rotary dial phones. Amazing and useful at the time, but obsolete and useless nowadays – except to induce nostalgia.

Point and clicks will probably never die, as they are relatively easy to do and the audience is small, but loyal. And hell, just playing Blackwell made me want to make one more myself for some reason. But that’s just it, a niche hobby. A hobby that made a lot of developers avoid the word “adventure” even if the games they are making are exactly that.

But this is where I get to “not all is lost” part of this blog post.

Adventure Games - Fry

Actually, I admit I lied a little when I said “it seems like the adventure genre desperately wants to stay dead.”

The truth is, we are surrounded by adventure games. It’s just that they are simply not called “adventures” anymore. Gone Home is not an adventure, but “a story exploration video game”. Heavy Rain is “an interactive drama”. The Walking Dead is “a Telltale game series”. Phoenix Wright is "a visual novel". The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is “a weird fiction horror”.

In reality, all of these games are adventure games. They are simply not relying on mechanics that are in the way rather than support the experience. The adventure games have not died, they have simply shape-shifted into multiple new life forms.

On the surface level, the creator of Blackwell does not agree with this…

Honestly, I think it’s silly to pigeonhole adventure games as being one specific thing. An adventure game is - at its heart - just another way of telling a story. Saying that the genre has mutated and been reinvented is like saying films have mutated. Or books. Or plays. Or television. None of those things have to made in a specific way to be “right”, and neither do adventure games. There are many different ways to tell a story, and there are many different ways to make an adventure game.

…but – even though I disagree with him on details (I do think that films, books, and television have mutated, especially when we look at what they were in their infant years), I think that in its essence we’re talking about the same thing: adventure genre has many faces, and that’s fantastic and highly inspiring.

As someone who believes that games are potentially the most powerful story-telling medium, I could not be happier. We live in exciting times, in times when we are re-inventing adventure games based on what the past taught us (please see our today’s post on Tumblr for an example of this new design approach), and I can’t wait to see where the next few years will take us.

I may have no patience or mercy for badly designed adventures that do not understand why their core mechanics do not work, but my love for stories experienced through video games only gets stronger with time, and, from what I can see, such is the case for a lot of fellow creators.

Adventure games are dead, long live adventure games.

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Doctor Ludos
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Very interesting article, thanks!

I'd really like more details on how you think a game like Blackwell used Point&Click mechanics to enhance the experience instead of stopping the story!

Personally, I think adventures games can be fun, when you are able to solve their puzzles by yourself. For example, I quite enjoyed the Android update of the first Broken Sword episode, as the new sections they added to the game (with Nicole) plays way more smoothly than the original parts. I mean, the overall game is great, but I didn't need to use the "hint" system to solve the puzzles in the "new" parts, while I had to use it quite a lot for the rest of the game...
I also remember enjoying some classics like the Indiana Jones titles only because I had the complete solution to them - that way I could enjoy the story despite some very very hard puzzles.

So, what would you improve in the Moebius game, from a mechanics point-of-view, to help it get over these "sins"?

Leszek Szczepanski
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I think your assessment is a bit too cruel. There has been a number of well made adventure games during the last decade or two. Also I don't believe that the mechanics are bad by default.

I think that the problem with typical point'n'click mechanics is that they are much more difficult to design than they seem. They are not systemic in nature, therefore you have to manually craft most of the probability space the player will traverse.

And I think that challenging that might be good direction for adventure games to go. To break out of this mindset of creating everything manually, and start providing players with puzzles, that can be solved using generalized mechanics.

Dave Hoskins
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I've never understand how point and click adventure games haven't overcome some basic annoyances.
The main one for me is, when you click on a painting on a wall, the character will walk slowly all the way across the room, stand right next to it and say "huh, an old painting" or something. They can clearly see the thing where they were standing before!

But I also disagree, the adventure game is not dead at all, they are being made all the time, and they are not ALL hidden object games. :)

Kenneth Blaney
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Plenty of adventure games don't do it like that. The Blackwell games, for example, just have the character turn and face the object and then make their comment.

Ernest Adams
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They didn't die. They're alive and well, thank you very much. It's a misconception to think that they died when what really happened is that other markets grew faster. The Europeans have been making them quite steadily, as you will find if you visit and

Most of these "sins" are really just a matter of taste. I agree about bad writing, but "lack of internal logic?" That applies to every Mario game ever made. It bothers some and not others.

Christian Nutt
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Though I think there's a greater expectation of internal logic in a scenario based in the real-world and in a Mario-like fantasy world, particularly as Nintendo makes the affordances of what you can interact with and effect pretty clearly. We all joke about "the princess got kidnapped again!" but it's not something we really take seriously as a point of analysis (i.e. how realistic is the relationship between Mario, Princess Peach, and Bowser, anyway!?)

Luis Guimaraes
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I just tried to find out examples of where Mario games lack internal logic and pretty much failed at it.

Sure, some pipes you can go in, while most don't. Some pipes have plants coming out of them, while most don't. Some non-item blocks have coins, items or plants in them, while most don't.

But secrets are not really lack of internal logic, are they?

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, I think the definition of "internal logic" here is "the things you can and can't do seem to make sense to the player, by and large." Mario passes that test in general. In fact I think Nintendo is exceptionally careful about passing that test these days.

However, like I said, it's because the setting is so constructed that this becomes very possible.

Adventure games, as observed by Chmielarz, often have "cinematic" pretensions and realistic settings, so player expectations are set in a much different way.

Pedro Fonseca
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In Mario's case (or rather, platform games) I believe that "lack of internal logic" would apply to situations where you feel cheated out.

Such as a platform that looks fine and dandy to stand on, only to discover it's a background piece and falling to your death (see AVGN's video on Wizard of Oz for an example on that) or when to progress through a level you're required to go down a certain pipe without any indication that such pipe can be entered (ie. a pipe in the middle of a level, as opposed to a single pipe on an otherwise dead end) and before the game even tells you that some pipes can be entered.

Michael Wenk
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I don't know what you're talking about World of Warcraft is a great adventure game.

Edit: I probably should have put tags around that. But IMO, many games, especially RPGs are simplifying themselves to the point where you may as well call them an adventure game.

Josh Bycer
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Interesting post. I thought Moebius was just okay, but I don't have the background with classic adventure games to compare it to. But I agree with pretty much all your complaints about it. There's another great point of failed logic later on in the game, where you have to pick up wine for someone and the only way you can get it is to fly back to the starting city and go to the bar that the main character refuses to go in to buy it, then get on a plane back to meet the woman.

I'm loving the Blackwell series as well, while the graphics are old-school, the puzzle design and writing is modern and avoids a lot of the problems and esoteric thinking required of older adventure games.

Jacque Cousteau
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The genre is far from dead. There have been dozens of quality titles over the past few years (esp. from Europe). The success of Tell Tale and now Kickstarter (starting with Broken Age) have brought about the start of a new Golden Age for the genre. Moebius is not a good example to illustrate what the article was saying. It's a weak title, and the reviews from dedicated adventure game sites have been pretty negative all around. Jane Jensen is trying to get Gabriel Knight 4 made, and the upcoming remake of the original is the springboard from which that will happen, so Moebius and her previous title Grey Matter are the warming up for what will hopefully be another great GK game.

John Flush
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Fifth Sin: Extrinsic Rewards

This is a sin in more than just adventure games. It seems every game these days has stupid break the flow quests of collect all of this or that... It would be nice if games realized their pace and put achievements like this in the right spot... and if the pace didn't allow them they would never put them in. Most recent examples I can think of from my playing - Thief. Yeah, I'm the best thief ever, but i'm in a burning building, I don't think I should be worrying about looking in every corner the whole time trying to find something worth $10 on the floor. Or Homefront. Yeah, I'm fighting my way through occupied Colorado looking for 61 newspapers to read in the middle of the fight... stupid.

Roger Tober
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Most of these sins don't really apply for me. I like a game if it causes my curiosity to rise, it gives me just the right amount of clues to solve a puzzle without hammering me with it or hiding something, and if it pulls me into the story so that I must solve this puzzle to see what happens next. The big fail from the games I've played lately is the story. It's just not interesting enough. The puzzles tend to be a tad too easy and rely on hiding something rather than making a deduction from clues given, but mainly it's the story.
The "puppet on a string" line is just so much crap as far as I'm concerned. I don't play every game because it's play doe to mold to my will. It's still a game because a game isn't about "choices", a game is about "challenges."

John Rose
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Awesome article!

Bryan Powell
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The core article is interesting subject matter, but going after Moebius so heavily I think does it a disservice. We get it, you weren't a fan of Moebius. Instead of shoehorning in examples from other games occasionally, I think it would be more interesting to take a broader look at design flaws in otherwise well-received games.

But after the seven deadly sins part, the article kind of came off the rails for me, saying basically all adventure games are inherently dull and boring because the fundamental mechanics aren't fun. It was like an adventure game murder-suicide.

Then to turn around and say only one person can make a good adventure game, and that person is Dave Gilbert? Talk about putting someone on a pedestal. The only game of his I played was Resonance, and while it was neat and intriguing, I had a litany of major gripes with that game. But that's beside the point.

I remember when Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek series, came out. I was new to the franchise. I enjoyed the show, and thought it got a lot better as the seasons progressed. But the show choked to death on the vitriol of the fan base. Criticisms I read largely fell into two categories. When it was like older Trek stuff, they hated it for rehashing. When it wasn't like older Trek stuff, they hated it even more for branching out. To these people, this was season...25 or so of a long-running overall series, and they just didn't want to admit they were burnt out on Star Trek in general. That's the sense I get from this article--that you're just burnt out on adventure games.

Adrian Chmielarz
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No, I am not. I am actually making one, remember? Anyway, just a quick note: Resonance is not a Dave Gilbert's game, he just published it:

James McDermott
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One can still be tired of adventure games while still wanting to make one. As you said in the article, the core gameplay concepts of adventure games is flawed; yet you also said the adventure game genre has many faces (i.e. Heavy Rain, Gone Home, Telltale's The Walking Dead, etc.). Therefore, having tired of seeing the same face with the same flawed core, one could merely 'turn' the adventure gaming face to another face, one which lacks that core while retaining the spirit of the genre.

Roger Tober
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When you do make one you'll be ripped apart from people just like you who have seven other deadly sins. The only one I actually agree with was bad writing. The rest seemed very petty and even silly. If you could just wade into a river, there wouldn't be a puzzle and puzzles are the gameplay of adventures. Most of us understand this and go along with it because adventures are not simulations. We know we are being given a set of inventory and must use it in some way to solve the puzzle. I've played games that don't do this and just do the other things, and they are very boring as far I'm concerned.

Ty Underwood
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I don't understand why we still accept the model of how dialogue systems currently work. I don't talk to someone, consider four responses, and then say one. All games with conversation engines need new and inventive ways of engaging others with dialogue, most of all adventure games.

Christian Nutt
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Not only that, we don't go down laundry lists of topics we might be interested in until we exhaust them. Even worse, we don't go down laundry lists of topics we're NOT interested in, but follow them through to the end IN CASE there is something interesting hidden behind an ostensibly boring topic. This is why I inevitably give up on BioWare games.

Roger Tober
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Games don't have to model reality and in most cases, really can't. Also, don't you ever think of alternatives to question someone? I do, but I use more of a subject basis, which some adventure games use. The alternatives I've seen really don't work well. It's like those old games where you typed in a response and the computer pretended to understand. I hated those. I was always off by one word or something and didn't have the vaguest idea what I was doing wrong. Dialog is a way of adding story to a game. Giving some choices makes it feel more interactive. I don't like games without dialog, never have, because games without a story become repetitive too quickly.

Dane MacMahon
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I loved adventure games in the early to mid-90s and I keep buying modern ones, hoping to get that feeling back. Yet it hardly ever comes, they're pretty much all terrible. I finished a few, namely Machinarium and Gemini Rue, but even those I wouldn't say I enjoyed as much as the old classics, they were just okay.

I think bad writing is my biggest issue. None of them are that fun to experience because they all try to be movies but end up being poorly written, poorly paced movies no one would watch (let alone play for 10+ hours). Your other complaints are solid as well, but I think writing and pacing are the big ones. Sam and Max Hit the Road, for example, opens with big action, big colors and funny jokes... you're on the move, ready to explore this colorful world. Very few modern games even attempt such a thing.

I'm hoping good ol' Tex Murphy can bring me back when his new game releases soon.

Russell Flowers
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“You just got here! You probably haven’t been to your penthouse yet.”

I like where this is going.

George Bryant
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Great article. I grew up loving adventure games in the old Sierra and Lucasarts glory days but found I can't return to them or get very far into similar games. I think you've nailed a large part of the reason. The actual gameplay experience is pretty poor and I think it is extremely rare for a game to have a sufficiently good story to make overcoming poor gameplay worthwhile. Games demand punchy succinct writing and yet it is common to find absolutely no economy in games writing which leaves the player trudging through too many words in a medium not well suited to dense writing.

The Walking Dead mostly provided an illusion of choice but it was a step in the right direction. If adventure games are about narrative than minimize the goofy puzzles and allow the narrative to branch. A game story without choices is only acceptable if it's minor part of the gameplay experience (e.g. Uncharted which is about jumping, collecting, shooting, etc). If its about puzzles than Portal 2 is a great example which was a fantastic adventure game without any goofy item logic and also kept the game moving while telling a well written story.

ken wong
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Thank you for the wonderfully written, thoughtful dissection, Adrian. Lots of good points.

Nick Harris
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Given all the confusion over what the overly general term 'game' means, I prefer to call everything that I am interested in this interactive medium as an 'adventure' - ok, so Tetris and FIFA 14 don't fit and most simulators like Forza lack a protagonist (your Drivatar?), but Halo 3 multiplayer is sufficiently rich in emergent gameplay dynamics to create a history of the battle and chain a variety of short adventuresome antics together even if it lacks a prescripted extrinsic narrative, much the same can be said about the stories we coauthor with that world's simulation. I also think it would be easier to market these products as being puzzles, board games like Chess, or some form of sport with everything else being classed an adventure regardless of its hybrid of genres.

Ron Dippold
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Adrian, I can see why the Dan Marshall article caused a vein to start throbbing in your temple...

Yet when I actually played Ben There, Dan That! I found the puzzles to be extremely clear and logical even when they were very weird. There wasn't a single rubber chicken moment (that I recall), and it was quite funny.

This may be a case where a guy who finds it (almost) effortless is giving advice that will cause evil in the hands of lesser practitioners. I have to admit, reading the article, that he does make it sound far too trivial. He can pull it off but it may be a bad idea for novices.

Jan-Willem van den Broek
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Thanks for Teenagent! I remember having a lot of fun with that one in the '90s.