FUNDAMENTALS OF GAME DESIGN, SECOND EDITION

Rdventure Games

Adventure games are seldom a technological challenge to build, but what they lack in technological challenges they make up for in creative ones. As the designer of an adventure game, it's your job to bring not just a story but a world to life—a world in which a story is taking place. Your talents at creating places, characters, plots, dia­log, and puzzles will be tested as in no other genre. Because the adventure game is not limited by flying or shooting or commanding troops in battle—indeed, it isn't bound by any particular mode of interaction—it has the greatest potential for creativity of any genre.

This chapter defines adventure games and covers the history and evolution of these games from text-based to today's hybrids. We'll explore the features common to adventure games and the gameplay mechanics that define the genre in depth. We'll cover puzzle structure, game flow, dialog, and language, all of which form integral parts of the adventure game. The chapter finishes with a discussion of the art and user interface that is unique to this genre.

What Are Adventure Games?

The thirst for adventure is the vent which Destiny offers; a war, a crusade, a gold mine, a new country, speak to the imagination and offer swing and play to the confined powers.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Boston," in Natural History of the Intellect, 1893

The term adventure game is a bit misleading because a lot of games about being adventurous aren't adventure games—and a lot of adventure games aren't about adventures, at least in the fairy-tale sense of going forth to seek one's fortune. The reason for the term is historical. Adventure game is really short for Adventure-type game, meaning a game similar to the one named Adventure (sometimes referred to as Colossal Cave). All adventure games are conceptual descendants of the original Adventure, although nowadays they include many features that Adventure lacked.

Adventure games are quite different from most other games on the market. An adventure game isn't a competition or a simulation. An adventure game doesn't offer a process to manage or an opponent to defeat through strategy and tactics. Instead, an adventure game is an interactive story about a character whom the player controls. This character is the player's avatar, but he's more than merely a representative of the player. He is a fictional person in his own right, a protagonist,
the hero of the story. A few adventure games have been made (most recently, Dreamfall) in which the player switches from one avatar to another at different points in the game, but they are not the norm.

ADVENTURE GAME An adventure game is an interactive story about a protagonist character who is played by the player. Storytelling and exploration are essential elements of the game. Puzzle solving and conceptual challenges make up the majority of the gameplay. Combat, economic management, and action challenges are reduced or nonexistent.

This definition doesn't mean that there is no conflict in adventure games (although many adventure games have none)—only that combat is not a primary activity. Adventure games seldom have an internal economy. All the relationships within the game are symbolic rather than numeric. Manipulating or optimizing an eco­nomic system forms no part of the adventure game experience; this (among other things) sets them apart from role-playing games.

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