Story and Spatial Structure
Because adventure games map a story onto a space, they establish a relationship between different locations in the world and different parts of the story. Over the years, the nature of this relationship has evolved. The earliest adventure games, including the original Adventure, emphasized exploration at the expense of story. The game provided few cues that could give the player a sense of time passing— that is, of making progress through a story toward an ending. The game simply gave her a large space and told her to wander around. Structurally, the game looked rather like the drawing in Figure 19.6.
As adventure games became larger and began to include a more detailed story, designers started to break them into chapters (see Figure 19.7). The player could wander around all he liked in the area devoted to a given chapter, but when he moved on to the next chapter, the story advanced and there was no way back. This made the story more linear, which made it both easier to write for and easier to program. If the player needed to take a particular object from one chapter to the next, the story would not let him progress until that object was in his inventory. This arrangement is functionally identical to the foldback story structure I describe in Chapter 7. In a foldback story, the player has some dramatic freedom, but his options eventually narrow to a single inevitable event before they branch out again. In adventure games, this inevitable event is normally the transition to the next chapter.
With the arrival of 3D graphics and the action-adventure, the stories became more linear still. Areas occasionally offered simple side branches but few complex spaces to explore. The space in an action-adventure is structured more like that of an indoor first-person shooter (see Figure 19.8), because action-adventures emphasize conflict challenges (often shooting and fighting) over exploration. A good many action-adventures have a lot more action than they do adventuring.