I came across yet another Adventure Gamers thread started by some game developer trying to solicit statistics on what people enjoy and don’t enjoy in games. While I made it clear that I don’t condone developing games based on such statistics, I later came back and decided to answer the questions anyway, changing them a bit to make it clear that the answers are my personal preferences rather than a reflection of a subgroup of “adventure gamers” as a whole. So, without further ado, here they are…
1. How important is the originality of the story to the game? Do you enjoy a more simple story with complex puzzles or do you want a more literary story that demands some “interpretation” from the player? Do you want to play a game that’s heavily laden with allegory and symbolism? Or do you feel that heavy stories are reserved for books?
First of all, I think the “heavy stories are reserved for books” sentiment is silly, mainly because most books being sold nowadays aren’t really that heavy at all. (I’m thinking Harlequin romances and airport thrillers and the like.) That being said, for all media, including games, I like there to be a broad variety of stories in existence, so that I can pick and choose what I’m in the mood for at a given moment in time. Hence, I believe that people can and should make whatever kinds of games they want, though I’m more inclined to support those who attempt something that hasn’t really been done before. Usually, this does in fact mean complex stories, but I can be just as impressed with a story that’s simple and yet profound, or a game that doesn’t have much of a story but delivers clever dialogue or a good sense of atmosphere.
As for the old “good story vs. complex puzzles” chestnut, I would also say that it depends on my mood. Generally, while puzzle games are fun for me, it’s the story games that tend to stick as having an impact on me as a person. There are, of course, rare cases in which a complex puzzle actually does have a good story behind it: What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed is, in my opinion, the best example of this.
2. Do you like the traditional adventure game mechanics of puzzle solving and conversations? What about mini-games? Do you like Indigo Prophecy “simon says” mini-games? Or do you like more in-world games a la the combat system in Dreamfall?
I like traditional AG mechanics when they fit the situation in which they are placed. I don’t like them when they feel too much like arbitrarily-placed obstacles to exploring the story. Same goes with minigames, though my usual complaint with the latter is poor implementation rather than hatred for minigames in principle. In general, I prefer gameplay to be exploratory, not punitive.
I haven’t played Indigo Prophecy, and Dreamfall’s combat system wasn’t terribly impressive.
3. How do you feel about viewpoint? Do you like a first person view like Myst or more third person like Gabriel Knight (btw, that’s my favorite adventure game of all time)? How about controls? Point-and-click or “WASD” FPS-type controls?
I definitely have more of a third-person preference, because I find it more interesting to play as the conscience of a well-defined character rather than as myself. Also, those kinds of stories tend to be better-written; it’s generally quite boring to make your protagonist a one-size-fits-all everyman, not to mention unintentionally exclusive to minorities. As for controls, I’m more comfortable with point-and-click, though I have played WASD games and enjoyed them.
4. How about replayability? Is that really important? Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis had a cool system that allowed some replayability. Did you enjoy this?
Most good games are inherently replayable in the same way that good books and movies can be enjoyed more than once. Many of them are replayable simply because not everyone sees all there is to see on their first playthrough; there may be non-essential items you didn’t examine, or conversation threads with characters you didn’t explore. However, since you’re talking about FoA (another game I haven’t played), I’m assuming you’re talking about replayability stemming from multilinearity in stories. I think that the ability to have multiple outcomes of a story stemming from choices you made as a player is a definitive strength of the medium, and I myself have attempted to make use of it. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s essential, but it can be very effective if done well.
5. What are your thoughts on incorporating game mechanics that people can return to over and over? For instance, an adventure game could have a game of checkers that needs to be played once to get past a certain point but then could be replayed later for fun.
I programmed the Blackjack minigame in CSI: Hard Evidence, and often went back to play it when I was bored. ‘Nuff said. Again, it depends on how well it’s implemented.
6. Do you own a Wii? I really think this is a great platform for adventure games.
Yes, and I agree. I still have yet to see a sufficiently effective implementation thereof, however.
7. Do you have any ideas on incorporating new types of gameplay into the adventure genre? I am open to any suggestions.
Multiple puzzle solutions, different relationships with characters based on previous actions, more interesting conversation trees… wait, do they still count as “new” if I’ve used them before?
Well said. You may not speak for a subgroup of Adventurers, but if you wish you may consider yourself something of a spokeswoman for this Adventurer. Also, to answer your last question: Yes, always “new” to someone until done too much or too poorly and then “old” to everyone and their mother. That is a sort of Tao of the Internet era…
One thing about the story auestion (1), I most prefer stories that are simplistic (but enough to hold the game together), with tons of little subplots. A good example is Psychonauts, where you can learn all about each characters back story, while little dynamic stories happen around you. For instance, you could watch Elka seduce JT in the beginning, who dumps his friend Chops part way through, only to have Elka run into the arms of Nils and leave JT and Chops to pick up the pieces at the end. They don’t add anything to the main story, but they add immensely to my enjoyment.