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Adventure Game Interfaces and Puzzle Theory

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the use-square-peg-on-round-hole dept.

Classic Games (Games) 149

MarkN writes "It seems like whenever broad topics of game design are discussed on Slashdot, a few people bring up examples of Adventure Games, possibly owing to the age and interests of our members. I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts on a piece I wrote on Adventure Games, talking about the evolution they underwent in terms of interfaces, and how the choice of interface affects some aspects of the puzzles and design. My basic premise is that an Adventure Game is an exercise in abstract puzzle solving — you could represent the same game with a parser or a point and click interface and still have the same underlying puzzle structure, and required player actions. What the interface does affect is how the player specifies those actions. Point and click games typically have a bare handful of verbs compared to parser games, where the player is forced to describe the desired interaction much more precisely in a way that doesn't lend itself to brute force fiddling. It's a point Yahtzee has made in the past; he went so far as to design a modern graphic adventure game with a parser input to demonstrate its potential." Read on for the rest of MarkN's comments.MarkN continues:
"In addition to talking about the underlying concepts of the genre, the other main thing I touch on are the consequences of the simplification of interfaces — puzzles are more likely to be cracked by trying everything until it works since there are fewer possibilities for interaction. There are a few simple alternatives: requiring a number of actions in sequence, or requiring the player to achieve a more complex configuration or state to demonstrate their intent. But that can reduce the world of puzzle solving to explicit logic puzzles in order to get around the problems that more creative types of puzzles run into, since they depend upon actions that are simpler to specify. It's a topic I'd be interested to get the community's thoughts on, and what they see as the best way to craft a puzzle solving experience."

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If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130715)

Most of them when I played them back in the 90s seemed to require the following player input:

find monsters
kill monsters

level

And then when you go to a high enough level

find newbies
kill newbies
run from angry wizards

And that was about it.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130783)

Replace 'monsters' with 'pirates', and 'angry wizards' with 'Concord', and you have Eve-Online.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130925)

Don't replace anything and you have World of Warcraft.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Insightful)

Vee Schade (6806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134703)

Don't replace anything and you have World of Warcraft.

Technically, WoW, as with most other MMOs like it, is a [computer] role-playing game (CRPG), not an adventure game.

Adventure games are distinguished by their puzzle-solving and exploratory aspects, where exploration is a fundamental component of the puzzle solving.

CRPGs, on the other hand, are distinguished by the player taking on some "bad-ass killing dude" persona and performing "quests" (aka "missions") -- which typically means playing the part of a "bad-ass killing dude" on behalf of a beleaguered NPC. Puzzle-solving has no part in it -- "bad-ass killing dudes", after all, don't want to think and solve problems, they want to kill and become increasingly "bad-ass" (aka "level up"). Likewise, "exploration" is merely a necessary side-effect -- often a despised one -- of finding the target(s) of the NPC's anguish, if not the NPCs themselves. This is most recently exemplified in Blizzard's decision to limit flying mounts in Northrend (site of the Wrath expansion), to level 77+. Their reasoning for this: to ensure players have the opportunity to "explore" their new land, rather than merely passing over most of it from above. An understandable desire considering the amount of work they put into creating it. Yet, this one decision has arguably received more criticism than any other from their many millions of beleaguered "bad-asses" who just want to home in on and kill the latest targets.

As before, no puzzles here... move along all you thinkers.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130919)

The funny thing is that that sounds exactly like most modern MMOs.

It's nice to know that decades of experience amongst game designers has led us round in a complete circle but hey, it works, people enjoy it so I guess that's why. Personally though I can't help but think there is room for more interesting, more complex team-based puzzles in games, but I guess games like WoW particularly have to satisfy the lowest common denominator.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (5, Insightful)

morazor (1422819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131009)

I think it's just a matter of sales. A game satisfing the lowest common denominator has more potential players than a complex and difficult game. Developing a game has high expenses: low sales means failure. Many software houses making complex and deep games had to face financial problems.

Some examples:
Troika Games [wikipedia.org]
Black Isle Studios [wikipedia.org]
Sir-Tech [wikipedia.org]

As a matter of fact, a lot of people enjoy playing games that doesn't require too much reasoning. The others still play Nethack or ADOM for the lack of new interesting and challenging games.

Poor Black Isle (2, Interesting)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132527)

If you want a really good comparison of interface versus depth of a game, compare Black Isle's Fallout 2 to Bethesda's Fallout 3. Fallout 3 fails to have any interesting puzzles, and very little character or plot depth. It's pretty enough, and a 3-d (if buggy) environment - and they did a good job with the real-time/turn-based hybrid interface. On the other hand, Fallout 2 is a pearl of humor and interesting character choices - not just a black and white, good versus bad spectrum.

I hope we can get through this dark period of games quickly, to a day where the tools are well developed enough that we can have some interesting writing again. The market these days is comprised of mostly of FPSs, MMOs and flash games, it seems.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (4, Interesting)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133365)

I beg the differ, why then are games like zelda or portal so popular? The way i see it, people do like puzzles. Usually people would enjoy easy to medium difficulty puzzles with the occasional hard puzzles that actually gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Also, help guides on the net is an obstacle because when puzzles get hard all the time, people tend to just cheat and look online rather than figure them out. Overtime, this turns into an automatic habit which turns lots of games into lookup and grind since it is better to grind than not being able to solve the puzzle. This issue can be avoided by using a randomized puzzle generator.
Another problem is on the game development's side. More often than not, the games we play doesn't provide the players with enough obvious clues. Puzzles need to make themselves visible and intrigue the players rather than stay hidden all the time. For example, in doom you have to collect three brightly color coded keys to advance. Sometimes these keys will be in a hidden area, but the players know they have to find those keys.
The final issue in games are immediate rewards. People like to grind usually isn't because grinding in itself being enjoyable. If you take away the exp, money, or item gained from grinding, I imagine very few would grind. The problem with puzzle solving in most game is that there's very few rewards associated to it. And even if they do, the reward usually isn't appropriate for the feat performed. Thus, people end up skipping the puzzles and go for the easiest way to obtain reward.
In the end, i think online games would be much more enjoyable if these problems are addressed.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Insightful)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26135231)

I beg the differ, why then are games like zelda or portal so popular? The way i see it, people do like puzzles. Usually people would enjoy easy to medium difficulty puzzles with the occasional hard puzzles that actually gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Sure. But how many times can you solve the same puzzle, and how many times can you fight the same (type) of monster before it gets booooring? And how much time has to go into designing either task? When you get payed each month if people still play your game (as with MMOs), which task will you put your money to?

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

fugue (4373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133769)

But there certainly is a market for complex games. Chess is still popular (isn't it?), and weiqi is far more so. Sudoku is (are?) new and already ubiquitous, and I seem to recall that there are several hundred acres of crossword puzzles published daily in the USA. Other examples abound.

It seems that there ought to be plenty of demand for complex computer games. Is there something about the target market for puzzle games that makes them hate having to use a computer? Is it novelty (new sudoku in the newspaper every day)? Is it scope (10 minutes or an hour and you solve it and are done)? I'm pretty sure I've seen research showing that we learn better from paper than from a monitor--I haven't seen any mechanism proposed, but that could affect this as well (note the early popularity of computer chess programs that included a real board and real pieces).

Yes, it's a bit of a niche market (most people would rather be told they're smart than be challenged), but I suspect that niche markets are the only really exciting ones to develop for. If I can stay afloat while writing for one, I'm probably going to have a better life than someone who gets rich catering to the plebes.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131085)

Problem as I see it is that MMOs are by their nature social games, but gamers do have a tendency to be antisocial, so developers have to cater to solo players.

Now, a lot of the WoW players I meet are rather stupid, and wouldn't be able to handle complex team-based puzzles, as much as I would like them. The subscription aspect of the game means it does attract a better clientele as a whole, which obviously doesn't say much for MMO players.

Sure, I'd like to see some massively multiplayer games that require a bit more skill or intelligence, but it's probably not going to happen - these things are run as a business and cutting out the enormous amount of mentally challenged customers is not going to be a smart business decision.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131557)

The subscription aspect of the game means it does attract a better clientele as a whole, which obviously doesn't say much for MMO players. What do you mean by better? The clientele are better how and better than who? Do you think the game's population would be 'worse' somehow if there were no subscription?

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132779)

Before a friend convinced me to play WoW I played a myriad of free MMOs, the first to cost me anything being Guild Wars. The thing about many free games is that they are that, free, and so some of the people who play them do not care about potential repercussions because they don't play by the rules - duping, botting, hacking, etc. It being free and all also means many of their players are young - and even when I was their age I was taken aback by the immaturity displayed by these people.

By no means am I saying these issues aren't apparent in WoW and other subscription-based games, but the effect is reduced. The game costs them money so they are less likely to do such stupid things. Watching some of my younger family members play runescape, which I never thought even remotely worth my while, it was shocking to see the amount of scamming prevalent in the game world.

Oh sure, we've still got immaturity, and plenty of it. We still get complete and utter morons, we still get kids that are incredibly irritating (though plenty that aren't, too). There are still hacks and bots and scams. There's just less of them, though there is more of an attitude I put down to the average American consumer, which I haven't seen mirrored as much playing with my oceanic neighbors - a sense of entitlement, as if your 50c a day makes you the centre of the developer's universe.

If there were no subscription, everyone could get in, and while I think everyone should be able to enjoy the game, considering the quality of the majority of people I used to play with, I don't think it's ever remotely possible for them to enjoy the game and allow me to do the same.

What do you mean by 'Games'? (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132567)

Problem as I see it is that MMOs are by their nature social games

I concur that MMOs are social, but they lack a lot of normal 'game' elements. Puzzles are not common. You get infinite retries in most situations. In the most advanced aspects - team raids - it's really a challenge of coordination. Which, while game-like, is not particularly accessible to the casual player. It feels more or less like dancing, without the physicality.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (3, Insightful)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131371)

Personally though I can't help but think there is room for more interesting, more complex team-based puzzles in games, but I guess games like WoW particularly have to satisfy the lowest common denominator.

The problem with puzzle quests in MUDs or MMO's is that it becomes very tempting to simply follow the walkthrough of someone who went before you.

With adventure games the reward for completing the adventure is the knowledge that you completed the adventure without needing help. If you offer a benefit as a reward, that benefit becomes more important for many people. Thus, people will cheat simply to get the reward sooner. Which means you get left behind on the MMO treadmill if you want to do it on your own, giving you a disadvantage to those who look up the puzzle and get back to grinding boars.

There is a reason why MMO quests are so simple. The more complicated they become, the larger the advantage becomes to those who look up the solution. I think only randomly generating puzzles will lead to a more challenging MMO game.

Zelda, player/character/story progression and misc (5, Interesting)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132413)

The more complicated they become, the larger the advantage becomes to those who look up the solution.

I'd like to submit as a counterexample the Zelda series. To put my words in the right context: I have completed Twilight Princess two times (I own it), and my gf.ex[2] had Ocarina of Time, which I played most of a good while ago.

For those of you who don't know (srsly? on /.?), it's single player. Your HP is measured on a scale from 12 to 80 (quarters of hearts), with most attacks inflicting 1 or 2 points of damage. You character "levels up" by finding items or by collecting hearts; you get a full heart container for beating a boss, and can find shards hidden in the bushes. The game has a fixed set of items: four bottles, a fishing rod, a bow plus arrows, a ball on a chain, a pair of iron boots, bombs etc., which you find at various story points; some of the bottles are hidden and found by off-storyline investigation, and some items or item enhancers (a bigger quiver) are found in side quests.

Combat is fairly easy. Even for the bosses, you fairly quickly learn how to dodge their attacks and stay nigh-invulnerable, plus there's typically a big stack of hearts available if you look around. This minimizes the impact of gathering combat gear. [one exception is the Cave of Ordeals which is pure combat, tons of fun, and completely optional].

That's for the character progression. It tends to be either (1) in lockstep with the story, or (2) not very important; something you do for completeness or (future) convenience.

The main focus, not being on combat or character progression, is on solving puzzles. Each item has between (roughly) one and three important characteristics that outline how you use them. For instance, the iron boots make you heavy, slow and give you a lot of friction. The grappling hook lets you pull objects close to you, or you close to objects, and have a limited range; it also hits the object it impacts with and travels in a straight line. The bow hits the object it impacts with, doesn't move any object, has a limitless (for practical purposes) range but shoots in a parabolic curve.

The trick is to figure out how to combine your items with your environment. In one dungeon, you jump and grab a hold of a handle hanging down from a ceiling, but nothing happens. If you put on the iron boots, you become heavy, pull the lever down, and activate something. In a later dungeon, you use the grappling hook to "jump" to a chandelier, then put on the iron boots to do the same trick.

So, each object is fairly simple on its own, having typically only a single "wear" or "use" verb (and rarely both), but complexity arises from their combination and their interaction with the environment. I think that's a fairly good of building a rich system from simple components.

The puzzles can get somewhat complex. For instance, there's a sliding block puzzle: some (~3) block reside on a frictionless ~6x6 chessboard with some squares cut off and walls on the edges; you can exert an axis-parallel force on a block, including from outside the board, but not from inside another block. Your goal is to move a subset of the blocks onto some marked squares. (think of sokoban with sticky arrowkeys and the player inside the walls if it helps you). They can get fairly demanding; less straightforward than "go kill diablo".

Yet it's one of the highest ranked games at that site which averages out other reviews.

How come?

Well, the story itself is nice. It's fairly simple:

SPOILER WARNING
The villain kidnaps the princess
SPOILERS END HERE ... but the characters are interesting and it's told in an interesting way.

I posit this hypothesis: by emphasizing story progression and a sense of achievement (from solving puzzles) over greater combat ability (from MF'ing and tediously but trivially earned leveling), there's less to be gained from cheating--you're cheating yourself out of the feeling of accomplishment, and all your getting is a nice story and the possibility to cheat yourself in the future.

OT: Bug report for /. admins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26134207)

Bug report: The parent post includes "Read the rest of this comment..." link, but the entire comment is shown.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Merusdraconis (730732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131559)

Part of the problem with team-based puzzles is that they're very difficult to do in a persistent world. Once they're solved, they're solved. Do you put them back? The person who knows the solution is wandering around some place, and is free to post the solution on the Internet. If you don't, then players not at the cutting edge of the game essentially play clean-up -- assuming, of course, that one *has* a cutting edge. An ARG is essentially a kind of MMO - it has a persistent world that's shared amongst all players, after all, and they assume that players are working together, and so are free to make the puzzles as tough as they can, confident that players will eventually find a way through.

To WoW's credit, most of the bosses in the dungeons in the two expansions require players to work out and execute on a strategy to defeat them. Unfortunately, the strategy is generally worked out during the beta testing, well before most players reach it, and players generally don't have the luxury of figuring out the strategy on their own.

Someone will eventually crack the way to do a persistent world with puzzles and discovery while being able to renew solutions. I expect it'll be done by designing a class of puzzle that the game can assemble hundreds of unique variations on, but players can't solve by building their own solver.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132731)

That's not a problem with team based puzzles. That's a problem with persistent worlds.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132985)

Two examples that IMO worked in MMOs would be the puzzle chests in the PvP dungeon in UO (can't for the life of me remember the name now, began with K I think) and some of the master level challenges in Dark Age of Camelot's Trials of Atlantis expansion.

The problem with the latter is that the execution was horribly, Mythic had a great idea with their ToA addon for DAoC but they rushed it to market and it felt like an early beta/late alpha on release, driving away massive amounts of their player base. It also arguably required too many people at release.

Later on when players figured it out a lot of parts could be done with a group of 8 very skilled players and this seems to be key- make it so the puzzles don't necessarily have to be generated, make it so they don't necessarily have to be straightforward and scripted but make it so it takes some amount of skill to do them. This meant it didn't matter how many guides people read, if they didn't have a well disciplined, well communicating group with good timing and paying attention they couldn't do it. Those that couldn't do it would wait for a 100 person public raid who would simply just brute force the problem (I'm not sure if that's good or bad) but the fact you didn't have to wait for a public raid and could pull it off with a small, skilled team was a very good start. I could imagine the same thing with a more puzzle focussed element- have problems that require knowledgable people, sure you could get 100 people together to figure it out together or alternatively the clever/skilled/good puzzle solvers may be able to go it with just a small group- this means they could get ahead based on their abilities, which to me is what it should all be about. I can't see the point in competitive games where the criteria for competition is amount of time in game instead of say skill or effort.

Essentially the key then seems to be to make the puzzles a challenge and challenges can pull on more than just randomness of puzzles or time/number of players- they can pull on concentration, timing, communication, intelligence and many other human traits. Randomness is certainly a useful tool in re-usable puzzles, but it's so often horribly misused into creating boring, repetitive puzzles.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

theillien2 (1426175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132675)

The funny thing is that that sounds exactly like most modern MMOs.

It's nice to know that decades of experience amongst game designers has led us round in a complete circle but hey, it works, people enjoy it so I guess that's why. Personally though I can't help but think there is room for more interesting, more complex team-based puzzles in games, but I guess games like WoW particularly have to satisfy the lowest common denominator.

This makes me think of a particular endeavor in Star Wars: Galaxies (prior to its demise at the hands of SOE). In order to accomplish a goal a large group of people would have to join forces to defend a single individual while he or she set about a task. It wss something deliberately designed to require cooperation amongst a faction. It wasn't a puzzle per se but a step in the direction you're describing.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130999)

Oh dear. Ya know, there still are plenty of good MUDs out there. It's never too late.

A lot were just hack and slash, yes, and plenty fun regardless, but there were plenty that had interesting puzzles and could be played by non-tanking characters.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131249)

And yet you managed to name not a single one of them.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131641)

LegendMUD
mud.legendmud.org:9999

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (2, Informative)

Stalinbulldog (925149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133031)

Pretty much any MuD that calls itself an RPI, here are a pair which I recommend highly.
Shadows of Isildur [middle-earth.us]
Harshlands [harshlands.net]

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133373)

Thanks. I keep having the urge to go play a great MUD, but the only one I've called 'great' so far costs way too much. (I'd spend $40/mo.)

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

Skippy_kangaroo (850507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131013)

Bah! Kids these days!

When I played them they seemed to require the following player input:
plugh
use brass lantern
drop no tea

There were no levels, but you still had to run from angry wizards every now and then.

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131141)

bleh... you any your fancy three word commands, everyone knows real adventure games only take two words.

go north
get gum
eat gum
go east
kill dragon

Re:If only most MUDs had the puzzle solving aspect (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131349)

1) gather herb
2) craft potion
3) ...?
4) profit!

FUCK TEJANO MUSIC!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131167)

Hell, I'm of German descent and I can't stand polka music. Polka music with Spanish lyrics and cowboy-clown costume, mullet-wearing fans certainly is NOT an improvement to already bad music. Whoever invented the accordion should be dug up and shot.

Re:FUCK TEJANO MUSIC!!! (-1, Offtopic)

thegnu (557446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131251)

I dunno, do the Germans have hot bitches hanging around in daisy dukes in their music videos? And, I don't know, man. I haven't been exposed to much German polka, but from what I've heard, the Mexican shit is better. Marginally.

And, in defense of accordions, I dare say this [youtube.com] is badass.

UI irrelevant (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130733)

F1rst p0st! This game will always be played, regardless of the UI!

Re:UI irrelevant (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130819)

but you just lost it, the game.

Re:UI irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131255)

I just lost it, the mind and the lunch.

Interaction paradigms depend on physical interface (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130763)

I once had a similar debate while discussing with a guy who was doing a nethack port on the Game Boy Advance platform.

Nethack is a keyboard-driven game, where you specify actions (go, eat, attack, loot, force, open, close, zap...) by pressing a given key before you specify the object upon which your action is performed (if any), thus taking advantage of the large number of keys available on an average keyboard.

Console RPGs have a limitation in input keys : on the game boy advance, you only have 8 useful keys (directional pad, A, B, left and right shoulder keys).

So porting nethack to the Game Boy Advance platform required either simulating the keyboard in some way, which was the approach of the guy I was talking to, or defining a different interaction paradigm.

In console RPGs you usually specify objects before you specify actions. The reason is simple: objects, displayed as a list, are easy and fast to browse with directional keys. Then for one object you select, you get to select which actions is available for performing on that object, once more a small list, fast to browse with few keys.

So I ended up figuring out that the best way to port nethack was to actually invert the interaction paradigm, going from action->object to object->action.

For the player, it meant that the game would be played in very different ways. You don't think "what am I going to do now?" but "what can I use at this point to do something?" Still, the game engine is the same...

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (2, Informative)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131063)

When I was a kid (30'ish years ago) my brother and I would go to the arcade, primarly to watch the older kids play games (I was terrible at them, so it was interesting to watch.) There were a handful that always struck me as the most interesting and those were the ones with the unique interfaces: Centipede and Missle Command, because of the trackball, Tempest because of scrolling wheel (which reminded me of Pong) and some kind of crossbow game where the player grabbed a replica crossbow. But there was one other, and to this day I have yet to find anyone who doesn't think I'm nuts when I describe it: It was an adventure game with multiple players with multiple classes where the players used a keyboard (one of the membrane ones, like the second generation Speak & Spell.) I always thought it odd that a play-for-quarters game would be so complicated that it required its players to actually have that many selections so as to have a way of actually completing the game (don't ask me to describe what was on the screen. I was too short to actually see it :)) To this day, I don't think I've seen another like it, without actually transitioning to a PC.

Thayer's Quest (2, Informative)

Comboman (895500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131425)

But there was one other, and to this day I have yet to find anyone who doesn't think I'm nuts when I describe it: It was an adventure game with multiple players with multiple classes where the players used a keyboard

I can't confirm or deny your sanity, but the game did exist (though it wasn't very popular). The game was called Thayer's Quest [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Thayer's Quest (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133197)

Holy crap Comboman, That's it!! Thanks :)

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131443)

My Googlefu is strong and I believe you are talking about:

http://www.gamespy.com/articles/490/490363p1.html [gamespy.com]

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqddFGYvfgs [youtube.com]

See details about the Magnavox Odyssey 2 here, including mentions of the Arcade ports that were relatively unpopular in the US but more successful in other countries:

http://www.allgame.com/cg/agg.dll?p=agg&sql=5:17 [allgame.com]

Ever get snarled at by a Stephen King character? (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134949)

Dude, we could very easily have hung out in the same arcade as kids, except for that animated keyboard machine, ("Thayer's Quest", according to another poster). --Which I do indeed remember marveling at once, although it was in another arcade downtown.

I didn't spend any money on those games when I was young either. AND I was pretty terrible at them, but an arcade in the 80's was a magical mystery tour, to be certain. It always inspired the same kind of feelings as that weird, "Heavy Metal" movie, (which South Park somehow portrayed more accurately than the original). --The smell of pot hanging in the air and the spooky look of some of the patrons, I always felt like there was a reasonable chance of never coming out alive from some of those halls, but that didn't stop me. The games were just too unbelievably wonderful to stay away from.

Have you read this article? [nytimes.com]

Nostalgia for 30-something geeks!

-FL

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (3, Insightful)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131113)

Not to be mean, but have you ever played Nethack seriously ?
What you say is wrong because, Nethack doesnt limit you, you can try any action with any object (it may lead to nothing but at least you can try to do it). You select an action, it suggests obvious choices but you can also try everything else.
For example, if you want to "wield a weapon" (== "equip a weapon"), the game suggest items that obviously qualify as weapons (sword, bow, ...) but if you want to wield another object such as a potion, a monster corpse, or anything else, you can do it and you may discover interesting effects with this.
My point is, if you go from action->object to object->action, you would still have to display all the objects available and then display all the actions available : you didn't reduce choice or the difficulty to navigate the interface at all.

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131799)

My point is, if you go from action->object to object->action, you would still have to display all the objects available and then display all the actions available : you didn't reduce choice or the difficulty to navigate the interface at all.

True. And even if the action doesn't do anything right now, it might in different circumstances, or change the way other things interact with you.

Still, I think its useful to go object->action. For one thing, you probably have fewer actions than objects, so the first list is smaller. I don't know of any UI rule that says that's better, but I feel it probably is. And secondly, you can pick out a few of the most likely actions with that object from the full action list and make a hot-list.

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132369)

Powder: http://www.zincland.com/powder/ [zincland.com] -- it's for the PocketPC, you can get the emulators from Microsoft if you want to see what it's like.

This game is similar to Nethack in play but has an interface that would probably work on the GBA (shoulder keys rotate through the menu, B to activate the menu, directions to move, and A to "do").

Layne

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132343)

if you go from action->object to object->action, you would still have to display all the objects available and then display all the actions available : you didn't reduce choice or the difficulty to navigate the interface at all.

From a pratical standpoint you would have to limit the players actions to the obvious.
Now you know why console RPG's always seem to be dumbed down.

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132659)

Then you wouldn't port Nethack, you'd make a Nethack-inspired game that wouldn't be Nethack. The whole point of Nethack is having a seemingly "open" gameplay : tons of availables actions, your imagination is most often than not the limit.
Hell, Nethack's motto is "if you think something is possible, do it, the devs probably thought it about it before". Actually, limitating you to the obvious would probably prevent you from finishing the game (which is already insanely hard as it is).
However, mentioning Nethack is clearly very relevent to the debate here. That's the only game i know that give you this sensation of freedom with a predefined set of commands.
PS : I tried Final Fantasy XI on a PC I know first-hand how console RPG's interface can be frustrating.

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

Jraregris (829815) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133225)

A 8-directional menu, with several steps/layers would make all the choices in NetHack somewhat manageble. Use d-pad to point, and a, or something to choose.

Invert the object paradigm? (3, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131153)

"So I ended up figuring out that the best way to port nethack was to actually invert the interaction paradigm, going from action->object to object->action."

So you translated it into German!

Re:Interaction paradigms depend on physical interf (1)

STrinity (723872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134001)

I've always thought it'd be neat to turn the Zork series into a top-down Zelda style game.

Good luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26130807)

By self-submitting you acknowledge that your piece isn't good enough become popular on its own. I hope you're prepared to have your ideas roasted by the slashdot community.

Old-style adventure games (4, Interesting)

mvanvoorden (861050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130857)

I really miss the interfaces the older adventure games used, like Police Quest 1 and 2, Space Quest 1 and 2, Leisure Suit Larry 1-3, and the other Sierra adventures from that time. Just walking around, and typing instructions. Of course this could be modernised by using voice commands, but I like it better than just clicking around on everything until the right thing is clicked.

Re:Old-style adventure games (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130887)

I play Discworld Mud. Text based online game based on the discworld books.
Kind of interesting to me since I grew up after text games went out of fashion.

Re:Old-style adventure games (4, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131155)

Does it have the class "coward" which gains XP from running from the enemies?

Re:Old-style adventure games (1)

d4nowar (941785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130953)

I really miss the interfaces the older adventure games used, like ... Leisure Suit Larry 1-3

Only on Slashdot...

Re:Old-style adventure games (2, Informative)

xjimhb (234034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132377)

Leisure Suit Larry is MODERN compared to its predecessor. LSL 1 was based on a text adventure game called "Soft Porn Adventure" originally written (I think) in Apple BASIC but then ported to PC BASIC. A lot of the puzzles and events in LSL 1 were identical to those in SPA. Only the user interface was changed to a graphics format.

Re:Old-style adventure games (1)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131721)

Leisure Suit Larry 7 had both, in a sense. You could interact with something, and it would give you a list of actions. If you didn't like them, you could type in your own. I really don't think the clicking/vs typing argument holds much weight. It's really all about the quality of the puzzles. You can still randomly try out commands The frustrating thing about some older adventure games to me is that you'd know how to solve a given puzzle, but you'd have to "fiddle" with the command in order to get it to work.

Re:Old-style adventure games (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132937)

The old style parser adventure games grew out of the text adventure tradition, also known as interactive fiction. Many of the great old adventures have been liberated, and people are still writing new ones. You can find enough text adventures to keep you occupied for ages at the if-archive [ifarchive.org] .

I'd also recommend tracking down a copy of The Lost Adventures of Legend [mobygames.com] . It contains 8 great graphic adventures that lie somewhere in between a text adventure and the "3d animated adventures" from Sierra.

More than one way to Rome (1)

zoefff (61970) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130897)

Nice article, good points. Fiddling with the different option to obtain the right combination can be fun (monkey island)
But a major way of improving gameplay would be to have multiple ways of solving the puzzles. For example the closed door, you could:
-open it with a key
-use a crowbar
-ask a NPC to open it
-open it from the other side
etc.

It would make the decision tree more complex, but more fun. The game could adapt/react to your action, making it more replay-able. A simple example is Indiana Jones fate of atlantis.

Re:More than one way to Rome (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133211)

King's Quest V(?) was deviously annoying in that respect. You could cast a spell that needed gold, and you could use either the easy to find gold needle (which you need later), or a difficult to find gold coin.

Point and click hell (4, Insightful)

biscuitlover (1306893) | more than 5 years ago | (#26130985)

I think one of the biggest hurdles with adventure games, which the article touches on, is the fact that it's hard to make a complex world that is still easy to navigate.

For example, I love the idea of Sherlock Holmes games but often they devolve into a laborious click frenzy where you start investigating every object in the environment in the hope that it will be somehow relevant.
Similarly, how many people here have played Resident Evil and spent a lot of time walking awkwardly against the walls while mashing the X button?

I think the most successful adventure games are those that can make their world seem at once complex and immersive yet still easy to navigate and explore without becoming an exercise in endless clicking frustration.

Re:Point and click hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131069)

The interface can also get in the way in other ways. Specifically in cases where the player is required to performe a lot of tiresome steps in order to achieve even a simple goal. This creates negative feelings and is simply a result of stupid design.

Example

â You try to make the character perform an action where as the game UI responds that you must first move closer! (instead of doing it by itself - what's the point of irritating the player?)

I've also never seen an adventure game where its puzzle design didn't rely on very illogical chains of event -- actually requiring the player to try out every single combination of actions and objects on the screen in order to find them! This is why adventure games suck.

Re:Point and click hell (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132981)

I've also never seen an adventure game where its puzzle design didn't rely on very illogical chains of event -- actually requiring the player to try out every single combination of actions and objects on the screen in order to find them! This is why adventure games suck.

The Quest for Glory series is pretty free of those kinds of puzzles. At least I think it is, it could be that my familiarity with them makes bizarre puzzles seem logical to me. But most of the puzzles can be solved in multiple ways depending on your character, which would preclude having many puzzles with unique and bizarre solutions.

That's not a premise (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131019)

My basic premise is that an Adventure Game is an exercise in abstract puzzle solving -- you could represent the same game with a parser or a point and click interface and still have the same underlying puzzle structure, and required player actions. What the interface does affect is how the player specifies those actions. Point and click games typically have a bare handful of verbs compared to parser games, where the player is forced to describe the desired interaction much more precisely in a way that doesn't lend itself to brute force fiddling.

That's not a premise, that's an observation. Anybody who's really played the original verisons of, say, Hero's Quest or Leisure Suit Larry 1, with text parsers, then played the remakes Quest for Glory 1: So You Want To Be A Hero and LSL1VGA will tell you that. There are responses you simply cannot get out of the point'n'click versions because they couldn't dedicate an icon to a one-off action. Further, branching conversation trees really give things away compared to the text parsers.

On the other hand, again, the two games are pretty much identical in terms of puzzles and solutions; clicking your hand icon on a tree isn't much different than 'climb tree.'

Re:That's not a premise (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131275)

"clicking your hand icon on a tree isn't much different than 'climb tree.'"

I disagree. Clicking your hand icon on a tree could mean innumerable things, some of which I might never think of. 'Climb tree' 'pat tree' 'touch tree' 'rub tree' 'get bark' etc etc.

So a graphical game will inadvertently hold your hand and help you along, where a text parser makes you figure it out.

Don't get me wrong, I like both kinds of games. Hero's Quest and QFG 1 VGA were both great games. But clicking and typing aren't the same at all.

Re:That's not a premise (1)

murdocj (543661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131345)

If you want to see how well done a graphical interface can be with puzzles, get The Longest Journey. It's close to 10 years old now, so the graphics are dated, but it has really really really good puzzles. It's a great example of how an adventure game can work really well with a point and click interface. I'm surprised that Yahtzee didn't mention it.

Personally, I don't miss the demise of trying lots and lots and lots of words in a text adventure until you find out what word was coded into the program.

Re:That's not a premise (1)

TheMoonRat (937781) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132387)

rope, rubber ducky, clamp

I too very much enjoyed The Longest Journey, but the puzzle that required those 3 items was NOT one of the "really really really good puzzles"

Re:That's not a premise (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132991)

I've played it. And while I enjoyed it, I didn't enjoy it as much as even older games like the QFG series and the Myst series (some of which is newer than TLJ.) As I remember, a lot of the puzzles were of the 'oh, I'll just randomly click items on other items' variety.

Re:That's not a premise (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131521)

What you're describing is fighting with the parser. And that's what I was getting at in my first paragraph; the PnC interface limits you, as there are no modifiers. In HQ, you *could* do things like touch the tree, and expect a description of how it feels. With a PnC, you're spending as much time figuring out what the developers might have the interface do as what you're supposed to do.

Of course, with a text parser, you're spending lots of time figuring out which magic combination of keywords it's looking for.

Re:That's not a premise (1)

evan_arrrr! (1406417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134157)

Interestingly, I've observed the same things with the Police Quest series, specifically Police Quest 2: The Vengeance, an adventure game that used a parser as an interface. I originally had the game on our family's first PC (given to us by my mother's boss some time around '90). I don't know where it came from, but it was on there. As I was four years old when I started playing it, I have to say it was the game that taught me how to use a keyboard, how to read, and how to use deductive reasoning. Some ten years after playing it in monochrome on a who-knows-what system, I found the entire Police Quest collection (Police Quest 1-4 and the PQ: SWAT interactive FMV) at an electronics store, and immediately loaded up PQ2. The game had two versions, one, the original MS-DOS version with the parser interface, and a VGA version with a point-and-click interface. I ran the VGA version, assuming it would run better under Win95 than the DOS version (turns out it didn't make a difference), and found out the point-and-click remake version of the game was pretty much exactly the same, but with a much more clunky interface (especially since sometimes your character had to walk off the screen and look at an object that wasn't visible to you, the player). Also, I have found that the parser interface is just more fun - there are a lot of recognized commands that you wouldn't think were recognized commands. I can't count how many commands I tried that weren't necessary to the completion of the game that I discovered to be quite hilarious in their own right.

xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (3, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131089)

There's no way to discover, on your own, that there are magic words, let alone work out what they will do or where they may be applied.

For that reason, adventure games are more than mere problem / puzzle solving games. They require of the player some skills to hack around inside the source (or to know someone who has) to get the most out of them.

As for versions written since the early 80's - I haven't a clue. They all seem to be variations on the earlier theme, so once the (original) problem had been solved, they held no interest for me.

Re:xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131309)

This is the usual argument against Science fiction "... and then he just whips out his automatic debogofier and solves the problem..."

But SciFi and Interactive Fiction are only interesting when the writer obeys the rules, many older adventure games broke the rules by having hidden items/words/etc. that you had to hack the source or know someone with inside knowledge to discover.. this put me off them as well ...

The classic example of 'xyzzy' is a bad example because you could solve the adventure without it but the magic word just made it easier ...

Re:xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131393)

A while back, I read some site that had the synopsis and solutions to all the old adventure games...Planetfall, Zork, and so on. I didn't mind spoiling them, I will never play them. I was astounded at the number of XYZZY type things in those games - just stuff that I would ever think of, ever, not in a million years. The only way to win was to brute force your way through the game, or make a lucky guess. Fast forward to today, when the puzzles are straight lines with signs marked the whole way, and blocks to prevent you from doing anything wrong.

Re:xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133047)

The only way to win was to brute force your way through the game, or make a lucky guess. Fast forward to today, when the puzzles are straight lines with signs marked the whole way, and blocks to prevent you from doing anything wrong.

And somewhere in the middle lies the golden age of adventure games. When Sierra and LucasArts were king. It's all about balance.

Re:xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133427)

The only way to win was to brute force your way through the game, or make a lucky guess.

For the most part, I'd disagree with that. There was some trial and error, sure, but there was almost always some logic to the puzzle, and most of the puzzles I ended solving with "aha" moments as opposed to finally trying the right random combination.

I don't know if these were the same, but a lot of the solution manuals that I have read present the fastest or easiest method of finishing the game, which is often counter-intuitive, and not the way one would naturally figure out the puzzle. They usually pipeline activities to reduce backtracking (or exploring), which makes it appear as if you have to know to do certain things that you would have no reason to know at that point in the game.

They also make use of major use of shortcuts, which are often not revealed until latter on in the game to make it easier for you to get around. For example, IIRC, you don't actually have to use XYZZY at all to win those games, it is just a shortcut or easter-egg playing homage to the original Adventure game.

Re:xyzzy - more than puzzle solving (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132049)

> xyzzy
A hollow voice says "Fool."

8Ep!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131293)

Go find something Are aalowed t0 play being GAY NIGGERS.

just mouse click away (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131401)

IMO, the adventure game became less challenging once it was just a matter of moving your mouse over images. You didn't have to think about an action. Text based adventure games required you to use language, but they had the limitation of a vocabulary. Also every action only had a limitted number of responses, which made the game somewhat boring. Only certain words worked. In order to be entertaining over a long period of time, you need to have a sense of humor, so that when the player does something unlikely, they're rewarded with an unlikely consequence. Ideally, like in a pen and paper role-playing game, you could create a course of actions from the language you were most familiar with, and the interpreter could apply those words to the environment as best it could. Even if it is ridiculous like "throw mashed potatoes on idol" and the response is, "The natives hail you as a god of modern art, but they still want to roast you for dinner."

--Ray

 

Re:just mouse click away (3, Interesting)

LMacG (118321) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132157)

I think a critical part of the purely text adventure is the narrator, i.e. the responses you get to any and all of your actions. In many cases, that omniscient voice is there not just to describe the environment, but to give (perhaps subtle) clues about what was possible and what was fruitless. A lot of the time, with just pointing and clicking, there's precious little feedback except success or failure; the mashed potato example in the parent post is (to my mind) much more rewarding. The recent game "Violet", winner of the 2008 Interactive Fiction Comp (playable via Parchment [googlecode.com] ) has one of the best narrators I've ever encountered.

Re:just mouse click away (1)

Kintanon (65528) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132809)

The Monkey Island series is a brilliant example of how the Narrator can make the game awesome. Even in the later incarnations with fewer options and all that those games are quirky, intelligent, and entertaining precisely because the dialogue takes into account a very very wide array of possible actions with each item you have. We would spend time combining random items just to see what the narration had to say about our attempts.
Grim Fandango was another game with the same kind of awesome.

The problem I always had with the text adventure games was the limitation of the parser, in that "Use Saw With Tree" might work, whereas "Use Saw On Tree" wouldn't. That makes no sense. For a modern text adventure game I would expect a more robust parser by far than the ones I remember from the 80s.

Re:just mouse click away (1)

johneee (626549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132819)

I think both (all?) are really just different mediums which a sufficiently skilled artist can work within.

I look at games which are the (in my mind) best examples of different eras: Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy, Leisure Suit Larry and Grim Fandango. Each was devastatingly difficult, and I don't think a good point and click game (Grim Fandango) loses by you being able to click on things, nor does LSL lose by the player being able to see things instead of them being described when you saw them. The Bad games were because when new technology came out, people tried to adapt the same kind of puzzles to the new medium, which didn't work. You only got good stuff when people came up with different kinds of puzzles that simply weren't possible earlier.

The same things happen in any artistic endeavour. It's not just games.

Different subgenres (2, Insightful)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131437)

A very good article. The author knows his adventure games.

The whole concept of "the underlying game is the same, just presented through a different interface" isn't really true. I find that the different interfaces make way to whole different sub-genres of game.

For instance, consider the point-and-click style Sierra / Monkey Island games, in which you have many verbs and inventory. Such games tend to be very much object based and character based. All of the puzzles are about either a) using the right object in the right way with the right target, or b) choosing the right dialogue path.

Compare this to the first-person Myst-style games, which are all left-click based. No inventory, only a single verb. Well these kind of games tend to have very few characters for one thing. The character interaction is usually limited to cutscenes, as opposed to dialogue trees. The puzzles tend to be more mechanical (figuring out how to make certain devices work) rather than purely logical. The solutions tend to be more about what this author calls "implicit information" - having to write down passwords rather than carrying keycards.

For example, consider that you are stuck in a locked room. In Myst, you will probably see some kind of complex lock mechanism, and have to figure out its controls, and how the device works, and then "hack" the device to open the door. In Monkey Island, you will probably be interacting more with the environment; have to use some item you find in the room or already have in your inventory, or bribe the guard by choosing the correct dialogue.

I think the interface directly influences the style of gameplay. For example, the Monkey Island interface is nowhere near complex enough to let you figure out the workings of a locking mechanism in the Myst style, and nor does the Myst interface have the ability to let you use items on the environment or have a conversation with a guard.

Re:Different subgenres (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26131653)

A very good article. The author knows his adventure games.

Except Survival Horror, which the author somehow managed to ignore completely. Seriously, it's inventory/single-verb plus guns. How does that not qualify? Just because there's actiony bits doesn't make the "use object I found to solve puzzle" paradigm go away. And there's rpg-ish adventure games, like Zelda, etc.

And there's the resurgence in virtual consoles on the XBox, Wii, etc.

A discussion of adventure games that stops in 1995 is incomplete.

Re:Different subgenres (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133025)

Because survival horror is just a traditional adventure game with an action game bolted on. Or, more often, the other way around.

He didn't discuss it for the same reason he didn't discuss RPG/adventure games, or action/adventure games in general. Everyone can logically see how that works, he doesn't need to talk about every possible genre cross, although it would have been nice to mention that almost every video game ever made has some 'adventure' elements, even if it's just Doom's 'find the colored keys to open the doors'.

Incidentally, I will argue that it makes more sense to talk about action/adventure games because 'survival horror' excludes games with near identical gameplay, minus 'horror'. Like Half-Life, which would be the defining 'survival horror' game...if it was against zombies, in a darker and spookier environment.

I.e., horror survival is a thematic genre, whereas we're actually talking about gameplay genres right now.

I, however, was a little disappointed he seemed to think that 'recent computer games' had invented a fully 3D interface to wander around and find clues, when, of course, that was present as far back as Under a Killing Moon in frickin 1994. (And probably earlier.)

And continued to Dreamfall in 2006, and probably dozens of games in between. (And probably most action/adventure games although I don't play those.)

Re:Different subgenres (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133125)

Exactly. It's barely appropriate to call Myst an adventure game, when it's really just a series of logic puzzles. A real adventure game is more about plot, character, and interaction with a rich virtual world.

Re:Different subgenres (1)

cyberfunkr (591238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134961)

I disagree with part of your argument.

"For example, consider that you are stuck in a locked room. In Myst, you will probably see some kind of complex lock mechanism, and have to figure out its controls, and how the device works, and then "hack" the device to open the door. In Monkey Island, you will probably be interacting more with the environment; have to use some item you find in the room or already have in your inventory, or bribe the guard by choosing the correct dialogue."

How is "interacting more with the environment" different from "figuring out its controls"? Both are clicking around the interface. The Monkey Island interface (which is odd to say since every MI game had a different UI/Look 'N Feel) has always had a bit of freedom. I think it would be easy enough to design a lock tumbler system for both Myst and Monkey Island. Although for Monkey Island the tumblers would be replaced with a mouse, stale bread, a broken broom handle, and a used ship's wheel; whereas Myst would have a book with pictures to match up and some zodiac reference.

It's just how much the game will do for you when you click on an item.

Is it a limitation of interface? (4, Insightful)

One Monkey (1364919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131637)

I think it's more likely a lack of imagination on the part of designers. The fact is the basic building blocks of the design are fundamental.

Stephen Poole made the point that the more things Lara Croft became capable of in the Tomb Raider games (climbing ladders, auto aiming etc.) the more bizarre it seemed that she couldn't use the rocket launcher to blow wooden doors off their hinges.

I think a lot of times the reason puzzles devolve into an endless series of finding blue keys for blue doors is not so much because of an inherent problem in the interface but more because the designers can't be bothered to think of creative uses for that interface. Not saying that I can necessarily but nobody complains that you can solve Sudoku puzzles with a bruteforce online tool. The point and fascination for the participant is that it's more entertaining to do it without just cheating.

If your game isn't entertaining enough even if someone knows every answer ahead of time it sure as hell isn't going to be made more so by the addition of High IQ required brain busters.

Hybrid interfaces (and clicky clicky) (1)

zevans (101778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26131807)

What an excellent article - but here are two examples not mentioned that I'd be interested in Slashdot's views on...

1. "Hybrid Interfaces"
Surely Starship Titanic broke the mould here.

There seems to be plenty of web opinion that it broke the rules on obscurity of solution as well. :-) I got stuck on the puzzle where you have to suck, so to speak - but managed to figure the rest of it out, including the sauces which seems to be the other one people get stuck on.

TFA talks about "recent games," but Starship Titanic was out in 1998...

2. Clicky clicky
Anyone else remember WIMP on the Arch? Given that it was on the Arch this must have been out way before Myst. There's no Wikipedia article, one might just appear this evening... but it's mentioned under Fourth Dimension's entry.

1990 - a year before Myst started development.

Re:Hybrid interfaces (and clicky clicky) (1)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132053)

Well, there is Deja Vu [wikipedia.org] , which was a WIMP-style game that was out in 1985... It, and its stable mates Uninvited and Shadow Gate were lots of fun, and were a good middle ground between using a full text parser and a simple point and click interface, mostly because the number of objects in the game was enormous, making it hard to try everything on everything.

Admittedly they suffered from instant-death syndrome, but I still had great fun with all three.

The problem with adventures (0, Redundant)

autophile (640621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132309)

>Put lamp on grate
Nothing happens.

>Put sword on grate
Nothing happens.

>Put rock on grate
Nothing happens.

>Put wand on grate
Nothing happens.

>Put apple on grate
The grate opens!

Text vs Gfx (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26132701)

I implemented an LP-MUD like driver for use on web pages as seen here [dutchpipe.org] , and both typed commands and click commands can be used. Each web page becomes a "location". The typed commands are geared towards power users but at the same time is the engine for the graphical interface. Effectively, you can type "open door" or you can click on the door and select "open door" from the menu. By default, you get a chat line when you press TAB, and commands are preceded by a / ("/say hello", "/get key") although you can set the command mode as default, and you don't need the /.

Obviously the problem with this is explorability. With the graphical interface, you can just trial and error your way through the virtual place. This makes it much more shallow. You don't have to think about a solution, instead you worry about "finding" the solution in the graphical interface. On the other hand however, no one but 0.01% will be interested in typing their way through their game.

One of the disadvantages of adventure games, IMO, is that they don't handle bigger thoughts, strategy and solutions, but just micro problems such as which object to insert where or whether the red or blue key opens the door. In fact, when you think about it, it's mind numbingly boring. I'd have liked adventures with more sophisticated puzzles. Graphical interfaces just make it worse for the advanced player and more difficult for a creator. This is why the original adventure games never die in some of the hearts of those who played them. For all the enormous advancements in graphics, the underlying games never really got that much better and usually are less sophisticated and less detailed.

Re:Text vs Gfx (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133023)

Just because you keep the list of possible actions in your head instead of in a menu doesn't make it any less brute force playing a text adventure. It's game quality, not format, which reduces the appearance of "brute force" nature.

"stick string into clay" after trying everything else is no less brute force than clicking on the string, then clicking on the clay, then selecting from "stick, tie to, cut with, " etc.

The only difference is in one, you get to see instantly what the developer hasn't thought of, while in the other you need to go through a list of perfectly logical options before realizing the developer is making a pun, etc.

Re:Text vs Gfx (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133477)

The difference is still there in that you have to think of the action or "perfectly logical" option on our own in the text version, while the graphical interface will give spoilers because it makes you choose between different options.

Still crying... (2, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133189)

That they killed Floyd. Man, that just crushed my whole life. I haven't been right since... that shaky, almost annoying robot, so brave so suddenly, about to go into that room. Planetfall, you broke my soul.

I always thought... (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26133305)

...that adventure game designers seem to be designing for the lowest common denominator.

Granted, there is some reason behind some of their choices...pixel-hunts suck, so indicating what objects can be used, and their name, is a good thing. But they could, for example, include a lot of extraneous hotspots, and even items. It's a lot harder to brute force when you've got 20 items in inventory and 15 on screen. Or, if when you look at a bookcase, you can grab every book instead of the one you need.

And, of course, 3D movement helps a lot. I remember in The Pandora Directive, you're trying to get past a security lock, and the solution is to make, of course, a fishing rod out of a hook or something and grab a clipboard with passcodes on it.

But the trick was that the clipboard was on the receptionist's desk, behind a window, and you actually had to walk up to the window and look to the right to see it even existed. You couldn't just run your mouse over the screen.

Same with stuff in trashcans. Walk up to them, look down, there it is, but you couldn't click on the trashcans from across the room.

At some level, of course, this just becomes annoying. But there's always been a trade-off there, and, too often, I think companies err on the side of 'simple'.

And, totally unrelated, I'd like a game that treated concepts as items. The Pandora Directive made me think about that, because you didn't just have conversational trees, you had a list of every person and company and noun you'd ever come across, and another list of every inventory item, and could ask anyone about any of them.

I think it would be interesting to expand that idea. For example, say you come across a car that needs to be hotwired. Well, in a normal adventure game that would be sole book on a bookshelf, or you'd have a question as a tree option in a conversation somewhere.

What if, instead, you had a 'concepts inventory' included the idea 'hotwire a car'. And you could drag it, like normal inventory, onto people, or onto a bookcase, or onto a computer, and get the answer. (Or not, depending on who you ask.) And now you have a new verb on the car.

And such a system would certainly solve the goofy 'You have a three hundred page book but can only read the four relevant pages' problem. Which is especially weird if you have the book before you know what's relevant. No, now pages show up when you 'combine' concepts with the book, presumably looking up that information in an index or something and marking the pages.

You could even combine concepts and make new ones. Drag 'Person X' onto 'Company ABC' and get 'Is person X working for company ABC?'.

stripped down interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26133699)

http://www.geocities.com/jdean284/jsm.html

Brilliant!! A new age of puzzles has emerged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26133891)

The problem is: use key on door

And the solution is:
use rope on key, use fireon door, use ropekey on firedoor.

That is the solution? Common, what the hell are you smoking. If you want puzzles to move up a notch, the solutions isn't to try to "innovate" a overdone old paradime, it's to use the new possiblities 3d graphics, and interactive environments bring. Look at Portal, sure "Use cube to stand on; Jump; Shoot Portal; Jump into portal" just screams entertainment, but it can be done sooo much better, if you crawl out from your hole and look at the possiblities.

Re:Brilliant!! A new age of puzzles has emerged (0, Troll)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134315)

That is the solution? Common, what the hell are you smoking. If you want puzzles to move up a notch, the solutions isn't to try to "innovate" a overdone old paradime, it's to use the new possiblities 3d graphics, and interactive environments bring. Look at Portal, sure "Use cube to stand on; Jump; Shoot Portal; Jump into portal" just screams entertainment, but it can be done sooo much better, if you crawl out from your hole and look at the possiblities.

Crappy, one-step-closer-to-Idiocracy grammar aside, when you say, "Crawl out of your hole and look at the possibilities," were you suggesting an in-game action?

-FL

Lifeline (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26134731)

"Mirror."
"So I should run? Okay."
"No, no, no, don't, no..."
[runs in circles]
"What are you doing? Oh, you're really, really, really stupid. Huh!"

"Case."
"Are you talking about this?"
"Yes. Trunk."
"So I should run?"
"No, don't run!"
"Okay."
[runs in circles]
"Don't run, don't run, don't run. Stop, stop, stop, stop."

"Trunk."
"Yes."
"Wh-- no, trunk. Trunk!"
"I am walking."
"I don't want you to walk! Trunk."
"I am walking."
"Trunk!"
"I am walking."

"Camera."
"It's just an antique."
"Do what I tell you!"
"Can you at least try to be serious?"
"Pffft!"

Based on my meager experience... (1)

PegamooseG (991448) | more than 5 years ago | (#26135175)

A couple years ago, I was telling my friend about http://www.kingdomofloathing.com/ [kingdomofloathing.com] . At the time, I was working on a card game that was not feasible as a card game. I kept trying to keep the game simple, yet have most of my druthers included... It just wasn't going to fly. So, he and I combined both concepts and the result is something quite different.

The game is entirely browser-based with no plugins or downloads necessary. We tried to keep the interface as simple as possible. We do have a few people who stumble through it, but most beta testers were able to pick it up and run with it without referring to documentation.

The game is divided into numerous events, each with a set of options. The options are modified by the character's current status, inventory, random chance, or by the choices the character makes. The player's status even helps determine which events are presented to the player.

The thing that I find fascinating is trying to write the content in a way that presents itself randomly to the character, but in a logical order and way. This is as not straight-forward as fiction writing. It's like trying to write a Choose-Your-Own adventure where the reader starts from flipping to any random page and a single choice may lead to many possible pages. I also find it challenging creating the puzzles that blend well with the plot and setting, yet are challenging enough for most without being too straight forward or too randomly difficult.

He and I have had a blast creating our game. And, we have had several people try it and give us positive feedback.

If you'd like to try it out, you can find it at http://www.urbanlegions.net/ [urbanlegions.net] . If you'd like to discuss the decisions behind our designs, that's really a topic for another thread.
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