Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Traditional Adventure Games Are Rubbish

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 24 Jul 2012 12:00
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As I mentioned in the The Walking Dead video, I solo-developed some adventure games back in the day with Adventure Game Studio. And they got around, I suppose. You can still occasionally search for them on something like Tumblr or Deviantart and find bad drawings of two of the characters snogging. I haven't made one in a while, though, because frankly I grew disillusioned with straight adventure games and their limitations.

When I was a kid I played little else, suckered in by early Lucasarts stuff like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. I'd be drawn in by the characters and the story, reading the dialogue aloud to myself in my room in the days before CD voice acting. I saw little appeal in your Dooms or your Contras where the story was a screen of scrolling text every twenty levels to put a shine of context onto the endless violence. So when I was in a position to make my own games, I made adventure games that appealed to the same storytelling instincts that made me want to write novels.

But as adventure games decreased in popularity and I expanded my horizons into games like Half-Life and Silent Hill, I realized where I'd been going wrong, and the fundamental flaw of the traditional adventure game. They weren't "better" than Doom and Quake or whatever, they were the opposite side of the same coin: All story versus all gameplay. I realized that where videogames came into their own was the exploration of a new form of storytelling, one that was enhanced by gameplay. And so I became a game critic. And then everyone had lemonade.

The point is that the traditional adventure gameplay is rubbish. Oh, sometimes they'd come up with a really clever puzzle like using insults to win sword fights, but these were the exceptions rather than the rule. Most of the time the inventory puzzles only served, as in The Walking Dead, just as a token effort to be able to call itself a game rather than a linear story with an unusual pause function. And that's why my solo development output moved away from adventure games to explore other ways to make the practical element absorbing while still placing the all-important emphasis on storytelling. That's why I started making stuff like Poacher, and Art of Theft, and Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment, a game I'm of a mind to one day remake to be less terrible.

And it seems I'm not the only solo developer to have thought along these lines, if Lone Survivor is any indicator.

My original idea for last week's Zero Punctuation was to spend half the time on The Walking Dead and the other half on this game, but while I was writing about The Walking Dead something triggered the ranty muscles and I found I had more to say than I thought. But if I don't acknowledge Lone Survivor soon then I'm going to be driven quite mad by all the people recommending it to me. Usually by describing it as a 2D Silent Hill 2, and Silent Hill 2 will never be able to fully clean my bodily fluids out of its hair.

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