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Article - 'The tragic tale of Adventure Games' by Bondo

An item about Miscellanious posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

Bondo's mournful article concerning the decline in the genre of adventure games. Full title: "The Tragic story of the Highly Underestimated Adventure Game"

Body

I write today to mourn a dead genre. This genre is the adventure game.

I don't mean Zelda, or any other game of that sort that contains adventure. That's getting into game genre confusion and is probably a topic for a different article. I'm talking about the style of game that any of us who are old enough to remember played for countless hours on end, and maybe even grew up on. I'm refering to games like Space Quest, where we saved the galaxy as Roger Wilco, swashbuckling janitor of the final frontier. Quest for Glory, where we sought to become a hero in the land of Spielburg. Or Monkey Island, where we helped Guybrush Threepwood become a pirate. Anybody over the age of 13 has most likely played at least one of these games.

The coveted adventure game lies dormant now. Overshadowed by violence, twitch gameplay, and pages upon pages of character statistics. I say dormant, not dead because I think there is hope. Already the genre has begun to thaw from it's cryo-like hibernation. This can be proven by a few twitches of life, such as the Playstation 2 Monkey Island, or Siberia on the PC. Broken Sword, an adventure game that rates rather highly by fans, is being revived on the Game Boy Advance. I sense a massive adventure game revival ahead.

Behind the maddness, the adventure game still lives. A large cult (Dare I say "cult?" Perhaps a better choice of words would be "denomination.") continues to fuel their burning desire for more adventure goodness by making their own adventure games.

The most direct approach for this many people have chosen is to directly make their adventure masterpieces entirely within Sierra's own AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter.) and SCI (Sierra Creative Interpreter.) These are the engines Adventure game god Sierra used to make the classics we know and remember. And they have been reverse engineered and simplified so you can design adventure games with the classic feel that makes you all fuzzy inside.

The first program Sierra used for their adventure game goodness was AGI. I must warn you now, AGI is old. Very old. I'm talking about EGA graphics, PC speaker old. Graphics are 16 color, very low resolution. The character is moved around a pre-drawn background with the movement keys. And commands are typed via keyboard. When I say commands, I mean let's say you want to open a window in-game. You would type "Open Window." and hopefully, the window will open for you. Or it will say the window is stuck, really depending on what the designer intended. Action is limited in this type of game. Gameplay mostly relies on the players almost McGyver esque skills to know that you must use the chewing gum on yourself to make it sticky, combine the chewing gum with the dead squirrel and stick it to the door to create a handle of sorts. Yes, I know it's ridiculous. But this is the odd kind of puzzle that many adventure games used. A more realistic approach can be taken of course. AGI studio is freeware (Unlike some other highly popular game engine.) and can be found at http://www.nailhead.org/agistudio/index.shtml. It isn't an easy to use engine. But it's satisfying.

After Sierra got out of the adventure game stoneage. They developed SCI. They made better looking games with this engine, featuring sound through and actual sound card, slightly higher resolution and a better color depth. There was mouse support as well. About half the games made with SCI still used the old command interface though. Although it did allow for a system of buttons to be clicked upon such as Look, Interact, and Walk-to. So if the player wished to open a door. He would use the interact tool, and then click upon the door.

SCI was also reverse engineered in a similar way. So you can use the exact same engine Sierra used to make your own adventure masterpieces. Go to http://www.bripro.com/scistudio/index.php to check it out.

SCI and AGI are great. But they weren't exactly designed for the casual game creator, like most of you are. For this, the messiah has come. Chris Jones has been developing Adventure Game Studio for a while now. It has gone from DOS based Adventure Creator, to a full fledged Windows engine, Linux support, loads of features, and it's still being worked on and improved.

AGS is a lot easier to use compared to the 2 aforementioned engines, and you can make a game without scripting if your too careful to get into the more advanced aspects. The game also allows you to use resolutions as high as 800x600, and 16 bit color. The GUI is fully customizable. So you can create an interface with as many actions as you want. Although the standards are Walk-to, Look, Interact, Inventory, and Speak. You can walk the same path as Liesure Suit Larry and include a zipper action if you want to. Or use your imagination. AGS is probably the best choice for people who could care less if they are using the same program Sierra used, they just want to make adventure games. It can be found at www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk.

Hopefully, in the near future, adventure games can hold the spotlight once again. And many will bask in it's glory, and it will be good. And lo, Roberta Williams will return, and she will see that it is good. And there will be much feasting. Happy adventuring!