Tuesday, 29 November 2011

PISSED - The Adventure Gamer Rating System

[This blog page has been retained here due to historical reasons, but up-to-date rules of The Adventure Gamer can be found on a separate page].

As I was progressing nicely through the first game on the list, the fact that I don't yet have a scoring system was bugging me. I promised the CRPG Addict that I wouldn't steal his patented GIMLET, nor would it be very useful when rating adventure games, so I've had to knuckle down and come up with my own.

After writing down a number of categories that I feel are important to discuss when reviewing adventure games, I decided to use an online anagram maker to see if any words would miraculously appear. I'm sure you can imagine my delight when the word PISSED appeared on my screen, and from that moment on I wasn't willing to change a thing.

I considered the ED PISS Rating System, but decided on PISSED at the last minute

The PISSED rating system is fully described below:

Puzzles and Solvability
By definition, games in the adventure genre include some level of puzzle solving. Whether it’s finding clues to solve a mystery, collecting parts required to produce a needed item, or literally trying to solve a virtual puzzle, adventure games give players the chance to use their observation and deduction skills to pass challenges. This rating not only judges the creativity and enjoyment of puzzles in a game, it also takes into account whether or not the puzzles have logical solutions that don't involve combining seemingly irrelevant items in irrational ways.

Interface and Inventory
Interfaces of adventure games have gone through quite a few phases over the years. Initially relying on parser technology (text analysis), the genre really took off during the late eighties with the introduction of point and click interfaces such as LucasArts’ SCUMM. This rating will look at how intuitive a game’s interface is and how managing inventory is handled.

Story and Setting
Given that adventure games are almost entirely story driven, and that combat and action is purposely minimised to allow that story to unfold depending on the player’s actions, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this letter is the most important part of the PISSED rating system. I will rate not only the story as a whole, but how it is implemented into the game setting.

Sound and Graphics
As anyone that enjoys old computer games would know, graphics and sound are not of ultimate importance when it comes to a satisfying experience. Still, there’s no doubt that the visual and audio quality and creativity can help immerse the player in the game world. I’ll be rating the graphics, animation, sound effects and music for each game.

Environment and Atmosphere
I guess this is partly covered in some of the other PISSED categories, but I wanted a specific place where I could attribute a rating to the overall “feel” of a game. I’ve definitely played games where the interface and story are less than great, but the atmosphere sucks me in to the point where I push on (I remember playing B.A.T. as a kid and struggling on to see what happens even though the interface sucked). On the flipside, some games tick all the other boxes but somehow fall flat when it comes to atmosphere. I’ll try and put a numeric value to this extremely subjective quality.

Dialogue and Acting
While voice acting plays a role in most modern adventure games, there was once a time where acting as a whole was a major feature. If you’ve played FMV titles such as The Pandora Directive or The 7th Guest, you’ll know what I mean. Obviously this is not a feature for old games to be judged on, but dialogue certainly plays a part in every adventure game in one way or another.

I plan to rate each of the above six categories out of 10 before calculating a score out of 100 from there. Let's see how it goes and if it's not working for whatever reason, I'm sure I can adjust it while still forming an inappropriate word in the process.


  1. All I remember from The 7th Guest is "I'm going to have to start again." Over and over.

    I wouldn't change anything about this, but under "puzzles," I'd be partly concerned with the solvability or logic of puzzles, which I see as different from difficulty. Solving a cryptogram is hard; scaring away an elephant by using carrots instead of cheese on a mousetrap, thus causing the mouse to avoid the trap and instead run off, scaring the elephant, is just stupid.

  2. You're absolutely right (regarding The 7th Guest and logic)! I guess that's what I was getting at with difficulty, but it makes more sense to talk about whether puzzles have logical solutions rather than easy or hard ones.

    I'll make an adjustment. Thanks!

  3. Just a couple of suggestions...

    I would recommend caution with the "logic" argument. Indeed there must be *logic* in the puzzles, but *logic* isn't the same thing as *serious* or *non silly*.
    Because an important factor is the atmosphere of the game and what works in it. For example, in MI3 you had to use frying oil as tanning cream to peel off a map... pretty silly but it's still logical.

    I would also recommend making it a weighted classification. Not all aspects should be considered as important. These should have a weight factor of 2 (or more):
    Puzzles and Solvability
    Story and Setting
    Environment and Atmosphere
    From what I understood the Dialogue and Acting only applies to voice overs and FMVs. IMO this category shouldn't really exist because it's pretty selective, and in the end it's just part of graphics and sound. I would prefer to see it removed. But you could still keep the PISSED or just use PISSE instead :)

    Or maybe you can change it to Dialog and Characters, which would consider non-voiced games too?
    Now that I think about it I find it a bit odd that you don't mention characters anywhere and IMO that's an important thing as well as some of the best adventures have iconic ones.

    Final note, you should have played a sample from the adventure game universe, then make a comparison between them and only then start rating them.
    Otherwise you may have Grim Fandango or IJatFoA blowing up the scale.

    BTW, it would be nice to see some interactive fiction too like the ones from Legend Entertainment. In fact, it would be unfair to ignore them.

    Thumbs up for the blog! :)

  4. Thanks for the suggestions random1. They're all really valid.

    I'm kind of ok with the way I'm using Puzzles and Solvability to this point. I'm not going to get negative about solutions being silly, as long as they are not merely solved by trying every item on every other item until you find a solution by chance. The puzzle in The Longest Journey that required you to combine a clothesline with a clamp, then attach an inflated blue duck to it, just to get a key that seemed within reach to begin with, is not logical or easily solvable, so that's the sort of thing I'll be negative about.

    I have considered having some sort of weighting applied to the categories, but it becomes difficult when you consider each category will have more of a priority depending on the game you're playing. Dialogue and Acting is not only used for voice overs and FMVs. There is dialogue in every adventure game, whether it be voiced or just text. But...I do like your suggestion to change it to Dialogue and Characters. I guess the games so far have not really had very interesting characters as they're not particularly interactive, but that will become more important down the track. I could still use this category to talk about acting when the time comes.

    Before I make any changes, I might see if any other comments or suggestions come through about this. That being said, if I'm going to change anything, I'll need to reapply it to the games I've completed, so I wouldn't want to wait too long.


  5. As for the top games blowing the scale out, that is possible I guess. It's good that the first few games have come out with pretty low scores. If King's Quest had got a 70, I'd definitely be in trouble when I play The Secret of Monkey Island or Grim Fandango.

    Regardless, I can't imagine that I won't be able to find flaws in those games. If I can't, then perhaps they deserve full marks! I just picked on The Longest Journey above despite loving that game.

    Keep the suggestions coming. As I say, if I'm going to change anything, it needs to happen soon.

  6. Syrup of ipecac snake puzzle from Monkey Island III, is one of those random puzzles that required lots of trying to combine lots of items together until something worked. Actually as your playing through the games, it be would interesting to take note of when these types of 'common' adventure game tropes start appearing. Fetch quests ('Give me item A so I can give you item B to get item C'),

    TV Tropes (be careful!) have a much of different ones as well. Just looking at these name titles sends shivers down my spine at the memories.