Monday, 1 June 2015

History of Adventure - Introduction

Written by TAG reviewer team

Special thanks to Aperama for the idea, lot of the research and the first draft of the whole thing

With the Adventure Gamer -blog having recently decided to come up with the designation of a 'Missed Classic' – a game that didn't actually fit in properly with Trickster's original motives in creating this fine place we all know and love now, there was a little discussion on where adventure games have actually come from and what they've become. It's almost always going to be a thing of conjecture, with lots of debate of pros and cons in listing a game as being unique enough to warrant its own 'section'. For instance, 'hybrid RPG/adventure' could be a section in and of itself, but we're more talking about the interface that we play through than the nature of the game. If we're to be pedants, there are also some games that don't directly fit into a category (like Below the Root, the first game that was ever covered by this blog).

Was this just a dead end in adventure game history?

While a great game, it might not have been first of it’s kind, since...

...Spellbound in the Magic Knight -series already had some CRPG-elements

It almost goes without saying that there are also adventure game types that feel as though they could very easily be just lumped in with another category. Some might even try to say that a game like The Castle of Dr. Brain might now fall under the heading of a Myst-like games (though obviously that would be the other way around) – an adventure with a story that largely depends upon puzzles as opposed to dialogue, atmosphere etc. as we're used to in more standard adventure games.

The crew that has taken control of this fine blog will now bring you their own take on... A History of Adventure! In a series of very irregularly appearing posts we will introduce what we think are the major genres in the history of adventure games:
  • Text-based interactive fiction
  • Interactive fiction with graphics
  • Parser-based graphical adventures
  • Verb-select point and click graphical adventures
  • Interactive movies
  • Action-select point and click graphical adventures
  • Point and click - a new breed
  • First person adventures
  • 3d interactive adventures
  • Episodic gaming
Each post will cover exactly one genre. We will try to determine the basic features of each genre, mention some notable titles and creators and tell a rudimentary tale of its history. Please, feel free to disagree with us and argue your points vehemently. Note that we usually give dates only of the first known iteration of each type of adventure game and usually NOT attempt to state when a genre ended, because many of these types live on, if not in commercial, then in indie market.


  1. What's the difference between verb-select and action-select graphical adventures? Slightly different-looking interface (text vs. icons)? I don't think that's fundamental enough to make a distinction.

    1. And our first critical voice! Nice to have some discussion.

      Let's say firstly that the whole series is still in a very fluid state (we've finished only the first post on text-based IF), so there's still a chance that the genres will somehow change when we hear some comments.

      And speaking about the genres, the classification and nomenclature is mostly from Aperama's head, but I'd definitely agree with him that there is some crucial difference between having all the possible activities listed as text (in Lucasfilm style) and having them as icons (in the style of Sierra at the beginning of 1990s). It's mostly a question of complexity, since text allows for a variety in quite a different manner than icons (especially is we count in such menu-based games like Mortville Manor, in which the number of possible actions can be quite staggering). The number of icons is usually limited at least by comprehensibility, if nothing else - it becomes quickly impossible to distinguish between different pictures of actions.

    2. When I initially started to write up on this, I was trying to work out where the significant changes came along between the way that adventure games are played. With each new evolution, things have been dumbed down. Basically, the less commands you have to work through, the less options - with games going from having only the limits of the number of words the player comes up with that had been pre thought of by the developers (which becomes clunky, given the number of times those two thoughts don't actually overlap) to the Lucasarts model - it's no coincidence that the number of verbs on offer dropped significantly after the first couple of games. I guess where the real change occurred for me was the amount you could just repeatedly use the 'hand' tool on things when stuck in a Sierra title - inversely, the number of verbs on offer in a Lucasarts title largely makes for a different playing experience.

      I was also unsure if IF should be separated between graphical titles and non graphical - but that's why this had to be a collaborative effort. The argument was always for more splits than less.

  2. I hope you fit Alone in the Dark into 3D adventure games (or some other category)!

    1. If AITD is an adventure game (which I do believe is debatable) it would be. 3D essentially means something along the lines of Grim Fandango - the game is playable on a console as a mouse pointer is no longer the preferred way of controlling your protagonist. (The summarized list does not do my one Saturday afternoon's work justice!)

    2. I'd be more than happy to debate in favour of it's inclusion (in fact I wrote a blog post about it many months ago). AitD had the same sort of "tank" controls as Grim Fandango, it's mostly a puzzle game with relatively small amounts of combat (of which some can be avoided entirely, in some cases through clever puzzles).

    3. My issue with its inclusion is that it opens a fairly large kettle of worms - why not The Legend of Zelda, for instance? You need to solve puzzles the whole way through! Combat being avoidable isn't everything - you realistically need it in Quest for Glory and everyone under the sun considers it an adventure. Resident Evil has several puzzles, many areas where combat is avoidable (and doing so is well advised)... As I say. Debatable.

    4. I can't speak much for Zelda, I've not played enough of it. Resident Evil (the first one at least) is very similar to Alone in the Dark (in fact you could argue it's a bit of a rip off). Quest for Glory does tend to get a pass because it was made by Sierra and uses the same engine as their other adventure games.

      I guess I don't really know what the hard rules would be for what constitutes an adventure game, but I would think that AitD would fit most if not all of those rules.

      Which reminds me, I have been thinking for a while about writing an article saying how much Ultima VII: The Black Gate (and Serpent Isle) are far more adventure-game like than they are RPGs! (It arguably has far less RPG elements than Quest for Glory)

      To bring things back to AitD though, I guess I don't like the "survival horror" genre because it seems to include things like AitD alongside games which are basically third person action/shooter types with a horror theme.

    5. Zelda doesn't have inventory puzzles. When you have to use an inventory item it is a always obvious what you do. Resident Evil however if basically an adventure have plus guns and zombies.

  3. Japanese adventure games should probably get a mention too - beginning with The Portopia Serial Murder Case, they had a mostly separate evolution from the western world. They started with a look similar to interactive fiction with graphics but with a command menu instead of a parser, and then gradually kinda morphed into choose-your-own-adventure visual novels, but the Ace Attorney series is an example of newer genuine point and click adventures as well.

    1. Problem is that none of us are really experts in Japanese gaming so we have no clue what is important and what is not in their adventure games. We were considering integrating visual novels into graphical IF, but we'll have to see.

  4. I love those Interactive Movies. Especially so for the Adult ones. Like Phantasmagoria (with that controversial rape scene and bunny stabbing guy), Seymour Butts and Space Sirens. Pretty hard (heh...) to play those games with only one hand though.