After coming across an article declaring that adventure games were dead in January and then having a brief conversation with Rendermonkee from Rendermonkee’s Gaming Blog, I wrote a post in February about what lies ahead for the genre. It was therefore a lovely coincidence that this was the subject of a Rezzed Session at this year’s EGX Rezzed last week.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) April 05, 2019
Dan Marshall from Size Five Games, Dave Gilbert from Wadjet Eye Games and Jessica Saunders from Salix Games got together in a room at the Tobacco Dock in London for a talk entitled The future of adventure games. All agreed that stories are ‘one of the most important things we can do’, and narrative titles are perhaps the best vehicles for them because they allow us to explore branches and multiple paths. Saunders pointed out that this involvement in their outcome makes them much more emotionally engaging than films.
However, the panel also acknowledged that the genre has its weaknesses. When Marshall played Day of the Tentacle Remastered, it reminded him of just how awkward adventures can be; in the past they’ve had a tendency to rely on walls of text and can feel as though you’re reading a book rather than playing a game. They may have been great for their time and the genre has certainly delivered some classics we’ll never forget, but their gameplay style isn’t necessarily what we want from our releases today.
The group felt that developers can succeed by considering how they can use all the ‘incredible technology’ now available to us to bring a type of game from the past right up to date. On the flipside however, they also need to be careful not to simplify mechanics too far so their projects no longer retain that feeling we expect from adventures. For example, replacing verbs with a one-click-does-everything system may streamline a game – but it also runs the risk of the player feeling like a passenger rather than participant.
Another risk mentioned was using Kickstarter to support your business model because it’s ‘dead for video games’ and no longer a viable funding option. Many people don’t understand the cost of making a title and as said by Gilbert: “You see someone who’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a Kickstarter and we won $3,000′ and you’re like, ‘Dude, you’re devaluing everybody by doing that…’ The worst thing about doing a Kickstarter isn’t not meeting the goal. It’s meeting the goal but then not having enough, because then you’re screwed.”
Saunders was keen to highlight that the term ‘point-and-click’ means something different to ‘adventures’ nowadays. The former invokes thoughts of titles with huge inventories, conversation trees and challenging puzzles, but today’s adventures can be so much more than that. This was something I picked up on in my post back in February: in recent years the genre has evolved into new forms, incorporating elements from other types of releases and changing its appearance depending upon the light.
Towards the end of the session an attendee asked for the panel’s opinions on the survivability of adventure games, and the fact that mainstream distribution platforms seem to be showing less interest in the genre. Gilbert responded: “I think it’s awesome. Because if mainstream companies were still making them, I wouldn’t stand a chance. It creates a great opportunity for indies to serve that niche, and do reasonably well if they do it reasonably well… so I think it’s awesome that main publishers don’t do these games any more. I think it’s great.”
So now over to you: I want to hear what you guys think. What does the future hold for adventure games, and are independent developers well placed to give us what we’re searching for? Based on what Marshall, Gilbert and Saunders shared at Rezzed in their talk, it seems we have bright things to look forward to.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.