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Adventure Game Interfaces and Puzzle Theory 149

MarkN writes "It seems like whenever broad topics of game design are discussed on Slashdot, a few people bring up examples of Adventure Games, possibly owing to the age and interests of our members. I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts on a piece I wrote on Adventure Games, talking about the evolution they underwent in terms of interfaces, and how the choice of interface affects some aspects of the puzzles and design. My basic premise is that an Adventure Game is an exercise in abstract puzzle solving — you could represent the same game with a parser or a point and click interface and still have the same underlying puzzle structure, and required player actions. What the interface does affect is how the player specifies those actions. Point and click games typically have a bare handful of verbs compared to parser games, where the player is forced to describe the desired interaction much more precisely in a way that doesn't lend itself to brute force fiddling. It's a point Yahtzee has made in the past; he went so far as to design a modern graphic adventure game with a parser input to demonstrate its potential." Read on for the rest of MarkN's comments.
MarkN continues:
"In addition to talking about the underlying concepts of the genre, the other main thing I touch on are the consequences of the simplification of interfaces — puzzles are more likely to be cracked by trying everything until it works since there are fewer possibilities for interaction. There are a few simple alternatives: requiring a number of actions in sequence, or requiring the player to achieve a more complex configuration or state to demonstrate their intent. But that can reduce the world of puzzle solving to explicit logic puzzles in order to get around the problems that more creative types of puzzles run into, since they depend upon actions that are simpler to specify. It's a topic I'd be interested to get the community's thoughts on, and what they see as the best way to craft a puzzle solving experience."
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Adventure Game Interfaces and Puzzle Theory

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  • by ubrgeek ( 679399 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @07:50AM (#26131063)
    When I was a kid (30'ish years ago) my brother and I would go to the arcade, primarly to watch the older kids play games (I was terrible at them, so it was interesting to watch.) There were a handful that always struck me as the most interesting and those were the ones with the unique interfaces: Centipede and Missle Command, because of the trackball, Tempest because of scrolling wheel (which reminded me of Pong) and some kind of crossbow game where the player grabbed a replica crossbow. But there was one other, and to this day I have yet to find anyone who doesn't think I'm nuts when I describe it: It was an adventure game with multiple players with multiple classes where the players used a keyboard (one of the membrane ones, like the second generation Speak & Spell.) I always thought it odd that a play-for-quarters game would be so complicated that it required its players to actually have that many selections so as to have a way of actually completing the game (don't ask me to describe what was on the screen. I was too short to actually see it :)) To this day, I don't think I've seen another like it, without actually transitioning to a PC.
  • Thayer's Quest (Score:3, Informative)

    by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:10AM (#26131425)

    But there was one other, and to this day I have yet to find anyone who doesn't think I'm nuts when I describe it: It was an adventure game with multiple players with multiple classes where the players used a keyboard

    I can't confirm or deny your sanity, but the game did exist (though it wasn't very popular). The game was called Thayer's Quest [].

  • by xjimhb ( 234034 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @10:41AM (#26132377) Homepage

    Leisure Suit Larry is MODERN compared to its predecessor. LSL 1 was based on a text adventure game called "Soft Porn Adventure" originally written (I think) in Apple BASIC but then ported to PC BASIC. A lot of the puzzles and events in LSL 1 were identical to those in SPA. Only the user interface was changed to a graphics format.

  • by Stalinbulldog ( 925149 ) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @11:40AM (#26133031)
    Pretty much any MuD that calls itself an RPI, here are a pair which I recommend highly.
    Shadows of Isildur []
    Harshlands []
  • by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:38PM (#26135431) Homepage

    Pedantic Man to the rescue!

    You cannot attempt to [W]ear most items in Nethack. If you type W with no armor available, it will tell you that you don't have anything else to wear. Similarly, you cannot [P]ut On non-accessory items--if you type P and have no accessories, it will tell you that you don't have anything to put on. It doesn't even give you the option to select an item. [q]uaffing works similarly.

    If you have an item of the appropriate type, and you type P, q, or W, and you select an item of an inappropriate type, it will tell you, "That is a silly thing to [wear|put on]." I suspect that this is to simplify the code, rather than so that you have perceived freedom of action. Otherwise, you should be able to select items even if you have no legal items from which to choose.

    In other words, I don't think it's too far outside of the spirit of the game to go object->action, however you absolutely have to account for every legal action. You can exclude a Wear action for arrows, for example. However, this might provide clues to the player for some actions, and may ruin the gameplay experience. For example, if the player selects a potion, and notices that he has the option of wielding the potion, it takes the joy out of discovering this particular option yourself.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.