Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Evolution of Adventure Game Interfaces

Since the adventure games have developed as a medium, one aspect has always been in debate--the interface. The interface has the power to make puzzles fun, interesting, or just simplistic and boring.

Traditional text adventures had the "do-anything" interface. To solve puzzles, you just type in whatever is needed. This could be from "Block door with chair," "Eat roast," "Turn on Speakers," or "Close drawer." These are all unique commands which were unfortunately terminated when adventure games "upgraded" to the point and click interface.

In the Sierra interface of the 90s, there were four actions: Hand, Eye, and Mouth, and walk. With this interface there are only four things you can do to your game world, which over-simplifies the game, making puzzles simplistic and boring in most cases.

Lucas Arts had an upgraded version of this by having a total of 9 verbs: Give, Push, Pull, Talk to, Walk to, Pick up, Use, Open, and Close. It's better than the Sierra counterpart, but it still groups all actions to a total of 9 verbs. You could say this is three times better than the Sierra interface, but it still limits interaction with the game world.

And then for some reason in the mid 90s, a large majority of games decided to adapt the "Two-Action" interface. This means, you can either look at the object, or "do-whatever" with the object. It's ultra-simplistic, and removes alot of thought from puzzles. With this interface, you have the greatest chance of a player solving puzzles by accident, or resulting to just trying to click on everything.

Adventure games need to change. For too long they've been stuck in the 2D realm where the player does not think and the actions are too specific and simplistic, and the game is a mesh of recycled cliches.

2 Adventure games have stood out to me as being the next big things in adventure games:
Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy): http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/fahrenheit/index.html?q=fahrenheit

Penumbra is a first person adventure game that uses physics and the mouse cursor for you to preform a variety of actions, from pushing objects, moving barrels, opening doors, and various other things. The actions feel natural because of the way you have to move the mouse to actually open the door, i.e. you have to pull the mouse towards you to open a locker door, as you would in real life.

Fahrenheit also has you moving your mouse in a pattern to preform actions, each action specifically having its own special pattern for the mouse.

And now we come to the Wii.
With the Wii, you can eliminate all "verb-bars" and interfaces thanks to the power of the motion-sensor. With the nun-chuck the player can control the movement of the main character. With the Wii-remote, the player can do virtually anything to an object (Pushing it, pulling it, opening it) all by simple gestures. You don't have to have any more push, pull, open, or hit, commands. You can just let the player swing the remote with hard enough force, or hold down the B button to drag an object, or open it. Then the player can use his brain and his movements to solve puzzles instead of randomly clicking on everything and hoping something will happen.

Most adventure games have sadly become just a click-fest without too much thought, but hopefully new technolgical advances like the Wii can give the players a "thinking" chance.

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