Tuesday, 24 January 2017

History of Adventure 4: Verb-select Point and Click Graphical Adventures (1985)

By the TAG Team

Notable Titles: Deja Vu, Maniac Mansion, Labyrinth, Monkey Island 1 & 2, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones 3 & 4, Simon the Sorcerer 1 & 2

Notable Creators and Companies
: ICOM Simulations (Darin Adler and Tod Zipnick), Lucasarts (David Fox, Ron Gilbert, Hal Barwood), Adventuresoft (Simon and Mike Woodroffe)

In 1985, almost at the exact same time as King's Quest was reaching some amount of prominence, a company named ICOM Simulations came up with a very similar idea. Whilst they wanted to create adventure games, they did so in a way that was notionally going to make adventure gaming easier.

A typical adventure game of the time relied on parser, which not only depended on a certain amount of typing proficiency as it came to a lack of typos, but imagination – if a game wanted you to 'CRAFT PAPER AIRPLANE' and didn't let you use 'MAKE', you needed to realise that the people who were writing the game only had the word 'CRAFT' in mind, which was always going to be an issue. Deja Vu made the potential for a game where one's imagination was the only real limit. By including the use of a simple drag-and-click interface, one needed only minimal computer skills to play through an adventure game.

You still have plenty of choices – but none of them are impossible to guess

Though the MacVenture suite of games is largely maligned due to difficulty, it doubtlessly inspired many adventure game companies to replace parsers with menus or lists of commands. Some of these early attempts took this approach to extremes.

Are you sure we really need all these verbs?

One of these early attempts was published by what would become the perhaps most influential adventure gaming company of all time.

I bet you weren’t expecting this

Starting with the not so well known Labyrinth (1986) and continuing with the much better known 1988 classic Maniac Mansion, Lucasarts was undeniably the leader of point and click adventure games. Largely known for their wacky designs, the company which now sadly has been eaten up by Disney repeatedly hits 'greatest adventure game of all time' lists for their iconic and quirky games. And unlike Sierra, Lucasarts had some successful imitators.

Hey, it’s just the interface we copied!

One of the key things to come out of this time period was that game saves were far less important than they'd ever been – to open up to a larger market, it was repeatedly made at the very least 'quite difficult' to have an on-screen character death, meaning that they were games that all of the family could enjoy.

You can kill Guybrush Threepwood - but you really have to try it.

This period of gaming was doubtlessly where adventure games began to shine, with many people who are on this website likely having started their adventure gaming career either with this style of gaming or the other subtly different one to come.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Gateway - Sleepytime

Written by Reiko

Broadhead Journal #6: "Wow, this planet is so relaxing. Almost like a vacation. I need to fix this dike, and there’s a huge beast in the forest, and I don’t see the shield generator anywhere, but I think I’ll just take a nap first..."

The third shield generator planet (the second one I’m doing) is called Dorman. The planet is terrestrial and temperate enough that I don't need to wear a spacesuit. I land by a beautiful pond with a path around it leading toward a nearby forest.

This place is a lot nicer than the other planets I’ve been on.

Looks like my ship did some damage to the area when it landed. Oops.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Missed Classic: Zork II - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

Last week, I explored most of Zork II and ended my session with suicide-by-dragon thanks to the Wizard of Frobozz. He had cast a “Fierce!” spell and my character happily walked into a dragon’s den. The rest hardly needs explanation. But in dying, I found the first clue of an overall plot: a shadowy, possibly demonic, figure that wants my help to restore his freedom. Is he imprisoned by the Wizard? Is it a coincidence that the two of the colored rooms in the afterlife match the magic spheres that we found? I’m excited to find out!

First things first, I focus on getting past the dragon. I approach him again and take stock. I can’t attack. How about bribery? I hand over a treasure and the dragon takes it to some hidden trove, but it doesn’t change anything. Do I have to give him something in specific? I try to talk to the dragon for clues but it seems that he is trying to brainwash me. I give up and leave, but something weird happens: he follows me. He turns back after one room but this must be part of the trick! I hand him another treasure and expect the same, but he doesn’t follow. Why not? Talking was the trick! When I chat him up, he follows for one turn. If I do it too much, does his brainwashing succeed? I can alternate talking and walking so he follows me even farther. What can I do with a fire-breathing dragon?

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Eternam - Missed It By That Much

written by Aperama

I've literally been staring at a blank page for the last three days having played Eternam. Maybe it's been a week. Or a month. I really can't tell any more. (Technically, I had to stop writing for a month and a half after starting this, but that sentence was already written and is still true – I only have a point of reference because the time is saved on my computer.) Basically, there's the 'art' side of my brain which understands what I've just taken in – it's a game that manages to use surrealism to a point that even Salvador Dali would be impressed. There's the 'comedy' side of my brain which sees the fun of what the creators of this game were out for – there's lots of fourth wall breaking and there's clearly no place that isn't worth going for the sake of a joke. But this game takes those two facts and then forgets what it really needs to be a good game – coherence. Super Mario Brothers explains itself without ever needing to have a lengthy manual or tutorial. You can't go left (the screen ends) but the screen to the right moves. You get killed by more or less anything, so you jump around things, and then eventually land on something by accident to learn that they die when you jump on them. This game lets you kill the first three characters you meet to no obvious negative reaction. I decided not to just because I don't want to get through and find that there's a need to keep them alive. I literally don't know if there is a function behind the option to kill things, and have been given no reason to suspect there is. Vive le France!

That's not to say that the characters don't deserve being murdered with laser beams.
I literally quit after this scene, the first person you talk to in the entire game.
I had to close it. I was worried that my computer would explode.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Gateway - Shield Generators

Written by Reiko

Broadhead Journal #5: "It’s not just about risking my life to find cool stuff anymore. Now I have a real mission. I have to go to four more places. If I fail, we might all be doomed. Why me?? Well, at least the first one was easy."

As with Part 1, we start in our quarters, and the message light is blinking. I don't have any other leads, so I put my card in and retrieve the message. An unknown sender instructs me to meet him discreetly in the tanning room of the Pedroza lounge, accessible from the bar. Intriguing. I suppose there might be some concern for one's safety with an instruction like that normally, but in a game like this, there's no reason not to go.

The stakes are raised...