A Recipe For The Perfect Next-Gen Adventure Game

An article by elTee, posted on July 29. 2004.

Adventure games need to change if they are to survive Gabez has shown this in his recent articles. I've been reading them, and following on from his suggestions I've created what I think is the perfect set of game styles to create the ultimate NGA next-generation adventure.

The Gameworld
The gameworld is the playable area in the game as a whole. For example, the Secret of Monkey Island gameworld is a network of inter-connecting 2D static images, with 2D sprites overlayed (a sprite is a 2D animation, such as a character like Guybrush. It is laid on top of the background, and when animates looks to actually be there, creating the illusion of the game.) The Escape from Monkey Island gameworld looks the same as this, but slightly more complex the same inter-connecting 2D images are there, albeit slightly more high-tech than its predecessors, but there is a fundamental difference. There are no 2D sprites no pre-animated sequences that are played out according to what you do. Instead, the computer has created a totally 3D environment, with a real-time 3D mesh, or character, which animates according to what you tell it to do. The NGA would need to improve on both of these kinds of gameworld.

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Half of TSB team are alread drooling Beyond Good & Evil fanboys. You should be too.
In many PC and console action-adventure games, like Zelda and Beyond Good and Evil, there is another kind of gameworld the complete gameworld; the totally 3D gameworld. Here, not only is the protagonist of the game rendered in real-time 3D, so is his environment. What in Monkey Island games was merely a 2D drawing of a tree in these games becomes a real tree, with height, depth, length, the works. If you want to see the back of it, you walk to the back of it. If you want to see the top of it, you manipulate the viewpoint until you can see it. This is what separates the 3D game environment from the 2D game environment. Monkey Island has created four games worth of a gameworld that we've only ever seen from the viewpoint we were told to look at it from. Sure, the Goodsoup family hotel looks sweet in The Curse of Monkey Island, but what do you do if you want to see the other two walls? What do you do if you want to see that elusive fourth wall of the voodoo shop? Nothing because these things simply aren't there. It's the difference between looking at a room through a window, and actually getting inside and walking around 2D gameworld's look nice, but you're really only seeing half the action.

So, we have our gameworld 3D. What does this mean for Monkey Island? Well, the next game would have complete islands. You'd be able to explore every nook and cranny, not just jump from "area" to "area." So there's a 2 mile walk from Melee town to Stan's so what? You have to walk it, every step of the way. Remember that top-down, bird's eye view of Melee Island? How much jungle and forest is there, on that island?? And how much of it do we get to see? Why can't we wander off into the forest if we want to? And this means we would finally get to fully realise the Monkey Island world. I certainly can't imagine playing Windwaker without being able to fully explore every single acre of every single island, the way I want to and from the viewpoint I want to. Is it really so hard to make an adventure game in this way? Of course not.

Gameplay
Basically, this is how you would play the game. Every Monkey Island game thus far has had the same kind of gameplay fixed-camera-third-person. Simply, this is to say that you only ever get to see the action from set vantage points, and you view the game as a total spectator. If someone creeps up behind Guybrush, we see it happen but Guybrush doesn't. This style has allowed for some great comedy in the games so far, and is very visual almost like watching a movie. But this doesn't mean that an NGA would have to be this way to succeed. Many games these days are played from a behind-the-character viewpoint. This way, the camera is situated directly behind the main character at all times, and we see the action as more-or-less through his eyes. The best method combines both of these styles like Super Mario 64, or Little Big Adventure 2. In these games, you can position the camera with ease and play from the set viewpoint you decide. But, at any point where the viewpoint becomes obscured, or simply unappealing to the eye, it can be changed by the gamer. In console games, this invariably involves using the secondary analogue stick, and this can be the same on the PC if you have a nice controller to play the game with. Little Big Adventure 2, being a PC game, also came up with a simple solution the game was played from fixed views, like with the Monkey Island games, but whenever you wanted to you could press the "enter" button, and the camera would suddenly revert to a position immediately behind the main character, and you would thus have a new fixed-vantage point.

For the kind of game I'm suggesting, a fixed camera behind the character would be most appropriate, but with a "first-person" perspective. This means, at the press of a button, the view would change to what the character can see, and by moving around using the mouse or control pad, you would be moving the characters head, thus enabling you to look at anything that catches your eye in closer detail. Now we have our camera system and 3D gameworld. So we can move around the island as we please, and look at anything we want from any angle we please. Now, introducing some commands to the character that simply weren't possible in a 2D environment, we can make it possible for Guybrush to scale small walls, and jump over small gaps. Nothing superhuman, of course, just feats well within the capabilities of the human body. This adds an extra layer of realism to the game, because it's really annoying when you're stuck in an adventure game and the puzzle involves finding a key to a gate when looking at it, you know in real life you could have a good attempt at climbing over the gate anyway.

Fighting

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Most mainstream gamers consider games like Zelda adventure games. Is it time for Monkey Island to Think DifferentTM.
These new physical abilities would also extend to fight scenarios. I know most of you reading this will be aghast at the thought of Guybrush the pirate actually wielding a sword, but I think it's the way to go. The fighting must take place in the open-spaced outdoor areas, or in ship-to-ship combat. Whilst some fights would be essential you would have to win to extend the plot of the game the majority wouldn't be. What I mean is, if you're walking through the forest or jungle and suddenly a pirate molests you, you could run away if you wanted to. There would be no "exp." points as found in RPG games you wouldn't need to build up your fighting ability before it were actually possible to beat some bosses, or anything like that.

Fighting would be recommended though, as if you won the swordfight you would be able to rob the other pirate of his gold, and increase your swordfighting reputation. This swordfighting reputation would vary depending on how many fights you have, and how many you win. If you're good enough to win lots of fights, your reputation would spread to the towns on the island, and some puzzles would become easier. For example, if you need to buy a spade, a possible dialogue line could be "I'll take it for 20 pieces of eight, or else I'll run ya through!" If your reputation was, for example, "legendary", the shopkeeper would perhaps think better than to argue with you, and sell it for 20 pieces of eight. If, however, your ability is only "able", then the shopkeeper would be less afraid of your threat and reply "you don't scare me, the price is 50 pieces of eight, plus another 20 for yer insolence!" This adds something of an RPG element to the game, and allows players to compare with their friends. This could also be extended to a possible multi-player scenario perhaps a two-player fighting game on consoles, or on the PC a fully 3D world with several islands and other pirates, where you could set up crews or simply be a wandering rogue. In this online version, the puzzle and plot elements would be removed, the only aim being to have fun walking around the pirate world and fighting other pirates. Alternatively, this swordfighting reputation could be an optional feature, for those who dislike RPG's.

Puzzles and Talking
Well, so far the game sounds exactly like a typical action game, with no elements of the adventure game we are used to with Monkey Island. However, this would all change as you enter the towns. In the towns, there would be no combat, as they would be policed. (Possibly, some towns could be un-policed a la Scabb Island, where combat could occur.) Guybrush would have an inventory, just like in the previous games, and most important of all the branching dialogue would be present. This means, in conversation with other characters the lines of dialogue you choose will affect the game. In normal adventure games, like Zelda and Beyond Good and Evil, the dialogue is strictly linear. You can only say what the game wants you to or nothing at all. In the NGA this wouldn't be the case. If you are rude, peoples attitude towards you changes and you may have to find an alternative way to solving a puzzle. One example is this: Guybrush needs to find a bucket. There is one in a shop, but it's very expensive, and he might need to save his money for another purchase. However, if he's rude to the shopkeeper, he will refuse to sell it. If Guybrush looks around the island though, he'll find that there's another bucket hidden in a bush. So now, either he's been rude and been denied the ability to purchase the bucket, thus being forced to look elsewhere for one, or he's found one in his normal exploration of the island and managed to save some of his money by not having to buy it. To add a greater depth of non-linearity, perhaps the bucket that Guybrush finds has a hole in it, and needs fixing. This way there are effectively two solutions to the puzzle the easy, expensive one, or the tricky but cost-effective one. This would also have the effect of making the game more difficult for those who swordfight less the more you swordfight, the more money you win. Thus, if you don't like swordfighting and choose not to do it unless forced to, you might not have enough money to buy certain items in the game. This would force you to solve puzzles in another way, which would presumably be more suited to the gamer that dislikes the fighting element, as it would be more like a traditional adventure game.

Vehicles

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Beyond Good & Evil has full vehicle support. Did we mention we love this game?
Some things would be essential purchases though, such as the ability to travel between different islands in the game. The cheap method at first would be to chart a ship, like Captain Dread in Monkey Island 2: LeChucks Revenge. However, as you get more money, you could buy a ship yourself. At this point, you would need to collect a crew as in The Secret of Monkey Island which could be achieved either by paying some staff wages, or challenging them to a swordfight. Depending on how you treat your crew, you might also run the risk of a mutiny, where you would be deserted on a small island and forced to escape, thus creating another puzzle. The ship would be controlled in a very "arcadey" way. That is to say, you wouldn't spend your time pulling ropes and navigating charts instead, you would simply "drive" the ship like a car. Wind speed and direction could limit where you sail to, and depending on how many crew you have and how happy with your captaincy they are would affect the speed and "handling" of the ship. This control method would allow for ship combat, where you could fire your cannons at other ships and try and hook them with your grappling hooks. The other ships could be other pirates or perhaps navy ships as well. Attacking a navy ship would lead to you being an outlaw, and on some islands you might be arrested, leading to another puzzle as you need to escape.

Conclusion
Well, there it is. It's not the definitive combination some of you will love this game plan, and some will despise it but as far as I'm concerned, this makes for the perfect NGA. Games like Zelda have lots of combat, but it isn't a chore the combat system is well tuned and a joy to use. Furthermore, these games tell a great story, just like Monkey Island games. However, there are no real puzzles nothing complicated, with an inventory where items can be combined to create new items. You can't investigate your options by "using" an item on a game object, and it's extremely linear. On the other hand, games like Monkey Island have great puzzles and dialogue, but a flat, relatively un-interactive gameworld. Travelling from place to place is more a case of watching Guybrush walk than actually taking him there yourself. I think the combination of these two genres in the way I've described would make for a really exciting and enjoyable game, one that I would certainly love to play.

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Gabez August 10. 2004

Great article Tones - you make some different points from me, but I still can't help agreeing with you completely.

Can someone make this game for me... please?

Jolly Rasta August 06. 2004

I like the 3D elements. However i think the puzzles and dialogue should be held as the primary focus of game. Lie the originals. The fighting could be fun but certainly should not take focus away from the story of the games.

Mr Cheese July 31. 2004

Hey! What about if at the start of the game, you could choose between "action" and "adventure" mode?
Then the people who like the thinking aspects of the game would not run into any fights while playing.

LucasTones July 30. 2004

ReVViN - I didn't mean "normal adventures" when I said Zelda and BGAE, sorry. I meant "normal action adventures" - and the point I was making is that in these games the dialogue is totally linear, unlike all the games such as the ones's you've listed.

I'm not as old as you, but I have played a huge number of "classic" adventure games. What people seem to forget is that these games were all cutting edge when they came out, technology wise, which is part of the reason they sold so well. The graphics were the best going, and they were among the first games to use actual actors for the roles. It was only when other genres managed to match the graphical achievements of the adventure game that sales started to dwindle.

I think adventure games can still push the boundaries of technology and retain the spirit of their ancestors. Personally, if a Monkey Island 5 came out that looked exactly like Monkey Island 1, with no voice actors and was released on floppy disks, I'd still buy it. But the point of the article is, when LucasArts are saying things like "current market place realities" it means they're not going to release any old-style adventure games. This is a way to satisfy both the adventure fans, and other gamers - thus, hopefully, making it a game that would work into the "market place realities" idea.

Dr. Ond July 30. 2004

I have to agree with ReVViN - on some points. The Monkey Island games for me will always be 2D, personally I felt EMI to be a little too "edgy" compared to MI1&2. I would love it if MI5 were more CMI than EMI, if you get my point.

What you are describing is more like a RPG than a real adventure, like the MI-series, the Indy-games etc.

BUT (there's always one of those...)
What you're describing is a sort of game that I would not hesitate to buy at once. I love the idea of a pirate-RPG, with REAL pirating, like robbing, buying and "crewing" ships. I would love an entir world of pirating to explore, much the same way as I did in "The Ocarina of Time". As some Swedish gals have said before me; "gimme gimme gimme!"

So I agree with ye - and I disagree with ye. And I salute thee for a great article.

MrManager July 29. 2004

Shhh, Huz, 2 out of 4 is half. ;

LucasTones July 29. 2004

Thanks Huz :)

I know what you mean about the fighting - I think I should mention that I did mean fighting like in SOMI, but not in that style. Guybrush wouldn't go around murdering people, he'd just beat them at the fight and rob them. Killing everyone is far too un-Guybrush.

Also, the ship combat would be avoidable - you could go looking for it if you wanted to, if you enjoyed the fights or needed money, but if you didn't want to you could avoid it entirely. Well... maybe not entirely; if a particular ship fight was necessary for the plot to advance, then the other pirates would attack you, but I think you know what I mean.

I think that any time you need money in the game, there would be a sort of "puzzle way" and "fight way" - both with the same outcome. Either attack another ship and hope for the best, or, say, figure out who killed the governors daughter and collect the reward money.

There would, though, be certain parts of the game that HAD to be solved by completing a puzzle, or HAD to be solved by fighting.

Thanks for the comments though, I hope someone is paying attention too ;

The Huz July 29. 2004

"Half of the TSB team are Beyond Good and Evil fanboys" eh? Seeing as the other half 'are' The Last Express fanboys, I don't think that's very definitive. :~

Giving players the choice between action, exploration and pure puzzle-solving is a great idea - one that would be difficult to implement, perhaps, but it would certainly make the game appeal to more players. Fate of Atlantis attempted this, in a way, with its 'paths' system, but ultimately it was a rather clumsy way of faking non-linearity. To provide multiple paths through a game - 'wits', 'fists' and perhaps 'explore and find all the little subgames that somehow combine to help you out' - would not only make it much more of a 'game' and less a 'sequence of events that you must trigger off by solving puzzles' (too many bad adventure games manage to seem that way), it would also combat the perennial problem of adventure games not having too much replayability.

I don't agree with everything you've written here - I think giving quite as much opportunity for combat would be a mistake, for instance, because it would alter the nature of the game too much - but 'adventure games' definitely need to move on to new things. All in all, good article, and I hope someone is paying attention! ;D

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