Adventure Games

Adventure games are quests where puzzles are presented along the journey.

In the early days of interactive gaming, adventure games ruled. They were easily ported from the mainframe computer paper output days to the low-resolution monitors of the 1980s microcomputers.

Gamers (in those days, computer “geeks” and “nerds”) loved Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Star Trek, which were a prominent part of the first text adventure games from the mainframe era.

Soon many companies were formed and products hit the shelves based on text adventure games (no graphics, just text and your imagination). The stories were compelling and addictive.

As the computers advanced with more memory and better graphics, graphic adventure games appeared and became popular.

Computer gaming fanatics loved solving the designers’ tricky puzzles. But eventually the other genres began to win the consumers’ popularity contest. In the late 1990s publishers and distributors had an “adventure games is dead” attitude.

Hybrid adventure games soon appeared, and out of the ashes several successful “adventure” games entered the realm of major hits and mega-sellers.

In an adventure game, you (the player) start with a limited inventory of supplies, weapons, and food. You are sent on a quest (to save the princess, free the slaves being held captive by an evil emperor, or find and return the Golden Fleece). Along the journey you are presented with puzzles to solve. The designer can make it an obvious puzzle or hide the puzzle within the story (but nevertheless it’s still a puzzle to solve). Usually all gameplay, storytelling, or advancement is paused until the puzzle is solved. A puzzle can be a physical puzzle (maneuver objects in a precise order, move an object, acquire an object, or build an object), a verbal puzzle (solve a riddle, discover the secret password, learn a phrase to say), a timing puzzle (perform tasks in a precise order or within a time duration), a labyrinth (maze) traversing, or a cavern exploration.

Most puzzles have one correct solution. I prefer to design puzzles with three solutions that I call “physical,” “intellectual,” and “reasonable” solutions. In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses is confronted by a Cyclops (one-eyed giant).

The physical solution is to fight the Cyclops. The two outcomes would be to either cause the Cyclops to submit and let Ulysses pass by or have the Cyclops defeat Ulysses, cause severe physical damage, and/or capture and imprison him, which would set up an escape puzzle.

The intellectual solution is to challenge the Cyclops to a game where the loser must drink an entire flask of ale. Eventually, one of the contestants would get drunk and pass out. If the Cyclops passes out (after drinking an enormous amount), Ulysses may pass by. If Ulysses passes out, he’ll awake inside the Cyclops’ prison with an awful hangover.

The reasonable solution is to walk through the miles of treacherous mountains free of Cyclops and monsters. This solution wastes valuable time but causes little physical damage.

Top-Selling Adventure Games:


Beyond Atlantis 2, Grim Fandango, In Cold Blood, Myst 3: Exile, Odyssey: The Search for Ulysses, Project Eden, Riddle of the Sphinx: An Egyptian Adventure, Road to India: Between Hell and Nirvana, Schizm, The Sting, American McGee’s Alice


Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Escape From Monkey Island, Ico, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, Onimusha Warlords, Silent Hill 2, Soul Reaver 2

Game Design Foundations
Game Design Foundations (Wordware Game and Graphics Library)
ISBN: 1556229739
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 179

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