Against Adventure Games

I dislike adventure games. I have a certain nostalgia for them. I cut my teeth on text adventures. I spent many delightful hours playing Sierra’s Castle of Dr. Brain. But every so often, I realize that the Adventure genre is a stepping stone to the JRPG design I want to make, and I go play some Monkey Island or Myst and rediscover that I really hate the genre now.

I shouldn’t hate adventure games. My favorite games are action adventure, after all, and I’m not that obsessed with the action. I don’t play Metroid or Zelda for the fights, I play them for the exploration, for discovering corners and nooks of fantastic hand-crafted worlds. But for some reason, this love of exploration never makes it past Myst’s doorstep.

I think it’s the puzzles. I like my games to have challenges, not puzzles.

This is something that came up in the making of Candy Raid. It’s a puzzle game. That’s a huge part of why I never talk about it. I despise puzzle games. Puzzle games are basically adventure games without the story or humor.

A puzzle is a challenge where there is one and only one solution, and your work is done when you figure out which precise series of steps the designer intended you to follow.

I hate puzzles. I feel a good game presents a player with challenges and tools he can use to solve them. Of course, the designer ought to build each challenge with a solution in mind, but the broader the number of potential solutions there are, the better the game is. This is diametrically opposed to puzzle and adventure game design where there is one, count ’em, one and only one solution, and the game is hellbent on keeping you from any other way of doing things.

Of course, even if I ensured each puzzle had two or four or even fifty solutions, if they were solutions in the Adventure game house style, they’re still arbitrary sets of steps drawn from my head. And this is the wellspring from whence come the common complaints against Adventure Games: pixel hunting, moon logic, etcetera. Instead of the game world having rules and principles from which you can construct solutions, everything boils down to arbitrary combinations of “use thing with thing on thing.”

I am not opposed entirely to moon logic and pixel hunting. If it is used to hide cool secrets, I love it. If it is the key to the door to the next part of the game, I hate it. If spinning around in place three times unlocks a fun animation, it fills me with glee. If it is the random thing you need to do to proceed to the end of the game, it fills me with spite.

I cannot, I will not, make an Adventure game unless I feel I have solved this issue.

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