Jul 17, 2007

A Guide to the world of the Indy Adventure Game

It must have been back in the day when Terry Pratchett's Discworld II was released that I first noticed PC Zone proclaiming the adventure gaming genre dead and most probably buried too, even though quite a few classics like Gabriel Knight III or Sanitarium would still follow. Yet, it was indeed more than obvious that the glory days of Monkey Island, Space Quest and Day of the Tentacle were definitely coming to their end. Games went mainstream, quality dropped, the thinking gamer became a ridiculously small minority, good taste went tits up and magazines kept telling everyone just how very dead adventures were.

Heck, even now, after the obviously lucrative niche market The Adventure Company has carved itself, a variety of quirky Nintendo DS adventures and the amazing success of Sam and Max Series 1, nobody is convinced that adventures are truly back and people are still talking about redefining the genre, dropping costs, appealing to the mainstream, going 3D, whatever. What they are very obviously forgetting is that game crafting isn't a power bestowed solely to big studios by the gods of gaming. It's an art and craft everyone can have a try at, by either producing a freeware game or going for the more life-sustaining indy commercial development model. This exactly is the case with independent and/or freeware adventure games, a creative scene that's been thriving for over a decade and going from strength to strength.

An Independent Adventure Game, you see, is a game created outside the stuffy world of uneducated managers who think they actually know what people like and believe there's no value besides the exchange one. Indy Adventure Games, just like any medieval artisan's product, only have to be true to the creator's vision. They can be wildly innovative, copyright infringing, in full pixelated 2D, remakes of classic games, political, silly, absolutely shite, pop, over 500MB, excellent, boring, free or very cheap; anything at all. And, unlike commercial games, especially the ridiculously expensive ones which we've been living with for quite some time, they just can't be proclaimed dead. As long as people -ordinary people- care for them, they'll be around.


To play an Independent Adventure Game...

For the time being though, the indy adventure game is far from a dying species. One could even speak of an apex, if it weren't for the ever increasing volume, variety and quality of productions. There are happily dozens of extremely talented developers and groups that keep churning out game after lovely game. To find out about -and of course play- said games, well, you're spoiled for choice. For starters, this very blog will keep on covering those that catch my eye, Tim's brilliant Independent Gaming will let you know about 99% of the newest releases, the Adventure Gamers Underground section, the AGS games pages, Adventure Developers, Erin's blog and the the Adventuress will go on discovering and reviewing them, and then there are the developers' websites like those of xii games, Herculean Effort, Wadjet Eye and Radical Poesis to search and savor.

<Intermission: In the unlikely case you've never played an adventure game and are thinking of having a try now that you 've just discovered the world of freeware, please, do not expect frantic action. Expect interesting stories, mainly 2D graphics, lots of puzzles, inventory manipulation and lots and lots of pointing and clicking at things. The mouse and a capacity for lateral thinking are your friends./>

Now, to get you started and playing the latest and probably the best, I can't help but suggest having a look at the linking epic that is my AGS Awards Winners 2006 post and the TOP 20 indy Adventures of 2006 as selected by Independent Gaming. Then, there's this short 'n' random selection of games, merely for illustration purposes:

What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed
Could you ever imagine EA coming up with a title like that? Or with a game simultaneously featuring two distinct stories? How about a hard brain twister? The most innovative adventure game of the past decade then? Of course not, and that's the beauty of it. Download Linus here.

Space Quest 0: Replicated
Not a huge admirer of fan creations based on existing games, but this one is a glowing exception. SQ 0 is an excellent, original and funny little game, complete with 16-colour EGA graphics and old-fashioned parser interface, in which -you know- you type stuff. Could have easily been a proper part of the SQ saga methinks. Download it here.

Missing
Now, for some adult-oriented entertainment. Missing is a gritty and beautifully illustrated adventure utilizing a simple ICOM-like point-and-click interface, that puts the players in the (probably) authoritarian shoes of a cop searching for his vanished wife and kid. Download it here.

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf
Quasi-political satire with photorealistic graphics and absurdist humor, this one features a socialist cop in an almost socialist fictional state surrounded by Fortress Europe. Also looks quite a bit like Gabriel Knight II. Download it here.

Nearly Departed
A game by John Green, a Disney illustrator, no less. Fantastic graphics, impressive cartoon quality animation, simple interface and a still unfinished but very playable and highly enjoyable adventure. Besides, it's the story of a reluctant zombie. Download it here.


Crafting, it's so easy.

Well, provided you can come up with some decent graphics, game design, animation and music, it is. Programming could come in handy too, but as creating your very own engine can be both difficult and time consuming, there are many -mostly freeware- tools/engines that only require a minimum of effort and programming skill. The list that follows will hopefully help you. As for Interactive Fiction (text-adventures) it will be covered some other time. For now have a look at this interesting i-f writing bit.

AGS, the hallowed Adventure Games Studio, is by far the most popular scripting and adventure game creation environment to date. Pretty easy to use, freeware, geared towards classic 2D point-and-click retro adventures and backed up by a huge vibrant community, it's probably where you should begin. Have a look.

LASSIE Adventure Studio, another free game creator, provides with the tools to create adventures in the classic Lucasarts style in Macromedia, Flash and Shockwave. Why not visit the LASSIE official site then?

The Wintermute Engine is slightly less easy to use a development environment, but with obvious 3D capabilities, impressive built-in graphical effects and high-tech tendencies. Quite the beast, really. Download it here.

Finally, and in a very blog-post ending way, you can also give the pretty excellent SLUDGE and Adventure Maker (also does PSP software, mind you!) tools a go. They are definitely worth your time. And mine.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Resonance Dev Diarys, Fedora Spades, Blackwell Legacy demo, xii games interview

27 comments:

  1. James Monkman7/17/07, 6:56 PM

    Hey Gnome,

    Nice article. Just a quick (and unrelated) question. I've just read your ace write up of Urban Legend, and was wondering if you'd like to submit a slightly updated version of the same review for RGCD 03... Please drop me an email :)

    James

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  2. Thanks. Mail dropped!

    :)

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  3. (at the back of the large crowd that has gathered, elderly turns to nearby Gnome fan and says...)

    "visits my blog you know, ah yes it's a nice warm feeling being in the company of genius...."

    (shouts over the milling crowds....)

    Thanks Gnome!!!!!

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  4. (fails to notice crowd, stops Elderly from talking to the cat)

    Glad you liked it Mr. Elderly. Then again, still can't seem to interest the crods. Damn. Foiled again.

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  5. Quite possibly the best post I've seen on this wonderful blog Gnome. Not that the others aren't great, of course!

    I used to love adventure games (Broken Sword was like crack for me) so this post is extremely helpful for me since I wouldn't mind getting in on the freeware adventure scene.

    Thanks again Gnome :-)

    PS. Have you done the RPG session yet? I think I'm going to have to miss out on it anyway.

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  6. Hey, Gnome! Just wanted to pop in and say that I enjoy your blog immensely. Also that I linked your post. ;)

    http://tigsource.com/articles/2007/07/18/adventure-gaming-never-dead

    You rock!

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  7. (Takes cat away from elderly, puts it back in the bag)

    Great article Gnome!

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  8. Thanks Tom, but I 'd disagree on this being the best ;) The best always has to mention tits...

    (shows Tom The Best Blogpost Bible, p.64 par.3)

    See? Anyway, nice to see people of taste returning to the adventure game... Oh, and we haven't managed the session yet.

    Derek, thank you so much. Actually I think your blog is just fantastic and it really feels great getting linked from it. Your link has already been added here and guess more will come... Cheers!

    Thank you Vince! Great cat.

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  9. Hi there, wonderful post. you know. You forgot to mention the Visionary game engine for adventure games. It's pretty powerful and well endowed.

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  10. Thanks heriberto! Guess, I'll have to add both Visionary and the AGI studio...

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  11. (puts on glasses....) oh.. right, better not be seen talking to the cat then....

    ah yes the crowds.... only a matter of time..... typical though of the masses, rather myopic when it comes to quality.....

    (looks at cat...)

    bloody cat.... glad no one saw me.....

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  12. Yeh, can't trust 'em masses nowadays. Definitely need to get closer to Mao. An absolute necessity methinks...

    Hey kitty, kitty..

    (meow)

    Meow?

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  13. aye mao knew how to motivate the masses... that's it .. a red book... a Gnome manifesto, why Gnome your a genius...

    (cat gets sick on Gnomes floor....)

    oh dear!

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  14. Stunning article Gnome! Am I so shallow that I can't get past the fact that you as a Greek man were able to use the expression "tits up"?

    That is quite frankly fan-fucking-tastic!

    You rock Gnome! You well and truly ROCK!

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  15. (hits cat with Mao's red book)

    (cat stops coughing)

    A miracle this one. Now, can I just copy Mao's wisdom and add "Gnome" on the cover?

    (cat tap dances)

    Thank you Father, but I actually always thught that "tits up" was a fantatic phrase... Now, if you'll excuse me I'll go blush!

    Have a great time during your vacation Father!

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  16. erm Gnome.. .i don't think the cats tap dancing.... looks like a catalytic fit to me..... perhaps you hit him too hard with mao..

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  17. But it's such a tiny book... I mean, look at it (elderly looks at it). Pocket-size.... Guess cat aint big enough either...

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  18. ..but you hit him in the testicles.......

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Cat Protection Agency7/25/07, 10:15 PM

    we have reports of the mistreatment of a cat... can anybody sh...

    (looks at Gnome...)

    you again......!!!!!

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  21. Please officer. Do consider my childhood... Deeply scarred I were. The cat did it...

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  22. cat protection agency7/26/07, 11:33 PM

    okay!... well just this once.... erm okay for the second time i'm willing to overlook this sickening and deeply disturbed event...

    and like the last time I am still authorised to accept brib... donations for the cat protection Officer widows fund.....

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  23. Of course of course. Thank you officer. Shall we say a stripper?

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  24. Hey ya! Thanks for the namedrop. ;)

    For some reason it never occurred to me that anyone would need an introduction to adventure gaming...to me they were as much a part of my childhood as popsicles. That being said, I really enjoyed this guide you put together...I hope it encourages some folks outside 'the community' to play our games. :)

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  25. So do I dear Ivy. Thanks for dropping by. Care for tea?

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  26. Haha, sounds good. I recently had a friend talk me into joining Second Life just so we could have "virtual tea" and chat. This is certainly an interesting age. :)

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  27. Especially for those faithfuly reading every intallment of Second Life Safari (by Something Awful -of course)

    ;)

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