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Cronnix

State of point and click genre

17 posts in this topic

Hello everyone, I am working on a P&C adventure game and wanted to start a topic to discuss Point and Click adventure genre and how it can be successfully implemented in the modern age, mostly to hear what others think about it. I grew up with point and click adventures, mostly Russian titles none heard about but also such classics as monkey island. It's good fun and often based a lot on humor. However lately I've been seeing certain bias against point and click, especially bias against the control scheme rather than the adventure genre as a whole. While there are still some good titles coming out, like Deponia and The Book of Unwritten Tales, I wonder what is the current state of the P&C games in the modern market. There is obviously still big interest for them, considering success of certain kick starter titles, but what are your thoughts of the genre in the modern gaming as a whole?

Secondly I ponder in general over the implementation of point and click and the evolution of the genre, which I believe has more potential beyond the classics named above. If we take a look at for example The Walking Dead game, by tell tale, it's a shining example of adaption of classic point and click to more modern, action based experience. It is heavily scripted and cutscene heavy, but I felt it was adding to the charm, rather than annoying me. They throw in some quick time events, some action scenes, some choices, yet using P&C at the core of the game even thou they utilize extra controls beyond P&C in certain scenarios. So I wonder, what do you feel modern P&C should focus on, feature wise? Edited by Cronnix
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From what I've seen, the general trend of point and click adventure games has been moving more into the realms of the casual gaming market.

Aside from a polished user interface, the bread and butter of a point and click will be the artwork and story telling. Story is going to be [i]king[/i], so you'd be spending your time wisely be developing a solid, compelling story which draws a player into the game universe. Personally, I think the "game" is just the vector for delivering the story to the user in an interactive manner. Everything outside of the story itself is polish and embellishments to create deeper immersion. The story is the [i]foundation[/i] of your P&C game. If the story doesn't exist, then you've merely got a few puzzles to solve and the game will fail to capture much interest.

So, the most important questions you're going to be faced with will concern the story being told and the delivery of the story. Show, don't tell. No walls of text! If you must tell the story through text, use dialogue between characters, describe the setting with the scene art, use character body language, keep the words minimalist but potent (each word costs a dollar! So spend your words wisely!), and make sure that the puzzles and mini games make sense in the context of the story.

If the story is done right, the game will be timeless regardless of the future technology. People will come back and play your 8-bit game years later to revisit the story for nostolgia. If the story is shit, your foundation is rotten and all the worlds prettiest graphics and best algorithms won't save you (See: Diablo 3).
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[quote name='slayemin' timestamp='1351266518' post='4994176']
Personally, I think the "game" is just the vector for delivering the story to the user in an interactive manner. Everything outside of the story itself is polish and embellishments to create deeper immersion. The story is the foundation of your P&C game. If the story doesn't exist, then you've merely got a few puzzles to solve and the game will fail to capture much interest.
[/quote]

That is something I too came to think of, that many of P&C games are just a medium focused on delivering the story rather then the "fun" gameplay it self. While the latter is certainly a bonus, it feels that the story was main core and focus of games like Monkey Island and the game was just a medium.
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From what I have seen, "point and click" has been mostly relegated to children's educational games. There are occasionally puzzle games that are also point and click ... not much else is out there.
The time of [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Entertainment"]Sierra[/url] games is long over, however technically [url="http://www.runescape.com/"]Runescape[/url],and [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon_Keeper"]Dungeon Keeper[/url] are point and click. Edited by Shippou
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[quote name='Shippou' timestamp='1351273601' post='4994216']
From what I have seen, "point and click" has been mostly relegated to children's educational games. There are occasionally puzzle games that are also point and click ... not much else is out there.
The time of [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Entertainment"]Sierra[/url] games is long over, however technically [url="http://www.runescape.com/"]Runescape[/url],and [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeon_Keeper"]Dungeon Keeper[/url] are point and click.
[/quote]

I do agree that P&C are not the most popular genre, but that's a bit grim outlook, don't you think, considering certain new titles?
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[quote name='Cronnix' timestamp='1351280120' post='4994244']
I do agree that P&C are not the most popular genre, but that's a bit grim outlook, don't you think, considering certain new titles?
[/quote]
There is still a place for these games, however their popularity is not great. Plenty of phone apps and online flash games are in this format, but I haven't seen a great point and click for some time now.
I remember when Sierra made all kinds of awesome [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sierra_Entertainment_video_games"]adventure games[/url]. I suspect that the whole [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_motion_video"]FMV game[/url] craze killed the traditional point and click adventure game.
[b][url="http://spoonyexperiment.com/category/tse-riff-theater/ripperriff/"] HERE[/url][/b] is a good example of what I am talking about.
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[quote name='Shippou' timestamp='1351282563' post='4994250']
I haven't seen a great point and click for some time now.[/quote]

What about stuff I mentioned, Deponia, Book of unwritten tales, Sam and Max? I mean not great, but pretty solid P&C games.
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There's definitely still interest, and I'd like to see more games like this too. My wife loves point and click games, although those are mostly seek and find games where you search for random sprites on the screen, with some bits of story. They're also pretty cheap with a very simple control scheme, which would be another reason they're moved to "casual games".

She hated, absolutely hated Myst when I finally got to show her, because Myst is neither seek and find, nor lots of story put in front of you. You really don't know immediately what to do.

I'd love to see more P&C games, especially on tablets.
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I'm surprised there's so much focus in this thread on "casual adventure games" (which, let's be honest, are usually just glorified hidden object games); through the efforts of companies like Telltale Games, Daedelic Entertainment and Wadjet Eye Games, the classic adventure game genre is not only back from the dead--it's actually thriving. In the last three years alone we've seen:

[list]
[*]Yesterday
[*]To the Moon
[*]Blackwell Deception
[*]The Book of Unwritten Tales
[*]The Next BIG Thing
[*]Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
[*]Gemini Rue
[*]Back to the Future: The Game
[*]The Walking Dead
[*]Jolly Rover
[*]A New Beginning
[*]Gray Matter
[*]Amnesia: The Dark Descent
[*]The Whispered World
[*]Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse
[*]Hector: Badge of Carnage
[/list]

To put that into perspective: From 1986 to 2000, LucasArts--arguably the company most associated with point-and-click adventure games--released a total of 15 games in the genre. The past three years alone have exceeded LucasArts's [i]entire library[/i]. They don't all have point-and-click controls, but they're still very much in the vein and in the tradition of old-school adventure games.

What does this mean for the genre? It doesn't mean that there's necessarily a huge mainstream interest in these games (I bet a lot of the people reading this post don't recognize most of those titles, unless you're already an adventure game fan), but it does mean there's a niche for them, and people are buying them, as companies continue to make them. To say the classic adventure game genre is dead is at best an outdated concept.

(Full disclose: ...[url="http://paulfranzen.wordpress.com/"]I make adventure games, too[/url].) Edited by Paul Franzen
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One of the reasons point'n'clicks disappeared for a bit was due to most copying Monkey Island's comedy template. It was over-saturation of a genre where not many were willing to take a few risks. You did get the odd one like Beneath a Steel Sky and The Dig, Star Trek: Judgement Rites, but for most it was witty comedy and silly situations. You would think with LucasArts having access to the Star Wars license that it would have been a no-brainer to make a SW adventure, but not even with Star Wars in the title would LA take a chance...

So stories, visuals, sounds are important...but one needs to consider the character the player controls. How are they affected by the adventure? Do they just collect items or do they leave an impression on other characters that effect what happens later in the game? Although an extremely easy game, Cryo's DUNE was great as Paul Atreidies could call a worm instead of relying on aircraft for travel, and could even increase his mental powers so he didn't have to travel so far to send a message to other characters.

There are so many possibilities with the adventure genre...
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Telltale is doing the best job for reviving the interest in point & click games I think. Everyone knows Back To The Future and The Walking Dead, so many many new comers will find the P&C style interesting and will want to get involved. Recently, after playing those two Telltale Games, the desire to play point and click games was reborn in my, and now I have finished The Dig, Full Throttle and Space Quest V in two weeks and I'm currently playing Indiana Jones & The Fate of Atlantis, and geez, it made me want to program my own point & click adventure game (wich i will do when i got the time).
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No one ever mentions [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvester_(video_game)"]Harvester[/url]. I think it came out too late.

Point and Click never went anywhere, they just aren't in the mainstream as much. There has never been a time where you couldn't go into a store like Wal-Mart (or similar) and find a rack full of these games. But they have become a niche market, and nobody can be spending AAA budgets on producing big mainstream releases. They have been successful in the handheld market though.

IMO, the genre has too many downsides.

There is absolutely NO replay value. Even as much as I loved the new TellTale Back To The Future games, I waited until the whole season was out, and bundled together cheaply to finally get them. Even with Broken Sword on my tablet, I waited until it was 99 cents during a sale to pick it up, all for this reason alone. You get like 45 minutes of content + the time it takes to figure things out.

There is only ever 2 solutions to problems. Way too obvious, or obscure to the point of being impossible. That leads to lots of frustration as you travel from area to area trying every possible combination of actions until something random and nonsensical finally works. I'm not sure if there is a good happy medium there.
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[quote name='Paul Franzen' timestamp='1351791399' post='4996243'][list]
[*]Amnesia: The Dark Descent
[/list]
[/quote]

I don't know if I'd call that game a "point and click" game. It incorporated a lot of FPS mechanics (like WASD+mouse controls) and much of the game is spent walking places (or running and hiding). The only "point and click" aspects I could really see were picking up and using items.
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What's the purpose of point and click adventure games?

If even the fans say its just a story delivery mechanism what is the benefit of making the player click mash every pixel and use every item on every other item to make the plot continue.

Even if you don't have the budget for a portal or mass effect why not a adventure platformer or adventure turn based tactics.
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[quote name='Kaze' timestamp='1355339472' post='5009923']
If even the fans say its just a story delivery mechanism what is the benefit of making the player click mash every pixel and use every item on every other item to make the plot continue.
[/quote]

If you're playing adventure games that way--either you're not actually trying to solve the puzzles, or you're playing the wrong adventure games, my friend. (Pixel hunting hasn't even been a thing for like half a decade; most modern adventure games include a hotspot highlighter specifically to circumvent this problem.) I like the stories when they're good, and I like using and combining items in clever (and frequently funny) ways to solve puzzles. All it boils down to.

One more quickie argument in favor of adventure games' modern relevance: [i]The Walking Dead [/i]was Spike TV's Game of the Year for 2012. Say what you will about the quality of the VGAs, but I think it says something that an adventure game was able to win such a high-profile, mainstream award.
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[quote name='Kaze' timestamp='1355339472' post='5009923']
If even the fans say its just a story delivery mechanism what is the benefit of making the player click mash every pixel and use every item on every other item to make the plot continue.
[/quote]
The thing here is that once you have a good story you allow the user to interact with it and thus play it at his own pace and maybe do things their own way.
It maybe a cliche, but in a lot of (scary) movies as an example, I tend to think of the main characters as quite stupid, because the usually plunge headlong intro trouble, without the least preparation or just because they act ...well... stupid. So having a choice whether to take the baseball bat, a chainsaw or and umbrella to face the horde of zombies instead of watching the character pick for you will immediately change the reaction of the user/viewer because any consequence the character faces is a result of a decision the user has made.

Also by allowing users to change the storyline you raise the involvement factor and give them the feeling that their actions matter. As for this I think the Walking Dead is probably a good example of evolution of point and click games.

On another side-node I think having P&C games with a decent touchscreen-friendly interface on mobile-devices would also give the genre a boost.
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I still don't understand the argument for why point and click makes for a good story rather than good writing makes for a good story.
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[quote name='Paul Franzen' timestamp='1355339839' post='5009925']7
One more quickie argument in favor of adventure games' modern relevance: [i]The Walking Dead [/i]was Spike TV's Game of the Year for 2012. Say what you will about the quality of the VGAs, but I think it says something that an adventure game was able to win such a high-profile, mainstream award.
[/quote]

Personally every game made by the developer had technical difficulties and didn't work without problems.

In "The Walking Dead" you won't find any engaging puzzles, they are really just point and click, with long cutscenes and annoying action sequences. Like the one in the beginning, where you wake up and fight the zombies. Try loading the shotgun, fail, try it again, ..., fighting does suck a lot. If they would have take a step back and looked at it, they would have realized that the way it works now is no fun. It feels like you are installing software, "install", "next", "agree", "next", "next", "browse", "apply", "okay", ..., "don't open readme.txt", "finish", ...

An Jurassic Park was horrible, so much potential and this is what they choose to do with it. Maybe they where targeting only children...

Back in the MS-Dos days there was a game "Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu" and I loved it. It was extremly hard, sometimes even unfair, but you could talk about it with your friends and try to solve the puzzles together. It also wasn't over after an hour.
Of course like many games in that time it included a lot pixel hunting, which wasn't great either.
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