Adventure game

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An adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving.[1] The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media such as literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Nearly all adventure games (text and graphic) are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult.[2] Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

Initial adventure games developed in the 1970s and early 1980s were text-based, using text parsers to translate the player's input into commands. As personal computers became more powerful with the ability to show graphics, the graphic adventure game format became popular, initially by augmenting player's text commands with graphics, but soon moving towards point and click interfaces. Further computer advancements led to adventure games with more immersive graphics using real-time or pre-rendered three-dimensional scenes or full-motion video taken from the first- or third-person perspective.

In the Western world, the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1980s to mid-1990s when many considered it to be among the most technically advanced genres, but was considered to be a niche genre in the early 2000s due to the popularity of first-person shooters and became difficult to find publishers to support such ventures.[3] Since then, a resurgence in the genre has occurred spurred on by success of independent video game development, particularly from crowdfunding efforts, starting with that of Broken Age in 2012, that showed a strong demand by players for adventure games.

Within the Asian markets, adventure games continue to be popular in the form of visual novels, which make up nearly 70% of PC games released in Japan.[4] The Asian markets have also found markets for adventure games for portable and mobile gaming devices.


Components of an adventure game Citations
Puzzle solving, or problem solving. [1][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]
Narrative, or interactive story. [1][5][6][7][9][11]
Exploration. [1][5][7]
Player assumes the role of a character/hero. [1][5][8]
Collection or manipulation of objects. [1][5][6]

The term "Adventure game" originates from the 1970s text computer game Adventure,[5][6] which pioneered a style of gameplay that was widely imitated and became a genre in its own right. The video game genre is therefore defined by its gameplay, unlike the literary genre, which is defined by the subject it addresses, the activity of adventure.[1]

Essential elements of the genre include storytelling, exploration, and puzzle solving.[1] Adventure games have been described as puzzles embedded in a narrative framework,[7] where games involve "narrative content that a player unlocks piece by piece over time".[12] While the puzzles that players encounter through the story can be arbitrary, those that do not pull the player out of the narrative are considered examples of good design.[13]

Relationship to other genres

Combat and action challenges are limited or absent in adventure games,[1] thus distinguishing them from action games.[7] In the book Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design, the authors state that "this [reduced emphasis on combat] doesn't mean that there is no conflict in adventure games ... only that combat is not the primary activity."[5] Some adventure games will include a minigame from another video game genre, which are not always appreciated by adventure game purists.[1] Of course, there are some games that blend action and adventure throughout the game experience.[14] These hybrid action-adventure games involve more physical challenges than pure adventure games, as well as a faster pace. This definition is hard to apply, however, with some debate among designers about which games are action games and which involve enough non-physical challenges to be considered action-adventures.[1]

Adventure games are also distinct from role-playing video games that involve action, team-building, and points management.[7] Adventure games lack the numeric rules or relationships seen in role-playing games, and seldom have an internal economy.[1] These games lack any skill system, combat, or "an opponent to be defeated through strategy and tactics."[5] However, some hybrid games exist here, where role-playing games with strong narrative and puzzle elements are considered RPG-adventures.[15] Finally, adventure games are classified separately from puzzle games.[7] Although an adventure game may involve puzzle-solving, they typically involve a player-controlled avatar in an interactive story.[1]

Game design


Adventure games contain a variety of puzzles, such as decoding messages, finding and using items, opening locked doors, or finding and exploring new locations.[16] Solving a puzzle will unlock access to new areas in the game world, and reveal more of the game story.[17] Logic puzzles, where mechanical devices are designed with abstract interfaces to test a player's deductive reasoning skills, are common.[1]

Some puzzles are criticized for the obscurity of their solutions, for example the combination of clothesline, clamp, and deflated rubber duck used to gather an item in The Longest Journey, which exists outside of the game's narrative and serves only as an obstacle to the player.[18] Others have been criticized for requiring players to blindly guess, either by clicking on the right pixel, or by guessing the right verb in games that use a text interface.[19] Games that require players to navigate mazes have also become less popular, although the earliest text-adventure games usually required players to draw a map if they wanted to navigate the abstract space.[1]

Gathering and using items

Many adventure games make use of an inventory management screen as a distinct gameplay mode.[1] Players are only able to pick up some objects in the game, so the player usually knows that only objects that can be picked up are important.[1] Because it can be difficult for a player to know if they missed an important item, they will often scour every scene for items. For games that utilize a point-and-click device, players will sometimes engage in a systematic search known as a pixel hunt. Games try to avoid this by highlighting the item, or by snapping the player's cursor to the item.[20]

Many puzzles in these games involve gathering and using items from their inventory.[16] Players must apply lateral thinking techniques where they apply real-world extrinsic knowledge about objects in unexpected ways. For example, by putting a deflated inner tube on a cactus to create a slingshot, which requires a player to realize that an inner tube is stretchy.[1] They may need to carry items in their inventory for a long duration before they prove useful,[21] and thus it is normal for adventure games to test a player's memory where a challenge can only be overcome by recalling a piece of information from earlier in the game.[1] There is seldom any time pressure for these puzzles, focusing more on the player's ability to reason than on quick-thinking.[17]

Story, setting, and themes

Adventure games are single-player experiences that are largely story-driven.[22] More than any other genre, adventure games depend upon their story and setting to create a compelling single-player experience.[1] They are typically set in an immersive environment, often a fantasy world,[6][9] and try to vary the setting from chapter to chapter to add novelty and interest to the experience.[1] Comedy is a common theme, and games often script comedic responses when players attempt actions or combinations that are "ridiculous or impossible".[1]

Since adventure games are driven by storytelling, character development usually follows literary conventions of personal and emotional growth, rather than new powers or abilities that affect gameplay.[1] The player often embarks upon a quest,[10] or is required to unravel a mystery or situation about which little is known.[8] These types of mysterious stories allow designers to get around what Ernest W. Adams calls the "Problem of Amnesia", where the player controls the protagonist but must start the game without their knowledge and experience.[23] Story-events typically unfold as the player completes new challenges or puzzles, but in order to make such storytelling less mechanical new elements in the story may also be triggered by player movement.[1]

Dialogue and conversation trees

Adventure games have strong storylines with significant dialog, and sometimes make effective use of recorded dialog or narration from voice actors.[1] This genre of game is known for representing dialog as a conversation tree.[24] Players are able to engage a non-player character by choosing a line of pre-written dialog from a menu, which triggers a response from the game character. These conversations are often designed as a tree structure, with players deciding between each branch of dialog to pursue.[1] However, there are always a finite number of branches to pursue, and some adventure games devolve into selecting each option one-by-one.[25] Conversing with characters can reveal clues about how to solve puzzles, including hints about what that character would want before they will cooperate with the player.[1] Other conversations will have far-reaching consequences, such as deciding to disclose a valuable secret that has been entrusted to the player.[1] Characters may also be convinced to reveal their own secrets, either through conversation or by giving them something that will benefit them.[citation needed]

Goals, success and failure

The primary goal in adventure games is the completion of the assigned quest.[26] Early adventure games often had high scores and some, such as Zork, also assigned the player a rank, a text description based on their score.[27] High scores provide the player with a secondary goal,[26] and serve as an indicator of progression.[27] While high scores are now less common, external reward systems such as Xbox Live's Achievements perform a similar role.[citation needed]

The primary failure condition in adventure games, inherited from more action-oriented games, is player death. Without the clearly identified enemies of other genres, its inclusion in adventure games is controversial, and many developers now either avoid it or take extra steps to foreshadow death.[1] Some early adventure games trapped the players in unwinnable situations without ending the game. Infocom's text adventure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been criticized for a scenario where failing to pick up a pile of junk mail at the beginning of the game prevented the player, much later, from completing the game.[28] The adventure games developed by LucasArts purposely avoided creating a dead-end situation for the player due to the negative reactions to such situations.[29]


Text adventure / Interactive Fiction

A computer terminal running Zork (1977), one of the first commercially successful text adventure games.

Text adventures convey the game's story through passages of text, revealed to the player in response to typed instructions. Early text adventures, such as Colossal Cave Adventure, "Hugo's House of Horrors" and Scott Adams' games, used a simple verb-noun parser to interpret these instructions, allowing the player to interact with objects at a basic level, for example by typing "get key" or "open door". Later text adventures, and modern interactive fiction, can interpret far more complex sentences like "take the key which is on the desk, then open the door". Notable examples of advanced text adventures include most games developed by Infocom, including Zork and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. With the onset of graphic adventures, the text adventure fell to the wayside, though the medium remains popular as a means of writing Interactive Fiction (IF), which tend to be focused more on the narrative through player exploration and discovery rather than puzzle solving.

Graphic adventure

Graphic adventures are adventure games that use graphics to convey the environment to the player. Games under the graphic adventure banner may have a variety of input types, from text parsers to touch screen interfaces.[citation needed] Point-and-click adventures are a common type of graphic adventure in which the player uses a pointer, typically a mouse, to interact with the environment and solve puzzles. This input method remains popular in the genre, and is well-suited to interaction with the environment, as opposed to direct control schemes which emphasize character control.[citation needed]

Graphic adventure games will vary in how they present the avatar. Some games will utilize a first-person or third-person perspective where the camera follows the player's movements, whereas many adventure games use a context-sensitive camera that is positioned to show off each location to the best effect.[1]

There are a number of sub-types of graphical adventure games, though these definitions may be loose and a game may belong to one or more of these. For example, the Ace Attorney series of games, while presenting itself as a visual novel, includes elements of point-and-click adventure games. Another notable example is the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series which have elements of point-and-click to solve puzzles and cases.[30]

Point-and-click adventure games

The Whispered World (2009) is an example of a context-based point-and-click adventure game using high-definition graphics and animation.

Point-and-click adventure games are those where the player typically controls their character through a point-and-click interface using a mouse or similar pointing device, though additional control schemes may also be available. The player clicks to move their character around, interact with non-player characters, often initiating conversation trees with them, examine objects in the game's settings or with their character's item inventory. Many point-and-click games would include a list of on-screen verbs to describe specific actions in the manner of a text adventure, but newer games have used more context-sensitive user interface elements to reduce or eliminate this approach. Often, these games come down to collecting items for the character's inventory, and figuring where is the right time to use that item; the player would need to use clues from the visual elements of the game, descriptions of the various items, and dialog from other characters to figure this out.

Escape the room games

Escape the room games are a further specialization of point-and-click adventure games; these games are typically short and confined to a small space to explore, with almost no interaction with non-player characters. Most games of this type require the player to figure out how to escape a room using the limited resources within it and through the solving of logic puzzles. Other variants include games that require the player to manipulate a complex object to achieve a certain end in the fashion of a puzzle box. These games are often delivered in Adobe Flash format and are also popular on mobile devices. Examples of the subgenre include the Submachine-series, MOTAS (Mystery of Time and Space) and The Room.[31]

Puzzle adventure games

Puzzle adventures are adventure games that put a strong emphasis on logic puzzles. They typically emphasize self-contained puzzle challenges with logic puzzle toys or games. Completing each puzzle opens more of the game's world to explore, additional puzzles to solve, and can expand on the game's story. There are often few to none non-playable characters in such games, and lack the type of inventory puzzles that typical point-and-click adventure games have. Puzzle adventure games were popularized by Myst and The 7th Guest, both used mixed-media consisting of pre-rendered images and movie clips, but since then, puzzle adventure games have taken advantage of modern game engines to present the games in full 3D settings; Myst itself has been recreated in such a fashion. Other puzzle adventure games are casual adventure games made up series of puzzles used to explore and progress the story, exemplified by the Professor Layton series of games.

Exploration Games

The Stanley Parable (2014) is a first-person exploration game set in an office building.

Exploration games are narrative-focused adventures that allow players to experience their story through exploration and discovery. Like visual novels they are story-focused and feature fewer puzzles or even no puzzles at all. They allow players to roam around an environment freely and often tell their story through discovering elements like books, journals, or clues rather than through dialog and cutscenes as in more traditional adventure games. As puzzles are de-emphasized, story and atmosphere are placed at the forefront. The lack of any traditional gameplay sometime leads to these types of games being called by the derogatory term "walking simulators". Some examples of exploration games include Gone Home, Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, Jazzpunk, and Thirty Flights of Loving.[32][33]

Visual novel

A common layout for a visual novel game

A visual novel (ビジュアルノベル bijuaru noberu?) is a hybrid of text and graphical adventure games, typically featuring text-based story and interactivity aided by static or sprite-based visuals. They resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. The format has its primary origins in Japanese and other Asian video game markets, typically for personal computers and more recently on handheld consoles or mobile devices. The format has not gained much traction in Western markets.[4] A common type of visual novel are dating sims, which has the player attempt to improve a relationship with one or more other characters.

Interactive movie

Some adventure games have been presented as interactive movies; these are games where most of the graphics are either fully pre-rendered or use full motion video from live actors on a set, stored on a media that allows fast random access such as laserdisc or CD-ROM. The game's software would present a scene and then display options for the player to continue on, the choice leading to the game playing a new scene from the media. The video may be augmented by additional computer graphics; Under a Killing Moon used a combination of full motion video and 3D graphics. Because these games are limited by what has been pre-rendered or recorded, there is a lack of player interactivity in these titles, with wrong choices or decisions leading quickly to an ending scene. Interactive movies have seen a larger growth with the advancement of computing power that can render pre-scripted scenes in real-time, thus providing for more depth of gameplay that is reactive to the player (often including the use of quick time events for more interactivity), but still following a pre-written story. Such games include Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain, and many of Telltale Games' episodic adventure series such as The Walking Dead.

Action-adventure game

While most adventure games typically do not include any time-based interactivity by the player, action-adventure games are a hybrid of action games with adventure games that often require to the player to react quickly to events as they occur on screen. The action-adventure genre is broad, spanning many different subgenres, but typically these games utilize strong storytelling and puzzle-solving mechanics of adventure games among the action-oriented gameplay concepts. The foremost title in this genre was Adventure, a graphic home console game developed based on the text-based Colossal Cave Adventure, while the first The Legend of Zelda brought the action-adventure concept to a broader audience.


Text adventures (1976–1989)

Telechrome^type output of Will Crowther's original version of Adventure.

Colossal Cave Adventure (1976), written by William Crowther and Don Woods, is known to be the first game in the adventure genre, and a significant influence on the genre's early development, as well as influencing core games in other genres such as Adventure (1979) for the action-adventure video game and Rogue (1980) for roguelikes. Crowther was an employee at Bolt, Beranek and Newman, a Boston company involved with ARPANET routers, in the mid-1970s.[34] As an avid caver and role-playing game enthusiast, he wrote a text adventure based on his own knowledge of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky.[34] The program, which he named Adventure, was written on the company's PDP-10 and used 300 kilobytes of memory.[35][36] The program was disseminated through ARPANET, which led to Woods, working at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford at the time, to modify and expand the game, eventually becoming Colossal Cave Adventure.[34]

Colossal Cave Adventure set concepts and gameplay approaches that would become staples of text adventures and interactive fiction. Following its release on ARPANET, numerous variations of Adventure appeared throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, with some of these later versions being re-christened Colossal Adventure or Colossal Caves. These variations were enabled by the increase in microcomputing that allowed programmers to work on home computers rather than mainframe systems.[35][37][38] The genre gained commercial success with titles designed for home computers. Scott Adams launched Adventure International to publish text adventures including an adaptation of Colossal Cave Adventure, while a number of MIT students formed Infocom to bring their game Zork from mainframe to home computers and was a commercial success. Other companies in this field included Level 9 Computing, Magnetic Scrolls and Melbourne House.

When personal computers began to gain the ability to display graphics, the text adventure genre began to wane, and by 1990 there was little if any commercial releases. Non-commercial text adventure games are still developed today, often under the title of Interaction Fiction.

Early graphical development (1982–1990)

Mystery House for the Apple II was the first adventure game to use graphics in the early home computer era.

The first known graphical adventure game was Mystery House (1982), by Sierra On-Line, then at the time known as On-Line System. The game featured static vector graphics atop a simple command line interface, building on the text adventure model. Sierra would continue to produce similar games under the title Hi-Res Adventure.[39][40] Vector graphics would give way to bitmap graphics which also enabled for simple animations to show the player-character moving in response to typed commands. Here, Sierra's King's Quest (1984), though not the first game of its type, is recognized as a commercially successful graphical adventure game, enabling Sierra to expand on more titles.[41] Other examples of early games include Koei's Night Life and Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (1982), Sherwood Forest (1982), Yuji Horii's Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983), The Return of Heracles (which faithfully portrayed Greek mythology) by Stuart Smith (1983), Dale Johnson's Masquerade (1983), Antonio Antiochia's Transylvania (1982, re-released in 1984), and Adventure Construction Set (1985), one of the early hits of Electronic Arts.

As computers gained the ability to use pointing devices and point-and-click interfaces, graphical adventure games moved away from including the text interface and simply provided appropriate commands the player could interact with on-screen. The first known game with such an interface was Enchanted Scepters (1984) from Silicon Beach Software, which used drop-down menus for the player to select actions from while using a text window to describe results of those actions.[41] In 1985, ICOM Simulations released Déjà Vu, the first of its MacVenture series, utilized a more complete point-and-click interface, including the ability to drag objects around on the current scene, and was a commercial success.[41] The point-and-click system also worked well for game consoles, with games like Chunsoft's Portopia Serial Murder Case (1985) and Square's Suishō no Dragon (1986), both on the Nintendo Entertainment System using the controller input instead of text-based actions.[42][43] LucasArts started developing their own point-and-click adventures, starting with Maniac Mansion in 1987, and continuing a line of highly successful titles based on their SCUMM game engine.[41]

Expansion (1990–2000)

Graphical adventure games would continue to improve with advances in graphic systems for home computers, providing more detailed and colorful scenes and characters. With the adoption of CD-ROM in the early 1990s, it became possible to include higher quality graphics, video, and audio in adventure games. This saw the addition of voice acting to adventure games, the rise of Interactive movies such as The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, and the gradual adoption of three-dimensional graphics in adventure games such as the critically acclaimed Grim Fandango, Lucasarts' first 3D adventure.[41]

Myst used high-quality 3D rendered graphics to deliver images that were unparalleled at the time of its release.

Myst, released in 1993 by Cyan Worlds, is considered one of the genre's more influential titles. Myst included pre-rendered 3D graphics, video, and audio. Despite being one of the first games to be published solely on CD-ROM, thereby requiring a CD-ROM drive,[44][45] the game would go on to become highly successful.[46] Myst was an atypical game for the time, with no clear goals, little personal or object interaction, and a greater emphasis on exploration, and on scientific and mechanical puzzles. Part of the game's success was because it did not appear to be aimed at an adolescent male audience, but instead a mainstream adult audience. Myst held the record for computer game sales for seven years—it sold over nine million copies on all platforms—a feat not surpassed until the release of The Sims in 2000.[46] Myst's use of mixed-media would lead to other similar titles including sequels to Myst and other titles such as The 7th Guest. However, many other companies tried to capitalize on the success of Myst, leading to a glut of similar games that followed, and leading to the start of the decline of the adventure game market.[41]

Sega's ambitious Shenmue (1999) attempted to redefine the adventure game genre with its realistic 3D graphics, third-person perspective, direct character control interface, sandbox open-world gameplay, quick time events, and fighting game elements. Its creator Yu Suzuki originally touted it as a new kind of adventure game, "FREE" ("Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment"), offering an unparalleled level of player freedom, giving them full reign to explore expansive interactive city environments with its own day-night cycles and changing weather, and interact with fully voiced non-player characters going about their daily routines. Despite being a commercial failure, the game was critically acclaimed and has remained influential.[47][48][49][50]

Decline (2000–2010)

Whereas once adventure games were one of the most popular genres for computer games, by the mid-1990s the market share started to drastically decline. The forementioned saturation of Myst-like games on the market led to little innovation in the field and a drop in consumer confidence in the genre.[41] Computer Gaming World reported that a "respected designer" felt it was impossible to design new and more difficult adventure puzzles as fans demanded, because Scott Adams had already created them all in his early games.[51] Another factor that led to the decline of the adventure game market was the advent of first person shooters such as Doom and Half-Life. These games, taking further advantage of computer advancement, were able to offer strong, story-driven games within an action setting.[41]

This slump in popularity led many publishers and developers to see adventure games as financially unfeasible in comparison. Notably, Sierra was sold to CUC International in 1998, and while still a separate studio, attempted to recreate an adventure game using 3D graphics, King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, as well as Gabriel Knight 3, both which fared poorly; the studio was subsequently closed in 1999. Similarly, LucasArts released Grim Fandango to many positive reviews but poor sales; it released one more title, Escape from Monkey Island in 2000, but subsequently stopped development of Sam & Max: Freelance Police and had no further plans for adventure games. Many of those developers for LucasArts, including Grossman and Schafer, left the company during this time.[41] Sierra developer Lori Ann Cole stated in 2003 her belief that the high cost of development hurt adventure games: "They are just too art intensive, and art is expensive to produce and to show. Some of the best of the Adventure Games were criticized they were just too short. Action-adventure or Adventure Role-playing games can get away with re-using a lot of the art, and stretching the game play."[52]

Traditional adventure games became difficult to propose as new commercial titles. Gilbert wrote in 2005, "From first-hand experience, I can tell you that if you even utter the words 'adventure game' in a meeting with a publisher you can just pack up your spiffy concept art and leave. You'd get a better reaction by announcing that you have the plague."[53] In 2012 Schaefer said "If I were to go to a publisher right now and pitch an adventure game, they'd laugh in my face."[54] Though most commercial adventure game publication had stopped in the United States by the early 2000s, the genre was still popular in Europe.[41] Games such as The Longest Journey by Funcom as well as Amerzone and Syberia, both conceived by Benoît Sokal and developed by Microïds, with rich classical elements of the genre still garnered high critical acclaims.[41]

Similar to the fate of interactive fiction, conventional graphical adventure games have continued to thrive in the amateur scene. This has been most prolific with the tool Adventure Game Studio. Some notable AGS games include those by Ben Croshaw (namely the Chzo Mythos), Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator, Time Gentlemen, Please!, Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, Metal Dead, and AGD Interactive's Sierra adventure remakes. Adobe Flash is also a popular tool known for adventures such as MOTAS and the escape the room genre entries.

New platforms and rebirth (2005–onward)

Following the demise of the adventure genre in the early 2000s, a number of events have occurred that have led to a revitalization of the adventure game genre as commercially viable: the introduction of new computing and gaming hardware and software delivery formats, and the use of crowdfunding as a means of achieving funding.

The 2000s saw the growth of digital distribution and the arrival of smart phones and tablet computers, with touch-screen interfaces well-suited to point-and-click adventure games. The introduction of larger and more powerful touch screen devices like the iPad allowed for more detailed graphics, more precise controls, and a better sense of immersion and interactivity compared to personal computer or console versions.[55][56] In gaming hardware, the handheld Nintendo DS and subsequent units included a touch-screen, and the Nintendo Wii console with its Wii Remote allowed players to control a cursor through motion control. These new platforms helped decrease the cost of bringing an adventure game to market,[57] providing an avenue to re-release older, less graphically advanced games such as The Secret of Monkey Island,[58] King's Quest and Space Quest[59] and attracting a new audience to adventure games.[60]

The Nintendo DS in particular helped spark a resurgence in the genre's popularity through the introduction of otherwise unknown Japanese adventure games, typically visual novels localized for Western audiences.[61][62][63] The 2005 release of Capcom's courtroom game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (originally a 2001 Game Boy Advance game)[61][63] was widely popular, and it and sequels, nearly all localized for Western release, and is credited for revitalizing the adventure game genre.[64] Following on Ace Attorney's success, Capcom released Level-5's Professor Layton series, starting in 2007. Both have since become some of the best-selling adventure game franchises,[65] with Ace Attorney selling more than 4 million units worldwide[66] and Professor Layton selling nearly 12 million units worldwide.[67] Other successful Japanese adventure games for the DS in Western markets include Cing's Another Code: Two Memories (2005) and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (2006).[61][63][68] and Chunsoft's Zero Escape series, which includes Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.[69]

Further, the improvements in digital distribution led to the concept of episodic adventure games, delivering between three to five "chapters" of a full game over a course of several months via online storefronts such as Steam, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and Nintendo eShop. Telltale Games was founded by former LucasArts employees following the cancellation of Sam & Max: Freelance Police. They created a number of episodic adventure games based on licensed properties, including Sam & Max, Homestar Runner, and Wallace & Gromit that stayed close to tradition point-and-click games; each game consisted of generally 5 episodes released on a monthly or bi-monthly manner, delivered to the player through the Internet in additional to retail releases in time. Those these were successful, Telltale found critical success in The Walking Dead series released in 2012. The Walking Dead eschewed traditional adventure game elements and puzzles for a strong story and character-driven game, forcing the player to make on-the-spot decisions that would become determinants and affect not only elements in the current episode but future episodes and in sequels. Its success was considered a revitalization of the genre,[70] and would lead Telltale to produce more licensed games driven by story rather than puzzles. The episodic format would become popular with other adventure games such as Life is Strange.

Online distribution has also helped lower the costs of brings niche Japanese titles to consumers, which has enabled another outlet for visual novels and dating sims to be localized and released for Western markets. Localization and distribution can be performed by small teams, removing financial barriers to bringing these games, often released as dōjin soft or hobbist titles, to Western countries.[71] A noted example of this is the dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend, a dating sim based on pigeons, originally released in 2011 but received significant attention on its remake and localization in 2014, supported by Western publisher Devolver Digital.[72]

Meanwhile, another avenue for adventure game rebirth came from the discovery of the influence of crowd funding. Double Fine Productions, created by Tim Schafer shortly after his departure from LucasArts, ran a Kickstarter campaign in early 2012 to develop a traditional point-and-click adventure game title, tentatively titled Double Fine Adventure and now officially called Broken Age; Schafer had seen the Kickstarter model work in other commercial venues and considered it to develop a game that publishers would otherwise have refused to consider, allowing players that wanted to see an adventure game fund it directly. Though originally asking for only $400,000, the Kickstarter ended with over $3.4 million, at the time making it one of the largest crowd-funded efforts. The success led many other developers to consider the crowd funding approach, including those in the adventure game genre. Many sequels, remakes, and spiritual successors to classic adventure games emerged on Kickstarter, leading to a significant increase in traditional adventure game development during this time. Some of these include:

Japanese adventures

Due to the differences in computer hardware, language and culture, development of adventure games took a different course in Japan compared to Western markets, generally focusing on visual novels and its subgenres in comparison to point-and-click and other graphical adventures.

Early Japanese adventures (1982–1986)

In the early 1980s, adventure games began gaining popularity in Japan. The country's computer market was largely dominated by NEC's 8-bit PC-8801 (1981) and 16-bit PC-9801 (1982) platforms, which could display 8 simultaneous colors and had a resolution of 640×400, higher than Western computers at the time, in order to accommodate Japanese text. This in turn had an impact on game design, as NEC PCs became known for adventure games with detailed color graphics, which would eventually evolve into visual novels. NEC soon had several competitors such as the FM-7 (1982), the AV (1985) version of which could display more than 4000 colors in addition to featuring FM synthesis sound. Its 16-bit successor, the FM Towns (1989), could display 24-bit color (16.8 million colors) and featured a CD-ROM drive.[75]

Japan's first domestic adventure games were ASCII's Omotesando Adventure (表参道アドベンチャー) and Minami Aoyama Adventure (南青山アドベンチャー), released for the PC-9801 in 1982.[76] Another early Japanese adventure that same year was MicroCabin's Mystery House, which was unrelated to (but inspired by) the On-Line Systems game of the same name. MicroCabin released a sequel, Mystery House II, for the MSX that same year. The following year, the Japanese company Starcraft released an enhanced remake of On-Line Systems' Mystery House with more realistic art work and depiction of blood.[77]

Due to a lack of content restrictions,[75] some of Japan's earliest adventure games were also bishoujo games with eroge content.[78] In 1982, Koei released Night Life, the first commercial erotic computer game.[79] It was a graphic adventure,[80] with sexually explicit images.[79] That same year, they released another eroge title, Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (Seduction of the Condominium Wife), which was an early adventure game with color graphics, owing to the eight-color palette of the NEC PC-8001 computer,[78] and role-playing video game elements.[81][82] It became a hit, helping Koei become a major software company.[78] Other now-famous companies such as Enix, Square and Nihon Falcom also produced similar eroge in the early 1980s before they became famous for their mainstream role-playing games. In some of their early eroge, the adult content is meaningfully integrated into a thoughtful and mature storyline, though others often used it as a flimsy excuse for pornography.[79]

Meanwhile, in the arcades, Japanese developers also began producing early interactive movie laserdisc video games, the first being Sega's Astron Belt, unveiled in 1982 and released in 1983, though it was more of a shooter game presented as an action movie using full-motion video.[83][84] A more story-driven interactive movie game was Bega's Battle, released in 1983, which combined shooting stages with interactive anime cutscenes,[85] where player input had an effect on the game's branching storyline.[86] Time Gal (1985), in addition to featuring quick time events, added a time-stopping feature where specific moments in the game involve Reika stopping time; during these moments, players are presented with a list of three options and have seven seconds to choose one.[87]

The most famous early Japanese adventure game was the 1983 murder mystery game Portopia Serial Murder Case, developed by Yūji Horii (of Dragon Quest fame) and published by Enix. The game was viewed in a first-person perspective, followed a first-person narrative, and featured color graphics. Originally released for the PC-6001, the player interacts with the game using a verb-noun parser which requires typing precise commands with the keyboard; finding the exact words to type is considered part of the riddles that must be solved.[88] The game featured non-linear elements, which includes travelling between different areas in a generally open world, a branching dialogue conversation system where the story develops through entering commands and receiving responses from other characters, and making choices that determine the dialogues and order of events as well as alternative outcomes, though there is only one true culprit while the others are red herrings. It also features a phone that could be used to dial any number to contact several non-player characters.[89] The game was well received in Japan for its well-told storyline and surprising twist ending, and for allowing multiple ways to achieve objectives.[79] Hideo Kojima praised the game for its mystery, drama, humor, 3D dungeons, for providing a proper background and explanation behind the murderer's motives, and expanding the potential of video games.[90] The game has also been compared to the later-released Shadowgate where the player must examine and collect objects, and find their true purpose later on.[91] According to Square Enix, Portopia was "the first real detective adventure" game.[92]

The command selection menu input system, where the player chooses from a menu list of commands either through keyboard shortcuts or scrolling down the menu, was introduced in 1983, and would largely replace the verb-noun parser input method over the years. The earliest known title to use the command selection menu system was the Japanese adventure game Spy 007 (スパイ00.7), published in April 1983, and it was followed soon after by several other Japanese adventure games in 1983. These included the eroge title Joshiryo Panic, authored by Tadashi Makimura and published by Enix for the FM-7 in June and slightly earlier for the FM-8; Atami Onsen Adventure (熱海温泉アドベンチャー), released by Basic System (ベーシックシステム) in July for the FM-7 and slightly earlier for the PC-8001; Planet Mephius, released in July; and Tri-Dantal (トリダンタル), authored by Y. Takeshita and published by Pax Softnica for the FM-7 in August.[93] The game that popularized the command selection system was the 1984 adventure game Okhotsk ni Kiyu: Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin Jiken (Okhotsk ni Kiyu: Hokkaido Chain Murders), designed by Yuji Horii (his second mystery adventure game after Portopia) and published by ASCII for the PC-8801 and PC-9801. Its replacement of the traditional verb-noun text parser interface with the command selection menu system would lead to the latter becoming a staple of adventure games as well as role-playing games (through Horii's 1986 hit Dragon Quest in the latter case).[93][94]

Another notable adventure game released in 1983 was Planet Mephius, authored by Eiji Yokoyama and published by T&E Soft for the FM-7 in July 1983.[95] In addition to being one of the earliest titles to use a command menu system,[93] its key innovation was the introduction of a point-and-click interface to the genre, utilizing a cursor to interact with objects displayed on the screen.[95] A similar point-and-click cursor interface was later used in the adventure game Wingman,[96] released for the PC-8801 in 1984.[97]

The NES version of Portopia Serial Murder Case was released in 1985 and became a major hit in Japan, where it sold over 700,000 copies.[92] With no keyboard, the NES version, developed by Chunsoft, replaced the verb-noun parser of the original with a command selection menu list, which included fourteen set commands selectable with the gamepad. It also featured a cursor that can be moved on the screen using the D-pad to look for clues and hotspots, like a point-and-click interface.[88] Horii's second adventure game Hokkaido Chain Murders was later also ported to the NES in 1987.[94] Yuji Horii's third mystery adventure game Karuizawa Yūkai Annai (The Karuizawa Kidnapping Guide) was released for the PC-8801 in early 1985 and for the FM-7 in June that same year. It utilized the command menu system and point-and-click cursor interface of both Portopia Serial Murder Case and Hokkaido Chain Murders, in addition to introducing its own innovation: an overhead map. This gave the player direct control over the player character, who can be moved around in a top-down view to explore the area.[98] That same year, Square's Will: The Death Trap II was one of the first animated computer games.[99]

In 1986, Square released the science fiction adventure game Suishō no Dragon for the NES console. The game featured several innovations, including the use of animation in many of the scenes rather than still images,[42] and an interface resembling that of a point-and-click interface for a console, like Portopia, but making use of visual icons rather than text-based ones to represent various actions. Like the NES version of Portopia, it featured a cursor that could be moved around the screen using the D-pad to examine the scenery, though the cursor in Suishō no Dragon was also used to click on the action icons.[42][43] That same year saw the release of J.B. Harold Murder Club,[100] a point-and-click graphic adventure,[101] for the PC-98.[100] It featured character interaction as the major gameplay element and has a similar type of multiple phrase response to more recent titles such as the adventures Shenmue and Shadow of Memories as well as the role-playing game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.[101] The TurboGrafx-CD port of J.B. Harold Murder Club was one of the first Japanese adventure games released in the United States.[100] The J.B. Harold series went on to sell 20 million copies on various platforms as of 2011.[102][103]

Japanese adventures (1987–present)

Sega's Anmitsu Hime: From Amakara Castle, released in 1987,[104] was an adventure game with some platform game segments. The adventure game segments were puzzle-oriented and played in a side-scrolling view where the player has direct control over the character. Originally based on the Anmitsu Hime anime, an edited version based on Alex Kidd was later released in 1989 as Alex Kidd in High-Tech World.[105] The Goonies II, also released in 1987, was a first-person adventure game with some side-scrolling action game segments. The game featured a non-linear open world environment similar to Metroid.[106] The same year, Jiro Ishii (later known for 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de and Time Travelers) released Imitation City, an adventure game with a similar cyberpunk theme to Kojima's later hit Snatcher.[107] Another notable 1987 adventure game was Arsys Software's Reviver: The Real-Time Adventure, which introduced a real-time persistent world, where time continues to elapse, day-night cycles adjust the brightness of the screen to indicate the time of day, and certain stores and non-player characters would only be available at certain times of the day. The game also gives players direct control over the player character.[108]

A distinct form of Japanese adventure game that eventually emerged is the visual novel, a genre that was largely inspired by Portopia Serial Murder Case,[89] and uses many conventions that are distinct from Western adventures. They are almost universally first-person, and driven primarily by dialog. They also tend to use menu-based interactions and navigation, with point and click implementations that are quite different from Western adventure games. Inventory-based puzzles of the sort that form the basis of classic Western adventures, are quite rare. Logic puzzles like those found in Myst are likewise unusual. Because of this, Japanese visual novels tend to be streamlined, and often quite easy, relying more on storytelling than challenge to keep players interested.[61]

Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear fame) was inspired by Portopia to enter the video game industry,[90] and produce his own adventure games. After completing the stealth game Metal Gear, his first graphic adventure was released by Konami the following year: Snatcher (1988), an ambitious cyberpunk detective novel graphic adventure that was highly regarded at the time for pushing the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cut scenes, and mature content.[109] It also featured a post-apocalyptic science fiction setting, an amnesiac protagonist, and some light gun shooter segments. It was praised for its graphics, soundtrack, high quality writing comparable to a novel, voice acting comparable to a film or radio drama, and in-game computer database with optional documents that flesh out the game world. The Sega CD version of Snatcher was for a long time the only major visual novel game to be released in America, where it, despite a Mature rating limiting its accessibility,[61] gained a cult following.[110]

Following Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Kojima produced his next graphic adventure, Policenauts (1994), a point-and-click adventure notable for being an early example of extensive voice recording in video games.[111] It also featured a hard science fiction setting, a theme revolving around space exploration, a plot inspired by the ancient Japanese tale of Urashima Taro, and some occasional full-motion video cut scenes. The gameplay was largely similar to Snatcher, but with the addition of a point-and-click interface and some first-person shooter segments. Policenauts also introduced summary screens, which act to refresh the player's memory of the plot upon reloading a save, an element Kojima would later use in Metal Gear Solid. The PlayStation version of Policenauts could also read the memory card and give some easter egg dialogues if a save file of Konami's dating sim Tokimeki Memorial is present, a technique Kojima would also later use in Metal Gear Solid.[110] From 1997 to 1999, Kojima developed the three Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series titles, which were adaptations of Tokimeki Memorial in a visual novel adventure game format.[112]

Mirrors, released by Soft Studio Wing for the PC-8801 and FM Towns computers in 1990, featured a branching narrative, multiple endings, and audio CD music.[113] In 1995, Human Entertainment's Clock Tower: The First Fear was a hybrid between a point-and-click graphic adventure and a survival horror game, revolving around survival against a deadly stalker known as Scissorman that chased players throughout the game. The success of Resident Evil in 1996 was followed by the release of the survival horror graphic adventures Clock Tower (Clock Tower 2) and Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within for the PlayStation. The Clock Tower games proved to be hits, capitalizing on the success of Resident Evil, though both games stayed true to the graphic-adventure gameplay of the original Clock Tower rather than following the lead of Resident Evil.[114]

From the early 1990s, Chunsoft, the developer for the NES version of Portopia, began producing a series of acclaimed visual novels known as the Sound Novels series, which include Otogirisō (1992), Kamaitachi no Yoru (1994), Machi (1998), 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de (2008), and 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2010). From the late 1990s, a number of Japanese adventure games began using a 3D third-person direct control format, particularly on consoles like the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. Examples include Sega's Shenmue series (since 1999), Konami's Shadow of Memories (2001), Irem's Disaster Report series (since 2002), and Cing's Glass Rose (2003).

In recent years, Japanese visual novel games have been released in the West more frequently, particularly on the Nintendo DS handheld following the success of mystery-solving titles such as Capcom's Ace Attorney series (which began on the Game Boy Advance in 2001), Cing's Hotel Dusk series (beginning in 2006),[61] and Level-5's Professor Layton series (beginning in 2007).[65] English fan translations of visual novels such as Square's Radical Dreamers (a 1996 side story to the Chrono series of role-playing video games) and Key's Clannad (2004) have also been made available in recent years.

Notable developers

Within the adventure game genre, several developers and studios became instrumental in the direction that the genre has taken.

Adventure International (1978–1985)

Adventure International is a development company founded by programmer Scott Adams alongside his wife Alexis. Adams was a fan of Colossal Cave Adventure, and had spend days to run through the game to achieve the highest score possible, "Adventure Grandmaster".[36][115] From this, he was inspired to write a similar game for the home computer system TRS-80, which lacked the memory capacity of the mainframes that Colossal Cave Adventure ran on. To get around this, he wrote a reusable high-level language and an interpreter written in BASIC.[36][116] His first title, sold through Adventure International, was Adventureland which mimicked Colossal Cave Adventure for the home system; this became the first commercially-sold adventure game.[117] After publishing Pirate Adventure, its source code made available in Byte magazine,[115][117] Adams began to use assembly language to speed up his software, which he then used for Mission Impossible and his subsequent games.

In 1978, Adams founded Adventure International with his wife Alexis in order to sell his games. His first game, Adventureland, was a version of Adventure for the TRS-80 that would become the first commercially sold adventure game.[117] His second game, Pirate Adventure, was an original game in a similar style to Adventure—its source code, written in BASIC, was published in the December 1980 issue of Byte magazine.[115][117] It wasn't until his third game, Mission Impossible, that Adams began programming in assembly language to improve the speed of his software. Adventure International went on to produce a total of twelve adventure games before a downturn in the industry led to the company's bankruptcy in 1985.[118] Several adventure game designers and writers cite Adams' games as an influence on their own creations.[119][120]

Infocom (1979–1989)

Infocom was a game development company formed in June 1979 by, among others, Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, Bruce Daniels, and Albert Vezza. Lebling and Blank were students at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science at the time of Colossal Cave Adventure's release. Desiring to create a similar game, they worked alongside fellow students Anderson and Daniels to create the text adventure Zork for the PDP-10 minicomputer, distributed via ARPANET.[121] On graduation the students, together with their group leader Albert Vezza, decided to form Inforcom to port Zork for home computers,[121][122] As with Adams, Infocom was also limited by the size of memory on home computers at the time like the Apple II and TRS-80. They broke up Zork into three episodes to manage the size, and then created the Zork Implementation Language (ZIL) and the Z-machine to run ZIL programs, the first virtual machine used in a commercial product.[123] Zork was very successful, with the first episode Zork I released in 1980 and selling nearly 380,000 copies by 1986.[124]

The company continued to develop new text adventure games, expanding in size to over 100 employees at its peak; by 1984, they had sold over $10 million in game software.[125] Their success drew writer Douglas Adams, who had loved Zork, to help produce two games through them: the first based on Douglas Adams' popular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and an original work called Bureaucracy.[126] The company also attempted to expand into business software, writing the relational database program Cornerstone, released in 1985; though Cornerstone was well-received, its release was at a time of a slump in software sales, and the company lost a significant amount of money on the title, as well as divided the company internally on progress going forward.[126] Struggling for funding, Infocom was bought by Activision in 1986 and returned to adventure game development, but following that, the increased power of home microcomputers and graphic-driven games saw the demand for Infocom titles decline. Infocom was late to add graphics to its games as to be able to compete with other titles until 1987. By 1989, the Infocom division at Activision had been reduced to 10 employees, and was ultimately shuttered; Activision would continue to develop some text adventure games inhouse using the Infocom brand but with no connection to the original team.[126] The demise of Infocom is considered to be the end of the commercial age for interactive fiction, but its legacy would remain; the Z-machine remains a popular source for running non-commercial interactive fiction games developed in more modern tools such as Inform.[125]

Sierra (1979–1999)

Sierra On-Line was founded by Roberta and Ken Williams in 1980. Roberta had also been inspired by Colossal Cave Adventure, and unable to find similar games of that type, wrote her own detective story based loosely on Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None and the board game Clue.[39] Once she had completed its design, she had convinced Ken to stop work on a FORTRAN compiler he had been developing as to bring her game to light on the Apple II home computer. The game, initially titled Hi-Res Adventure, was ultimately released as Mystery House; Mystery House was the first adventure game to feature graphics, using vector graphics atop a simple two-word command parser.[39][40] The Williamses initially sold the game on their own, achieving reasonable sales. Though Ken wanted to continue developing business software, they ultimately decided to continue to develop games, forming On-Line Systems in 1980, which they would eventually rename as Sierra On-Line.[40]

Sierra's initial games, labeled as part of the Hi-Res Adventure series, followed the same approach as Mystery House, using a first-person perspective graphical view along with text commands; Roberta would design each game's story and puzzles, while Ken would program it. In 1983, IBM contacted Sierra to develop a game for their new system, the PCjr, which featured more advanced graphics at the time as well as a more advanced sound system. Roberta designed a fairy-tale style adventure that would better visualized by the PCjr's graphics, and Ken developed software to allow animations include the player's character to occur on-screen in response to the player's typed commands. This was aided by the development of the Adventure Game Interpreter, a virtual machine that used a high-level language to control. This game became known as King's Quest I. It initially had poor sales due to its tie-in to the PCjr, but when IBM later abandoned the system, the Williamses were free to port the game to other systems, where it became highlight successful.[127] Sierra began to expand, producing more games in the King's Quest series, which prompted thematic spinoffs in the Space Quest series by Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the Police Quest series by Jim Walls. The company would also produce other adventure games including the Leisure Suit Larry series by Al Lowe, Quest for Glory by Corey and Lori Ann Cole, and Gabriel Knight by Jane Jensen. As games featuring point-and-click interfaces began to become popular in the mid-1990s, Sierra also began to produce these types of games, including the forementioned Gabriel Knight series, Phantasmagoria, and Shivers.

Sierra would develop new games and push the boundaries of adventure gaming until its purchase by Cendant in 1998. Then in 1998, Cendant sold off their entire interactive software branch for $1 billion to Havas Interactive, a subsidiary of Vivendi Universal. At that point, the adventure game market was starting to wane as other types of genres became more popular, partially enabled by more powerful home console hardware such as the PlayStation. Sierra exited the game development sector, and was rebranded as Sierra Entertainment to help with video game publishing. They would continue to publish titles through 2008; at that time, Vivendi has been acquired by Activision, who shut down Sierra though kept the name. Following the resurgence of adventure games in 2010, Activision reactivated Sierra Entertainment for the first of several projects, the 2015 King's Quest a new title in the series that was be developed by The Odd Gentlemen.[128]

LucasArts (1986–2000)

Maniac Mansion on the Commodore 64, the first game to use the SCUMM interface

Lucasfilm Games was a game-development division spun off from Lucasfilm in 1982, making a wide variety of titles; it eventually was renamed as LucasArts. LucasArts has made significant contributions to the adventure genre market in the 1980s and 1990s. Its initial foray was the text-adventure game Labyrinth: The Computer Game based on the film of the same name.

In 1987, LucasArts developers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick created the graphical adventure game Maniac Mansion. Gilbert was inspired to add graphics after seeing Sierra's King's Quest, having not been a fan of text-based adventure games. Gilbert would create the SCUMM game engine that enabled for a point-and-click game interface, which would be expanded upon and used throughout most other LucasArts adventure games. Gilbert led the development of the comedic pirate adventure The Secret of Monkey Island, the first LucasArts game taking advantage of 256 color graphics, bringing along two new hires to LucasArts, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer, to help in writing and programming. The team differentiated themselves from the Sierra games in that they eliminated any possibility of the player-character dying in the game, so that the player would never become stuck in a title. The game was highly successful, leading LucasArts to continue to develop titles in similar manner between Gilbert, Grossman, and Schafer, including Day of the Tentacle (a sequel to Maniac Mansion), Sam & Max Hit the Road based on the Steve Purcell characters, Full Throttle, The Dig, and Grim Fandango, the latter which expanded the SCUMM engine to a three-dimensional canvas via the GrimE. These games would also integrate a fuller musical score through LucasArts' iMUSE system, with music composed by Peter McConnell and Michael Land. Most of LucasArts' adventure titles have been critically praised, and because of their popularity, fans have developed a ScummVM engine that allows these titles to be played on modern systems.

At the time of Grim Fandango's release around 2000, the computer game market was seeing a shift to more graphics-enabled games due to updated computer speeds. Grim Fandango sold poorly, and LucasArts' next adventure game release Escape from Monkey Island was panned. LucasArts cancelled two future adventure game projects, focusing more on action games. Gilbert, Grossman, and Schafer would leave LucasArts for other pursuits. As of December 2015, Double Fine, a company founded by Schafer following his departure from LucasArts, is working to bring several of the LucasArts games to modern computer systems in remastered versions, including Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and Full Throttle.

Telltale Games (2004–present)

Telltale Games was founded in 2004 by a number of ex-LucasArts employees, including Grossman, following the cancellation of Sam & Max: Freelance Police. The company sought to continue the tradition of adventure games. Their initial games were standalone titles, including a two-game series based on Jeff Smith's Bone comics, and several games based on the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television series.

Telltale's The Walking Dead focused more on story and characters than puzzles and inventory, and was a critical success for both the studio and adventure games in general.

Telltale hit upon success on creating episodic adventure games, with Sam & Max: Season One in 2006 as an unofficial sequel to LucasArts' Sam & Max Hit the Road and inspired by their existing work they had done on the cancelled Freelance Police. Two further seasons of Sam & Max would follow, along with games based on other licensed properties, including Homestar Runner, Wallace & Gromit, Monkey Island, Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. In addition to home computers and consoles, Telltale would also develop these titles for mobile devices, a growing market at the time.

A subsequent licensing deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment brought the studio the rights to develop games based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead and Bill Willingham's Fables comics. The first endeavor completed was the 2012 The Walking Dead video game, which had the same episodic nature as the studio's earlier games but was built more on developing characters and story over traditional puzzle elements. The game required the player to make significant game-changing decisions including the death of non-playable characters, sometimes with only a few seconds to deliberate which option to select through quick time events. Choices made would create determinants that would carry through the remaining episodes and into subsequent seasons, allowing players to come to feel as if the story they are presented was more personal due to the choices they made. The game was praised critically for its emotional story and use of the adventure genre, as well as designed its release around a timed episodic schedule.[129] The Walking Dead was considered very successful,[130][131][129] and one of the biggest surprises for the video game industry in 2012,[132] and a "refresh" of the adventure game genre;[133][134] Ron Gilbert noted that The Walking Dead's approach to appear to the mass market can make adventure games as relevant as other genres to larger publishers.[135] Following The Walking Dead, Telltale secures further deals to produce additional seasons of The Walking Dead, and seasons based on the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones book series, and the Borderlands and Minecraft video games, among other deals. Telltale's episodic and deterministic narrative model has also been used by other developers, including Life Is Strange and Dreamfall Chapters.


Many classic adventure games cannot run on modern operating systems. Early adventure games were developed for home computers that are not in use today. Emulators are available for modern computers that allow these old games to be played on the latest operating systems. One Open Source project called ScummVM provides a free engine for the LucasArts adventure games, the SCUMM-derived engine for Humongous Entertainment adventure games, early Sierra titles, Revolution Software 2D adventures, Coktel Vision adventure games and a few more assorted 2D adventures. Another called VDMSound can emulate the old sound-cards which many of the games require.

One of the most popular emulators, DOSBox, is designed to emulate an IBM PC compatible computer running MS-DOS, the native OS of most older adventure games. Many companies, such as Sierra Entertainment, have included DOSBox in their re-releases of older titles.

Text adventure games are more accessible. There are only a small number of standard formats, and nearly all the classics can be played on modern computers. A popular text adventure interpreter is Frotz, which can play all the old Infocom text adventures.[136] Some modern text adventure games can even be played on very old computer systems. Text adventure games are also suitable for PDAs, because they have very small computer system requirements. Other text adventure games are completely playable via web browsers.

See also


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