More thoughts on browser based adventure gaming

Sometimes I find myself surprised by the simplest things.
For the last few days I have been working on a simple JavaScript arcade game the killer feature of which is a scrolling floor similar (but not identical) to that of Space Harrier. As I’ve been piecing the game elements together and scaling sprites and other game content I’ve also been pre-occupied with the notion of online adventure gaming.
It’s distractions like this that lead me down all manner of thought trails and ultimately, and inevitably I have to shelve my current project to go and investigate my ideas a little further.

I am not an adventure gamer by rule. I much prefer to play “arcade” games. I rather enjoy the theory if it all but the concept of pretending to be an Orc or a Paladin and venturing off to find treasure in “them thar hills” is a bit beyond me.

Atleast that’s what I thought.

I recently picked up a few old games, one of which was Dungeon Siege. I was convinced it’d get an hour of my time and then I’d uninstall it. To my surprise I played it through and thoroughly enjoyed it. Being a designer of games I decided to invest a little thought in to what it was that actually grabbed my attention so much.

I found the answer was within my definition of the term “arcade gaming”.

To anyone older than 20 years the thought of an arcade game meant standing in a game arcade waiting patiently for a “go” on a game machine. I still remember fondly pacing the grotty floorboards of the local arcade with a fistful of coins looking for a cheap laser thrill. Great days. But arcades of course died a death thanks in no small part to their abuse by factions of society that used them as havens for pushing drugs and getting smashed on cheap booze.
To a modern gamer an arcade game is a simple, casual game enjoyed thanks to the internet. Probably.

My problem is that I’d always assumed an arcade game was a ton of sprites drifting around with a wee player sprite striving to destroy them all in some way shape or form. Certainly these are the games I love to play.
I re-evaluated this and decided that a truer description was probably better defined by my attitude towards the game rather than the style of the game itself.

In the arcades you were prepared to spend a short space of time playing a game. You certainly didn’t expect to be there for hours on end.
I simply haven’t got hours on end to spare for gaming. Those days are gone.
But I am a keen gamer in that I enjoy the challenge of computer games.

Dungeon Siege allowed me to progress through a fantasy game world at my own pace without the hassles of guild membership or any kind of commitment to a pre-arranged tournament. I’m sure those things are available but I didn’t use them.

So it strikes me that a great game might be found in a fantasy adventure that is designed to be played in short bursts.
A kind of “dip in and dip out” style of game that prompts the player for a decision or action then shuts up shop until the next time the player returns. In the background you might move the game world on a bit so that the player returns to a “living” situation.

This is quite different to the “what do I do next?” style of game that I had previously been thinking about.
Better still the game needn’t use any graphics whatsoever.

I could play the game on my mobile phone and just “dip in” once in a while to see what’s changed and what I need to do to survive.

This may sound pretty pedestrian to anyone used to the graphical thrills of World of Warcraft but from a designer’s perspective (especially somebody happy to consider the more cerebral aspects of such a game) this is where the fun is.

So I am now moving more and more towards an adventure game in an open world where the player initially must simply survive.

Once I’ve finished the “inbetween” game that I’m working on I am going to enjoy sketching out the framework for a big fantasy project.

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Comments

  • Cody  On June 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the casual, pick up and play mentality. Having a casual approach to game play doesn’t necessarily mean shallow; it’s really about making sure the game is rewarding and playable in short bursts.

    Also, I think one of the hardest things about designing an adventure game is keeping the scope of the project manageable. It’s surprisingly difficult to decide what stays and what goes without sacrificing the enjoyment the game will potentially offer. How can I do the most with the least amount of features?

    Good luck, man. Adventure games sound ambitious, to say the least.

  • markw1970  On June 29, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Cody,

    I completely agree.
    Adventure games for those who want to indulge in hours on end at the computer are out there and doing very well I’m sure.
    I’m particularly interested in being able to play an adventure game “super casual”. That is, on the move via an HTML, CSS and JavaScript enabled phone.

    I’m currently looking at 2 types.
    The first is a Fighting Fantasy style where your game ends in a single sitting.
    The second is a more persistent game where you sign in, check your situation, act accordingly and then dip out again until next time safe in the knowledge that the game engine will tick along in your absence updating relevant stats.

    It’s extremely tempting to spend hours indulging in theory on this sort of thing but I’m keen to keep coding.

    Look forward to seeing your stuff soon, hopefully !

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