What's happening to adventure games?
A Brief History of Adventure Games: 1980 to 1993
1980: The Text Adventure
The history of adventure games begins with text adventures. A long time ago, when graphics were monochrome and 64K RAM was enough for everybody, the first adventure games appeared. Although graphics existed at that time, they weren't initially employed for creating adventures. Both input and the output were text only. But most of the basic features of an adventure were already there: You could "look" at things to get their description, take objects and use them with other characters, talk to those characters, and solve puzzles in order to progress in the game. Most popular text adventures of that time were developed and produced by "Infocom", the most famous examples being the "Zork" games. Later, text adventures with graphics were created, but the graphics only served to illustrate your location in the game world; input was still text-only.
1984 to 1988: The Classic Era
"Darling, what do you think about making a graphic adventure?" - A young Californian couple, Ken and Roberta Williams, had probably no idea what an impact this question will have on then world of computer games. They founded "Sierra-On-Line", a company that soon became the biggest power in developing and producing adventure games. Roberta Williams' idea opened new horizons to both developers and players: from now on, you could MOVE your character in a virtual graphic world! The 3rd person perspective adventure was born. It is customary to name "King's Quest" the first graphic adventure. The Classic Era of the adventure will be forever associated with Sierra's "Quest" games. Among the most well-known examples of those games are the first four "King's Quests", the first three "Space Quests", and the first three "Leisure Suit Larry" gamess. All of those games were still using a text parser input as interface and color graphics to display the game world and protaganist.
1988 to 1993: The Golden Age
Nobody was able to compete with "Sierra" at that time, but a programmer named Ron Gilbert who worked for the company "Lucasfilm Games" (today "LucasArts") developed what seemed to be the most innovative concept of the time: the SCUMM system, the point-and-click interface. Instead of typing the desired action, you had a choice of several small textual icons; clicking on them with the mouse allowed you to choose the action and thus to interact with objects and characters. It was this system that later brought the Golden Age to the adventure games.
Gilbert's first attempts, "Maniac Mansion" and "Zak McKracken", were still in 16-color EGA and had certain restrictions concerning the new, revolutionary interface. It was not until "The Secret Of Monkey Island" when the point-and-click genre reached its utmost perfection. In this game (which was originally made in 16 colors, but is most known for its fabulous 256 color VGA version), the interface, the dialogue system with optional answers, the inventory-based puzzles, the graphics, the music and the humor, so typical for adventures yet to come, were combined into a whole. The story was the core of the adventure; dialogue and inventory were pillars supporting it. Everything was integrated to perfection, and this scheme became the standard for many future adventures. "The Secret Of Monkey Island" started the glorious line of LucasArts adventures. In 1993, "Day Of The Tentacle" was released, a game that started the tradition of the "cartoon adventure".
The developers at Sierra, seeing that a new power had conquered the throne, answered with their counter-weapon. Imitating the icon-based interface of LucasArts, they created many games which were in the eyes of many the most serious rivals of LucasArts' masterpieces. "Sierra" wasn't the only rival. Many other companies ("Westwood", "Microprose", "Adventure Soft") also produced very good games in classic style. The adventure flourished.
|Continued: A Brief History, continued: 1993 to 1997|
|Table of Contents: What's happening to adventure games?|