Rules for the Ultimate Adventure

I’ve just finished developing an adventure game.  It’s far from anything substantial and is really just me messing around while learning to use Adventure Game Studio.  I’ve created a simple scene, learned some basic scripting, and discovered how to implement other necessary mechanics.  I animated a jovial, round-shaped dude for the main character; it took me forever to figure out how to draw him walking away from the screen.

I started designing an adventure game because, well, as anyone who reads posts on this site knows, I like the genre.  But I also started delving into Adventure Game Studio to get a better sense of what the developers of the indie games I play and review have gone through to make their games.  Animating characters and objects is tedious and hard!  I’ve come to love scripting and now feel that there’s nothing better than writing a wall of code, hitting F5 to run the game, and not encountering an error (or at least only errors from missing semi-colons).

I’m sure as I continue to delve deeper into Adventure Game Studio I’ll find more tips and tricks to make game mechanics easier to implement and animating less time-consuming.  I’m certainly full of ideas but am forcing myself to start small and not get bogged down in ambitious goals that are beyond my current skill-set.

The whole project got me thinking, however, about common elements I’ve seen in adventure games.  I’ve always kept an informal list of what I’ve liked and what I didn’t so that one day if I ever got around to designing my own game I’d know what to avoid and what to in include in its design.  The following is a list of those thoughts, in no particular order.  They’re tongue-in-cheek (mostly) so forgive me game developers if I cut a little too deep…

          Every adventure game must have a twig or a stick that the player can add to his inventory.  I swear almost every object-based adventure game I’ve ever played has featured such an item. There’s always some puzzle that relies on the stick’s poking ability to solve it.  Either that or a string will be tied to it to make a fishing pole.


          Be sure to script in jokes for when the player clicks on his own character.  Jokes alluding to touching yourself should especially be used when using the Sierra-style interface with a hand icon.


          You should include jokes about characters picking up large objects and somehow managing to fit them in their pockets. 


          In a similar vein to the above, you should always write a witty quip telling the player that his desire to pick up a practical object doesn’t make sense but picking up some completely random item is genius.


          Be sure to make the player walk back and forth between the same screens, over, and over, and over again.  I mean, you spent tons of time designing them right?  If the player didn’t appreciate them the first time…


          On a related note, if you’ve designed a sweeping landscape or extremely detailed scene, be sure that the player can only interact with small parts of it.  Wouldn’t want them to get overly excited, would we?


          Combining items is a must.  The more nonsensical the better.  Pocket lint plus roller skate?  Yes, please.


          If I’ve talked with an NPC several times, fully exhausting its dialogue options, be sure to require that I go talk to it once more a bit later in order to advance in the game.  I’ll totally think to do that.


          When speaking with an NPC be sure to switch between having the player click to move on to new dialogue and the dialogue moving forward on its own.  There’s nothing more awesome than accidentally clicking through the NPC saying something important because the game decides to switch mechanics midstream.


          A great soundtrack hides all flaws.  Seriously.


          Stay far, far away from pop culture references.  By the time your game gets released they’re dated and they weren’t really relevant in the first place.


Sincerely though, developing a game isn’t simple.  Scratching the surface of game development has shown me how easy it is to miss important steps in the creation process.  Having an idea for a game is barely even a start.  I can easily see how you’d start building a game and have it evolve into something different than what you envisioned as your abilities and resources aren’t there yet.  Or that you have a sound idea for the story you want to tell but need to manipulate it a bit to turn it into actual game.  I’ll keep messing with Adventure Game Studio and perhaps be lucky enough to release my own work one day. 

Undoubtedly the moment I post this I’ll think of more rules for designing an adventure game but hopefully I at least covered the basics.  Did I miss any?

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