Designing Classic Adventure Games – King’s Quest, Myst, Monkey Island and More

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There’s maybe no genre with a more interesting history than the adventure game. Today we’ll talk about the design of classic adventure games. From their start as text adventures. Through Sierra, Ken and Roberta Williams and King’s Quest. Modernized with LucasArts, Ron Gilbert, Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Grim Fandango. Then brought to the masses with Cyan and Myst, and a whole lot of copycats. Let’s see what made adventure games so popular in the 80s and 90s and what made the genre fade away to almost nothing.

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100 Comments

  1. Wasn't Revolution Software's Beneath a Steel Sky and Broken Sword worth a mention?

  2. Oh God, I so HATE Myst. Especially as a reference to adventure games. Totally different genre, if you ask me.

  3. Love LucasArts games, don't like Myst. 🙁

    It was too weird for me to figure out what was going on. And the interface was ultra basic.

    Maybe I should play it again…?

  4. Tass Times used a graphical icon mouse interface a year before Maniac Mansion

  5. Scumm was incredibly innovative. Not only one of the first game engines, but later on also introduced iMuse. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis from 92 still holds up today imo.

  6. 10:40 Imagine guessing having to use a "Monkey Wrench" when playing the game translated in another language where the same item is called differently. Yup, I'm telling from experience, how did you guess? : P

  7. * Gabriel Knight 1-3
    * The Last Express
    * Leisure Suit Larry 7

  8. I don't think it's really true the genre died, it just gor more nieche, the broken sword series and the blade runner game did well for themselfs

  9. Those graphics have evolved. If YOUR graphics looks like a retard DONT FORCE YOURSELVES MAKING GAMES!!

  10. Sierra games was the reason I originally learned english just so I could play them. Leisure Suit Larry was the best english teacher I ever had.

  11. I really missed curse of enchantia and the Simon the sorcerer series in this documentary. But that being said great work on explaining the genre.

  12. Toonstruck, a live action/cartoon hybrid game starring Christopher Lloyd.
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a live action/cartoon hybrid movie starring Christopher Lloyd.

  13. Not a mention nor clip of a single Revolution game SMDH.

  14. 10:48 > WAIT A MINUTE! That's ma boi, Manny Calavera! So that's how he died? Wow….

  15. Oh man, I loved Grimm Fandango. I didn't know it didn't do well, that makes me sad for them. It was a great game.

  16. One thing I don't miss was having to draw pages and pages worth of maps based on text descriptions alone LOL! (I got a CD-ROM compilation of almost all the old text adventures in the 90s.) Myst wasn't much better because if you didn't figure out the audio cues in the mine cart, you had to basically map out the entire track to figure out the maze. I loved all the old adventure games (except for Phantasmagoria).

  17. Wow, I didn't expect to see Toonstruck here! Such a tragically overlooked game 🙁

  18. I'm surprised there was no mention of The 7th Guest.

  19. Ah – need a link to the next episode, want to see if they mention the tex murphy fan-funded sequel ♡ it was great!

  20. if we didn't pirate we could have gotten full throttle 2 and sam & max 2

  21. We need to use a different term for this genre. "Adventure" is generic, and the majority of developers and gamers these days are using that term to apply to a wide range of games. (Do a search on Steam and any other distribution platform for "Adventure" and note how many professionally made titles use that term .)
    I nominate the term "Quest-Solving Games." This fundamentally addresses the core aspect of the games. You are given a quest and must find out how to solve it.

    Besides, when you hear the word "Adventure" you usually think of someone swinging a sword and fighting a dragon. Even in the golden era of Sierra and Lucasarts, their footprint in the market was overshadowed by things like Zelda, which also claimed the name "adventure game" for its genre. And honestly, it's more fitting to people's expectations of "an adventure" than picking up random items to solve puzzles.

    I love this genre, but I think trying to defend the name "adventure game" is a losing battle; everyone has to be explicitly taught that the term applies to this niche genre instead of something more action-orientated. Each new generation of gamers has to be taught a history lesson to get them on-board with calling the genre by that name, which will always be a losing battle unless the genre becomes more mainstream than anything like Zelda or God of War, and if the genre did become that mainstream, it would probably have changed so drastically that it doesn't match what we understand as a "-pointandclick- Adventure game."

    Hence, I nominate that we should move to calling the genre "Quest Solving games" instead.

  22. Ken and Roberta Williams were too wholesome for the industry.

  23. I really hate this idea that the Adventure genre "Collapsed" IT DID NOT; main stream game companies tried to bury adventure games and pretend that no more were being made, -this was a lie! adventure games were still and have always been alive and well. People who were not in the market for them at the time though would not hear about the ones they were out at the time; examples: The FBI Confidential Series, The Runaway Series, The Agatha Christie Series, The Longest Journey, The Indigo Prophecy; 'point and click' was an "interface" just like 'text based' was, do not confuse the interface with the genre. There are an ocean of adventure games many younger gamers have never heard of or played, it does not mean the genre collapsed or even slowed down. They just weren't in the mainstream eye.

  24. I have bought some of these games several times through the years. Original floppy, CD-rom versions, special editions, remasters etc. 😀

  25. Worth mentioning: text-only adventure games still live on (and even evolved) in the form of Multi User Dungeons (MUDs).

  26. The 7th Guest was a small BREAKTHRU . I think ADVENTURE on the 2600 deserved a special mention…

  27. I always found the "Type to act" system was really cool. Even as a none native speaking kid I quite liked the charm of it.
    It did require extensive use of walkthoughs though. (Which I'm amazed existed long befor we had sites like gamefaqs…)

  28. What you also need to remember is that during that time you generally didn't buy new games. Lot's and I mean lots, of the games you played were older games you copied from a friend.
    So the classics and popular games were still being played, even when newer games came out.
    I think the thing that killed the adventure genre for me was mostly in the presentation and the story telling. The art style was too cartoony, the comedy became more silly. You had seen it before. I remember "we" started to grow tired of the genre long before the 3D games really became popular. Secrets of Money Island was sort of the last one people cared about. (And the only one I can remember actually buying at launch, I think it's the first game I did so with)
    All the while games like Baldur's Gate, and other story driven games which also had exciting gameplay came along. Funnily enough Sierra was early onto the scene with RPGs too with the Quest for Glory games, probably their best game series they made. Consider a game that started on the AGI, and ended in 3D graphics, spanning five games where you could carry your character over between each one! Mass Effect? ppffft, Sierra did it decades earlier.
    I still hold Quest for Glory up as one of the best videogame series ever made.

  29. how could you forgot to mention Broken Sword? one of the better adventure games from that era.

  30. Toonstruck was amazing. Shame we never got that sequel and were left hanging with a cliffhanger.

  31. Daedalic Entertainment caused my personal little revival of the adventure genre. I've played Harvey's New Eyes, The Whispered World and the first three Deponia games. Good stuff!

  32. Part of the reason why adventure games seem rarer is that a lot of pseudo-RPGs these days are actually just adventure games with stat grinding. Instead of developing your own character and your story in the game world, you're actually following a predetermined (and mostly linear) story, maybe with a couple of "side quests" to give you an illusion of freedom.

    The ones in this video are specifically "point & click adventures", where the UI is itself a defining feature of the genre.

  33. The move from text input to point and click was a huge downgrade in my opinion. The magic of those AGI and early SCI games with text entry was the feeling that you were not limited in what you could try. Not everything worked, but at least you could try. And often there would be sensible or clever replies to requests that wren't allowed. When they switched to point and click all that freedom was replaced with a few generic icon choices. The feeling of control was taken away, and I lost interest as a result.

  34. I absolutely hated HATED Myst when it came out. I could not understand the appeal other than it looked pretty. The plot was basically non existent and the puzzles were dumb as hell to me. But apparently several million other people thought it was the best thing ever. I remember thinking as a kid the company HAD to be buying their own copies to boost sales. lol I was such a naive child.

  35. I'm now 48. Having been a teen at the time, I've played most of these adventure games. What killed them for me was the point and click instead of typing (and english isn't my main language), it made the games feel childish and stupid without them being any more easy to solve. Last best Sierra game was hero quest II, loved that. It was downfall for them afterwards.

  36. Sierra made 4 kings quest games?

    They made more, 7 or 8 i believe.

  37. There was a valiant effort to reinvigorate and modernise the genre by Gremlin Graphics and their title Normality Inc.

  38. I worked at egghead computers in 1997. Myst was still a big deal even then. Most likely because CD-ROMs are getting much cheaper even though the game was 4 years old at the time

  39. Was that last bit of music at the very end Space Quest 5? It's definitely something from the series, I just can't pin down where, and I know it's not SQ1VGA.

  40. I love point and click graphic adventures like putt putt and sam and max

  41. Riven sold extremely well with a lot of hype in 1997, with incredible pre-rendered graphics for the time, including textures using high-resolution photogrammetry. Games like Journeyman Project 3 were breaking ground with things like 360° views, even if the vantage point remained static (Myst III and IV also share this mechanic) which I think deserves credit as continued innovation during the 'decline' era.

  42. List of games featured (in order of first appearance)

    0:08 Phoenix Wright: Justice for All
    0:12 Street Fighter 2
    0:15 King of Fighters 96
    0:16 Tekken 3
    0:17 Fatal Fury Wild Ambition
    0:18 Street Fighter EX 3
    0:21 Streets of Rage 2
    0:23 Pilotwings
    0:25 Starcraft
    0:28 DOTA 2
    0:32 A Hat in Time
    0:37 Full Throttle
    0:41 Zork
    0:44 Kings Quest
    0:48 Monkey Island 2
    0:50 Escape from Monkey Island
    0:51 Telltale's The Walking Dead Season 1
    0:53 Space Quest
    0:56 Grim Fandango
    0:59 Day of the Tentacle
    1:02 King's Quest 3
    1:55 Pong
    1:57 Breakout
    2:01 Space Race
    2:04 Computer Space
    2:07 Colossal Cave Adventure
    2:47 Space Invaders
    2:48 Pitfall
    2:59 Planetfall
    3:01 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    3:10 The Hobbit
    3:34 Mystery House
    5:53 Police quest
    5:55 Mixed-Up Mother Goose
    6:01 Black Cauldron
    6:04 Space Quest 3
    6:45 Legends of Star Arthur: Planet Mephius
    7:01 Nightshade
    7:13 Labyrinth
    7:28 Maniac Mansion
    8:12 Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
    8:17 Putt-Putt Joins the Parade
    8:20 Pajama Sam: No Need To Hide When It's Dark Outside
    9:05 King's Quest 5
    9:18 Monkey Island 1
    9:34 King's Quest 6
    10:24 Sam & Max Hit the Road
    10:32 King's Quest 4
    10:46 Monkey Island 3
    10:49 King's Quest 1 (1990 Remake)
    11:12 Sonic CD
    11:20 Myst
    12:42 Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon
    12:49 Tex Murphy: Overseer
    12:55 Toonstruck
    13:10 Gabriel Knight
    13:16 Phantasmagoria
    13:27 Pyst
    14:05 Zelda: Ocarina of Time
    14:11 Diablo
    14:14 Metal Gear Solid
    14:27 Space Quest 4
    16:21 Broken Age
    16:27 Machinarium

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