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Developing games for a “broader audience”

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Seeing as this seems to pop up very often, was somewhat discussed in this late Interview in regards to Broken Age: http://www.joystiq.com/2014/01/17/super-joystiq-podcast-081-tim-schafer-interview-broken-age-ri/

And it seems to be at the root of most of the complaints in regards to Broken Age, even amongst people that overall liked it (easy puzzles, too brief, too simplified to somewhat of an “Interactive story/click-through Adventure book” experience) I thought about bringing this up to discuss separately.

There seems to be this somewhat malicious argument that pops up in regards to Adventures of complexity somehow being bad. A lot of people seem to realize and bring up that the puzzles were too easy, but never without relativization or at least adding how wholly understandable that should be for today, in some of the reviews so far: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2089242/broken-age-act-one-review-kickstarters-darling-is-a-charming-shallow-half-game.html

On the one hand, simplicity is good. One of the reasons point-and-click adventure games “died” to begin with was the absurd, opaque logic behind most of the puzzles. “How would I ever figure that out?” was a common refrain with those 90s LucasArts games.

http://www.pcgamer.com/review/broken-age-act-1-review/

Broken Age might not be close to the length and complexity of previous Tim Schafer games such as Grim Fandango and Full Throttle, or an instant classic like just about every Lucasarts adventure not a bad anagram of "Escape From Island Monkey," but it's still a fine reminder of them.

And really, that's what should have been expected. Those games were very much products of their time, and in specifically promising to be one rather than update the idea like Ron Gilbert attempted with The Cave, this was always going to be a celebration rather than a modern successor.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-01-16-broken-age-act-1-review

Your interactions are limited to a simple context-sensitive one click input, all objects of interest are easily spotted, and the inventory is such that you'll never be left scratching your head. The point-and-click adventures of old had issues that have to be addressed in the modern day, of course, with their obtuse puzzles and inexplicable inventory items, but Broken Age swings the pendulum too far in the other direction.

Or even on this very forum in various posts: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/12003/#317094 http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/12003/#317152

It’s usually in connection to a rather old, sarcastic article from ~2000 as to why “Adventure games died”: http://www.oldmanmurray.com/features/77.html

For me, this isn’t anywhere near the truth of the matter, having grown up largely throughout the 90s with Adventure games being my favorite of genres, I can tell you that this wasn’t the reason at all and is somewhat of a redaction of history based on a single article that seems to get brought up in defense of bad game and puzzle design far too often. Similarly to how it was done retroactively to RPGs, for instance by saying that using turn-based systems and a top-down view was only done due to the technological limitations of the time and they’ve since “evolved” (this is by a company that is producing two such games now) or that strategy games are apparently not contemporary anymore (despite turning out that the actual strategy game sold better for them than the Reboot and some of the best-selling franchises for SEGA at the moment are strategy games).

The main reason they “died” as a genre that I see is the same reason why some people seem upset over certain parts of Broken Age right now that turned out less than perfect and is often a matter of “I HAVE NEVER ASKED FOR THIS” and believed profit interests that pushed the genre to “evolve” into what it wasn’t in the hope that it will gain additional market base in a time when console games on the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 were gaining popularity and Adventure games were still selling, but didn’t exactly bring the desirable Return of Interest for investors.

An assortment of such games that effectively ended up killing their series until much later, some of which had a previously rich lineage in being some of the leading Adventure games defining the genre isn’t hard to find:

In order: Simon the Sorcerer 3D (2002), Escape from Monkey Island (2000), Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon (2003), King's Quest: Mask of Eternity (1998), Gabriel Knight 3 (1999), Quest for Glory V (1998), Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (2001), Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (2004), Fahrenheit (2005)

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And from an Interview from 2002 in regards to this: http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17561/page2

BS3 has caused for a bit of controversy on game forums. The foremost reason for the skepticism is probably how other adventure games have failed to implement 3D succesfully. King's Quest 8 and Alone in the Dark became miserable action games; Monkey Island 4, Simon the Sorcerer 3D, and even Gabriel Knight 3 couldn’t benefit from the new engine. How will BS3 be different?

You’re right, of course. But where I think those games went wrong was in the translation; their move to 3D was literally just that--essentially the same game, but with an added dimension. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is so much more than that. We’ve maintained the same visual style, but moved to realtime 3D, sure--but we’ve radically redefined the control system and exploited this to open up more gameplay options. The puzzles will remain essentially the same--we’ve always had sections where you’ve needed to elude a guard or perform a task quickly. This move to 3D will hopefully make the game more appealing to those that have dismissed 2D adventures in the past. Then they’ll see what they have been missing.

And also pointed out on video much later:

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Huh, turned out all that text was too long for just one Post, anyway.

Now here’s the thing that I don’t understand, why would you do something like this? Why would you try and design a game that is different enough for the core audience to possibly lose interest while hoping that an audience that has previously had no interest and apparently dismissed said games would suddenly flock to them instead of continuing to play what they like? Where is the business sense in trying to alienate one market that likes your products in the hopes of maybe, possibly grabbing another that doesn’t?

Which in the case of Broken Age seems to not be the 3D Action gamers primarily playing on consoles like it was back in the day, but Casual gamers playing on tablets and mobile phones. Why not just decide to either make a proper Adventure game or a 3D Action game or a Casual game and satisfy one market fully and hope this will expand it instead of trying both and satisfying neither?

Games like Botanicula, Kentucky Route Zero or Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and even Machinarium, which Tim has repeatedly brought up in past Interviews as possible role models or inspiration for Broken Age (especially that last one, which he apparently played on iPad) were conceived as either Casual games for tablets or as Flash browser games and never pretended to be anything else, while the promise of a “classic” or “old-school” Adventure game raises entirely different expectations in people that have played and enjoyed those a lot.

In the Joystiq interview he said under Lucas Arts they always had to apologize for making Adventure games by saying that it’ll have “biker fights” in it or that it will “be in 3D” and now that he had the chance to do just that, they removed a large part of what makes Adventure games out. The art is there and pretty great, the sound design (music and voiceover) was there and great, although that was never THE staple of classic Adventure games which often came along with merry synthesized tunes and no voice acting and the characters, story and locations are somewhat there, although they didn’t quite have the time to be built out enough and were not used to their full potential (very few hot spots and puzzles or content at all per screen). It is hard to tell with only half of the game, but where is the rest? Where is the gameplay?

For large parts of the game I ironically felt somewhat like Shay is supposed to feel in the beginning. Imprisoned by a well-meaning AI to keep him safe and not let him think for himself, afraid that he might do something wrong if he is let off the leash while he is yearning for some challenge and adventure with the only place where I got slightly stuck being only because I had given the game too much credit and expected to have to pick a certain falling fruit up with a bucket or a net or something else while I failed to notice that the area right below extends both to the right and the left.

Personally I’ve never had much of a problem with playing a bunch of the 90s Adventures at the time. I was barely 10 when doing so and didn’t exactly have a very firm grasp of language quite yet. I managed to get through them and if I ever got stuck for very long I tried asking for help, did things like drawing a map for “Woodruff” because I kept getting lost with all the screens or went on the Internet and looked up the solution at some point. It wasn’t really a problem and should be even less of a problem now.

The thing that I don’t get the most is that both “markets” could be potentially satisfied too, the games could be as “hard” as ever for those that enjoy it and could still remain accessible for newcomers. For instance I personally liked the way they solved this in the Monkey Island: Special Edition games with the Hint system they implemented:

It was a three-tiered hint system with a not-so-obvious, obvious, and “DO THIS!” type of hint for each puzzle that could be brought up when someone got stuck. So the puzzles could remain as “hard” as they were back in 1990/1991 and if people got stuck they either had the decision to stay stubborn and push on till they got behind the logic and solved the puzzles without any hints and if they just couldn’t bother with them they didn’t need the Internet or a Walkthrough but just displayed the Hint as to what they have to do.

Another added enticement to not use any Hints was an Achievement that you got by playing through the game without using any hints or less than ten hints.

All I was mainly hoping for with this game was another enjoyable Adventure game in the style of the old LucasArts games (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam&Max;: Hit the Road, Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango) and while it’s “not bad” overall it is anything but.

The Germans, like Daedalic Entertainment, KING Art or Deck 13 as well as some other developers/publishers like Wadjet Eye Games seem to mainly have the right idea in regards to this at the moment, since they are still producing Adventure games and seem to be doing well enough to expand their business and to be getting bigger by organically growing the market with more exposure and interest despite not dumbing down their games. The only thing often missing from them is the charm and story/character design of some of the classic Lucas Arts and SIERRA games, as well as very often the lack of a sense of humor.

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Huh, turned out all that text was too long for just one Post, anyway.

Now here’s the thing that I don’t understand, why would you do something like this? Why would you try and design a game that is different enough for the core audience to possibly lose interest while hoping that an audience that has previously had no interest and apparently dismissed said games would suddenly flock to them instead of continuing to play what they like? Where is the business sense in trying to alienate one market that likes your products in the hopes of maybe, possibly grabbing another that doesn’t?

Which in the case of Broken Age seems to not be the 3D Action gamers primarily playing on consoles like it was back in the day, but Casual gamers playing on tablets and mobile phones. Why not just decide to either make a proper Adventure game or a 3D Action game or a Casual game and satisfy one market fully and hope this will expand it instead of trying both and satisfying neither?

Games like Botanicula, Kentucky Route Zero or Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and even Machinarium, which Tim has repeatedly brought up in past Interviews as possible role models or inspiration for Broken Age (especially that last one, which he apparently played on iPad) were conceived as either Casual games for tablets or as Flash browser games and never pretended to be anything else, while the promise of a “classic” or “old-school” Adventure game raises entirely different expectations in people that have played and enjoyed those a lot.

In the Joystiq interview he said under Lucas Arts they always had to apologize for making Adventure games by saying that it’ll have “biker fights” in it or that it will “be in 3D” and now that he had the chance to do just that, they removed a large part of what makes Adventure games out. The art is there and pretty great, the sound design (music and voiceover) was there and great, although that was never THE staple of classic Adventure games which often came along with merry synthesized tunes and no voice acting and the characters, story and locations are somewhat there, although they didn’t quite have the time to be built out enough and were not used to their full potential (very few hot spots and puzzles or content at all per screen). It is hard to tell with only half of the game, but where is the rest? Where is the gameplay?

For large parts of the game I ironically felt somewhat like Shay is supposed to feel in the beginning. Imprisoned by a well-meaning AI to keep him safe and not let him think for himself, afraid that he might do something wrong if he is let off the leash while he is yearning for some challenge and adventure with the only place where I got slightly stuck being only because I had given the game too much credit and expected to have to pick a certain falling fruit up with a bucket or a net or something else while I failed to notice that the area right below extends both to the right and the left.

Personally I’ve never had much of a problem with playing a bunch of the 90s Adventures at the time. I was barely 10 when doing so and didn’t exactly have a very firm grasp of language quite yet. I managed to get through them and if I ever got stuck for very long I tried asking for help, did things like drawing a map for “Woodruff” because I kept getting lost with all the screens or went on the Internet and looked up the solution at some point. It wasn’t really a problem and should be even less of a problem now.

The thing that I don’t get the most is that both “markets” could be potentially satisfied too, the games could be as “hard” as ever for those that enjoy it and could still remain accessible for newcomers. For instance I personally liked the way they solved this in the Monkey Island: Special Edition games with the Hint system they implemented:

It was a three-tiered hint system with a not-so-obvious, obvious, and “DO THIS!” type of hint for each puzzle that could be brought up when someone got stuck. So the puzzles could remain as “hard” as they were back in 1990/1991 and if people got stuck they either had the decision to stay stubborn and push on till they got behind the logic and solved the puzzles without any hints and if they just couldn’t bother with them they didn’t need the Internet or a Walkthrough but just displayed the Hint as to what they have to do.

Another added enticement to not use any Hints was an Achievement that you got by playing through the game without using any hints or less than ten hints.

All I was mainly hoping for with this game was another enjoyable Adventure game in the style of the old LucasArts games (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam&Max;: Hit the Road, Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango) and while it’s “not bad” overall it is anything but.

The Germans, like Daedalic Entertainment, KING Art or Deck 13 as well as some other developers/publishers like Wadjet Eye Games seem to mainly have the right idea in regards to this at the moment, since they are still producing Adventure games and seem to be doing well enough to expand their business and to be getting bigger by organically growing the market with more exposure and interest despite not dumbing down their games. The only thing often missing from them is the charm and story/character design of some of the classic Lucas Arts and SIERRA games, as well as very often the lack of a sense of humor.

Well, in my opinion they are focusing Broken Age to exactly the same market that they did with Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle: kids and young audiences. What has changed is our perception of those games.

SCUMM games had a false sense of complexity because they had this "verb system" that allowed you to make lots of combinations trying to solve a puzzle, but if you think about it the solution to almost all those puzzles was very simplistic ("use pot as helmet", "give fish to bridge troll"...), but we remember them to be super-hard because we were little kids with no experience in this kind of games.

That's why companies such as Daedalic are making products addressed to us (adult audiences with lots of experience in adventure games), and these games are MUCH HARDER than Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle.

Maybe Tim should've written a "Daedalic" kind of game instead of a "LucasArts-Full-Throttle-ly" kind of game to please his "older" fans? Maybe, but in my opinion he's doing what he has always done: addressing his work to young and inexperienced audiences (my wife has almost no experience playing adventure games and she's having a difficult time with Broken Age).

Also, let's not forget that we're comparing 50$ AAA games of the time like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango with a 25$ crowdfunded product. In my opinion the kind of complexity and length can't be compared between these.

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Well, in my opinion they are focusing Broken Age to exactly the same market that they did with Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle: kids and young audiences.

Monkey Island was full of Alcohol and tobacco references, Day of the Tentacle had drug references, Full Throttle had violent rocker behaviour.

Broken Age had sugar binging and one missed punch at the end.

I really don't think you can compare the themes in Broken Age in any way to the old Lucasart themes. They were not build for kids, but for teenagers.

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Stay true to your core and the broader audience will find you, maybe a little more slowly than you like but that is no problem nowadays. I really don't know why the default assumption is that everyone is dumb and impatient.

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Well, in my opinion they are focusing Broken Age to exactly the same market that they did with Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle: kids and young audiences.

Monkey Island was full of Alcohol and tobacco references, Day of the Tentacle had drug references, Full Throttle had violent rocker behaviour.

Broken Age had sugar binging and one missed punch at the end.

I really don't think you can compare the themes in Broken Age in any way to the old Lucasart themes. They were not build for kids, but for teenagers.

You forget Steel Bunting- filled with badasses. ;)

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I don't get what isn't classic about Broken Age.

It has dialogue trees.

It has an inventory system.

It allows the player to combine items.

It is playable per point & click.

It lacks action/reflex requiring sequences.

I wouldn't necessarily consider the qualities that Broken Age is in 2D and funny as classic traits, but well, it is those things, too.

It isn't hard, yes. But then, so wasn't Loom. Is Loom no classic adventure game? Loom didn't even have an inventory or dialogue trees!

Is Full Throttle no classic adventure game because it has action sequences?

Is Grim Fandango no classic adventure game because it has no point & click?

Just because the puzzles are easy doesn't mean there isn't still a huge amount of similarities Broken Age shares with the classic adventure games of Lucas Arts. To me it very clearly stands in the Lucas Arts tradition. And the thought Tim designed Broken Age with, that anyone should be able find a way to its end, is the same thought Brian Moriarty designed Loom with more than twenty years ago. It's not a new thought. But then, probably in most hardcore adventure gamer's mind Loom is considered the black sheep of the Lucas Arts adventure games, anyway.

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Well, in my opinion they are focusing Broken Age to exactly the same market that they did with Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle: kids and young audiences.

Monkey Island was full of Alcohol and tobacco references, Day of the Tentacle had drug references, Full Throttle had violent rocker behaviour.

Broken Age had sugar binging and one missed punch at the end.

I really don't think you can compare the themes in Broken Age in any way to the old Lucasart themes. They were not build for kids, but for teenagers.

That was in a day when we were not so over-protective with kids (no ESRBs and all that).

Anyway, my point is that those games weren't addressed to 30-40 year olds like us (with 20-30 years of adventure gaming experience on our backs) and the same can be said of Broken Age. Maybe that's why we find it too simplistic, and the same we would think of Monkey Island if it was made today.

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I don't agree, I only played a small portion of the first Monkey Island game when it came out at a friends place and only played the remake from beginning to end when it came out. I am now 32 years old and felt that Monkey Island was build for teenagers and adults. The whole theme is very mature and the humor is not really suited for young kids.

Broken Age on the other hand doesn't have any of that, I am sure it will get an all ages rating here in germany, maybe 6 and up. Monkey Island is rated 12 and up here.

I am not talking about the simplistic puzzles etc., I'm just saying the content and the theme is very child friendly, which doesn't apply to any other Schafer game. Even Psychonauts was rated 12 and up. Not that we didn't knew that was coming from the documentary, but I wish that the next adventure game from Doublefine will be more "edgy".

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I don't agree, I only played a small portion of the first Monkey Island game when it came out at a friends place and only played the remake from beginning to end when it came out. I am now 32 years old and felt that Monkey Island was build for teenagers and adults. The whole theme is very mature and the humor is not really suited for young kids.

Broken Age on the other hand doesn't have any of that, I am sure it will get an all ages rating here in germany, maybe 6 and up. Monkey Island is rated 12 and up here.

I am not talking about the simplistic puzzles etc., I'm just saying the content and the theme is very child friendly, which doesn't apply to any other Schafer game. Even Psychonauts was rated 12 and up. Not that we didn't knew that was coming from the documentary, but I wish that the next adventure game from Doublefine will be more "edgy".

I strongly disagree with this. Monkey Island is a pure, straight comedy with a superficial story and overall kind of simplistic writing and characters. I would say Broken Age is by far the more mature of the two as it has much stronger narrative themes, and the actual plot has a gravity to it that Monkey Island doesn't (neither does Day of the Tentacle, for that matter - another straight comedy). It shares this quality with all the other games Tim's personally led (so starting from Full Throttle) except Brutal Legend. There are deeper layers to Broken Age that I don't recall those other games having, most notably the way it subverts gender stereotypes in both the real world and in gaming culture specifically.

I would say Broken Age is certainly on par with Tim's other games with regards to 'maturity'. At the very least, on a superficial plot-level (which by no means defines the maturity of a game), I think the implications derived from the ending of Act 1 don't make this a child-friendly game at all. I don't think a game needs to be edgy to be mature. In fact I'd say many games try to pass off 'edgy' as 'mature', failing to understand that relying on edginess to sell maturity is in fact the opposite of being mature.

(As a sidenote, I am really starting to dislike the word 'mature' in the context of games.)

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Actually I remember that I disliked Monkey Island the first time I played it, because it was "too dark" for me (I was 9 and liked colorful Nintendo games).

Broken Age is just full of fluff, the graphics, the choice of words, everything. I would have loved this when I was a kid.

We'll see what the USK will rate this game sooner or later, but I will be dumbfounded if this game will rate 12 and up.

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It won't be, but then, the USK got a lot more lax over the years anyway. I don't think Day of the Tentacle would be rated "ab 12" today.

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Luckily, I stopped worrying about whether things are "too childish" after I grew up.

SPOILERS

Broken Age has some very adult themes. The entire Vella's story is about her being prepared her whole life for a meeting (in her words, a prom date) with a monster who comes to touch her with his noodly appendage and gobble her up, and when Vella finally stops running away and confronts the monster, it turns out there's a just a boy inside. And then there are these other girls who compete for the monster's attention and are depressed when they are not picked. Obviously this is a metaphor for fiscal responsibility or at least something equally serious.

/SPOILERS

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Luckily, I stopped worrying about whether things are "too childish" after I grew up.

this.

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Monkey Island was full of Alcohol and tobacco references, Day of the Tentacle had drug references, Full Throttle had violent rocker behaviour.

Broken Age had sugar binging and one missed punch at the end.

I really don't think you can compare the themes in Broken Age in any way to the old Lucasart themes. They were not build for kids, but for teenagers.

I don't consider depression/suicide thoughts and a fear of death to be themes for kids.

I was an avid adventure player but I stopped playing them because they ended up trying to cater to "hardcore audience" too much. As a result, games lost their sense of wonder and offered illogical/try-everything puzzles. It just wasn't worth it to sit hours in the front of PC trying to solve another generic puzzle. They weren't fun anymore. There are better ways how to spend time after a day at work.

I think Broken Age can offer something for everyone. Kids enjoy colorfulness, adults cynic nods at reality.

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Adventures died, for a 2 reasons. The first reason is the advent of consoles, which become the main gaming platform since the late 90s until a few years ago. Consoles did not have the necessary input device (the mouse specifically) to support the typical adventure game, which in turn urge adventure games developers to turn to the 3D, in order to create adventures suitable for consoles game control devices. But 3D was not the correct perspective for the adventure genre, because games lost their cinematic feeling, resulting to games which lost also their apeal to theirs existing audience, and at the same time were unable to attract new audience. Summing up, the diminishing of pc gaming in favor of consoles, which bread the turn to 3D were the only two reasons for the fall of the genre. It was not the mind boggling puzzles, or the complexity of the user interfaces, or any other bull...t I read in various articles. Just think of when adventures games came back on the stage. What has changed in the few last years? Pc gaming has become again popular, overshadowing consoles, mainy due to lack of evolution from the side of platform developers and especially due to the advent of digital downloading. This in turn eclipsed the "input device" shortcoming and adventures returned again to its very fitting 2d or hybrid 2d-3d perspective. Becoming again popular, was a matter of time. And their ressurection, which actually was not a ressurection, just a wake up from a 10 years sleep was a sure bet solemnly confirmed. Just to add here also, the important role that tablets played, in this wake up, since they provided also a convenient mouse like interface, which the adventure genre required.

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I strongly disagree with this. Monkey Island is a pure, straight comedy with a superficial story and overall kind of simplistic writing and characters. I would say Broken Age is by far the more mature of the two as it has much stronger narrative themes, and the actual plot has a gravity to it that Monkey Island doesn't (neither does Day of the Tentacle, for that matter - another straight comedy). It shares this quality with all the other games Tim's personally led (so starting from Full Throttle) except Brutal Legend. There are deeper layers to Broken Age that I don't recall those other games having, most notably the way it subverts gender stereotypes in both the real world and in gaming culture specifically.

I would say Broken Age is certainly on par with Tim's other games with regards to 'maturity'. At the very least, on a superficial plot-level (which by no means defines the maturity of a game), I think the implications derived from the ending of Act 1 don't make this a child-friendly game at all. I don't think a game needs to be edgy to be mature. In fact I'd say many games try to pass off 'edgy' as 'mature', failing to understand that relying on edginess to sell maturity is in fact the opposite of being mature.

(As a sidenote, I am really starting to dislike the word 'mature' in the context of games.)

this

anyway:i played some of them (mi 1 & 2 for example) again just a few years ago, and despite me remembering many parts the puzzles still were harder than act 1 of broken age..much harder! nothing to do with age...at least for my part

broken ages story is more mature - the puzzles sadly are the opposite

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I love the hint system, but I thing the reason Tim didn't use it is because... let's face it... from a story telling perspective, it IS kinda immersion breaking, which is why Tim used the common let the characters naturally say the hints technique which has it's own problems...

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Just because a game doesn't have tits and gore in it doesn't mean it is made for kids. Lots of good movies are made for adults because they have adult themes, this game I see more like Pixar. Sure it is suitable for kids but there is so much more to it. I think these games are more adult themed than Pixar movies because there is a lot more complex humor and ideas going on.

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According to Tim Schafer, Grim Fandango sold 500k copies. I believe that if Broken Age sold 500k copies Double Fine would be very happy. So I'm not sure why Broken Age needs to be targeted at a wider audience than Grim Fandango.

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According to Tim Schafer, Grim Fandango sold 500k copies. I believe that if Broken Age sold 500k copies Double Fine would be very happy. So I'm not sure why Broken Age needs to be targeted at a wider audience than Grim Fandango.

Because their studio died. They didn't go away for some malicious reason, they weren't making money.

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I strongly disagree with this. Monkey Island is a pure, straight comedy with a superficial story and overall kind of simplistic writing and characters.

Superficial story? The whole twist on the "damsell in distress" is one of the greatest strokes of genius in history of gaming.

You spend all ACT I trying to get a pirate... for nothing, because the head pirates run away just after you solve all their requests. And you spend the rest of the game trying to save Elaine... for nothing, because she's not a clichèd princess in distress.

And the characters are all charming, appropriate and well-defined. Some better than others, obviously.

I think it's just you who looked at SoMI superficially, no offense.

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I strongly disagree with this. Monkey Island is a pure, straight comedy with a superficial story and overall kind of simplistic writing and characters.

Superficial story? The whole twist on the "damsell in distress" is one of the greatest strokes of genius in history of gaming.

You spend all ACT I trying to get a pirate... for nothing, because the head pirates run away just after you solve all their requests. And you spend the rest of the game trying to save Elaine... for nothing, because she's not a clichèd princess in distress.

And the characters are all charming, appropriate and well-defined. Some better than others, obviously.

I think it's just you who looked at SoMI superficially, no offense.

I definitely agree that the twist with Elaine at the end is one of the things the narrative has going for it - her entire character might be the strongest point of the writing if you look deeper, beyond the jokes and all. On the whole, though, I do think SoMI has a fairly simplistic plot which doesn't have much depth to it. Plot-wise it's a fun adventure (with great dialogue and characters for sure) but not that much more. (Though I'm very much open to be convinced otherwise, and don't think that's necessarily a bad thing at all. Also the game is amazing, for the record!)

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According to Tim Schafer, Grim Fandango sold 500k copies. I believe that if Broken Age sold 500k copies Double Fine would be very happy. So I'm not sure why Broken Age needs to be targeted at a wider audience than Grim Fandango.

I guess the problem here is, that Tim Schafer & Co. didn't really communicate that well (and I'm hoping that wasn't on purpose) that they intended to do a "more approachable" adventure like this. On the contrary, I remember the very first video with Schafer, when Ron Gilbert was still with Double Fine and they only started to openly discuss the Kickstarter pitch (btw: I didn't know then, that Ron Gilbert would have nothing to do with the game!). They specifically spoke a lot about niche-markets and how those can now be given games closer to their likings, because of things like Kickstarter. It was explicitly presented as the alternative to the classic publisher model, which would usually require appealing to a larger crowd. Actually when the Kickstarter campaign was such a success they pretty much promised an even more complex game, than in their first pitch that was only supposed to cost 400.000. That too had to shift expectations in a certain direction. Hardly anyone would have expected too much of a 400.000 game.

Setting it up like that, had to disappoint people who believed that. It's weird now, when I hear people talk about appealing to wider audiences, when the whole presented argument about choosing Kickstarter, over a traditional publisher, was, so they wouldn't have to. What message is it supposed to send, that they pretty much still did the same thing? They better not repeat that argument in their next Kickstarter campaign. ;)

Going to Kickstarter was all about appealing to/mobilizing the fan base. And by mentioning Monkey Island and Day of Tentacle all the time, it was clear which fan base they wanted to mobilize. There can be no doubt about it.

I liked Broken Age for various reasons too and honestly can't wait for Act 2, but you can't handle it like this and expect no one to feel... a little bit... deceived?

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That's why companies such as Daedalic are making products addressed to us (adult audiences with lots of experience in adventure games), and these games are MUCH HARDER than Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle.

Monkey Island 2 was much harder than almost all games Daedalic has ever done. Back then there was no elaborate tutorial that explained everything, players had to figure things out for themselves. Pretty much all Daedalic adventures have options to skip puzzles that are "too hard", in Monkey Island 2 you were just stuck. No, most Daedalic adventures (especially their later ones) are more on the easy side.

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Well, in my opinion they are focusing Broken Age to exactly the same market that they did with Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle: kids and young audiences. What has changed is our perception of those games.

I disagree, I think the main audience for Broken Age (or at least the audience due to which a lot of design decisions were made) are tablet and possibly mobile phone users, the themes of the game overall also seem ever so slightly more “childish” than most Lucas Arts Adventures and it put more focus on things like Animations and cut scenes over gameplay.

SCUMM games had a false sense of complexity because they had this "verb system" that allowed you to make lots of combinations trying to solve a puzzle, but if you think about it the solution to almost all those puzzles was very simplistic ("use pot as helmet", "give fish to bridge troll"...), but we remember them to be super-hard because we were little kids with no experience in this kind of games.

That's why companies such as Daedalic are making products addressed to us (adult audiences with lots of experience in adventure games), and these games are MUCH HARDER than Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle.

Maybe Tim should've written a "Daedalic" kind of game instead of a "LucasArts-Full-Throttle-ly" kind of game to please his "older" fans? Maybe, but in my opinion he's doing what he has always done: addressing his work to young and inexperienced audiences (my wife has almost no experience playing adventure games and she's having a difficult time with Broken Age).

Most of the SCUMM games were about on the same level of difficulty as the Daedalic games nowadays. Maybe with slightly more intuitive puzzles overall. Adding choices and possibilities for the player to think about and make adds complexity, so did the verbs. The player also actually had to think about what to do and if it makes sense other than use interact and seeing what it does.

For instance he had to get the idea of using the pot as a helmet and it didn’t just happen on interact. Without context you have no idea how your character is going to react, if he will try to push something out of the way, eat it, pick it up or throw it or just say something sarcastic and move on. Although there is a certain balance and quite many of them lived off of the humor delivered that way, yet again I found the way the

solved this interesting. Their UI hid the the options that didn’t apply to an object and would lead to the frustrating “I can’t use that here” responses, and yet I still needed 10+ hours to solve them (about the same as most Daedalic games). There are various Adventure games I played or (re)played recently and it doesn’t as much have to do with being young as it does with the design of the game.

That is another argument that people bring up tirelessly to invalidate criticism about “nostalgia clouding your judgment” and making you think games were better than they were when in fact they were just brilliant games and didn’t feel the need to handhold you. I've played Fallout for the first time in 2009 and still thought it was brilliant and better than Fallout 3. I played Loom for the first time when it turned up on Steam, and while it was short and different I still thought it was brilliant. I don't think Broken Age has the right stuff to become such a classic.

We did discuss this point in regards to verbs at length over here though: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/8341/P50/#304495

BA uses a context sensitive one-click-does-all kind of system mostly employed in Casual tablet or some Flash games. They’re just a simple small step away from turning the game into a click-through Adventure book, which would be “streamlining” away even the inventory and automatically using objects where they are supposed to, Amanita Designs already did this with some of their games:

Also, let's not forget that we're comparing 50$ AAA games of the time like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango with a 25$ crowdfunded product. In my opinion the kind of complexity and length can't be compared between these.

guybrush-and-elane-never-pay-more-than-20-bucks.jpg

Stay true to your core and the broader audience will find you, maybe a little more slowly than you like but that is no problem nowadays. I really don't know why the default assumption is that everyone is dumb and impatient.

That was kind of my point I was hoping to convey. :P

tl;dr of the Post is:

- No, Adventures didn’t die because of complexity (STOP SAYING THIS!) but because of consoles making more money, the whole field either forced to retool by publishers or reduced to a niche and the whole audience got neglected in favor of more popular games. Another consideration was indeed Myst, which took a lot of focus from the genre trying to catch lightning in a bottle again

- Be true to what you want to make, do the best possible and stick with it instead and an audience will come, try to design a game for some “profitable audience” and you might just destroy a genre

Double Fine already somewhat did this previously by calling The Cave an Adventure game, when it was a pure Jump&Run; with story bits.

- Even if you have to, at least make sure to design for the more fitting platform or audience and port down from there (with an ingenious hint system, choice of difficulty or any other way), if you are bothered with appealing to the lowest common denominator (both design-wise with tablets and mobile phones and puzzles for people that don’t actually like Adventure games) it will usually not turn out very great

I don't get what isn't classic about Broken Age.

It has dialogue trees.

It has an inventory system.

It allows the player to combine items.

It is playable per point & click.

It lacks action/reflex requiring sequences.

You have simplified my argument quite a lot to suit yours, here let me try:

I don’t get why Baldur’s Gate/Fallout isn’t a classic Lucas Arts Adventure game

It has dialogue trees.

It has an inventory system.

It allows the player to combine items.

It is playable per point & click

It lacks action/reflex requiring sequences.

Also 2D and occasionally funny.

most hardcore adventure gamer's mind

That’s also kind of an oxymoron, Adventure games haven’t ever been particularly “hardcore” games, but more for people of all walks of life with some time and a penchant for solving puzzles and stories. They don’t really require much skill or reflexes aside from being willing to take a bit of time to think about solving a puzzle. It kind of sounds silly to me like talking about "hardcore" Bejeweled/Angry Birds/Windows Solitaire/Tetris players.

Loom didn't even have an inventory or dialogue trees!

For that matter, Loom got around this and being a small game with new, fresh and clever design, it did effectively have "verbs" in the form of the drafts:

full20040725111351.gif

http://strategywiki.org/wiki/Loom/Drafts

There's even a "Open/Close" one very early on as eced or dece (you could turn spells around by playing notes backwards, which was also somewhat of an ingenious idea and at least made you think somewhat as to what drafts you've already got and might have an opposite effect, for instance "Wake" was the opposite of "Sleep"). It's just that they've replaced all the usual verbs and inventory requirements with drafts that you can put together with the notes you gradually get throughout the game. They might as well have had a bunch of verbs greyed out that procedurally un-grey as you gain levels and pick up new spells to your inventory and had the music play by itself if they were less creative about it.

Anyway, my point is that those games weren't addressed to 30-40 year olds like us (with 20-30 years of adventure gaming experience on our backs) and the same can be said of Broken Age. Maybe that's why we find it too simplistic, and the same we would think of Monkey Island if it was made today.

Neither are they today, I (and apparently many other people: http://www.doublefine.com/forums/viewthread/12348/ and even reviewers) find it too simplistic because it is and because of its mechanics, not because I “think” it is.

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The difficulty of a game doesn't have that much to do with the target audience being adults or children.

The game has adult themes it is an adult game.

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I don't think Broken Age has the right stuff to become such a classic.

I'm entirely sure it won't. Broken Age will be remembered, but it will be for being the first big Kickstarter game that started this trend.

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