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LemonLime

On dying in adventure games

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I looked around on the forums and I didn't run into any topics covering this, so here it is.

Though I dearly love the old King's Quest and Space Quest games, one thing I really embraced in Full Throttle, Monkey Island, Grim Fandango.. was that the game wouldn't let you die. In GF it actually made perfect sense since you were already dead. But what do you guys think? Do you prefer one over the other, or is it very dependent on the type/style of adventure game?

I personally found that it could get annoying in KQ, even though it did add an element of fear and trepidation at times. Remember carefully walking up and down staircases or around winding mountain paths that were maybe 3 pixels wide at points? I recall saving like every 5 seconds at some parts, and that's when the immersion kind of evaporates for me.

Adventure games are more about the puzzle solving and the, well.. adventuring. That's my feeling anyway.

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Dying in a game that you have to think of a solution to progress is just too frustratng.

I don't mind too much though. unless I have to use timing or action skills and can't progress without them.

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I don't mind dying. In fact, I hope we can walk off cliff edges and the like and have some comical death scenes.

What I don't want are action sequences. If those are the only points in the game where you can die, then just take them out completely.

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Dying in adventure games never really bothered me all that much since I saved all the time. It was being put into unwinnable situations is what annoyed me the most, such as this one time in Space Quest IV when I forgot the write down the codes for the time machine. It was just hours of progress down the tubes.

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The one thing i find worst is the timing puzzles that end in death. If you die in an adventure game it should be because of your own stupidity like clicking eat bottle of acid. Any other deaths should be avoided. This is not to say you should not have a fail state in your game where if you do X Y or Z you must try the puzzle again from the beginning. Some trial and error is what i look forward to in a good Adventure game. What DF must not do is have you die and have to load a saved game that might be 1-4 hours old. An auto save after each puzzle can fix this easily. The only other time i can see the hero dieing is at the end of the story if you fail a key mission and then roll the credits. Of course simply loading up your last auto save file should be good enough to get you back to the point right before you failed. A good example of this is The Dig. In that it had multiple endings depending on if you finished enough side quests.

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I dont mind dying in a p&c game, IF its a big adventure. it enhances the sense of adventure I think, adds a little bit of tension. (as LemonLime said) come to think of it Im not sure if I remember a game that got it just right though. maybe beneath a steel sky? the quest games went a little too far with it I think, making it a part of the gameplay (and humor). that can work but its tedious with a manual save system. it was fun but a little too random at times.

in kq6 I think it worked really well, if only they would have skipped some of the more unforgiving deaths. its cool that a lot of characters try to fool you with stuff (mostly the genie) that leads you to die. it really added a sense of danger and grimness to the world. and

after having died and ended up on that game over screen in the underworld so many times, you actually later GO there as part of the adventure and blag your way through them doors! it blew my mind as a kid. so cool.

the more exclusively humorous LEC game did right in skipping deaths though of course. (edit. wouldnt have minded some deaths in the Dig maybe.)

but wouldnt mind deaths in DFA if they wanna try it out =) probably wont but

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I like the death is so difficult or hidden that it's basically an Easter egg/death immediately just brings you back to the beginning of the puzzle instead of having to rely on saves sort of approach... which basically sums up how LucasArts handled death in adventure games for the most part.

I get annoyed if normal experimentation or exploration leads to death, and there's no way of seeing it coming, though I don't have a problem with the "Obvious Sierra Death-Trap" sources of death.

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I agree if player does something really stupid worth of Darwin's Award there should be comical depiction of dead. But no time limited deaths or such. Robots which go around and kill you if they see you when you pop out for more than 5 seconds or cars driving over if you step on road by accident. Also instant-rewind to pre-death is must!

Death can be reward for trying out things. It shouldn't be show-stopper.

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Frustrating or not, I do have a bit of fondness for games that embrace realities such as deaths, game-breaking miss-able items, and dead ends -- there's certainly huge tradeoffs when you include these things, but I can't really fault a game for including something might actually happen (if you were adventuring).

well I dont agree with dead ends and missable items adding anything but frustration. thats just not on. its frustrating enough getting stuck and not knowing what tiny little thing keeps you from progressing, but always having in the back of the mind that you might have to replay and try everything from the beginning again! thats not grit or tension, thats just a whole other dimension of misery.

death is nothing in comparison (especially if theres an autosave).

yeah!! the zombies walking about in sq4 sucked. and the slime! and most everything in pq that resulted in death if you didnt follow exact protocol. and a lot of quest stuff. falling in a tiny brook in kq5 and being swept away. what the hell

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It could be great to have certain situations that put your character in risk to die, as long it helps the narrative and keep the game fun.

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I don't mind deaths in adventure games if it doesn't cause you to lose a huge amount of progress...

One of my favourite games was KQ6, Heir today, gone tomorrow.. Remember the cliffs? Climbing up and if you misclicked you'd miss the step and fall and die? That made sense..

I just hated it where you had to keep saving regularly because if you die the game ends and you have to start from your last restore.. If you FORGOT to save very often this could put you back a LOT.. Of course this can be avoided with regular autosaves..

BUT I think it's still rediculous..

So I really like what they did with KQ8, The Princeless Bride. You could die several times in that game but they were always interesting ways it could happen, and immediately you'd get a box that let you "TRY AGAIN" and took you back to the beginning of the same screen or just one screen back. That way there was NO loss of progress in your game and I really liked that.

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That depends really. In Sierra games it is far too easy to die, sometimes in a ridiculous manner. But sometimes dying added humour. Then there's certain types of puzzles, that suffer if you allow poeple for not to die when erring. Think about a puzzle, where you a disarming a bomb for an example. If the game wont let you die, there's very little point to that puzzle.

There has to be a balance how ever. You need to be able to back out from the puzzle, if you think you have all you need for solving the puzzle. Lets say you encounter a bomb puzzle, you look at it and remember, that there's a library in the game. You stop disarming it, go to library and get a bomb manual. After that you go to the bomb and disarm it. An unfair game wouldn't let you go to the library after you check out the bomb, fair game let's you do that. Dying should be a result of the player messing with the bomb with unorthodox methods, like kicking it.

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Deaths up the stakes and make the game more intense. Should it be frustrating/random/not fun? Nooo please. But it can have its place. GK1 had a very small amount of death scenes.. so when it did happen you were both surprised, and worried about it happening again.

A game i semi-recently played is called darkstar, and its an example of a game with many death scenes that still handled it well. This game has a ton of different ways you can die, but theyr still typically after actions or combinations, so it just makes you paranoid saving all the time: and thats still fun. Also your death scenes are narrated by peter graves and he says a bunch of cool and funny things, so its neat in a game when it feels like youre collecting all the different ways to die and then you know what you need to do to avoid it.

But I remember in tex murphy 3 ( a series i do love) theres a scene with a robot wandering halls that could kill you in line of sight that was just reallly annoying. The game wasnt well suited for timed-action and whether or not the robot noticed you seemed a bit random and wasnt very fun. (again, fantastic series in general)

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in kq6 I think it worked really well, if only they would have skipped some of the more unforgiving deaths. its cool that a lot of characters try to fool you with stuff (mostly the genie) that leads you to die. it really added a sense of danger and grimness to the world. and
after having died and ended up on that game over screen in the underworld so many times, you actually later GO there as part of the adventure and blag your way through them doors! it blew my mind as a kid. so cool.

I'll just agree with this completely. :)

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Death should be fine in an adventure game, but losing progress is the problem. Since the player can save any time, and it's only a source of wasted time and potential frustration if the player dies unexpectedly when they haven't saved in a while, there seems no reason at all for the game not to simply take you back to before the action which got you killed, as though the player had saved and reloaded there, as Ekaros said.

Where death in games seems ridiculous to me is when it is around every turn and always imminent, far beyond real life levels of danger. Potential occurrences of death in an adventure game should loosely resemble the same in real life. Some activities are obviously dangerous and require preparation, but it should more or less never happen when you're just walking around the environment casually.

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I don't mind deaths as long as they don't halt my progress. For me anything that forces me to replay parts of the game that I already played will make me stop playing for good. I have very little time to play, I play very little as is, and I'd rather play something where I keep seeing new things, instead of having to redo things.

Edit: To clarify, if there's a puzzle which involves dying, and the game automatically goes back to the start of the puzzle, that's okay. If it goes back to my last save, which might have been half an hour before, that would kill the game for me. If I'm missing an object for a puzzle and have to look for it, that's okay. If said object has been irrevocably destroyed because I made a mistake and I'll have to reload and play again, that will kill the game for me.

Second edit: I just remembered in Planescape: Torment where dying actually moved the plot forward. That kind of thing I certainly don't mind.

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Pendulo's new adventure game Yesterday puts a nice twist on the "dying in adventure games" issue.

Difficult to say more without spoiling the story though.

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Death should be fine in an adventure game, but losing progress is the problem. Since the player can save any time, and it's only a source of wasted time and potential frustration if the player dies unexpectedly when they haven't saved in a while, there seems no reason at all for the game not to simply take you back to before the action which got you killed, as though the player had saved and reloaded there, as Ekaros said.

Where death in games seems ridiculous to me is when it is around every turn and always imminent, far beyond real life levels of danger. Potential occurrences of death in an adventure game should loosely resemble the same in real life. Some activities are obviously dangerous and require preparation, but it should more or less never happen when you're just walking around the environment casually.

Well put.

There is a moment in the Broken Sword series where you die when you do something that is indeed stupid but you have to try anyway. But you don't lose progress.

It makes the situation more serious and the game more enjoyable, while not at all frustrating.

On the subject of saving:

Thinking of having to save all the time is really frustrating and pulls you out of the game.

I even hate to save before I quit a game and load again when resuming.

It takes away some of the suspense and sense of inevitability.

Even Machinarium still has that - why not just autosave???

If the reason is that you want to allow for multiple users, why not give the option to create another user profile when there already is a game in progress? That would not disturb the illusion.

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I remember when I first found the rubber tree joke in The Secret of Monkey Island (basically a little satire on Sierra game deaths), and I thought it was such a great comment on game deaths, and I really agreed with the philosophy behind it - that the player shouldn't be punished for actions they take during a game. A big part of adventure games is thinking outside the box - and maybe there's actually a puzzle that requires you to drink the acid, so the player shouldn't live in fear of that. Even though you can do things like save, drink acid, and the restore if it all goes to hell, if you know there's a chance of actions killing you, you develop a mindset of not trying things that might be a bit "out there", even with pre-emptive saves.

Of course, things like autosave, or rewind/revert to pre-death scene/puzzle help to alleviate some of that, but I still think that an emphasis on an environment where the player is free to experiment without fear is more important. That said, there is a place for deaths in adventure games as mentioned above - in fact, as also pointed out here, it's not death that is the problem, but anything that forces lengthy replay for no apparent reason is a problem.

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It's like any story: death must be earned. If it isn't earned, then everyone, from the storyteller to the listener/reader/watcher/player is cheated.

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I prefer not dying... in a funny adventure I thinks it´s inapropiate too... in a more realistic like broken sword it´s ok... it depends on the story realy... but if I can chose I prefer not to...

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I do not like to die (in adventure games). It feels just too final and interrupts the flow of the experience to be in this game.

Yesterday I just finished Monkey Island 1 again. The last part when LeChuck is punching you into the sky again and again is just great: it gives you the urgent feeling to do something really quickly and make a fast decision; on the other hand you don't have to be afraid to die and start over again (you don't leave the game and the flow by reading "game over", instead stay on your toes and still feel like a part of the game).

The same thing happened in Monkey Island 2 at the end again with LeChuck. And I remember that it was, for me as a child, even scarier but also more motivating than it was in Monkey Island 1. The game just got my whole attention, I was completely in the game and the experience, and, though it is more than 15 years away, I can still remember that part of the game.

Especially Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge did a great thing there and will stay always in my mind. And this is what it is all about!

I think it is all about: creating an experience. So you feel involved, feel the emotions of every character, just like you are there. And a death is just ruining this. You get kicked out off this flow.

I remember playing adventure games in which you could die or forget an object to collect. Of course, they are realistic in the way that you cannot go back in real life as well. But in real life I could always make a rope by myself and not being depend on finding one somewhere. In real life you also are able to sense more what is going on in a situation: "Is it going to kill me if I put my foot on this stone?" This games did not see that a computer game, like the one they created, is not capable of delivering the whole experience of life. Those games are limited compared to life. So why make it final like life?

So, to sum it up:

Dying in adventure games kills the experience

Empathizing the situation makes it vivid

Please, no death in the new game.

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It's very rare that a game can handle death in a way that doesn't pull you out of the experience, so one of the things I love about the LucasArts adventure games is that they for the most part avoided death altogether, and kept you playing the same reality from beginning to end, which seems to me to be perfect for a genre that is SO much about storytelling. There are more ways to make a game feel adventurous and even dangerous than sticking you in front of a load screen because you made a mistake.

In fact I'd argue that's one of the worst ways, because of the story-breaking way it handles failure. I know that the end of Monkey Island 2 felt dangerous even though I -knew- LeChuck would always just send me off to another room, and my heart always pounded when I went to confront Largo with the voodoo doll.

But let's think broader: how else could an adventure game handle failure that doesn't involve death? Perhaps failing to get the right solution to one puzzle blocks off one of many multiple solutions to a puzzle, forcing you to try things another way. Perhaps if you fail at something a lot it changes the way certain characters react to you. Perhaps failure at a certain number of things means that you don't get the optimum ending. I'm not saying these are things DFA should do - only that there are lots of ways of handling failure seriously, which are much more pro-storytelling than death.

I saw Dan Marshall of Ben There Dan That do a great talk about death in games at a conference, he summarizes his thoughts here:

http://www.sizefivegames.com/2012/02/04/tea-death/#more-1505

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I really like the idea of dying in adventure games as long as it doesn't affect the flow OR is because of a difficult puzzle. It's only an effective mechanic when it's either used as a humorous aside or conveys an idea of what happens if the character had died at that particular point.

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But let's think broader: how else could an adventure game handle failure that doesn't involve death? Perhaps failing to get the right solution to one puzzle blocks off one of many multiple solutions to a puzzle, forcing you to try things another way. Perhaps if you fail at something a lot it changes the way certain characters react to you. Perhaps failure at a certain number of things means that you don't get the optimum ending. I'm not saying these are things DFA should do - only that there are lots of ways of handling failure seriously, which are much more pro-storytelling than death.

http://www.sizefivegames.com/2012/02/04/tea-death/#more-1505

I believe not progressing in the adventure (as a result to not solving the puzzles) could be considered as a failure. But that's just my opinion. I think that you cant "lose" in a good adventure game, the only thing you can do is not progressing which could be considered as failure, that is what I love so much about adventure games in general; Its you progressing in an adventure by using your brains to solve puzzles. Death doesn't really need to be in that. The only way you could be actually going backwards in a good adventure is if you get a corrupt save game ;-)

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But let's think broader: how else could an adventure game handle failure that doesn't involve death? Perhaps failing to get the right solution to one puzzle blocks off one of many multiple solutions to a puzzle, forcing you to try things another way. Perhaps if you fail at something a lot it changes the way certain characters react to you. Perhaps failure at a certain number of things means that you don't get the optimum ending. I'm not saying these are things DFA should do - only that there are lots of ways of handling failure seriously, which are much more pro-storytelling than death.

http://www.sizefivegames.com/2012/02/04/tea-death/#more-1505

I believe not progressing in the adventure (as a result to not solving the puzzles) could be considered as a failure. But that's just my opinion.

But that's not what I meant. I meant if there were multiple solutions to a puzzle, perhaps some of them could fail permanently. Not that you should be able to get permanently stuck.

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