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LemonLime

On dying in adventure games

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"Death" in an adventure game is just a form of consequence, and should be handled intelligently (or comedically) as appropriate. You don't necessarily need to "die" if the bad-guy catches you, but you may be turned into a walking bag of chips until you leave the room.

In any case, I don't think you should ever NEED to reload a save in an adventure game.

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I don't like dying in adventure games except if it's part of some clever puzzle like the one in Monkey Island 3, where it was clearly foreshadowed.

Every time I saw that "game over" narration textbox in Sierra games I would rage hard because it always takes you out of the experience, plus it was always presented as a joke which feels like an complete insult to me. It's like the game is mocking me for doing something I would normally do in real life without any bad consequences.

The Legend of Kyrandia Book 3: Malcolm's Revenge has deaths and was very forgiving for them: your conscience would warn you if you were going to do an action that would kill you, and even if you insisted and died, you could restart right before your fatal action. While some of them resulted in genuinely funny scenes that were worth experiencing, they would still take me out of the experience so I didn't like them in general either, especially the gruesome ones. Most of them could have easily been slightly modified to not kill you and be even more hilarious that way.

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It's like the game is mocking me for doing something I would normally do in real life without any bad consequences.

But many situations in adventure games would naturally result in death if something is done wrong. Zapped by a wizard. Poisoned to death by a snake. Shot by a criminal. Whatever. I'm sure you'd agree that death in those cases make sense. Why downplay those for the sole purpose of not killing the hero when that's the natural conclusion?

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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.

This is it, exactly. I'm going to be trying stupid, strange stuff in an adventure game, because that's exactly the sort of thing that gets you past a puzzle. Just handle it like Monkey Island where, if drinking the poison would kill you at that moment, then the character just says "I'm not going to do that now".

There's no reason to autosave, kill my character, show me a stupid cutscene, and make me go load the autosave just so I can get back to trying stuff. All it does is waste my time and take the chance, however slight it might be, that the save will either be corrupted or out of date and I will now loathe your game with a deep seated hatred for making me play a bunch of stuff I've already gotten through.

I say "no" to deaths in adventure games. If there is a decent save system then it is completely pointless.

of course you have to be consistent to the world and gameplay in that game. yes, in for instance DOTT you would try pretty much any crazy idea you come up with. but a game where danger is part of it carefulness would also be a part of it. and if such a game actually does expect you to try to randomly drink acid, thats obviously poor design.

seems like most people who are against the deaths just hate the worst case scenarios and where its done poorly. then you might just as well be "against" puzzles in general. I dont know what game youre referring to with that scenario of auto-save, long cutscene and then the fatal moment. that does sound stupid. also doesnt sound like anything Ive ever encountered. where is it from?

and for instance in full throttle, a game where you cant die, in that segment where you fight bikers on the road in order to get their weapons and nitro and stuff. you still managed to fail - be shown a cutscene, have to start from somewhere else, find that biker again (sometimes took a hella long time) and try again. so, thats frustration from poor design (sorry tim! love full throttle but that bit is a bit annoying when youre in the mood for an adventure game!) and has nothing to do with dying or not.

EDIT: actually I take that back about "poor design". it is what it is. I was slightly frustrated with that part in FT at the time but I quite happily battled through it to proceed and to see the beautiful animations. and as a puzzle it was good. when playing through the game again later for nostalgia kicks thats where I usually stop though.

its not for all games, its sometimes (or even often) done poorly, but there are types of P&Cs; where it fits very well and it would be awkward without.

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To be clear, if the game plays a short death scene and then immediately takes me back to the point that I did the action that killed me, that would be fine.

That isn't how most video game deaths work though, is it? Thousands of games use the "game over, drop to menu" mechanic, and in most of them, thats fine. In real time games, it is difficult or even impossible to restore the player to a point prior to where death was certain or likely. I'm sure you've played some of them. Super Mario Brothers perhaps? Pac-Man? Or we could choose modern games, like the Gears of War series, Halo series; yeah, any first person shooter will do. Honestly, its hard NOT to name a game that avoids "game over, drop to menu", unless you name a Lucasarts adventure game.

Some modern games have taken steps to curb this behavior, which was originally designed to force players to continue to pay coins into arcade machines in the early days of video games. Shooters now almost universally use the "checkpoint" mechanic to make the process less painful. The new Prince of Persia series went a step further, letting you rewind time, at least to a limited degree. This was a great step in the right direction, because it doesn't force the player back to the miserable menu again every time. It let you take risks without punishing you excessively in a game where you really needed to be able to take big risks in order to succeed (and in which death was frequent).

Adventure games do not require checkpoints. The exact state before death is known, so the game should return me immediately to that point, no menu required.

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After a cursory read through posts here and there in this thread, I think it might be safe to say my opinions on the matter have already been addressed at least in part. But, for the sake of contributing I'll go ahead.

Dying in adventure games has always seemed like something of a catch 22 to me. On one hand it's a great way to suddenly drive up the suspense and thrill of the experience. On the other, the death and subsequent restarting almost always seems to be a jarring and derailing experience...this seems to happen in many games, but it always really stood out to me in adventure games. It was sometimes easy to get back in the mood once you do the requisite menu hopping to return to the in game situation again, but this becomes less true the more frequently you fail and try again. It quickly loses all emotional power and becomes a chore in these cases.

I think I find it most effective in adventure games where death was not a constant threat with every puzzle/decision. Then suddenly the game puts you in a situation where it's clear that not acting in time will mean your end. For instance, you enter a room and suddenly a serial killer moves in through the door behind you and begins a slow approach as the music ramps up accordingly. The transition from pensively exploring the environment to suddenly scrambling to come up with an adventure game style solution to the danger is really engaging. I feel like the Clock Tower games utilized this sort of thing really well.

Actually, you might say it's their bread and butter.

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To be clear, if the game plays a short death scene and then immediately takes me back to the point that I did the action that killed me, that would be fine.

That isn’t how most video game deaths work though, is it?

again, you seem to have had some bad experiences with something Im not familiar with.

if we re talking about the perhaps most famous example of old sierra games, youd usually be attempting something (dangerous), or be in a dangerous area, and you save. then something happens, the death animation takes a couple of seconds, and 3 clicks later and almost no load time youre back at your save.

admittedly saving that frequently isnt ideal perhaps, but thats how you played those games. I think everyone did. I dont think anyone lost hours of progress. (except from the dead ends and item destruction stuff which is another story)

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A humorous death resulting from trying something silly wouldn't be terrible.. like sticking a downed power line into the maw of a shark in a kiddie pool on the side of the road. But losing progress would just be straight out.

So if a funny death or 2 is included in the game I wouldn't mind if it autosaves or there is some in game explanation of your immortality so you could die then pop right back up. I wouldn't want every room to contain a potential death trap but I think it could be used to good effect a couple of times.

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I think the topic of the conversation has sort of strayed... Death doesn't belong in Lucasarts/Schafer-style video games...

I'm trying to remember, was it not possible to die in a couple of places in Monkey Island 1? Like the bit where you discover that Guybrush really can hold his breath for ten minutes, I seem to remember dying if you don't solve that puzzle within ten minutes?

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To be clear, if the game plays a short death scene and then immediately takes me back to the point that I did the action that killed me, that would be fine.

That isn’t how most video game deaths work though, is it?

again, you seem to have had some bad experiences with something Im not familiar with.

if we re talking about the perhaps most famous example of old sierra games, youd usually be attempting something (dangerous), or be in a dangerous area, and you save. then something happens, the death animation takes a couple of seconds, and 3 clicks later and almost no load time youre back at your save.

admittedly saving that frequently isnt ideal perhaps, but thats how you played those games. I think everyone did. I dont think anyone lost hours of progress. (except from the dead ends and item destruction stuff which is another story)

You must be young enough not to have lived through the Bad Old Days. Almost any NES game in existence had this issue, but at least those were relatively short games. You can only stuff so much onto one of those 8 bit system cartridges. It got worse, much worse, when games got longer and nobody bothered to innovate.

Exhibit A: Shadows of the Empire (N64). Had a 40+ minute level, no checkpoints. Death meant playing it all over again just to get to the final boss fight. That was one particularly bad experience, but honestly, even 20 seconds of menu is too long if there is no reason to send me there.

You seriously downplay how long it takes to get back into a game. Fire up whatever the newest Halo is called, or any modern FPS, make some progress, and go die. Time how long it takes you to get to the exact point that you were at with a stopwatch. I'm guessing you'll be surprised; it might be several minutes. First the animation finishes, that takes a few seconds. Then the menu has to come up, another few seconds. Then you have to select the correct option, another few seconds. Then the game has to spin up the disc and load the level at that point, this can take anywhere from a 15 seconds to over a minute. Then you have to fight your way through from wherever that checkpoint landed you at, and that may take quite a while (perhaps as long as a few minutes). It adds up quickly.

Adventure games simply have no need for this crutch; the game knows the exact player state prior to dying, why bother with an antiquated menu system designed for arcade games 30 years ago? It was unnecessary in 1993 and its still just as useless now. Get me back into the game and stop wasting my time. My life is packed with things I need to do, I want my game time to be filled with Actually Playing The Game.

Double Fine, if you only skim these comments, here's my two second summary: I want to play the game, not the menu.

I think I'm done with this thread, I've said my peace.

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@harborpirate

uuh...

1) I thought we were talking about death in adventure games. are you seriously arguing that there shouldnt be any death in any game at all? instead of just doing it well and not have 40 min levels without checkpoints?

2) I didnt know all games sent you back to the main menu. usually you clicked "restore" on the game over screen.

3) yes, you can implement an autosave system or other improvements of design to make a modern adventure better than those in the 80s and 90s.

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@harborpirate

uuh...

1) I thought we were talking about death in adventure games. are you seriously arguing that there shouldnt be any death in any game at all? instead of just doing it well and not have 40 min levels without checkpoints?

2) I didnt know all games sent you back to the main menu. usually you clicked "restore" on the game over screen.

3) yes, you can implement an autosave system or other improvements of design to make a modern adventure better than those in the 80s and 90s.

No, that isn't what I've said at all. I'm not sure its possible to make an FPS or platformer that doesn't use the death mechanic, and it probably isn't worth trying. SMB, PacMan, Halo; these games need that mechanic, it might be impossible for them to detect how far is far enough to roll you back and start you again.

Here's a direct quote from that post you responded to: "To be clear, if the game plays a short death scene and then immediately takes me back to the point that I did the action that killed me, that would be fine."

Its not death that I hate, its useless menus. I never said main menu, but thats a straw man argument. Main menu, special death menu, they're all the same. Immersion breaking, and in an adventure game, just a waste of time.

Sorry, I couldn't resist jumping back in when someone got my entire argument completely wrong.

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@harborpirate

paraphrasing:

you - "there shouldnt be death in any adventures. it death>reload was instantaneous it would be ok, but that isn’t how most video game deaths work though, is it?"

me -"well it almost did in some of the sierra games. thats what were talking about isnt it? it could be better but..."

you-"no no it started with NES and Halo is just as bad. its a crutch we dont need it in adventures"

me-"what? NES? those are action games, death isnt a crutch in that case but thats beside the point. what Im saying is loading can be really quick"

you-"of course it isnt a crutch in action games! I said I didnt mind deaths (except in action games), I just want loading to be really quick! youre an idiot!"

cheers mate

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I'm getting increasingly fond of games that try to find ways for gamers to solve problems that are not exclusively violent. Death in games is most often a result of violence or at least a way for the game to promote an atmosphere of realistic violence. I do not have any problem with violence in games but I do think it's being overused as a problem solving method even in situations where other solutions would be more appropriate. As such I would like to face death only if it is deemed necessary and unavoidable, which it usually isn't for adventure games since they usually are able to employ other ways to create the appropriate atmosphere (I'm currently playing Penumbra: the Black Plague, a game where the fear of death needs to be constant, yet I've only died once or twice, the game is just 'safer' than it seems to be and yet it still works).

Death as a motivation is something that I also object to. I believe that games should prefer to motivate us by rewarding us for success and not by punishing us for failure. Again that seems to work best in adventure games: if I can't solve the puzzle then I don't get to move further, you don't need to kill me to stop me.

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I have no problem with an adventure game having deaths, game-breaking miss-able items and dead ends, as long as it fills some of these requirements:

- ability to save at will and/or auto-saving at certain intervals.

- important one: no sudden deaths without any hint of the danger (even something as simple as the character saying "Hmmm, this place reeks of danger" is good enough, almost like a cue to save. Heck, could even be ominous music or sound.)

- spaced out, so you aren't running into a situation like it all the time.

- the gameplay in itself is fun and immerse you, so it's not a chore. More so if it's a smart and fun item combination system.

- multiple solutions to a problem/puzzle when natural. Adds replayability, making starting back at last save point not doing the same thing over again if you don't want to.

- certain timed events (I don't mean as in QTE or any timed use of switches/items) that are optional, but only happen at a certain time or fulfilling some absurd conditions in which some additional scene is shown. Might even be a second way to gain an item you've manage to break or lose (making you think you've broken the game, facing a dead end). Might even be a way of hinting when you are lost or promoting a different solution to the problem even when the more "normal" solution is available. Might promote more exploring.

- any other replayability-promoting feature. So dying isn't doing all the same things over again, until you hit the point where you did something stupid.

So to me it's not a "death"/"no-death" situation, but more "if Death -> how?".

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if we re talking about the perhaps most famous example of old sierra games, youd usually be attempting something (dangerous), or be in a dangerous area, and you save. then something happens, the death animation takes a couple of seconds, and 3 clicks later and almost no load time youre back at your save.

admittedly saving that frequently isnt ideal perhaps, but thats how you played those games. I think everyone did. I dont think anyone lost hours of progress. (except from the dead ends and item destruction stuff which is another story)

Disagree. If I can use the example of Leisure Suit Larry 2, I remember dying in several unexpected ways on the cruise ship. You laid by the pool, you were sunburned to death. You went back to your room, you ended up as a bondage toy to your roommate. Yes, these were funny scenes to watch, but there was no indication that what you about to do was dangerous and required a pre-emptive save. And worse there were several points where you didn't collect a crucial item and it wasn't obvious until a few hours play later.

Police Quest/Space Quest were a bit different in that the danger situations were probably somewhat more obvious, but even so, I think there were some unexpected/annoying deaths there too. I definitely remember HATING the driving in PQ1 - I used to play walking on I think the "fast" speed cause it would just drive me crazy to play it any slower, everything just took so long, but as soon as I went near a car, I had to push it back to "slowest" and even then I'd crash just trying to do things like park my police car. I remember how glad I was that they changed that completely in Police Quest 2.

Admittedly, I'm terrible at stopping to save at the best of times - something my husband constantly scolds me for ("what happens if there's a power outage?") and he's right -but to do so does take me of the experience and when I'm enjoying a good adventure game, I can easily forget it's been a good few hours since I saved.

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I think the occasional death can be an excellent motivator/teaching tool, and can even give the developers a chance to tell parts of the story in more creative ways (Like what would happen if your character dies or fails at certain points), as long as it doesn't happen too often. I also love funny deaths. If it makes me laugh, it's worth it, even it means I've gotta go back a bit.

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Talk of saves has got me thinking about quick-saving - Every PC game which has any-time-saving in the menu simply MUST have a quick-save button. It's simply crazy not to. Why force the player back into the menu for a single task which could be accomplished by a button press? Immersion should be broken as little as possible.

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Disagree. If I can use the example of Leisure Suit Larry 2, I remember dying in several unexpected ways on the cruise ship. You laid by the pool, you were sunburned to death. You went back to your room, you ended up as a bondage toy to your roommate. Yes, these were funny scenes to watch, but there was no indication that what you about to do was dangerous and required a pre-emptive save.

oh yeah...well. I was thinking primarily of kings quest to be honest. the humor death games of larry and space quest I think work worse. the deaths are funny sometimes but since theyre often, as you say, so silly and meaningless the amount of saving you have to do is getting even more ridiculous. (as I also said along with many other design flaws/decisions of the time that wouldnt be accepted nowadays either) humor deaths almost necessitates an autosave thing that gets you right back to before your mishap.

and police quest is also a bit silly in punishing you for every little thing like walking outside of the car on the motorway. AND of course kq had a lot of unfair and excessive deaths.

but was Im trying to say is not that ALL or even many ways those games had deaths in them were good, but that death CAN definitely bring something positive to an adventure game, depending on the game and the way its implemented. what it CAN be, not how it has been done badly in the past.

something my husband constantly scolds me for

I lift my hat to you for being a woman and playing larry =)

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I think that the following picture reflects well what I think about this subject:

Yes! The rubber tree thing! Love. I concur.

something my husband constantly scolds me for

I lift my hat to you for being a woman and playing larry =)

Is it worse that I was playing it as a reasonably young kid (maybe 7-8 years old)? ;-)

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i'm somewhat fine with death as long as it isn't sierra style. in king's quest 3 there was a thrill when i finally got down the mountain but then a sense of dread when i realized i had to get back up too. also space quest 1's hover whatever across the desert sucked so bad. f5, die, f7, repeat is no way to play a game. it doesn't add anything positive to the experience.

one of the reasons i loved lucasarts adventure games is the way they handled situations where the player could die. the character was always aware of what was too crazy to attempt and usually had humorous quips to go along with their refusal to comply. i think some actions have a reasonable expectation of death. i'm ok with those. i think there can be a good bit of humor in that.

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I really liked how Gemini Rue handled death. It was possible, but if you died, there was an autosave just before the action took place so that you could try again. I believe that Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon did this as well for the quicktime events.

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exactly. that ending in full throttle wouldnt have been the same if you couldnt fail at it and die. if it just had waited for you to get on your bike and that in turn would have triggered falling over the cliffs, it wouldnt have been as thrilling.

(its a bit random (but maybe good) that you can fall into the gorge and stuff but not be shot though.)

and with the retries its pretty minimal frustration.

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Funny; When seeing the subject to this thread I was thinking about Kings Quest/SpaceQuest/PoliceQuest games.. and then you mention them in the first post.. but...

Something I learned very early as a Sierra gamer...

"Save early...

Save often.."

I dont think dying is necessarily a bad thing in an adventure game. I suppose it really depends on how the game handles it and what your experiences are. Personally, if your 'death' due to mis-adventure(!) is handled ok.. I dont mind restarting from an earlier savegame.

Speaking of which.. Are we in "Auto-save" or "Checkpoint" save territory, or can we save on our own Volition.

Edit: The Larry deaths were fantastic.

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I play adventure games to relax, and I play TF2 for an adrenaline rush, precisely because in one you die, and in the other you don't.

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I don't like being able to die in adventure games. It's annoying to me.

I remember accidentally pressing "save" instead of "load" after dying during the final portion of King's Quest VI, and being stuck with no alternate saves. That was a real downer.

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If you put death in an adventure game, it needs to be entertaining at the very least. If you have a reward or easter egg or something like Space Quest it needs to be varied enough or death rare enough that you get something slightly different each time. The original Jak and Daxter actually amused me quite a bit with the little animations upon death but they tended to get repetitive.

The best sort of game should entertain even if you're completely screwing up or messing around.

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