Apropos of yesterday’s post about Jane Jensen and her remarks on the decline of adventure games (Jane Jensen Interview), comes an article by Atul Varma on the same topic, from a slightly different perspective.

His stance is that adventure games, over time, grew in complexity, primarily because of their increased graphical quality. Where text adventures provided, per location, only a few items, graphic games displayed detailed rooms requiring careful mouse-overs to find the important objects.

Add in the necessity at times to view a scene from different perspectives to find things, and a heavy layer of monotonous exploration began weighing down the games and removing the fun part, which is solving the puzzles.

I can sympathize with that view, recalling times when, if I didn’t walk all around the room and examine it from different spots – including, occasionally, looking up, down, and under – something important would be missed.

That might make the game appear more “realistic”, but does it contribute anything to the fun of playing? Or is “hunt the pixel” just tedious padding, tedious enough to “turn off” people who might otherwise enjoy an adventure game?

This, of course, says nothing about the difficulty of the puzzles themselves. Many of the early Infocoms were quite hard, despite being “stripped down” in terms of finding items or objects with which to interact. More modern games can also be difficult; for instance, Barrow Hill was no adventure for the novice.

And yet….note what Jane said about some of those casual games where people have to search a screen for particular items. These, apparently, are very popular.

Not having played any myself, I don’t know what else, if anything, goes on in such games. If they’re just “hunt the pixel” with not much else to do, then possibly the graphic complication by itself isn’t so much the problem as having to hunt around and then solve puzzles on top of it all.

Having given this some thought, it seems to me then that the decline of interest in adventure games can be attributed mainly to these two causes: Jensen’s remark that they are too hard, and Varma’s that they are too visually complicated. Check out the article and see what you think.

Complexity and the adventure game on The Escapist