Some Suggestions for Game Producers from Cathy in Vermont
I agree whole-heartedly that game developers and producers should consider rethinking their attitude toward the future of adventure games, and even more so in the light of recent events.
When we finally got a computer, adventure games were plentiful. I was thrilled to find games to play with my kids that differed from the reflex-type games of the video game systems. It was especially nice to discover I had a common interest in humorous adventure games with my then 9-year-old son (since I was a 39-year-old woman, common interests were becoming increasingly rare).
We would play games like Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle and Discworld, taking turns adding to our progress. "I (you) need to catch up to you (me) today", were familiar remarks in our house. We discussed strategies and gave hints to each other when we got stuck.
I didnít worry about what my son was doing with his time on the computer, because I knew that there was no gratuitous violence or gore, and any "questionable" material, like the silly cow in Toonstruck, could be worked around or discussed. The games were funny and involved reasoning rather than fighting, but were not labeled "educational". As all parents know, that is a guaranteed kid-repellant - lol. The bonus was that, as with the better cartoons like the Simpsons and Rocko, an adult could enjoy them as much as the kids.
There were also plenty of adult-oriented adventures - mysteries you could lose yourself in for a break in your day. No timed sequences, no arcade action - just a place to visit when you had some spare time. As with any good diversion, they did not demand an all-or-nothing commitment of your time or attention.
We would get on average one new game a week. Back then new games were $60 -$70, and between the games and the computer magazines (which I bought to see reviews and ads for new games), computer games became our largest entertainment expense.Alas, that has not been the case for at least a year now, because the PC and game magazines only have action game reviews, and our local computer stores have few new games in our genre anymore. We now scour the Internet for old and foreign games, something I doubt the immediate-gratification fans would take the time to do.
OK, I know what you game producers are thinking - times change - life goes on - get over it - yadda, yadda... Well, I do have some thoughts about it, some things that you might not have considered: -
1) Try doing a search in Yahoo for some of the older game titles. You may be surprised at the number of sites devoted to defunct game series. Get the rights to those games, and you will have all the basic graphics, plus an established fan base. Since adventure gamers have become used to searching for their games, you donít even need to do much advertising, except for informing the main online adventure game sources (which are usually free!) Adventure gamers are looking for new puzzles, not new visuals, so we don't mind if you use the same graphics as in the previous installment. Voila! - more profit for you!!
2) Market with current events in mind - I am not the only parent who, long before the incidents in CO, felt it was not good to feed my kids a diet of violence as entertainment. Now there is increasing focus on the idea that 1st-person shooter games might encourage an attitude that killing is sport, or a way to deal with "enemies". It would be good PR to have alternate forms of entertainment in development. Then you can show people who suspect your motives that you don't just do games that encourage violence.
3) Your game will not be just another one-among-the-many banal shoot-em-up-and-play-it-over-and-over games on the shelf. It will be unique and distinctive. It could become a classic, one of the begging-for-a-sequel games.
4) On the secondary market, it's the discontinued adventure games that are most popular. Like movies that don't do great at the box office but make it up on video, consider that some games will make up the new-release blahs when they become better known and more reasonably priced. Many games would sell better new if they could start at $20-$30 in the first place. And how many action games have done well at a new release price of $60-$70 retail?
5) Many people do not want to upgrade their systems constantly just to accommodate games. Make games that can cross over size and speed barriers when possible, so you only have to upgrade when you want to. We had to pass on many interesting games before we upgraded, and never found them again once we had the speed to play them.
6) Finally, if you really think that the general gaming population wants or needs the hybrids you offer, why not just make it possible, for those of us who don't, to bypass the added action or gore? Phantasmagoria1 made a half-hearted attempt by pixelating the gross parts (it was still difficult to go thru it without having a good idea about what you had missed, and I didn't get the P2 just because I hated having to relive the sound of my head being sliced in 2 over and over in order to finish P1) Action, like gore, could be offered as a choice. How hard could it be to let adventure-only fans bypass those sequences?
You could be a hero of the gamer community if you offered us at least a choice about what our game experience will be. You could have it all - appeal to what you think your adrenalin-rush audiences want, and also give concessions to the pure adventure fans and concerned parents. Win-win, don't you think?
Thanks for letting me have the opportunity to vent.