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(re: re: re: RE: You fell off KENNY BOY!! YOU FELL OFF!!!) It’s an interesting question – “What would have happened to Infocom had they stuck with text adventures?”
Conventional wisdom is that they would have failed, which in fact did occur. However, they did not fail because of their adventure games, they failed because they refocused the company on business software, and invested a ton of money, only to watch their business product fail, and take down the whole company.
I cannot honestly say what would have happened had they stuck with text adventures. I’ve thought a lot recently that a text adventure could be an interesting direction.
Here’s what intrigues me:
Adventure games, when I left Sierra, were costing us $1-5 million to produce. This is a ton of money. Much of this product was flowing into art and music. If you count the code required to support all the animation, and 3D tools, it could be easily be two thirds or more of the budget that was spent against the fancy graphics.
I never saw any of Infocom’s budgets, but my guess was that they spent well under $1 million per game.
Think about what would happen if someone had continued to evolve the artform, and gave a project the kind of budget required for a graphic adventure. In my vision, the game wouldn’t be longer, it would be DEEPER. Characters would be more fully developed. There would be more subplots. The feeling that you are a part of the story would be greater.
I’ve sat through hundreds of meetings where games were compromised because “it would require too much animation.”
I think it would be an interesting experiment to build a game that really focused on having intelligent characters. It’s a little off-subject, but I remember when our flight simulators were being considered to train fighter pilots. Game programmers are the hottest engineers out there. If 20 of Sierra’s best engineers had focused on building a synthetic world that felt real, with characters that displayed real emotion and realistic unpredictability, but the game was described in text (or, perhaps dynamically constructed images) it would have been a game worth playing.
Part of why the industry has become stale is the high focus on production values (in my humble opinion). By this I do not mean to say that art and music aren’t important. My point is that they aren’t EVERYTHING. Unfortunately though, because depth of play isn’t usually visible, and art/music is, depth sometimes loses.
I’ve always said that computers are a new art form, simiilar but different than film and books. I remember when people thought film would kill the book industry. It didn’t. Books are books and films are films. Books aren’t bad. Book publishers shouldn’t stop making books, and become film companies. Generally, films don’t have the same depth of plot that a book does. The “graphics” get in the way. Plus, the fact that you only have 90 minutes to tell a story in most films. Computers are good at interactivity. It’s what they do that can’t be found in books or film. Some games forget that computers are a super-set of films and books. You have the ablity of a book to add depth to a story, the ability of a film to dazzle with graphics and sound, and the interactivity of a computer – to make the viewer a participant, not a spectator in the story.
I’m describing this poorly… but, hopefully you can see where I’m going with this.
The focus in a game has to be on building a great game. This comes through building a credible universe, and allowing people to role-play in it. I’m fairly convinced that a quantum leap forward could be made in the adventure game genre if the same kind of money (or more) were spent on “the game” as is spent on the art/sound track. Hopefully someday someone will experiment with a text adventure that blows me away. I like it when pre-conceived notions are shattered…
-Ken W