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Death in Adventure Games... Good? Bad? Inevitable?

posted by Ashton on - last edited - Viewed by 408 users

Very simple question. Should death be a part of adventure games? Should it be the punishment for doing soemthign stupid (like "use Fork with electrical outlet") or would you prefer to just get a simple canned "I wouldnt do that...." responce?

If you like death in games, should there be a "rewind" option, or should it require you to Restore/Restart/Quit?

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  • That's an interesting question! I always was confused with death being a pretty big thing in Sierra's titles, as it had also some sort of connection to a "point system". However, I don't think "death" itself accomplishes much in the adventure gaming realm.

    Adventure games in general are pretty linear story-telling games, with a pretty diverse sort of events that happen. These events lead to the player wanting to explore, and see what happens where. Death should only happen if there's a point or a story-point that hinges off of it. Within this linear world, making death a final-call is something that not only frustrates a player, but really accomplishes nothing for challenge-sake.

    Death in a game can represent psychologically to the player a "challenge" or what "works" and doesn't work. This makes sense for an adventure game like Zelda or shooters. Death is an expected end-result of learning strategy, cognitive skills and being more aware of one's environment and the locations of enemies. It is only logical that a player can die because of not over-coming a challenge.

    However, in adventure games, the challenge becomes wit. I think a fair "death" in an adventure game is when the player gives up after being frustrated with a puzzle for a day. In the classic LucasArts titles, I think this is something that is quite obvious, as the players aren't really lead to doing anything that would cause death, and if they did, it would end humorously, rather than having an "oh-no" moment. This way, the player enjoys their consequences, perhaps is able to broaden their imagination and brings forth a greater amount of appreciation out of the game.

    A few examples of where death is fun and interesting is in Monkey Island, where death is often joked about, ie. the end credits in the bar in CMI and Guybrush jumping off a cliff in EMI. Or in Return to Zork, where you can blow yourself up in a shack after taking in too much Rye. Those are funny moments, where wit and humour brings the player into accepting the game's world. That, of which I strongly believe is the main-aspect of adventure gaming.

    Simply dying in an adventure game would accomplish nothing, as no intelligent response other than "oh, obviously this will kill me now". It doesn't push the story further, which is something adventure games need to do constantly. If there is a certain item that can be picked up and used with another item with dangerous consequences, the character of the game will often refuse it. But if they didn't refuse, and the player is left with a ticking bomb, then that should be handled accordingly. The best thing one could do is end up with a result that will give more humor or interest to the game.

    Now, if you consider a game like "Pneumbra: Overture," which quite elegantly meshes adventure and first-person shooter. Not perfectly, mind you, but elegantly enough to create atmosphere. Death becomes one of those obstacles that doesn't require intelligence per-say, just a more animal-instinct like approach to avoiding the "evil dogs" that roam in the caverns. These forms of death are just add-ons to try and make the game more challenging and to avoid producing a game with no conflict. However, if the story folk build their conflict properly, and in the right way, they don't need "death" to prove a point to the player.

    The rewind idea is interesting, as it's used in many games, but it too, has to prove a useful purpose. I suppose Braid is one of those examples where rewind is used as an outlet to avoid death. Yet, I don't think that it provides a very concise and interesting element. It's become more of a cliche in gaming, as I believe the first use of the concept was back with Prince of Persia's Sand's of Time and Blinx (that old Xbox cat mascot thingie). I could be wrong, as I'm quoting from the top of my head.

    Anyways, that's my two cents, and if I had a choice, I'd rather see death used to further a story and give something to the player. It could be used as a consequence as such "I won't do that again", but if that's all you're giving the player and nothing comes out of it, then what sort of learning skill are you giving? Adventure games are better off mocking or making use of death to point out the ridiculous things that could happen.

  • It depends on whether or not it punishes the player. Roberta Williams can mouth off all she wants, but she knows it's true: death in adventure games is just lazy design, as is punishing the player for not picking up everything on the way and sticking in dead ends. If death is completely reversible, fine. It's just another way of saying "I can't use that with that" (though I personally would prefer a well-written joke). If, on the other hand, it's punishment because the player decided to do something weird and, say, give the zombie pirate a wedgie, then no. It's an absolute no and that's final. It's just lazy, dumb, stupid design and it smells like the overripe lazy ass, smelly ass, punk ass exploitation that it is, or in other words like Roberta Williams.

  • It depends on the type of game. If it's a somewhat serious kind of game like Broken Sword or the old Indy games then, yeah, I'd say the chance of the character dying would be acceptable. Otherwise, nah, the death option isn’t really needed unless it’s added as an Easter egg for players who knowingly try to do stupid things.

    If developers want to create Game Over scenarios, there are all kinds of ways to do it outside of just coming up with “amusing” deaths. I remember Willy Beamish had a few odd ones like him being misplaced in another dimension for taking a wrong turn or having surgery for lying too much about an illness.

    Death can work in Adventure Games of any kind really, it just depends on whether or not the player is informed of potential hazards before they encounter them. Those old Sierra games like Space Quest were terrible in this aspect, sure the descriptions provided a nice laugh the first time but, damn, dying for doing anything that seemed productive was just sadistic.

  • A while back you could play the first Larry game online somewhere. I tried it and for just a little while I forgot why I hated Sierra games so much. Then I died after typing FLUSH TOILET.

  • if the deaths are funny like full throttle when u can launch rip burgers car off the cliff and he says "opps"

  • My philosophy on this is simple: If I die and then restart pretty soon before the place I died, then okay. I'm cool with it. If I have to go back to an old saved game from an hour ago and redo everything again, I get annoyed. It's that simple.

  • @Edgy_McSpoon said: It's become more of a cliche in gaming, as I believe the first use of the concept was back with Prince of Persia's Sand's of Time and Blinx (that old Xbox cat mascot thingie). I could be wrong, as I'm quoting from the top of my head.

    Far from the first but you bet bonus points for pointing out the BlinX games. I've only seen like 5 people that have even heard of them (and btw, they're awesome and fun but EXTREMELY nerve-wracking to play) Several Sierra games (and I think a few others) had an "Undo" or "rewind" button when you died so you could go back 1 step and NOT decide to >>use [Fork] with [Electrical Outlet]

  • There always *must* be death sequences in Space Quest. A lot of them. Any other adventures I could do without or at least have a rewind option (SQ6 and KQ7 both have a rewind/try again option I think). Then again, I like what Wefeelgroove was saying. For some serious adventure games that have a real sense of danger and suspense to them it would be very useful to include deaths without a rewind. Like Gabriel Knight or something. Makes the game seem more intense. That's something adventure games have lost. Sure they've been brought back up now but they're still seen as casual. We need some really intense adventure games again. Something that's a real experience you won't forget. Whether we like it or not, death sequences help that.

    All depends on why you play adventures, though.

  • As long as there's a TRY AGAIN option, I'm all for adventure game deaths. Sometimes killing the character can be more a reward than a punishment if it's funny enough (i.e. the REAL ending in Torin's Passage.)

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