The Inventory Adventure Games

An elegant synthesis of adventure game websites.

From Bedrooms to Billions...

Anthony and Nicola Caulfield produced a documentary charting the development of the British computer games industry.

Released in 2014, it has already been successfully funded on Kickstarter, and features Mel Croucher, who wrote some adventure-ish titles including the famous Deus Ex Machine; the ingenious creator of Jet Set Willy, Matthew Smith; and Ian Livingstone, co-founder of the Fighting Fantasy books.

Released in an ordinary and special 2-disk version, it seems to have ingeniously avoid torrentification.

 

History of the Adventure Game

Back in the day when computer games were naff bleeps and pixels, a man called Will Crowther came up with a new type of game. Writing a game for his two daughters, he created a simulation of his cave exploration hobby which incorporated elements of fantasy roleplaying. Its simple input language became the basis of the text adventure. Commanded by short two-word sentences such as GET KEY, the player became the operator in an interactive drama. He moved using his compass (GO NORTH) and his INVENTORY was his all-important bag-of-tricks in sorting out problems.

2006: Don Woods accepts an award for both himself and Will Crowther; Don expanded Will's Adventure game and opened it to more people during the early stages of the Internet.

Created by Crowther in 1976, Don Woods found a copy of the rudimentary program on a university computer. He emailed crowther@sitename, sitename being every single computer on the Internet. With Crowther's blessing he expanded the program.

As programmer skills and processing power improved, these games began to acquire graphics of locations to add a bit of glamour to the quest to find the right commands.

One of the most popular, The Hobbit (Melbourne House 1982) sold over 1 million copies, even in the days when piracy was only a matter of pressing record on your tape deck.

Even a game-playing guide was written, this at a time when "game guides" was somebody from the female scouting hall... and all of this fourteen years before Resident Evil.

Soon the experiment with the technology of the Mouse was to come and the "point-and-click" interface, beginning with the Mac game Deja Vu which was even ported to the NES later in 1990.

But generally, the 80s was the era of the text adventure and the 90s the "point and click" adventure game. For the new interface, gone were the days of random guessing of the parser's vocabulary and of having to CARRY THORIN; yet programmers continued their fiendish ways with pixel-sized obligatory items like an elastic band essential to saving the world, and obscure object combinations. Yet done in the right way this could be compelling, especially when there were no Internet walkthroughs but only the scouring of back issues of magazines... and surprisingly Operation Stealth remains a favourite difficult game I thoroughly enjoyed. At around the same time, games of the calibre of The Secret of Monkey Island, while not exactly new, were bra-busting models dressed in Armani suits in a world of shellsuited baggage.

 

Ron Gilbert on how to write an Adventure Game, written while he was creating Monkey Island (Click Photo).

 

In 2003 Ron Gilbert was interviewed by Adventure Game Developer Zine about independent developers in the adventure game world:

 

What is your opinion of people who make point and click adventures as a hobby?

I think it's great. Before I got into the game biz, I did nothing else except make games as a hobby. It taught me a lot about game design and programming. It also taught me that I can never be an artist. But back in the early 80s, the graphics were so crude that you could get away with just about anything. I kind of feel sorry for kids today because of the hurdle that they have to meet when doing games on their own.

I would encourage anyone that is making *any* type of game as a hobby to keep doing it. The key to being a great game designer is to design lots of games. Most will never be made, but you always learn a lot in the process. One of the great things about working at LucasArts when I did was that all of us constantly cranked out game designs. Most were just silly, or concentrated on a single concept that we found interesting. In the 8 years I worked there, only 4 games of mine were made, yet I did close to 100 designs. None of them were wasted time. OK, maybe "I Was A Teenage Lobot" was kind of a waste.

 

What do you think about fan-games, and what is your reaction to a fan-game based on one of your creations? You may remember that "Fate of Monkey Island" got shut down by LucasArts - there was an article in PC Gamer about it.

Now that's an interesting and complex question. A couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation (i.e. argument) with a friend about intellectual property, file-sharing and copyrights. She brought up the issue of fan fiction and I was a little torn on the subject. On one hand, I have no objection to it and it can be quite flattering. My only concern comes when it is completely counter to my vision for the world and/or characters. The danger (as the creative creator) is that the public no longer sees the line between the fan fiction and what I've done. I know this might seem selfish, but as the creator of something, it is very close to me.

From a publisher point-of-view, it's not really possible for them to just ignore fan-fiction. By law, they have to defend their copyrights and (especially) trademarks. If they don't they can loose them. So, even if a company doesn't mind fan-fiction, they have to send out nasty letters. This can easily be in a lose-lose situation for them. There is also a line between fan-fiction and parody. At least in the US, you have the right to do limited parody of a subject and not run a fowl of copyright laws.

So, to answer you question. I like fan-fiction, to a point. And if it was up to me, I'd try to allow it as much as I could while still protecting my trademarks and copyrights.

Infocom & Dennis

Something which text adventure game company Infocom did well was the inclusion of hands-on materials within their games, which was both a discouragement against piracy, and eye candy to cement relationships with customers. In a 1987 interview, Dave Lebling, a co-founder of Infocom, indicated that some of the inspiration for this came from Dennis Wheatley's murder-mystery dossiers from way back in 1936.

 These could almost be considered interactive fiction in their own right, and show the benefits of customisation and creativity.

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