Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Wisdom of 1989

This is incredibly old news to me but it occurred to me that it might be fresh to some of you. It's an article written in 1989 by game developer Ron Gilbert, best known for his work on the original Secret of Monkey Island, about puzzle design and storytelling in adventure games.
"Most good adventure games are broken up into many sub-goals. Letting the player know at least the first sub-goal is essential in hooking them. If the main goal is to rescue the prince, and the player is trapped on an island at the beginning of the game, have another character in the story tell them the first step: get off the island. This is just good storytelling. [...] It's very easy when designing to become blind to what the player doesn't know about your story."
- Ron Gilbert, Why Adventure Games Suck (And What We Can Do About It)
It's a great article for DMs and for interactive storytellers generally and if you've managed to remain ignorant of it for the last two decades then take the time to go read it in full right now.


Inyssius (or Scott W) said...

Speaking of Monkey Island:

LucasArts is remaking the original with hi-res art, remastered music, and voiceovers for each line. Built on the original engine, such that you can switch back and forth between the original and remade versions with a keystroke. It looks pretty neat.

And Telltale Games (yes, the Sam & Max people) are making an episodic sequel, called "Tales of Monkey Island". It also looks pretty neat.

Ron Gilbert has been involved with both, I believe, if only in an advisory role.

Just so's you all know.

Greg Tannahill said...

Thanks! Although I'm well ahead of you on all points; I've been an enthusiastic consumer to Telltale's past efforts and I'm a subscriber to their newsletter.

To be honest at this point I'm not sure Telltale needs Gilbert's advice; as the only people putting point-n-clicks in a mainstream spotlight they're really to all intents and purposes the genre kings now. Gilbert should really be taking notes from them on how to make and distribute an episodic niche gaming product, which he'll need for his upcoming project "Deathspank".

Maelora said...

Or you could just skip all that and go the 4E route of constant combat encounters.

But yeah, I miss the 'point and click' era. Gabriel Knight especially.

Greg Tannahill said...

Even if you're doing constant combat encounters it's good advice. Players should have a choice of which combat to engage in, they should be given a combat where they really need to be good at bull-rushing before they're given the bull-rush buffing item, they should be assigned clear goals and sub-goals. It's really pretty universal