Game Philosophy: Adventure

Well that took a while, we finally got another:


Today’s topic:

If I talk about games where it’s about exploring the world, people would immediately think I’m talking about Sandbox Games these days.

See there’s a difference between Sandbox games and Adventure games.

Sandbox games are comparable to a child version of you playing… well… in the sandbox.
You have lots of freedom and the story only advances if you want to.

Adventure games on the other hand would be comparable to a child version of you role playing as a hero through the park.
You follow a narrative and the freedom is ENHANCED by the story.

The point I’m trying to make is that when it comes to games these days (yes, call me an old man) it’s always either full-on action or a full-on sandbox game.
Hell, some games which USED to have exploration have removed it for the sake of a much more linear story.
Yes… like that…
By the way, you see that PS Move Feature logo?
Yeah, that was one of the big signs that it was going the wrong way…

Now mind you, I don’t MIND a linear story, if it’s done RIGHT.

When you do a linear story, you need to use it’s advantages.
A Linear story gives you the ability to plan out stuff. For example, if in the story the player gets the option of upgrading his weapon at a certain point of the game, give them consequences or rewards depending on if the player made use of it.
Plan out that a certain boss you WANT to be difficult to be fought JUST before the player gets the option to upgrade his weapon.

This too goes for a more free-roaming story where you can mess around a bit.
Free-roaming stories have the disadvantage versus Linear stories in the sense that the designers can’t predict too much of the player’s decision, or it will destroy the very freedom it gives.

But that is where the beauty of Adventure games come in.

As you explore certain worlds, you gain abilities, and with those abilities you can further explore worlds you already have gone through.

I feel this is the part where lots of modern games have fallen.
If they make an action game, every single level is a different area, as if they’re ashamed if someone sees a level recycled.
On the other hand if they make a sandbox game, you will keep seeing the same area again and again as you explore the same city which by itself is already friggin huge.

Someone give me a microscope.

My favourite genre of games are Action Adventure games, because it has the best of both worlds.
You fight through different worlds, but you feel more of a connection to the environments because they all… well… connect.

You see a cave, but it’s blocked by some rocks, so you enter an explosives factory and kill some people who use dynamites. You have a whole adventure in that factory looking for bombs strong enough to destroy those rocks of the cave. You beat the big bosses who use mini-atom bombs. You take one of their mini-atom bombs and plant it on the blocked cave, you enter the cave, you fight a dragon, etc, etc.

The great thing about the adventure part is that it practically DEVELOPS nostalgia rather than the game simply references stuff of older games which WERE nostalgic.
You develop an attachment to the first area you play in, a town or city or whatever. Then you go on your adventure. Then late in the game you return to the first area, which has developed since then. Maybe it’s been destroyed, thus you feel sad about it. Or the people there have become badasses which you can count on, making you proud.

At times I feel like people these days just add adventure parts to the games for the sake of HAVING adventure parts, not realizing they should be used to give players connections and to make the story more effective.

And just because you CAN make a map superlarge doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
I felt more attachment to this map of Yakuza 4
than this map of Grand Theft Auto 4

And that is because a smaller map gives you a more compact area to explore and get accustomed to.
So when you start working on an adventure game, balance out the size of the map rather than just try to show off how big your map can be. Really, Freud would have a talk with you about it if you did.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

2 thoughts on “Game Philosophy: Adventure

  1. Another good article, but parts of it did confuse me. For example, the part about using a linear story’s advantage, you said stuff about having an optional weapon, but I’m not sure I see how that’s an advantage.


    1. I guess I should clarify with that.
      It’s an advantage because you have more control over the experience the player has, and thus the messages you can convey with it are much more clear.
      The idea is giving people the option, and planning around whether they’re taking the option or not. And that’s the advantage of Linear Stories, whereas if you did that in Free-roaming stories, it would take away the freedom it promised.

      The point is that when you choose to tell a linear or free-roaming story, you need to use its advantages rather than simply doing what other games do just because they’re succesful.


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