The rise and fall (and the rise) of point-and-click adventure games
Point-and-click adventure games occupy a unique space in the video game industry, combining gameplay focused on exploration and puzzle solving with gripping tales of adventure, mystery and discovery. Adventure games such Myst Where The secret of the monkey island, which gained popularity during the 1990s, seemed to be on the verge of fading away as advanced 3D computer graphics became the norm. In recent years, however, the point-and-click adventure genre has seen a revival, thanks to studios like Double Fine Productions, Telltale Games, Wadjet Eye Games, and other indie developers pushing the boundaries of storytelling, art direction, and puzzle design within this unique game medium.
As with many other narrative video games, point-and-click adventures owe a lot to textual / interactive fiction adventures, codified by 1970s games such as Adventure in the colossal cave and Zork I: The Underground Empire. In these games, players read descriptions for different areas, then interact with the objects and features they contain by typing text commands such as “Go North”, “Pick Up Lantern” or “Check Inventory”.
Variants of interactive fiction such as The pawn, The Hobbit, and The Prisoner II introduced illustrations to complement their textual narratives, while the The King’s Quest The games released by Sierra Entertainment introduced real graphic environments in which a player could move their character using the arrows on the keyboard. These titles, however, lacked the iconic point-and-click interface of the entire genre. This particular leap forward in gaming became possible in 1984 when the first Apple Macintosh introduced the concept of an icon-based desktop computer controlled by both keyboard and mouse.
The first point-and-click adventure games in the 1980s
According to this article on Adventure Gamers.com, one of the first true point-and-click adventures was an Apple Macintosh game called Enchanted Scepters, a fantastic title where players could interact with objects in the game visuals by clicking on them. Successive games have added more versatile and complex ways for players to “point” and “click”, introducing visual inventories and buttons with verbal commands such as “open” and “speak”.
It was the B-Movie adventure game Manic mansion, released in 1987 by Lucasfilm Games, which really took point-and-click adventure game to its modern form. Manic mansion let players click on a selection of verbs in the command interface to “prime” their mouse icon. Then they could click on parts of the game’s graphics to interact with the environments and solve puzzles.
LucasArts and the Golden Age of Point-and-Click Adventure Games in the 90s
Lucasfilm Games, eventually rebranded as LucasArts, quickly dominated the adventure game market with titles such as The secret of monkey island, Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis, and Sam and Max hit the road. These were mostly lightweight games built around a design philosophy where players were free to experiment with different puzzle solutions without worrying about killing their characters or breaking their ability to progress. Non-LucasArts games such as Revolution Under a sky of steel (with the art of illustrator Daniel Gibbons), the Broken sword franchise and the adaptation of I have no mouth and I have to scream (chaired by Harlan Ellison himself) added darker, more mature themes to the point-and-click adventure genre, along with great 2D visuals and animations.
As LucasArts, Revolution and other game studios refined the gameplay model established by Manic mansion, other developers were taking advantage of the new graphics capabilities of CD-ROMs to create different paradigms of point-and-click adventures. The 7th guest, a horror and mystery game from Trilobyte Games, and Myst, a fantasy science adventure created by Rand and Robyn Miller, both used pre-rendered 3D imagery, Full Motion video clips, and live actor footage to create stunning environments for players to click in in first person . These two games launched a whole sub-genre of first-person puzzle adventures such as that of Douglas Adam. Titanic spaceship and inspired old-school adventure game developers like LucasArts to experiment with 3D resources in games such as Grim Fandango.
Fall and the continuing renewal of point-and-click adventures
As video games with real-time 3D graphics became more and more sophisticated, the popularity of 2D third-person puzzle adventures and pre-rendered 3D games like those of the Myst series has shrunk, to the point that some commentators at the start of the 21st century have argued that point-and-click adventure games are doomed to disappear. Instead, the point-and-click adventure genre ended up surviving and even being reborn in the 2010s thanks to the efforts of adventure game fans and developers always interested in exploring the medium.
As LucasArts moved away from point-and-click adventures, former company alumni formed independent studios that kept the genre alive. Double Fine, founded by Tim Schafer, has released remastered versions of LucasArt classics like Tentacle day, as well as original adventure games such as Broken age. Telltale Games has created sequels at Monkey island and Sam and Max franchises, while preparing entire libraries of branching storytelling sets adapted from franchises such as The walking dead, Borders, and Minecraft. Other modern adventure game developers include Wadjet Eye Games, the creators of the Blackwell series and the theme of urban fantasy Unacknowledged, and Tequila Works, creators of the murder mystery masquerade game The brutal sexy.
The future of point-and-click adventure games looks bright
The rise in popularity of the point-and-click adventure genre can be attributed to several factors. First, gamers nostalgic for the adventures they played in the 1980s and 1990s eagerly engulfed sequels, remasters, and remakes of classics such as the Monkey island Games. Second, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms have made it easier for point-and-click adventure developers to fund their niche titles. Third, modern smartphones and tablets with touch screens are gaming platforms well suited to point-and-click adventure interfaces, allowing players to literally touch in-game objects and characters.
Far from disappearing, point-and-click adventure games are now a solid mainstay of the gaming industry, a genre for gamers who are interested in tales of mystery and challenges overcome by intelligence and logic rather than by violence and reflexes. Indeed, as virtual reality headsets become more accessible, the genre could even undergo a further evolution, like the latest VR remake of Myst seems to foreshadow.
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Source: adventure players
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