Warp Drive

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Year of the Adventure Game

Something miraculous happened last year. Tim Schafer of Double Fine Productions asked for $400,000 on crowd funding site, Kickstarter, to make an old school point and click adventure game, and the world gave him $3.3 million. In doing so, he and his company bypassed the usual publisher route needed to secure funding for a game, and maintained full creative control of their project. People just about everywhere took notice. Among them, a number of past and present game developers from such origins as Access Software, LucasArts, Revolution Software and Sierra On-Line. They all wanted a chance to take another stab at the adventure game genre, which until then, had been regarded by publishers as a genre that did not typically generate a significant amount of revenue. Translation: It did not make as much money as Call of Duty. Could lightning possibly strike twice? Not only did it strike twice. It struck again and again and again. It was a bit like the end of It's a Wonderful Life, with an angry CEO at Activision, Electronic Arts or some other such place playing the part of Mr. Potter. And as a teacher once said, every time a bell rings, an adventure game developer gets his paycheck.

With that said, Happy New Year! This year is going to be very special because all those adventure games that we Kickstarted last year are going to be released this year. To celebrate, I decided to put together a list of adventure games being released in 2013, including a few that were funded beyond Kickstarter.

#10. Double Fine Productions' The Cave
Web Link: thecavegame.com

Ron Gilbert is best known for his Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island games while working for LucasArts. Now employed at Double Fine Productions, he has been toiling away on a new adventure/platformer game entitled The Cave. Like Maniac Mansion, the player can choose up to three characters to take on his or her journey. Each offering their own unique story opportunities. The Cave is filled with many secrets. Secrets which span time and space. Beyond that, it is perhaps for the best to let everyone experience what The Cave has to offer for themselves.

#9. Infamous Quests' Quest for Infamy (Kickstarted)
Web Link: infamous-quests.com

Released in 1989, Quest for Glory by Sierra On-Line was a game that put players in the shoes of a fighter (or thief or wizard) on the road to becoming a hero. A noble deed if there ever was one, but that nobility stuff would never fly in 2013. Meet Infamous Quests, a newly formed commercial division of Infamous Adventures, known for their King's Quest III and Space Quest II remakes. Quest for Infamy hopes to recreate the feel of the classic Quest for Glory, with one slight twist. You play as the bad guy.

#8. Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season Two
Web Link: telltalegames.com

Telltale Games took a big risk with The Walking Dead. Most of their previous adventures had been comedies, and some of their more recent offerings (Back to the Future and Jurassic Park) had not been met with as well by long time fans. I am happy to say, while not nearly as puzzle intensive as other adventures, The Walking Dead was nevertheless a brilliant adventure, with a heavy dose of vulgarity and violence to boot. It featured an immersive narrative that was crafted by player action. So many regretful moments along the way, but I refused to reload my game. Every decision made was permanent in my eyes. The Walking Dead: Season Two will, presumably, pick up sometime after the first season, but nothing official is known other than the fact that it is coming this year.

#7. Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls
Web Link: beyondps3.com

Quantic Dream is best known for their work on Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in the United States) and Heavy Rain. Games that revolve around immersive story telling and thought provoking player choices. Beyond: Two Souls is their latest creation. A game that puts you face to face with death and what may lie beyond. The player assumes the role of Jodie Holmes for fifteen years of her life, ages 8 to 23, on a journey to discovery. The field of paranormal activity interests me a bit more than it used to because my father passed away rather suddenly in 2009, and I often wonder if he might still be with us in some shape or form.

#6. Pinkerton Road Studio's Moebius and Mystery Game X (Kickstarted)
Web Link: pinkertonroad.com

This one is a bit of a cheat. We know a fair bit about Moebius, but Mystery Game X is still, well, a mystery. Could it be Gabriel Knight 4 or Gray Matter 2? There is no way to know for certain, but chances are, if you have been following Pinkerton Road Studio since their Kickstarter wrapped up last May, you (like me) are excited for the potential of both games. Moebius tells the story of Malachi Rector, an antiquities dealer that hunts down artifacts, as well as clues about a murder, all over the world.

#5. Big Finish Games' Project Fedora (A Tex Murphy Game) (Kickstarted)
Web Link: bigfinishgames.com

Project Fedora is the sixth installment in the Tex Murphy series. The first five games had been developed at Access Software, while the sixth is being developed at Big Finish Games, founded by series creators Chris Jones and Aaron Conners after Microsoft's acquisition of Access Software. Tex Murphy, in a nutshell, is a film noir style adventure game set in a dystopian future with a hard-nosed detective. Think Blade Runner.

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#3. Revolution Software's Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse (Kickstarted)
Web Link: revolution.co.uk

I hate to admit it, but I did not play the Broken Sword series for the first time until last September. With the Kickstarter for the new game in full swing, I decided that it was as good of a time as any to give them a go. I especially enjoyed the first two games in the series. There is something truly special about an adventure game with hand painted 2D artwork. The stories too were of a special kind. They were similar in many ways to an Indiana Jones adventure. It was a joy to discover things along the way, and unravel the mystery that is the Knights Templar. The third and fourth games in the series strayed from the first two with 3D accelerated graphics, and some decidedly non-adventure game elements, such as box pushing and wall hugging. Thankfully, Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse is a back to basics sequel. It once again features lavish hand painted 2D artwork... and no box pushing.

#2. Double Fine Productions' Double Fine Adventure (Kickstarted)
Web Link: doublefine.com/dfa/

Double Fine Adventure is the game in which I alluded to at the top of this article. Tim Schafer asked for $400,000 to develop said game, and the world gave him $3.3 million. See, not everyone on the Internet is an asshole. At the time of the Kickstarter, not very much was known, other than the fact that it would be a classic point and click adventure game from the same man that brought us Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. Ron Gilbert would be somehow involved, too. I may get lynched for saying this, as I acquired this information through backer channels, but the game will involve two characters. One, a girl living in a far away kingdom, and two, a boy living on a spaceship. Somehow, throughout the course of the game, these two characters will come together.

Please excuse me while I answer the door... Yes, how may I help you? Wait, Tim Schafer, Double Fine Adventure, breach of what? Go with you where? I have no time for that. I have an article to finish. Well, if we must, we must. Why do I have to sit in the back? Nobody else is sitting in the front passenger seat. Where are we going, anyway? Oh, cool. I have never been to San Francisco before. Can we drive across the Golden Gate Bridge when we get there? I am taking this seriously, but I am still a bit miffed that I have to sit in the back. Oh, we are there? Why are we stopping here? This place looks like a warehouse. It is the office of Double Fine Productions? Well, it still looks like a warehouse to me. Mr. Schafer? Yes, I know. I have been a very bad blogger. I agree, actions speak louder than words, but what are you getting at exactly? Ah, yes, I saw the latest episode of the Double Fine Adventure documentary a while back. Would it help if I raised my donation? I understand. Nobody is asking for handouts here. Everyone must do what they feel is right, of course. Was it really necessary to bring me all the way to San Francisco to tell me this, though? I see. Before I go, can you sign my copy of Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Brutal Legend? I just so happened to pack them as I was being dragged out of my house. Thank you. You have a nice day, too. No, I am not sitting in the back again. If you have a problem with it, speak to my signed game boxes. Can we listen to something else this time? I have about had it with your Cher CDs. Hey, is that Six Flags Magic Mountain? I must warn you, the last time that I went on this ride, I lost my lunch. We went dancing, dancing, dancing across the U.S.A.

Well, I certainly had an interesting adventure, but I still have an article to finish, so there is no time to discuss it in depth right now. Onward and upward (or downward?) to my #1 pick.

#1. Guys from Andromeda LLC's SpaceVenture (Kickstarted)
Web Link: guysfromandromeda.com

There is not much else to be said about this one that I have not already said before. SpaceVenture is being brought to us by the same minds that brought us Space Quest. Those being Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy. Their wacky sense of humor defined and defiled a generation of gamers, and parodied some of the biggest movie and television franchises of their time. With a new Star Trek film and Star Wars trilogy (how have I not written about that already?) on the horizon, it is prime time for a new sci-fi send-up.

My other articles about Space Quest/SpaceVenture:
Space Quest 7: Buckazoids from Andromeda
Space Quest: A Greatly Exaggerated Tale of Adventure
The Treasure of the Sierra On-Line (SQ)

Honorable Mention. Fable Foundry's Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption (Kickstarted)
Web Link: hero-u.net

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption did not peak my interest like the other games on my list did, but it bears mentioning because Corey and Lori Ann Cole are the ones behind it. They were the designers of the Quest for Glory series. I wrote briefly about this series in conjunction with Quest for Infamy. At the start of each game, the player chooses a character class. Are you are a hardened adventurer that knows their way around a blade? A fighter you shall be! No? Perhaps you are a cunning individual that prefers the cover of darkness. A thief you shall be! No? You would not happen to be an evil wizard, would you? Whichever your choice (fighter, thief, wizard), the games set you down a path to becoming a hero. It is just up to you to decide how to become a hero. Hero-U will be a slight bit different from the Quest for Glory games, with more of a focus on RPG elements, dungeon hopping and tile-based gameplay. I am certain that it will retain the same charm of the Quest for Glory games, but at the time of the Kickstarter, it did not interest me in the same way that others had before. Still, if you are a big fan of Corey and Lori Ann Cole's previous games or a big fan of RPGs in general, it is definitely worth checking out.

I personally backed many of the games in this article. Some more generously than others. I opted not to disclose any numbers for personal reasons. Besides, they already know how much I gave them!

More Honorable Mentions
B-group Productions' Reincarnation: The Root of All Evil (Kickstarted)
Replay Games' Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (Kickstarted)
Screen 7's A Night at Camp Ravenwood
SkyGoblin's The Journey Down
Telltale Games' Fables
Warbird Games' Jack Houston and the Necronauts (Kickstarted)

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