Tips On: Adventure Games

in Tips and Tricks

While RPG Maker has RPG right there in the title, a lot of people use our software to make other styles of games. I’ve seen all kinds of games made in RPG, from turn based strategy to platformers to scrolling shooters. But the most popular type of game made with RPG Maker outside of RPGs is very clearly, adventure games.

And I like adventure games. My first introduction to the genre was through the NES games Uninvited and Shadowgate, and its a genre I’ve kept an eye on since then.

The problem though, having played quite a few RPG Maker Adventure games, is that a lot of people seem to miss the goals of an adventure game. Adventure games have three major goals: Story, Exploration, and Thinking. So let’s talk about those goals:

Story

The story in a Adventure game can be pretty complex, but to be honest, it actually doesn’t have to be. The aforementioned Uninvited and Shadowgate both have a very basic story

The entire story is pretty much: This guy is a bad guy, you are at his castle, find him and kill him.

The entire story is pretty much: This guy is a bad guy, you are at his castle, find him and kill him.

In the other direction, you can have complex narratives that don’t have to be bound by the same arbitrary combat pacing as most types of games.

The important part of the story in Adventure games is that it has to be enough to give context to the gameplay. This is true of all games, but in the case of Adventure games, story will drive the gameplay more than any other. Your first consideration should be what is the story. How does this story challenge the main character. How do these challenges translate into good adventure gameplay.

Some games can be designed gameplay first, but not Adventure games. Always start with story.

And the type of story that works best for Adventure games (though other kinds can work as well) is something that involves mystery and problem solving, and the reason for that is:

Exploration

In an Adventure game, you want the player to be exploring. Now, while you are probably thinking of exploring as in locations, there are plenty of other ways to “explore” a gamespace.

A player, for instance, could be exploring the background of the story. Finding out information that will help him understand the motives of another character, or where he might find an object he is looking for. Exploration is about finding things. Finding tools, finding information.

Sometimes the exploration doesn’t even have to add directly to the adventure itself. Sometimes, you can instead give information just to flesh out the world, to help the player better immerse themselves in the landscape, as well as offering up a few red herrings to keep the players on their toes. And when its time to weed out those red herrings form the valuable information, and use those tools we’ve found, there needs to be:

Thinking

This is where a lot of Adventure games go wrong. They automate too much. You have X in your inventory, OK, it is automatically used when you click on Y. You find a plank, it is put down to get across a crevice. You find a key, it fits a lock.

Resist the urge to make it this simple! Adventure games should be about thinking. Take the absolutely wonderful Sanitarium as an example.

Also, a bit of a creepy game.

Also, a bit of a creepy game.

All the items and information you learn doesn’t necessarily have any immediate or obvious use. Sometimes you have to combine items, sometimes you have to get a clue in conversation that leads you to asking someone else about something important. Sometimes you learn a whole bunch of clues from a whole bunch of characters that you have to add up to get the answer. And one of the most important things, is the game doesn’t let you just click on an object and you automatically use the right item.

Every time you use an item, you have to specifically select the item. This means you can’t just randomly click everywhere. You have to THINK your way through the situation using the items you have. If I use this Giant metal cross and attach it with jumper cables to that engine, and put gas in it using this hose, I can turn it on and electrocute this space plant. None of this “I use the plank on the crevice”.

Real. Thought. Please. Always. Try to make your player actually THINK to play your game if you are trying to make an Adventure game. Either through creative use of information and items, puzzles, or BOTH. Both is even better.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for adventure games made in RPG Maker? Or like to suggest some RPG Maker games that get it right? Join us in the comments section below!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard Jimenez

    An excellent read and one that benefits from paying attention to. My next project I will try and follow this without going the horror genre route.

    • Really, most of the horror games made with RPG Maker are also Adventure games. Uninvited on the NES is definitely a horror game (also, a fun game if you don’t mind just dying a lot).

    • Nuclear Mosquito

      It feels like horror is making a big comeback through the indie scene these days.

      Anyway, a very informative read. I did an adventure game myself and I feel that this will be very useful in the future. I am a bit guilty of automating, but if I did my game in more than a week I should be able to do a lot better in that area.

      • I’m glad it could help. I played a ton of Adventure games in the contest, and I’m actually doing preliminary work on one right now (maybe I’ll actually finish it), so a lot of this is also written directly at myself reflecting on what I didn’t like in some of the contest games.