Why Adventure Games That Kill You Died Out (Article)

Not quite a forum post, but a comment on a Kotaku post. The post itself showed two videos containing the many ways to die in Space Quest III, and I felt moved to write the following in response.

EDIT: This post got some interesting feedback. I may include some of it, along with my responses. Maybe.

There is a reason why games like this are no longer made.

Although they were far from the only company doing so, Sierra titles really were the stand-out champions of 'games that kill you for no reason'. Unfortunately, while many people like games that perform this service, it did an awful lot to hold games back.

The primary issue is right there in the title - killing you for no reason. If you were to walk right into the path of an enemy, then fair enough, but games like Space Quest would often kill you just for walking to a new screen. Half the time you wouldn't know what was there, and you were severely punished for merely being curious. This, as you can imagine, would be incredibly frustrating for an average player, and would easily convince them to just give up and try something else.

The second problem is the genre. Adventure games never have, and never will, lend themselves well to instant-death situations. In action titles, it's much more acceptable, but adventure games are generally known for making you think your way out of a situation, and suddenly throwing in a stealth section or limited windows of opportunity just don't gel with the rest of the gameplay. And don't even get me started on items that you have to pick up or you can't complete the game.

The third problem is checkpoints. Adventure games like Space Quest didn't have them, so when you died (often unfairly) you would either have to reload a previous save or restart the entire game. And since half the time you didn't know whether an area was dangerous or not, sometimes you could end up losing half an hour, or worse, more, because you hadn't saved for a while.

Modern gaming has solved a lot of these problems. Adventure games now rarely (if ever) let you die, and if they do, they let you retry from a point in time not too far back. This makes the games far more enjoyable, and means that players can feel free to explore without worry of being unfairly punished.

I'm focusing on adventure games purely because that's what's featured in the videos, and that's immediately what people will think of when they read this topic. Action titles have also gotten much easier, but there's a different discussion.

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