Wednesday, 21 April 2010

To Re-make, or not to Re-make?

Re-makes are not a new thing in the Adventure Gaming world.

Sierra attempted a company-wide reboot in 1991 in terms of re-issuing every one of their "Quest" series of games. Kings, Space and Police Quest - along with honorary "Quests", Quest for Glory and Leisure Suit Larry - were all re-released and upgraded from their traditional Parser-based AGI system, to the more modern point-and-click SCI system.

These were meant to kick-start a series of re-makes whereby every previously released game in each series would get an SCI overhaul. Disappointing sales effectively killed this idea, and it is this that reflects the question I am asking today - Is there value in re-making a previously popular Adventure Game?

Using the Sierra example as a jumping-off point, I think the fundamental problem with a re-make is how loyal to the original are you going to be? The teams working on the re-makes were clearly fans of the originals, and you can see the care which went into upgrading the gameworlds. The artwork has been lovingly revamped, music has been composed to compliment the previously mute (or near-mute) games.

The problem is, these games were never very long experiences. The transition from keyboard-controlled, phrase-based typing, to point-and-click, is not very kind to be truthful. The parser text system was a very involving and interactive gameplay mechanic. The player was dropped into the game world and given a blank slate to type upon - you could be baffled with the sheer open-endedness of the options available to you.
Ok, soon the player learns the terms which the game will recognise, but without hot spots and pre-determined actions to pick from - the older games are instantly more of a challenge - and in turn - more engaging.

Once you place the restrictions of a point and click system onto the game, the user is somewhat blinkered. You know all of the set actions you can execute straightaway. Upon scanning over a room with the curser, you are left in no doubt of the items that can be interacted with. Whilst the games are undoubtedly more visually and audibly pleasing, the control method allows the games to be whizzed through at a high pace.

Replaying both the original and re-make of the first Leisure Suit Larry game, at an estimate I would say the original took maybe three-four hours to complete - partially due to the desire to play it at a leisurely pace; exploring the options available to the user, trying to find every joke, interacting with every character.

The re-make, I completed in approximately one hour, without feeling like I had missed anything.
It was great to see high-res renderings of some of the classic characters, perhaps as they were originally envisioned to look. But I didn't feel as connected to the games as I did with their AGI counterparts.

This rung true for most of the Sierra 1991 re-makes. The games seemed shorter, less engaging and seemed like there was less character.

Now, moving onto a recent example, The Secret of Monkey Island - Special Edition. Now, this had been a talking point for years - certainly one I had thought about. Whereas with the Sierra Quest games, it came as a surprise that they were all - relatively quickly (between three to six years after initial release) - re-made, the re-make of Monkey Island had been discussed by fans over and over. I wondered if the original game could be re-released with the full voice cast used in the later games, and orchestral score. It seemed like a simple idea. But when it finally came - almost twenty years later - it gained a mixed reception.

When the Special Edition was announced, it was a huge surprise to fans. They always wanted it, but never expected it - Lucasarts had, only a few years before - nailed their Adventure Gaming coffin tightly shut. Re-imaginings of Sam and Max and Full Throttle had already been put to the sword, so the re-emergence of a classic property was far from expected.

But almost immediately, people began to complain. Upon the launch of the promotional tie-in website, and with it some new screenshots and artwork - the fans began to voice their distaste. The game looked basically the same. Graphical and audio upgrade was the term used. Whilst much remained the same - character models were "upgraded", but not to the taste of the fans. Guybrush didn't look how they imagined him, in particular.

That aside, the game is altered very little. Both the versions make use of point-and-click, so the transition experienced in the Sierra titles is not applicable here. Artwork is tweaked, music re-recorded, interface streamlined, but nothing major. The one feature that really makes the game, and probably saves it from being a slap-dash job, is the fact the user can hot-swap between both versions at the touch of a button, keeping the new musical score in tact. This is an obvious nod to the original fans, and a wise concession to make. But the very inclusion of that concession begs the question - why was the game re-made at all, when it could have found an audience as a simple re-release?

The game is little more than an attempt to introduce the game to a new generation of players. This was the initial plan with the Sierra model of re-releasing too. More now than ever, there is a retro game revival, but it is clear that casual gamers will be put-off by outdated games. The re-haul is a fairly quick and painless road towards the new market. With the advent of the Nintendo Wii and DS, adventure games found e new outlet. As evidenced by Broken sword - the Directors' Cut - which found release on both of the Nintendo platforms - there is an appetite for classic adventures, tailored towards new games players. Revolution side-stepped the issue to an extent with the "Directors' Cut" idea, whereby new content and puzzles would add to an otherwise unchanged game. The idea of added value.

One re-make I was certainly a fan of however, was Mansion Mansion Deluxe. I had never finished the original version, due to the clunkiness of the control system, and several glitches which greatly diminished the enjoyment of the game. The early version of the SCUMM controls was not incredibly user-friendly. Of course, it was revolutionary, but after being spoiled by the Monkey Island games, for example, I found it hard to work with.

The new fan-created "deluxe" release implemented a version of SCUMM stolen from Day of the Tentacle, along with upgraded graphics and sound. Re-made using the freeware AGS Adventure Game Studio, is this a case of the fans knowing best? I must admit, my view on this remake might be skewed BECAUSE I never finished this game before. Because my idea of what this game should be like was never fully-formed, perhaps my view is biased. But I really appreciate the improved control method!

I do feel that fan-made games have probably found the right route to go with "classic" games. Often using the original engine and graphical assets, fans have long been producing sequels and prequels to our favourite games. Regularly the game will look near-identical to the source material, but have different puzzles and situations. Some developers put in an incredible amount of work to create further artwork in the style of the original artists - it is quite impressive. One such example of this is Space Quest 0: Replicated. Produced in the exact style of Space Quest 1, and using many elements from it, a new story is placed into the existing universe - to great effect.

Maybe the value of a re-make will differ from user to user. If you loved the original version - you will undoubtedly find the re-make redundant. If one found the original to have shortcomings, then an "upgraded" version is likely to be welcome. I myself, still find value in even the less successful re-makes. There will be different artistic approaches and the developer might stamp some of their personality on the project - which can be interesting - or incredibly grating. So a re-make is in the eye of the player. But as long as it will allow new players to experience classic Adventure Games, and re-invigorate the genre - it can't be a bad thing.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Adventure Game Limbo

Just a quick article, but here is a full (as far as I can remember) list of Adventure Games I have started to play, but never got around to finishing, here are all of the games stuck in gaming Limbo:

Beavis and Butthead In Virtual Stupidity
Beavis and Butthead Do U
Broken Sword 4
Feeble Files
Hotel Dusk: Room 215
Jake Hunter Detective Chronicles
King's Quest 4
King's Quest 6
King's Quest 7
The Colonel's Bequest
(Roberta Williams isn't doing well on this list right?)
Legend of Kyrandia - Hand of Fate
Lure of the Temptress
Nightlong - Union City Conspiracy
Orion Burger
Phoenix Wright - Trials and Tribulations
Sam and Max Season 1
Space quest 3
Stupid Invaders
Syberia 2
Tex Murphy Overseer

I really wans't anticipating the list to be this long.
Some - such as Stupid Invaders and Jake Hunter - I have no problems with leaving mid-game, as they are fairly sub-standard.

Others - such as the King's Quest games and Tex Murphy - I really feel I need to go back to and finish off, as I probably only left them due to a lack of time.

So, what adventure games are there that you have started, but never finished?
And which of the games above should I go back to first?