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Making a good Adventure Game

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I have realised by reading many reviews that there seems to be a lot of fantasy adventure games; like for example: Talisman, Runebound, WOW, WOW adventure; But they all sucks.

Mainly cecause all the game feel like this: a quest spawn somewhere, move there, fight the baddies, collect the reward, repeat the process until the game ends.

Most RPG game seems to be similar but I think players could actually be able to do more. Player can have ambitions and goals which seem to be ignored in the games above.

So I was wondering, What could make adventure games more interesting?

My idea is that at the beginning of the game you do some adventuring (like in the games above). During the process you will gain, fame, gold, power or even follower. Then you can try to fulfill you ambitions like building a kingdom, creating an artifact, making a religious cult, etc.

This would allow the players to live their character, untill their death, and they would gain victory points according to what players have achieved during their lives.

It reminds me of an RPG game were my friend finally built it's kingdoms, after many adventure, and was waging a war against another kingdom.

What do you think?

Joined: 05/04/2010
Hi first post after

Hi first post after discovering this site :)
While I wouldn't say those games "suck", I have fond memories of playing Talisman when I was 13 (28 now), I understand what you are saying. But It sounds like these games already (sort of) exist in the form of Dungeons and Dragons. There are numerous different campaign sets that let you rule kingdoms, cults etc and still allow for "dungeon crawling". But if you are talking about a "basic" adventure game that lets you do this, please elaborate as I would be interested to hear more.

Joined: 02/17/2010

I have this idea for an adventure game that is played cooperatively.

It is a card game where you lay a 4x4 grid of location cards (tavern, guard house, temple, graveyard, etc). Beneath each location you randomly place a quest card upside down. Then you move from location to location trying to complete your quest.

For example, the first quest that I thought of was that a portal has opened within the city and you have 10 days to close it. In order to close it you will have to find the scroll with the ritual on it, and collect items in order to perform the ceremony. And you need to find the portal.

You would move from location to location and have to fight random encounters depending on the location. There is a deck of encounter cards and depending on whether you go to a location during the day or night, the encounters will be different. A graveyard will have a level 3 night encounter while a store might have no encounter, and simple level 1 day encounter.

Once you have satisfied all the encounters for that area, place the completed encounters sideways under the location to show that the location is clear and you can then look at the quest card underneath. Some cards will be blank, others will be vitally important, but you won’t know until you get enough cards to unravel the mystery.

There will be many different items and weapons you can collect during the game that you can buy or pick up after encounters. You can gain experience and level up.

To me this feels like the RPGs I used to play in college. The problem is replay ability. In the example above, once you know what the ritual is, you don’t need to find it anymore. I imagined finding a scroll, but having it torn in half, so you need to find the other half as well. You need to light a candle and collect fresh bone and fresh blood. If you know all this ahead of time, you can get stuff together much quicker, and as soon as you find the portal, you can close it.

If you are producing a huge board game (say Arkham Horror), and you can only play the game once or twice, before you know all there is, then you would never spend $50+ on the game. So they need to make it as generic as possible. Kill the monsters before they kill you.

More complex games exist like Android, but they get mixed reviews also.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
The problem with adventure

The problem with adventure game is that it is always the same repeated process until the game ends. You fight monsters to get better rewards to fight stronger monsters until you killed the strongest monster available.

At one point, when players got enough gold, fame and power, they should be able to do other things than questing. Sure some quest could occur later in the game if for example, a cursed suddenly appeared on your kingdom and you need to do a quest to solve the problem.

As for re-playability problem, many adventure games have expansion pack that add quest and adventures. Still the structure might be a bit more complex. For example, there could be kingdom events that only gets drawn if you control a kingdom. In that case, if you do not build a kingdom, there is a whole deck of card you would have not touched. So you might not use all the cards in every game and you will try various path in each game.

dobnarr's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
For a simple fantasy

For a simple fantasy adventure game, for my money, you can't beat this one from 1978:

It follows the LOTR quest, but the players are each trying to accomplish it individually rather than cooperatively. Not exactly what you're talking about, with character development and such, but since most RPG adventures involve quests, it might be an advantage to build these quests into the game in such a way that the players compete and race to do them first.

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Mathew L Hamm
Mathew L Hamm's picture
Joined: 04/16/2010
Adventure Game

I was working on a game long ago, about players being sent into a prison island. The main goal was getting of the island in one of three ways, proving your innocence, escaping or serving your time.
During the time of you island you would start as an inmate and go from there, up to controlling the entire prison population.
You would increase in experience depending on the items that you would use ie: handgun. You can manipulate people by either manipulation or motivation based on charisma.
As you would become stronger in your political skills you would have to watch your back, so you would hire bodyguards etc. I spent a lot of time into this game, then....... I had kids. Lol. Im thinking of pulling the game of the shelf and maybe start working on it.

Most skills in game are based on deck building / action points. meaning you can pretty much use skills to defend your self as long as you have the mental or physical energy to do it.

Is this sound like something different?? that is one of my concerns.

Louard's picture
Joined: 02/09/2010
An idea from a friend...

Your idea reminds me of something a friend of mine came up with which could add some of what you're looking for to your game.

The idea is that cards with goals and Victory Point amounts are gained during play. A card may have a goal like "Build a kingdom of at least three castles" or "Don't attack player 2" or whatever. Players keep these cards secret from the others, so no one really knows what everyone's motives are. Fulfilling your goals while trying to hide what your doing also becomes a factor because if players know that you are trying to accomplish, they can try to stop it.

At the end of the game, players score the goals who's conditions are still met.. Because you could have built three castle.. but then lost one before the end of the game ^_^.

Joined: 05/25/2010
larienna, your problem seems

larienna, your problem seems to be that you don't like adventure games because after one or two playthroughs (or halfway through the first) you've basically run out of new stuff to experience and you are just "grinding" for lack of a better term to the next bigger "same thing you just did".

Your solution seems to be to add other different content, but that is going to have the same problem. After you grind monsters every player will start kingdom building, which will be roughly the same issue just building stuff instead of killing stuff. What you'll end up with is two very disjointed games stapled into one, and more than likely neither will benefit from the union.

For an adventure game to work in my eyes you need to remove all sorts of restrictions. Much the way RPG's do by allowing players to etch out their own path. Your hourglass design approach can be applied here in such a way that game designers constantly box in players to make them play certain ways by establishing goals for players to reach. An adventure game should probably have one or two distinct, very clear goals (get the ring to mordor for example) but with as many ways to get there as possible.

If you restrict players to [task 1] -> [task 2] -> [task n] -> [victory] you can't really be adventuring so much as walking a guided path. Instead come up with objectives that are very clear, but with many ways to win. The above prison game is perfect. "Get off the island" and there are many many ways to achieve this one goal.

A sign of good adventure games in my opinion is derivative gameplay. Basically ideas and means of winning not intended by the designer. You provide the "sandbox" full of tools and options an the players find ways to make them work for their goals. It leads to exploration and self discovery for players that are hallmarks of good adventure games.

Pastor_Mora's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
Just bumping a neat reply

That was insightful, glad you joined us.

Keep thinking!

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote:Your solution seems to

Your solution seems to be to add other different content, but that is going to have the same problem. After you grind monsters every player will start kingdom building, which will be roughly the same issue just building stuff instead of killing stuff. What you'll end up with is two very disjointed games stapled into one, and more than likely neither will benefit from the union.

Not exactly. Building a kingdom is ONE of the possible story evolution, but you could do other things.

I think that like you said, adventure game should be more open and be closer to a toy than a game. Still, since we want to make games, probably giving a victory point value to everything the player do in their life could be a way to solve the problem.

Joined: 05/25/2010
I would argue even a

I would argue even a branching option would still eventually lead to the same problem. Sooner or later you will have either done it all or found the optimized path and go from there to victory. That's why I said just adding more wasn't the solution, you aren't fixing the problem only putting it off by distracting the player with more content.

But why do you have to do points? There has to be some better way. I like the idea of a goal like the prison game that is obtainable various ways. Some sort of mission. Something like "get to the moon" or "dig to the center of the earth" and you have all manner of tools at your disposal. One person could study and build a teleportation device while another could build a drill, another could try to become strong enough to punch his way through the ground, or possibly be crafty enough to piggy back on another player's method but then trip them up at the end. A central deck of random events/obstacles would keep things fresh and encourage players to go in different directions based on the currently revealed obstacles.

Now the flavor of that game isn't important but the idea of one very specific goal, possibly with an assistant mechanic that randomizes some parameters for game play to keep things fresh, seems much more like an adventure game to me.

You could even go super generic and say "slay the dragon" right. As long as your gameplay consists of enough varied tools and ways to get there a good adventure game can be born from that simple of an idea. It becomes less about the goal and more about the path to that goal and the interactions of the players with the world and other players along that path.

Joined: 05/27/2010
I think there is a huge need

I think there is a huge need for a mixture of empire management and rpg game where you are not the whole empire, but you are the king. If you are just an adventurer, there will be not much to do else than kill monsters and make quests. As a king, you would be allowed to manage your empire, participate on religion, participate on batte, etc. I hope thats something like that what you want. Maybe the game could start before you take the control of the kingdom, where you would need to find soldiers to make a revolt. Thats up to you. I may be wrong, but the many other possible lines of your idea, will be either like most others (adventure), or not so fun as it could be.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I was thinking of making

I was thinking of making people start as an adventurer and then they could chose their path.

Thats up to you. I may be wrong, but the many other possible lines of your idea, will be either like most others (adventure), or not so fun as it could be.

What are you actually suggesting to make adventure game better? The way I read your post, you seem to contradict yourself.

Joined: 05/11/2010
I don't think there's a way

I don't think there's a way to make a true adventure game (one without some element of competition between players) very replayable. The low technology of either cards or dice as randomization are going to mean that eventually, without expansion modules, players will feel as though they have finished the adventure. Even looking at computer adventures/rpgs, most of them are less replayable than other genres.

However, adding more things that can be accomplished in the game might at least extend playtime, as well as providing more choices. If there are enough ways to navigate the game space, I think it could approach other genres in replayability. I'd like to see an adventure game with multiple goals, either hidden ones as mentioned above, or just very different winning conditions. I guess this is veering away from being a true adventure game and being more of a strategy game, as you have to watch the other players and try to counter them. Some of the goals might be somewhat opposed, while others can look the same until veering away from each other towards the end.

"Capture the eye of floogle and take it back to the king"
"Capture the eye of floogle and destroy it"

As far as becoming a king, as long as it didn't become as complicated as a wargame in the second part, and still kept the feel of the rest of the game, it could make things interesting. The king might be a good way to win because he is usually well protected and can send minions to do his work, but on the flipside none of the minions are as good as the other adventurers, and he still has to watch out for assassination.

There could be some other roles like the king that you choose to aspire to. Perhaps a mage lord or great thief. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. It can be like a class upgrade you get halfway through the game. They might include the goal you aim for with the role: king has to stay in power for 5 turns and he wins; mage has to activate a relic and he wins; theif has to steal x number of gold and he wins.

In a single goal/multiple path game, they all have a few different options in how to go for the goal. If there is a plague that must be stopped, the king might have decrees he can issue to control the populations movements, mage might be more focused on finding a cure, and the thief would be rooting out the villain who purposely started the plague to weaken the kingdom. Heh, sounding a bit like a medieval pandemic :) It would have to be a bit less one sided than that, so you aren't just locked into one thing with the role.

Joined: 05/25/2010
Basic idea dump. You all

Basic idea dump.

You all start out as adventures or what have you. You can use a deck of skills/effects to sort of define how you want your character to play (magic/melee/ranged for example) and then you can have a simple leveling system with skill cards that you can't play to certain levels or what have you. In essence a basic leveling character driven role playing adventure game

But in addition you keep track of two important stats, wealth and fame. The goal of the game is to amass as much of both as possible. Each quest you complete gives you some combination of the two. When players reach a certain threshold of fame they can become king, giving them access to new skills (say a king deck with powerful world changing effects) and extra wealth (possibly a taxation mechanic if you want to get complicated where they take the wealth of other players each season)

The king is constantly fighting to keep power by keeping enough fame that a) the "people" wont revolt and throw him out or b) another adventure can't come and challenge him for the throne. So you have some risk in taking the throne because loosing it is so devastating, but the advantages are great.

By making the king possition so only one player can have it players get to compete over it, and as long as you design a good enough risk/reward for being king players will constantly go back and forth between wanting king or trying to andventure. Possibly allow a king to become a tyrant and keep the throne through force at the cost of fame. Who knows. But this sort of living world is better than a linear [adventure] -> [kingdom building] game.

In fact I might run with this idea and actually mock up some preliminary ideas.

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