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Wadjet Eye Dave Gilbert Interview in Adventure Advocate re: Design Philosophy

Discussion in 'Adventure Gaming' started by MRY, Mar 18, 2016.

  1. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Dave did an interesting interview with the Adventure Advocate. In it, he explains (I think to some degree) why WEG is moving away from traditional, puzzle-based adventure games to more streamlined story-telling games:

    There's also this interesting tidbit: "But I will say that as we've done more and more of these games, we have learned what works well with this style and what doesn't. Dystopian futures like the ones in Primordia, Technobabylon and Gemini rue work really well with pixel art. Sunny art-deco Florida in Golden Wake did... not. So since we're sticking to pixel art, we are going to stick with games that are enhanced by the style rather than harmed by it."

    In some respects I agree with him, but I think the solution is to provide gentle, contextual hints within the game (as we did with Crispin and other characters in Primordia) rather than to impose a five-minute rule on puzzle difficulty. (Though, in fairness, I think Dave's games to date actually do have some trickier puzzles in them.)
     
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  2. Fizzii Crystal Shard Developer

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    MRY, The only real thing I strongly disagree with is this comment:

    Yes, Primordia, Technobabylon and Gemini Rue looked good and quite a lot better than Golden Wake, but it's not because of the dystopian setting. Rather, it is the artist's ability to make a chosen setting look good regardless of resolution. I personally, don't work much with dystopian settings myself :P

    Anyway, I do like the idea of more streamlined storytelling, but personally advocate for lots of choice (e.g. players can choose to skip a bunch of optional puzzles, or choose to solve them in different ways) and consequences. There's always a balance between overloading a game with puzzles for the sake of a puzzle, and going too light on player interactivity in order to keep up the pacing for a story.
     
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  3. Redlands Arcane

    Redlands
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    I really hate this type of thinking, or at least the implication: that "fun" and "puzzles" are somehow contradictory. The expectation for adventure games now seems to be to have no puzzles in case people get stuck, and the solution is just an internet search away: instead of working around the new wrinkle that the internet has imposed (make internet searching a part of having to solve the puzzle, looking up historical facts or whatnot, for example, or make the difficult puzzles optional but lead to a far more satisfactory conclusion or having multiple solutions to puzzles like Sierra used in KQ6, for example), it's best to just give up on the puzzles.

    Maybe it's a better business decision, in which case Dave's just chosen to lose me as a customer.

    I'd just like to remind Dave: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Thinking about the things that worked, and didn't, in the past would seem to me, at least, to be a pretty important way to not make stupid mistakes.

    Show Spoiler
    Then again, by this quote, he seems to be saying he was happy with the stupid, tone-destroying MULTIBALL! scene at the end of Blackwell, so...


    Again, this is a nonsense: Francisco did a pretty decent job with Ben Jordan (in terms of making likable protagonists, placing his characters in varied locations, having some interesting puzzles and telling a pretty interesting story), but his artistic skills - while definitely, and visibly, improving over time - aren't really at the level at the moment to the other people/teams making games for WEG, and I think it hurt the game. When it came out under the WEG banner, I'd assumed some of the more art-minded people would have at least helped him out with the art, but apparently not? (It seems like a really wasted opportunity, but I really don't know how they're operating, and with interview answers like this I'm not inclined to care.)

    In-built hint systems are probably the best: all the better if they're in-world hint systems (like an oracle, or some "mad guy" begging for change on the street corner). It's optional, keeps them from leaving the game, and can actually add to the world they want to create. At least, it's a better option than treating the audience of a genre that used to be all about solving puzzles as though they hated them...
     
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  4. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

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    A toothpick. That level of naive cynicism is kinda strange. Yes i get it you want to sell out, but if you actually can't and expand your customers - you're going to lose them actually - well, that's not going to help you is it.
     
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  5. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Hmm, I'm not sure this merited being moved into its own thread (and the title the mods gave it seemed a bit much, so I've changed it).

    I think you guys may be reading a little too much into what he's saying. I haven't noticed any significant move away from puzzles in his games. Maybe a slight decline, but Shardlight still has inventory and UI puzzles and so on. In any event, my opinion is that usually business people know their business better than I do. Dave understands his fan base and what they want. There are plenty of people who enjoy story-based pixel games (e.g., To the Moon), so I don't think you need Tell Tale production values to make successful puzzle-lite adventure games. And it looks like Shardlight is the most successful in-house WEG title yet - Dave said it had their most profitable pre-sales, for example, and it has 100% positive reviews on Steam.

    Even if Dave did move away from traditional adventure gameplay, I don't think it's fair to say he's "selling out." He's a businessman supporting his family. And only he knows what kind of games he wants to make. If he's a storyteller at heart, then doing more story-oriented games isn't selling out, it's following his passion.

    Bleh, it's silly arguing over this -- Dave doesn't need me to make his points. :) Plus, basically I prefer "golden age" adventure games with hard puzzles, so my preferences are the same as yours.
     
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  6. Sceptic Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    He's right though. We get this kind of thread every year or two and the posts are always overwhelmingly in favour of getting rid of puzzles in adventure games because they break the flow of fun and they're all completely nonsensical and yada yada. Face it, just because a handful of people still want their game to be a game doesn't mean that's what the majority of so-called adventure gamers do. Remember, the duck puzzle in TLJ is impossible to complete without a walkthrough, the mustache puzzle is what killed the genre, and the only way to solve a puzzle in any adventure game is to click on everything.

    (these 3 are 100% accurate Codexer paraphrases BTW. And if this is the state of the Codex adventure forum, just imagine what the rest of the world is like)

    So is the guy involved in blood diamond traffic. You can use this line of thought to justify pretty much anything, including mass executioners Beria-style (and I'm not even gonna mention Godwin - oops too late). He's welcome to produce anything he wants to support his family, but I'm here to buy products I like, not to play charity. If I don't like his "games" because they're no longer games then I'm not going to buy them, I'm going to criticize them on a sub-forum dedicated to discussing adventure games, and if asked for my opinion by other adventure gamers who share my tastes I will not recommend they buy them.
     
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  7. DeepOcean Arcane

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    There are two ways to say you gonna make games for lazy people, one honest: "Adventure games don't make money and I'm really struggling, sorry guys, I tried.", one that is so fucking imbecile and dishonest that make me wish the person to be castrated and tortured being skinned alive slowly is to say: " It's that kind of backward thinking and over-reliance on nostalgia that holds adventure games back. "
     
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  8. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Let me start by saying, to be clear, I prefer old school adventure game design (though perhaps without somewhat less zany puzzles than some titles). One of my great regrets in Primordia was getting talked out of including a trolling/lateral thinking puzzle that stumped some reviewers Dave consulted with. And if I could've, I would've had the puzzles in Primordia more complex, probably involving more timing and environmental aspects than we had. The idea of reducing puzzles, which to me are the primary unit of interaction in adventure games, is not something I want as a player or a designer.

    That said, I think the criticisms of Dave are misplaced.

    Sceptic You may be right that a blood diamond seller's justification is taking care of his family, but that doesn't make him a sell out, which was the pejorative I was responding to. A sell out is an artist who knows that a certain artistic approach is the right one, but who pursues another approach to make more money. I have no reason to doubt Dave's sincerity when he says he doesn't like the old adventure game model and wants to focus more on story, so there is no basis to think he is making a change he believes to be wrong. Equally as importantly, in the past half-decade Dave has been much more a businessman than an artist. Since 2005, Dave has released 11 games. Of those, only 3 were games he developed, and one of those was just a reskin of an old game. The overwhelming majority of what Dave does now is publish other people's work, and in that regard he is looking for products to sell, not crafting art into which he pours his own soul. So I don't think it's fair in any sense to say he's "selling out." I also don't think that making adventure games without puzzles is morally wrong, so the analogy to blood diamonds and Nazis is kind of inapt.

    DeepOcean Sure, but it's possible that Dave has always just wanted to tell stories and that he viewed puzzles as a necessary evil. Now that evil isn't necessary.

    Look, I don't like puzzle-lite adventure games for lots of reasons. I think Primordia was hurt by the presence of puzzle-lite adventure games because playing lots of streamlined games discouraged players from engaging with puzzles in Primordia. Moreover, many negative reviews complained about the puzzles in Primordia being too frequent or too difficult, and that probably hurt our sales. I think there is a race to the bottom that story-centric games create because players become complacent. You end up with "walking simulators." Those games aren't evil, but they aren't really games, either; I don't much care to play them and I don't want to make them.

    At the same time, though, creators should follow their passions and businessmen should support their families. If Dave can do both at the same time by making more story-centric games, more power to him. There's no reason that you have to buy the games if you don't like them, and presumably some new developers will rise up to fill the gaps left behind.
     
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  9. DeepOcean Arcane

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    "So the focus has moved away from puzzles and more towards immersion and "fun." "

    Soon I will add Wadget Eye games to the same trash bin on my memory that Chinese Room and TellTale games are.
     
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  10. DeepOcean Arcane

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    Don't let this smile fool you MRY, there is only evil behind it.
     
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  11. Redlands Arcane

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    You seem to be saying some contradictory things (or at least, ones that could be interpreted that way). Unfortunately, to make my point I'm going to have to play "dance-around-the-posts", so for clarity I'll just do this.

    "I haven't noticed any significant move away from puzzles in his games."
    • "he explains (I think to some degree) why WEG is moving away from traditional, puzzle-based adventure games to more streamlined story-telling games"
    • "One of my great regrets in Primordia was getting talked out of including a trolling/lateral thinking puzzle that stumped some reviewers Dave consulted with."
    • "And if I could've, I would've had the puzzles in Primordia more complex, probably involving more timing and environmental aspects than we had." (granted, this may be because you were pressed for time, "creator's regret", but the way you've phrased it makes it sound like Dave talked you out of it).
    • " I have no reason to doubt Dave's sincerity when he says he doesn't like the old adventure game model and wants to focus more on story".
    • "Sure, but it's possible that Dave has always just wanted to tell stories and that he viewed puzzles as a necessary evil. Now that evil isn't necessary." (I'll have to come back to this later.)
    I really don't see how this can not be seen as a significant move away from puzzles in his games (though it's confusing whether you mean the games he himself makes and the games WEG publishes). Going back to specifically this last quote, I've got two problems with this:
    1. There's plenty of products that tell stories without puzzles already: books, films, TV shows, comics, web comics, etc. There are even interactive ones nowadays. Puzzles have never been necessary in these; but puzzles are integral to adventure games (rather than games about an adventure), because that's the game element that they have since... well, Adventure. Unfortunately, I don't think there's now going to be a good way to disambiguate between "Adventure games" (games that can trace their lineage back to Adventure) and "adventure games" (games which fall into the "adventure" genre that movies possess), as the former vs latter would help disambiguate this. "Interactive fiction" is a whole lot worse in this regards, as that adds in the additionally confusing "Choose Your Own Adventure" style of entertainment (which seems to be what Telltale and a lot of companies are doing nowadays) as an additional claimant on the "adventure" title. It's incredibly frustrating trying to find "Adventure games" on Steam, because people are labelling them as (possible, quite rightly) "adventure games". The same thing applies here: if Dave's making "Adventure games", then I'm on board; but if he's making "adventure games" then I'm waving farewell from the docks as that ship heads out of harbour.
    2. That puzzles are evil. You claim that you enjoy puzzles, and like designing puzzles; but from what you've claimed, and what I've gathered from all the quotes I've seen from Dave in this interview and from what you've said about him, he doesn't. That's fine - people liking different things is good - but then don't make things where something you don't like is part of the product. It'd be like someone who hates language and reading deciding to become an author, and claiming their books filled with pictures they've drawn are "novels"; they're graphic novels, certainly, but "novel" on its own conjures up a different set of expectation.
    One of the problems here is perspective: you're coming at it as a colleague, collaborator and probable friend of Dave; we're coming at it from the point of view of his customers. Hyperbole aside, Sceptic has a point: namely that the point of view of someone trying to earn money, or that of their friends, is going to be different to those of the people on the receiving end of their actions. If Dave doesn't want to make "Adventure games" any more, that's fine; we can't force him to make what we want, but you can't stop us from getting pissed off when one of the few companies that made games for us decides to do something different, after having relied on our passion and our money to get where they are. All of Dave's business concerns do not mean anything to us. We're not his friends - we're his customers - so we don't have to care. Sure, we may - empathy's a human trait - and I completely understand where he's coming from and why he's doing what he's doing. But, as lover of big-A "Adventure games" and puzzles in general, if that's the route he goes down, he can do so without my money in future. That's not ill-will, that's just me not wanting to financially support things that I don't care about; in fact, it'd be the same as asking me to give money to something I'm vehemently against.

    And it's not like this hasn't happened before, where "Adventure game" developers start doing more story-focused and less puzzle-focused games. Because Telltale already happened, so we're leery about where this is headed. And this is the problem: you say

    But that's ignoring some things:
    1. All the knowledge that Dave's accrued in terms of puzzle design is now lost, just like a lot of the game development techniques Sierra and LucasArts teams had in place - things that aren't necessarily transferrable outside of that specific environment - were or have been lost.
    2. We're now in a market which is very difficult for new entrants to get noticed, simply due to the massive amounts of games that are being released nowadays, and especially for something niche like "Adventure games" when so many things are "adventure games" instead.
    3. As a second point, according to what you've said, he made you change your game; if other people have to rely on publishers to help get new entrants noticed, there's going to be a quid pro quo which is usually going to be to our detriment.

    See, we're not criticising these as bad decisions for him, we're criticising these as bad decisions for us. That seems to be a point that you're missing in trying to defend him.
     
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  12. DeepOcean Arcane

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    As Redlands said, there are plenty on non interactive media out there but almost no one is making true adventure games, I don't get why Dave choose to do adventure games if he hates puzzles so much. There is a false dichotomy that Dave repeated a few times that I disagree completely, there is a nice middle ground between zany and insane almost impossible puzzles and no puzzles at all. You don't have to choose between one and the other, if he wants to jump the TellTale bandwagon, good luck for him but he must not pretend this choice has anything to do with a design decision as if puzzles were a bad thing. It is a pure money decision, he trying to appeal to a bigger market by diluting his games even further that are already lacking on the interactive part.

    I don't like games being reduced to click on the hotspot for the next scene to happen, if you wanna make a non interactive story, go ahead and do it. TellTale games have the "interactive" part so gutted, so dumb down, so meaningless and sticking like a non-functional limb in their games. I played the first chapter of Wolf Among Us and there is an investigation scene that is basically click on all hotspots for the next scene to happen and the "gameplay" felt like some vestigial organ without a function that whole scene could be a cutscene but the designers were fooling the audience by injecting some artificial and meaningless "gameplay" on it, compare this scene with the murder mistery on Gabriel Knight and the massive drop in quality is evident. Pretending those modernd interactive movie games can even hold a candle to old adventure games and they are just a different style of doing things is disingenuous, there was a massive drop in quality.

    Wadget Eye games are already dangerously close to this, TellTale already invest alot on "immersion" and "fun" as Wolf Among Us had a pretty goof atmosphere but was completely lackluster on everything else for anyone with a decent taste.

    If Dave really wants to go even further on scrapping interactivity, it is a pity. There is a big audience for those low quality adventure games (TellTale games make money) out there as there is a big audience for Transformers, Twililight and other kind of easy to consume mass market crap out there, most people have pedestrian tastes and consume entertainment as they consume hamburgers, if Dave want to appeal to such a people good for him but from the tone of his interview he tries to make that look cool when it is just selling out hard. There is so much potential on adventure games, it is a pity he and his company don't want to explore that and go on a route other 1000 companies are going on Steam.
     
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  13. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I yield!

    As a factual matter, my point about more complex puzzles in Primordia was not a WEG issue but an MRY issue. More complicated puzzles are hard to design, and hard to code, and we just couldn't crack that nut. Maybe with more time we could've, but I think it was as much a matter of experience as anything. It is true that Dave asked us to take one puzzle out of the game, but that was the extent of his impact on the puzzle designs.

    I feel obliged to defend Dave here simply because I posted what I thought were interesting interview quotes, they suddenly were put into their own thread, and people were calling Dave a sell-out monster. Since I don't think that's a fair description of the man, and since my posting of the quotes caused those accusations to be lobbed at him, I tried to correct them.

    If you are saying, "We like puzzle-based adventures and we're disappointed that Dave is abandoning them," then I agree with you as a consumer and as a designer, provided Dave is abandoning them, which is not entirely clear. (The reason it's not entirely clear to me is that I don't think the degree of puzzle complexity in WEG games have declined perceptibly from day one till now. Maybe a little, but not much.)
     
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  14. V_K Arcane

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    It's all the result of him teaming with Hepler. She poisoned his mind.
     
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  15. evdk comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    Codex 2012 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    Let's not start again, the last WCDS invasion was painful enough.
     
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  16. DaveGilbert Wadjet Eye Games Developer

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    Hi all. I just want to course correct this before it goes any further. I never said I "hated" puzzles. I just prefer a more story/narrative based approached to design. I've designed my games this way since The Blackwell Legacy in 2006, and it's something I encourage all the developers I work with to do as well. We're not shifting gears or "moving away" from anything. So if you enjoyed our other work, nothing much has changed. And if you haven't enjoyed our other work, than nothing has changed there either! :)
     
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  17. Read the thread title as :

    David Gilmour Interview in Adventure Advocate re: Design Philosophy

    I am disappoint. :(
     
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  18. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Glad this was resolved!
     
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  19. Alex betthurt

    Alex
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    If only, if only...

    I liked what you did with Blackwell, but it always felt like an entrée, not the main course. I think adding more crunchy puzzles, having more puzzles to solve at the same time and having the puzzles involve more "parts" that can be interacted in different ways would have made it a better game. Don't take this wrong, though. I think some of the puzzles in the series were pretty well done, and I liked that most of the time they stuck close to the story itself. But I think the puzzles and the scope both contributed to make the games feel like they weren't a full game, like say, Maniac Mansion or Quest for Glory.
     
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