We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

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Drag
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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Drag » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:56 pm

Those are all story-first/action-second games, if they contain any action sequences at all. The main draw of those examples is to perform the correct sequence of events to advance an often-invisible timeline marker, whether through dialogue, item management, or just actions. I think that's a fine thing to keep calling "adventure game", because it's a relatively inoffensive term and it's already known this way.

We also have names for derivatives, for example, a smaller-scale adventure game is often called an "escape the room" game. If you string a bunch of these kinds of puzzles together, as the old flash game Mystery Of Time And Space did, you come up with an epic which I think qualifies for the same category as Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle, i.e., "adventure game". In MOTAS's case, your progress is more explicit because you're moving from episode to episode. You can add more in-depth story as interstitial sequences between these puzzles, and you'd wind up with the Zero Escape series.

While thinking about this, I actually came up with something that does bother me: the "metroidvania". This word is used to describe games which are exploration based, and progression is locked behind acquiring the correct item, equipment, or upgrade, usually to bypass a physical obstacle preventing you from reaching new areas. The problem I have is how this genre's name forces a comparison to Metroid and Castlevania, a comparison which doesn't allow other games to stand on their own merits. I'd propose "exploration" as a more fair category name, so for example, La-Mulana is an action exploration game (or action exploration platformer depending on how granular you want to be), instead of calling it a metroidvania.

Edit: Now that I think about it even more, you probably wouldn't call Zelda a metroidvania, but you'd probably call Zelda, Metroid, and SoTN all exploration games.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by tepples » Sun Jun 21, 2020 7:27 am

I have used terms like "exploration platformer" to refer to the so-called "Metroidvania" genre on various forums. The term sometimes appears when I reply to people who claim that an iPhone or Android phone can adequately substitute for a handheld video game console. I used to use platformers as a counterexample until continuous running platformers, such as Rayman Jungle Run and Super Mario Run, became well known as games that successfully use a phone's touch screen as a remake's sole method of input. Then I switched to exploration platformers as an example of a game genre that's hard to distill to two buttons and no directional control. Graphical "adventure games" in the Sierra or LucasArts traditions, by contrast, tend to adapt well to finger touch input.

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Marscaleb
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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Marscaleb » Sun Jun 21, 2020 10:55 am

lidnariq wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 6:25 pm
Let's look at this from the other direction:

What unifies all of the following games?
(Dang it, where's the "like" button on this forum?)
What unifies them is a slower more-thought focused style of gameplay. Not something reactionary, but something planned. Even many games that call themselves "puzzle" and "strategy" require quick-thinking, whereas these do not. They have a much more pure focus on mental activity.

While "exploration" and "story" often feel like a significant factors within the games, I don't think they really maintain enough importance to their genre as a whole. For example: if I take out the humor from a Monkey Island game, it's not a Monkey Island game anymore, sure. But we still consider Monkey Island as the same kind of games like Siberia or Indigo Prophecy or Trace Memory or dozen others with very serious games. The humor in Monkey Island is a very critical part of those games, but not a critical part of the genre as a whole.
If you presented someone with a point-and-click adventure, and stripped the story down to a mere premise with as much importance as it is in say Duke Nukem 3D, couldn't it still hold up? If you were just given your main objective with no more updates than to explain why you are in an area, and you didn't have to interact with people, just objects and locks. And what if you watered-down the exploration factors in a similar manner, to where everything you need to work with is just in a single room or area, and you go from room to room in a linear progression? I could imagine such a game, and I'd still hold it to being the same genre as these others. I wouldn't hold it in the same esteem, just the same as I don't hold Monkey Island in the same esteem as Myst. But I would still put Monkey Island, Myst, and the theoretical point-and-click game I described all in the same genre.

I gave this same thought experiment to RPG's a while back. Imagine an RPG, let's say a JRPG like Final Fantasy, and you removed the exploration and full-story. So it's got the same battle mechanics and stat growth, but you just select your battles from a list, just going down a list of nothing but battles. You can select a town menu where you can buy equipment and such too.
It might be a fun game, but I just can't accept this as being an RPG. It lost something important, and we'd have to call it something else.
Now imagine the inverse. An RPG with no battles ever. You still explore a world, talk to people, and resolve some grand conflict, but there's no combat ever. This actually sounds like a fun game I'd like to play, but again, it doesn't sound like an RPG.
From this thought experiment I would conclude that an RPG MUST have exploration and it MUST have battle mechanics, otherwise it is something else.
tepples wrote:
Sun Jun 21, 2020 7:27 am
I have used terms like "exploration platformer" to refer to the so-called "Metroidvania" genre on various forums.
Oooh, I like that term! I also like the term "Metroidvania" so I doubt I would stop using it, but I'm willing to promote that term as well. I know there are some people who dislike the term "Metroidvania."
Plus, there is a question I've seen asked before of "Is Zelda a Metroidvania?" and it is hard to really argue that it is not; for every aspect of a Metroidvania that really defines it, Zelda does as well, just with an overhead view. Ultimately I concede that Zelda is not a Metroidvania, not on the principle of game mechanics, but on the principle of why we have genres/terms to begin with. And while Metroidvania's and Zelda-clones are very similar, I feel that they are different enough to warrant further refinement of their categories.
"Exploration Platformer," on the other hand, clearly separates it from Zelda because Zelda is not a platformer. Plus this inspires a better genre name for Zelda clones rather than being "Action-RPG" which has too much overlap with other styles. Perhaps we could call them exploration top-downs? Although that wouldn't apply to the 3D ones, hmm...

On a somewhat similar tangent, another genre that I personally try to use a different term for are "shmups." I hate that name. It sounds dumb phonetically, and also sounds like "schmucks," so it already makes the game sound bad. Imagine if you called a genre "garbioge." No matter how much you like the game, it sounds like you're calling it "garbage."
On top of that, the name "shmup" is supposed to be short for "Shoot 'em up." When I hear that, I envision some gangster pulling out a Tommy gun in a restaurant to take out a rival gang. No matter how I try to envision it, "shoot 'em up" just never sounds like something the hero does. Honestly the term "shmup" sounds like a double-whammy of names chosen to make the genre sound bad. And besides, you do shooting in a LOT of games, so what is "shoot em up" or "shump" supposed to suggest that makes it sound different from all the other shooters? Names like "run and gun" and "first person shooter" actually describe more than just the shooting; those are effective names.
The term I go with is "scrolling shooter." It makes sense, it explains the genre, and it doesn't sound insulting.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by lidnariq » Sun Jun 21, 2020 12:03 pm

Marscaleb wrote:
Sun Jun 21, 2020 10:55 am
What unifies them is a slower more-thought focused style of gameplay. Not something reactionary, but something planned. Even many games that call themselves "puzzle" and "strategy" require quick-thinking, whereas these do not. They have a much more pure focus on mental activity.
Is it safe to interpret that to mean that you're defining them by them not being action-adventures? That's not a very satisfying boundary.

King's Quest has several quick-time events in it, although it's not a significant number of the puzzles. So do the Legend of Kyrandia games.

One of the big things that Oxenfree's developer wanted was to make the dialog in the game be all quick-time events. You can't take your time and just listen to the other characters talk ... at least, not without explicitly playing the role of someone who doesn't talk.

Compare Another World (wikipedia: "cinematic platformer / action-adventure") and Dragon's Lair (1983 version, wikipedia: "interactive movie"), which are almost exclusively quick-time events.
If you presented someone with a point-and-click adventure, and stripped the story down to a mere premise with as much importance as it is in say Duke Nukem 3D, couldn't it still hold up? If you were just given your main objective with no more updates than to explain why you are in an area, and you didn't have to interact with people, just objects and locks. And what if you watered-down the exploration factors in a similar manner, to where everything you need to work with is just in a single room or area, and you go from room to room in a linear progression?
Compare The (Castle/Island) of Dr. Brain. Basically an excuse plot and a bunch of puzzles. Wikipedia refers to these two games as "puzzle adventures".


I agree that it's frustrating to browse Steam for the "adventure" tag and finding a majority of games that aren't anything like the genre we're talking about.
An RPG with no battles ever. You still explore a world, talk to people, and resolve some grand conflict, but there's no combat ever. This actually sounds like a fun game I'd like to play, but again, it doesn't sound like an RPG.
What with the ease of people making things using RPGMaker, I've encountered several things that skipped the battle mechanics entirely, replacing the source of character progression with something that wouldn't count as a battle. But they've still had character development.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Pokun » Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:57 pm

Yeah I wouldn't say "MUST" as there are often exceptions, and some wiggle room over the genre borders (like Marscaleb said himself before, it's about focus). And there are peaceful RPGs without battles (like the non-combat-oriented MUDs, sometimes called MUSH) that I would probably still call RPGs. In the particular case of JRPG, I guess you could argue that the battles is a fundamental part of the genre as defined by DQ and FF though.

Metroidvania is a specific sub-genre of platform-adventure games and basically should play like Metroid or the "Igavania" games. I think calling Jet Set Willy, The Castle or Cave Story metroidvania games is OK, and a very quick way to describe the sub-genre using well known games. But it's a little strange-sounding sub-genre name, much like shoot-'em-up and beat-'em-up, of which I agree with Marscaleb that they sound a bit dirty or anti-hero. The Zelda games are definitely not metroidvanias as the genre implies side-scrolling platform game elements. The Igavania games could also be considered platform-RPGs since I think they full-fill all requirements for an RPG (like stats and EXP system), more so than Metroid which just have Zelda-style powerups.

"Exploration-platform" doesn't sound bad, but it does sound like you are trying to rename the "adventure" genre into the "exploration" genre. What's wrong with "platform-adventure"?


I like "scrolling shooter", although it implies that the game is scrolling, which the debut games that invented the genre (Space Invaders etc) didn't feature (and many early games like Galaga just has a scrolling star background). The genre basically only requires that the main character is free-flying in one or more axes (the player in Space Invaders isn't really flying but it's similar mechanics-wise, you can't jump) and that it's a shooting game. And for a shooting game, the main means of attack, shooting, should be a large part of the game mechanics.

I'm not a fan of the "run-and-gun" naming. I prefer just to call it platform-shooting as it's really just a mix of the platform and shooting genres.

When I grew up, gaming magazines would use "shoot-'em-up" and "beat-'em-up" as synonyms to the shooting and fighting genres respective, not the sub-genres (so both Double Dragon and Street Fighter II were called beat-'em-ups). Might just be Swedish gaming magazines that misunderstood the English usage of the terms though.

I like the Japanese-originated term "belt-scroll fighting" better than "beat-'em-up", but it's problematic because it excludes fighting games where the movement is only in two dimensions, like in the Ninja Warrior games for example, and they are not really that different from other scrolling fighting games.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by tepples » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:24 am

The "exploration" part refers specifically to the lack of outright linearity and not going in one direction all the time.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Pokun » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:17 pm

That's one of the fundamental parts of the adventure genre (and also of the RPG genre, though which is related).

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by lidnariq » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:28 pm

I'm not convinced I agree. Look at The Castle of Dr. Brain and Gobliiins.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Pokun » Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:40 am

Well a game doesn't have to have all of the fundamental qualities of a genre to be called that genre, does it? If a game has some of the qualities of a genre but not all of them I would say that it's a bit of a hybrid genre rather than orthodox. From looking at youtube it seems to me those two games have a lot of puzzle game qualities besides adventure game qualities.
Wonder Project J is another example of a very linear game for an adventure game (wikipedia calls it Life Simulation though). And of course sound/visual novels are an adventure sub-genre that is often around 100% linear, since it's often literary an electronic novel with zero or close to zero interaction.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by turboxray » Tue Jun 23, 2020 11:59 am

Drag wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:56 pm
Edit: Now that I think about it even more, you probably wouldn't call Zelda a metroidvania, but you'd probably call Zelda, Metroid, and SoTN all exploration games.
I would call Zelda "action-adventure". Adventure already implies it to be non-linearity other wise anything is an adventure haha. "Action" part of action-adventure for Zelda, because "adventure" was often used to describe point and click style games (especially on the PC and computers), or first-person point-and-click games like shadowgate, myst, etc. RPG-adventure isn't really a phrase, because it's implied that RPG is already a sub-genre of adventure, so there's no need point it out; we say action-rpg and not action-rpg-adventure.

If Zelda was completely a side view game, you definitely could call it a metroidvania. Metroidvania is just 2D-action-adventure.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Pokun » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:12 pm

Yeah the world map is basically what prevents Zelda II from being a metroidvania. But metroidvania also kind of implies that the game takes place in a confined world of sorts. Like Dracula's castle or inside the planet of Zebes. Simon's Quest, Ys III and Vanillaware's Muramasa all play similarly but kind of feels less metroidvania due to taking place in a larger world with implied longer travelling between areas. I guess that's the problem about the genre name makes you compare too much with Metroid and the Igavania games.

One important quality of the metroidvania genre is that areas should become accessible with the gaining of new powers instead of from story events or simple keys and the like. So basically like Zelda, but with world-map-less 2D-platforming.

Found a list here, but it includes a lot of games I wouldn't call metroidvania. Like the two 2D Kid Icarus games for example, which both are clearly divided into levels that cuts off exploration backwards.

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by tepples » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:28 pm

Is Zelda II: The Adventure of Link any closer to the "platform adventure" or "Metroidvania" ideal? Or does its use of a world map disqualify it?

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Drag » Tue Jun 23, 2020 5:21 pm

Yes, I think Zelda II's world map prevents it from being a metroidvania, and instead pushes it to be just a hair away from being an RPG. The missing elements are the ability to purchase nonessential but useful items, and possibly RNG in the combat system (though I rank that as being a less important element to an RPG).

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Marscaleb » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:00 pm

tepples wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:28 pm
Is Zelda II: The Adventure of Link any closer to the "platform adventure" or "Metroidvania" ideal? Or does its use of a world map disqualify it?
Zelda II is a perfect example for the debate of "can a game be its own genre?"
Personally, as far as classification is concerned, I think it can. But conventionally, people don't recognize a genre unless there are several examples of it.
I'd like to see more examples of a game like Zelda II, but sadly it sits by itself.

Maybe we could just call it as a "Metroidvania Variant"
It's not really a Metroidvania, but that's the closest genre we got.

Hmm, calling things a "(Genre)-Variant" might be the way to go for a lot of these...

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Re: We need a better name for "Adventure Games."

Post by Pokun » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:35 am

Eh? Zelda II is every inch an action-RPG, and heavily inspired by DQ1. It plays exactly like about every other JRPG out there except that encounters and dungeons are side-view platform sequences (the dungeons could be seen as metroidvania minigames on their own). The only RPG things it's missing is, like Drag said, the lack of money, shops and items (besides magic bottles and the treasures), but also the lack of equipment change. You have the same sword and shield through the whole game (which is not strange story-wise since Link kept the best sword and shield from the last game which was needed to kill Ganon with, so there are probably no better weapons in the world). It has a proper experience point system (in addition to the classic heart containers and the new magic containers) and even a proper spell system though, and the only Zelda game that has a large world map with more than around 5 towns (until Wind Waker at least).

I don't understand what RNG it's missing? It has an interesting encounter system that I would've wanted to see in more RPGs, and they at least feel like they are randomly generated. Battles are similar to orthodox RPGs in that you have similar options to flee or fight. In the FDS version, battles even has a BGM that sounds more like a classic RPG battle theme (and is very similar to the boss battle theme). The NES version has a better battle BGM though, even if it no longer sounds like a battle theme.

A metroidvania can also be an action RPG (like the Igavania games) so yeah the world map is the main thing that prevents Zelda II from being a metroidvania.

The lack of money is kind of ironic since it's the only Zelda game that doesn't have rupees and shops.

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