After playing “Sunrise – The Game”, it became apparent that some game mechanics of adventure games aren’t realistic at all and if you alter them they can fail big time. Now it IS a refreshing idea that the character does not carry all kinds of things around with him, like the rest of his adventuring collegues (who generally don’t have any problems with stowing away a big broom, live animals and what have you in their trousers). It’s also a nice idea that he doesn’t take any heavy stuff. Another thing one can understand is that he doesn’t want to repeat himself when looking at things or talking to people (ironically, his comments DO repeat themselves after a while). It’s even conceivable that he doesn’t want to run all the time (he actually walks all the time).
But all these things put together to create a more realistic world and a logical behavior of a character stands in the way of what adventure games are about: You pick up all kinds of stuff to combine the objects or use them later. But “Sunrise” doesn’t want you to do this. “Sunrise” wants you to remember where things are to use them later. So reality stands in the way of gameplay.
Does innovation really have a negative impact on the fun aspect of gaming, especially with the rather rigid gameplay mechanics of adventure games? Fortunately there are examples in which new ideas work: The two games “In Memoriam” (or “Missing” as it’s known in the US) and “In Memoriam 2” (US-title: “Evidence”) play with the notion of hunting a serial killer who sent a DVD to the FBI. The data on it consists of multiple sick mini games which give clues to the whereabouts of his victims. What makes the game so thrilling is that you seem to play in real-time, that is you have to give your email-address and receive emails from other investigators and the killer himself. Most of the research (especially in “Evidence”) relies on finding information on the internet (some websites were specifically created for the game). The game is suspenseful, doesn’t need an inventory and is less linear as you can decide which puzzles you tackle first.
The same developer also did a game called “Experiment 112” which gives the player control over cameras on a ship. By using those he can interact with a female character who has to find a way out. I haven’t played it yet and it seems to suffer some control problems, but that’s some pretty ingenious idea, and it pushes adventure game mechanics forward.
Another important step towards more involved storytelling and dissolved genre conventions is of course “Heavy Rain”, but this should deserve a blog entry of its own as it defies any genre standards and might be one of the most important titles of gaming culture today.