From "open mailbox" to context mechanics: shifting levels of abstraction in adventure games
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Abstracting the fictional world to essential components is one of the first steps to design the system of a game. The amount of detail with which the fictional world is implemented as the system determines the level of abstraction of the simulation of the game . This paper is a historical analysis of the design of a specific genre, adventure games, and how the levels of abstraction have shifted through time. Early adventure games, such as Zork or The Lurking Horror, had a wide range of possible actions and had more detailed simulations of the game world. Through the more than thirty years of history of adventure games, such as Space Quest, Myst, Indigo Prophecy or the recent Machinarium, the nuance of the simulation has diminished, as well as the variety of possible actions. There are two basic reasons for this simplification: first, to make the interface easier to use, and second, in order to facilitate players finding and identifying the elements of the puzzles and advance the story. This historical exploration of adventure games design provides insight on the trade-offs of choosing different levels of abstraction in the design, which may be extensible to other videogame genres.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Comparative Media Studies
Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games (FDG '11)
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Clara Fernandez-Vara. 2011. From "open mailbox" to context mechanics: shifting levels of abstraction in adventure games. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games (FDG '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 131-138.
Author's final manuscript