The Walking Dead

Every few years, someone claims that adventure games are dead. But adventure games never died: they just changed. "I think what they really mean is the death of point-and-click adventure games," says Ron Gilbert, creator of Monkey Island and, more recently, Thimbleweed Park. "Games like Gone Home, Firewatch, and everything Telltale makes are adventure games, and they can sell millions of copies. But if we limit the description to point-and-click games, I don't know that I fully disagree. These games are a niche market now, but if you make them cheaply and efficiently, they can still do well. Dave Gilbert [no relation] has carved out a nice fanbase."

"What's interesting is that those articles usually come out after a high-profile adventure game is released that's less than stellar," says Dave Gilbert, founder of point-and-click revivalist Wadjet Eye. "Suddenly a game speaks for all adventure games, and the whole genre is dead. This is a narrative that only seems to apply to adventure games. Roguelikes 'died' then came back. So did the platformer and the RTS. But people love talking about how adventure games died, or are dying. Even developers themselves! But I've been making them for 11 years and they continue to sell and support my family, so it's hard to take that kind of thing seriously."

"When people declare things dead in the moment, the odds of them turning out to be wrong are usually close to 100%, so it's easy to brush this kind of thing off," says Sam Barlow, creator of experimental mystery game Her Story. "I think part of it comes from a certain self-consciousness and a certain desire for the medium to hurry up and grow up. Adventure games often feel like an awkward middle ground between the proper narrative games we aspire to and our cruder earlier attempts."

Barlow explains that one of the adventure genre's greatest struggles is the idea of the player controlling the story's protagonist. "They become stuck in the weeds of the plot," he says. "I kinda like the fact that a lot of modern games have reduced the emphasis on the specifics of the actions, and focused more on dialogue and higher-level character choice. I'm interested in finding ways for players to be a part of the experience of a story without having to throw them into the busywork of 'being' a character."

Francisco Gonzalez, founder of indie adventure studio Grundislav, thinks that adventure game designers often stubbornly cling to older design tropes. Mazes, illogical puzzles, excessive in-jokes and too much fourth wall-breaking are just a few of the elements that bother him. "If your game absolutely needs a maze, keep it brief," he says. "Add some sort of puzzle element that allows you to navigate it without having to map it yourself."

"So many point-and-click games these days seem to have random puzzles that don't help move the narrative forward," says Ron Gilbert. "A good adventure game should also be about exploring a world, and in many games you're just teleporting from location to location. Firewatch and Gone Home are about exploring a space, and more point-and-click games need to do a better job of this. Build me a world I want to live in."

He continues, "I don't know that I've played a point-and-click adventure made in the last few years that thoroughly engaged me. I'm a point-and-click snob. I think two things that have hurt the genre are illogical puzzles and puzzles that don't intertwine with the narrative. I still see these issues today. However games like Firewatch get around this by not having deep puzzles. Most adventure games are all about story. In a lot of ways they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and that is depressing."

Olivia White of Owl Cave Games thinks too many adventure games still fall into the archaic traps of horrible logic and self-referential humour. "All the people working in the field today who do excellent work are the ones who are actively slicing away the old, rubbish parts of the genre and improving the good parts with surgical focus," she says. "Not all adventure games use moon logic, but plenty of designers are still stuck in the past."

"This is actually one of the freer genres to work within," says Sam Barlow. "There are enough limitations that it kind of encourages people to play around the edges, and I think that's important. The adventure game fan is often of a certain type, and there's been a lot of intense, fairly academic discussion and analysis of the genre. It has a lot of fans and creators who are passionate about keeping things moving forward."

No limit

I ask Ron Gilbert if the seemingly limited framework of the adventure genre naturally limits innovation. "For pure point-and-click games, it does," he says. "But people, including me, have a very rigid definition of a point-and-click game and resist change. After building Thimbleweed Park, I do think there's a stigma attached to the genre. People are often predisposed to think they won't like them, and that these games are full of illogical puzzles and bad narrative. As a creator you have a huge hump to overcome. We felt that every day making Thimbleweed."

"There have been a lot of really innovative things done in adventure games recently," says Francisco Gonzalez. "I think the main problem is that if an adventure game tries to innovate too much, then people no longer consider it an adventure game. There's a notion that you need absurd inventory puzzles to be part of the genre, but I consider games like The Cave, which has platforming elements, and the heavily story-led Oxenfree to be great examples of modern adventures."

"What adventure games do well is tell more intimate, more focused stories," says Dave Gilbert. "You wouldn't make an adventure game about a soldier fighting in a warzone. Nor would you make a beat-'em-up about a detective trying to solve a case. So can adventure games limit you? Sure. But for telling the stories I want to tell, the sky's the limit."

So what does the future hold for adventure games? "We're going to see a lot more games that shed the point-and-click mould," says Olivia White. "I think we'll see a bunch of developers adopting the Telltale style, but I'd like to see more games doing interesting things with interactive narrative like Stories Untold and Edith Finch."

"I think things are going to continue as they have for the past 20 years," says Francisco Gonzalez. "There'll always be a market for adventure games, and new generations of gamers will get into the genre through modern narrative games or the classics. But I hope adventure games will continue to evolve and not be afraid to go beyond the traditional genre trappings, embracing the move away from illogical, archaic design."

"We're seeing more games with lighter mechanics and a greater emphasis on story and character," says Sam Barlow. "I think that's something that helps the genre, because it brings in audiences who are hungry for what makes adventure games tick, and also draws in new creators who are ready to mix things up. My vision of the future is one where the adventure game creators step into the world of streaming TV, where they figure out how to use performance and video as a way of telling stories."

"More people are making adventure games than ever," says Dave Gilbert. "So we'll continue to see a lot of new and interesting games coming out."

"If only I knew," says Ron Gilbert. 

The Cave - (Graham Smith)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>

There have been a lot of attempts to find a more modern form for the point-and-click adventure. The Cave has the benefit of being designed by Ron Gilbert, the creator of some of the best, with art and animation from the always-good-at-those-particular-things Double Fine.

… [visit site to read more]

The Cave
The Rift Report Elite Dangerous

Every Tuesday Andy straps on the Oculus Rift and dives headfirst into the world of virtual reality in The Rift Report. Is it really the future of PC gaming? Let s find out.

The Rift Report will be taking a break until I get my hands and eyes on the higher resolution DK2. But before I go, here s a list of the games, tech demos, and other oddities I think make the most of the hardware. I ve been using the Rift pretty frequently for a couple of months now, and it still manages to impress me. But the limitations of the original development kit are obvious, so I think I ll wait until the fancypants new model lands on my desk before I continue my virtual reality odyssey.

Elite: Dangerous

I ve put this at the top, because it s my favourite VR game so far. The weighty ship handling and dramatic space battles are fun with just your archaic old eyes, but throw the Rift and a good flight stick into the mix and it s like being in Star Wars, but with fewer Ewoks.


Blue Marble

You re an astronaut, and you re drifting through space, away from the Earth, slowly, until you run out of oxygen and die. That s the setup in this atmospheric and evocative demo that I actually enjoyed more than Gravity. Being able to import your own background music is a nice touch.



You can t move in this demo. You re pinned to a chair in a detailed, stylised room, and it seems like nothing s happening, until you turn around and notice that, outside, Tetris blocks are falling from the sky. It s like some surreal dream, and the lack of movement doesn t diminish its impact.


Spirited Away Boiler Room

Someone has recreated a key set from Studio Ghibli s brilliant, beautiful Spirited Away the bath house boiler room and it s a very weird experience to wander around a 3D version of a 2D environment you know so well from an animated film. Its creator is doing My Neighbour Totoro next.


Solar System Explorer

Another of my favourite demos. This sees you flying around an almost to-scale replica of the solar system. Distances between planets feel vast, and there s some incredible scenery, from sun flares, to the rings of Saturn, to Jupiter and its icy moons. A remarkable experience.


VR Cinema

This amazing demo simulates the experience of being at the cinema. The screen feels genuinely massive, and the lighting in the room dynamically mirrors whatever s on the screen. You can import most video files, including high-def Blu-ray rips. It s like having your own personal 500 inch TV.


The Cave

This is a proof of concept demo that simulates being Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. The holographic UI is really impressive, and I can see this being implemented into mission briefings for games. There s a batmobile in the cave, but you can t drive it, sadly. Just stare at its shiny bodywork.


Euro Truck Simulator 2

The genuinely, unironically good Euro Truck Simulator 2 works brilliantly with the Oculus Rift, especially if you have a force feedback wheel. The detailed 3D cabins give a good sense of depth as you look around, and the realistic handling makes for a satisfying sim experience.



Only a single room of this cyberpunk adventure game is currently available, but a Kickstarter campaign will ensure we see more if it s successful. It s a bit like being in Deckard s apartment in Blade Runner, and the view of a futuristic city out of the window is particularly impressive.


RedFrame Environment Demo

This is probably the most realistic Rift demo I ve seen yet. It s not exciting or interactive, but the quality of the modeling and lighting makes this bedroom (a sample environment from an adventure game) an eerily convincing and uncanny space to explore in VR.

The Cave - Valve
Save 50% on The Cave during this week's Midweek Madness*!

Assemble your team of three from seven unlikely adventurers, each with their own unique personalities and stories, then descend into the mysterious depths to explore locations including a subterranean amusement park and a medieval castle, not to mention a fully armed and ready-to-launch nuclear tipped ICBM. The Cave awaits!

The Cave is a new adventure game from Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion creator Ron Gilbert, and Double Fine Productions, the award-winning studio behind Psychonauts and Brütal Legend.

*Offer ends Thursday at 4PM Pacific Time

The Cave - (Nathan Grayson)

Well, this is slightly unexpected. Ron Gilbert’s always kinda done his own thing, but sharing a colorful roof of pure, shining whimsy with partner in pirate-y crime Tim Schafer just sort of, you know, made sense. It is, however, like they say: all good things must come to an end. Also, The Cave was actually only kind of all right, so maybe this is for the best. But what’s next for the man they call “RonnyG” (and I guess also Grumpy Gamer)? Solve a series of increasingly obtuse puzzles to get past the break for more. Hint: the first one involves clicking. And also a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.


The Cave
The Cave

Legendary game designer Ron Gilbert has announced his departure from Double Fine Productions, following the release of The Cave. Gibert made the announcement in a blog post earlier today, posting that there are "so many games left to be designed". He's currently working on "another iOS side project" with Clayton Kauzlaric called (take a deep breath) Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG.

Gilbert joined Double Fine in 2010 at the invitation of the studio's founder Tim Schafer. Gilbert and Schafer collaborated on several titles at LucasArts including Day of the Tentacle - which was a sequel to the Gilbert-created Maniac Mansion.

"I want to thank all the amazing people at Double Fine for all their hard work on The Cave," Gilbert wrote in the announcement. "It was a true pleasure to work with every one of them over the past two years. So much fun. I miss them all. And of course to Tim for creating the opportunity to come there and make The Cave." Gilbert rounded out his announcement with the promise of more "behind the scenes pictures" for The Cave in the coming weeks.

Ron Gilbert will be a keynote speaker at the inaugural PAX Australia, which takes place this July in Melbourne. We wish Gilbert all the best.
Feb 11, 2013
The Cave - Valve
Update Includes:

- Added new, super high quality anti-aliasing – Super Sample Anti Aliasing. Users can enable it by toggling “SSAA” in the visual settings.
- Lots of fixes to various gameplay bugs that could cause characters or items to go missing, especially after loading from saves in certain spots.
- Fixed the bug that could cause the game to very rarely write out garbage/invalid save files.
Jan 30, 2013
The Cave

A Knight, a Scientist and a Time Traveller walk into a cave. Somehow, that feels like it should lead to a joke - especially in a game by Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert. It doesn’t, but that’s not in itself a problem. The Cave has a definite dark sense of humour, but it’s not a comedy. Instead, it’s a laidback tragedy about seven sinners on a search for their deepest desires, only to find their fatal flaws waiting for them instead. A series of light morality plays written to educate and entertain.

And, sadly, a really quite dull platform game.

Focusing on that bit feels mean, but it can’t be helped – not least because there’s little that’s more depressing than playing an obvious labour of love that doesn’t pull it off. The ideas behind The Cave are great, it looks delicious, especially in motion, and no creative expense has been spared in charting this allegorical labyrinth. Even with its flaws, calling it ‘lazy’ is to openly summon Gilbert to come slap you in the face – and with good cause.

Nevertheless, The Cave shows no sign of having learned from other side-scrollers like Limbo and Trine or even The Lost Vikings, with its puzzles built on tedious lever pulling and repeatedly backtracking over whole levels with newly acquired items. At one point it even copies a ‘fill this six gallon jug with two other jugs’ sequence from the dusty Book of Elder Puzzles, which is unforgivable in a game committed to imagination - as is then assuming you had to cheat to solve it.

Worse though is how it wastes its characters. For each run through The Cave you get to pick three of the seven, much like the game that made Gilbert’s name, Maniac Mansion. Each has a special skill – the Time Traveller can phase through some walls, for instance – and an otherwise locked-off area. That means three playthroughs to see all the stories, and six to see all the endings (though the Achievement for that should be called ‘Never Heard Of YouTube’).

Except in each character’s own area, their abilities are almost never used. Very rarely there’ll be something like a hook for the Adventurer to swing from, but with no combat, a completely linear path and no choices to make, in practice everyone spends most of the game consigned to trudging along in silence, pulling levers and being ballast for pressure pads. Weighted Companion Rubes, if you will.

Most of the story areas are no more interesting from a design perspective either, with the worst being the three dull ones that you have to replay and are unchanged regardless of your character line-ups. Areas devoted to the characters’ lives are much better, with each telling their story through setting and puzzles, backed up with a series of cartoon stills.

Even so, there’s depressingly little emotional resonance. Much as The Cave as a whole would be more impressive in a world without other puzzle platformers, these would be better in one without Double Fine’s own Psychonauts – a game that used exactly the same tricks to far better effect back in 2005, as well as having more humour and heart. There's nothing as hard hitting as Milla's secret room here, with the stories being just too on-the-nose to blossom into much more than they initially appear.

That’s the biggest disappointment here. The Cave isn’t bad, but it is mystifyingly bland for what it sets out to be – and that ends up being worse than a glorious failure. We need more games like this, with this much love on display. With its actual adventure bits lacking the spark of its concept and artistry though, The Cave ends up sending you on an ill-fated trudge through platform purgatory in more ways than one.

Expect to pay: £10
Release: Out now
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Multiplayer: 3 player co-op
The Cave

The Characters From The Cave, Now Available In Charming Toy FormThe characters are the highlight of Double Fine's new adventure game The Cave. Seven wanderers, each with his or her own selfish journey to undertake (and lesson to learn), each drawn in the game's groovy art style.

If you're a fan of the game (like Tina came to be when she reviewed it), you might want to check out these Cave toys that Double Fine is selling. You can get one for $5, or a full set for $35.

Here's The Cave creator Ron Gilbert sizing 'em up:

The Characters From The Cave, Now Available In Charming Toy Form

I have enough collectible tchotchkes to last a lifetime, but I wouldn't say no to those creepy twins…

The Cave

Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This.If you've been playing Double Fine's The Cave—and Tina says you probably should be—you'll have noticed the lush cave paintings you come across depicting the game's seven characters.

They're the work of Daniel Krall, and there's so much colour you could drown in it.

You can see more of Daniel's art on his personal blog.

To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they're big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!

Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This. Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This. Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This. Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This. Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This. Play The Cave. You'll See Awesome Art Like This.

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