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A Perfect Platform for FMV Game Resurgence, The iPhone January 22, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Back in the early 00s I was reading an article which listed various classic games from the various gaming genres and what at the time were considered the best most recent games of those genres. In that article, instead of listing a modern game alongside King’s Quest, they simply had the headline “Adventure Gaming is Dead.” Now in the early 2000s that certainly may have been true, but it sure isn’t anymore.

In my opinion, adventure gaming saw a resurgence in the latter half of the last decade primarily fueled by the episodic gaming experiment of 2006. While it was expensive and time-consuming to make a shooter and release it episodically, there was something about adventure games that lended itself well to an episodic formula. Telltale Games were probably the only survivors of the episodic experiment that I can think of, and it is still their preferred business model. However, they weren’t the only ones doing well with this new generation of adventure games. New adventure games started to see retail release and not only see decent review scores but sell pretty well. Quantic Dream released Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit) and started a whole new model of adventure games and called them interactive movies. They followed Indigo Prophecy up one generation later with Heavy Rain, which also saw great sales, had very high review scores, and personally convinced me to be an early adopter of the Playstation Move controller system.

However, in the 90s the adventure game was a staple of the PC platform before the FPS craze took over. There are a lot of classic adventure games that people have been talking about for the past twenty years that some people were never able to play. A lot of them were shot in Full-Motion Video (FMV). While the FMV trend was universally hated after it left us towards the end of the 90s, there are a lot of people talking about these games again, and inspired by internet personalities like The Spoony One, want the chance to play these games. Boxed copies of older games (especially unopened ones) can cost large amounts of money, or you could hope that they could see a downloadable release through an online service like STEAM or Good Old Games, but there’s still the chance of compatibility issues. You could have an older computer still lying around that could play the game, but the chances of them having long since broken down is very high. You could try to emulate the older operating systems that the game requires, but that would require either having a copy of the older OS in your archives still or buying a new boxed copy off eBay or Amazon.

All these problems beg for these games to see a re-release on a new platform better suited to handle an adventure game’s interface. When you think about what translates a mouse’s point and click interface the best the answer becomes obvious, it’s the touch screen. A modern iPhone nowadays has more processing power than a computer made at the time these classic adventure games were released and the downloadable marketplace can take advantage of the low filesize of some of the older games, and their expanded internal storage capacity can certainly fit the large filesizes of the larger games that used multiple CD-ROMs.

Adventure games are already out for the iPhone and iPad. In fact I remember shortly after the app store launched someone released the original game Adventure from the Atari. The tilt sensor translated perfectly as a control system in lieu of the lack of a directional pad. Telltale releases many of their adventure games to the iPhone/iPad since the third season of Sam & Max.

Older adventure games like Myst and The 7th Guest have already been ported to the platform, where they have access to a wide customer base with no fear of running out of product. There’s been a demand over the past two years to see more of these games get re-released for the iPhone, I think the most vocal demand has probably been to Konami and Kojima Team for a Snatcher iOS re-release, but I can think of a bunch of more games that would work perfectly ranging from Policenauts, to The Daedalus Encounter. Also I think a lot of people want the chance to play some of the games that reviewers have been bringing back into the limelight like Ripper, Phantasmagoria (and it’s sequel), and Johnny Mnemonic.

Having played (or seen played) some of these games personally I can attest they would work perfectly with a touchpad interface, and could probably be remade with just some minor tweaking to the game’s interface (like occasionally bringing up a keyboard/keypad). While its possible that many of the companies that made these games originally have long since gone out of business, someone must have those original game assets lying around in a vault somewhere. While these developers may not exist anymore the publishers certainly do, or have had their assets absorbed by other currently existing publishers. It would be a lot more profitable to work with already existing assets and release them to guaranteed sales in a market where they can’t sell out than build more full priced retail games from scratch.