In the early years of personal computers, the adventure game genre reigned supreme, exemplified by classic titles such as King’s Quest And The Secret of Monkey Island. Toronto based artist Julia Minamata grew up playing this style of game, which emphasizes storytelling and story-based puzzles.
“With an adventure game, you move at your own pace, and it’s more like a book than an arcade game,” Minamata says in episode 459 of the The Galaxy Geek’s Guide podcast. “I found – as an artistic and bookish kid – that interactive storytelling was the kind of game that appealed to me the most.”
Video game journalist Kurt Kalata loves adventure games so much that he wrote and edited The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures, a massive tome that details dozens of different games. It’s exactly the kind of book he wished he had as a kid in the 90s. “I remember keeping an (adventure game guide) as my Bible, even though it was mostly how to play the games and how to beat them,” he says. “I wanted something like that, but actually about games.”
The adventure game genre has been moribund for years, but the arrival of tools such as Adventure game studio created a thriving independent scene. Minamata works hard on The Crimson Diamonda 16-color adventure game inspired by the 1989 Sierra murder mystery The Colonel’s Legacy.
“What made me come back to the genre was when I started seeing games produced by solo developers,” says Minamata. “Yahtzee Croshaw made Chzo Myth, Francisco Gonzalez directed the Ben Jordan series. It’s about one person using Adventure Game Studio, and it really inspired me.
And while tools like Adventure Game Studio can help simplify the coding process, there’s still no shortcut when it comes to creating great artwork. Kalata spent months making a monkey island-inspired game called Christopher Columbus is an idiot, but hit a wall when it came time to polish the visuals. “It was all scribbled down in MS Paint, and eventually it got to a point where it was like, ‘I don’t know if I can dedicate time to this without making it a commercial project, and to make it a commercial project , I need good art,” he says.
Listen to the full interview with Julia Minamata and Kurt Kalata in episode 459 of The Galaxy Geek’s Guide (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Kurt Kalata on point-and-click games versus text analysis games:
“(With a point-and-click game) you only have so many tools to interact with the world, so eventually if you just try enough things you’ll solve it, and that was a blanket feeling comfortable for me. You could try anything and eventually you’d find it. And the text parsers in Sierra games weren’t particularly good, compared to infocom games, which had better vocabulary. I think if the game was a bit more candid in telling you what he understood – and also if you didn’t have to guess what he decided to call a name, or if he at least had more synonyms for certain words – it could have been better.”
Julia Minamata on game designers:
“Before the current situation that we find ourselves in at the moment, I went to Pax Westand I was able to meet Lori and Corey Colewhich was really amazing, and I got to meet Douglas Herring, who was the artist of The Colonel’s Legacywhich is a main source of inspiration for my game. Al Lowe was also there, so that was really cool. They were on an adventure game board together, so I got to see them and chat a bit with Lori and Corey Cole. … So it was really cool to see and go to events to show off my game – just kind of meet people here and there, and see people who are still developing (games). It was just really inspiring.
Julia Minamata on The Colonel’s Legacy:
“Artists were given a lot of latitude in what they generated. They were given reference material, photos of similar homes, but were pretty much left to their own devices. With stuff like King’s Questwhat would happen is Roberta Williams would sketch a basic “Here’s a tree, and here’s where the stream is, and here’s where the rock is,” and she’d pass it on to the artists, who in turn would interpret that as something more professional. But what was great The Colonel’s Legacy she didn’t do that. She just said, ‘Go ahead and do the thing’, so (the artists) were able to, from scratch, create this amazing atmosphere.
Kurt Kalata on the future of monkey island:
“I participated in the Limited series project, and I know they were hoping that this whole project would generate some interest at Disney. Disney is so big they didn’t even really know what (monkey island) was, because it’s just “an old game from the 90s that people love”. So we were hoping that there would be enough money generated that they would be like, ‘OK, people are interested in this. monkey island thing, and here is the original designer who would be interested by doing something with it, then maybe creating some sort of connection. … The stars must align. Anyone working with (these companies) must be a fan of these games. Somebody has to care.