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Poll

Which time system is the best?

1. Time doesn't pass at all (Most adventures)
- 1 (3.8%)
2. Time passes all the time, in real time
- 3 (11.5%)
3. Time only passes sometimes, triggered by key actions
- 17 (65.4%)
4. The time block-system: Time only passes between two time blocks.
- 5 (19.2%)

Total Members Voted: 21


Author Topic: Time in adventure games  (Read 9597 times)

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organican

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Time in adventure games
« on: January 15, 2007, 08:45:10 PM »

Hi,  8)

I was thinking about the passage of time in adventure games.

Things like how it affects the gameplay, and which system is the best, and what are the ups and downs of the passage of time in adventures.

After some thinking I came to the conclusion that there are 4 different models for time in adventure games:

1. Time doesn't pass at all in the game, or time only passes between different chapters or parts of the game. This is the most common.

2. Time passes all the time in real-time. This is very uncommon in adventure games. One example was the game KGB, where you had to do things at the right place at the right time. Another example, if it can count as an adventure game, is Zelda: Majoras Mask. There was a three-day cycle and a special calendar system, where some things only happened at certain times. You had to meet people and do things at a specific time, so that new things could happen etc.

3. Time only passes when important things happen, like when you talk a certain person or take an important object. So if you meet that person or find that specific object, or do something important, time passes for example 10 minutes. But you have to play it cool, because you can only talk to some people at certain times, and there are doors that are only open at specific times, etc. So just like real-time adventures, it can be quite annoying if you miss important clues or forget to talk to someone, or do something else really important. I've only seen this time system used once, in "Cruise for a corpse".

4. Time passes in the game, but only in between different time blocks. Each time block can be for example two or three hours (10:00-12:00, 12:00-15:00). And within each time block time stands still, and you only move to the next block when you have done everything you're supposed to in the present time block. New things will also happen in each time block, and people are at different locations, and so on. This model was used in Gabriel Knight 3, and maybe also some other GK game.

So, in your opinion, which is the best model?

What are the pros and cons with using time in adventures?

And will it just frustrate and confuse the player, or can it also add to the gameplay?
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jlinam

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2007, 09:09:24 PM »



It's a fun question to ponder, but I don't think that there's only one right answer. I think it will depend on the type of story you're telling and the kind of action you are simulating in the game.

That said, I think methods 2 & 3 are rarely useful in an adventure game. Both make it too easy for the player to end up in a dead-end with no way to finish the game without restarting.

I favor the time block system because it allows for a non-linear approach to the puzzles withing a time block, but still allows you to develop the plot in dramatic leaps.  I'm using this approach in the game I'm currently working on.  The no time system works best in games which either don't have a tightly developed plot (Zork Nemesis, e.g.), or have a plot that is very linear, like the Broken Sword games.
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metamorphium

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2007, 10:20:02 PM »

to answer very vaguely: time system is the best when it fits your game the best. I can easily imagine all of those mechanism well implemented, but every time system fits different gameplay / gamedesign style. The only thing to avoid as former poster noted is dead ends. Time can pass continously but you shouldn't wait for certain action in certain time unless it's repetitively everyday the same time. :)
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CMK2901

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2007, 09:21:35 PM »

Well, this topics been dormant for awhile, but...

The passage of time is sort of difficult to define in games...for example, Grand Theft Auto has their time, but regardless of the time, the game world stays almost completely static; it's almost only there because there would be complaints if it was always daylight.

And when you have a system like Zelda: Majora's Mask, it can be extremely frustrating and daunting for a player.  To start off, you already aren't sure what to do, but then you also have to do it at a specific time (which you also don't know)?  It can be so overwhelming as to drive a player away from a game.

I think the best system, especially for adventure games, is a hybrid between timeblocks and real-time.  If you consider what "time" is, it's just a measurement between what was then, and what is now.  Timeblocks allow the user to keep up with the game, not feel overwhelmed, and explore the environment at their own pace.  However, the standard adventure NPC will stand in one area, not doing much; for example, in Gabriel Knight 3, during a timeblock, the world is static - characters stay where they are. 

The real-time element would be that in a timeblock, characters move between scenes, they interact, they have some sort of intelligence.  This could certainly add to puzzle-solving difficulty.  Rather than you obviously needing to do something at the Church because characters are standing around there, it would take some deduction to realize this, because the characters might not always be there.  You'd have to catch them while they're there and do what needs to be done. 

So, in a nutshell, the best time system, and one I don't believe I've seen used, is one where clock-time is static between timeblocks, but the world is not.
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TeLeStIc

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2007, 04:23:28 PM »

Well for me it's either the first one (time never passes), which of course is quite unrealistic or the fourth one which I voted for. That's because the time-block system was so nice developed in Gabriel Knight 3, that really made the game atmosphere even better!!!! I would probably also like real-time, but without it having any influence on the gameplay. In RealMyst for instance or in Myst 5, time just passes and makes the atmosphere at least gorgeous with all the rotation between day and night...
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RandomExile

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2007, 09:44:49 PM »

Not to get overly specialized with this, but some games, especially text-based adventure games, have time pass constantly but not in real-time.

I thought that added a strong realism to Frederick Pohl's Gateway.  You start off the game with a class schedule and people to meet, and each action you take makes one minute pass.  Since the clock only advances when you act, there is no pressure as there would be in real-time, but on the other hand, you have to consider economy of action somewhat realistically.

I distinctly recall having fun exploring the station, and then realizing I had to hurry up and get to class.  In that case, the time progression actually helped pull me into the game.

What made it work was that there were a manageable few time-sensitive conditions, and they were made very plain.  You weren't punished because of some obscure and easily missed event, like a robot only being present five minutes a day and you can't advance without talking to it.

RE

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sychron

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2007, 10:44:21 PM »

I thought about something like this, too, but there is a catch: in text base adventures, this works gread (in, for example, the cathedral, it's a vital part of the game). But in text adventures you walk around in discrete steps, so movement commands issued can take their assigned time. In Point&Click-Adventures, however, Movement is linear, so timing the movement is a problem.

I thought of several approaches to address this. The Idea of just keeping movement out of timing was dropped very early, for it kills the realism the timing tries to create. Another Idea was to assign a script to the footsteps to add a minimal amount of time for each step. This works great for timing, but bears some other problems -- you have to
implement a very precise control, and elaborate waypoints, so there is no time loss due to unexact control. THe other problem is this method will reduce accessibility, for controlling the character with the accessibility controls is more unprecise than controlling it "normally".

If you come up with another great idea on how to handle movement, I would be eager to hear it.
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odnorf

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Re: Time in adventure games
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2007, 10:54:31 PM »

We don't really need a new idea to something that is already done and worked. We have "the last express". One example is enough to prove that real-time & adventures can co-exist with no problem. The "sinking island" is supposed to have 2 modes. One real-time (where events are happening no matter what the player does and clues get lost) and a traditional point & click time independent mode. Let me repeat myself, one example is enough. Now all it takes is study what already is made and try to improve it, unless we want to sit comfortable in our sofas and pretend that the last express never existed.
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