In the beginning, a mysterious figure known as the CRPG Addict started a foolhardy, but bold project of chronologically playing every CRPG in existence, blogging about his journey through genre's history.
As time progressed, he gained many followers, and, finally, imitators. Greatest of these was an equally mysterious figure known only as Trickster, who created The Adventure Gamer, in which he attempted to play through all notable graphical adventure games. He called forth a great community of adventure game fans, eager to reminisce about and discuss the past glories of such mighty names as Sierra and Lucasfilm.
In time, Trickster grew weary of his creation, but he wished not to leave his followers bereft of their daily sustenance of adventure gaming. He thus left the blog in the capable care of his community, which has kept his legacy strong to this day.
Rating the Games
Trickster invented his own system for scoring adventure games, still used by our bloggers: The PISSED-rating scale. A reviewer assigns a score between 0 and 10 in six different categories:
Puzzles and Solvability: This category describes the key puzzles in the game and whether they are “fair”. High scoring games toe the line between challenging and impossible, do not rely on trial-and-error, brute force or excessive reloading, and do not have dead ends which can frustrate the player
Interface and Inventory: This category refers to the means by which the player interacts with the game and its world. High scoring games have interfaces that do not get in the way of players accomplishing their goals. Struggling to determine how to do something that you know you need to do, for example, would result in a low score here. Inventory refers to how the inventory is displayed, whether the items can be examined or manipulated and also how interesting the items provided in the game are.
Story and Setting: This category refers to the game world itself, how well the locations are realized and the quality of the game's plot. To get a high score here, the game has to hold together as a narrative with few plot holes or false leads, except when those serve the interest of the story.
Sounds and Graphics: This category is self-explanatory. Both the sound and the graphics quality are considered, and a game without music and sound effects should not score high here. A high scoring game should have smooth animation that shows off the characters as well as visuals that are memorable, as well as music and sound that heightens the experience the way a good score does to a movie. Annoying and grating bloops and beeps and flat-out bad musical compositions drag this score down.
Environment and Atmosphere: Where “Story and Setting” refer to the specifics of the environment such as houses, graveyards, or foreign planets, this category refers to how these environments make the player feel, the ambiance, the tension and the overall mood of a game. A graveyard might be a good setting, but if it does not present a spooky atmosphere points would be deducted here. This category is also used to rate the size of the game world, particularly if the game is too small to present its atmosphere effectively.
Dialogue and Acting: This category refers to the way the narrative of the game is presented, usually using character dialogue, animation, and other narrative techniques. This category also includes other game text including item and room descriptions, if present, and any other method the game uses to get information across; as voice-acting begins to appear in adventure games, its quality will be a factor here.
After all the individual scores have been assigned, they are added together and divided by 0.6. The reviewer has still an option to add or take away a few bonus points, if the game for some reason deserves it and if the player can provide a rational justification (or not; we’re flexible!).
Rules by Which We Decide Which Games to Play
Trickster developed an intricate system for deciding what games would be incorporated into the official playlist, relying on both quantitative criteria and reader interaction. The rules have evolved over the years, but the basics of Trickster's system remain.
A Potential candidate for inclusion on the playlist must be either listed on MobyGames as part of the adventure genre (excluding interactive fiction games) and it must have at least 10 votes, or it must appear on the Wikipedia List of Graphic Adventure Games (formerly Notable Graphic Adventure Games) list.
A Potential game is automatically Accepted on the playlist, if it satisfies three criteria:
- It has at least 20 votes on Moby Games
- It is listed on the Wikipedia List of Notable Graphic Adventure Games
- It is undeniably a graphic adventure game. This is of course entirely subjective and the ultimate decision on what to count as adventure game is currently based on the consideration of adminstrators (we try to be inclusive in our choices).
There is no fixed rule for Potential games that do not satisfy any of the above criteria. Often the administrators will interpret the concept of a graphic adventure game in an inclusive manner, so that these games will automatically get a Disregarded -status.
Near the end of each gaming year, a "Year Ahead" -post will be published, introducing all of the next year’s Potential games. Readers will then have the opportunity to use their Companion Assist Points (CAPs, explained below) to add Potential games to the official playlist. The CAPs can be offered by individuals or by groups of commenters. Adding Borderline-games to the playlist costs 100 CAPs, while adding Disregarded-games costs 200.
In a Year Ahead -post, the administrators also have an opportunity to introduce as candidates for the playlist an arbitrary number of games under Panthro’s Law. These are games that, for some reason, have not even the status of a Potential game, but which the administrators feel deserve the chance to be played. The maximum number of games that administrators can introduce is determined by the last digit of the game year (e.g. for 1997 administrators could introduce seven additional candidate games; 0 is with these rules interpreted as 10). Adding a Panthro’s Law -game to the playlist costs 500 CAPs.
After the community took over the blog from Trickster, some reviewers thought it a great opportunity to review games that had not previously made it onto the official playlist. Thus was born the idea of the Missed Classic.
A Missed Classic is a game released prior to our current place in the blog that was skipped for some reason: it might be have been released on the wrong platform, released prior to 1984 (the start of the blog), or was simply too Borderline for the master list. Rather than disrupt the regular game posts, Missed Classics give the reviewers a chance to talk about their old favorites or play historic games without changing the overall flow of the site. Some will be just one post, while others will be a bit longer. Some will be done in the traditional Trickster-TAG style, while others may shake the format up. As extra posts, Missed Classics won't be published as regularly as posts on games from the official list.
Companion Assist Points
Trickster invented Companion Assist Points or CAPs as a way to reward commenters for all the help they gave him while trying to get the old games to work. Over the years, more and more ways to earn CAPs were introduced. Here are some of the most common ways to get CAPs:
- Playing a game from the official playing list and blogging about it: 100 CAPs
- Playing a Missed Classic and blogging about it: 50 CAPs
- Playing a game being blogged with the reviewer: At most 25 CAPs (the actual amount of CAPs might be less, if the game is easy)
- Giving clearly marked (and separate) hint and spoiler that directly relate to a Request for Assistance, coded in ROT13: 20 CAPs
- Filling in The Adventure Gamer “What’s Your Story?” questionnaire with the intention of responses being shared with the community. Points will be attributed at the time of the post, not the time of the questionnaire completion: 20 CAPs
- Assisting the reviewers with any technical challenges they face while attempting to play a game: 10 CAPs
- Contributing suggestions and ideas for ways to improve or build on The Adventure Gamer blog site: 10 CAPs
- Correctly predicting the rating that the reviewers will give the game they are about to commence playing. These predictions are to be made on the Introduction post for the game, and must be in place prior to the first gameplay post for that game: 10 CAPs
- A reader can bet 10 of their current Companion Assist points that the player will require assistance to solve a particular puzzle in the game he is about to commence playing. These bets need to be placed on the game's introduction post, and must be in place prior to the first gameplay post. Once a reader has made a bet regarding a particular puzzle, no other reader can replicate that bet (so one bet per puzzle). Any bets must be made in ROT13. A player will receive 50 CAPs from a winning bet
The front page of TAG contains two boards: Companion Assist Leaderboard and TAG Active Reviewer Scoreboard. Companion Assist Leaderboard shows ten commenters with most CAPs, who are not on the TAG Active Reviewer Scoreboard. The Leaderboard is updated every time new CAPs have been assigned and it is possible to fall from the Leaderboard.
TAG Active Reviewer Scoreboard contains names of all persons who have been Active Reviewers during the existence of TAG - thus, Scoreboard has no fixed length. The position of the reviewer on the board depends on the number of games reviewed (Missed Classics are valued half of Main Games).
In addition to the number of the games reviewed, Scoreboard shows years of Active Reviewer service and possible Guest Reviews. Active Reviewer service begins at once when a reviewer has reviewed or at least has committed to reviewing at least two games (Main Games or Missed Classics) during a gaming year (exception is made for year 1990, when the blog changed hands from Trickster to TAG community - Active Reviewers of 1991, who played their first game in 1990, are considered to have started their Active Reviewer service in 1990). Active Reviewer service stops either a) when the reviewer asks for it or b) when the reviewer hasn't reviewed any game during three consecutive gaming years.
A reviewer who has stopped Active Reviewer service can begin Active Reviewer service again later. A reviewer is considered to have done Guest Review, when they are not Active Reviewers and they have reviewed only this one game during a gaming year.
Can I be a TAG Reviewer?
Playing and blogging isn’t all fun and games, but requires strict discipline - it takes commitment to provide readers with a steady flow of posts. Thus, while we are willing to accept new reviewers, we would advise wanna-be reviewers at first to consider whether they really have the time and energy.
If you would still like to apply for a position as a TAG reviewer, we recommend you’d at first practice with a Missed Classic. Pick a game we haven’t played and send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; we’ll give you further instructions how to write a review.