I remember -- being a sappy, hopeless romantic -- crying at 'Girl in the Tower' when I played 'Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow', and being stunned at having a recorded vocal in a game back in 1992, and cheering as Prince Alexander triumphed over all the trials to find true love. I remember happily playing my way through my beloved Quest for Glory series. I remember laughing my way through the Space Quest games with my father, who always insisted on coming down and playing the latest Roger Wilco adventure with me as a duo. I remember the Laura Bow, Archaeologist series -- c'mon, look at Dagger of Amon-Ra, and tell me Lara Croft doesn't /wish/ she could be Laura Bow. I remember being stunned by David Henry's ability to make the a MIDI file sound so emotional, in the soundtrack for Betrayal at Antara. I remember laughing and periodically throwing things as I tried to work my way through Willy Beamish.
Whatever happened? I think the last true 'Sierra game' in the old tradition to see success was Torin's Passage, back in 1995/96; King's Quest 8, in 1998, never really succeeded, nor did it really bear a resemblance to earlier Sierra games. Lucasarts' final SCUMM style game (Zak McCracken, Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island stuff, etc.) was around the same time, I believe, though they've since done more with good old Guybrush Threepwood and his piratical adventures. Westwood Studios brought the wonderful Legend of Kyrandia series to a close in 1994. I think really the release of Quake in 1996 changed the face of the games industry.
Sure, we still have some good adventure games these days -- Squaresoft still knows how to make some good, stunning RPGs, and we have some developers who've done stuff like The Longest Journey which harkens back to that, and as I mentioned, there are a few hangers-on like the Monkey Island games -- but really the majority of 'adventure' games are action games with some plot grafted in these days, and the majority of RPGs are MMORPGs, relying on other players to provide interaction instead of writing a story.
Maybe it's just me, but I think games these days are far more focused on glitz than content. I think it's a lot of why I was dissatisfied when I worked in the games industry...if you don't have glitzy screenshots, you don't have a lot of hope of marketing the game. So all the money, time and effort goes into making the game look pretty...and when it's done, you don't have the time and resources to make a really good branching plot and puzzle storyline like the old games had.
And for all that I love FFX, and for all that I think stuff like FFXI (Final Fantasy Online) and Star Wars Galaxies are cool... I really think I kind of miss the games where the plot and writing had to carry it, because the graphics alone couldn't. And it's not just this one genre.
Honestly, there have been plenty of science fiction shoot-em-up's... but how many really match 'Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters' (which was released freely as source code by the creators a while ago and has now been ported to Windows, MacOS X, and Linux! Grab it!) for sheer engrossing and fun plot ("Don't forget to enjoy the sauce!"), or simple but addictive gameplay? I think I discussed this with agermain at one point. :)
How many games today really make you think through a storyline like the old Sierra stuff used to? How many games still have moments where the writing alone can bring across emotion, like when poor Brandon sees his grandfather turned to stone...all but for his eyes, so that he's left free to weep silently for the fate of Kyrandia?
Maybe that's why I prefer MU*ing to most video games these days. Not just the interactivity, but the sense of telling a story. When I play a character on a MUSH, it's a little like those games again. I can be the Hero on my quest for glory, or I can be Torin looking for his destiny, or Brandon working to save Kyrandia. I can have a storyline other than just little bits to tie together cutscenes.
Eh. Maybe it's just the beginnings of this fever getting to me; I'm going to go try and sleep again. But I suddenly feel an urge to dig up my old Sierra games and play 'em again. To deal with the Software Pirates of Pestulon, or take on the role of one of the Daventry royal family...
Sure, all the games had their flaws. KQ6, for all that I love the sappy romance aspect, was at heart a 'rescue the princess story'. Kyrandia had some very cliche characters. But the thing was... they made you care about them. Sure, KQ6 was sappy...but we'd seen Alexander's parents get together, we'd seen his family struggle through trials, and now we were seeing little Alexander, all grown up, go off to find true love... how could we not care?
Ah, well. Nostalgia can be fun.