But the 21st century hasn’t been too kind to the adventure game, relegating them to the sidelines and rarely giving fans new releases. Someone who was also dissatisfied by this was Tim Schafer, the LucasArts veteran who had a hand in the previously mentioned classic games.
In 2014, Schafer and his studio Double Fine gave adventure game fans a new experience to dive into with Broken Age: Act 1. Ten years later, Broken Age stands as a monumental moment in gaming for showing how beloved genres could be revived outside of the traditional publishing system.
The story of Broken Age starts long before its release. It starts in February of 2012, with the announcement of a Kickstarter for what was then-titled Double Fine Adventure. The pitch from Double Fine was simple: we want to make adventure games and we think you want to play them, let’s make it happen together.
Despite Double Fine’s respected catalog of games and Schafer’s work on LucasArts adventure titles, Schafer shared that crowd-funding was the only path forward for Double Fine Adventure.
“If I were to go to a publisher right now and pitch an adventure game, they'd laugh in my face," Schafer said, in the announcement of the project.
With that, Schafer and Double Fine put trust in the players that there was still a desire for a classic adventure game, launching a Kickstarter for the project on February 8. The project was fully funded in less than twelve hours. By the end of the Kickstarter, Double Fine Adventure had raised over three million dollars. The original goal was $400,000.
This was one of the first high-profile crowd-funded games. After the successful campaign of what would become Broken Age, many more games that would not have found life without support from fans have come into existence. That includes Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Shovel Knight, and Hollow Knight to name a few.
Of course, Broken Age’s immediate Kickstarter success did not go entirely as planned. The game eventually grew in scale to the point Double Fine announced the project was not only delayed but would be released in two separate parts. Which did not make a lot of fans happy.
Ten years ago, Broken Age: Act 1 was released to critical and fan acclaim.
Broken Age delivered what it set out to do by offering players an entirely new and modern riff on the classic adventure game. Broken Age: Act 1 is full of sharp funny writing, which gets the added benefit of the game’s dual protagonists Shay and Vella having great voices in Elijah Wood and Masasa Moyo respectively. But the core of an adventure game is the exploration and puzzles, which Broken Age again pulls off with incredible success. The entirety of the game’s puzzles and the world lived inside a stunning aesthetic that still feels unique.
Act 2 was released in 2015, completing the game. While Act 2 was met with a more mixed response, the overarching accomplishment of a quality adventure game is incredible. Since Broken Age, new adventure games have come out, such as The Return to Monkey Island. Still, the genre will never reach the height of the 90s.
The more lasting impact Broken Age had on the games industry was to show that the traditional publisher system did not have to be the only way. There is an audience for almost every type of genre, even those that publishers no longer want to invest in, and yes, that means more adventure games.