[EDITOR'S NOTE: Jozef Purdes, late of the Independent Adventuring blog, and DIY Games before that, will be writing a column for us on graphical/text adventures in the future - but in the meantime, he'll pop up from time to time with well-informed posts on adventure games such as this one!]

Christopher Brendel, the maker of Lifestream and Shady Brook, has recently announced a delay in his new game, Stonewall Penitentiary. Aside of the fact that independent games are not often delayed (actually, they may be, but since most of them have a “When it’s done” release date, nobody notices), it was surprising to learn the reason for the delay: a switch from 2D to 3D.

2D and 3D are very vague concepts in adventure gaming, and some – including me – don’t fully agree with Brendel’s definition of the terms. Originally, the game was designed to support a first-person view. To move around, you used the arrow keys or clicked with your mouse when the cursor changed into a directional arrow. The scene was redrawn, and you suddenly found yourself elsewhere. This interface was used in the author’s previous two games, as well as such independent adventures like Dark Fall and the Delaware St. John series. Brendel considers this to be a 2D view.

After applying the new 3D engine, the player will be able to move freely around the environment, also in a first-person look. This interface is typical for modern first-person shooters, and it combines mouse and keyboard controls. I personally would call both views 3D or - more appropriately - first-person, and leave the number of dimensions out. But that’s just me; I considered Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder to be 3D as well…

Brendel paid close attention to alleviating adventure gamers’ biggest fear: that with the change of the interface he’d also introduce action elements. There are still plenty of adventure gamers, such as me, who prefer solving complex mathematical puzzles involving Base-4 and Base-12 alien numerical systems to fighting a dragon in a real-time sequence. The author also wrote that he didn’t feel the game felt right with the old interface. This is an author’s prerogative, and I fully respect it.

The announcement provoked some interesting reactions. The loudest response was a complaint about using both hands to play an adventure game. I feel the pain, too. Being able to eat a hotdog or hold a glass of beer while attaching cat hair to my character’s face in a game is vastly superior to a seamless first-person world. Others compared the new interface to that used in Dreamfall, and this was reason enough for them to reject the game. On the other hand, the ability to fully explore the environment was listed as a positive element.

I personally see the new interface as a mixed blessing. I don’t mind involving both of my hands in controlling the game. However, I am afraid the game’s graphical presentation will suffer. Using a seamless view means no hand-drawn backgrounds. Typically, this view requires computer-generated textures, even though hand-drawn (and repetitive) textures are also common. Still, keeping to reasonable hardware requirements may force the author to design objects and backgrounds to appear very flat and unrealistic. The good news is, as was mentioned by others, that this interface would allow players to explore the environment in a much larger detail. Considering that the game takes place in a prison, I can already imagine finding important clues and items under the bed or on the back side of a poster. That is, of course, as long as the author decides to remain family friendly and doesn’t hide these items in the prisoners’ orifices.