Adventure games monologues

Avoiding some hidden traps

The point and click graphic adventures are without any doubt one of the more attractive genres, at least to play with a mouse, a keyboard or a touch screen.

Is also true that doesn’t require any specific and complex knowledge at the time of play or to create an engine to make it work. Although in the recent times some mutations have arised, adding some extra mechanism from other action video games, but for the most part you just need one solid system to handle the dialogue, a inventory mechanism, a half robust pathfinding algorithm and you´re almost set.

So is very tempting for the beginner to handle one the this open source engines such as the good ´n´oldies AGS or Wintermute, maybe buy a license of  Visionaire Studio or, even better, try the new and wonderful Bladecoder Engine to remember you that there´s plenty of free tools at the reach of everyone, make unworthy the investment of a paid software.

But this is just the beginning.

Usually the graphics adventures don’t require complicated state machines to handle the characters and make them punish themselves mixing combos out of this world or developing complex AI systems to do some funny stuff, however is important not to fool yourselves.

The public that likes this kind of genres is very demanding! They look for good stories, they take notice of the graphics design and is not easily aroused by anything. The shadow of a certain pirate apprentice from the ´90s  and the awesome adventures in an insane Mansion will still be very important when making comparisons.

One of the first advice that I struggle to accept during the development time of  Sol705 was the one related with the voices.
I thought that with interesting dialogues will be enough. Soon I realize that the characters win a lot when a good voice over actor give them a full personality. Is day and Night!
We must not forget the little adventures that are not use to reading big chunks of text, making the situations more comfortably when a character “tells them” what is going on or what is suppose to be doing instead of losing interest in the game or bothering the nearest adult in the middle of their Netflix Weekend Marathon every two minutes!

 

In my point of view the voice over is very important, more important that the decorations or the minor characters. The same premise is valid for the music, period.

Another point to keep in mind is that graphics adventures demand a series of long script with several options of questions and answers in each dialogue, lots of descriptions of objects and situations that can become easily hard to handle. Not only each of the lines should be recorded for each character, but also need to be translated at least in three or four extra languages if you want to reach a bigger audience, so that´s an insane quantity of work!

At this point I would like to make clear that this a matter of personal taste and nothing is written in stone. The super fun graphic adventure created by a friend The revenge of Johhny Bonasera–  doesn’t have any voices and is a big hit, getting hundreds of downloads every day around the world.

To conclude, is in each one of us to find the middle point that will also satisfy us in the creative way. Making a game is complicated, long and expensive and it could even become boring for long moments… so is very important to feel that you are looking to the horizon you’ve visualised and…paradoxically…have fun!

 

Sol705 how to avoid hidden problems

Sol705 how to avoid hidden problems

 

Doing a point & click, is the easiest way to take out the ich of making your own game?

From the moment I bought my first computer, well… being honest… since my parents bought my first computer… not quite… the moment my father bought his first programmable calculator in the mid eighties, the need to make a video game (that’s what its was called back then) were massive.

Several decades later, with careers in design and computer not completed, and three kids than for better or worse have not shown any kind of passion for somewhat of coding, here I am writing some lines about how this graphic adventure came to my mind.

My first tries were platform games. Those about jumping, opening doors and avoiding obstacles such as so many memorable examples that the old computers have left for us in the old days The memories that I have about the TI 994A are not that fond, because you had to program all in Basic with a bad interpreter that did not highlighted on its speed (even in human time) or its hideous cartridge to program in assembler that fortunately came too late.

Those were dizzy times and soon even the realm of the multi color Spectrum had succumbed with humiliation under the power of the Commodore 64, all of them finally annihilated by a ruthless horde of lonely but determined Amiga 500.

Speedy Babosa, my first try of game, was a kind of adventurer worm for the C64 and I was very proud of myself, most of all because in order to save memory I programed a routine to switch the way of the pixels in a kind of mirror effect. Something that nowadays even the e-cigarettes should do, but for that time it was pretty ingenious.

Also from those remotes years was something like an arcade that consisted in a handful of ensemble routines, a block of code to move a small ship on the screen and another one to detect the collision with enemy fire. The collisions didn’t work that well but the game honored one of the animated series that impact me the most after Captain Harlock and Speed Racer.

Was the first unlicensed version of Robotech on record and even some hackers from who knows were took the time to hack it and add one of those beautiful animated intros, and to be honest, it was more fun and it was better programed that my own game.

Paradoxically the consoles world didn’t call my attention once the glorious days of those magic cartridges of Atari were no more. With the consoles you could only play and in my point of view it was not fun… I skipped the Nintendo, the Family Game, the NeoGeo and several generations of this kind of hardware. Against my will I open the door to the PS1 and even though I was seduced by the next generations of this machines the romance towards them was drastically diminish. My financial  possibilities and my technical knowledge made it impossible for me to develop software to this consoles, it was a wall difficult to climb.

Developing Sol705 with Blade engine

Developing Sol705 with Blade engine

Luckily my vengeance arrives in the way of smartphones, where little by little the big titles of my teenage years and youth were slowly coming back to life. Is not a surprise that one of the genres that best adapted to this kind of devices (and mostly to my lack of reflects) were the graphic adventures. To play Monkey Island again (God Bless the person that thought of leaving the original gameplay  graphics option in that awful remake) or with Beneath a Steel Sky made my adventurous programmer heart beat and blaze with sacred fire, that was imprisoned dring so many years in the fortress of Mr. Bandai.

But, is creating from scratch my own graphic adventure the wise decision to get back on the ring? This is exactly the point of this series of notes and I trust that we will figure this out together!



Evolution of the main character

One huge concern was imagining an interesting character to fill the main role, the protagonist. Not only for the narrative, but also for the visual aspect.The story required to be told from a point of view of the misadventures of a fourteen year old student (or so) who may not have had the best time at school. I had a lot of movies in mind from the 80’s -that usually took place in typical american high schools – to which most of us didn’t go to, but nevertheless, seems very familiar- and at the same time, a lot of memories from my own school time, so, the idea was to make a mix between reality and fiction that could be universal enough to get the attention of the biggest possible audience.

Another important decision to make would be obviously his sex. For cost and time reasons I couldn’t afford to have two animated characters (a boy and a girl) for the player to choose from… so masculine or feminine, I was on the need of having at least 150 sprites (each sprite is a position of the character drawn by hand.

For example. walking to the right needs at least 8 sprites) that push me to have to take the good. From this point on the main character started to evolve little by little and soon enough it was clear that it was going to be a boy, but surprisingly his physical aspect was a little hard to develop. The story needed someone that looked like an antihero, not much athletic, clumsy in general, but at the same time with sharp and a acid way to look at the world.

My sister Lo Lang made some illustrations that were magnificent, but soon revealed to be complicated to take it into action. It was a long struggle, it took several month of trial and error. During that time we tried with different possibilities and various artists help me in that research. As situations started to develop I realize that my guy was missing something…the drawing were fluid and looked nice, but I wasn’t convince by the too-nerdy and loser look that had taken. With almost all the animations finished and of course, not to brag, I was feeling in the shoes of the director Bob Zemeckis, when he had to film back most of the scenes from Back to the Future because the original actor didn’t had the lead role he was looking for.

My main character had turned into the Eric Stoltz of the point and click… so one morning I sent to the recycle bin hundreds of sprites that were ready and started the search for another look for Meeno Estucco, even if it meant more hours of work and a big frustration feeling… And, believe me, that would not be the first of a lot of similar situations. As I was discovering that making games is not a pie!

A bit of natural evolution

A bit of natural evolution

Fortunately it was the right decision to make: some days later the new designs for Meeno were capturing the real essence of the character, the attitude and the movements I wanted to see on the screen. Everything was rocking on and..it was then when i remember that i needed two versions of the character, one with school uniform and another with daily clothes. And as they said said in the old days, it was time to go back to the drawing board!



Searching for some inspiration

It’s been quite some time since I started writing some loose ideas in my brand new notebook (now crammed with drawings, post-its, strikethrough text, coffee and mate stains) on a very fun concept for a game in the style of those coming out in the beginning of the ’90s.

Even though I knew for a fact what kind of game I wanted to create, the setting for it was the most difficult part.

Do I want a futuristic game? An investigation oriented one? Lovecraftians adventures? All the games genre seemed to have been exploited already and well explored by the classics of LucasfilmsSierra and Delphine Software hence, it was a tough call. Pictures scenarios not used by these classics was just as difficult and risky…The truth is, all this came to me while I was vacationing on the beach and it’s impossible for me to think of vacations without sand in my toes and a really good book and they have both influenced the game in a very obvious way.

Of course, what I probably meant when I said, “good book” is not what people might actually consider fine reading. In my case, I make sure to never lock my bags until I managed to put inside a couple of sci-fi novels from Editorial Minotauro which I’ve read a gazillion times or at least one issue of those silver lined blue books every apanish-speaking nerd have come to love. It is a given that also a stack of the magazines I used to read as a pre-adolescent are packed as well. The superguys of Editorial Novaro were only to be found in the used-books stores in the Coast, those sacred sanctuaries that made the awful rainy days better than the sunniest ones by the Atlantic Ocean.

 

I’m talking about the argentinian magazines that would draw us like real magnet to the stands to get them. The mothership of them being Lúpin magazine with its unconventional characters, blueprints to create ultra-mechanic devices and their summer material which was the equivalent to the Porky’s movies to a not so chill out public.

With all these memories in my head and some other unforgettable comics my sister used to draw with characters based on our friends or school mates from the very first grades, I decided that adding soundtrack to the equitation, I could achieve a universe interesting and retro enough to make up a potential graphic adventure. I wanted to show in this game those times when nobody knew anything about anything, where oblivion was the absolute king. Where news reached our country with a one-year delay and it was almost impossible to double-check data. We didn’t know what was airing on TV outside our country… especially in those close-minded small towns.

Taking notes for some ambiance!

Taking notes for some ambiance!

We are talking about times where desktop computers didn’t even exist. Times when only a few had phones and technicolor televisions where a sci-fi concept that seemed doomed to fail!