Adventures made easier
After several years of playing adventure games I was convinced that writing one would be simple. The result, maybe not up to top standard at first, would definitely be better than most.
However there was one drawback, I can't produce more than an elementary Basic program so it looked like my adventure writing flights of fancy would not amount to much at all. Even worse, I prefer graphic adventures and the idea of working one out pixel by pixel rather cramped my style.
So it was with eager hands that I grabbed the opportunity to review the Graphic Adventure Creator (GAC) from Incentive. It comes with a sample adventure which shows offthe graphics capability and makes you dream of becoming Leonardo overnight. The pictures are well worth studying for hints to get the best from the system.
One problem which I hadn't realised from the sample pictures, but which became apparent when I tried drawing my first picture, was that you can only use four colours. You can choose which you want in any one screen, and can mix them to get a range of effects.
The graphics editor is reasonably easy to use, particularly if you've used other graphics packages. There are commands for drawing rectangles or circles as well as the usual lines and dots. The fill routines are quick and are better than some others I have used.
One interesting feature is a "merge pictures" option. This was used very nicely in the sample to get an elaborate border on each frame, coloured according to the pallette chosen.
The part that ties everything together is the adventure creator. Here you can write the gripping text to accompany your works of art, as well as all the messages and other little touches which make an enjoyable game.
The difficulty comes in making it all do what you want. I found the adventure creator as powerful as any other adventure writing package, more so in places, but I was glad I'd seen the others first so that I could understand the manual.
Admittedly I'd been spoilt with a adventure writing program on the Apple. The manual led you keypress by keypress through writing an adventure, explaining as it went. The BBC Micro version of the Quill doesn't do this, nor does GAC and I found the manuals for both hard to follow from cold.
One section I found particularly difficult to get used to was the conditions section where you give the program instructions on how to interpret the player's actions. Unlike the Quill, GAC uses a much more formal system which uses brackets, mathematical symbols and numerical values for the verbs and nouns. The end result is every bit as good, but I feeleasier with a system that approximates to English.
On a more positive note, GAC has a very good parser, betterthan the Quill's. Your finished program will easily cope with inputs like "get the frog, kiss it, throw it in the pond then run quickly".
The parser does not truncate words, so you can use drag and dragon or have your hero eating saveloy without the programs assuming you want to save the game each time.
When you've written something you can play test it by simply pressing Return at the main menu. There's even a diagnostic section to tell you when an error occurs - like trying to move to a non-existent room. An easy-to-use print option means that you can see your complete database at a glance in order to plan the change entries.
At the end, when you've tested and modified to your heart's content, the game can be saved as a runnable adventure to disc or tape. The result can be sold withoutseeking permission from the authors of GAC, provided acknow ledgement is made.
Finally, I suppose I ought to say how easy it is to write a graphic adventure game. Well it isn't. However the fault isn't with the program but in the process.
Writing an adventure game is a complicated business and doesn't stop after you've drafted out your map of locations and thought about the plot. You have to consider all the objects in the game, like keys and jewels, as well as anticipating what the players are going to try and do.
Using a program like Graphics Adventure Creator brings home all the complexity of adventure writing. I definitely wouldn't ever like to try writing one without an aid like this.
However with GAC I did write an adventure. It is six locations long with four objects to get and use. It took me an evening to draw the pictures and another couple of evenings to input all the data.
The game is hardly a threat to the Level 9 team, in fact I wouldn't show it to anyone, but it works. There's a great satisfaction in playing an adventure you've created, and the speed of the program and efficiency of the graphics give even my humble effort an air of professionalism. I look forward to seeing some of the new games writers who will take this program and give us some good graphic adventures to play.
After all, anyone can write an adventure...can't they?