Working on Adventure Game Studio

on Aug 5th, 2016 at 17:57

One day at the end of 2015, I asked myself : “Is it possible for me, simple human, to create a point-&-click adventure game?”, I had ideas for a nice and funny story, but did I have what it takes for the technical part? So I googled something like adventure game engine to find a RPG Maker-like but for point-&-click games and I found out that some pretty neat games were done using variety of these engines. Two of them caught my attention : Adventure Game Studio and Visionaire Studio. Why? Well, Daedelic Entertainment (Deponia, Memoria) uses Visionaire Studio, while Wadjet Eyes Games (Blackwell, Resonance, Gemini Rue) uses Adventure Game Studio (AGS), so there's definitely a professional touch that I was looking for.
AGS was the first one I looked at. After reading some stuff on it, different comments from users, I found myself watching tutorial videos on it and I was like : “That seems awesome! Easy, intuitive and with the possibility to do some complex stuff too, let's try it!” and here I was, testing the software with the sprites included, doing some scripting without too much difficulties. I tried out adding my own sprites to see how it was.

Here is good ol' Calvin, when the game was supposed to be in 320x200.

AGS had one big flaw at this time: Maximum resolution was 640x480. Backgrounds were definitely not easy to draw and to colorize with squares everywhere. Creating the right nuance especially.

First and last screenshot of this test game with my own art.

Pixel-art may seem easy, but it's not, and scanning my drawings and redrawing them on my computer was not enough. So I tried to draw Calvin for a bigger resolution. 640x480 here I am.

Meh, there's a different direction for sure, but I was not pleased with it.

It was like doing pixel-art again actually, but in a more complicated way. And it's another feeling. I felt like having too many and not enough pixels to play with. A weird inbetween. So HD maybe. But I can't do it in AGS. Look for another software mate, Visionaire maybe? Yeah maybe. I just had a quick look at it (and it felt like a excellent engine too, not free though) because AGS made a very good impression to me, I decided to search in the AGS forums if HD resolutions were a possibility, and it was!... since mid-2014. The 3.4 was in development (a long one) with lot of new features, including custom resolutions (so yes HD, and smartphone-like resolutions too). So until the release of an enoughly stable version, I was drawing, writing, trying a lot of different stuff to find where I feel confortable. And suddenly (well not really, I was waiting for it) the beta 1 of the 3.4 made its entrance. Time to code!

So far, it's been mostly a pleasure to use AGS 3.4. The main difficulty is, in my opinion, customizing the main mechanics, cause there is a lot of built-in functions that simplify the process and sometimes you need something else, something more and you can't change it at the source, you have to code a completely new function for that.
The perfect example in my fresh experience is the “Say” function. “Say” allows to have a text displayed over the head of the character (with or without an outline) or in a text window made for it with a portrait of the character appearing on defined places. If you want something else, you need to create a custom Say function that is NOT a modified version of it, but something else. I gave up the Phylactere module (didn't find the way to have correct voice with it) and chose to have a custom “Speak” function that uses the “Say” function inside of it only to estimate the length of the sentence or add the voice if there's one. I didn't find any way to do the trick differently and by this decision, one marvelous option becomes useless: the option to create automatically a voice acting script. Oh man, I'm gonna miss this one.
So, since the last post, the major advancement is that voices are working perfectly and the Dialog System, notably the multiple choices, too (and this one wasn't easy, I spent ~6 hours to smash a little bug). The first part of the Prologue is mostly done, the second part (the tutorial one) too, the third and fourth part, not yet. Yeah it takes time huh. :) Here's a little peek on the first part :

Yes, Calvin is tied up to this chair at the beginning of the game.

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