Making Games with Real Historical Events Tutorial

 

 

Introduction. A part of the charm of games such as the “Gabriel knight” trilogy and Broken Sword one is undoubtedly their historical value – even after finishing the game you could open a big book and read all about it. With this tutorial I will try to make it easier for you to write such plot.
            Step one. Choose a historical even or a mystery to base the plot upon. Such examples are: The man in the iron mask, the Rennes-le-Chateau enigma, any king’s illegitimate sons, the last words of Charles I Stewart (“Remember!”)… It can be practically anything. After choosing the event, go to the local library and get a book on it. Read it thoroughly, and carefully watch for things that may tie with your plot. Note that this is most of the research you’ll do during the writing of the plot, so do not underestimate it.
        Step two. Sketching the plot outline. Decide whether it will be a modern day mystery (like Gabriel Knight) or a historical game (like touché, although it is not a good example of a historical game at all). If you choose the first one, read on. Make your own theory of the mystery or read someone else’s. Note that you will be using this one in the game. For example, the man in the iron mask was an illegitimate son of Anne of Austria and duke de Buckingham. Or a twin brother of Louis XIV, but that is way too worn off.
Note: if you choose the plot to be a modern-day mystery, you should also think of a simultaneous modern-day plot along with the historical one. The sad situation, in which the protagonist may be, may add to his character.

 

 

Day one

Day two

Day three

 


        Tip: the more unknown the historical mystery/event is, the more you may speculate about it and the less precise you’ve got to be.

Develop your main character; decide his qualities, positive and negative sides. Make sure he has motivation to solve the mystery. Divide the game into time-blocks (doesn’t really matter how long, they are just for the developing phase) and make sure that the historical information is slowly but steadily given to the player.

Note: Do not make a history lesson out of the game. It is a good idea to have texts and additional information in the game as optional reading materials, as in Gabriel Knight 3.

Step Three. Making the plot more detailed. After completing the story outline, you should add more depth to the plot. I suggest you make a table much like the illustration with columns for the time blocks and rows for the main characters and the historical content given to the player. You should also make note of the protagonist’s attitude towards other characters and the way it changes throughout the game.

Step Four. Puzzle design and dialogues. After completing the hardest part, turn comes to the puzzles and dialogues. In a mystery game the dialogues should be a large percent of the puzzles themselves. As for other puzzles, you may choose whatever you wish, but a piece of advice: in a plot driven adventure game never, ever let the puzzles go in front of the story. They should be made easy and logical enough for the player to solve without much trouble. Another good idea of having harder puzzles is the “optional puzzles” design that appears in Gabriel Knight 3. In it, the player has some vital to the progress puzzles and some optional ones, solving which he will be rewarded by more light on the mystery, a cut-scene or both. Please, don’t include any too clichéd puzzles like the “put paper under door in order to get key” ones, if you can’t think of a coherent puzzle, just leave it for later or let the player progress with the story. As for dialogues, try to think what would the character say and the manner of how would he say it (it is not very probable that a boxer would talk like a physics professor, is it?). Then write what you think. Make most of the dialogs interactive, even if there isn’t much difference in what the protagonist will say – it is better to have the feeling that you can reflect on the plot rather than just watch.

Step Five(optional). After completing the design document, you could write a short novel using your plot and then ask a friend of yours to read it, so that he can point out weaker plot points etc.

This is pretty much it, now all I wanted to say but did not find the place for in this article I have written in the tips section below.

This tutorial is still valid for other sciences, although I have not seen a biology or physics adventure yet – but who knows? You may be the first one to make one.

Make sure that this is an adventure game, i.e. make the player a bit frightened at moments as in Gabriel Knight games.

Make sure that the historical mystery the player character solves has some connection with modern days.

If one protagonist enough – you can have two or more as in “The beast within”.

Place yourself in the player’s shoes and think about his motivations for completing the game. If they are not revealing the mystery, rethink your plot.

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Does AGS have what it takes to create a fully commercial effort?

These days, with the new versions of AGS becoming more and more powerful, comes the question: “Is it powerful enough for a commercial effort?” The answer to this question cannot be concrete, but in my opinion is ‘yes’. Lets now have a brief look at what the limitations of AGS are, tech-wise:

       15000 sprites

          400 views

          40 GUIs

          300 inventory items

          150 characters

          500 interactive dialogs

          Resolution up to 800*600

          Colour depth up to 32 bit

It is obvious that hardly has any adventure game any features over these. Except the resolution, of course, but we don’t see much 2D adventure games using higher resolutions anyway – the only one I can think of is Runaway.

            The only semi-commercial game made with AGS thus far is “The adventures of Fatman”, a game that honestly, did not use all of the capabilities of AGS. However, it sold around 400 copies, a number not bad at all for an adventure that wouldn’t have been considered that good even in early 90s. But such is not the topic. The topic is whether a modern adventure like “The Black Mirror”, “Syberia” or “Runaway” can be made with AGS. Recently I played through the first one with this purpose. I examined every thing and thought how it may be done in AGS. And guess what. There is nothing that cannot be done in AGS. At times, I even had the feeling that the creators from “Unknown identity” were using the Rain/Snow plug-in! It used pre-rendered 3D backgrounds, pseudo 3D characters which were downgraded to 2D and AVIs for cutscenes with moving camera and other things that could not be done with the game’s engine.

            Now comes the other question. Is there anyone who is capable of pushing AGS to its limits? The answer to this one is without a shadow of doubt ‘yes’. The single game that will use the 800*600 resolution and the 32 bit colour depth thus far is Jimmy Jam, and I must say that it looks at almost Runaway quality, which I consider to be the maximum of 2D art. And although it will be freeware, it would surely sell. Other is the matter that graphics do not make the game and a professionalist has to take care of every component in a commercial game.

            As for profit, Mike Doak said that he made modest profit from “The adventures of Fatman”; enough to cover his expenses on the game and have some money to spend. You have to bear in mind though, that this game was not that good and received grades around 60-65% from gaming magazines. If someone makes a really good and modern game with AGS, like “The black mirror”, it would sell around 20000 copies without much advertising (maybe just posting links on forums etc). With such however, the number of copies sold could drastically increase – Runaway, for example, has sold around half a million copies to this day, bearing in mind that it has not yet been published in all countries.

            At the end of the day, if you’re looking for an engine to make your commercial game with, you can look no further – AGS is the one for you. If you and your team have the qualities needed to make a kickass game, please do!

JP and Cosmo: A Friend Indeed Review

 

            Introduction. “JP and Cosmo: A Friend Indeed” is the first game by Darth Mandarb, and the first AGS games using an isometric perspective. Let’s now take a look at the pros and cons of this unique title.

            Plot. The end of the world is near. JP has very little time to go to the bombing shelter of his friend Cosmo in an effort to save his life. But things aren’t as simple as JP has thought… Oh the whole, the plot is rather clichéd, although it keeps you playing till the end.

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            Graphics. As I aforementioned, the perspective of “JP and Cosmo” is isometric. The backgrounds are immensely detailed; the style reminds one of console RPGs. There is also a fair amount of animation throughout the game so you’ll surely have something to look at. Put simply, the graphics of “JP and Cosmo” are of professional quality and look stunning.

            Sound. On the contrary, the music and sound disappoint. The only music throughout the game is a midi version of a popular 80s song by Phil Collins, and the sound effects are few and far between. It is a pity, for the audio may have contributed to make a very fine atmosphere.

            Gameplay. The gameplay of this game is controversial. The good parts are logical puzzles, which also have alternate solutions and a really classy feature – the walls of the rooms become transparent when the protagonist is in them. On the other hand, the gameplay is really short – just about 10-15 minutes. The interface isn’t that good either, and the level of interaction with the greatly detailed environment is minimal. On the scales, much more could have been done in the gameplay department.

 

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            Conclusion. “JP and Cosmo: A friend indeed” is a game worth playing. It is innovative, and it looks sweet. Don’t let its few flaws take away the fun it brings.

 

 

JP and Cosmo: A friend indeed

Created by: Darth Mandarb

Download from here

AGS Ezine score:

72%

Pirate Fry II: The Hand of Anturus Review

Introducion. “Pirate fry” was one of the very first AGS games released. A month or so ago, its sequel and prequel to “Pirate Fry III” was released. Let’s now take a look at the pros and cons of this game.

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            Plot. After getting his pirate permission, Fry feels something is fishy – his new boss killed the old one and sent him on a mission to acquire the “Hand of Anturus”. On the whole, the plot isn’t anything that good but it is enough to keep you playing till the very end.

            Graphics. Visually, this game is good, although not excellent. While Squinky’s style may be a bit too sharp for some (including me), it sure is cartoony and sets the game mood well enough. The animations, on the contrary are few and far between. The two walking views don’t contribute to the swashbuckling mood too. At the end of the day, the graphics of “Pirate fry 2” provide the needed atmosphere with simple enough means.

            Sound. Sonically, this game is better than most freeware ones out there. It includes a MIDI soundtrack composed and arranged by Trapezoid, one of the people that know what are they doing and how they want to do it. The tracks are while few, catchy and funky. As for sound effects though, I cant say such good words – they are far too few. To sum it up, the lack of sound effects isn’t felt thanks to the cool music.

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            Gameplay. This is maybe the most controversial part of “Pirate fry 2” is its gameplay. The GUI is similar to the sierra one, but it is rather inconvenient, for whenever you need to open the inventory window you should open the save/load menu first. The puzzles are almost all logical, but some of them are unneededly violent. Last but not least is the humor – maybe the best part of the whole game – it drives the swashbuckling mood to the maximum.

            Conclusion. “Pirate Fry II: The hand of Anturus” is an enjoyable title. While not the best game ever released, it does have something to show. If you have the time and love pirates, give it a try.

Pirate Fry 2: the Hand of Anturus

Creator: Squinky

Download from here

AGS Ezine score:

67%

Donna: Avenger of Blood Preview

Not so often do we see stories in AGS games written by… professional writers. Yes, such is the case here. I have no choice but to leave you into Goldmund’s hands of what he has written about his forthcoming game, “Donna: Avenger of blood”.

            My real name is Blazej Dzikowski, I’m a 28-year old Polish writer. I’ve published a novel, several short stories and a number of articles in various magazines. I’ve got a Master’s degree in English Philology at the department of American Literature and currently I study at the Culture Studies Institute of Warsaw University.

I strongly believe that computer games have artistic potential, a view I explained in my MA thesis, which is known to some of the AGS forums members.

Donna: Avenger of Blood is my own exercise in this field. I’m trying to make a game which provides something more than entertainment. Nevertheless, this is my first step in the game design, and now I can see that I was unable to escape several small trivialities and some things in my game remain conventional.

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I’ve tried to write a story that isn’t another variation on the immortal subjects like “obtain the ingredients for a spell” and “defeat the evil sorceror”.

Basically, it’s a modern political-metaphysical thriller.

The main character of the game, Donna, is a vampire. By this I’ve tried to make the player realize what it is like to be an outcast, somebody hunted and deemed to be evil. It’s not like in this “Angel” series, where the main character is a vampire, but a good one, protecting humans from evil vampires. There’s no black and white in this story – although the game is in grayscale.

The subject of vampirism also enabled me to dwell on the subject of death, of how humans try to face it, or escape it. This is a subject in which I’m very interested. Donna asked a vampire, named Christian, to make her immortal, because she was always scared of death. After that, she and Christian fell in love with each other.

 

Christian is a member of some kind of mysterious organization (something like more active freemasonry) that ordered him to come on a mission to a nameless country in middle Europe. The country is deep in financial depression, and this allows a party of extreme right-wing politicians, National Conservative Reneissance, to gain power. Of course, there is a secret behind this party. Common people look for causes of their poverty and, in the sad tradition, the answers are: Jews. Foreigners. Atheists. Homosexuals.

Donna and Christian come to the country’s capital and they check in first at a seedy motel, and later on in Eldorado Hotel, which is closer to the city centre. Christian carries on his mission never explaining to Donna what the nature of this quest is.

One early morning a group of armed men break into their room. They kill Christian and shoot Donna, who falls down from the window, completely naked.

This is where the game begins.

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After escaping the chase and finding a place to hide from the sun, Donna decides to go on a quest of revenge – hence the title of the game.

She will find little friendly people and many enemies. She will discover the nature of Christian’s quest and try to fulfill it. She will enter a love relationship with a female journalist, who is trying to alarm her countrymen of dirty games in the country’s politics. She will face the mystery of the shadowroom. And she will get to know why somebody ordered to have Christian – and her – killed.

Avenger of Blood is a historical term I found in the Bible. When somebody was killed, a person from his/her family set on a quest to revenge this death and kill the murderer. The simplest form of justice. An Avenger of Blood was, of course, allowed to kill the suspected person, even if the relative’s death was caused by accident. The only way that a killer could escape the revenge was to hide in one of Cities of Refuge.

Donna borrows from several historical sources. One is, of course, the Bible. The second is the history of Ahnenerbe, which was a division of SS in Nazi Germany, occupied with studying the occult – like germanic runes, legend of atlantis, secrets of blood heritage etc.

 

The graphics consists of retouched photographs. One may think that it’s too easy to import photos as backgrounds, but as it is maybe less time-consuming than drawing your own, it’s still quite hard: I have to edit them, include necessary objects. Most backgrounds are animated. My girlfriend, Dominika, who is a photographer, helps me a lot with graphics edition and she also draws character animation frames for the game.

As character portraits are also made of retouched photos, we have quite a famous cast in this game: Donna is played by Erin O’Connor, a famous English model; we have also appearances from Noam Chomsky, dr.John Lilly, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Franka Potente.

I make my own music, using a Yamaha CS1x synthesizer, some edited animal samples and distorted vocals. You can download some samples from my promotional thread at agsforums.

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Please also check the trailer, available at:

http://www.astercity.net/~zuletagu/blazed/donna-trailer.zip

The GUI is very simple: Lucasgames derivative point-and-click.

8 modes: walk, pick up, use (object from inventory on another object or on a hotspot), look, operate, talk, hit and bite.

You have 2 inventories: one is items, the second one (accessible by clicking the toggle button) takes you to the “skills inventory”, including vampiric skills: charm, listen, read mind, strength. Those use up your blood, so you have to refuel every now and then.

There are some other guis, for example a computer screen, or a subway map. Also, you have to type-in several things, such as passwords, or other keywords, at some points in the game. Dialogues – just your standard multiple choice fare.

Hm… I think that’s all… and I’m 90% sure that the game will be available in the second half of 2004.

Interview with Rusalka Clarke

After the release of “Beyond Reality”, Yufster started working on a clo…. game inspired by “Grim Fandango”. The AGS Ezine now reveals it. Before I leave you to read the interview, I’ll say only that Misja van Laatum will make some of the graphics. And in case you don’t know he is also making the background art for “Fountain of Youth”.

Ezine: First, I thank you for accepting the invitation for the interview. Would you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Rusalka Clarke: Oh, you’re welcome, Dave. I mean, Vel. Well, I got measured today, and discovered I’m 5”7 1/2.

I weigh approximately 68 kg, and my body mass index varies from source to source

The first games I ever played (on the PC at least) were the old LucasArts adventures, the first of which was Monkey Island 1.

Ever since I’ve loved LucasArts (Until they cancelled S&M2, the bastards!) and it was Day of the Tentacle that first got me interested in the gaming industry.

Since I live in Ireland, it’s pretty far out from the rest of the world, especially the game design world.

But luckily, since my all-time favourite game designer, Tim Schafer, keeps us up to date with the Double Fine ACTION! news….

Ezine: You have an online journal. Do you have a diary in real life?

RC: Well, I used to, when I was between the age of 8 and 10. That’s because my parents forced me to.

I didn’t have much to write about. Most entries would go like this, “Got up. Went to school. Got back from school. Did Homework. Played outside. Started raining. Damn, Ireland. Played Monkey Island. I am stuck.”

But then they got bigger diaries and started making me fill out two entire pages a day, or else they’d beat me with an extension cord.

At the time I hated it, but at least it taught me one valuable skill; how to talk about nothing, non-stop.

Ezine: When did the idea of making games yourself first struck you?

RC: Right after I played Day of the Tentacle. That game was so amazing, you know. At the time especially, the graphics just seemed so awesome, and all of the voice acting (which was something new in games back then) was so brilliant.

I started trying to draw the characters out of it, and started getting the idea that I’d love to design characters for LucasArts. I was, I think, 9 or 10…

I didn’t really know HOW people got jobs in the gaming industry, but then one day I was playing… hmm… what game was it?

I think it was Fists of Fury or something… Or some Epic Megagames thing… at the end they had this thing saying how they were always looking for talented new artists or programmers.

And I drew a bunch of Dr Freds, put it in an envelope, and asked my mother to post it for me. She said she did, but I suspect she may have been lying.

(2nd double)RC: Oh wait, I totally misread that question. Making games MYSELF.

Well, all of the above and this much more: I started designing games on pieces of paper, and what they’d be like and such.

And then I found RPGmaker, but that gave me leprosy, so I moved over to AGS.

Ezine: What were your expectations about “Beyond reality” when you released it and did it fulfill them?

RC: Beyond Reality was for a school project mostly, and because I knew most of the students weren’t actually going to PLAY it, my primary concern was just to make something that could be walked through from beginning to end.

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But I also decided to release it on the AGS forums because it was, after all, a game, and I was proud of it and figured that it was gonna be awesome.

The school project involved SELLING the game, and while I was only selling it for a tiny sum of money, I didn’t want to get a lot of people from the AGS community involved because I’d have felt really guilty about not giving them money for it

And I was too lazy-assed to actually divide up all the profits and send them away to different corners of the earth.

So I tried to make this entire thing myself, and part of the time was taken up learning how to use AGS, and time just crept up on me and so it was released prematurely. Thanks to SSH and Petteri, it wasn’t THAT awful. I could have kept the AGS release until later, but I was truly sick of this game that I’d worked on all summer long, so I left it.

My expectations of it were a lot higher at the start of the project. It taught me a couple of valuable lessons.

First, never attempt a big project on your own. Because when you have people around you, helping, you won’t get sick of it, because there’s always something new to discuss or whatever, and because you won’t have this huge workload on your own shoulders all the time. And second, never, EVER agree to give people their money back if they can’t figure out how to install the game.

Ezine: So what si your new project about, plot-wise? Is it going to have a mature plot or more of a comedy one?

RC: Mature, definitely, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. There’s a couple of people around the AGS forums that I particularly want to ask to write for it.

Ezine: use the opportunity given.

RC: Er… what?

Oh… yes, exactly.

There’s one particular person that I’d love to write for it, but he’s already working on Puzzle Design and the Keyboard Interface, so maybe that’s too much. He’s quite resourceful. The plot is pretty much set in stone by now.

Basically, the protaganist is this young girl who lives in an oppressed country (Eira) which is ‘owned’ by this other, Bigger, Typically Evil, Bully-style country, (Elsra)

She’s all for freedom of Eira, and she’s part of this Covert Militia

At the very start of the story, though, the town where she lives (And the Covert Militia are mostly active) is targetted. The Elsrans have the names, address and details of all the Militia leaders, and so they go in to Reno to capture them.

Ami (the protagonist) escapes, but makes it her mission to rescue the captured Leaders. Along the way she meets this young Elsran soldier, Luca, and meets up with an old friend, Cale.

At first we’re shown a really narrow perception of the Elsrans, and we can almost believe that they’re this really evil nation. We see everything from Ami’s point of view. But as the story progresses, Ami (And hopefully the players) will come to understand that Elsra isn’t such a big, evil country… the Elsrans are just as oppressed as they are.

The story takes place over a number of years, (Grim Fandango!? What?!) and all I’ll say is that she doesn’t manage to rescue the leaders, and this story involves a colony on the Moon.

I think Ami’s primary concern, as time goes on in the story, changes from freeing Eira, to freeing Elsra and Eira both. Her opinions change drastically.

Ezine: Are those names thought of randomly?

RC: Nope! The entire idea originated from the story of Michael Collins, who was a young revolutionary in Ireland around the early 1900’s. He reinvented the IRA, which as you know, is a terrorist group. Back then, though, it was thought of much differently.

Ezine: Now, why is this game of yours going to use direct control?

RC: The Point n’ Click interface with adventure games, has been tried and tested. Sure, I could go for another point and click interface, but that wouldn’t be innovative in the least, and I think innovation is one of the most exciting things about Game Design. Plus, this game will have action sequences that would benefit more from Keyboard Control, and I don’t want the player constantly switching from Keyboard to Mouse. ShatteredSponge has developed an interface that’s in primitive stages yet, but it’s better than I could have hoped for even now. And it keeps getting better. It’s easy to use, natural to control. It could be very, very good. There’s a lot of prejudice against Keyboard Control, but I think it’s great, when done correctly. The game is also influenced by RPGs, and it’s a lot more action-orientated than a game such as, say, Monkey Island or DOTT. An action-orientated game controlled by a mouse would be… what’s that word Tim uses?… ‘Manky’.

Ezine: Will “Luna” feature a music and/or voice packs?

RC: Right, here’s the thing. I would *love* Luna to have a full voice pack. There’s a heck-a-lot of Dialogue, so it would be pretty sizable, but that’s not what bothers me. I’ll only have voices, if I can find the right people.The worst thing in the world is messy voice acting. As for music; I’d love … ah, what’s that stuff they used for Pleughburger?XM?

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I love that stuff. It can sound very surreal. That said, I know nothing about music and I’ll leave that decision up to whoever is doing the music for it.

Ezine: Okay, so what do you think is the way to put adventure games to the mass gamers? Is it more console orientated ones like BS3 or old-fashioned ones with new technology like Runaway(which sold 500 000 thus far) or the black mirror?

RC: Well, that’s hard for me to judge because I haven’t played those games. But I know what I’d like to see in Adventures, certainly. The Point and Click interface was great, back in the early 90’s.But now we have the technology for way awesomer things. Every genre has to evolve, and to change, but adventures seem to have been slow to do that, and I reckon that’s one of the reasons they ‘died’. I hate saying “reckon”. Goddamn. My ideal adventure would have the freedom of Exploration of Lara Croft, (of of of of of) the atmosphere and characters and story of Grim Fandango, and the frikkin’ awesomeness of Psychonauts. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Ezine: Do you think that AGS has the potential to make a fully commercial effort?

RC: Okay, so I really did my research for Luna, I swear. I got this book, written by this guy who’d been in the industry longer than Ron Gilbert He gave the example of… and try not to laugh… this Barbie game. It had been made on one of these engines like AGS, except I believe it was quite expensive… but still nothing the home user couldn’t afford. And it had been made by a team of I think, 5 or so people. They sold thousands and thousands of units, and made a huge income, and it was a great success. It was endorsed by The Barbie Company, or whatever it’s called, in case you’re thinking it was a fan game. I think it’s called Barbies Riding Centre, but anyway. That’s a case of a fan-effort (ha ha ha) that was hugely successful.  So I think that it can definitely happen, and AGS has the potential, but I doubt it will happen.

Try not to laugh at this, either… I actually asked Tim Schafer once before about something like this. I think I asked whether this sort of thing (as in, mateur game development) would account for anything on a portfolio.If I recall correctly, his response went something like this: It does count, but not for the reasons I might think. It shows the ability to work on a team, and it shows the dedication to finish a project. The end result is secondary to all these things.He also mentioned how they’d interviewed a guy at Double Fine only yesterday, JUST BECAUSE he’d built his own 3D game engine. But that’s probably way above the skill level of any AGSers.

Ezine: Now, the last and most important question for all the community…Are you single?

RC: But in answer to your question; yes. I am. But I did have a really awkward encounter with my ex-boyfriend there last week, and he started saying how he was building this game engine, because he does programming, and how he wanted to go over to America to work in the Game Industry… And all the while I was gritting my teeth and silently wishing I’d never got him interested in Game Design… because I have this nightmare.. That we’ll end up working in Double Fine Productions together one day. Because that is just SO my luck. So in conclusion; I am single, but I especially love anybody who lives in the general San Francisco area.

RC: It was a pleasure to be interviewed by the Ezine.

Ezine: Anything else you’d like to add?

RC: Tim Schafer and Scott Campbell and Bill Tiller. SUPER AWESOME!

As you can see, “Luna” is one promising project. Lets just hope that Rusalka’s desire to copy the mood of “Grim Fandango” doesn’t spoil it. As she said, release dates cannot be predicted at this point of development. And last but not least, the AGS Ezine will be the first to publish actual in-game graphics of “Luna”.