(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the May 2007 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
So it’s now been exactly two years since I started writing testgame.exe: Making the Adventure for GameCola. The years have just flown by, haven’t they?
I thought that, this month, I’d take a look back at the early days of testgame. No, I’m not just going to repeat the same sort of thing I did for the January issue, in which I compared early production stills in the game to what the game looks like now. This time we’re going back to prehistoric times, to explore the inspiration for testgame before production on the game even started.
You see, what very few people know is that the idea for testgame originally came from a text-based adventure game that GameCola’s own Paul Franzen and I improvised over the course of a few IM conversations. I was the computer, and Paul was the player, and the result was testgame v. 0.0 (although we didn’t know that at the time).
So I thought today I’d show you guys a few snippets from the original text version of testgame, and talk about why certain things did or didn’t make it into the graphic version of the game, and why some of the things were changed. Hey look, this column might actually end up being like I originally meant it to be: a look into the production process of an adventure game. 🙂 Let the fun begin.
Lizo: Please enter your name:
Lizo: *screen goes black*
Lizo: “Melvin. Wake up Melvin.”
Lizo: You open your eyes to see the face of a beautiful woman hovering above you. You look around, and recognize the room as your own, and you’re cuddled up in your very own bed. But you have never seen this woman before in your life.
Lizo: She has long wavy blonde hair and bright green eyes and is staring at you in a very serious manner.
Paul: who are you???
Lizo: The woman looks slightly confused, and a little taken aback. She says, “Melvin? Don’t you remember me?” She closes her eyes in pain. “…After all we’ve been through.”
Lizo: Before you know what’s happened, she is gone.
Lizo: The woman has disappeared, leaving you confused and disoriented in your bed. A piece of paper lies on the floor where she stood.
Paul: pick up piece of paper
Lizo: You pick up the piece of paper.
Paul: read piece of paper!
Lizo: It’s a letter! Or what used to be one anyway. The words are smeared with what look to be tear stains, and you can only make out a few phrases. Among these are, “…your condition… worse than I thought…”, “…put you to sleep before I left…” “…will need your help… death… please come soon…” “Love, A–“
Wow, lots of things to talk about there. So that was the original very beginning of testgame. You can see that, originally, players were allowed to choose their own names. This didn’t make it into the graphic version of testgame, mostly because the main character’s personality was taken from Paul’s responses in the text version, and since you can’t have that kind of customizability in a pre-programmed adventure game (yet) it just made much more sense to call the main character Paul. Also, I could never remember whether Paul had chosen the name Melvin or Marvin, so it changed all the time and just ended up being annoying
You can also see that the introductory cutscene in the graphic version was taken almost verbatim from the original text adventure. Even Lily’s visual description remains the same. Of course, I had to add a line for Paul in the graphic version conveying the fact that he didn’t know who Lily was, but the rest is the same.
Then there’s the letter. I had played with the idea of hiding the letter somewhere in the room where Paul would have to find it in the graphic version, rather than risking the player missing some plot point in not picking up and reading a letter on the floor. In the end, it just seemed safer to have Lily say interesting plot things to Paul when he meets her again in the forest. Also, the fact that I was just throwing random interesting phrases together accounts for the word “death” in there…. That’s not in the game now, nor are Lily’s pleas for help (you’ll eventually find out the reasons why Lily brought Paul into another world, but helping her wasn’t one of them).
Finally, I clearly didn’t know what Lily’s name was going to be at this time, and it ended up not starting with an “A”. Oh well. The closing “love” obviously didn’t come up because the letter isn’t there, plus I think it works much better to have Lily’s feelings about Paul be a little more ambiguous.
Paul: check map to see if i can find my location on it
Lizo: You look at the map. To your surprise, you see a little red dot which wasn’t there before. It is right next to a tiny picture of what looks to be an open door.
Paul: i guess that’s my location! how convenient
Lizo: “Yes, convenient, isn’t it, My Lord.”
Paul: who said that??
Paul: look around!
Lizo: You look up from the map to find a dark haired man standing a few feet away from you. He is dressed in strange clothes, and is wearing a long cloak even though it is a rather warm day. He is looking at you in a very serious manner, and doesn’t look very friendly.
Paul: pull on the mans dark hair
Lizo: The man draws his rapier and runs you through.
Lizo: You die.
Lizo: *Hmm, you think to yourself, Perhaps I shouldn’t go pulling on strangers’ hair like that!*
Lizo: Continue game?
Here we’ve got the scene where Paul first comes across Thurston. Of course, I had no idea what Thurston’s name was at that point, but since the name didn’t come up, it didn’t matter. One important aspect of this clip is the fact that the map from Paul’s room actually works. Since I’ve never yet been able to come up with a purpose for the map, it still doesn’t do anything in the graphic version of the game. In fact, it may be taken out at some point, but that’s yet to be determined.
There are some differences in the dialogue here as well. For one thing, Thurston isn’t a mind reader, although it sure seems like he is in this clip. The same interplay between Paul wondering about things to himself and Thurston responding in a menacing way is in the game now, but the actual words are different. Also, Paul in the current version of testgame can’t pull on Thurston’s hair, mostly because this whole clip has been turned into a cutscene, as this makes more sense.
You can also see that even this early, I was putting death in the game, but making sure that death wouldn’t be too annoying, even if the player hadn’t saved recently. This is directly from King’s Quest 7, and I steal it shamelessly.
And there you have it, the first ever public view of these important historical artifacts. Of course, they’ve been filtered a little to make sure no spoilers get through, and there’s much more where this came from. Hopefully this was interesting to you guys, because I didntreallydoanythingthismonthpleasedontkillme!
Now you can compare these early snippets of testgame to the current version! Have fun. 🙂
(no extra programs needed to run this file)
Things to do/new features of note:
- New object in the guard’s room. And Paul can even interact with it!
- Um, yeah that’s it.
All the graphics and design are by Lizo. The dialogue was written by Lizo, with significant input by Paul. The background music is by Lizo. “Let’s Go Skateboard” is written and performed by The Word Problems. Adventure Game Studio (the program used to create this game) can be downloaded at http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/