(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the January 2008 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
Hello everyone, and welcome to this month’s edition of testgame.exe: Making the Adventure. This month, it being the ultra-special January issue of GameCola and all, I have decided to do something that some of you may remember from a few issues ago. That’s right: We will once again be taking a look at the very earliest stages of testgame development, back when the idea for testgame was nothing more than a real-time outpouring of semi-random elements in a IM-based text adventure between myself and real-life Paul. Makes sense? Well, I did a better job of explaining it last time. Suffice to say, this is a view of testgame that hardly anyone has seen before, so pay close attention.
Now, without further ado, I present to you select (minimally edited) excerpts from testgame v. 0.0: the text adventure days.
Lizo: The woman takes your hand gently and leads you to the horse. She opens up her saddle bag and shows it to you. “I want you to take one of the items in this bag. It will certainly help you on your journey, and I’m afraid its’ the best I can do for now.”
Paul: look into the bag.
Lizo: The bag contains a jar of ginger/quince jam, a long piece of blue ribbon, a flask of some substance that seems to be water, and a green stone.
Paul: pick up the green stone
Lizo: The lady looks at you for another moment, and then gives you a tight hug. “I will see you again soon, Paul. Don’t give up hope.”
Lizo: She jumps onto her horse and adds “Oh, and I would advise against going down that path *she points to the East* until you feel you are well prepared for what you might find.”
Lizo: Without another word, she gallops away into the thick trees.
This excerpt is interesting in quite a few ways. Again, keep in mind that this is all stuff that I was making up off the top of my head, playing off of Paul’s reactions and directions, so I didn’t exactly have very much in the way of a plot planned out.
This clip is from the end of the cutscene in the forest, when Lily gets Paul started on his adventure. You can see that the basic idea has remained the same in the graphic version of the game—Lily presents Paul with a choice of objects as a way of helping him out. Of course, in the current version, each of those objects actually has a potential purpose in the game. It is interesting, actually, to note the similarities. There is a flask in Lily’s pouch now, but it certainly doesn’t have water in it, and various colored stones do come into play as inventory items at other parts of the game.
You might also notice that Lily in the original version was riding a horse. There’s a pretty simple explanation for why that particular detail hasn’t made it into the graphic version of the game: It would take a long time to animate, and I’m lazy. I do still think, however, that the sight of Lily thundering into the screen on a horse, then swinging down and doing battle with Thurston, would be an awesome one, so who knows, maybe it’ll make it in someday.
As a side note, shortly after this clip, Paul chose to try to swallow the green stone and choked to death on it. This is the only reason why the same interaction is available with the blue stone in the current version of the game. Did you know that was in there?
Lizo: Suddenly, you’re confronted by a giant monster with 50 heads and only one arm, wielding a giant scythe covered in what looks to be silver wire. This creature is blocking the path completely, but you can see what looks to be a bright blue stream beyond.
Paul: throw green stone at the beast!
Lizo: You throw the green stone at the beast. The beast, however, seems to take this as a request to play. It grabs the green stone in one of its mouths and spits it back at you with immense force, immediately shattering your skull and killing you. The beast then proceeds to toss your corpse around just for kicks.
Lizo: You have expired.
Lizo: “What a playful beast! Perhaps too playful…” you think to yourself.
And here we have our first look at Omar! Again, the basic idea remains the same, although he currently has quite a few less than 50 heads, and he does in fact have two arms, because when it came time to draw him, I wasn’t sure how exactly one arm would work. But even here, easily months before I actually put this part into action in the current version of testgame, Omar’s purpose seems to be to block Paul from reaching the stream and attempting to cross it. Unfortunately, Paul is not able to use a stone with Omar in the current version of the game (hmm…something to think about), but the idea of Omar being a large, misunderstood (and misunderstanding) adversary was already there.
Let’s have one more quick clip, shall we?
Paul: stomp to the south
Lizo: You stomp off to the south, and you find your surroundings becoming darker. Eventually you reach a clearing, surrounded by layers and layers of knotted brambles and roses and other such thorny and impassable things, blocking off all but a few rays of sunlight and forming a really neat looking cave-like area. In the center of this clearing sits an old man with a long gray beard and wearing what looks to be a tattered kilt. A sword is strapped to his waist, but it looks like it hasn’t been used in many years. A small pile of rocks and leaves sits in front of him, and he is poking at them with a stick. All of his concentration is on what’s in front of him, and he does not notice you.
Paul: steal the man’s kilt, put it on, and run around screaming “heeeehehehhehehe i’m wearing a skirt! i’m wearing a skirt!!”
Lizo: The man does not appreciate this at all. He stumbles off into the forest, highly offended, muttering under his breath something about how he won’t come back and be civil unless people stop stealing his clothing gosh darnit.
Paul: scream “wait, come back, i was only having a bit of fun at your expense! no harm done!”
Lizo: The old man stops and turns around, glaring at you. He holds out his hand for his kilt back.
Huh. Now there’s something you don’t seen every day.
But seriously, how would I even put the option to “steal the man’s kilt” in a graphic adventure game, anyway? Also, the command to “stomp” to the south has a lot of character, but doesn’t exactly work in the current format. I guess this is one of the trade-offs that comes from actually programming a game—there’s only so much you can let the computer do, and there will always be more things that the player will want to do that they can’t. Oh sigh.
And once again, here we have a character and a setting that has changed very little over the years. Artie is now—and was then—a grumpy old ex-soldier type, with a strange penchant for his stones. Maybe I need to find a way to fit kilt-stealing in there….
Well, I hope you enjoyed that look at the beginnings of testgame. I had some other stuff I wanted to say about this month’s update, like asking you guys whether you think the new room is easy enough to get to (there’s a new room), and talking about the way I rearranged Paul’s right desk drawer (programming-wise). But whatever, why don’t you just play the game, check out the new stuff, and have some fun. 🙂
(no extra programs needed to run this file)
Things to do/new features of note:
- New room! Go to the hallway in the castle where Hans is and you should be able to find it….
- New object in Paul’s room. See if you can find it (hint: It’s in a drawer).
- New inventory item (um, it’s the object in the bullet point above).
- More background work on the castle hallway screen.
- Paul is now able to look at every item in his inventory. For those of you keeping track, that means he can now look at the map, the pen, and the item that’s new this month.
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/