Creating An 8-Bit Text Adventure – A Developer Diary, Part 2

Day 2 – 12th June 2017

It was starting to dawn on me that I had not only decided to pick up where I left off as a teenager where I’d started planning on writing a game for the Commodore 64 but here I am decades later and had actually done something about it and made a start on it to turn that dream into a reality.

I’d had a few days away from doing any work on the text adventure game. Not by immediate choice but in part because of doing work on various Infinite Frontiers projects and just having some time with family and for myself but this was the day that I got back to the PC to carry on with the game.

Unlike developing a game from scratch, as I said before the Graphic Adventure Creator makes life much easier by breaking everything down into lists. Some of these I can create in advance of the mapping process, others will evolve as the adventure is planned while the rest will be created as the game itself is written but my initial focus today was on the core lists – the verbs and nouns that the game will need to allow the player to issue commands, along with some of the in-game messages that they can expect to read from inputs they give. Each of the verbs and nouns are allocated a number for internal use by the software (for example verb 1 = North) but multiple words can be assigned to a single number so I have to think of all of the alternative words the player might try when issuing the same command. In the case of the first verb, I’m allowing the player to enter “N” as an alternative to typing out “North” in full.

Messages are a little more complicated. As well as the core responses such as “I can’t do that”, I need to create statements that will appear as reactions to actions that the player may take during play such as pressing a button, using an object. There are a finite number of these so I need to plan them out carefully.

The first major one of these that the player is going to come across (hopefully!) is a scene-setting message that will be left for them. It’s something that can be read by following some very simple actions (not even puzzle solving if I am honest), but the message itself will not only act as a mini prologue to the story, but also include the first of the game’s Easter eggs that I’m planning on scattering throughout the adventure. It should also help as a guide for the player as to their goal to complete the game (or at least one of the possible solutions on offer).

During exploration, an alternative and possibly easier solution will present itself which will put the player not only in a quandary but also a moral dilemma which I hope will add a refreshing twist to the game’s storyline.

The final things I want to cover in this instalment of the diary are about the game itself. Until now I’ve mentioned my inspiration for wanting to write the game and the early part of the creative process but nothing about the game itself. I don’t particularly want to give anything away about the story or plot as the game is still in development and I hope that at least a few of you will consider playing it once it’s completed so I’ll try to avoid any spoilers here but I finally decided on the theme of the game.

Being a huge sci-fi fan all my life I felt that – for a first game at least – that it would be best for me to stay within my comfort zone and work in a genre that I’m not only familiar with but happy with creatively so I’m focusing on a story that’s based in a sci-fi and futuristic framework. While most of the puzzles could work in a contemporary setting it just gives me more freedom to work and it gives me the chance to allow the story to develop and flow in the way I want it to. Bearing that in mind, it’s also helped me work towards what is now the game’s current working title… Final Breath.

Now I’ll leave you pondering on what that might actually mean until next time…!

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