Creating An 8-Bit Text Adventure – A Developer Diary, Part 4

It’s been some time since I last posted an update regarding the development of my upcoming 8-bit game Final Breath. I’m sure many of you who have been following my diary entries have either forgotten about this or wondered if I had stopped development of it and moved onto other projects or simply abandoned it and written it off as being a bad idea. Certainly I haven’t really done what I had wanted to since the third instalment of this diary a few months ago but it hasn’t been without reason.

As with any personal project like this, real life often gets in the way of things (as has been the case with all three of our websites here at Infinite Frontiers), but work on the game has suffered even more so and for the last few months it has had to be put on the back burner. The only real progress I made a couple of months ago was with the arrival of the Spectrum version of the Graphic Adventure Creator in the mail guaranteeing that I’ll be able to port the game directly from the Commodore 64 once it’s completed ensuring that I’ll be able to handle producing both versions myself. I have felt somewhat guilty though at not getting as much done as I have wanted to.

However, I sat down recently and looked at what I have done so far and realised something quite important regarding the game… I’d made a mistake. A huge one. Fortunately I’ve managed to catch this at a relatively early stage of the game’s development before I got into code side of things using the Graphic Adventure Creator game engine but this was on a more fundamental level. I’d been working on the game, mapping the adventure out and planning the puzzles as I had been going along in what I thought was a relatively logical manner. Having a break from development had done me some good because returning to look at it I spotted something straight away. I’d been mapping the game out as if it were an open plan area or a flexible form building. Rooms were interconnected and there didn’t seem to be a great deal of logic in terms of where each location was in relation to each other. At the time, everything seemed to make sense when I was creating the map but looking back now it was a shambles. I’d been wasting my time on something that simply wouldn’t work in a player-friendly environment. The only thing I could do was to take all of that mapping and scrap it and start again from the beginning, just keeping the bare bones and my notes to rebuild from the beginning.

With the game being set on a ship in space I’m now taking a new approach. I’m no artist but I’m going to be doing a very rough outline sketch of the ship itself to gauge its size, layout and roughly what the exterior will look like. From this point I’ll be able to work on where the player’s starting point will be, the key locations and rough distances between them and other locations in between. This is doubly critical bearing in mind that the game will have a pseudo-timer incorporated meaning that the player is up against the clock to complete the game. Everywhere on the ship needs to be in a relatively logical location and the last thing I wanted was for players to be wandering around aimlessly trying to make their way between locations when it should have been obvious in what direction they should be heading to find them!

One other (and less important) reason why I want to get the ship exterior planned rather than a basic shape is that it would be my ultimate goal to see the game receive a physical release. There are a growing number of small publishers out there supporting 8-bit formats and if it is deemed good enough for release then it would need cover art and I’d like to have at least some clear vision of what the craft should look like on the box art! Well, I can always dream, can’t I?!

So really now as 2017 is coming to a close I feel as if I’m heading back to the beginning of my journey once more with this game but I do feel more confident with its development than ever. I have a clear idea of where I want the story to go, some new puzzles that now make more sense and that will flow better with a more structured ship design and hopefully the game should be more fun to play with less of a need for mapping as long as a little common sense is used for navigation. Here’s hoping for a productive few months…

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