I grew up playing video games. Almost anyone who has played video games has thought about making video games.
While I enjoyed many different types of game growing up, the one I think about making is a “point-and-click” – you control a character on the screen by pointing and clicking the mouse on places you want them to go, or things you want them to pick up. Games like King’s Quest, Police Quest, Monkey Island, Sam and Max, The Dig, Full Throttle and others.
Defining a “minimal viable experiment”
I’ve learnt with personal projects (and work projects) that if you don’t put in some arbitrary restraints, the whole thing can quickly get disappointingly out of hand (“I’ll just add this… and this… and this… and this…”).
While making a fully fledged game sounds great, I know the reality is that even for a simple one, this would likely equate to more than 1000 hours of work. Even if I eventually put this amount of effort in, because I don’t know what I am doing, it is important I create milestones. The first milestone would ensure I was on the right track, and had selected adequate tools. I tried to imagine the simplest coherent “atom” that could constitute the organism that is a game.
The defined first chunk I settled on was:
Move an animated character across a scene, that contains obstacles in the foreground and background.Minimum viable experiment goal
Selecting a game character and concept
I was once lucky enough to work with a man called John. John was one of the loveliest souls I have ever met, and also felt like he could be a character from a story. I think as soon as I met him, I intended to make something where he was the main character (I found a folder in my Google Drive [filed under “To-do”] from 2013 called “John point and click game”)
Here are some photos of our protagonist:
So I found an old sprite sheet from Monkey Island:
And used these as my template for my own versions for John walking:
I realised early on that created original artwork, especially for backgrounds, was going to be a huge amount of work. More than that, I knew that the classic games looked better than anything I could make. I came up with the idea of travelling through old games:
John, in contemporary times (2019ish), living in Edinburgh, is transported in a Delorean back to our office on Tory Street, Wellington in 2013. He finds the office abandoned, but all of the computers on. Upon inspecting each computer, he is transported into a different classic game, which each contains an old workmate he needs to evacuate from the game (eg he saves Murray from Day of the Tentacle, he saves Willy from Golden Eye etc).Game concept
Selecting a tool(s)
As you can see, I had not interest in building something from scratch or hand coding everything, so made a list of features of software I knew I needed, and other features I was pretty sure I wanted:
- Allowed for a free version or free trial
(I was not going to pay for something unless I was certain it was going to work)
- Could be picked up relatively quickly, but had enough complexity so that it could scaled well
- Tutorials and good documentation
- A supportive/active/engaged community who I could ask for help from
- Maybe even templates out of the box.
After a bunch of Googling, downloading, and trialing a few tools, I settled on Visionaire Studio (VS).
I spent a small amount of time getting familiar with VS and its concepts (scenes, characters, items, interface) and skimmed some of their tutorials.
Once I felt comfortable enough, I tracked down an old Monkey Island background:
I imported my walking character animation from before, and added music.
The end result (minimum viable experiment)
By no means is this a complete game (or even a piece of a game). But it was enough to feel like, if I ever find myself with a spare 1000 hours, I could flesh this out to be a complete game.
Now to work on other characters and dialogue…