Tag Archives: grim fandango

Possible Applications for my Adventure Game Obsession – Part 1

If you don’t know this already, I really dig adventure games.  Seriously.  Just click these words to see how much I dig them.

And I keep running into adventure game stuff in the most unexpected places.  A few days ago, Yuri Takhteyev from the Faculty of Information spoke to the Software Engineering group about his work studying the use and popularity of the Lua language in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  When he brought up Lua, I couldn’t help remembering that Lua was used by the GrimE engine to script Grim Fandango

Wouldn’t it be awesome to find a way of turning my passion for adventure games into something that is useful in the field of Computer Science?

My supervisor has advised me not to think too much about my research paper just yet, and to just peek around to get a feel for what’s going on in the various facets of Computer Science.  I take this advice to heart, and yet I can’t help noticing where my passion for adventure games might be applied…

Here are a few things I’ve come up with:

Storytelling Alice

Storytelling Alice is an attempt to find a fun, intuitive way of teaching basic programming with the Alice language to middle-school students.  It was designed and developed by Caitlin Kelleher as part of her PhD thesis at Carnegie Mellon.  Storytelling Alice is designed to use storytelling as a motivating context to get students to learn various programming techniques.

In Storytelling Alice, students are compelled to learn more in order to tell more of a story.  I wonder if they’d be willing to learn more to reveal more of a story?  This would be very similar to the way adventure games reward players with story after solving a puzzle.

Check out Storytelling Alice here


I’ve recently started taking Khai Truong’s CSC2514 – Human-Computer Interaction course.  One of the first papers he got us to read this week was one that he’d written on storyboarding.

Put simply, storyboards are used by interaction designers as a low-cost way of testing out designs with their potential audience.  They are similar to the storyboards used in writing/designing movies or television productions, but are instead used to communicate use cases, environment of use, physical embodiment of the system, etc.

Here is a copy of the paper, if you’re interested in reading it.

Here’s something I found interesting:

Commercial products marketed specifically for storyboard creation are available, but they are designed for experts and can be difficult for novices to use … Also, expert designers expressed that the greatest challenge for them is storytelling.  These software products are not designed to support that process and may even be detrimental to it, because they do not provide complete creative flexibility in terms of what can be developed.

Very interesting.  Adventure games are designed from the ground up to tell a story.  I wonder if the tools that adventure games are created with could lend something to these storyboard creation tools?

As my studies continue, perhaps I’ll report more potential uses for adventure game technology.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a clip from a playthrough from one of my favourite adventure games of all time, The Dig.  It might not be Dicken’s, but damned if it doesn’t hold my attention with an iron grip.

Just brilliant.

Adventure Games

I wouldn’t consider myself a “gamer” by any stretch of the imagination.

Just watch me try to play Halo – I’ll run around in circles, button-jamming before somebody mercifully puts me out of my misery.

And that’s common across games that involve me running around with a gun.  With the exception of Portal (which was incredible), the whole first person shooter genre kind of bores me.  I’m not really impressed by amazing 3d graphics, or physics/particle engines.  I just…don’t care.  I just don’t get the same pleasure out of blowing up and shooting enemies that other people seem to.

I like something a bit more cerebral.  I like story (which is why Portal is an exception).  I like puzzle solving.  I like thinking for a character, not just running around, pulling the trigger for a character.

And this is the way it’s always been for me.

But ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a real passion for adventure games. I used to play all of the old Sierra stuff…Kings Quest I-VI (before it turned lame – VII onward), the Space Quest series (5 being my favourite, but I have a soft spot for the original), the Gabriel Knight series…

And that’s just Sierra.  LucasArts brought about Sam and Max, Day of the Tentacle (a masterpiece), The Monkey Island Series (also brilliant), The Dig (my personal favourite), Full Throttle, Grim Fandango

There was Myst, and Riven. So good.  And can’t forget Zork.

Simon The Sorcerer 1, 2, and 3…

I loved these games.  I still love these games.  I love being integrated so deeply into an interesting story, and having to rely on my wits and intelligence to solve problems.  I get a cerebral kick out of solving the various puzzles that the game designers throw at me.

And what these games all compel me to do, without fail….is:  to make one.  Make an adventure game.  Tell a good story.  Suck the player in, and throw puzzles, deep character, and thick story/plot at them.  After I finish one of these games, I usually end up Googling “how to make an adventure game”, and spending the rest of my night reading up on it.  And anytime I’m on a holiday break, and have nothing to do…I always gravitate to the subject.

I’ve read all about LucasArts SCUMM and GrimE engines…Sierra’s AGI and SCI engines… Adventure Soft’s AGOS engine…  and I’m grateful for the ScummVM and FreeSCI folk who share my passion, and have allowed me to play all of these old games on my Linux box.  Reading about these engines just makes me want to use them to build my own game.

I could try to use a number of closed-source adventure game engines out there – I hear the Wintermute engine is pretty good.  So is Adventure Game Studio.

But somehow…they never satisfy me.

The MAD adventure game engine is open source, and has some good ideas…but the code is also a bit of a mess, and hasn’t been maintained since 2003.

So I’ve always wanted to build my own adventure game engine, and solve all of the problems that one would have to in order to make it work:  path finding, graphics, animation, scripting, layering/masking, fonts…  Lots of neat sub-problems.   It’d be hard, but I also think it’d be a lot of fun.

So just watch me…it’ll happen someday.