#1 — Game Making Tool Research: Adventure Game Studio

Making a game sketch using this free open-source game engine.

Importing background art created by myself into AGS. My illustration website.

or my graduate-level Digital Games course at OCAD University with Emma Westecott, we were asked to create a brief digital interactive experience using a game engine of our choice. My choice for this assignment was to use Adventure Game Studio — a free open-source game engine used primarily for creating point-and-click adventure games. I found this to be a great exercise in helping me get over my initial fear of creating a game by myself and demystifying the game-making process. As someone with very little coding and programming knowledge and basic 3-D skills in Blender, this seemed like one of the most feasible options for creating a game piece within a short amount of time (the progress shown here took just under a week to complete).

Adventure Game Studio is a great tool for anyone with beginner or novice level game making experience. I chose to explore this engine’s capabilities because it seemed to provide the easiest transition of incorporating my own illustrations and graphics into the game sketch. My goals were to familiarize myself with the game design process including creating a background, how sprites are turned into game objects, and how to code basic interactivity within the piece. The following documentation includes my process of following the first part of the built-in tutorial that comes with the engine’s program.

pon start-up, the engine will provide you with its own in-game resources that are comprehensive and easy to follow. If the ‘Sierra-style’ game template is selected, the user will be provided a sample background, character model, and a few pixel assets to use within the tutorial. AGS operates on creating ‘rooms’ for the playable character to explore and interact with. Within each room, ‘edges’ or boundaries can be defined, along with creating interactive ‘hotspots’ and objects that can be investigated by the player. Graphics such as backgrounds and sprite art can also be easily imported into the engine as well.

ithin my game sketch, I created ‘flower pedestals’ as the hotspot objects for the player to activate and interact with. Walkable areas, walk-behinds, and interactive hotspots can all be defined by using the engine’s draw tools to fill in the areas in dark blue patches. The background art for this piece was drawn by myself using Procreate on the iPad, then exported from Photoshop as a PNG file. When importing the background art file at a higher res into the lower resolution I set the game window to — 320 x 240px, this caused the art to become pixelated. However, I think this fits perfectly in terms of aesthetics with the other sprite assets that I used.

Defining the walkable areas of the game sketch in dark blue.

I also imported open-source sprites found from a Google image search and itch.io for the objects and character models — the character sprites are fanmade recreations from the Pokémon game series.

Importing the Pokémon playable character sprite.

The tutorial will guide you through the process of adding text that will appear on-screen when an object or a hotspot is inspected by the player using the ‘Look’ mode. This involves a bit of basic scripting that needs to be added to each object or character. The tutorial does a great job of making it easy for beginners by providing some sample code for you to use.

Basic scripting the text, “The flower pedestal doesn’t respond” to appear on-screen.

The most advanced task within the tutorial was to create a dialogue script between two characters in the game. This involves once again a bit of scripting which can be created using the ‘Dialogs’ tab in the ‘Explore Project’ tree seen on the right panel of the screen.

Creating dialogue choices for both the playable character and the NPC to run through.
Merchant NPC has fresh roast beef sammies for sale!

How the game sketch turned out!

TLDR: Summary of my experience using AGS

Pros:
+ Very easy and fast to pick-up the fundamentals
+ Built-in tutorial is comprehensive and easy to follow
+ Easy to use interface for those with limited programming knowledge
+ Free! Doesn’t require a license to use or publish games created from it

Cons:
- Seemingly limited capacity to 2D work
- The style and interface feel a bit dated? But if used effectively can be charming

Final Thoughts

AGS is an ideal choice for anyone just getting started with indie game development. The learning bar is quite low and should be fairly easy for all levels of experience to pick up. I thoroughly enjoyed using AGS as my first ever experience in making any form of game. Although this was a brief exercise, I would like to re-visit this again and expand upon this piece whenever time allows it. Ideally, it would be great if I could complete a full game experience in the future.

— This blog post was written for Emma Westecott’s Digital Games course at OCAD University.

Jenn Liv is an award-winning Chinese illustrator based in Toronto. Currently she is a MDes Candidate at OCAD U’s IAMD Program. http://www.jennliv.com