Monthly Archives: July 2012

"The Things That Go Bump In The Night" now available for Windows Phone

Just a quick note to say that in addition to iOS and Android, Quest games can now be turned into apps for Windows Phone devices too.

The first app “The Things That Go Bump In The Night” is now live on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Interested in creating your own text adventure app? Any Quest game can be converted into a smartphone app – more details on the Apps page, or please get in touch!

Available on the App Store



Automatic mapping in Quest 5.3

A text adventure generally involves moving around the game world by following compass directions – north, south, east, and west, with the occasional use of up and down, or in and out. Many players like to map out a game as they play using pencil and paper, but I expect the majority of players try to keep a map in their heads, and probably get lost more often than they would care to admit.

I’ve often been asked about adding a map as a Quest feature, but I had been put off from doing so by questions about how this should work exactly. For example, even if all exits are consistent (so that going west and then east takes you back to the same room), some rooms may be different sizes than others – this means that if the player starts in room A and goes north, west (along a long corridor), south and east, they will not arrive back in room A. And if you have many exits from a room, how do you ensure rooms don’t overlap?

I have now come up with a solution, and it’s the automatic grid-based map. This is a feature I have developed for Quest 5.3 (soon to be in beta, and already available as a nightly build if you’re feeling brave). The work was generously sponsored by Phillip Zolla who was the original inspiration for the idea.

The map is automatically laid out on a grid, in much the same way as you might manually draw a map on graph paper. The only data a game author needs to provide are the dimensions of the room (defaulting to 1×1) and the “length” of the exits (defaulting to 1). Laying out the map then occurs automatically as the player moves through the game. And because the author only needs to input dimensions and lengths, this was very easy to implement in the Quest Editor – which was important as I didn’t have the time to implement a nice graphical click and drag map editor which would work in both the Windows and web browser versions.

Here’s an example map with three rooms:

Room A is 3×3, B is 6×2 and C is 3×5. All exits have length 1. The yellow dot represents the current player location.

The map is drawn using Paper.js so is rendered the same whether the game is run on the desktop or in the browser, and should also be adaptable when games are converted into smartphone apps.

There are various options for changing room fill colour and borders, which lets you create some neat effects. For example, in a castle in a meadow surrounded by a moat with a bridge (you may have to use your imagination a little)…

By setting exit length to zero, rooms appear side by side. By setting borders correctly, you can show multiple rooms as one long path or corridor for example.

Up and down are handled using layers. In the example below, the player has moved up and the map for the levels below is shown faded out.

You can also click and drag to move the map around, and zoom in and out with the scrollwheel (and it should be straightforward to add touchscreen support too).

I expect to release a beta version of Quest 5.3 around the end of September.

Upcoming text adventure competitions

If you want to expand the audience for your text adventure game, and have the chance of winning something unusual (or maybe even some money), consider entering it into a competition – of which there are a few coming up.

The IFComp is now in its 18th year. People have already donated prizes which range from a $100 Amazon gift certificate to a box of Belgian chocolates and a remote tarot reading. (I would expect even more to be donated over the next few months – check out last year’s list). Sign up by 1st September, and ensure you submit your entry by 29th September. This is a great way of getting feedback on your game too, as there are usually a lot of detailed reviews posted of the IFComp games.

There is also a competition called Herbtslaub for German language games. Quest fully supports creating games in German, so why not give it a go if it’s a language you speak – prizes so far are a Matchbox car (for all participants) and a 7″ vinyl single, which already sounds more exciting than the couple of books that were on offer last year.

You should be able to enter these competitions by submitting the .quest file that is generated when you use the Publish tool in Quest. You don’t have to publish your game on if that would break competition rules – if you want your game to be playable online without having its own review page on this website, contact me and I’ll upload your game to a separate area of the website and send you a link.

Let me know about any other text adventure/interactive fiction competitions and I’ll link to them from this blog. Good luck!

Quest at Games Britannia

MagnaI had the great pleasure on Tuesday of leading two workshops on Quest at Games Britannia, the schools videogame festival held at the impressive Magna Science Adventure Centre – a former steelworks in Rotherham.

Each workshop lasted two hours and there were about 15 children in each, with a range of ages maybe from about 8 to 15. Out of 30 children in total, only 3 had ever even heard of text adventure games before.

To get them familiar with how a text adventure works, I got them to spend the first 20 minutes playing Escape from Byron Bay. At first the groups were very quiet as they read the introduction to the game and started trying things out, but things quickly became more animated as the children started asking each other for help and shouting out as they solved puzzles. It almost seemed a shame to stop them before they completed the game, but time was tight and I wanted to get them started on creating their own!

Quest workshopEach student had their own laptop – some using the desktop version of Quest and some using the web version. I gave the students a quick overview of how Quest works – how to add rooms and objects to a game, add exits, set object descriptions, and allow objects to be takeable. This only took a few minutes to demonstrate and was enough to get the children started on mapping their own small game worlds.

I certainly didn’t need to help anybody choose what to write – the creativity of the children was amazing. They were bursting with ideas, and quickly set about creating their rooms and objects.

I then gave a quick demonstration of scripting – showing how to display pictures, and how to add a small puzzle (using an “if” script to allow an object to be picked up only if the player has already taken another object).

After that, I let the children carry on building their games, answering questions that came up – sometimes giving quick demonstrations to the whole group when topics came up such as containers, or adding verbs. I was impressed at how much ground we covered in the space of a two-hour session, especially given where we had started, from zero knowledge even about the existence of text adventure games in the first place.

Quest workshopIt was also really useful for me to see more children using Quest for the first time – a free usability testing session! I’ve definitely gained some new ideas about things I can improve. One attendee even managed to consistently reproduce a bug in the desktop version of the editor which I hadn’t seen before.

The feedback from the sessions was really positive, and I hugely enjoyed them too. I would be happy to run a similar session again, so please do contact me if this is something you’d be interested in (or if you’d like more information on running a similar session yourself).

I’d also like to extend huge thanks and congratulations to the organisers of Games Britannia, who have worked incredibly hard with limited resources to put together an amazing event – truly inspirational. Also thanks to Andy Stratton (who was running his own Quest workshop on Wednesday) for helping the workshop run smoothly.