Adventure Game Studio
Adventure Game Studio is a freeware tool that can be used to create both free and commercial graphical adventure games. It is aimed at intermediate-level game designers, and combines an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for setting up most aspects of the game with a scripting language in order to process the game logic.
Adventure Game Studio was created by English programmer Chris Jones. AGS was originally written and released in 1997 as an MS-DOS program entitled "Adventure Creator". Jones rewrote the program during the summer of 1999, and released the new version in September of that year under the name "Adventure Game Studio."
Jones was inspired by the apparent simplicity of Sierra On-Line's adventure game interface, specifically as showcased in Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. The first version of Adventure Creator allowed users to create only low-res, keyboard controlled games.
Initially, users created only small tests or demo games, most of the "more ambitious" projects soon ceased to exist. As a result of lack of completed games and advertising, the user base was quite small, yet the community grew slowly. Game developers soon requested more features so that they could create more complex games. One thing they asked for was higher resolution, and in January 1999, AC 1.1 added SVGA image support. They asked for character scaling, which was added in September of that same year.
As time passes, there is now an active community containing members of thousands, which continues to grow, and produce more and more games, which range from short and sweet games like the early games, to large full scale games like Pleurghburg: Dark Ages.
The Engine continues to be added to and improved upon, with several new releases published over the course of a year.
The editor and runtime engine are currently designed for Windows operating systems, though Mac OS, DOS and GNU/Linux ports of the engine are also available. As of AGS v2.70, there's no DOS engine anymore.
At the time of writing, AGS can create games from 256 colour games with a resolution of 320x200 (games with more "classic" looks) to true colour games with a resolution of up to 800x600 (games with "more modern" looks), though the higher the resolution, the more demanding a game is, which means you may need a faster computer.
Now also: 16-bit and 32-bit colour with alpha channel. Resolutions: 320x200, 320x240, 640x400, 640x480, and 800x600.
Some other key features that AGS has that many other engines don't currently support is the ability to run other games within AGS and to use Modules, Templates and Plugins. AGS can also allow for your games to be translated into other languages.
Hundreds of games have been produced in the years since AGS was first released. These vary extensively in quality, from short 'test games' to full length professional-quality games. It has even been used to create arcade and board games.
These games are usually classified amongst the community by length, with a separate categories for non-adventure games and joke games.
The most prolific category of AGS games, short games consist of a few rooms and a simple plot- finding something or escaping are popular themes. These games vary widely in quality, from games using default sprites or stick figures, to lovely graphics and music.
- The Adventures of Princess Marian Series: A series of short games created by AGS forum user SSH as gifts to his wife. The graphics are simple, and there is little or no music, but the stories are generally agreed to be very heart warming and sweet.
- Grr! Bearly Sane: The adventures of a man in a bear suit who is having a very bad day, and is out to revenge himself on his cruel boss. Very notable for its unique use of a blood pressure monitor- the angrier that the player character gets, the higher his blood pressure goes. If it gets high enough, the player can make him take out his aggressions on random objects, characters and animals.
- Stickmen: This game is about two stickmen named Doug and Toby who are searching for pirate treasure. The graphics are grayscale, and all the characters are, obviously, stickmen.
Medium Length Games
The games in this category are very hard to pin down. This is often games that are often quite entertaining and complex, but simply don't take all that long to play, usually only a few hours. The quality of games in this category is usually very high.
- 5 Days a Stranger: One of the most popular games of 2003, 5 Days a Stranger has become one of the landmark games of AGS.
- Cirque de Zale: Cirque de Zale has been one of the most successful AGS games to date, garnering a great deal of attention throughout the adventure game community. The graphic style and humour is reminiscent of early 1990's LucasArts adventure games, namely the Monkey Island series.
- Melrin: The disciple ordeal The Melrin games are notable for their graphics. Where most AGS games attempt to create images with proper perspective, similar to early '90's adventure games, the Melrin games instead copy the look of early '90's role playing games, such as The Legend of Zelda series.
Full Length Games
The "cream of the crop" of AGS games, these games are usually of very high quality and take several hours to complete. These are the rarest type of adventure game created with AGS, as they often take years for the game creator to finish. One of the more popular ways to create a full length game is to take an old adventure and to update it, either by simply creating a point and click interface or completely overhauling the graphics. AGD Interactive and LucasFan Games are two of the leading creators of these updated classics.
- Kings Quest VGA: A one-to-one remake of Sierra On-Line's first graphical adventure game, King's Quest. The only changes made were updating the graphics into VGA. The team who was responsible for this project was originally called "Tierra," a play on "Sierra," but has since changed their name to Anonymous Game Developers Interactive," or AGD Interactive for short.
- The Adventures of Fatman: A satire of the crime-fighting superhero Batman, "Fatman" garnered quite a bit of attention for being the first ever AGS game to be released commercially. The game was originally sold on CD, and came with a voice pack and a unique "director's commentary." The game has since been declared abandonware by its creator, and is only available from the site Home of the Underdogs. The voice pack is not included in the download, although there is also a link to the full ISO.
- Maniac Mansion Deluxe This has done for LucasArts' Maniac Mansion what AGD Interactive did for King's Quest. The game is a one-to-one remake of the first ever point and click adventure game, but with completely updated graphics. However, there are several modern easter eggs scattered throughout the game.
- Soviet Unterzoegersdorf/Sector 1: A game by Austrian art/philosophy group monochrome. The fake history of the "last existing appanage republic of the USSR", Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. Created to discuss topics such as the theoretical problems of historiography, the concept of the "socialist utopia" and the political struggles of postwar Europe. To monochrom it was clear that the adventure game, an almost extinct form of computer game, would provide the perfect media platform to communicate the idea of "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf". Edge (games magazine) chose the game as their 'internet game of the month' of November 2005.
MAGS, the Monthly AGS competition, is an activity on the AGS forum which has game creators attempt to create a short game over the course of one month. The challenge is that the game has to follow a series of restrictions as to length, art and content. At the end of the month, the games are voted on and the creator of the best game wins the opportunity to choose the restrictions for the next month. These games are usually very short and simple, and vary wildly as to art quality.
There have been a few examples of series of games with a lot of games.
The most notable example would be Reality on the Norm which is a series of games which anyone can make one of, with the same characters and settings.
Another - even if it has only existed a few months by now - series of AGS games (though it's not limited to AGS there aren't any games from other engines yet) is the Maniac Mansion Mania series. The games take place in the Maniac Mansion universe and show the everyday life of the well-known characters.
One of the more well-received game series is the Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator series.
The award winning 5 Days a Stranger spawned a sequel: | 7 Days a Skeptic
One of the most interesting categories of games created with Adventure Game Studio are the games that are not adventures at all. AGS has been used to make a variety of programs that are anything but adventures. These vary from various types of games other than adventures, as well as several utilities.
- Board Quest: A rather challenging board game, in which the players travel around a board based on automated dice rolls and have to compete in various challenges.
- Platformerius: The Ninja Incident: Platformerius is a platformer. You play "FruitTree," an AGS forum member, who has just had his Japanese garden attacked by ninjas. The player character can attack both up close and at a distance. The download includes the source code, so that others can create similar games.
- The Historical League of Bouncy Boxing: A very complex two player fighting game which pits various historical figures wearing boxing gloves against each other.
- Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment: has some adventure game elements, but is largely a spaceship based trading sim.
One of the most important aspects of the community, other than getting assistance with game creation, is the presence of various competitions for art, writing, music and general game creation.
The three game creation competitions are as follows:
- MAGS: The Monthly AGS competition, has developers create a unique game based on a series of restrictions. Development time is one month, and at the end of that time players vote on the best game. At the end of the calendar year, all MAGS games created over the course of the year are voted on for the Maggies, and the game with the most votes is declared the best MAGS game of the year.
- ATC: The AGS Team Challenge: In this competition, groups of five people attempt to make a game. Each team has a story writer, a background artist a sprite artist, a musician and a programmer. The goal of this activity is not to create the best game, but merely to complete a game within a certain time frame.
- AGS Awards: The most prestigious award of the AGS community, the AGS Awards (also very rarely known as the "Rogers") are a series of annual awards similar to the Oscars voted on by the AGS community. Awards are given out for various story, character, and technical aspects, as well as for best game overall and a Lifetime Achievement Award. The awards ceremony is held on the IRC channel.
Another important part of the community is the presence to discuss game design with other creators. This is done in Game Theory Discussions, or GTDs.
- February 1997: AC 1.00
- September 1999: AGS 2.00
- March 2002: AGS 2.31 - Final DOS-based editor, still fully supporting graphical scripts
- November 2004: AGS 2.62 - Last version to also contain a DOS engine
- June 2005: AGS 2.7 - Object-oriented scripting added
- January 2006: AGS 2.71 - Dynamic strings added
- August 2006: AGS 2.72 - Graphics filters (2x, 3x, Hq2x, Hq3x) added