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Getting Started with AGS - Part 1

So, you've downloaded AGS. You want to make an adventure game. But where do you start?

(NOTE: before we start, this tutorial was made using v3.0 of AGS. If you have a newer version, there may be minor inconsistencies in the screenshots where extra options have been added and so forth, but most of what's here should still apply).

Creating the game

Start up the AGS Editor by double-clicking the AGSEditor.exe file, and you should be greeted by the following screen:

The "Welcome to AGS" dialog

Make sure that "Start a new game" is selected, and click Continue. You'll be presented with the Create New Game wizard:

Create New Game dialog

So, without further ado, click Next, and you'll see the Select Template screen:

Select Template dialog

Here, you need to choose which template you're going to use for your new game. AGS comes with three, and you can find others for download on the AGS Forums.

The "Default Game" template is what we'll be using, as it comes with some default graphics to get you started quickly. The "Empty Game" template is something you may want to use later on when you're familiar with AGS - it comes with no default graphics at all.

So, select "Default Game" and click Next.

Game Name dialog

Finally, you need to decide on what to call your game. In the first box you can type the full name for your game. This is what will be displayed in the game title bar when it's running in a window, and it's used for a couple of other things too. For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm going to call it the incredibly lame "Roger's Adventure", but you can use whatever you like.

The second box asks you for the game file name. This is only used for the name of the folder that your game is created in, and the name of the final EXE file you compile.

The third box allows you to choose where AGS should put the game files -- the default is your My Documents folder, and I'm going to stick with that.

Click the Finish button, and after a short wait you should be presented with the main AGS Editor window:

The main editor window

So, there's your new game, ready and waiting for you to create it!

Starting off 

The main way that you navigate around the editor is using the project tree in the top-right corner, which allows you to access all the various parts of your game. Let's start by scrolling to the top of the tree, and double-clicking the "General Settings" node:

The General Settings pane

This screenshot demonstrates three of the main editor features. The project tree, as we've already discussed, gives you access to the various parts of your game. The property grid, in the bottom-right, is where item-specific properties are accessed. It's not used in the Game Settings window, but we'll see it in action soon!

Finally, the AGS editor allows you to have several windows open at once, and they are "tabbed" across the open windows bar at the top so that you can easily switch between them. Use the Close button to close a window once you're finished with it.

Now, since we're on the Settings pane, let's briefly examine the various options we have in front of us. Make sure these options are enabled to begin with:

  • Enable Debug Mode - Since we are going to be developing the game, we want the assistance of the debug features in the engine. This allows you to do things like teleport to different rooms, give yourself all the inventory items, and so forth. You would un-check this before compiling the final version of the game when it's complete.
  • Enable 'anti-glide' mode - without it, the character movement can look somewhat silly. 
  • Pixel-perfect click detection - improves the game playability by making sure that clicking transparent regions of objects won't trigger them.
  • Characters turn before walking - if the character is facing right, and you click to move him left, he'll rotate round before starting to move. This is what the Sierra and Lucasarts point-and-click games did, and looks a bit more professional.

Personally, I would always enable these four options when starting a new game. As you get a feel for AGS, you can decide what suits you best, and change these options again later.

Colour choices

Now, at this stage we really need to decide whether we want to create a palette-based (8-bit, 256-colour) game, or a hi-color (16- or 32-bit) game. It's highly recommended that you go with 16-bit colour, or 32-bit if you want to use alpha transparency.

256-colour games are much more complicated to make due to having to deal with the palette, they are not supported by the Direct3D driver, and may not run well on some modern graphics cards. Although they can give you the authentic retro feel, unless you really need to use palette-cycling effects, it's recommended that you stay away from making new 256-colour games.

Still, I'll cover both methods briefly below; if you're not really sure which to choose, go for Hi-color (16-bit) since it provides a good balance of performance and ease-of-use. If you want to be able to use alpha-channel image transparency, use 32-bit colour.

(NOTE: We need to decide now because when you import graphics, they will be set to the game's colour depth. Should you change your mind later, you would have to re-import all the graphics).

Creating a 256-colour game 

Double-click the "Colours" node in the project tree. You should see this:

The Palette Editor

The palette display has a grid with the 256 colour slots on it. The first 40 colours are game-wide colours, which means that those palette slots have a fixed colour throughout the game, in every single room.

The remaining slots, marked "X", are background colours and vary from room to room. This allows for different types of background to use different ranges of colours.

The default palette setup is a little badly weighted. Your GUI and main character graphics will have to use just the game-wide colours, since they are shown in more than one room. Therefore, unless you want a greyscale main character, the colours displayed are probably not enough.

So, let's swap some background colours for some game-wide ones. Select the first "X" slot, then hold shift and click on the last slot in the row marked "80". The screen should look as follows:

We have selected colours 42-95

We can now see the Property Grid in action. Change the "ColourType" setting from "Background" to "Gamewide", and you'll see the selected "X"s turn into various colours.

If you select one of these colours you'll see its RGB colour values in the property grid, where you can adjust the colour of that slot. If you don't want to do this manually for every colour, you can set up slots 42-95 in another paint package, save a BMP file, and then right-click on the selected slots and choose the "Replace selected slots from file" option.

What colours you use is up to you, and depends on what sort of colour scheme you're going for with your graphics.

You should set up the palette as well as you can now, because changing it later may require you to re-import some graphics.

Creating a 16-bit or 32-bit colour game

Back on the Game Settings pane, check out the very top option in the list. It's called "Colour depth", and all you have to do is change it to your desired colour depth. A warning message will prompt you to make sure. Confirm it, and you're done.

Game Resolution

Having decided on our colour depth, the other important decision to make at this stage is what resolution we want the game to run at. Higher resolutions allow you to have more detailed graphics, but they need more memory and run slower than lower resolutions.

Go back to the General Settings pane, and select your chosen resolution from the "Resolution" drop-down list.

Go to part 2: Creating your first room

Tutorial created 26 August 2002; updated 11 August 2007. Copyright (c) 2001-2007 Chris Jones.

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