Monday, 19 January 2009

XAGE Private Alpha v0.2 - Download

The second alpha release is now ready. There is a changelog with the attached readme, but here's a summary of the main changes for v0.2:
  • XAGETOOL now works with XAGE projects ("Game.xag") which references five sections of inerpreted game content (intro, menu, tutorial, game & credits).
  • XAGE now takes any size for game screen, so can be used to develop retro 320*200 titles or 1280*720 behemoths. Each section can also have its own screen size and scale, so a retro game can still have a fancy Hi-Def intro and menu screen.
  • XAGE games can now be deployed to the xbox 360 with the included skeleton project for Visual Studio 2008.
  • Numerous tweaks and bugfixes.
There's a lot of fiddly little things to deal with for Xbox games to ensure you'll pass peer review, like dealing with unexpected controller unplugs or profile sign-outs. These have now been dealt with. The next release will focus on the outstanding functionality. As usual, if you'd like to get your hands on it, please email for the download link.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

"Writer's Block"

It seems that someone's beaten me to releasing the first point & click adventure game on the Xbox Live Community Games channel. I've just had a quick go of Writer's Block and the similarities and differences between it and anything XAGE produces are interesting (to me, at least).

Both have SCUMM-esque interfaces, though WB toggles the GUI with a click of the left shoulder button whereas XAGE always displays it at the bottom of the screen (as per the LucasArts games). Early on in development I played around with various ideas for the interface similar to what the guys behind WB have gone for. In the end I settled on sticking as closely to the winning (Lucasarts) formula as possible, as it turned out that using the thumbstick for the cursor wasn't nearly as laborious as I thought it might be. In future, if there's a demand for it, there's nothing to stop me adding functionality for a Sierra style interface. It's purely because I much prefer the SCUMM system that XAGE uses it.

I quite like Writer's Block, and seeing a complete adventure game at a high resolution on a tv screen is refreshing. There are a few things in it that I'd have done differently - the dialogue system in particular is a little clunky, and the character graphics, whilst pretty decent, suffer from that 'beanpole' style that seems to curse most AGS games. I don't regard WB as competition as such as any game that brings more attention to the genre can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Bye bye, Guybrush

The placeholder Monkey Island graphics will soon be replaced. In a way this is a shame as they're obviously of professional quality and gave the XAGE youtube videos an extra layer of polish.

I'd expected that I'd need to replace them with either some suitable public domain graphics (none of which I was able to find) or to approach an AGS developer to use theirs. In fact the answer had been staring me in the face all along. In the mid-90's an elder brother and I had spent countless months of our misspent youth making simple adventure games with AMOS for the Amiga 500. It transpires that my brother had actually recently managed to convert a bunch of our (mostly his, my creativity has always been highly derivative) deluxe paint drawings of various characters and locations. At some point Guybrush and the Governer's Mansion will be replaced with Artichoke and the island of Uh-Oh Yeti:


Also, I've contacted the creator of an AGS game who is potentially interested in converting his game to XAGE for release on the Xbox360. Nothing is set in stone yet but this is a particularly exciting development and can only make XAGE more robust as I implement all the functionality I've overlooked as part of the conversion progress. It should also be possible to automate parts of the conversion, specifically dialogue trees.