Quest at Games Britannia

4 July 2012

Magna

I 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 workshop

Each 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 workshop

It 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.


Quest in italiano

24 June 2012

Thanks to Francesco Cordella and Luca Salvicchi, you can now create Quest games in Italian.

This is now live on the web version of Quest, and will be added to the next release of the desktop version.

This brings the total number of supported languages to seven:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Dutch
  • Italian
  • Esperanto

It is great to see Quest making non-English text adventures possible - and it’s nice to see the first non-English games being published on the site. Recent additions include:

I look forward to seeing even more - as well as bringing text adventures to audiences who may not speak English, I believe this kind of game could be a great resource for teaching foreign languages too.

It would be wonderful to have even more translations - Welsh, Russian, Chinese would be very interesting additions. How do you create a translation? It’s as simple as editing a text file. The page Translating Quest on the wiki has details, and I’m happy to help with any questions you may have.

Arrivederci…


Quest 5.2 is out now

12 May 2012

Quest 5.2 has now been released, and you can grab it from the download page or use it online.

For full details of what’s new in this version, see the Quest 5.2 Beta announcement. The only things changed since the beta are:

  • a few bug fixes
  • exit links now immediately move the player (unless they have more than one verb) - thanks to James Gregory for suggesting and implementing this
  • the Editor will now not save invalid expressions (with mismatching brackets or quotes) to prevent a problem where this would cause the game file to become unloadable

Quest 5.2 Beta is now available

14 April 2012

Quest 5.2 Beta is now available. You can download the Windows version, or you can use it in your web browser.

The main focus for this release was adding that second option - Quest 5.1 was Windows-only, and the main new feature of Quest 5.2 is that it is now available everywhere.

But I, and a couple of contributors, did find some time to add some other new features to Quest too:

Gamebook mode. This lets you create “Choose Your Own Adventure”-style games in Quest, in addition to text adventure games. There is more information in the announcement blog post. I’ve added a couple of small features since that post - you can now easily add YouTube videos into a gamebook, and you can also incorporate links to external websites.

Two-object verbs. It’s now much easier to set up commands like “hit nail with hammer” or “light candle with match”, using two-object verbs.

Inventory and container limits (contributed by Pertex). The concept of a “limited container” has been extended, so you can now limit by volume of objects as well as number. For example, a bag might be able to hold 20 apples but only one bowling ball, and it’s now easy to set that up. When an object is a limited container, you can specify the maximum volume that a container can hold. For objects that you might put inside a limited container, on the Inventory tab you can specify their volume.

These limits have also been extended to the player’s inventory. Select the player object, and you can specify the maximum number of items that are allowed in the inventory, as well as the maximum volume.

Multiple switch case expressions (contributed by James Gregory). When using the “switch” script command, you can now specify multiple cases separated by commas.

Customisable room descriptions. On the game editor, Options tab, you can now specify the order of elements in the generated room description. So you can now move the exits list after the description, for example.

Health and score. It’s now easier to have health and/or score on-screen, as you can now simply turn these on from the game options without having to set up the status attributes yourself.

There are new script commands for increasing and decreasing health and score. Also, when health is enabled, the object options tab has a new “Health” section which lets you specify that an object can be eaten. If the object can be eaten, it can add or subtract health points from the player.

First time scripts. It’s now easier to run a script just once, the first time something happens - such as the first time the player speaks to a character, uses an object, etc. Previously you would have to create flags for this, but you can now simply add a “First time” script command which handles it all for you.

Easier introduction scripts. There was a change to how “wait for a keypress” (and other functions such as asking the player a question) worked in Quest 5.1, which made it difficult to insert a pause before moving the player to a room. This made it difficult to create introductory text in a game, as the player would be moved to the start room before they had pressed a key. This has now been addressed in Quest 5.2, as the core library uses a new “on ready” script command to move the player into the start room only after any waits etc. have been completed.

Hide/show objects. Previously, if you wanted an object to appear mid-game, you would have to move it from another room - maybe a dummy room used for the sole purpose of containing objects that aren’t “there” at the start of the game. In Quest 5.2, you can now hide and show objects - in a similar way to how this worked in Quest 4.x and earlier. There are new script commands for making an object visible or invisible, and there is a new checkbox on the object setup tab so you can make an object hidden at the start of the game.

Other new things:

  • When playing a game, game output is saved, so that when you re-load it later, you can see all the text that was there before
  • When you double-click an .aslx file in Explorer, Quest opens in Editor mode (.quest files still launch the game)
  • The ListExclude function can now exclude multiple items (contributed by James Gregory)
  • When playing a game online, as long as your browser window stays open, your game session should no longer time out
  • When play-testing a game from the Editor, you can now exit back from the Player into the Editor by hitting the Escape key (feature generously sponsored by Thomas Hines)
  • Better handling of JavaScript errors in desktop Player - now prints error messages in-line with the game output instead of pop-up windows
  • New Esperanto translation and updated Spanish translation, both contributed by Francisco Orta
  • New word-wrap option in the Code View
  • Reduced memory usage
  • More helpful error messages when the wrong number of parameters are passed to a function
  • Warn before exiting Quest if files are still downloading in the game browser, and added "Delete downloaded file" to context menu
  • and of course various bug fixes!

Please try out the beta and let me know what you think. Download Quest 5.2 Beta for Windows or try it in your web browser.

Many thanks to those who have contributed to this release - Pertex, James Gregory and Francisco Orta. If you’re interested in contributing, please take a look at the Developer page and Developer forum.


3 Improvements to Publishing Games

12 April 2012

I’ve just finished three improvements to how games are published on textadventures.co.uk:

Publishing from the web version of Quest

You can now publish games from the web version of Quest. From your game list, you can use the “Publish” link that appears next to your game. From the Editor itself, select “game” and hit the “Publish” button that appears in the top right of the screen.

After publishing your game, you can carry on editing it. Changes will not appear publicly until you re-publish.

Publishing from the desktop version of Quest

The process for uploading a game has been improved. The first step is to upload your file - after that, the game name, description and category you’ve specified in the Editor will be automatically extracted, so there’s no need to enter this information again on the upload form.

Unlisted games

You can now publish a game without making it fully public - handy if you simply wanted to try out your game online, or maybe to share a game with just a few friends. Simply select “Unlisted”, and your game won’t appear when browsing the site - only people who know the link will be able to see it (so it works in a similar way to unlisted videos on YouTube).

When logged in, you can see your unlisted games by clicking onto your profile. You can edit your game details to toggle it between public and unlisted at any time, so this may be useful if you want to have a few people beta test your game before releasing it more widely

Combining this with the new “publish” feature in the web editor means that, whether you’re using Mac, Linux, Windows, iPad or Chromebook, you can go through the entire game-making process in your browser:

  • create a game from scratch and edit it
  • publish it as "unlisted" to get a few of your friends to beta test it
  • carry on working on the game, publishing updates when you're ready
  • when you're finished, switch it to public and share with the world.

So you can now throw away your desktop PC (presuming you weren’t using it for anything other than making text adventures).


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