I’ve got fond memories of text adventure games. One of the first video games I ever played was Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. On DOS. On a now archaic PC. That’s why I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with my good friend David Nimmo on a text adventure of our own – Project Arklay.
From text adventure games, I moved on to point and click games, and from there to more mainstream games but I’ll always look back favourably on games like HGttG – and Project Arklay – as my “patient zero”. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have a passion for either playing games or even reading or writing for that matter!
Project Arklay is a horror-themed text-based adventure game putting the player in the position of someone who has awoken inside a large, partially derelict mansion with no memory of how you got there and why you’re there in the first place. You must navigate your way around the mansion, finding items that will help you get to the root of the problem.
I asked David a couple of questions about Project Arklay. Why a text adventure game? Why now?
“Well, to be honest it came about when I was attempting to understand an unfamiliar software engineering concept. I needed something fun to apply it to, because frankly it wasn’t interesting enough to learn without. The concept ended up being far simpler than I thought it was going to, and I just got carried away from there really.
“…text adventures were unique in that they didn’t need fancy graphics or tight controls…”
“As for why a text adventure game, well, it was a genre that really stands out for me as having been quite special when I was a kid I guess. Back when I was playing games on the Amiga, text adventures were unique in that they didn’t need fancy graphics or tight controls or even anything close to a decent difficulty curve, but they could easily pull you in and stay with you for a long time to come.
“I can remember how it looked – which is pretty impressive considering it didn’t ‘look’ like anything; it was just words on a screen.”
“There was one that I used to play on the Amiga a lot as a kid, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called. But I can remember how it looked – which is pretty impressive considering it didn’t ‘look’ like anything; it was just words on a screen. But I do remember exactly how it looked in my head, and how I felt when I played it.”
I totally get what Nimmo is saying when he talks about how a text adventure feels. It sounds dumb but fonts, colours, and combinations thereof all work together to convey emotions. Use big blocky fonts and that conveys power, use more delicate italic serif and that conveys delicateness.
I like Project Arklay because it has a very gothic feel to it, almost Lovecraftian, but the text and dark background, along with the writing – and even sound effects! – all combine to give the game an atmosphere.
With the horror vibe, and the mansion environment, I ask about the parallels to Resident Evil.
“When I play Project Arklay, I’m usually picturing the Spencer Mansion in my head…”
“Hah, well the clue’s in the name on that one. The Arklay Mountains is the fictional location for the Spencer Mansion in the PlayStation game Resident Evil, and the mansion setting is of course a direct homage to this game as well. When I play Project Arklay, I’m usually picturing the Spencer Mansion in my head really, and there are a couple of further little references in the currently available demo for my game.”
Project Arklay is currently in alpha, and a working technical demo is available to play right now, but what does the future look like for the game?
“The short-term goal was very simple: ‘Become a better software engineer’. Which I hope I have. Long-term I’d actually like to turn this into a platform where people can generate their own text adventure games just by filling out a form. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that could write far better adventures than I can, and if I can create something that will let them easily write them, then there’s potential there for me to be able to play a lot of text adventure games, so everyone wins. Well, I win. Which is basically the same thing, from my perspective.
“I’ve just added background music and sound effects, and a save system, and that’s in preparation for a bigger version of the main game which I’m hoping to make available relatively soon. After that, I honestly don’t know. But it’s come quite a long way since where it started, when all it involved was unlocking a castle door and wandering out into an endless void!”
I’ve covered the creation hierarchy in an earlier blog post but making a tool that will enable other people to create is, for my money, one of the toughest and most creative things you can do.
So that’s Project Arklay – at this moment in time. We’ve got some big changes in store, some new features and a whole bigger map. Play the demo, let us know what you think, and fingers crossed we will have something new for you very soon.