Games can be the perfect medium to tell stories with. But how do you get started when you’re not a coder? I talked to the film maker and game designer Ash Denton about Capital, a sci-fi noir point and click adventure game that he’s working on. He recommends checking out Adventure Creator from the Asset Store.
Ash Denton has worked on videos for Inside XBox and is one of the creators of the Thank You for Playing video series. His dream has always been to make feature-length films. Recently, he realized that there was another way he could bring stories to life. “I was thinking, wait a minute, making a game should be way way easier! I’m not a coder, I didn’t really know where to start, so I asked people I met through my work for advice.”
One of those friends was Mike Bithell, the Thomas Was Alone developer, who recommended that Ash check out some Unity tutorials. At first, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to start learning a whole new toolset. Then he discovered Kentucky Road Zero. “Coming from the video background, lighting was really important to me. This game just looks so amazing and it was made by two developers! So I started looking into their lighting and saw that the people shared the script on some forum. How amazing is that?”
He concluded that learning Unity was worth the effort and downloaded the free version of Unity 4.5. He’s now upgraded to Unity 5. “The new lighting is brilliant and for the first time, I’m working with material and shaders. The Standard Shader is really so much easier to deal with – it helps that I have experience with After Effects in Adobe Suite”.
Mike Bithell also recommended the Asset Store. Ash was amazed to see the diversity of what was on offer: “You can buy all the bits and tools you need. You can get someone else’s brilliant stuff, plug it in, and tweak it.”
Soon, he found Adventure Creator on the store. “It’s incredible, all of the tools needed to create a professional looking point-n-click game without having to type a single line of code. Plus the creator is super helpful and has pulled me through many issues and complex ideas I’ve had with his software.”
Adventure Creator is very open ended and flexible. For example, Capital is going to have 2D characters in a 3D world. With the tool, a non-coder can create node based scripted events and buttons. With the actions manager, the designer can control which commands are available to cut scenes. When connected, actions produce branching gameplay. The scene manager organizes all the logic in a scene, including hotspots, navigation and triggers.
“I really didn’t expect the support to be so fantastic, after all, most publishers have their own companies, their own projects. But every time I come across a problem, I found someone to talk to”.
Dialogue System for Unity integrates well with the Adventure Creator and allowed Ash and his small team to scale up their ambition for the in-game conversations. “The creator of this asset writes custom scripts for me, he’s just incredible”.
The database structure that the asset maintains enabled a number of fairly innovative features. You build a reputation in the game, new people will react to you differently based on how you treated others before them. Your choices follow you. Also, the emotional state of the NPCs will change depending on the dialogue options you choose. A number scale changes based on the mood of the character. “Ultimately, this should make the conversation feel more organic”, says Ash.
At the moment, the team of four core people with a few helpers is working on a playable demo to show the main mechanic “Then we can test it, KickStart it, try everything and make something that truly stands out”.