(a 100% spoiler-free and all-natural making of)
Anyone either mildly interested in Douglas Adams' brilliant and amazingly weird humour, or deeply obsessed with Infocom's classic Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (try online luvs), could do much worse than wait for the release of H2G2 Remake. It is, you see, an incredibly promising attempt at remaking a classic text adventure into a proper and fully graphical point-and-click game, while simultaneously fiddling with genre conventions and even the original text. Having already played the demo (download it and see for yourselves) I can assure you that H2G2 Remake is shaping up to be a more than intriguing and probably great AGS adventure, sporting excellent art, obviously great writing, some interesting takes at classic puzzles and a brilliant interface. Here is what James Spanos, one of the game's two creators, has to say for the still unfinished project. A behind the scenes look at the development of a freeware indie offering, if you will:
As promised, I'm going to take some time and let you guys into the game's production stages and fun facts. Before I begin, it would be wiser to introduce you to the team of the game. First, it's me James Spanos (Dualnames), responsible for creating the art, interface and organizing the rest of the team to do those little chores for me. Then it's Kevin Haddley (Yukonhorror), who recruited myself and had this whole idea about remaking the text game into a graphical point and click. Then it's the team of tireless beta-testers: 1) Leon (who is keeping a site full of walkthroughs about AGS games [gamesolutions.efzeven.nl]), Ghost (Bjorn Ludwig) and Jon. The game is still in production but, with all luck on our side, it will be finished on 2009.
So, why did we make the game for?
Because I really love the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and from the very first moment I started coding and scripting, I wanted to make a game about the book. Kevin is a fan of the original game and sort of had the whole thing of turning the game into a point and click game in his mind, so he came in to the AGS forums asking for help, and I believed in his vision...he still hasn't paid me. :P
Well, of course the story is totally based on the original game. The main difference of the game we're making to the Infocom one is that (besides not having Douglas Adams in the team), since I'm a really big fan of almost every single quote of the book, and since the original game sported only minimal content from the book (most scenes seen on the book are not seen in the original game), we decided to use all those fun dialogs verbatim from the book. We've also added an introduction sequence that the original is lacking. The whole story/puzzle thing is based on a 100 page document written by Kevin Haddley, inside which the Hitchhiker's Guide on How to Make this Game is to be found... No, really!
Well, remaking a text game into a graphical one is really not as easy as it sounds. We've lately (just a month ago) gone into a total remake of a big number of sprites, due to my determination in making this game look better, and thanks to Shane Stevens , a wonderful guy from the AGS forums, who shared his knowledge on drawing. If you just take a look at the picture below you'll see how things originally were, and what they look like now.
We are apparently using pixel art drawn characters and Photoshop edited low-resolution background art. From left to right and in pairs you can see above just how the sprites evolved. Character art is drawn/painted on GIMP while background art (boy am I ashamed to say this) is drawn on MSPaint with a few small effects and finishing touches added on Photoshop.
That's definitely the hardest part for us to do. In the original game events happen in turns, whereas in our remake, they're happening in real-time, meaning there is actually a great number of timers going on. Some parts of the game were also very tricky at the initial stages of production. One is the GUIDE itself. We've created a lot of animations for this one, but also implemented a module to make it work like the original should be (links, hypertext). As for the gaming engine we're using, AGS is really very, well, useful and I'm happy to say that Chris Jones (the author) has really, really helped us on this matter. The interface of the game is a little similar to the Verb Coin that first appeared on CMI (Curse of Monkey Island), but the Verb Coin appears instantly and has two buttons for objects and three buttons for characters. Right click opens the inventory etc.
We basically tried to keep the interface as simple as possible, but in the same time allow for the players to have the same level of interactivity the original game offered. Players can even drop items, though the limit of items you can pick up is quite a bit more flexible (at least on normal difficulty) than in Infocom's original. Also, on normal difficulty most of the dead-end situations are tipped, meaning you get to be warned whenever something inappropriate is being done, and even some dead-end puzzles can actually be finished, though without awarding players any points. Generally the game is very newbie friendly and rather more tolerant than the original. On difficult setting, things appear to be definitely closer to the original's difficulty.
Well, things are going very smooth lately, and thanks to some attention that has arisen over the project, we're getting a lot of extra hands to help us out. Beta-testing is going quite well, and when it's finished, we will be looking for voice actors. Hopefully you'll be able to get your hands on H2G2 Remake September 2009. But well, can't really promise anything apart from the fact that the game will definitely be finished. If you want to see more, head over to the DNGames YouTube channel or just enter the AGS forums and head to the game's production page.
And always know where your towel is.
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