Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Adventure Construction Creation System Sets

Back in the day I played a ton of games on my Commodore 64 computer. I've mentioned before that Ultima IV remains my alltime favorite computer game. Anybody else remember the Adventure Construction Set? Designed by Stuart Smith and put out by Electronic Arts back before EA turned White Dwarf into an all-Warhammer magazine, it was basically designed to allow you to build your own Ultima-style adventures. I messed around with ACS a lot as a kid, though I finished very few or no adventures without resorting to the 'finish adventure' button, which simply filled out the rest of the adventure with randomly generated crap.

The graphics were even more crude than Ultima IV, with fewer colors and no animation. The tiny little animations of the waves on the water tiles and the moving people really brought the world of Ultima to life. I understand the Amiga version of ACS had somewhat more sophisticated graphics.

Recently I encountered a newer program directly inspired by ACS. Written in 1995, it's called the Adventure Creation Kit. Unlike ACS, it's easy to find for free download and no emulation or other fiddling is needed to make it run on a more modern machine. I have no reports on running it under Vista, but last night I was messing around with ACK on a Windows set-up. No sound is available unless you use DOSBox, an emulator designed to make old games run more smoothly on newer machines.

One thing I have yet to figure out is whether this new toy makes executables, like the old ACS did. A game made in ACS comes out as a single .exe file that can be shared with people who don't have to own a copy of the game creation software. Ken St. Andre of Tunnels & Trolls fame used to maintain a fan club of people who swapped and bought/sold disks of completed games. Personally, I'd love to be able to create a little Encounter Critical themed adventure I could share with the folks on the EC mailing list. Last night I made a Theskian Dagger item and a rough draft map of Blacksteel Isle. That's a start.

In fact, it was Encounter Critical that got me thinking about digging up Adventure Construction Set. An ACS adventure just struck me as the kind of obsessive EC-related fanboy activity that I would enjoy, the same way I tried to learn to make online quizzes so I could whip up the Which EC Character Are You? thing-a-ma-jig.