Designer Diary: De-making King’s Quest: Maps

That's more fitting for IF, don't you think?

Making rooms is the easiest thing you can do in Inform 7. the code consists of nothing more than: “The Castle is a room.” That single short sentence after being compiled will create a single room in a very simple and very boring IF game. Add this to the end of that sentence: “”Your view is dominated by a large, weather-beaten castle.”” and now your room has a description. Add “It is north of the Road. It is east of the Mountain Pass” and now your IF has three rooms and if you were playing it you could freely move between the them. The entire program would look like this:

The Castle is a room. “Your view is dominated by a large, weather-beaten castle.” It is north of the Road. It is east of the Mountain Pass.”

Since making maps was the simplest part of designing the game I decided to start there with the KQ de-make (KQD). I printed out a copy of the the map for KQ1:

Daventry as designed by Roberta Williams

I figured I’d just make a copy of the map and be done. It’d be super easy because I didn’t have to do anything but cut and paste. As I started to do so though and I as I looked at my map in Inform. It didn’t make a lot of sense. The map for KQ has a lot of unused space in it. Daventry is a 6 x 8 grid with 48 screens in it. Of those 48 at least 20 of them have nothing in them that the character can pick-up or interact with. In some of them random creatures might pop up but there is nothing for the player to do but admire the primitive computer art and read a couple of boxes of short, descriptive text. While this seems like bad game design, and it is, at the time what KQ was doing was completely new. This was the first PC adventure game that allowed players to walk through a world and just look at the surroundings with their eyes. Before KQ you had nothing but descriptive text. If I did copy the map as is, I’d be creating rooms in which there was nothing for the player to do. Some empty rooms make sense to create atmosphere, but having nearly half of them was too much.

Another thing you’ll notice is that the maps consists of screen capture each area of the map consists of a single image that filled the computer screen. The player moved from screen to screen traveling left, right, up, or down. This makes a lot of sense for a grid-like world. IF though doesn’t have screens and therefore is not based on a grid, the convention in IF is that the player can move in not only the four cardinal directions (N,S,E,W) but also the four ordinal directions (NE, NW, SE, SW.) If I were to use the original map in IF and add in the ordinal directions nearly every place would be accessible from the other  and mapping as well as memorizing routes would become overly complicated.

I’d like to say I noticed this almost immediately and quickly corrected the problem… I was done with about 1/4 of the map before I realized I was making useless rooms and over-connecting them before I realized that this wasn’t a “good” idea. I took out the printed copy of the KQ map and started mashing rooms together, deleting others, and incorporating some rooms into larger regions (important for things later.) I went through four of five iterations of the map before I settled on the one below. As I move forward though there is no guarantee that further changes won’t be made.

King's Quest De-make map

The second level up is the Cloud Kingdom, the first is the mountain stairway between Daventry and the Cloud Kingdom (as well as the upper reaches of a single tree) The starting level is Daventry. CS is the Castle where the player starts. The Castle and the tan colored tiles around it were where I started making the map and still have the cardinal directions as the means of passage, this is the “developed” part of Daventry and have the right-angled roads would show that. The blue and pink regions are the two rivers in Daventry (here named Leams and Nene) the river in the east is where the gnome is located the one in the west is where the hole to the Leprechauns. GH is the witches’ gingerbread house, GP is the Goat Pen, and CF is the clover field. That should be enough to orient you. While the original game contained 48 rooms (not including interiors and the cloud kingdom) KQD only contains 34, a reduction of 31%.

With the map done the next step will be adding descriptive text to each room. I plan on ripping much of it from the original and then populating the rooms with objects and characters. Once that is done, and that is a lot. I need to create the code that will allow for the solving of puzzles, the interaction of various objects, NPCS,and the ability for the players to interact with said NPCs.

I got a lot of work ahead of me.

If you have any questions, comments, criticism, help, etc. Please do leave them in the comments I’m very new at this and I’m interested in whatever you have to say.


Designer Diary: De-making King’s Quest: Where to Start?

Not De-made

I’ve wanted to make a video game for, well, I don’t know how long it has been. Pretty long I’m sure. I can remember (just like everyone else can) drawing out dozens and dozens of level designs for my game. What type of game was it? It was a racing/platformer hybrid where racers in these pods would race through tubes that had a number of hazards. It was either going to be really stupid or stupidly hard. I never got anywhere on working on that game. I’ve never got very far on any of the games I’ve ever worked on. The problem always being have to learn a programming or scripting language. I’m not very good at it…

I still want to make a game though. So, what am I to do? Use Inform 7! Inform 7 is a  programming language for making Interactive Fiction (IF) that uses natural language. What does that mean? It means that if I type in as a line of code:

The Castle is a room. “You stand before a majestic castle it’s walls are imposing.” To the east is the Moat. To the west is an Empty Field.

The compiler takes these sentences and from it knows that the Castle is a room and when you are there will display the quoted text. The compiler also knows that to the east is another room,  Moat and to the west is a room called Empty Field. While you can do much more than create rooms with Inform 7 all of the coding is done in complete understandable English sentences like the ones above.

I figured the best way to learn Inform 7 was to start creating a game right away. But, I didn’t have any ideas for a IF game and I didn’t want to hate own of my own good ideas after implementing it so poorly on my first attempt at using the language. This is where Roberta William’s King’s Quest I comes in. King’s Quest wasn’t the first adventure game to have graphics (that was Roberta’s Mystery House) but the graphics were line drawings and static. KQ1 was the first to have a moveable avatar and detailed (for the time) visuals of your character’s surroundings. The player still has to type in commands at a prompt in order to interact with the game and there is still a lot of text to go through. Why not take that text and that premise for my own first attempt at game making? So, that is what I decided to do. I’ll just jettison the graphics and re-make the game in Inform 7. It shouldn’t be that hard should it?

Next time: Drawing Maps, designing a world


Shame Comes to My Alma Mater

So you’ve probably already seen the video above. The story went national sometime last Friday afternoon and it seemed that wherever I looked over the weekend there it was. Oh, just another bunch of Occupy Wall Street kids and just another in the seemingly endless cases of Police brutality. And, maybe for you that’s all it is. Not for me though, see University of California is where I went to college; it’s where my wife is attending right now for her PhD. we live in Davis. Davis is a wonderful place to live with a great sense of community. The city itself has had an occupy movement that has camped in Davis Central Park for over a month now and the city has done nothing but support it’s citizens right to peaceful protest. Sadly, a block away on the UCD campus that sentiment is not shared…

I don’t know how to feel about all of this… Mostly what I’m feeling is ashamed. Ashamed that the school I attended, the school I loved did this to some of her students. Ashamed that the woman in charge of UCD doesn’t seem to understand what the role of a University is, or her role in guiding it.

I felt these things strongly enough to write a  letter to the Chancellor of UC Davis, Linda P.B. Katehi:


You know what this letter is about. I imagine your mailbox is beginning to overflow with them. As a UCD Alumni I take some pride in my Alma Mater and the actions you initiated against peaceful student protesters is truly horrifying and unacceptable. “Alma Mater” is a funny Latin phrase, it means nourishing mother and was used as a term to describe numerous pagan deities, such as Ceres and Cybele, and to describe the Virigin Mary. This term is also applied though to our colleges and universities. These entities, UC Davis, exist to provide an education, to nourish the soul and mind of those who attend them who in doing so become their children. I can’t think of anything more opposed to the spirit of Alma Mater than the actions the UCD police, on your orders, took against students.

I’ve stopped my end of year donation to UCD and it won’t resume until the officers, not just Lt. Pike, are properly reprimanded if not removed and you personal apologize not only to the students your actions have harmed, but to all UCD students, alumni, and the institution itself. You shame us all with your behavior.


Jonathon Howard

If you want to read a much more powerful and effective letter you can find one here.

If you want to sign the petition calling for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation you can find it here.


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