Lucy’s Worlds

Game Design

This page was originally written in 1998, when color Macs had only just become the norm. (See the words “Color Games” in your browser’s address bar? That’s a hint.) Think of it as a trip down Memory Lane rather than as current advice. Inactive links have been deleted, and most of the HTML has been dragged kicking and screaming into the present millennium, but the body text is essentially unchanged.

Time to Move On

I started out using the World Builder game creation system, first released in 1986 and now available as freeware. WB has built-in drawing tools and its own programming language, many common actions are handled in defaults, and the games’ user interface is almost flawless.

But, but, but . . .

Happy Ending b/w

Happy Ending Screenshot

This is probably what you noticed first. And if you have a PPC or newer Mac, you must have wondered about the sound effects you were missing.

It’s something like using your 28” stereophonic TV to watch a Chaplin movie: sure, you’ll do it and enjoy it, but at the same time you appre­ciate why they’re not making them like that any more.

As a game designer, I ran into another problem: World Builder will only let you put so much code into each scene, and into the game as a whole.

 

Tower screenshot

In The Tower, you couldn’t leave your pack in the doorway and forget about it until hours later, and you could only drink wine in a handful of scenes.

Tower Color Screenshot

In Grey Tower, you can drink anywhere you like—assuming you’ve got your pack to carry the bottle in—and you can use your match to look into corners of the cellar . . . take another look at the squatter’s drawing whenever you want to . . . or just sit back and watch the flames in the fireplace randomly flickering.

 

Sultan screenshot

In The Sultan’s Palace, you couldn’t zip all over the place on the flying carpet, or doff and don the cloak whenever you felt like it.

Sultan Color Screenshot

In Palace of Sand, you can use magic as often as safety and common sense allow . . . consult the carpet owner’s manual whenever you forget a command . . . relax and watch the bubbling fountain . . . and Zainab will call you by name.

 

Canal screenshot

In Canal District, you had to wash off the blue powder before entering inhabited buildings; there wasn’t room to code all those reactions.

Canal Color Screenshot

In Muddy Water you’ll meet the full range of prejudices against blue-skinned persons . . . experience all the effects of Luck, whether good or bad . . . watch as time passes in a certain south-facing room . . . and learn what happens when you dive into the canals wearing a pack filled with stolen food.

 

Double Trouble screenshot

In Double Trouble, you could only open the weighty tome in selected rooms, and almost never got to try the “Drink Me” bottle.

DT Color screenshot

In Color by Number you can restore Jake whenever you happen to remember him . . . trap a rat and carry it around until you figure out what to do with it . . . learn how to dispose of Things in the cellar . . . and watch as the title scene “Color by Number” lives up to its name.

 

. . . and as for Xanadu, well, it just wouldn’t have been any fun in WorldBuilder format.

b/w Jake b/w Zainab b/w squatter

Where Can I Learn More About World Builder?

IF{TEXT$=SEARCH}THEN
  PRINT{You find a piece of paper with the scribbled words "World Builder."}
EXIT

Visit the Unofficial World Builder Page for information on other World Builder games and on World Builder itself.
And, if you’re curious about the genesis of my games, the original WB versions are once again available for download.

This page still exists, but is no longer maintained or updated. The site creator won’t mind if I quote his parting text (from April 2007):

In light of Apple’s decision to discontinue the Classic (i.e. MacOS 9) operating system environment under MacOS X 10.5, I have decided to shut down the Unofficial World Builder Home Page. Without Classic, World Builder and its games will no longer run on Macintosh computers. While I will make myself available for any questions you may have regarding World Builder or its games (at least those games with which I am familiar), I will no longer post World Builder, my World Builder games, or others’ games, on this web site.

Thank you for all of your interest and support over the past eleven years that I have hosted this site.

What If I Can’t Live Without Color?

Two game-development programs that I’ve recommended in the past are currently difficult or impossible to find.

If you come across James Burton’s “StoryMaker” application, hold on to it. This simple-to-use program supports 256 colors, uses standard-format Mac sounds (SND), and has a built-in programming language.

The Bad News

When last heard from, the author was living in Europe and was nearly impossible to get hold of.

The strangegames.com domain no longer exists.

If you’re more of an artist than a programmer, try “Adventure Creator” from AutumnSoft. Unlike WorldBuilder and StoryMaker, AC has no graphics of its own; instead you import your artwork from the graphics program of your choice. And AC games require next to no coding.

More Bad News

AutumnSoft’s web site appears to be in a state of flux; recent visits have brought up only a blank screen.

Like Strange Games, Autumn Software is no longer in existence.

But What Did YOU Use?

made with FB

If you’re feeling really ambitious—or you want absolute control over every feature of your games—you can do what I did: program the entire game from scratch using the programming language of your choice. Mine’s FutureBasic from Staz Software. FB is easier to learn than C, has excellent technical support and a very helpful newsgroup.

At the time this page was first created, there was a newsgroup dedicated to promoting and supporting FutureBasic. The group is largely moribund, but Staz Software is still in existence and FutureBasic became freeware in 2008.

Do You Have any Advice
for Game Designers?

Sure.

First: Do what you do best.
One reason my games have such a strong architectural emphasis is that, well, I basically can’t draw anything except a straight line . . . and architectural drawing can be learned.

Second: Test. Test. And test again.
That doesn’t just mean bug-testing (does it go more than 24 hours without crashing?). It means getting people—preferably people you don’t know, who don’t know how your mind works—to play through your game. If you say “INSPECT” while everyone else in the world says “EXAMINE”, or if the same piece of furniture is a “CUPBOARD” in one room and a “WARDROBE” in another, you’ll end up with a lot of frustrated fans.