Adventure-Treff






Adventure-Treff
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
nterviews
Chris Jones
(Developer of AGS)
Interviewer:
date: 08.09.2002
language:
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Chris Jones develops the Adventure Game Studio (former Adventure Creator) for some years now. It is an adventure creation system. AGS ist probably the program of its kind with the biggest and most active community. Games made with AGS are King's Quest 1 VGA, Pleurghburg: Dark Ages or Die neuen Abenteuer des Zak McKracken.


Adventure-Treff: "First tell us something about you, who are you? What do you do all the day when you're not sitting in your basement hacking code for AGS?"

Chris Jones: "I'm currently working as a software developer in my day job, which involves the development of various business-related software applications - boring stuff like spreadsheets I'm afraid."

A-T: "When did you start using a computer, how did you get better in using it and why is DOS the better operating system?"

Chris: "I think I probably first had access to a computer when I was about 10. At the time, adventure games were all the rage, so the first games I played were things like Space Quest 2 and Hero's Quest (later renamed to Quest for Glory).
I was always a fan of DOS, mainly because I didn't have a computer good enough to run Windows. Over time, I got better at using DOS because it was the only operating system I had, and became quite proficient at it. However, I have to confess that in the last few years I have been converted to Windows 2000. I always hated Windows 95 because it seemed to crash every other second and DOS was much more stable, but in Win2k Microsoft seem to have finally pulled off a graphical OS that's good."

A-T: "What about Adventures, why are you so addicted to them? There are so many people out there playing Quake and Warcraft III while you are wasting your time supporting the small community that still likes these old-fashioned point-and-click adventures."

Chris: "I wouldn't say I'm addicted to them, but because I played and loved them so much as a child, they hold a special place in my heart. Generally, adventure games also require the player to think, rather than the Quake mentality of shoot-anything-that-moves.
But there's room for all types of games - I'm a big Warcraft III fan and I'd say that it is "3D done right" - they've managed to 3D-ify the game and not lose the gameplay."

A-T: "Which one was your first adventure, which was your favorite and which was your least favorite? Any other games you'd like to mention? Do you have time for playing games at all?"

Chris: "Thinking back, I think my first adventure game was King's Quest 3. I was immediately hooked - not knowing when the evil wizard was going to re-appear and zap you, trying to sneak around and grab things before he noticed. Those spell book copy protection bits were really annoying though, since you had to type like 5 pages of spell in, and if you got one single letter wrong you'd die.
Shortly after this I played the Space Quest and Quest for Glory games, and loved them too. Space Quest for its humour, and QFG for having those RPG elements, while still retaining the adventure game style. In fact, I never played any LucasArts games until much later - it must have been 1996 when I first played Monkey Island 1. For this reason I've always been a Sierra fan at heart. :-)
As for my favorite game, it's a tie between Space Quest 4 and Quest for Glory 1. I don't really know why I like SQ4 so much - it doesn't really have any particularly great parts to it. But at the time I loved the soundtrack, the graphics (it was the first VGA game I ever played) and the story, however contorted, was somehow appealing too. I have to choose QFG1 here as well simply because of the sheer number of hours I wasted as a kid playing it. At first I never really got very far in the game, but going round killing monsters, completing the sub-quests and building up the stats had me at it for hours. Then, when I finally neared the end, it turned out that Disk 5 was corrupt - this just meant playing around for hours more before the replacement arrived. I must've explored every possible avenue in that game, I played it so much."

A-T: "Tell us about your involvement in commercial PC games so far, especially adventures. MobyGames lists you with an impressive amount of games. Are you really the Tex Murphy Chris Jones?"

Chris: [grins] "MobyGames has got a tad confused. It seems their system only allows one entry for a name, and so it has combined me with the Tex Murphy Chris Jones into one entry. www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId=1089 is the page we're talking about here by the way. It lists such games as Larry Vales and Pleurghburg: Dark Ages (which is me), but also others (eg. Tex Murphy: Overseer) which are not. Sorry to disappoint you. ;-)"

A-T: "In the beginning, how did you get the idea to make AGS?"

Chris: "I originally wanted to create my own adventure game. I thought about hard-coding it all into the source code, but thought that was silly, and it was a better idea to make a flexible engine instead to allow me to easily modify bits of the game. I'd also briefly played about with a program called Quest Maker that I found on a shareware CD, which seemed a good idea in principle but it had so many shortcomings I was sure I could do better. So, I wrote what became known as Adventure Creator v1.00. I made a short game of about 5 rooms (which later became the demo game), then realised that I had no skills in the art, sound or story departments and gave up. It wasn't until a couple of years later when I finally got internet access that I uploaded it to the net just for the hell of it. Heh, looking back I really didn't know what I was letting myself in for. ;-)"

A-T: "AGS is an impressive piece of work and undoubtful one of the best adventure game creation systems out there. Why is it free?"

Chris: "Several reasons. Firstly, it's free because it's a hobby of mine that I work on when I feel like it. If people are paying for it, they then have a right to demand new features and so forth, since I am effectively their employee. I don't want a hobby to become that serious.
Secondly, if I charged for it, hardly anyone would use it, thus defeating the point of making it. I know all too well the feeling of seeing some software you like the look of, but then reading "$30 registration" and deciding to look elsewhere.
Finally, the reason I have been developing AGS since the early days, is not to create my own game any more, but rather as my small contribution to keeping the adventure gaming genre alive. Since all the AGS games produced so far have been released as freeware, it wouldn't seem right to charge people to make free games."

A-T: "How do you decide what to do next on the huge ToDo-list when you work on AGS and what keeps you motivated when it's not money? Glory? Honor? Women?"

Chris: "Ah, the to-do list. I try to keep it in priority order, with important and frequently-requested suggestions at the top. However, depending on my mood I'll sometimes pick a low-priority feature that will be easy to implement to do instead.
What keeps me motivated? Seeing the games that people are managing to make using the system. If no-one was using it, I'd have stopped work on AGS years ago. But when I play one of the games that someone has created using AGS, and realise just how talented people are to come up with the artwork, storylines and sheer feats of scripting, I realise that AGS is worth it after all. :-)"

A-T: "Do you steal ideas from other adventure game creation systems? What do you think of them? Are you in contact with their creators?"

Chris: "Heh - as I said, when I first created Adventure Creator I didn't have internet access, so I didn't realise there were so many other adventure game creation systems out there. If I had have done, I'd probably never have bothered to make AGS in the first place.
As for stealing ideas - I haven't really used any of them enough to know what their ideas are. Occasionally someone on the forum might suggest a feature and say "AGAST has this" or whatever, but no I don't go out on reconnaissance missions to track down all their features. ;-)
I think it's great that there is this "competition" in the amateur adventure community. It shows just how many people do care about adventure games, and the more the merrier. AGS isn't right for everyone, and it's good that they have alternatives. At the end of the day, more game creation systems means more people making games, which can only be good for all of us :-)"

A-T: "Why did it take so long until the Windows version came out?"

Chris: "I don't think that it did, really. The final DOS version was released in March, and the first public Windows version was released in July. That's only 4 months of development to completely re-write the editor from scratch, so in fact I'd say it was remarkably quick."

A-T: "Do you ever want to create an AGS game by yourself, or lead a team who does so? Maybe the ultimate AGS adventure, made by the community's very best?"

Chris: "From time to time I do, but then I realise that the only part of game development I'm any good at is scripting - but I'd be better off developing the engine since many other people in the community are superb scripters - some are better than me because they've used AGS a lot more than me and discovered ways around problems."

A-T: "How many of the AGS games out there did you actually play? Which one is your favorite? Do you know German AGS games?"

Chris: "I try to play all AGS games - I very rarely complete any, however. One day I'd like to just sit back and play through all the AGS games, but I don't think I'll ever get the time.
I know of a couple of German AGS games - Zak McKraken 2 for a start, and other games have German translations in progress, such as King's Quest VGA and Pleurghburg: Dark Ages."

A-T: "You met some of 'your' users recently on the Mittens meeting. Was it the first time you met AGS users? What feeling was it to meet them IRL?"

Chris: "Hehe it was strange, that's for sure. But the whole Mittens event turned out much better than I expected.
Yes, it was the first time I'd ever met another AGSer face-to-face - and it was also the first time I'd ever gone to meet someone from the internet in real life. As it turned out everyone was really cool, and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss things properly, and understand peoples' views and interest in adventure gaming. It was more than that though - it proved that a group of guys who had nothing more in common than a passion for adventure games, could meet up and get along for a week and have a laugh. Unfortunately the Swedes and Dutch beat us Commonwealth in the footy. ;-)"

A-T: "Try to describe the typical AGS user."

Chris: "I don't think that's really possible - the community members are so diverse there's no "typical" user. People are from all over the world, of all ages, from all kinds of different backgrounds. The only thing I can say for sure is that the typical AGS user has a fondness for adventure games :-)"

A-T: "How do you see the future of AGS? Will there ever be a 'final' version?"

Chris: "There will never be a 'final' version in so much as AGS will never be complete. No matter how many new features are added, people always want more, and technology evolves to make more features possible (things like hi-colour and mp3 support would not have been possible 4 or 5 years ago). However, there may be a day when I decide that I've had enough of AGS, and decide that the current version is the final version. When this will be, I don't know - at present I'm perfectly happy working on AGS, but time pressures and other outside influences can always change the state of play."

A-T: "Why the blue cup?"

Chris: "Back in my days as a pirate, t'was the faithful cup that I drank all my grog out of - never spilled a drop. Bluey and I have been together a long time, we've shared many experiences and adventures, and ... no, wait.
What can you draw with 10x10 pixels, MS Paint, a 3 colour palette, and no artistic talent whatsoever? Get the picture ;-)"

A-T: "Thanks a lot for taking up time to answer our questions."

Chris: "No problem, keep up the great work with your site. :-)"

 

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