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Topics - Eric

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I'm at the point in game making where many of my technical questions deal with how to best incorporate animation in the game. I'm not sure if that's a technical question that belongs here, as it's only partially coding related, or in the Critic's Lounge, which seems to be more art-related. Feel free to move it if I've chosen incorrectly, but there's nothing really to criticize in this thread.

So, say I have a character who sits in a chair, or turns the handle on a sink, or otherwise interacts with an object that is a fixture in the room...what's the best method of handling animation for this? Hide the room object as the animation begins and include its image in one animation with the character sprite? Two sets of animated sprites, one for character, one for object? Seems like that would be hard to time. Some third obvious option that I've overlooked?

...So I've finally gotten together enough art assets that I'm forcing myself to start programming a game. I've got two questions, probably the first of many to come, with apologies if these are obviously simple, and with appreciation for your time and guidance.

Question 1:
I'm trying to move a Sierra-style portrait system to the bottom of the screen, as I've created backgrounds with a lot of foot room, and not as much head room (so heads of characters were constantly blocked by the dialog box). I've successfully done so, using Crimson Wizard's recent addition to 3.3.0, Speech.CustomPortraitPlacement (thank you, CW!).

The portrait's now in the right place, but the accompanying dialog box still aligns to the top of the portrait. Since it's at the bottom of the screen, I'd like the text box to align with the baseline of the portrait (which I've set to be 15 pixels from the bottom of the screen).

Is that possible?

Question 2:
Now that the heads are visible, I am curious as to whether it would be possible for there to be an additional talking animation to be played for the character's non-portrait, walking-around sprite. I'll be lip-syncing the portrait (hopefully with voice tracks), but the sprite can just have a simple loop of three mouth movement frames.

Is that possible?

Thanks again!


With the last competition, Doc_Savage asked us to spotlight a nation with a tune, using the instruments of that country to represent them in song. As we began the Winter Olympics this week, I thought how appropriate that was as a theme.

To continue celebrating the Olympics, instead of focusing on the countries this time, I'd like you to compose a tune to represent a particular Winter Olympic event. For some, this might be easy, as they already use songs as part of the form of the competition -- figure skating, for instance. For others, this might prove a greater challenge -- what is the best way to represent skeleton, curling, or halfpipe through music?

Entries are due Tuesday, February 25! Make sure to identify which event for which you've composed your tune!

Clark Kent was taking a smoke break, which Jimmy Olsen thought was unusual for him. Clark, as far as he knew, didn't smoke. But all day Clark had seemed agitated, even having some choice words with others on the newsroom staff, and when the bespectacled man from Smallville declared he was going off to the roof to have a nicotine fix, Jimmy seemed to be the only one on the news desk who didn't say "Good riddance."

Jimmy climbed the last set of stairs to the rooftop and found Clark sitting beneath the spinning globe of the Daily Planet logo, not smoking, but staring off into the Metropolis skyline, his jaw set and an angry squint in his eye. Jimmy approached him cautiously, not wanting to incur the ire that so many others had received that day.

"Something wrong, Clark?" he asked.

Clark wasn't surprised to see him there, and spoke without turning: "I got a cease and desist letter from Time Warner today. Me! Can you imagine?"

Jimmy couldn't imagine. He couldn't figure out what Clark was talking about, and said so.

"It's the 'S,' you see," Clark said. "They've trademarked it. They said they'd bring a lawsuit against me if I continued to use it for my personal branding."

"The 'S'?" asked Jimmy.

"The 'S' on the chest of my Superman costume," Clark said. "They sent a cease and desist letter to Superman."

Realization came to Jimmy Olsen like the rising sun.

"...Holy crap," he said. "You're Superman?!"


2013 was the 75th anniversary of the first appearance in comics of Superman, and this week marks the 35th anniversary of the release of the Richard Donner / Christopher Reeve film Superman: The Movie. But in all of the revelry and celebration, there was a less fun side, as the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman's creators, fought and lost in court to own a piece of the Superman rights.

To bring attention to this, I'm having our fictional Clark Kent come to an impasse. Faced with threats of litigation, Superman has to find some other symbol to fill the famous shield on his chest. Why don't you help him out?

Contest ends at noon, Eastern Standard Time on December 30! Let's have a super end to a year of competitions! Trophies forthcoming below!

Spirou is the one of the big four Franco-Belgian BDs (I might be wrong, but based on my readings, I'd consider the major ones Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke & Spirou) that I've not gotten into, mostly because it hasn't been translated as much as the others. Where should one start with the Spirou series? What makes it your favorite?

(Moderator note: Split off from this topic in order to keep that thread adventure game-related.)

Some of you know that I'm affiliated with the webcomic Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Rick Burchett. We've just launched our Kickstarter campaign to publish the first book a couple of hours ago, and it's...well, it's been quite the experience thus far.

I've posted some best practices that I'd researched for Kickstarter in the forums before, and many of them seem to be panning out (having names like Greg and Rick on board helps the most, obviously). I thought I'd share here in case anyone was interested, and also see if there are questions that I can answer for others interested in crowdfunding as I go through the process.

My commitment to this crowdfunding campaign is one of the reasons I haven't been making game updates lately (the other was my job search, which I just successfully completed!). Hopefully, this will also succeed, and you'll be seeing more of me in the future!

I'm looking for examples of games that have successfully (or, actually unsuccessfully works too) used comic-style word balloons for dialogue. You know, these things:

I'll thankfully take any sort of game, though of course, my preference is for adventure games, specifically those made with AGS. Thanks!

I haven't yet tried this myself, but thought, if it works as advertised, that it might be useful to you guys: LazyNezumi.

Hi guys,

There's a wonderful documentary about the director John Ford where Steven Spielberg recounts a tale of meeting the director when Spielberg was a young man. I'm taking this transcript from the Pop Matters review of the doc:


Now I understand a bit about horizon lines and perspective in film (Citizen Kane is a master course in cinematography, especially any scene that's a conversation between Jed Leland and C.F. Kane in a mostly empty newspaper office), and in still drawings. But video games are a different animal, especially 2D video games like ours where a severe change in perspective can necessitate redrawing sprites from different views. I was working on a technique for making backgrounds tonight and it occured to me to ask, if you'll excuse the goofy wordplay, your perspectives on perspective.

For instance, here are some questions I've got:

  • How do you all generally manage perspective when designing your backgrounds (and, accordingly, your sprites)?
  • Do you prefer one-point or two-point perspective (or, and I will be impressed with you if you answer this, three-point), and what do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of each?
  • Do certain perspectives work better for interiors and others for exteriors? For specific environments?
  • Is it jarring at all to mix one- and two-point perspective in the same game, the same area, the same room?
  • Should the point in a one-point perspective image always be in the center? And how do you handle one-point perspective in a scrolling background?
  • How do you handle horizon lines? Do you like them high or low? And if you like 'em low, how do you avoid drawing ceilings?
  • How far can you break perspective for effect (ala Day of the Tentacle)? How and when do you know to do this?
  • What techniques do you use in which programs to set up your perspective lines and points?

I'm sure there are many others out there. So I thought I'd open a forum post and invite you all to respond. Feel free to share your own work, backgrounds from games you like, crude mock-ups, or whatever. Share best practices, raise objections, offer philosophical ideas on the nature of art, or whatever you feel like doing. The general topic is perspective. Consider it open.

I'll start by sharing a technique I was testing tonight. I'm dealing with a lot of urban spaces in a game I'm planning, and got tired of drawing windows, doorframes, sidewalks, etc., in perspective all the time. So I cranked up Illustrator, and made a flat version of a building (This is a draft, just enough done to get a nice structure to work with. Also, this is scaled down from the giant file I accidentally made):

I then made a Photoshop file, 640x480 at first, and colored the thing neon green. Then, I expanded the canvas to 300% with the live green section in the center. I used Photoshop's ruler guides to set up a two-point perspective, pretty much at random distances, and a horizon line just a little north of center. I imported the flat images in chunks (the main face of the building, the two faces of the part of the building that protrudes onto the sidewalk, and the bits that make up the canopy), and used the Free Transform / Distort function to adjust them along my perspective lines. I very, very quickly threw a few shadows here and there, and some light. The perspective's still not perfect because I was trying to hurry, and the shadows were a quick inquiry into whether I could paint-over the distorted flat images to give a sense of depth (I think I need to invest in a more extensive test). Then I drew a quick...background to the background.

There are some problems that I think would have been solved had I kept my images Smart Objects -- the problems with the strip pattern on the canopy, for instance. I think there's some promise in this technique -- I could draw the same building from different views fairly easily if the game called for it, I'm able to standardize things like windows (which I think I can individualize later by painting over) and bricks, and, interestingly for this project, which is set in the town in which I live, I could make my own 3D models of the buildings. There are other things I'll have to through and adjust -- the open sign looks really flat, for instance.

Thoughts on what I've done here, or on perspective in general? I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.

General Discussion / Kickstarter best practices
« on: 02 Jul 2012, 21:11 »
I know a few of you are doing crowdsourcing campaigns, and are soliciting some advice. I put this list of best practices together for a (webcomic) project that I'm helping some others take to Kickstarter. These bits of information were culled from the Kickstarter blog, write-ups by folks who have had successful and unsuccessful campaigns, and third party analysts. Some of the stats might be a little out of date now, but should still be good guideposts.

In case it's of service to anyone, I thought I'd share:


  • Build a narrative around the Kickstarter drive. It's a campaign. What's your story?
  • Prepare to invest more time in cultivating / maintaining the Kickstarter drive than expected
  • Commit to other Kickstarter campaigns. Be a part of Kickstarter community, not just a leech.
  • The more people give, the more others will give. Success begets success.
  • Better to be almost finished with project before Kickstarting than to not have started.
  • Don't ask people to invest in all stages of project. Fund just the 1st stage, draw rewards from 1st stage.

Numbers / Data (From Kickster presentation and blogs):
  • Projects that reach 30% of their goal will be funded 90% of the time.
  • $20-$25 is the magic tier, large numbers of 'casual' donors.
  • $70 mean donation. $25 median donation. (No word on mode [I've honestly forgotten what mode even is -- the most repeated number?]).
  • Seven = optimal number of (beginning) reward tiers.
  • $4500 = average successful goal. $6000 = average successful raised money.
  • 30 day campaigns = highest number of successful projects.
  • Projects with a reward less than $20 succeed 54% of time. Projects without succeed 35%.

The Drive
  • Soft launch before the drive starts.
  • End project on a Sunday, in the second part of a month (for people paid monthly, first paycheck = bills, second = fun).
  • Donation curve during drive: Heavy 1st quarter, slow 2nd and 3rd quarter, heavy final quarter. Don't be discouraged by fewer donations in the middle! This happens to nearly everyone!
  • Interact with donors. Build your own sub-community.
  • Multiple social media battlefronts
    • A shared link via Facebook or Twitter is almost as good as a donation

Presentation on Kickstarter Page
  • Clear description of where money is going - i.e. a semi-transparent budget
    • Profit is allowed, but make sure project funded first.
    • Give some idea of how extra money beyond goal might improve project before your take home profit, especially as you near reaching the goal.
  • Clear production / rewards shipment schedule. Keep backers posted, re: changes.
  • Introductory video - get your big info out front. Use the inverted pyramid, ala newspaper story. Keep video short. One or two minutes.
  • All info (inc. video) must be embedded in the page. On-the-fence donors don't follow links.
  • Frequent updates
    • Steady stream of thanks and new material
    • Any additional developments
    • New tiers! Capitalize on the fact that they've signed up for email updates to convince them to up their donation.
    • Build community! Who are the backers? Engage them! Make them engage with each other!

Reward Tiers
  • Factor in cost of production and shipping reward tier items into donation!
  • Dynamic tiers - be prepared to add incremental tiers in middle of drive, based on popular donation levels. Convince people to change donation from $25 to $40.
  • Have a dirt cheap tier at $5 with a low stakes reward.
  • Have the tiniest stakes reward at $1 (thanks on a website?).
  • Higher-level tiers demonstrate the cost benefit of middle-level tiers. They're being thrifty by not spending $400, not being extravagant by spending $70.
  • Limited access, i.e. intimacy = low cost for creator, high demand from donor.
  • Charge extra for int'l shipping (include in tier description).

After the Kickstarter Drive
  • Digital deliverable to all backers as soon as Kickstarter drive finishes, as a show of goodwill / thanks.
  • Prepare for 'no-shows' -- people whose donations, for whatever reason, aren't accepted or don't go through (Kickstarter offers no stats on this).
  • Amazon takes 5%. Kickstarter also takes 5%. So take home = 90%.
  • Update after successful project, once a month, to keep backers informed.

General Discussion / Brave
« on: 28 May 2012, 17:13 »
With all of the classic creators coming out with new work, I thought I'd point out one more who's doing so -- only it isn't an adventure game, it's the new Pixar movie. I was watching the latest trailer for the film Brave, and saw the name of Steve Purcell (of Sam n' Max fame) listed as both a writer and a co-director.

I'd seen him in the credits of Cars, but that seemed like a relatively minor contribution. This seems like a bigger deal, and the movie looks well done, so I wanted to point it out to any Purcell fans here. Here's a teaser excerpt. Film's out June 22.

Engine Development / Return of the AGS.Native
« on: 10 May 2012, 19:03 »
I wasn't sure where to post this question, so I thought I'd stick it in the forum clearly marked "Beginners."

There's been a lot of talk about editor and engine improvements lately, and I gather that yesterday's release of native code is a big deal toward making these happen. I feel as though I've potentially joined this place in the midst of a transcendent moment and that stuff, as they say in the movies, is about to get real.

I also anticipate that there are a number of folks like myself who have no idea what any of this really means, and so I was wondering if someone could break things down for a layman. I understand that many of these won't have specific answers, but:

To what extent are things going to be changing? Will the code that we use to make games stay essentially the same?

What new capabilities are we likely to see?

Will this allow for new areas of portability?

On what timetable do we anticipate all of this will take place?

I ask because I'm sure there are some folks like myself about to embark on making games, and want to know if, for instance, I waited a few months to start coding and just focused on art, could my game have portability through ScummVM, better implementation on newer operating systems, widescreen resolution, or whatever the new functions will be?

I don't even know if I'm asking the right questions, or in the right way. I don't even know what Allegra is. Someone break the situation down for the less knowledgeable among us. Thanks!

I have no background in law, so I might be talking out of my ass here, but if my understanding is correct, a court ruling a few years ago clarified public domain in regards to animation so that anyone is free to distribute actual materials from cartoons that have fallen into the public domain, but are not allowed to create wholly new material or publicize their products through use of the still-protected trademark.

In the court case, a clothing company was using images of Betty Boop off of a poster that had never been copyrighted. Numerous other cartoons, especially those from Fleischer, have lapsed into the public domain. Numerous companies have pumped out copies of these cartoons in varying quality formats, unrestricted by copyright, and selling them under names like, "Classic Cartoons," instead of "Betty Boop."

If I'm interpreting the law correctly, this means they're available as assets to be used elsewhere as well (as in the precedent-setting case of the clothing manufacturer). My line of thinking is that something like Popeye Meets Ali Baba, which is public domain in the U.S., might provide enough useful backgrounds to furnish a short desert-based adventure game. If you're lazy, you might even find someone who's done the hard work of extracting some of the backgrounds for you.

I'm not sure how far this can be stretched (for instance, would trace-overs of walk cycles from PD cartoons be allowed?), and you probably don't want to make an actual Popeye game, but I thought I'd throw this out as food for thought. Perhaps someone with a better grasp of the legal system could clarify things.

Critics' Lounge / Figuring out a room design
« on: 19 Apr 2012, 14:35 »

So this is a necessary room for the game I'm planning, and I'm trying to figure out how to best arrange / break down / design / draw it for AGS.

The blue circle is a spiral staircase that serves as the entrance/exit to the room. The purple dots are NPCs, and the arrows represent the way the characters are facing by default (though they can certainly turn to speak to /interact with the player character). The rectangle in the middle is a semi-transparent wall.

There are what are essentially floor to ceiling windows on each side of the room except the straight wall on the right.

I have some ideas about how to break this down into regions, and what POV to use, but am not sure if I'm thinking about it the right way. I thought I might pose the basics to you all and see what suggestions you have.

I can get more specific about what the room is if you need me to, but I wondered if some vagueness might help in this case. I've been thinking that my ideas have been too influenced by photographs.

(Also, not sure which is the best forum in which to ask this. Feel free to move it somewhere else!)


The man seen above is film composer Ennio Morricone, one of my all-time favorites. You've undoubtedly heard his work before, if only from the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His work with Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, and other directors named Sergio, helped define what we think of as the sound of the western film. In Once Upon a Time in the West, he and Leone brought sound and music to a level of narrative importance seldom seen in other films.

But Morricone is so much more than his western themes. From the lush exotic pop of the theme to Ad Ogni Costo, to the nervous horror themes of Italian giallos like The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, to the sweeping and beautiful orchestration of the scores for The Mission and Cinema Paradiso, Morricone was and is constantly stretching his talents in new directions.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a piece of music that's inspired by Morricone. This can be an homage to a specific piece of music, an exploration of the sorts of sounds he composed, or a piece in your own style intended as a tribute. I'm going to be fairly lenient with what qualifies this round.

If you're drawing on specific pieces, feel free to link to them, or feel free to make us guess!

Competition will end on May 3, and I'll choose a winner. Good luck and happy composing, everyone!

I tried to figure out a more descriptive title for this thread, but it kept being too long to be functional. Apologies for the vagueness.

Two questions:

1. I'm in the process of trying to design my game, and am wondering how difficult it would be to utilize audio that is:

  • Pulled from a random pool of OGG files,
  • Played at random times, provided no other sounds are playing,
  • Played only in certain rooms,
  • And with a pool that can grow or contract according to player action (using boolean variables).

I believe from looking through the manual that I could figure out how to do most of these individually, but might perhaps run into trouble trying to write a stack of code that meets all of the above qualifications. I don't need the code yet, as I'm still just figuring out the design document. All I need to know now is, is this feasible, and how difficult would it be to pull off?

If it proves too difficult, now is the time to figure out alternatives. I'm trying to save myself some headache in advance. I've left the above purposefully generic. If you need further clarification on how I intend to use this in-game, see below:

Spoiler: ShowHide

My game is set aboard what is essentially a docked ship. The PC can roam the ship and the port where it's docked. I'm looking to implement an onboard announcement system (thus the limit to only certain rooms, those on the ship), that would provide ambiance, hints (e.g. "A reminder to all personnel that _required_item_ can be found in the bursar's office." -- I'd want to remove these once that task was completed), and feedback for player actions ("Would all crewmembers please refrain from setting passengers on fire?" -- I'd want to add these according to player actions: e.g. if (SetPassengerOnFire == true)).

The random, continual nature of the announcements would, as I said, add to the ambiance, but would also allow me to seamlessly introduce specific announcements at specific times without the break in immersion that a sudden playing of audio might cause.

I still don't feel as though I'm explaining this very well. Let me know if you kind folk need clarification.

2. Could I save some file space in the compiled game by reducing the bitrate of OGG files that purposefully sound lo-fi, and will mixed bitrates cause any problems in AGS?

I feel as though based on past experience, I should thank Khris in advance, but anyone who has thoughts or advice, feel free to respond.

I recently revisited one of my favorite plays, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, and Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys. Both works utilize minor characters from more widely known works (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare's HamletJane Eyre, respectively), offering new stories that add to, or even subvert the meanings of the original works.

Your mission this month, should you choose to accept it, is to tell a new short piece featuring a pre-existing minor or supporting character. Bonus points if your own tale contributes new meaning to the stories those characters come from.

As this is a mere forum competition, I won't limit you to public domain works, so feel free to write stories about anyone from Planchet in the Three Musketeers, to Victor Tourjansky (the drunk tourist whose vacations James Bond always interrupts), to Wally from Monkey Island.

Beginners' Technical Questions / Button rendering
« on: 11 Mar 2012, 04:14 »
EDIT: Nevermind. Once I figured out that it was an alpha channel issue, I was able to turn up several forum topics about it, most helpful being
this one
, I guess, which I think says this won't work?

Back to the ol' drawin' board!


Above is a combination of two screenshots from the same compile of a game. The same sprites are being called in each shot. On the left, the sprites are applied to buttons. On the right, to objects in a room (in this case, a sample title screen). Is there a reason why the quality differs so wildly between the two? Is there anyway to make these sprites look better as buttons?

Below is a sample of the sprite. Probably not very visible, because it's white text on a png with an alpha channel, but I thought I'd share in case the answer somehow lay there.

Adventure Related Talk & Chat / Cursor iconography
« on: 09 Mar 2012, 17:21 »
I've been giving some thought to cursors over the past few days, and while ideas are obvious and abundant for actions like 'look,' 'walk,' and 'talk,' I'm less enthusiastic about the options I've come up with for the 'use'/'interact' cursor.

Part of the problem is that while each of the other actions has a single body part associated with them, e.g. I'm not, in this game, going to have a 'wink,' 'kick,' or 'eat' cursor, the hand shares time with the action for 'pick up.'

I know there are standard other icons--the turning wrench, the spinning gear--but my character isn't a mechanic, and this feels somewhat inauthentic. But I'm hard-pressed to figure out something in-character for him that would be simple enough to use as an icon.

So I thought I'd start a conversation here about this specific quandary, and maybe cursors in general. How do you approach creating them for your own games, and what successful examples have you seen in other games (pictures of actual usage are a plus)?

EDIT: Though I thought I'd adequately searched everywhere for pre-existing conversations, here's a related earlier discussion about interact cursors. This one can be more open than the pointed question of that topic, though.

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