Matt Lane




Recreating an old-school point-and-click adventure game

I animated an old work friend into a SCUMM-style video game

Matt LaneMatt Lane

I grew up playing video games. Almost anyone who has played video games has thought about making video games.

While I enjoyed many different types of game growing up, the one I think about making is a “point-and-click” – you control a character on the screen by pointing and clicking the mouse on places you want them to go, or things you want them to pick up. Games like King’s Quest, Police Quest, Monkey Island, Sam and Max, The Dig, Full Throttle and others.

A screenshot from "Sam and Max Hit the Road" showing the interface, and characters Sam and Max at a grotty looking circus,  and a man from a circus drinking a beer saying "Strap yourselves in, and I'll turn on the Cone". In the background there is a sign saying "Cone of Tragedy".
Using the options at the bottom of the screen, players can investigate and interact with elements in the scene.

Defining a “minimal viable experiment”

I’ve learnt with personal projects (and work projects) that if you don’t put in some arbitrary restraints, the whole thing can quickly get disappointingly out of hand (“I’ll just add this… and this… and this… and this…”).

While making a fully fledged game sounds great, I know the reality is that even for a simple one, this would likely equate to more than 1000 hours of work. Even if I eventually put this amount of effort in, because I don’t know what I am doing, it is important I create milestones. The first milestone would ensure I was on the right track, and had selected adequate tools. I tried to imagine the simplest coherent “atom” that could constitute the organism that is a game.

The defined first chunk I settled on was:

Move an animated character across a scene, that contains obstacles in the foreground and background.

Minimum viable experiment goal

Selecting a game character and concept

Main character

I was once lucky enough to work with a man called John. John was one of the loveliest souls I have ever met, and also felt like he could be a character from a story. I think as soon as I met him, I intended to make something where he was the main character (I found a folder in my Google Drive [filed under “To-do”] from 2013 called “John point and click game”)

Here are some photos of our protagonist:

A collage of five photos of my friend John
I miss John

So I found an old sprite sheet from Monkey Island:

A "sprite sheet" of the character Guybrush Threepwood from Monkey Island
Sprite were the they animated in two-dimensional games

And used these as my template for my own versions for John walking:

A screenshot of the image editing tool GIMP showing a large frame of John walking, with other layers, smaller, along the right column
Layers of “John walking” made in GIMP

Game concept

I realised early on that created original artwork, especially for backgrounds, was going to be a huge amount of work. More than that, I knew that the classic games looked better than anything I could make. I came up with the idea of travelling through old games:

John, in contemporary times (2019ish), living in Edinburgh, is transported in a Delorean back to our office on Tory Street, Wellington in 2013. He finds the office abandoned, but all of the computers on. Upon inspecting each computer, he is transported into a different classic game, which each contains an old workmate he needs to evacuate from the game (eg he saves Murray from Day of the Tentacle, he saves Willy from Golden Eye etc).

Game concept
An animated GIF of a Delorean hovering above the ground
“McFly! Why Don’t You Make Like A Tree And Get Outta Here?”

Selecting a tool(s)

As you can see, I had not interest in building something from scratch or hand coding everything, so made a list of features of software I knew I needed, and other features I was pretty sure I wanted:

After a bunch of Googling, downloading, and trialing a few tools, I settled on Visionaire Studio (VS).

My process

I spent a small amount of time getting familiar with VS and its concepts (scenes, characters, items, interface) and skimmed some of their tutorials.

Once I felt comfortable enough, I tracked down an old Monkey Island background:

The "Scumm Bar" from Monkey Island
Scumm bar background. Ripped by Ultimecia

I imported my walking character animation from before, and added music.

The end result (minimum viable experiment)

By no means is this a complete game (or even a piece of a game). But it was enough to feel like, if I ever find myself with a spare 1000 hours, I could flesh this out to be a complete game.

Now to work on other characters and dialogue…

Matt Lane

banging rocks together