Adventure Creation Kit

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2015-03-04

One of my biggest finds in the first week of March 2015 was a CRPG Directory listing an eclectic mix of mostly retro games in the genre, along with other resources such as blogs and forums. Interestingly, among them is listed Battle for Wesnoth, and I can't even fault them considering how many RPG elements that game has. But most intriguing to me was the first entry:

The Adventure Creation Kit is a visual tool for making RPGs in the style of old Ultima games, running in DOS. And while that style of game ultimately lies outside my sphere of interest, I couldn't resist taking a good look at ACK. Here's what I discovered.

The main screen seems daunting at first, but prod it a little and it will start to make sense. Skim the manual too, it's only 45 pages. The UI is somewhat inconsistent (you quit some tools with Esc, others with F10), but overall well-designed, especially as it has to fit in 320x200 pixels. We're truly spoiled nowadays. Any game you make will have the same rules and commands -- your players won't need a manual, it's very intuitive. Everything else can be changed: fonts, HUD, you name it. And you have plenty of wiggle room to make art in your very own style. Usefully for the modern era, you can also import assets; the formats supported are very specific, but commonly used and well documented.

ACK ships pre-packaged with DOSBox for Mac and Windows, but I ran it manually in Linux. It works just fine with the default configuration. You can also package your own games for distribution: the interpreter is just another tool in the suite. It's a good idea, really. I thought of porting my own games to DOS for the same reasons of excellent portability, but various inconveniences prevented me. If a retro-style Ultima pastiche is your dream game, then ACK is your dream tool.

Sadly it's not mine. But it did give me some ideas.

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