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Topics - lance.ewing

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Everything-Else / "SCI Examined" - 20 years ago
« on: January 09, 2012, 02:05:54 PM »
For those that have read the History page on my web site, you might have seen me refer to a series of text documents called "SCI Examined" that I wrote about 20 years ago and released on some bulletin boards (there being no Internet at the time). I thought these files were long gone, but I've recently been on a trip to the other side of the world (New Zealand) to visit my family and spent some time going through boxes I had in storage and among other things I found an old 720kb floppy that had some of my old SCI and AGI files on it. These files dated to 1991/1992. On there I found six of the seven "SCI Examined" articles I wrote and the associated GW BASIC files I wrote back then for attempting to decode both the AGI and SCI games.

The code is obviously really bad being BASIC with line numbers, written by a high school student not yet exposed to a proper procedural language like C or Java, but it was essentially the "investigation" phase of my AGI/SCI journey and was what got me started on my path towards writing the various parts of the AGI specs, and tools such as SHOWLOG, SHOWPIC, PICEDIT, etc., which I wrote much later around 1997. I thought I might fire up a copy of GW BASIC under DOSBOX and try some of these BASIC programs out to see how far I had actually got at that time. I'll probably create a new page up my web site documenting the experience and I'll upload all the files on there as well (for nostalgic reasons...  I'm not expecting that anyone will actually find any use for them).

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 6 released
« on: November 21, 2011, 01:30:10 AM »
On Friday I built and released the sixth milestone of PICEDIT 1.3.

This release includes a couple of big features that took a considerable amount of time, but I think the effort was well worth it.

The new features include:

* Multi picture support. You can now open and edit multiple pictures at the same time. Each picture keeps track of its own zoom factor, background image, bands on, ego tester, dual mode, picture position, etc.

* Ego Test mode. This is a feature that allows pictures to be tested by walking King Graham around the room to see how the priority bands and control lines behave. This isn't just your standard priority band tester. It includes actual cell cycling, direction changing and obstacle blocking. It feels like the real thing. And the really cool thing about this feature is that you can slide the picture position around, toggle between visual and priority screens, draw away to your hearts content and the Ego Tester is still happily working away. You can control ego with the arrows keys while you're drawing an obstacle in front of him only seconds before he hits in to it.

* Picture code list. On the left hand side of the window there is now a list of the picture codes for the currently selected picture. It interacts with the picture in both directions, i.e. it shows the current position within the picture and allows the position to be changed by clicking on the relevant picture code. In a future milestone this list will support a lot of editing features, which I'll be the first to admit have been somewhat lacking from PICEDIT.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear your feedback and suggestions.

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 5 released
« on: October 13, 2011, 04:47:06 PM »
Today I have built and released the fifth milestone of PICEDIT 1.3.

The new features include:

* New windows style toolbar that can be dragged out to be floating or docked in either the left, right or top borders of the desktop.
* The current docked position of the tool panel is saved as a preference when the application is closed.
* Status bar moved to bottom of screen and changed to look more like the modern status bars found in web browsers, IDEs, graphics editors, etc.
* Zooming in and out with the mouse wheel.
* Mouse wheel click will now pop up the visual colour chooser.
* Fixed usability issue where zooming in was not automatically resizing the window.
* Split the brush tool out into separate brush and airbrush tools.
* Brush size and shape is now selected visually by clicking on the appropriate image.
* Changed the look and feel to use the system look and feel across all components. This means that on Windows the internal frames will look like normal Windows frames rather than the Java look and feel that was present in milestone 4. On Mac OSX they will look like Mac OSX windows.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear your feedback and suggestions.

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 4 released
« on: September 13, 2011, 03:24:45 PM »
Today I have built and released the fourth milestone of PICEDIT 1.3.

The new features include:

* New desktop with internal frame for holding the picture. This is a first step towards enabling multiple pictures in a future milestone release. It also makes it a lot easier to work with zoomed in pictures that extend beyond the edges of the screen.

* A slider has been added at the bottom of the picture for quickly changing the picture position. This slider has been built to run as fast as it can.

* Fixed a bug where it was difficult to draw a line to the top line of the picture. The line tools (pen, line and step) will now restrict the mouse to within the picture panel so that it isn't possible to leave the picture frame unless the line drawing has been deactivated (with a right click). Thank you to Peter Kelly (author of AGI Studio) for finding and reporting this bug.

* Various minor changes to make the tool look more Window like and less DOS like.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear your feedback and suggestions. This is particularly important this time because I did a large amount of reorganisation of the source code (refactoring for those who know what that means) and I'm not 100% certain myself that I haven't introduced completely new issues. So please have a play around and let me know if it does anything strange.

AGI Syntax Help / The illusion of scrolling in AGI
« on: August 31, 2011, 01:36:53 PM »
I was just wondering over the past day or so whether anyone has tried to create the illusion of a scrolling room within AGI. I was thinking that maybe having a series of AGI pictures that are different frames within the scrollable scene, and as ego walks a certain way across the screen that it animates a scrolling background by loading some pictures in quick succession. You'd obviously be sacrificing valuable pictures but for a smaller game maybe it would be okay. I'm not sure if the picture load and display would be fast enough or whether it would look a bit jerky. Any thoughts?

Another thing I've thought about more than once is that the original Maniac Mansion game was the same resolution as AGI. Wouldn't it be cool to try to come up with an interface in AGI that looks similar to the one used in Maniac Mansion, where the bottom part of the screen has the words and inventory items and the top part is the picture. We'd basically throw away the built in prompt and message box capability in AGI and try to simulate the MM alternative, which I quite liked.

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 3 released
« on: August 14, 2011, 01:32:16 PM »
Today I built and released the third milestone release of PICEDIT 1.3. This gives people a chance to see yet more of the new features I've been working on for 1.3. Note that this is just a milestone release and I plan to release more milestone releases before the final 1.3 release.

The new features in this milestone include:

* "Open Recent" option in the File menu to re-open one of the last four opened pictures.

* Proper background image toggling. It is now possible to load a background image and then toggle it on and off without having to reload the image again.

* Reorganised the menu system so that it makes more sense. For example, toggling grid lines and dual mode are now under the View menu since this is more standard. The Special menu has gone.

* Drawing tools, navigation, delete, visual screen selection, priority screen selection are all now also found under the menu.

* Split out the status bar and the tool bar so that they are no longer part of the main picture panel. This allows the picture to be separately zoomed in and out.

* Window maximise and resizing is now supported. The window size is no longer tied to the zoom level.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear your feedback and suggestions.

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 2 released
« on: July 16, 2011, 01:37:44 AM »
A few days ago I built and released the second milestone release of PICEDIT 1.3. This gives people a chance to see yet more of the new features I've been working on for 1.3. This release focuses mainly on fixing a few bugs and making some existing features more usable. Note that this is just a milestone release and I plan to release more milestone releases before the final 1.3 release.

The new features in this milestone include:

* Single point lines so that Sierra and fan-made games that have such lines can be loaded and edited. Single point lines are supported by the Line, Pen and Step tools. Simply click on the start point then right-click to stop drawing and you now have a single point line.

* Replaced the custom Sierra-like menu system with a more modern windows-like menu (that is always visible) along the lines of what people are used to seeing these days.

* Split out the "Save" menu option in to separate "Save As" and "Save" options.

* Added support for user preferences. Two of the existing features are now saved as preferences when the user exits PICEDIT. These are grid lines and zoom size. PICEDIT will now remember what zoom size you were using the last time you used PICEDIT, and likewise whether you had grid lines (i.e. bands) enabled or not.

* PICEDIT now also remembers what the last used directory was from the last time you used PICEDIT.

* This release also includes an attempted fix for the screen resize bug. Some people noticed that the window frame and its contents were not properly resizing.

* As part of the new menu system, more keyboard shortcuts have been added, such as for toggling the bands, toggling dual mode, opening a file, saving, etc.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear your feedback and suggestions.

AGI Development Tools / Visual AGI Picture Editor
« on: June 24, 2011, 01:06:50 PM »
sact at the scummvm forums posted a link to a version of Joakim Moller's Visual APE tool that I  have never seen before. It is a fully working AGI picture editor, and it has most of the features I intended to implement for the next Milestone of PICEDIT. Here is a direct link (grab it while you can):

I tried tracking this tool down a few months ago but couldn't find it anywhere. The home web page has disappeared, none of the other AGI sites seem to have it. But what I was expecting to find was a tool that wasn't as complete and polished as the above. This tool is just really amazing. It has draggable vertices, draggable fill points, a simplified tool set, a scrollbar for navigating within the picture that redraws the picture in real time as you scroll, all of which are things I was going to add for 1.3. I had no idea Joakim had got this far with his tool.

How many people remember seeing this version?

AGI Development Tools / PICEDIT 1.3 Milestone 1 released
« on: June 14, 2011, 04:59:24 PM »
I have built and released the first milestone release of PICEDIT 1.3.  So far I have only put it in the downloads section of the Google Code project. It isn't yet on, but I'll get to that soon.

The new features include:

* Four window sizes to choose from. The 2x option is the old screen size. The default is now 3x.

* Priority bands/grid lines. This was something missing from version 1.2 that is now fairly standard in AGI and SCI picture editors. It shows where each of the priority bands start.

* Dual visual/priority mode (where priority and visual screens mix, as first shown in the APE tool). This is a bit gimmicky but I quite liked it when Joakim Moller first demonstrated this with the APE tool. What it does is render the priority screen and then the visual screen is drawn on top with 50% transparency. Try picture 45 in SQ2 to compare with the APE screen shot on

* Load and Save dialogs now start in the current directory and remember the directory between uses, and the current picture file name is displayed on the title bar.

* Right clicking now stops the current tool but does not set tool to None. This allows the user to draw more lines in one go. They no longer have to keep choosing Line. They simply select Line at the start, then draw a line, right click, and then start drawing another line in another place on the screen. Right clicking twice will switch the tool to None.

Let me know what you all think. I am very keen to hear all of your feedback and suggestions.

AGI Development Tools / AGDS
« on: June 10, 2011, 03:45:27 PM »
Seeing the contents of this if-archive directory:

...reminded me of AGDS. It was a Russian effort to build a set of AGI editors. It predates PICEDIT and AGI Studio. I was just playing around with their picture editor in DOSBOX. Apart from everything being in Russian, the tool is quite similar to PICEDIT, except that it doesn't have a graphical panel down the bottom for selecting tools. Instead it seems to have keyboard shortcuts for everything.

AGI Development Tools / picedit Google code project
« on: May 25, 2011, 06:00:07 PM »
For those who are interested, I decided I needed a proper SVN repository to keep track of my source code for the Java version of PICEDIT. I have therefore created a project at called picedit that I will be committing to fairly often during those times that I'm able to work on PICEDIT (which might end up being fairly infrequently). It does however already have a number of features in there that weren't in 1.2.1.

Everything-Else / Platform games?
« on: March 15, 2011, 02:48:43 AM »
This is a question that relates to both SCI and AGI since the general concepts are the same. What I was wondering is if anyone has thought much about how a platform style game could be created within SCI or AGI? There is an old platform style adventure game for the BBC micro that I would love to implement in either AGI or SCI but it seems like it would be a bit tricky. Some sort of gravity rules would need to be put in place that overrides the normal ego movements. Things like jumping up onto another platform would be difficult, or free falling in a direction determined by whether you were moving or not at the time you "fell" or "jumped". It becomes a 2D game rather than 3D, where the up direction really is up rather than walking north.

Any thoughts?

AGI Development Tools / is going, going.... gone
« on: January 26, 2011, 01:57:34 AM »
I assume that you are all aware of and Martin Kool's Javascript AGI engine. The sad news today is that it is no longer. Activision have asked him to take all the games off his site for legal reasons. If you go to you can see the full letter that he received. This is really sad news. It would have taken Martin a long, long time to build that engine.  :'(

SCI Syntax Help / Original SCI syntax
« on: January 02, 2011, 01:07:34 PM »
I thought I should start a new topic for the discussion we were having regarding the original SCI syntax. It is not good news I'm afraid. Both of the leads I had on getting that SCI code from the Sierra book have come to nothing. Kimme has kindly scanned the code that she thought was SCI code and it is as I suspected, which is that it isn't SCI code but is instead AGI code. It appears that Kimme has exactly the same version of TOBOKQ that I have. As I mentioned earlier, Kimme has also checked Kings Quest Companion 1st and 2nd editions and neither of these had SCI code.

I've also heard back from Dark Fiber and he is now saying that the book with the SCI code in it is the one that he doesn't have but he still says that it exists. I also know that something with SCI code in it did exist at some point. We'll just have to keep searching.

SCI Development Tools / SCI Decompiler?
« on: December 22, 2010, 05:14:59 AM »
I've seen references to someone other than Brian writing a SCI decompiler. Does anyone know much about this? Who it was? Where it is?

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