Could TADS 3 serve as a suitable "engine" for a Myst-style game?

I am planning a Myst-style game, with pre-rendered graphics. Users eight click the edge of the screen to rotate the view, e.g. clicking the right side of the screen shows a new view of what is to the right. Clicking ahead, such as on a path, moves the character to a new location. Like Myst, no inventory is used, but puzzles might help unlock new regions.

I notice that TADS 3 already has the code handling many things needed, such as doors that are locked, or puzzles that unlock new areas. I also have read something in the documentation called “Banners” that lets graphics appear in TADS.

Is there a way to have TADS 3 run with the the text all hidden, and only images of the locations displayed full-size in the window? Would TADS 3 serve as a viable engine for a Myst game? What limitations of the system might I run into?

I’m no pro at the “low-level” stuff, but I feel like it’s reasonable to think you could do that. I don’t see why your code couldn’t strictly display different images rather than text…

Also I haven’t played Myst, so I don’t exactly know what kind of interaction you’re looking for…

TADS is intended to be used for text adventures; while it may support graphics, that is as a supplement to the text, not as a complete replacement for it.

This isn’t to say that you couldn’t do it, but there are many things that can be done that don’t really make sense.

If you’re wanting to write a purely graphical game, there are other engines that are better suited to the job, like Unity or Adventure Game Studio.

3 Likes

Why use TADS? What value is the parser going to add to the experience? This is the main question in my opinion aside from what you meant by Myst-style game. While there are games with location graphics that were parser-based, Myst belongs to the point and click genre - as it was mouse driven.

Edit: Another thought: When you are in a location in a parser game it doesn’t care which way you are facing. In a Myst-Parser hybrid, you would have to start track the facing to match the image and change the parser scope accordingly. I’ve not heard of a parser game where orientation/pov mattered.

2 Likes

Clicking the edge of the screen to rotate the view would be a nightmare to do in TADS. Inform+Vorple would be a little better here (but still not easy). You’re better off with some actual 2D engine.

1 Like

I am pretty awful at figuring things out, but I was able to make clickable image maps in Visual Novel Maker work without too much effort, and you get all the built in VN goodies like camera panning and image zooming and sprite animation. There’s probably even better things than that if you’re wanting graphical navigation.

There have been various dev tools over the years for Myst-style games. I don’t know what’s current.

I agree that TADS (and Inform) are probably not good choices. They have huge amounts of mechanism devoted to parser and parser-based world models. If you’re skipping all of that, what’s left is a fairly minimal graphics engine.

1 Like

I would suggest using something like Adventure Game Studio. It’s made specifically for creating point-and-click adventure games.

It’s probably also be possible to pull this off in Twine or Renpy but you’d have to do some coding to get it to act like an adventure game engine since it’s not designed that way out of the gate.

https://github.com/Senscape/Dagon is another one that I’ve heard of. It seems to have fallen out of active development, although I know the people that launched it are still hard at work on their upcoming game (Asylum).

IMO, the reason there isn’t a big, popular, free engine for building Myst-style games is that Myst-style games are great because they have a large quantity of impressive 3D visuals. Impressive 3D visuals in quantity are inherently unachievable for part-time, amateur game developers.

Am I wrong? Are there any popular (or semi-popular) Myst-style games that don’t have hundreds of beautifully rendered 3D scenes?

All the popular AGS games I’m aware of use retro-style low-resolution 2D backgrounds. AGS helps you build games like King’s Quest or Day of the Tentacle, not games like Myst.

I could be wrong since I haven’t played with it much, but I think you can make a game without the player character. In that case, it’d just be 2D backgrounds with hotspots, just like Myst. I also think the resolution is up to the creator, not the engine. People could make 4K games with it if they wanted, but most choose low resolution graphics because it’s easier to manage as a single artist.

There are a very large number of tiny (one-room) Myst-style games which use plain, flat-rendered world models. Start with https://www.mobygames.com/game/browser/crimson-room/screenshots , go forwards in time to a huge genre.

1 Like

I’ve been a fan of Mateusz Skutnik’s works because I like the worlds he creates for his games. Submachine, Daymare Town, and Covert Front were some of my favorites from him and Pastel Games. Pastel games also had others I enjoyed like Aurora, Space Oddity, and The Fog Fall.

He used Flash in the past to create games with 2D backgrounds and hotspots, so instead of being of the retro pixel style you instead have nice clean pen lines. Most of the time there aren’t POV orientation changes in his games which have you turn around in a room but I do recall some zoom changes which were just close up drawings of the subject in question.

3D isn’t out of reach but it is more work and I think the expectations of 3D have risen quite high over the years. If you do want to go that route a 3D program which lets you set multiple cameras in your 3D scene would be the best. That way if you make changes to your 3D model(s), you just re-render all the camera’s you saved in the scene and you have your updated artwork.

2 Likes

Yeah, that’s a fair point. “Flash” was definitely an answer to the question “what do people use to make small Myst-like games,” back in Flash’s heyday. (There were a number of small Myst-like games in Hypercard, too, back when that was a thing.)

In 2020, I think Unity now fills the niche that Flash once occupied. I’ve never used it, but Adventure Creator looks like a top-shelf Unity adventure-game toolkit.

https://www.adventurecreator.org/

1 Like

And some Myst-sized Myst-like games. If you know what I mean.

In between Hypercard and Flash, it was MacroMedia Director for quite a while. But I think that got absorbed into Flash.

Yep.

Unity alternatives for 2D gaming to consider could include Construct 2 or 3, GameMaker, or Multimedia Fusion. Visual novel engines might be another avenue, such as RenPy, Tyranobuilder, or Visual Novel Maker. Dedicated adventure game makers such as AGS and Wintermute are also worth looking at. Unity is probably the most versatile though. It all depends on which one provides the features and workflow that best fits what you want to do.

1 Like