Graphics-heavy games: Formats, limits, etc.?

Actually, I shouldn’t call it a “game”. It would be more accurate to call it a “virtual tour” of a cruise ship (starship, for a SF pen-and-paper RPG) controlled by the Inform parser.

What I’m planning on doing is providing both textal descriptions and static images of the rooms, and letting the “player” walk around. It will thus be VERY heavy with large images. So, the questions:

  1. What game file formats support this, and what terps are available? Ideally, I’d like it to be as multiplatform as possible, though I recognize that it may be necessary to give up on mobiles, especially phone-sized devices.

  2. What (bitmap) format should I use for the images?

  3. What sort of limits - both type and size - should I expect to have to deal with?

You’ll be using Glulx, which accepts .jpg and .png images. See chapter 22. File size is very unlikely to be a limit, and image size is mostly constrained by what you can fit on a screen.

I’m pretty sure that there are graphics-capable Glulx interpreters for all major desktop OS systems. Web interpreters do not support graphics at this point. I dunno what the state of play is for mobile.

You might try Twine with graphics, if you’re OK with links that say “north”, “south”, etc. instead of having a player type “go north”, “go south”, etc.

Quest could be a good fit. Multi-platform, image support, web playable parser games. Also I wouldn’t disregard phone sized devices altogether, as you can (probably) rig it so the images resize to fit a smaller screen.

Similar to Twine, there’s also Ren’py, which is a Python-based CYOA-engine. It’s geared towards Anime-like games, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use it for other genres.

I’m going to second the recommendation for Twine. You can’t get much more multiplatform than HTML. Sounds like a neat project, too – that sort of thing would be a great supplement for some of the roleplaying games I’ve played.

I’d recommend Glulx with Inform 7, although I’ve never used Twine so I can’t really compare the two.

Android is getting there though not quite yet, and iOS devices have iFrotz, which has some bugs with hyperlinks and some images, when shown inline with the text, actually obscure the text. These issues have been reported and I am sure will be fixed soon-ish. Otherwise, iFrotz can show images fine. No sound, though.

Most systems can deal with large amounts of media and have virtually no size limits. This includes Glulx, Hugo and Tads, and all of those three can run on Windows, Linux and Mac.

I’d suggest that if all you want to do is let the player walk around and examine fairly obvious things, you can probably accomplish what you want with Twine or another hyperlink interface.

None of the above! Pen & paper roleplaying is a multiplayer affair and thus is best implemented in IF form using a MUD or MOO - preferably one that can serve HTML (for your graphics) – there are several out there that can do this. I recommend looking into LambdaMOO and associated database cores designed by hobbyists.

You may only NEED one player to go through at a time, but you DO have multiple players exploring the same imaginative space simultaneously as part of the story, and when all the possibilities occur to you as to what can be done if they explore your simulation cooperatively, you’re absolutely going to kick yourself when you realise that for no good reason at all, you chose a development environment that basically rules out multiplayer exploration entirely.

Trust me on this: I have begin exactly where you are and made the wrong decision, ten years ago, for a private game I sketched out in i6, designing a bunch of tools I never used again. Whereas the MUD tools I have designed have only grown in relevance and usefulness with each passing year.

Modelling a multiplayer game? Use a multiplayer tool.

There’s this thing called html that handles all that just fine. It needs a terp called a web browser. you can use jpg, gif or png for the images, text for descriptions and a tags for links to other “rooms”. Several compilers can produce html output, including MS Word.

you don’t even need no stinking javascript for what you need

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Many MUD servers can serve HTML/javascript and you get a chat server built-in connected directly to your world model. If you developed an RPG tool solely in HTML you would have to reinvent the wheel by designing a javascript based chat server, eventually.

Agreed! A MUD set on a starship with still graphics to enhance the aesthetic would be quite awesome. I think MUDs have a lot of potential for quasi-single-player narrative exploration too, along the lines of what that Journey game for PlayStation reportedly did.

I’m pretty sure that many web games have done exactly that, though. I can imagine not wanting to start with a MUD codebase if you don’t want a rigorously class-based world model.

I understand exactly what you’re saying, and perhaps it’s my fault for not giving what I thought of as unneeded background. I run a fanzine tied to the P&P RPG at issue, and just like a real magazine might have a photographic tour of a cruise ship, a mansion, or some such, I was thinking of doing the same for the starship. Then, it occurred to me that the photo essay doesn’t really give you a good feel for the layout of the ship as a whole. The typical intfic - I’m not including the high-end works such as Infocom’s, many of Aaron Reed’s, Emily Short’s, or other names well-known to this community - doesn’t do a great job of it, either, but it’s better than what the “flat” tour can give you.

The reason that I want an intfic is that I make the magazine available (in PDF) for download every month, and the articles aren’t made available on the Web until the following month - so when I release the March issue, you can download it, but the articles aren’t on the web yet - the ones from the February issue have just been posted. I sorta consider the ‘lag’ to be a ‘benefit of subscribing (downloading)’ - that is, people willing to come and download get the benefit of early access (and the ability to read off-line) - since I don’t (can’t) charge for it. So, when the magazine gets downloaded, the intfic tour of the ship will be bundled with it, and when I post that issue’s articles to the web, I’d post a HTML version of the walkthrough as well.

If it were more than just a walk-around-and-look tour, I’d consider adding M* programming to my skillset, because you’re right; that would be a better platform in that case. And yes, the HTML version is also appropriate. But I have legitimate reasons, as indicated here, for wanting an intfic, so I posed my query.

I should note that even though the “player” will be able to walk around, this is not intended to be an adjunct to an actual game - though that’d be a fun idea, eventually. There are license issues for actually making a game adjunct available in that fashion, and I’m going to open up discussion within the community for that P&P RPG to see if there’s interest, and if there is, I’ll discuss the relevant licensing issues with the licensor. But for now, I just want to stick to minimums, and I’m checking to see how close to the line even this much is.

How are you going to handle interpreters? Would bundling one with the magazine be unfeasible and/or too much of a pain? If so, you’d probably want to check out Ren’py or Twine. If not, Quest seems like it could be your best bet here.

You probably want to do this with Twine, and you should probably also just bite the bullet and put it online when the PDF edition of the zine comes out; consider it a teaser for non-subscribers and a lagniappe for subscribers.