Still Images in Text Adventures

I recently played Bob Bates’ Arthur and one thing I particularly liked about the game were the still images dominating the upper part of the screen. Similarly, one of the great things about Alabaster was the changing image of Snow White.

I guess what I’d like to ask is, what other games use still images to good effect? Are there any cases where having still images detracts from a game?

In the English-speaking world, Robb Sherwin is the guy who uses images the most heavily. Heavy use of images is much more common in non-English-language IF, for historical reasons.

Ghost Town Uses still images.
(my first attempt with the IF world. Created with Adrift)

Being There is an excellent example.

Sticking with the Infocom games; Journey, Shogun and Zork Zero all use images; although some in different ways than others.

The text adventures from Legend Entertainment (founded by Bob Bates and Mike Verdu after Infocom went down) all made excellent use of images. The three most known games were Eric the Unready and the two Gateway titles.

Trying out Ghost Town now. The trouble is that the image and the text window aren’t integrated, so it’s a bit clumsy to switch between the two. Is there an ADRIFT Runner option I’m missing?

The photography in Being There gives the (non)game cohesion which it would otherwise lack, and it the details in the photographs implicitly suggest actions to try.

Is lack of artistic ability the only reason more people don’t include images in their games?

That, and even if you have the ability, producing enough images for even a fairly small game is a fuckton of work. Even if you’re just taking photos. And pictures can look kind of shoddy if you don’t also do layout, which is an entirely different set of skills.

The other thing is that most games would require art to be consistent: if you have illustrations for some rooms/items/NPCs, but not others, that’s a problem. If you have images for everything, but the art styles are totally different because you ganked images from wherever you could find them, the effect’s usually going to be pretty crap.

There are ways around these issues, of course, but none of them are simple. (Write games with style and subject material that corresponds to a substantial body of stock images; develop a style of quick-and-dirty art and write games with style/subject material that works for it; write a zany game for which a grab-bag of visual styles is appropriate; write games set in your apartment, neighbourhood or the next place you’re going on holiday; hire an artist.)

I’m guessing everyone has their own take on why they don’t include pictures in their games JJ, but one of my favourite games to include pictures is Arrival, which Stephen drew. The artwork looks like a kid drew it - which is the point, as the protagonist is 8 (in fact if you read the about page the whole idea for the game came out of the fact that Stephen felt he drew like a child). Very cool game, and the art style compliments the game’s content and style - which I think is the measure of whether a game’s images succeed or not.

Check out Everybody Dies by Jim Munroe.


I have one game with graphics, Attack of the Mutaydid Meat Monsters though it mostly uses them to illustrate text dumps. If you enjoyed Arthur, check out Eric the Unready (also has graphics, also by Bob Bates).

The Endling Archive by Kazumi Mishima/Dominic Delabruere uses photographs heavily (though it’s a very unconventional IF).

I’m trying to write a fantasy with 4bit images. You know, for the FEEL.

I have to say, if someone came up with a way to draw vector-ish graphics like the old Sierra games, I might give it the ol’ GUE Tech try.

Glimmr lets you do this, with built-in commands for drawing rectangles, boxes, filled boxes, points, and straight lines (at any angle), as well as sprites and type specified pixel-for-pixel. But I would probably recommend that you draw your vector images in an external editor and then include this in your game as simple PNG images. If you don’t allow the editor to alias them, and you don’t allow the game/interpreter to rescale them, they will look like the vector images of old.

Dang it, I was almost done with a post full of fancy links and stuff, but my laptop glitched and I lost everything. Anyhow, I second the recommendation for Infocom and Robb Sherwin’s games. Also, I’d recommend Kent Tessman’s Guilty Bastards and Future Boy! (although this one is hard to get a hold of these days; I hope it is re-released at some point).

Also, while I think they dropped the ball on some game design issues, Magnetic Scrolls games’ graphics went a long way towards their appeal. Wander around a bit in The Pawn or Guild of Thieves and you’ll see what I mean.

Some Level 9 games have interesting graphics, too, but I’m not too familiar with them.

Lastly, there was an Apple IIgs game called Dream Zone, written by two guys who would later go on to form Naughty Dog, the Uncharted series studio. It’s not a very good IF game, but it has some nice bits of humor in it. Anyhow, the main reason I mention is that it did this cute thing where the real world at the beginning of the game were digitized pictures (which seemed pretty new at the time), while the “dream zone” was wildly colorful. Anyhow, I thought the digitized-pictures section was cool.

Speaking of still images. does anyone know where to find someone who’d be interested in helping out with images? (for a reasonable amount, of course)

You could try the “Art” forum section.

I’ll give it a go, thanks a million.

If you want more “retro”/low-res art, Pixelation has a commission request board.