Adventure Game Dialogue Part 1: Analysis

Adventure games use a lot of dialogue. Characters are going to have to talk to one another and, unlike books or movies, game dialogue is non-linear and gets complicated quickly.

To see just how complicated it can get, I laid out the initial conversation between Guybrush Threepwood and Mancomb Seepgood in the Scumm Bar early on in The Secret of Monkey Island. This conversation is short enough to be manageable yet still has many of the advanced features of a complex interaction.

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Why I’m Not Using an Existing Engine

In building my prototypes, I came across Adventure Creator for Unity which bills itself as a “no code required” adventure game engine. It’s $70 and does everything one would want an adventure game engine to do.

If my goal is to get a game out quickly, this would be the best way of doing it. Now that I have some experience with Unity, all I would have to do is create the assets, design some rooms, and be on my way.

So why am I not doing this?

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Traditional 2D Prototype

My second adventure game prototype is a traditional 2D adventure engine designed to explore whether the following are feasible:

  • Developing it as a CocoaPod for reuse over a number of games
  • Using a standard JSON format that would describe room parameters (e.g. walkable areas, object locations, NPC locations, environmental triggers, etc.)
  • Using a separate JSON format to describe dialogue trees, with support for triggers, branching dialogue, and basic conditionals
  • Recreating something like this in C# for use in Unity

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Talking Head Animation Frames

I’m developing a dialogue editor for adventure games and I want to have a screen where I test out the dialogue: see how it flows, test user interaction, that sort of thing. I thought it would be fun if to have actual animated characters speaking the dialogue.

AR Prototype

My first adventure game prototype is an ARKit-based app designed to explore the following:

  • ARKit plane detection and the automatic insertion of models once suitable planes have been detected (as opposed to user-initiated placement)
  • 3D modelling workflows between Blender and Xcode
  • Map searches for generic locations and then, using the results, managing distance, accessibility, storage, and game state
  • Geofencing triggers and how they might progress the game

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Prototype Plans

I am in the process of building two prototypes to explore different ways I could build an adventure game on iOS.

The first is an ARKit app. You interact with characters and then they send you off to real world locations to meet other characters, collect items, and solve puzzles.

The second is a more traditional 2D engine using SpriteKit and is heavily inspired by LucasArts’ legendary SCUMM engine. I want to create something modular that could then be used for many years in dozens of games.

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Adventure Game Numbers

Steam Spy is a service that reports the number of owners of games on Steam using their API and a little modelling/guesswork.

Entrepreneur Math is when you make up numbers based on unrelated or partial data to prove to yourself how successful you’re going to be. For example: “There are 80,000 searches a month for ‘Cats Wearing Heels’. If my website,, gets 10% of those searches, then that’s 8,000 visitors a month. If 1% of those then go on to buy two pairs of my designer cat heels, then I can easily make $4,000 a month”.

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