The longest journey (an adventure game ever made)

Meanwhile “Wormventures – Barrier 51” has a long (and not always shiny) history. The whole thing began 1998 when me and some friends sat together and had the idea to create an adventure game. Since I was drawing comics during my school time with worms as characters and no one of us would have been able to draw a human character and animate it, we thought it would be a great idea to make an adventure with worms. When I take a look at it now I say that was a bad decision, because today you can buy humanoid 3D characters at any street corner for a good price or even build them yourself using a ton of tools out there – completely rigged and animated. But who would have thought the production of a computer game could last more than 20 years…

The storyline and some puzzle ideas were written quite fast and the time to develop it was there. Because I already was developing games with a programming language called Blitz3D we thought it would be a good thing to make a 3D point and click adventure. So I sat down to create an engine with Blitz3D to use for creating adventure games. Development went quite good until the point came to build an internal scripting engine to code the game logic in. That went not that good and some other things like converting 3D models and animations from one file format to the other made life really hard. So finally we dropped the engine and searched for something new.

After some time of testing several game development engines we discovered the Wintermute Engine (WME) by the Czech developer Jan ‘Mnemonic’ Nedoma. That was around 2004 I’d say and this was the technically best engine for creating adventures at that time. The thing was that it was only able to do 2D adventures back than and so we decided to make the game in 2D instead of 3D. The models we had made were still usable. We just rendered out the scenes in 2D and had the possibility to do some work on the renders in 2D afterwards. Production went well from that point on and while working on the game the original plot changed a bit. With “a bit” I mean that the game’s story nearly doubled its size and the game’s ending got a completely new one. Things like the planet vermis with all its continents, cultures and backstories were created.

2007 we were ready to release the first half of the game under the name Looky – The Adventure which already had 5-7 hours of gameplay and full german voice overs, which was not standard back in the days. The length of the game fit the original plot but with a cliffhanger at the end instead of the original ending. With its 667MB of download size it was quite a big game, nowadays 667MB is nothing. The second half of the game was still being developed with the Wintermute Engine when Matthias quit the team. The project was on hold from then on.

Some years after that I felt the urge to work on the project again but the Wintermute Engine was not worked on or supported anymore and was technically somehow behind time and so I decided to work on a new adventure creation engine again. It was called TDAE (Three-D Adventure Engine) and this time I developed the parts that didn’t went well in my first engine first. A nice internal scripting engine with things like Visual Scripting (you could connect functional blocks with lines in a graphical editor) was maturing well also things like camera movement, lip-synching, a dialogue editor and other things were ready to go. But then I accidently found Unity and the adventure creation asset Adventure Creator. Production of my engine was canceled immediately.

Adventure Creator was exactly what I was trying to achieve with my own engine but it was working and production ready. With Unity as the graphical backdrop visuals were way better then with the Ogre Engine I used in my own product. Workflow-wise it brought production of the game to a whole new level. While working with the Ogre Engine there were a lot of steps to do to get 3D models and animations from the modeling application to the engine with lot of converting and problems that naturally come with it. With Unity there was only saving the scene to the game folder and it was immediately in the game. That was awesome! The Unity animation engine which is basically a whole self-sufficient system on its own was mind blowing, too. That way I came to Unity and bought Adventure Creator and I’m developing the game alone since then. Matthias still has no interest in working on the game. I use Blender to do the modeling and animations, applications like Gimp, Paint.Net and Krita for 2D things like textures, Unity as the game engine and Adventure Creator to do the game logic. A lot of assets I bought off the Unity Asset Store help me to achieve what I want to create.

In the video I provide with this post I mashed up some scenes from the game of the several versions. The 1999 version that was realtime 3D and made with Blitz3D, the 2007 version in 2D made with the Wintermute Engine and last but not least the 2020 version that is currently in development. The scenes from the 2020 versions are still work-in-progress (the lighting in the pumping station and other things are definitely not final).


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