At last it seems there's some real competition for The Quill.
Incentive Software has converted its Graphic Adventure Creator, originally on the Amstrad, over to the Spectrum and, while it's not exactly cheap at £22.95, don't forget that what you're getting for that price is the equivalent of Gilsoft's Quill, Patch and Illustrator combined.
As with the Gilsoft suite, the idea of Graphic Adventure Creator is to provide a machine-code utility program which provides the framework for producing an adventure. It handles the mechanics, leaving you to concentrate on the plot, locations, objects and description.
To really do a program of this complexity justice could take weeks, but from what I've been able to see so far, Incentive has a winner here.
It's effectively a direct conversion from the Amstrad program. On first loading, you are presented with a menu. You have a number of choices: you can define a room description, you can create a graphic screen, you can specify how the rooms in your adventure link up, what the objects are and where they can be found, what messages the player gets after entering a room, or performing an action. Everything you need to write your own adventure.
The two main parts of the program are the picture designer program - which works just like a simplified graphics package - and the program to set up the network of locations and text for the adventure.
I must admit that I spent most of the time playing with the graphics creator, which is great fun. You get a window which takes up about half the screen, and a wide range of commands; you can draw lines, rectangles and elipses, as well as make dots on the screen, and you have a choice of colours - black, white, red, green, blue, purple, yellow and cyan. There are also another two special commands, one is transparency, so you get whatever the Paper colour is, and the other seems to reverse whatever colour you're drawing a line across, so if you have a white area next to a black area, the line would be black on white, then automatically change to white on black. The other half of the program is the code which allows the creation of the adventure framework itself. The Graphic Adventure Creator allows you to define just about everything you can possibly think of - certainly more than enough to create very complex adventures.
Saying which rooms link up and how is only the beginning: you will want to add riders (or conditions). For example, one room could be dark and players would need a lit lamp to enter it. Graphic Adventure Creator lets you set up the logical tests necessary to check if the player has satisfied each stage of the conditions. In this case the player must have previously picked up the lamp and given the command to light it and be in the dark room before getting the room description.
Whilst if you want you can have complete control over what is found where, and what messages the player gets and when, you can also opt to make use of the 'Quickstart' data which Incentive gives you.
This is a block of code which you can load in to give you a solid base of commonly found verbs and messages. It will save you an awful lot of time removing much of the mundane routine command setting in each adventure you build.
As well as the Graphic Adventure Creator itself and the 'Quickstart' data two other programs are included on the reverse of the tape (just as on the Amstrad version). These are Advin Man, a package demonstrating some of the techniques of creating an adventure, and Ransom, which is an actual playable adventure, written using the Creator.
Finally, if the Graphic Adventure Creator is as popular on the Spectrum as it has been on the Amstrad - and it deserves to be - then Incentive hopes to produce commercially a range of adventures, called the Medallion series, written using it. These will be the pick of the programs sent in by people who have bought the system and used it.
The obvious comparison is with the Quill suite - if anything Graphic Adventure Creator is easier to use and offers more or less equal power.
Reviewer: Gary Rook
A very impressive and sophisticated adventure generator. Not cheap, but worth every penny.
USING THE GRAPHIC ADVENTURE CREATOR
1) Plan the map of your adventure world carefully before touching the computer - otherwise you'll forget what goes where and why.2) The first thing is to type the messages automatically associated with each location eg you are in a dark cavern... you are in a small palace... these are the screen texts always displayed whenever you enter that room.3) Next are the objects that you may find. The magic scrolls, orbs, keys, gold coins and lit and unlit lamps. You decide where each object is located (to begin with) and, as an extra parameter if you wish to use it - how much it weighs (you might want an upper weight limit on what can be carried, for example).4) Now sort out the links between rooms - first those which are always interconnected ie you can always move between them without having to fulfill some condition (like have to open a door or light a lamp).5) Now comes the game logic which is where the truly ingenious adventure is distinguished from the merely dull. Logic involves a series of yes, no conditions along the following lines: If you are in Room 1 and type East and if there is a lamp and if the lamp is lit and if the door is unlocked then print "you crawl through the dank smelly hole" and change current location to Room 4. That's a simple one! Graphic Adventure Creator allows you to reduce all this to numbers associated with messages, condition markers. If... Then's. and allows alternate verbs to be used merely by giving them the same number ie if Get, Grab, Take and Scoop are all number 3 then you can construct your logic so that if any one of the number 3 verbs is present, then go ahead with the action.6) The graphics are created using a fairly standard artist designer program - when you have a design you are happy with, simply tell the program what room it is associated with.