It's now almost four years since Gilsoft sprung The Quill, the first ever adventure writer on a unsuspecting world.
Despite its age, this utility was without serious challenge until last year - when Incentive launched its Graphic Adventure Creator.
Although these packages require upwards of £16.95 for the creation of graphical adventures, no system had made a bid for the budget building adventure builders.
Until now, that is.
With the release - by Alpha-Omega - of a system to build graphical adventures for a mere £7.45
While it is patently unfair to compare this with other packages at more than twice the price, I will - nonetheless - do exactly that. You see, there's nothing else to compare the Adventure Building System with.
Unlike both GAC and the Quill, ABS comes with Ram Save/Load as standard (though it calls them Save/Load to Bank) as well as the same to tape.
Like Quill, Alpha/Omega's utility truncates words. However, it also offers an option to select how many letters (from three to seven) words are to be truncated to.
In the screen presentation stakes it has GAC licked by offering a choice of three routines - including one intelligent' scrolling routine.
ABS provides 100 flags as standard (and more can be added if required), but GAC-like subroutines are needed for timing sequences as no flags are updated - as Quill flags 0-11 are.
The parser (the bit which tries to make sense out of player's input) is a little limited - much like that of the Quill. ABS cannot understand adverbs (Carefully examine chair), adjectives (drop the green key) or multiple inputs (get the axe then chop the logs) - though careful programming will allow the word it to be recognised (a point not mentioned in the manual). Similar programming can allow the addition of directions other than Up, Down, North, South, East and West, a message such as 'Are you sure you want to Quit?' and alternative character sets.
But here's the rub. An extensive knowledge of Basic is needed to produce decent adventures with ABS. The program is extremely complex in operation and is not helped by some odd idiosyncrasies in the manual. For some reason, the sequence of entry of data on-screen and the order of help (and descriptions of what to enter) in the manual differ in several places.
Other than this, the manual is useful, providing several step- by-step examples as well as helpful advice on writing your own conditions (as Basic subroutines). The manual also goes on to provide hints on adding last-minute touches to your game - such as Seeping whenever a key is pressed, or just when an invalid key is pushed.
The program which actually compiles all of your data into a finished game is extremely slow (taking nearly six minutes to compile a short 15-room adventure), but the end result is certainly worth the wait - with an impressively-fast response time almost up to GAC standard.
At the moment, the Adventure Building System is text-only. However, Alpha-Omega will shortly release an uprated version which includes a useful graphics option.
If you reckon you can handle the complexities of programming using the Adventure Building System then it's a terrific buy. But definitely not easy to get to grips with. Strictly, not for beginners.
Author: T.D. Frost
Reviewer: Roy Stead
For the technically competent its excellent value for money and could be used to write a passable game.