SourceForge Q&A: Reviving Point-and-Click Games

Indiana Jones Point and Click

SourceForge’s January “Community Choice” Project is ScummVM, a cross-platform interpreter for many point-and-click adventure games. The ScummVM team shared their thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

Tell me about the ScummVM project, please.

ScummVM is a program that allows you to run many classic graphical point-and-click adventure games, provided you already have their data files. The clever part about this is that ScummVM just replaces executables shipped with the games, allowing you to play them on systems for which they were never designed!

What made you start this?

The project began with the efforts of two people: Ludde wanted to be able to play “Monkey Island 2” under Windows and Yaz0r wanted to understand the internals of the engine. Ludde’s development was more complete than Yaz0r’s, so in the summer of 2001, Yaz0r joined Ludde’s efforts.

Has the original vision been achieved?

The first stable version (v0.1.0) was released a few months later to support some LucasArts Entertainment Company games, such as “Monkey Island” and “Day of the Tentacle.” However, the original vision was quickly and massively expanded as a second engine for “Simon the Sorcerer,” which was added in the next release (v0.2.0). At the present time, all the 2D adventure games released by LEC are supported and we also have 47 other engines in our repository, for a total of more than 200 supported games.

Who can benefit the most from your project?

Everybody who enjoys (or thinks they might enjoy!) 2D point & click adventure games can benefit from our project. If you’re not sure, just download ScummVM for your favorite platform with one of the free games on our download page and give it a try!

What is the need for this cross-platform interpreter for many point-and-click adventure games?

ScummVM is very portable, allowing users to run games anywhere they want; we support extremely resource-limited platforms such as the Nintendo DS and the Dreamcast, as well as modern PCs and iOS/Android devices. We add new features (for example, the ability to save at any point in certain games, which is often not available in the original games). Also, some companies have extended the ScummVM implementation of a game with new functionality (such as better touchscreen input) for modern re-releases of games on mobile devices. And we do our best to fix or work around gameplay bugs in the original games. Compared to emulators, our re-implemented engines have advantages such as reduced CPU usage and improved battery life. Without ScummVM, a user would have to use several emulators. For example, depending on the platform originally targeted by the game, the user would have to use DOSBox for DOS games and other emulators for Atari ST, Amiga, C64, etc.

What’s the best way to get the most out of using ScummVM?

Simply pick a classic point and click adventure game from your collection, and start playing! It’s also worth noting that our savegames are compatible between all the different platforms we support, so you can play on your desktop machine at home and move savegames to a mobile device to keep playing on the road. Another noteworthy development is that many classic games are available for digital purchase (e.g. GOG.com, Dotemu.com or Steam) so it has become much easier to rediscover them. A number of supported games have also been made available as freeware and are hosted on our web page on SourceForge.

What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?

A large number of developers are available both on IRC and our web forums. Also, regular updates are made available on our site and broadcasted on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. And we’ve been participating in the “Google Summer of Code” for the past 8 years, which has brought several new developers to the project.

Have you found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?

We don’t have a lot of frequent stable releases because the testing cycle required for our large number of supported games takes a lot of time and energy. Nevertheless, we do our best to release a new stable version twice a year. We provide the community with automated daily builds for a large variety of platforms built from our development tree, which provides users with the latest new features and game support.

What was the first big thing that happened for your project?

It’s hard to describe one big thing because ScummVM is essentially a list of big things! However, the first big thing is obviously when the LucasArts games became playable in 2001. Today, almost all the developers of this era are now retired from the project. In terms of number of games being added lately, we have the merge of Sarien and of FreeSCI projects, which brought the support of most of the Sierra On Line games to ScummVM.

What helped make that happen?

Clearly, the hard work of scores of people made this happen! But what regularly makes a difference is the support of original developers and legal right holders, who are more and more aware of the quality of our code.

What was the net result?

The result of the support of these three big engines is that you can play a lot more games in ScummVM:

  • SCUMM (Lucas Entertainment Company) engine supports 60 games.
  • AGI (Early Sierra On Line games) engine supports 17 original games and more than a hundred fan-made games,
  • SCI (Later Sierra On Line games) engine supports 40 games with more to come.

What is the next big thing for ScummVM?

It depends on what we find the time for! The next big thing might be improved support of Wintermute games. This engine is currently being polished and would benefit some display hardware acceleration. The original developer of Wintermute is supporting us and he still supports a free authoring tool for his engine, which means that anybody can write new games for ScummVM! The authoring tools, free games, and examples are available on his website.

We’re also working on support for newer Sierra games such as “Quest for Glory 4” and “Space Quest 6,” since we get a lot of user requests for these.

How long do you think that will take? Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?

It’s hard to say. All of our developers work on ScummVM in their free time so the speed at which development happens varies a lot. If you’re interested in classic adventure games and familiar with reverse engineering old software, we can always use more developers!

Is there anything else we should know?

We are very pleased and proud to have managed to stay active for more than 13 years already, and this would certainly have been more complicated without the unwavering support of SourceForge. We are also very happy to see that user support is still at its best and would like to thank everybody for their vote for Project of the Month January 2015.

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Image: LucasArts