ZuuL is a turn-based adventure game / dungeon crawler. This game was developed in a three week summer course on software project development.

Team: Oliver Bestmann, Alexander Eberling, Julian Fietkau, Johannes Kerkloh, Janina Nemec, Pascal Rost, Christopher Schewe, Patrick Schmolke

This is a short gameplay recording of ZuuL. It shows how the player might traverse a small dungeon and make use of items.

Story and Gameplay

Game UI showing the current room with all available doors and items, the player character and his health bar, as well as the current items in the backpack

This is what ZuuL gameplay looks like. This screen shows the player character in a room with a piece of cheese, a sausage, and a teleporter.

One of Dr. Little's lab experiments has gone horribly wrong and he has been shrunken to a tiny size! To turn back to his original stature he will have to make his way to the chamber of light, but on his way he will need to watch out for the cat that roams his laboratory. Maybe he can bribe the mice who hang around the place to help him on his journey.

ZuuL is a turn-based 2D dungeon crawler. You start as the minified Dr. Little and make your way through the maze of rooms. You can carry up to two items at a time. You can find cheese (to pay the mice for intel), sausage (to sustain your own strength) and balls of yarn (to get the cat off your back). There are also teleporters that can warp you to distant rooms. If you reach the chamber of light before running out of strength, you win.

The ZuuL dungeon editor featured a random generator for room names. We had a lot of fun coming up with name templates for this, so I figured I'd make it available to you right here.

Project Background

Text interface showing the command-based alternative interface for ZuuL

As part of the project, a text-based interface for ZuuL gameplay was also developed. It follows the conventions of old-school text adventures.

During the summer of 2009 I was part of a practical course on software project development. It was intended to hone our team programming skills as well as our project planning competence by having a supervisor act as a customer stand-in with demands that were sometimes reasonable, sometimes not. I believe we managed to surprise them on a few occassions by getting things completed that they'd considered beyond our level.

The finished game later won a prize at the computer science department's project exhibition.

Looking Back

ZuuL editor showing a room grid with some connections, the context menu is opened for one room

ZuuL dungeons were stored as XML files. We developed a graphical dungeon editor to create them.

While the game does not feature any procedural generation, I believe if you look at it from a contemporary perspective it resembles games like The Binding of Isaac more than Zelda in terms of item use and visual design. We tried to source most assets from public domain origins, however we could not find a suitable main character sprite so Dr. Little remained a lookalike of Dr. Light from Mega Man. If you watched the video n this page, you will undoubtedly have noticed that we recorded our own sound effects for the game though.

The game was written in Java 6 and uses the Swing toolkit. It is to Java's credit that the same unmodified jar file developed for Windows in 2009 runs flawlessly on an Ubuntu Linux desktop in 2020. I would love to make the game available for download, however the team did not talk about that possibility at the time so unfortunately I cannot distribute it on my own.