Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Making a Computer Game (Part I) - Introduction :: Or - What I wished I knew about 20 years ago.


I've always wanted to jot down how to make a game, and of course, create one. In fact, I first wanted to make a game in ernest way back when I was about 12 years old when I first wanted to make a game. What inspired me? The game "Dragon Warrior IV" by Enix. I started off by making a chart of monsters, weapons, and items that would be in the game, and even a fully hardcoded experience point system for about 12 characters. (Thankfully, it was summertime, in case you're wondering) Granted, I was stuck with an IBM 286 PC with GWBASIC, an interpreter -- hardly worthy enough to create a game. My first true attempts were several years earlier on the TRS-80 between the ages of 6-8. (I was 5 when I got a TRS-80.) Now there's something! My generation is going to be saying, "When I was your age, I made my own games on the computer!". Anyway, the origanal WordStar, then WordPerfect document is long since gone. It wasn't really until highschool that I got a Turbo Pascal compilier when they offered the course at school. It was then when I first made a RPG, or rather, an add on to an online RPG for a B.B.S. software (yep, back in the DOS days). Now that I look at it, that code was terribly hard-coded. I've tried programming graphics code (using code in assembler that I found as the base of it), but graphics (coding and drawing) were never my strong points. Back in the day, I thought programming a game meant phsyically hard-coding every possible action the user will make, and every single pixel (via code!) on the screen. This was before the Internet was widely available (late 80s to mid 90s), so I had to learn by trial and error, not to mention constantly progressing from one compilier to the next (Pascal, Turbo Pascal, C, Borland C++, Visual C++/Basic...). I did have my greatest successes in Turbo Pascal. Unfortunately, its' code isn't very Pentium-friendly these days. I think my biggest problem when was that I wanted to do too much at once, and was always befuddled by the graphics. At other times, I would theorize code too much, and just not get anything done. College did help quite a bit, especially Systems Analysis and Design classes. Right now, I'm a Programmer/Analyst working for the State of Maryland using Visual Studio .NET (C#, Visual Basic), and old VBA code. Yes, I can hear some of the masses groaning at the sound of VBA.

About RPGs

For years, the one genre of games that I really liked were RPGs, more specifically, crpgs (Console RPGs - or rather, Japanese style RPGs). So, what's the difference? Well, there's 3 major types of RPGs:

1 - American-style RPG. These are of D&D fame, with quests, character classes (human, elf, orc, etc.), and a skill system (strength, willpower, agility and so on). These were mostly "find treasure, fight a bad guy, and perform another quest". My knowledge of this class of genre is actually a bit limited, as I haven't played too many of these kinds of games.

2 - Console RPG. Conversly, the Japanese style RPGs, especially of NES and SNES fame, focused on character development in terms of a storyline revolving around the characters the player controls. This still has features of a classic RPG in that there's monster battles, exploring caves, and a skills system. The major difference is that, except for some modern CRPGs, the skill system was automatic. I really enjoyed these games because of the storyline, side quests (for example, Final Fantasy 6 when several groups of characters can be controlled. At times, it added a little strategy into the mix.), and the puzzles that the game would give while exploring the map. The major downside is that, atleast in the early days, these games tended to be very linear. The player's party would be forced to say, fight an enemy in a cave before being allowed to explore elsewhere. (Note - The "Fight the enemy in a cave" routine has been used a lot as a "first quest" in RPGs. Some games, like Dragon Quest 8, make some humor out of this beaten quest.)

3 - MMORPGs. These are inherently American-style RPGs. There are classes, and many quests that can be performed. Players can go at it alone, or team up with other players to achieve a goal. Personally, I find these take up too much time, not to mention the monthly fee that keeps piling up even if you don't play.

So, in my next series of journal entries, I'm going to go over how to start a game from scratch. I'm going to do something that I wished I had done way back - start small... and ignore all of the pretty graphics!


At 6:27 PM, Blogger Kevin (aka Padma) said...

SO, are you going to add more, or are you going to let Geinger ALe's bet stand?



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