Learn or die!

Oct 9, 2017

As a game designer, do you ever get into that rut where you have a game engine you’re comfortable with, you have your routine, and you find yourself slowly drawing the curtains on the rest of the world of gaming and programming? I’ve been using Adventure Game Studio for roughly ten years now. When I look around at what other devs are doing, I see them just throwing sprites onto the screen, adding some controls, some collision, maybe some physics, seeing what happens. Seeing where the game takes them. They think about things like game play. GAME PLAY. Adventure games don’t really have “game play,” they just have a set of familiar mechanics through which we solve puzzles and progress through the story. I’m beginning to realize that game play is becoming an alien concept to me. So is game design of any kind that isn’t directly related to point & click adventure design.

GMboxfrontIt wasn’t always this way. When I was a kid, I coded up little text games in Basic. I made countless little arcade games with the Arcade Game Construction Kit and the Shoot ‘Em Up Construction Kit for the C64.

When I got a PC, I dabbled with Borland C++ (which cost me a fortune!) but I just couldn’t find a way to transition my understanding of Basic into the world of C, with all its added layers of complexity. Had YouTube existed at the time, maybe I’d have found my on ramp. Who knows? I tried going through “Learn C Fast!” books, I tried everything, but getting anywhere in coding on a PC seemed like a distant pipe dream. I felt like I was wading through mud. Something just wasn’t clicking.

I finally caught a break when I discovered “Game-Maker” for DOS (no relation to YoYo Games’ GameMaker Studio) in a magazine and ordered a copy! It still wasn’t everything I had hoped, but like those old game making kits for the Commodore, it allowed me to get my graphics and sound into a game world and begin to develop my ideas, and that was something. Read more

So, this project has been like a long, hilly road where you can’t see exactly where you’re going over all the hills, and you just sorta keep driving hoping that you’ll eventually reach some destination that doesn’t suck. But every once in a while, you reach a milestone. Some landmark that lets you gauge your progress and, if you’re really lucky, maybe even spot the (gulp) end of the road!

The mother of all milestones is that elusive alpha version. The moment you get to the end of the game and tie everything together so that you can play from beginning to end. Because from there on out, it’s all just improving and fixing, something much more quantifiable. Read more

The Zelda Of Legend

Aug 22, 2015

11221632_815331561917771_6698548499746704600_nIf I have one single favorite game, it would have to be the original 1987 Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It amazes me how many gamers I know are surprised by this, and worse yet, have never actually played it.

I still get a chill when I see that box. My head fills with memories of trying to imagine what sort of world lie inside that exotic, golden cartridge. Only a shield with a few cryptic symbols hinted at the secrets within the depths of this cartridge’s rom chips; a heart, a key and a beast. Surely the ingredients for any great adventure.

For me, The Legend of Zelda is most definitely one of the top 5 greatest games of all time. It was a HUGE landmark in both design and gameplay. The sequels that followed never quite captured that feeling again, because by then they were building on the storyline. The first installment stands alone as a far more pure gameplay experience where, rather than try to tell some story about saving the princess (sure, the quest was there, but it was not in the foreground), it focused more on evoking the feeling that Miyamoto got as a child exploring the mysteries of his back yard. It was about the experience, not the storyline. Mood, gameplay, mystery, exploration, hidden treasures, happy surprises and an epic feeling of adventure were the building blocks of the original Zelda. Read more