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Create Computer Games – Get Started on Creating Your Own Virtual Worlds
Ever since I first played on a friend’s computer in the afternoon after elementary school, I’ve always loved video games. There is something almost magical about being able to move images and interact with virtual worlds, this living fantasy presented to interact with as we wish. I’ve also always wanted to make a game myself, but I didn’t have the technical knowledge to do so until recently. Now, I’m a second year software engineering student, so something would be terribly wrong if I couldn’t code a game without a lot of drama. But what about the common man: the one for whom the phrase “memory leak” conjures up the image of his grandfather, the place where water flows is “pipeline” and “blitting”? Well, anyone can get into the process of making games, and you don’t even need to learn “real” programming.
But where do the games begin? With an idea. Games, like all fiction, require an idea to be successful. Of course, in the same way you can sit down and write a story without foresight, you can jump together and touch a game. But unless you’re ridiculously lucky, the best pieces are usually the ones that are well thought out beforehand.
There are two ways to plan a project. You can start from a known technology perspective and build your project on top of that, or you can just jump into design, add as many features and ideas as you want, and then delete the ones you can’t use. you have decided on the technology on which you will implement the game. In general, the second type is probably the best to use when designing a game. But when you’re first starting out, the first option will save you a lot of headaches.
So for the first game, you’ll want a pretty simple idea. Don’t get me wrong, crazy game ideas are fantastic and there should be more of them, but you can’t make a real world simulator with fifty billion virtual people. This is your first game where your actions have a butterfly effect on the future of the virtual universe. Indeed. Many people try it; none that I know of have been successful. Imitation is the best way to start. Simple games like Space Invaders, Tetris, Pacman or even Pong are great places to start. All are mostly simple to create, but have some inherent challenges. For example, ‘Pacman’ requires finding a way for ghosts. I recommend that you start simpler than this on your first try. “Space Invaders” is a great jumping off point. You can make a simple, complete game without much effort, and it’s almost infinitely expandable.
If you’re stuck for an idea, pick a genre you enjoy. “Monkey Island”, “Grim Fandango”, “Space Quest”, “King’s Quest” etc. Do you like adventure games? Design one of them. ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Tekken’, ‘Soul Calibur’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ and more. What kind of fighting games do you like? Give it a thought. Do you like first person shooters like ‘Quake’, ‘Half Life’ or ‘Doom’? I don’t recommend this as a first project, but you can always give it a try. Feel free to be as general as you like, it’s a learning experience.
Now that you have your idea, it’s time to make it happen. Don’t worry about the technology or how to implement the game, just grab yourself a pen and paper and go crazy with ideas. Describe the main characters, gameplay, objectives, interactions, story and main maps, anything you can think of. Make sure you have enough detail that someone can read the notes and play the game in their head with relative accuracy. Changing game design while coding is almost always a bad idea. Once installed, you’ll be in “development hell” until the tuning phase (which I’ll talk about later) or where the project is in progress; more work is done with less and less results.
At the end of your game creation period, you should have:
– Written outlines of game characters and maybe a sketch or two (be it spaceships, yellow circles, cars, or the prince of the dark kingdom of Falgour, you need to know who or what the player will be and who they will be competing against)
– A written story outline (if you have one, it’s not really important for “Space Invaders” or “Tetris”, but it’s a really good idea for “Uber Quest: Adventure of Awesomeness”)
– A written or storyboarded game description. Storyboards are visual representations of ideas. Draw your characters in action (because some of us aren’t fantastic artists and our pictures can be a bit… open to interpretation…)
Now that you have a clear idea, it’s time to work out how to put it all together. If you’ve reached this point and are worried that you’ll have to spend years learning complex programming languages to bring your idea to life, fear not! Others have already made the difficult pitches for you. There are many RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools available for creating games, several of which are free online. Some of them still require you to learn a “scripting language” (a simplified programming language designed for a specific task), but overall it’s not very complicated or engaging. I’ve compiled a short list of some I found at the end of the article. Free ones are listed first by game genre.
This is enough to start creating your game. The most important thing to remember after getting this far is to complete your game. Many people start a project and then lose interest and it fails, or they move on to one new project after another without finishing anything. Start small, build a complete working (if simple) game first. When you reach this stage, you can always modify, fix, etc. you will have many things you desire.
From this moment, you can start the adjustment phase. Play your game a few times and ask others to do the same. Note what isn’t fun or what could be better and change what’s here. At this stage, it’s more important than ever to keep backups of previous versions so that if the change doesn’t work, you can go back and try something different without losing any of your work. It’s at this point that you can add all the new features and upgrade the graphics and sounds, safe in the knowledge that you’re working on a solid foundation.
If you’re happy with your game, why not share it with the world? There are many cheap or free places out there to post your files and then you can go to link lists and forums and let everyone know about your creation. I hope this was a useful introduction to the art of game creation. It’s a lot of fun and can open up whole new avenues of creative expression for you to explore. Log in and have fun!
General game creation:
(Tools that allow easy creation of many different game types)
(Games like Monkey Island, King’s Quest, Space Quest, etc.)
Adventure Game Studio: [http://www.bigbluecup.com]
3D Adventure Studio: http://3das.noeska.com/
ADRIFT (for text adventures): http://www.adrift.org.uk/
Role Playing Games (RPG):
(Games like Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Diablo)
RPG Toolkit: http://www.toolkitzone.com/
(Games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Soul Calibur, etc.)
MUGEN (unfortunately, the site is mostly in French): http://www.streetmugen.com/mugen-us.html
Side scrolling games:
(Games like 2D Mario Games, Sonic the Hedgehog, Double Dragon, etc.)
Scrolling Game Development Kit: http://gamedev.sourceforge.net/
Many others also exist. One particularly useful site for finding game creation tools is: http://www.ambrosine.com/resource.html
Also worth noting are the excellent game creation tools available from Clickteam, although not free: [http://www.clickteam.com/English/]
Especially Klik and Play and The Games Factory are programs for viewing and downloading free demos.
If you really want to do things right and program the game yourself, there are some great programming resources available at the following locations:
Java Game Programming:
Visual Basic Game Programming:
C++ Game Programming:
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