C r e a t i n g
a G a m e 3
by Rinku Hero
"Your game is part of the lives
and the memories of players in a way that WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3 or
Windows can never be."
~Orson Scott Card
Important: This article assumes you read the last article and have
your game fully planned out, or have at least the basic core of it clear
in your mind and plan to plan it.
This article is a 'do as I do now, not do as I did' article, meaning,
I made almost all of the mistakes I'm going to warn you not to make in
my experiece in game design. The approach to making games given in this
article is the result of walking in many dead ends and blind alleys.
Throughout the article, which I basically finished by November, I have
added grey boxes which include examples from the game Tilde and the
Mask of :P, which is included in this issue (along with no-password
protection and the plotscripting files, for those of you who want to see
its inner workings).
To use a movie analogy, you are a movie director, and you have the screenplay
of a movie in your hands. You know in a rudimentary way what the movie
is going to look like, you just don't know the exact form of it. Now all
you have to do is get the cast together, build a set, and start shooting
the scenes of the movie. Your skill as a director will determine whether
you handle that screenplay poorly or well.
There are basically two ways to make a game. The competent way is to
decide what you will need to finish the game, and then make those things,
then test and tweak those things, then release the game, without letting
things get out of hand. You keep to the basic design, you don't alter things
in any way which makes the design worse, you don't keep re-writing the
basics of the plot every weekend, and you don't add things that make no
sense or remove things that do. In other words: respect the game plan.
It was written for a reason. Don't let it hold you in its evil grasp, but
don't ignore it. The incompetent way is to make the game as you go along,
only referring occasionally to your plan (screenplay), changing it in random
arbitrary ways, not playtesting it, and then releasing it (to theaters).
A good director is competent. If he has to stray from the screenplay, he
knows exactly why he needs to, and does it as little as possible. The basic
difference is how controlled vs. chaotic the creation of the movie is.
Are scenes shot in just any order or is there a rational plan behind it
Alright. Step one of making a game from a plan, you might think, is
to make the .rpg* file and name it. This sounds reasonable,
but there is something to do before you do that: deciding in what manner
you are going to make the game, and on who is going to make what, and what
exactly you need to make. Example: you may right now know that you'll need
20x20 walkabout graphics, but you do not yet know how many you will need.
If you just start making them at random, and say that when you need more
you will make them, that is an arbitrary and inefficient way. Better is
to think about all the maps and scenes you have in the plan and from that
list how many walkabouts you will need for the game, and then just go through
that list and finish them. This is more efficient then making them as you
need them, because when you get in a 'walkabout making mood', you have
a ready list of walkabouts that need making, and most importantly, you
don't make more or less than needed and have to go back and make more or
delete the extra useless ones; instead you make around the amount you will
|Example: When Harlock Hero made the walkabouts for Tilde
and the Mask of :P, he had a list of which ones needed making. He didn't
go open Custom.exe saying 'I'll figure out which walkabouts the game needs
while in there', he had a list, and checked it twice (like the antagonist
of that game). Consequentially, the walkabouts were made in fast time:
50 walkabouts in one day. I had to add a couple extra later, including
the 'Tilde-wearing-the-mask' walkabout, but by and large they were all
there when I needed them, because we took the time to anticipate which
ones would be needed.
*(Note: the Ohrrpgce use is assumed throughout, but this
article, and the previous, can also apply with some mild alterations to
any game creation engine, and even to from-scratch programming)
If you are working alone, good. You have to make everything. If you
are working with someone else, however, you have to clearly decide who
will make what. And to do that, you need to know the 'what' that you have
to divide between the two (or three or four) of you. Even if you are working
alone, it is useful to know the 'what' that you will need to do before
the game is finished, and in what order you will do that 'what'.
|Example: We decided that since Harlock Hero was renowned for
his well done walkabouts (Harlock & Rinku's Game Which Includes
the Game 'Bill's Never Go West', hereafter referred to as Hrgbngw,
walkabouts were by him), he would do the walkabouts. He would also do the
cutscenes, since he has more practice than me in those, and since those
are easily importable. I myself would have the game file for the vast majority
of the time, so I would be doing the custom palette, maptiles, maps, story,
textboxes, plotscripting, hero graphics, most of the enemy graphics, battle
backgrounds, battles, music selection, gameplay balance, font, and attack
graphics. This may seem like an unfair distribution, but cutscenes take
a good deal of time to make if you plan to have over 40 of them.
Before I go ahead with the advice on making your (already planned) game,
some words of wariness, and a short sojourn into the land of evil. After
that, I'll get into this article's main point.
__ ___ _ _ __ _ _ __ __
____ _ _ _ _ __ __ ____
Words of Wariness
"Ideas are cheap. A dime a dozen,
as they say. It's the implementation that's important! The trick isn't
just to have a computer game idea, but to actually create it!"
"The concept for PITFALL took
than 10 minutes. The difficult part was sitting at the computer, for over
1,000 hours, and making it happen."
The making of a game seems like a vast project if you look at it all
at once. But when you are actually sitting down to work on it, don't say
to yourself "I'm going to make my game now." Instead, put it in bit-sized
chuncks, saying to yourself, "I'm going to make this enemy graphic right
now," and then, "I'm going to make this map right now," and then, "I'm
going to test these battles right now." In other words, if you sit down
with the intent to 'work on your game', a lot of time will be wasted, and
you'll keep finding excuses not to work on it... you'll go get a drink,
you'll go play a computer game, until all the time of the day is gone and
you haven't really done anything but correct a spelling error in a textbox.
But if you sit down, and say "I'm going to make 5 walkabouts now, and I'm
not going to get up or leave Custom.exe until they are done unless I have
a very good reason to," you'll have a much better chance of finishing those
walkabouts, and eventually the game. When you are done with that self-assignment
and still have time, assign yourself another task. But above all, don't
stop for the day if a self-assignment is only half done just because you
'don't feel like it'. If you hardly ever feel like working on your game,
you shouldn't be making one.
Another bit of advice: don't feel that you have to do everything perfectly
the first time. Make 'first draft' drawings of the walkabouts, and fix
them later. Don't work on a single frame for an hour and just wind up erasing
it at the end. Just get something in there, and improve it later. Don't
release the game until the graphics (etc.) are how you want them to be,
but don't let worry about 'doing something wrong' hold you back from getting
anything done. Perfecting is good, but you can't prefect a sprite or a
textbox that doesn't exist. It's the child who isn't anxious over making
a mess with his crayon coloring that eventually learns to do it the best.
Or, in other terms, making a game may be likened to generating as much
as possible and then selecting the best parts of that, and through this
learning what really is worth keeping, and why.
__ ___ _ _ __ _ _ __ __
____ _ _ _ _ __ __ ____
Evil and Game Design
Here I will attempt to show you the difference between evil (weak) games
and good games. By evil, I don't mean 'inexperienced' or 'newbie-ish'.
A game with an original story using poor graphics technique and having
a million spelling errors is bad, but it's not evil, it just has a lack
of talent. An evil game is something else entirely.
In one sentence: a game is evil if it is a second-hand mirror of other
games, a game is good if it has integrity. In more common terms, a game
is evil if the game author uses other people's judgement about what should
and should not be in a game (because he has no judgement of his own), and
a game is good if the game author uses his own good judgement, and creates
a game that he likes to play.
Of course, not all parts of a game are evil. Just the non-integrated
parts. If an aspect of a game is in the game for no other reason than that
it was in other games, that is foolish. This is seen in greatest detail
in 'clone' games, games that are created only for profit. The game becomes
something created expressly to be similar to certain other games.
The worst thing that you can do is create a game of cliches, a formulaic
game, a game without a single original idea, something that makes you feel
that the author of that game just gathered ideas from other games and meshed
them all together. Example: a game with spells called 'lit' 'ice' and 'bolt'
I'm not saying to intentionally 'try to be original'. You can't intentionlly
'try' to be original. Just remember that you shouldn't put anything in
your game that doesn't help your game. Put things in your game because
they make your game more interesting, not because they made other games
What would be the most evil game? A game that was created like this:
the game author would play 100 of the most popular (by sales) games in
the genre he wants to make a game in. He would see what the 'average' number
of heroes is, and he would make that his number of heroes. He would see
what the 'average' first textbox is like, and he would use that textbox.
He would see what the 'average' name for a last enemy is, and he would
use that for a last enemy. And so on. The game basically would be like
Frankenstein's monster, as if the author had collected dead body parts
from corpses, using the 'most common and average looking' parts, sewed
them all together, brought it back to life, and then tried to pass that
off as a person.
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