Game Designers: Learn to Program

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When I was 11, my family got its first computer: an AST “Advantage!”, which sported a 66 MHz 486 processor, 4 MB ram and 32 MB of hard drive space. It wasn’t the greatest computer, even for the time, but it did have QBasic on it, and having always wanted to make games, I immediately dove into coding.

I stuck with QBasic for the following¬†decade¬†or so simply because I was comfortable with it. I made a bunch of shooters, platformers, and actually a lot of weird games. I made one called “Kill the Innocent” (download it here, but you’ll need DosBox to make it work), which featured stick figures walking along a bridge, and you aim a gun at them and just kill them. I remember coding a detailed system for how the man’s top-hat would float gently to the ground, and a very simple physics system that would allow you to juggle the man’s head in mid-air with shotgun blasts. (I guess I was subtly picking up on the ugliness of violence in videogames even back then, although I certainly wasn’t conscious of it, being that my AST Advantage was running Doom so often.) Continue reading

News: I’m writing a second book. Also, Auro!

I wanted to write a quick post to let people know what I’ve been up to. I haven’t been able to really update the blog with a new article in some time, and I might not for the next month or two. The reasons for this will become obvious in a moment.

I recently signed a contract with CRC Press to write my second book! This one, like the last, is about game design, however this one is much more of a practical “textbook” affair, while the last one was more of a philosophical treatise. In this book (which doesn’t yet have a title), I will go through my suggested process of designing strategy games, starting with concept, core mechanism, finding supporting mechanisms, goals, etc. There will be lots of exercises and I think it will generally be a great book for the game design classroom.

I’ll be spending most of my writing time in the next few months (not ALL of my writing time, though) writing this book, which means I won’t be able to write too many blog posts in that time. I will have news items and such though, still.

Speaking of news items – the other thing I’ve been doing like crazy is Auro! Just today, I created a new commercial site for the game (still a work in progress). What do you think? I didn’t have to do much; Blake’s amazing art kinda carries the whole thing.

But beyond that, I’ve actually been programming on the game myself a lot, which is kinda crazy, because I’m not a programmer. My struggle with trying to learn to program over the last 20 years has been extremely arduous and fraught with doubt. But recently, with Auro so behind schedule, I’ve just decided to DIVE IN head first. And weirdly, it’s kind of working out. I mean, I’ve read the first 3 chapters of about 20 programming books over the past couple decades, so something just must have stuck I guess.

Tons of features have been added recently. The game now tracks wins and losses, and doles out XP. There’s a whole records system that keeps track of everything you’ve done, and a records screen where you can reset your records, etc. Not to mention just a ton of polish to the messaging system (character portraits slide in and out all nice now).

So that’s what’s been going on. I want to write an article soon about slow real time games, maybe I’ll have time to do that at some point.