• Register
Post feature RSS So...four years. Or is it twenty? Part 1

A story about a small child and the making of games.

Posted by on

Once upon a time there was a small child. This child found someone called a Commander and told them that he, the child, built some giant squid robots to wipe all life clean from the galaxy in order to stop organic persons and robots from wiping all life clean from the galaxy. But this is not a story about this child.

Another time there was a small child who fell from a cliff inside a mountain. There, it met talking skeletons, fought and possibly spared peculiar creatures, and got sidetracked by ancient fusions between diversions and doorkeys. It also garnered a f***load of attention. But this story isn't about this child either.

Could it be about that other child with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead? Eh, come on!

Enough with fairy tales. Let's talk about something real.

This story is about a child who, almost 20 years ago, pressed F5 on his keyboard and watched, in Complete and Utter Awe, a white circle moving from the left side of the screen to the right. This trickery, performed by a program called Qbasic, was something new. And the child, having recently moved in another city for the umpteenth time, having left all his friends and the cool stuff they did together, yet again, behind, and having finally persuaded his parents to buy him a PC because he feels lonely in this new place, now realises that this is The Moment. No more drawing Megaman-like platform stages in paper like he did in 3rd grade. No more drawing and cutting cardboard and painting and imagining rules for board games to play with friends. Nope. None of it. Now the child realises that he can do what he dreamt about ever since he laid eyes on a Street Fighter arcade machine. He can make Video Games.

Either with the help of schoolmates who knew stuff about things like Visual Basic and DirectX, or with a newly acquired home internet connection and the ever-swirling korus of digital information, the child started fiddling with programming languages and graphics. Drawing stuff on paper, making stories and scenarios about epic computer Role Playing Games, drawing stuff with Photoshop (this child must have used the Lens Flare effect at least 3 times on every image, but everyone did so back then).

Yeah, the child was 11 when it drew this. What did you expect? Sistine Chapel?

Years came and went and the child remained largely a child, although his exterior shell adopted a clever camouflage tactic known as "growing up" (clever as it is, it comes with a huge tradeoff, called "dying of old age"). He made it to the University, which had many interesting things to learn (none of which had anything to do with, well, you know, the University) and even more interesting people to meet. Among the first of the child's creations were a Columns clone and a Sokoban-style game made in Visual Basic 6. The Columns clone had special moves and also used Direct Draw for its graphics, which was a pretty Big Deal back then since many homebrew games still used the dreaded Windows GDI to draw stuff.

More games came to life: A fishing game, an Escape-the-House adventure game, a half-finished RPG in RPG Maker 2003, and after so, so many hours of playing Ancient Domains of Mystery, attempts to create a similar roguelike began to take shape. But Visual Basic soon became tedious and obsolete for the purpose of making games, and the child's interest was picqued by some engine called Game Maker. Wow! This thing had it all! Granted, there were not many decent games made in GM back then, but it just reeked of potential. So the child started fiddling with Game Maker 7. The first fruit of that labor was an Arkanoid clone with bosses called X-Ball, which went a long way to foreshadow the child's inability to make decent game titles.

Here fish fishy!

All those games were free. The child had some basic income from working and, for the life of him, couldn't ever imagine selling a game he made. Words like "marketing", "the game industry" and the like made his stomach roll like probably what the Vault Dweller did in his grave when Fallout 4 came out. And they still have this effect.

Around 2010, a top-down shooter with RPG elements called Metal Venture came out. It was met with positive reception, obviously for the small-scale game it was, and was even published and reviewed in a few European computer game magazines. You could even make your own levels! But the timing was unfortunate, because the advent of Social Media emptied entire forums. People didn't discuss things any more with proper sequence and reasoning. Now people had to "like" and "poke" other "friends" and other stuff that probably deserve to be kept inside quotes for eternity. Yeah, the child hated Social Media. Why does everyone have to be on Facebook? Why does someone have to tweet if they farted during lunch in order to maintain some semblance of an audience? These are weird times, man. Needless to say, Metal Venture slipped back into obscurity, and, although some 10,000 people downloaded from various parts of the web (and still do!), no serious attempt was ever made to make the game more visible.

Metal Venture.

In the meantime, indie games exploded. Game Maker turned from a 13 year old Catch the Clown crap games engine into a Legit Game Making Engine. And it was in November of 2011, where the child was playing a Flash game called Elona Shooter. In it, some strange creatures including, but not limited to, chicken and sheep, attacked you castle and you had to shoot them down. The child was hooked on that simple concept. "Hey, how about I make a game like this? But also put in a map where you capture areas and explore and Do Stuff?" No more grand-scale, procedural generation epic world exploration ideas. No more infeasible stuff. Just this simple idea.

So the child started working on this idea. Being a huge fan of destroyed worlds, the chosen setting was no other than a world ravaged by a zombie Apocalypse. Zombies were never a favorite topic for the child. But it seemed appropriate for a game where players defend their base from something, and in all cases, it was probably better than chicken or sheep. Game Maker 8 seemed a good idea at the time, mainly because it could execute code in real-time. This feature was always frowned upon by seasoned programmers (and for good reason), but it allowed for great modding capabilities and later game additions. Want a 100 new items pack? Download and copy that folder! It was easy! It was great! It was also slow as hell. Game Maker was the slowest, most speed-inefficient Game Engine the child had to work with. There was no trivial feature that wasn't implemented with some programming trick or other to maintain some decent game speed. Even shaders had to be used! In Game Maker 8! But even that wasn't the hardest part.

But could this game be untimately finished? Was it too much? Did the child bite more than it could chew?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Post a comment
Sign in or join with:

Only registered members can share their thoughts. So come on! Join the community today (totally free - or sign in with your social account on the right) and join in the conversation.