Indie game developer in the high mountains of Colorado!
Welcome to Ex Nihilo Studio's first development blog!
We are quite excited to be sharing the behind-the-scenes development of our latest video game...Decimation. We hope that you will follow us as we attempt to rebuild the game that started me down the path of commercial interactive entertainment development many years ago back in sunny California!
Decimation started out in the early 90's as a fun project to teach myself C and 80x86 Assembly, two languages I'd been wanting to learn for some time in my quest to break into the professional game development scene. My 'fun project' soon grew into a full-blown arcade space-shooter and within a few months, I had attracted the interest of several other talented individuals who began collaborating with me to provide better graphics and music.
I wrote Decimation using Borland's Turbo C/C++ compiler which included MASM for my inline assembly graphics blitting routines. I used Autodesk's Animator ( a 2D paint and animation program) to create most of the static graphics and my 3D artist used Autodesk's 3D Studio (pre-cursor to today's 3DS MAX) to build and animate the models that were rendered down to our animating sprites.
Written in the popular PC graphics mode 13h, the screen resolution was 320x200 with 256 colors, tiny by today's gaming standards, but this was the early 90's folks, so low-res 256 color games were still quite common and we were thrilled with the results!
After completing about half the game and polishing and tuning the heck out of it, I took a chance and answered an ad in the newspaper for a game programmer at the L.A. based independent game developer, Realtime Associates Inc., using my half-finished game as a resume. I remember sitting in an office with the president, Dave Warhol, and a handful of his producers as they asked me questions about my experience writing games.
I was one nervous 25 year-old surrounded by industry veterans with dozens of titles under their belts, yet somehow I managed not to pass out. Instead, I apparently impressed them with what I said and with what I showed them...Decimation. The following day I was contacted by Realtime and offered a position as a game programmer at their El Segundo offices...one of my childhood dreams had just come true!
After landing my game programming job with Realtime, I was far too busy to finish Decimation and so it sat dormant for many months. Eventually I revved up my Iomega Zip Drive where I had saved all the source files for Decimation and began finishing the game. Within a few months I had completed the game to my satisfaction when I was contacted by a shareware distributor that wanted to include it in a space shooter CD bundle they were preparing. They asked me to make a few modifications and then send the finished game to them. I was thrilled with the idea of having my first game published and agreed to modify my game to their specifications. Then tragedy struck! My Iomega Zip Disk crashed hard!
I spent weeks trying to recover all the source files using every recovery scheme imaginable and affordable to me at the time - but nothing worked. If my memory serves me I even sent my Zip Disk away to a company that claimed they could recover anything off of any media and they came back with a quote around $500 to 'attempt' a recovery, but no guarantee as to the outcome. I was resigned to the fact that I had lost every source file to my game.
All the original artwork, all the original source code files, all the original sound files, everything was on that dead Zip Disk. I was crushed. Needless to say, Decimation never made it onto that shareware CD and although still playable on a x86 PC running Windows '98, it soon became a distant, though fond, memory.
A little over a month ago, I was working with my 21 year-old son, Nicholas, (who was born shortly before I began working on Decimation) when he suggested we make a game together. I agreed.
This was not the first game my son and I would code together. I had introduced him to programming years ago and he had even been a student of mine in a local private school where I was able to teach an Introduction to Computer Programming class. In that class we built three games - a Breakout clone, a Ms. Pac-Man clone, and a fun Space Invaders ripoff.
After much brainstorming and several game design sessions with Nick and other members of the Ex Nihilo team, we decided that there was probably no better game to officially start off our new studio with than to resurrect Decimation in all of her pixel-art, 256-color, 16-bit sound glory! We realized we had some challenges ahead, not the least of which was to reverse-engineer my original game data files that survived but were created over two decades ago using some compression / packing scheme I have long since forgotten. If we could crack those files and unpack their contents, then we would have access to all the original game-ready backgrounds and sprites, which is certainly a huge part of making a finished video game.
If that hurdle could be cleared, then we would need to code, from scratch, a new game engine upon which we could then rebuild Decimation. Not a trivial task for sure, but one made easier by the fact that I have several versions of a 2D sprite-based game engine that I wrote for several of my Game Programming classes a few years ago and have continued to update from time to time. This was beginning to sound like some serious fun!
And so it begins! I hope your appetite is whet for what lies ahead. We will do our best to keep you updated every step of the way as we create a video game from the ground up. We welcome your input and feedback, suggestions and comments, and certainly your encouragement. If this is your first time following the development of a game, then we are certain you will find it interesting and educational, and if you are already an experienced game developer yourself, then hopefully this will be a bit of a nostalgic walk down memory lane of your own development adventures in the past!
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Ex Nihilo Studios is a digital solutions provider that designs and develops custom business applications as well as multi-platform entertainment software...
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