Saturday, October 26, 2013

Eamon - First Impressions

Eamon: First Impression: A very early CRPG/text adventure hybrid system that's highly customizable if you're okay with doing some programming

Except for this title screen, it's an all-text game.  This is as exciting as the screenshots are going to get in this post.
So to begin our foray through game creation programs of the past, we'll take a look at Eamon. Inspired, like so many other computer games, largely by Dungeons & Dragons, Eamon is a text-based computer role-playing game in which the player can take characters through various scenarios. The character can accumulate gold and weapons and armor and keep them between scenarios; adjustments to attributes also can carry between scenarios, though they're much rarer. The interface in Eamon resembles a (somewhat primitive) text adventure; the player can type in commands like "NORTH" and "GET DIAMONDS" and "ATTACK GORILLA". What makes Eamon a suitable subject for this blog, of course, is the fact that utilities were provided for users to create their own scenarios they could then share and distribute, and that other players could send their characters through. This makes Eamon the earliest game creation system I could find... apparently.
"ATTACK GORILLA" wasn't just a random example phrase.

Actually, I'm not entirely sure just how early Eamon is. Wikipedia pegs its release date as 1980, but other sources place it earlier. A timeline on the Eamon wiki places its release in late 1979. According to an article by the Digital Antiquarian, John Nelson, a person instrumental in Eamon's development, even stated once that it was already out there and playable in 1978, though based on other evidence the Antiquarian ultimately concludes that Nelson had misremembered. As far as the chronology of the game creation systems I've found, which of these dates is correct doesn't really matter, though the Digital Antiquarian's arguments are persuasive enough that I'm leaning strongly toward the late 1979 date seeming most credible. Even 1980, the latest of these years, would place it previous to any other system on my list; the next earliest system I was able to find, the similarly themed Dungeon Definition Language, didn't apparently come out till 1981 (so I guess that's the one we'll be looking at next, if I can find some extant implementation of it, which seems dubious... its successor the Adventure Definition Language is readily available, but wasn't released till 1987*). And of course any of those years would place it surprisingly early in the history of computer role-playing or adventure games. Hackers had been creating role-playing games on mainframes since the mid-seventies, but Akalabeth: World of Doom and Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai, the first two role-playing games for the desktop computer, were both released in 1979 (maybe; as Matt Barton mentions in his History of Computer Role-Playing Games, the labels of the first known copies seem to indicate that, Lord British's reminiscences notwithstanding, Akalabeth may not have actually seen release until 1980). It isn't Akalabeth or Apshai that Eamon most resembles among contemporary games, however; it's Zork.
Okay, here I got really lucky.

In case there's anyone unfamiliar with this classic game, Zork was the first commercial product released by Infocom, a company that established itself as the final word in text adventure games, before falling first to bad business decisions that bankrupted the company and at last to mishandling by Activision, the larger company that had bought it out. Actually, Zork was a trilogy of games, based on a mainframe game sometimes also called Zork but more commonly called Dungeon, but the game that most concerns us here is the first of the trilogy, Zork I, and references to "Zork" in this paragraph should be taken to refer to that game. (Apparently I'm just feeling too lazy to continue typing a single-digit Roman numeral, or something.) Zork is, of course, generally, and rightly, considered a text adventure rather than a CRPG. However, unlike its predecessor Adventure, a.k.a. Colossal Cave, and unlike any later Infocom game until some of the anomalous fruits of the company's Activision-directed twilight years, Zork did have some light role-playing elements. There were two enemies the player had to fight, and, moreover, the character's statistics did influence those fights, in a very rudimentary way. The higher the player's score, the better he was at combat, such that fighting the "lean and hungry gentleman" early in the game was nigh suicidal, but if fought near the end of the game when the player had a higher score he was a pushover. (The other fight, the troll, occurred early enough in the game that the player's score couldn't have been very high yet and didn't make much difference.) Eamon's parser was, of course, nowhere near as good as Zork's, or even as Adventure's, but the combination of combat and text entry is similar enough that I'd be surprised if it didn't take some inspiration from it—or if not from Zork itself, then from Dungeon, the mainframe game of which Zork was an adaptation of the first third. If the 1979 release date for Eamon is correct, that would put it before Zork, but not before Dungeon.
And here I got really unlucky.

In contrast to many systems that came long after it, Eamon is still (more or less) under development today, and still has a thriving fan community. Eamon-related resources on the web include a blog, a Google group, a wiki (still relatively new and under construction), and a website called the Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online with lots of related information and downloads. The fact that Eamon has been under such continuous development touches on a question that came up in my initial post about chronology: which version do I use? The earliest version? The latest? Or do I split the difference and play some version in between? Well, I've given some thought to the matter, and here's what I've decided on: For most systems, I'm just going to go ahead and use the latest version. For systems that have been under development for a very long time and/or are particularly seminal or important to the history of the genre, though, I'll look at every version separately, or at least every version I can find with significant differences from the previous. Eamon, from what I've read about it, certainly seems to qualify on both fronts. So for now, I'll be trying out the oldest version I can get my hands on... but we'll be seeing Eamon again in this blog as we get to the later versions.

The oldest version I could find of the Eamon Dungeon Design Diskette is Version 5... which I suppose implies there are at least four older versions. From what little I can dig up, though, it seems like the essential differences aren't great between these early versions, and in any case the earlier ones may have been lost. (According to the currently rather stubby article about the Dungeon Design Diskette on the Eamon wiki, "early versions of the DDD were unstandardized", and "[t]he first fully standardized version was version 4"... though I'm not totally sure what's meant here by "standardized". Were there several mutually incompatible versions of the DDD floating around in versions 1 to 3?) The first big leap forward, as far as I can infer, occurred with Version 7, which doubled the number of possible monsters, rooms, and "artifacts" (items), tripled the number of types of artifact, and implemented doors and darkness as standard features. (Somewhere around version 6 the diagonal compass directions were added, but that's probably not a significant enough change to be worth a separate look.) So we'll be be taking a look at Version 7 separately... when we get to 1993. For now, Version 5 it is, and that'll have to stand in for Versions 1-6.
I said it was all text; I didn't say they couldn't change the font.

Looking into Eamon was a nostalgic experience for me. Not because of Eamon itself—I first heard of Eamon only a few weeks ago. But Eamon was originally written on the Apple II, in Applesoft Basic. (There were PC ports starting in 1985, culminating (so far) in Eamon Deluxe in 1997... but again, we'll get to those later.) And Applesoft Basic was the first programming language I learned. When I was growing up my family had an Apple II+ computer, and I spent many hours writing my own games on it. They weren't very good games, and truth be told most of them weren't very original games; their core code was copied from listings in computer magazines and books, with some changes and additions. But those were the first computer games I ever made. I don't know exactly where those games are now; the disks the games are on are probably somewhere in my parents' attic, though even if I could find them I have no way of getting the programs off those disks and into a disk image I can read now, and anyway by now the disks may well have become demagnetized. That still doesn't mean those early games are completely lost, though; I'm pretty sure I have hardcopy printouts of the program listings somewhere in my files...

As I said, I first heard of Eamon a few weeks ago, and on looking into it and discovering just how long it had been around and how continuous a community it's had I was kind of surprised I hadn't heard of it sooner... if not in my early childhood when I was still programming on an Apple II+ then later when I tried to take an in-depth look at the history of text adventures (I refuse to call them "interactive fiction"). But in retrospect, maybe it's not so surprising. I may have had access to an Apple II+ at the time Eamon first came out, but what I didn't have was any online presence... not that the internet was then what it is now, of course, then in the age of the 1200-baud modem, but there were bulletin board systems, and that's presumably where Eamon was discussed and promulgated, and that's not something I'd gotten into. And as for finding out about it later in my investigation into text adventures, well, although Eamon games are arguably as much text adventures as they are CRPGs, they've apparently been more or less ignored by the text adventure community... there was an article on just that subject on the Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online site. In any case, if I had known about (and had access to) Eamon back in the day when I was programming my own games on the Apple II+, I definitely would have created a few adventures for it. They might not have been very good adventures, but that's another matter.

Anyway, enough preamble. On to the analysis of the system itself. If you want to play along at home, here's one way you can get a hold of the necessary files yourself: From the aforementioned Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online site, follow the "Play Eamon" link, and then find the link to the download page. (Or just... follow the link at the end of the previous sentence, I guess.) Download the "Entire Eamon CD"; this is a huge collection of Eamon-related materials compiled by Thomas Zuchowski, another notable member of the Eamon community. Unzip the file into whatever directory you want. In the unzipped directory, go to the directory "AppleWin"; this contains an Apple II emulator that can run the Apple II disk images. There are a lot of other goodies included in that zip file, too, but the easiest disk images to use are elsewhere: there is a disk image in the "CD" of the Main Hall disk, but it isn't bootable. You can use it if you want to mess with a boot disk, but if you'd rather use a self-booting disk image, download the "" file from the same download page, and unzip it wherever you choose. The disk image you can start your Eamon adventures with is "D3_001.DSK"; this contains the Main Hall where you can create a new character, as well as the "Beginners Cave" introductory adventure. Using AppleWin, click on the Drive 1 image, navigate to the appropriate directory, and select the appropriate disk image, and then click on the apple icon (second button down in the toolbar) to get started. You should be able to figure things out from there, especially with the help of the player's manual available either in-game or online.

My character, just starting out.  There is a story behind the name "Ratava"... which I won't be telling.  (Actually, it's not really much of a story.)

The CRPG Addict has already posted his take on Eamon, but I wanted to check it out for myself from a player's perspective before creating my own adventure. So I went ahead and created and outfitted a character. In addition to various weapon, armor, and spell abilities (which can increase with use), an Eamon character has three statistics: Hardiness, Agility, and Charisma. I ended up with a character with high Agility and Charisma, but low Hardiness... which might be dangerous, since Hardiness determines how much damage a character can take (as well as how much he can carry), but I went with it anyway. The high charisma, at least, helped in outfitting the character; the higher a character's charisma, the better deals he gets at the shops. I was a little put off at first by how much the spells cost; the documentation seemed to imply that a PC was expected to have access to all four spells, but, with the possible exception of the unpredictable spell POWER, they seemed to cost far more than I'd be likely to afford any time soon. My apprehension proved unfounded; after I'd put him through the Beginners Cave my character had enough money to buy all but one of the spells, and was close to being able to afford the fourth. (Incidentally, in addition to being affected by Charisma, the cost of spells seems to vary slightly on an apparently random basis. If you cancel buying a spell and then try again, you may get different prices. The same is true of weapons and armor, though in those cases there seems to be no way to cancel out of a purchase aside from rebooting... or, I suppose, not having enough money for it.
His fees may, however, be entirely different tomorrow.

(Speaking of weapons, by the way, I found it a bit odd that "complexity" was a measure of a weapon's quality... the higher a weapon's "complexity", the higher the chance to hit with it. The manual even mentions "the quality of the weapon (also called the complexity)"... so why not just call it "quality" in the first place? Wouldn't that have made more sense?)

After having completed the Beginners Cave, not only had he amassed thousands of gold pieces, but my character's skill with a spear had increased by 8% (which made it somewhat unfortunate that the superior new weapon he had picked up in the adventure was a sword), and his armor expertise was up by the same amount (though he still had the same lousy Hardiness... as mentioned before, I gather opportunities to improve the three core statistics are few and far between). He still probably wasn't in any shape to tackle a really hard adventure, but I decided to run him through a few more relatively easy ones (as judged by their rating on the master list and their reviews).
As later events were to prove, not actually that mighty.
I died on the second adventure I tried, though partly due to bad luck; having two fumbles in the same fight (in one of which my weapon broke and hurt me) certainly didn't help, and neither did having my brain overload and forgetting the HEAL spell. When I retried the adventure my weapon broke and hurt me again, and I died even faster. Despite befriending the first NPC I came across, I died fairly quickly on the third adventure I tried, too. Granted, my character's low Hardiness no doubt wasn't helping matters, but still there seems to be rather a dearth of adventures suitable for starting characters straight out of the Beginners Cave... or at least, if they're out there, I hadn't found them yet. I'd kind of inferred this might be the case from some of the documentation; most of the reviews seem to assume an "average adventurer" with significantly better skills and weapons than a starting character would possess, and the master disk (at least the version now available) includes cheat utilities for editing characters and resurrecting dead ones. Still, I thought if I chose judiciously, I could maybe find one survivable by a beginning character, but so far no luck. Anyway, I'd intended to spend more time trying out adventures, but I still haven't had a lot of free time lately, and I want to get this post up before a full week has elapsed since the last one... I do still plan to play a bit more over the next week (and hopefully manage to find an adventure aside from the Beginners Cave that I can survive), but I think I've seen enough to have a good idea of Eamon's capabilities.
Hey, Marcos, my spear keeps breaking.  Can I get a refund?

Incidentally, the player's manual mentions the compass directions, UP and DOWN, and the INVENTORY, READ, ATTACK, and READY commands (the last designates the weapon the character will next attack with), but says that "other commands are either self-explanatory or they are designed to make you experiment". Typing in an unrecognized command, however, brings up a full list of commands the game does recognize, and for the benefit of future players, here are some other standard commands that seem to be more or less universal in early Eamon games:
  • DROP, of course, drops an item you're carrying
  • ENTER has the character try to go into some object or aperture
  • EXAMINE takes a close look at an item or monster
  • FLEE, ESCAPE, or RETREAT makes your character try to run away from a battle
  • LOOK not only redescribes a location, but may find hidden exits
  • OPEN... opens things. (Okay, so maybe some of these commands are self-explanatory.)
  • SAY has your character speak a word (perhaps a password, in some adventures)
  • SMILE or WAVE can show whether a monster encountered is friendly (though in a rather direct way: if they attack, they're not friendly)
  • BLAST, HEAL, POWER, or SPEED casts the corresponding spell (if your character knows it)
Alphonso, if I ever try this adventure again after I'm a little more powerful, I hope we can still be friends...

Also, hitting Return (i.e. Enter) on a blank line repeats the previous command. Individual games may implement other commands as well (or remove some standard commands, especially the spells). Later versions may introduce more commands, but, again, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Combat in Eamon is, to be honest, not particularly interesting. In almost all cases, there's little strategy involved, and little you can do except ATTACK until you or your adversary is dead (or FLEE if the former possibility seems predominant). The behavior of monsters and NPCs in the game is a bit unusual; on meeting the PC, a monster may be either friendly or hostile, the chances of hostility depending on the PC's Charisma and on the monster's "friendliness" (some monsters, like the rats in the Beginners Cave, are always hostile regardless of the PC's Charisma). A hostile monster will, naturally, attack the PC, but a friendly monster will follow the PC around and fight on his side. There is no in-between; a monster is either for you or against you. Either they want you dead, or they'll risk their own lives to protect you. (This is all the more puzzling considering that according to the designers' manual, a value of "2" for the monster's reaction indicates its attitude is "Neutral"... but as far as I can see there's no way for a monster's attitude to ever be set to that value.)

But that's enough about playing the games. Let's get to what this blog is really about: how is it to create new scenarios? Well, as I've already mentioned, there's a program called the Dungeon Designer Diskette that's intended to do just that. As it turns out, though, all the Dungeon Designer Diskette really does, aside from making a copy of the game's main code, is allow you to edit the rooms' connections and the names and descriptions of things and their basic statistics. All behavior and commands are hard-coded in. This may seem to contradict my reference above to new commands in some adventures, but there's a perfectly simple explanation for that: these new commands were implemented by the adventure creator's editing the program code. This doesn't seem to have been considered a hack, either; judging by the designers' manual and the existing games, it seems to have been expected that Eamon adventure creators would edit the source code. That's just the way it was done. There's even a data type editable with the Dungeon Designer Diskette, "Effects", that's nothing but text strings that are never used in any way by the program as it initially stands and can only be displayed by adding code to the main program that accesses them.

This reliance on editing the source code may call into question the classification of Eamon as a game creation system. Sure, it has some utilities for making text resource files, but significant changes in the program's behavior require changes to the source code, and I'm not sure there's a single released game that was created without some changes or additions to the default source code. Still, even if it does require the game creator to edit the source code, it's still a system that was created with the intent of allowing users to create their own adventures, and it's arguable that requiring users to edit the source code isn't all that different from requiring them to use external graphics editing programs to create images. I'll say it qualifies.

On the plus side, of course, this means that potentially everything is customizable. Don't like the default rules for monster behavior, and want to add in some neutral monsters that won't fight for or against the player? Easily done. In fact, I think I'm going to do just that in the adventure I make. Want to give the creatures special attacks and/or vulnerabilities, so a fight consists of more than just the player character and the monster monotonously hacking at each other until one goes down? That's a little trickier, but still doable... in fact, I'm going to do that in my adventure too. Want to make an adventure that you can send more than one adventurer into at once, and that in fact requires the coöperation of two adventurers to succeed? Well... that one would require a lot heavier modification of the source code, I think, but it could still be done. That one I'm not going to do for my adventure, though... though I admit I very briefly considered it. (Maybe when I get to a future version of Eamon...) Some of the existing Eamon adventures have even included graphics.
Okay, you do get one more screenshot with graphics after all.
So, yeah, it looks like creating an Eamon adventure is going to involve some actual programming. But heck, if I was programming in Applesoft Basic as a preteen, I should be able to do it again...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

001 - Resources

Okay, it's been considerably longer since the last post than I intended... I guess I'm technically sticking to my promise to not leave more than a week between posts, but I wasn't counting on cutting things this close this early. I was behind on work-related obligations that had piled up these last few weeks, though, and given that these were things that (a) I was already running late with, and (b) I was being paid for, I kind of had to give them precedence.

I'd also said that the next post was going to be either about GameMaker or about the new chronological list of game creation programs, and here we are with another post about 001. I have been looking into GameMaker, but I'm not sure it's going to be the first old program I'll be looking at after all. For one thing, it seems to require a joystick, which I don't have. There may be a way to emulate the joystick with a mouse; I haven't really looked into that much... but in any case, I've thought if I was going to just go with the old programs straight chronologically after GameMaker, I might as well just go chronologically from the start anyway. It's not like GameMaker and 001 are really directly comparable anyway, their both being more or less general-purpose game creation programs notwithstanding—among other things, as mentioned previously (and as will be further reinforced later in this post), 001 is apparently geared mostly toward action RPGs, while GameMaker seems to lend itself best to fixed-screen platformers like Pitfall! (a port of which is in fact included as one of the sample games with the program). So what I'm going to do is just take the older games chronologically from the beginning, rather than trying to match them to the genres of the newer programs I'm currently working with. Which means the first old program I'm going to tackle (unless I run across an even older one I haven't found yet) is going to be Eamon.

But this post isn't about Eamon yet. This is about 001. While I hadn't found time this last week to write a blog post, I did find time to play around a little with the 001 editor. I've started mapping my game, but that will be the subject of the next post on 001. For this post, I think I'll focus on the resources that come with the game.

Like I said in my ground rules, I intend to try to use to the fullest any resource sets that come with the program. From what I've seen of GameMaker so far, I can already anticipate that when I do finally get to it I may be bending that rule slightly. Or maybe not... actually, I did say resource sets, and while GameMaker does come with some resources, they're not organized into bundled resource sets that can be imported en masse into the program in the same sense as, say, the RPG Maker RTPs, so I think I can justify not using them while still technically staying within the letter of my rules. [Edit: Looking back on my Ground Rules post, no, actually I didn't say "resource sets".  But I'm going to maintain that that's what I meant.] Be that as it may, 001 does come with such resource sets, which it calls "Templates", so I'm going to try to use them to their fullest. Or use one of them to its fullest, anyway.

Yes, this exact same image was also in the last post.  But it seemed an appropriate place to include it (again).
 001 comes with four templates, plus a "Blank Template" for users who want to create everything from scratch with no built-in resources or interfaces. I've already said I'm going to be using the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template, so let's take a look at what that includes. After all, if I'm going to be using all the resources in the template, I've got to know what those resources are so I can design the game around them. 001 has a number of customizable features in each template, but some of them, such as "Team Alliances", "Areas of Equipment", and "Statistics", seem a little more advanced... and in any case don't necessarily have any direct bearing on the game's setting. For this post, I'll focus on the more immediately visible resources—mainly, "Actors" (as 001 calls monsters and NPCs, along with other moving objects such as vehicles), "Items and Magic", and of course "Tile-Sets". (Yes, "Tile-Sets" is hyphenated in the program.)

Let's start with Actors. The 001 Action / RPG (Pro) template includes a variety of these, but the window to select and edit them is too cramped for a screen shot to really give a good idea of what's there.

But I'll include one anyway.
Here, however, for what it's worth, is a complete list of the "Actors" in the template, with the order and categorization in which they appear:
  • Dynamic Object
  • Vehicle
  • Character
    • Enemy
      • Bat
        • Cave Bat
        • Venom Bat
      • Cockroach
        • Flame Cockroach
        • Water Cockroach
      • Crab
        • Ice Crab
        • Rock Crab
        • Sand Crab
      • Demon Imp
        • Fire Imp
        • Light Imp
        • Water Imp
      • Female
        • Female Grenade Launcher
        • Female Heavy Armor
        • Female Lancer
        • Female Swordsman
        • Female Thug
          • Female Baseball Thug
          • Female Pistol Thug
          • Female Thug Leader
      • Ghost
        • Hiding Ghost
        • Night Ghost
      • Goblin
        • Ice Goblin
        • Mountain Goblin
      • Male
        • Male Grenade Launcher
        • Male Heavy Armor
        • Male Lancer
        • Male Swordsman
        • Male Thug
          • Male Baseball Thug
          • Male Pistol Thug
          • Male Thug Leader
      • Necromancer
        • Dark Necromancer
        • Freezing Necromancer
      • Skeleton
        • Magma Skeleton
        • Poison Skeleton
      • Slime
        • Aqua Slime
        • Dark Slime
        • Freezing Slime
        • Magma Slime
        • Thunder Slime
      • Snake
        • Fire Snake
        • Grass Snake
      • Spider
        • Cave Spider
        • Ice Spider
        • Magma Spider
      • Zombie
        • Blind Zombie
        • Frost Zombie
    • NPC
      • Collection Quest
      • Inn Keeper
      • Shop Keeper

With the exception of the various "Males" and "Females", the monsters that are nested under another monster are just recolored versions of the "parent" monster (graphically, at least; they do have different abilities and statistics). The unqualified monster is the least powerful version, which in some cases is a bit odd; I would have expected a grass snake to be less dangerous than a regular snake, but maybe that's just me.

The "Items and Magic" are less finely categorized; they're just divided into "Common" and "Equipment", the latter comprising weapons and armor. Here's the list:
  • Common
    • 375 Magnum Ammo
    • 39mm Ammo
    • 45mm Ammo
    • 51mm Ammo
    • Arrow
    • Charges
    • Elixir
    • Energy Cell
    • Herb
    • ID Keycard
    • M28A2 Rocket
    • Mana Potion
    • Medic Kit
    • Napalm
    • Potion
    • Shotgun Shell
    • Super Potion
  • Equipment
    • AK47
    • Baseball Bat
    • Battle Axe
    • Breastplate Armor
    • C4
    • Chainmail Armor
    • Chainsaw
    • Crowbar
    • Desert Eagle
    • Energy Sword
    • Flame Thrower
    • Full Plate Armor
    • Generic Attack
    • Grenade
    • Grenade Launcher
    • Hammer
    • Knife
    • Lance
    • Laser Pistol
    • Leather Armor
    • Mace
    • Minigun
    • Modern Crossbow
    • Necklace
    • Pistol
    • Proximity Mine
    • Rocket Launcher
    • Scimitar
    • Scythe
    • Sniper
    • SPAS-12
    • Splint Mail
    • Staff
    • Steel Helmet
    • Studded Leather Armor
    • Sword
    • Timed Mine
    • Uzi
    • Wand
    • Winged Helmet
    • Wooden Mallet

...And here's a pointless screenshot.
From these lists, I can already get some idea of what kind of things I'm going to have to include in my game. I've got to come up with some concept for the game that allows for the inclusions of both fantasy and modern elements, such as goblins and grenade launchers. (Actually, "Goblins and Grenade Launchers" might not be a bad title for a game. Or maybe just "Goblins and Grenades". That won't be the title of this game, though.) There's certainly precedent for just having a gameworld that haphazardly lumps together fantasy and modern elements just because... heck, Ultima I did this, and so, I think, did the various Final Fantasy games (though I'm not really as familiar with the Final Fantasy series as I probably should be). But I won't be doing that; instead, I think I'll have a game in which the player travels through several different worlds.

The tilesets are fewer in number, so I'm just going to go ahead and toss up a screenshot of those instead of a text list:

...So apparently somewhere in my game I'll have to include pinball machines.
I guess there are a few other types of resources I can touch on.  I won't worry about Interfaces, Controls, and Statistics until I delve into more advanced customization, but there are some resources left that aren't so low-level that perhaps I should mention.  Doors, for example, are a resource type of their own, although the documentation advises that this won't always be the case.

There's probably some joke to be made about doors becoming actors, but I'll leave it to you to come up with your own.  (The word "wooden" may or may not be involved.)

There aren't many doors included in the template, though I suppose their number isn't unreasonable in proportion to the number of tiles and other resources.

Odd there's no regular single wooden door, though.
Then there's "Sounds and Music".  Or at least that's what the resource window says, but all that was actually included in the template was music, no sound effects, which struck me as a bit weird... surely a few simple sound effects shouldn't have been too hard to put in?  In any case, I haven't listened to them yet, so I can't comment on their quality, but here's the list of musical pieces available:
  • Battle 1
  • Battle 2
  • Battle 3
  • Boss 1
  • Boss 2
  • Boss 3
  • Boss 4
  • Cave 1
  • Cave 2
  • Cave 3
  • Cave 4
  • Church 1
  • Church 2
  • City 1
  • City 2
  • City 3
  • City 4
  • Dungeon 1
  • Ending 1
  • Ending 2
  • Energy 1
  • Energy 2
  • Field 1
  • Field 2
  • Field 3
  • Field 4
  • Field 5
  • Forest 1
  • Forest 2
  • Game OVer 1
  • Game Over 2
  • Heat 1
  • Lose 1
  • Mystery 1
  • Mystery 2
  • Mystery 3
  • Night 1
  • Night 2
  • Night 3
  • Peace 1
  • Peace 2
  • Peace 3
  • Pub 1
  • Pub 2
  • Road 1
  • Road 2
  • Royal 1
  • Sad 1
  • Sad 2
  • Sad 3
  • Sand 1
  • Sea 1
  • Shop 1
  • Shop 2
  • Sleep 1
  • Sleep 2
  • Sleep 3
  • Snow 1
  • Snow 2
  • Space 1
  • Title 1
  • Title 2
  • Title 3
  • Town 1
  • Town 2
  • Town 3
  • Town 4
  • Town 5
  • Town 6
  • Trial 1
  • Trial 2
  • Trial 3
  • Village 1
  • Village 2
  • Village 3
  • Village 4
  • Village 5
  • Win 1
  • Win Fanfare 1
Finally, the program also gives the user the option of customizing fonts:

I didn't type in those sample sentences in the preview.  That's the default preview text.
This is kind of a nice feature, actually; if a program's going to use bitmap fonts instead of TrueType, I figure it may as well give the user the option to edit those fonts, and create his own.  Not that 001 is the first game creation program to do this, by any means; Adventure Creation Kit also has a font editing feature, and I'm sure there are others.  Still, it's always welcome.

Even though I chose the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template, I figured I may as well take a glance at what's included in the others. There's a "Point-and-Click Adventure" template, but it apparently includes no actual resources aside from the interface. But there are two other templates that do include templates: the "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" template and the "Platformer Game" template. So let's check those out.

I kind of expected the "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" template to have all the same resources as the "Action/RPG (Pro)" template, just with more primitive graphics. Turns out it doesn't. In fact, it includes no preset "Actors" at all, aside from some generic categories.

And turrets, I guess.  So you can have an entire game just about turrets.
It does, however, have some sprites you can use to create them.

Just in case you've ever wanted to make an action-adventure RPG where the player fights... whatever the hell this is.
Despite its lack of "Actors", the "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" template does include a set of items comparable to, though different from, that of the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template. For whatever reason, though, this one puts many weapons under "Common", while leaving some under "Equipment". I'm not sure if there was any particular reason for which weapons went where; while it does seem that all firearms are under "Common", crossbows are under "Equipment"; the generic Sword is "Common", but the Rapier, Scimitar, and Short Sword are in "Equipment"... Anyway, in case you're wondering, here's the list:
  • Common
    • .375 Magnum Ammo
    • 39mm Ammo
    • 45mm Ammo
    • 51mm Ammo
    • 9mm Ammo
    • AK47
    • Arrows
    • Axe
    • Baseball Bat
    • Battle Axe
    • Bazooka
    • C7
    • Crowbar
    • Desert Eagle
    • Elixir
    • Energy Cell
    • Energy Sword
    • F. Thrower
    • Folder
    • Grenade
    • Grenade Launcher
    • Hammer
    • Herb
    • High Potion
    • ID Keycard
    • Knife
    • Lazer
    • Lazer Turret
    • M16
    • M28A2 Rocket
    • Mace
    • Mana Potion
    • Medic Kit
    • MP5
    • MP5 (Silent)
    • Napalm
    • Pistol
    • Pistol (Silent)
    • Potion
    • R. Launcher
    • Remote
    • Shotgun Shell
    • Sniper
    • SPAS-12
    • Sword
    • Taser
    • Turret
    • Uz1
  • Equipment
    • Aluminium Mallet
    • Bullet Proof Vest
    • C4
    • Chainmail Armor
    • Copper Armor
    • Copper Helmet
    • Gold Armor
    • Gold Helmet
    • Leather Armor
    • Modern Crossbow
    • Necklace of Truth
    • Proximity Mine
    • Rapier
    • Scimitar
    • Short Sword
    • Steel Armor
    • Steel Helmet
    • Timed Mine
    • Traditional Crossbow
    • Wooden Breastplate
    • Wooden Mallet
Aluminum mallets are used to drive metal stakes into the hearts of robot vampires.  I guess.*
The "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" tilesets, too, have some similarities to those from the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template, but are by no means identical. The "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" tilesets contain fewer sets, but I think at a glance the sets have on average more tiles (though I haven't actually counted them to verify that).
One of the differences: No pinball machines.
Still, if nothing else, the lack of preset "Actors" strongly suggests that it's the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template that the creators of the 001 Game Engine focused on.

That leaves the "Platformer Game" template. Unlike the "Action / RPG (MS Paint)" template, this one does include a handful of "Actors"... though not much more than a handful. It's still enough that it's not practical to show them by a screenshot of the oddly tiny "Actor Templates" window, though, so here's the list:
  • Dynamic Object
  • Character
    • Alien
    • Bat
    • Bear
    • Bird
    • Dragon
    • Fish
    • Flytrap
    • Lightning Ball
    • Ninja
    • Ogre
    • Pirate
    • Rat
    • Robot
    • Scorpion
    • Shark
    • Skeleton
    • Spider
    • Spiky
    • Werewolf
    • Witch
    • Zombie

The template makes up for this, however, by not including any items... or at least, only a couple of generic item categories:

It doesn't seem as if this actually has any characteristics set except the name "Armor"...
 Its tilesets are also minuscule compared to those of the two "Action / RPG" templates:

So, counting the single Water tile, that's a grand total of seven different tiles.  Great.
Again, all in all, it definitely looks like it's the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template the developers put the lion's share of their effort into, so it looks like I was right to pick that one as the one to use.

Next time: Mapping! But before that I hope to have my first post up on an older game (probably Eamon), and maybe my chronological list of game creation programs (I've been working on that, but it hasn't been easy to pin down when some of these programs were first released... and I keep running across more programs to add to the list, too). See you then!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chronology, Continued

Okay, so as I mentioned in the previous post, I've decided to do what I was considering in the edited-in final paragraph of the last chronology post, and work with a new program and an old program simultaneously. Based on some further thoughts and a comment to that post, though, I think some refinement and clarification may be in order.

I started looking at GameMaker—post forthcoming probably in a day or two—and I was surprised at just how much it allows the user to customize about a game, but of course, given the time when it was created, the size of a game that can be created with it is limited. It occurred to me, then, that this introduces a possible hitch in my plans to work with an old and new system simultaneously. Assuming I spend comparable amounts of time with 001 and GameMaker, I'm going to finish a game with GameMaker a lot sooner. Even if its tools are much clunkier and time-consuming to use (which, given how early it was made, they may well be), that's likely to be more than made up for by the fact that I just won't be able to create a very large game with it. With 001, on the other hand, I expect to be able to create a much more extensive game, and since I can, I plan to. This means by the time I get done creating a game with GameMaker, I'll almost certainly still be working on the game I'm creating with 001.

This isn't a problem, per se, but it does leave me with several options. At least five of them come to mind, and I'm going to go ahead and list them even though I've already decided which one to go with and the others were never really under serious consideration. One is to just not create as large a game with 001 as I could; to limit myself to a small game just to try out the engine. Another is to move on from 001 as soon as I'm done with GameMaker, possibly to come back to it later but starting on a different system for now. Still another is to play the two concurrently until I finish with GameMaker, and then to just focus on 001 from then on. Or I could make multiple games with GameMaker, just keep working with it and see how many games I can create with it in the time it takes me to create one good game with 001. But none of those choices really appeals to me; what I'm going with is the fifth choice: after I finish GameMaker, I'll start in with a different old system while still working with 001.

Accordingly, I've been going through my master list of game creation programs and trying to pin dates on them (as well as adding a few other programs to the list as I run across them). As mentioned before, this is a little iffy because some of them were gradually developed and updated over many years, but for now I'm going with the year they were first released. (I'll post this updated list when I'm done with it, which may or may not be before the First Impressions post on GameMaker.) I don't know if I'll be able to go with another old multigenre game creation program after GameMaker, just because I don't know if there were any other old multigenre game creation programs aside from GameMaker; such programs seem to have been relatively few and far between in those days... so after GameMaker I may just be taking old game creation programs in chronological order, regardless of genre. So far, the oldest game creation program I've found is Eamon (1980), followed by The Arcade Machine and Genesis: The Adventure Creator (both 1982), but I'm not done dating all the programs on the list yet, and it's not impossible I may find one that's older.

So that's the current plan... I'll be working with an old and a new game creation program concurrently, but after GameMaker I'll be taking the old programs in chronological order, and given their limitations I'll probably finish with several old programs in the time it takes to finish one new. This may mean I run out of "old" programs (depending on just how one defines "old") while I still have new programs to work with, but that's not a problem; it means I'll have more context for the newer programs, after all, and it'll be good to have the old programs out of the way. (Though, honestly, there are still enough of them that it'll be a while before this becomes a concern.)

I plan, incidentally, on putting a sidebar on the upper right of the page with the list of all the game creation programs I've tried out so far, in chronological order, with the year they were first released. I haven't done it yet because, well, with only one program it seems premature. I think I'll wait till I'm on the third program at least.

There's one more thing I want to clarify, though; reader comments on the first chronology post seem to imply that readers assumed I was planning on trying to make the ''same game'' in an old and a new program—or at least similar games, with list of features I would implement if possible depending on the program's capabilities. I can see how that would seem to be a reasonable assumption. After all, if I'm going to be comparing the programs' potentials, shouldn't I control for as many variables as possible; shouldn't I make sure I have a level playing field? Wouldn't therefore be the best way to proceed be to have the same game in mind to make with each system, and see which one allows me to come closer to my intent?

Well... maybe not. Different game creation systems, even for games within the same genre, often have different strengths and specialities, and are better suited to different types of games. If I have a particular game in mind in advance when trying out new systems, it may be that one system better lends itself to that particular concept, and what I have planned is well implemented in that system... though there are other things that are better implemented in another that just doesn't happen to have those specific features. It may be then that I end up with a game closer to my intentions with one system, and a better experience with that system, not because it's an intrinsically better system but simply by chance, because I happened to have chosen features that that system does well rather than other equally desirable features that are done as well or better in another. It may lead to a fairer assessment if I don't try to cram a game planned a priori into the system, but rather try to suss out the system's strengths before I start, and tailor the game to those strengths.

There's also, of course, the matter of my intended policy to use any resources provided with the system. Suppose one system provides a bunch of typical fantasy monsters and items in its default resource set, while another for the same genre of game focuses more on science fiction. I'm not reasonably going to be able to create the same game with these two very different resource sets. Even if they aren't so radically different, it's not necessarily likely that any game's resource set will happen to mesh well with a game concept I've planned in advance. Again, I think it's more fair to the game system to plan the game around the system's capabilities and resources, not try to shoehorn them into a game concept I've already decided on.

But there's a still more fundamental reason I don't want to try to make the same game with multiple systems. Part of the purpose of this blog is to compare the abilities and interfaces of different game systems, yes. But honestly, part of it, too, is to give me an excuse to make games (while feeling like I have some chance of convincing myself I'm doing something productive). And I want to make a lot of different games. I don't want to just make the same game over and over. And really, readers might get bored with seeing the same game made over and over, too.

So, when I say I'm going to use different game creation programs concurrently, I don't mean I'm going to use them to make the same game (or as similar as I can manage). Having looked over the basic capabilities of 001 and GameMaker, I've already decided on the basics of the games I want to create with each one, and they're pretty different. But even (or especially) by making different games with each system, I still think I'll be able to get a feel for the systems' workings and capabilities.

And if all goes as planned, as I get further into this blog and work with more game systems, I'll have an increasing pile of nifty games to show for it, too. We'll see how it works out.

Friday, October 11, 2013

001 - First Impressions

This screen comes up every time a game is loaded for some reason.
Okay, so here's how things are going to work, at least for now. As touched on at the end of the last post, I think I'm going to try concurrently working with one new game creation program and one old one, the latter being either the first in the lineage of the new program in question or the first (that I know of) in its genre. Since the first program suggested in the comments was 001, that's the first new program I'll go with. And that means the first old program will be the oldest general game-making program I'm aware of, GameMaker.

Now, when I say "concurrently", I don't mean I'm going to go over them in the same post; I'll alternate posts about the two programs. (Or intersperse them, in any case; I won't promise the posts about the two games will always exactly alternate.) I'm inclined to think I probably ought to post about the old game first. But, on the other, hand, there's a part of me that can't resist taking the opportunity to put a program called 001 in the first position among the games discussed, so... 001 it is. The introductory post about GameMaker will be next.

For my first post about each game, I'll begin with my briefly stated first impression about it after taking a glance at the webpage and some of the documentation and perhaps some preliminary experimentation with the system. Keep in mind, however, that this is just my first impression, and my final impression after I've had more experience with the program may of course end up being very different. So, concerning the subject of today's post:

001: First Impression: A versatile program for multiplatform game development.

Okay, that first impression may sound unreservedly positive, but there are a few things I've seen so far that have given me pause. One was what 001's webpage says in big letters right at the top: "MAKE GAMES NO CODING". So... does that mean there's no way to direct events in the game with any sort of scripting language? If so, that seems quite limiting; I don't see how a game can be fully customizable without some sort of coding. Fortunately, though, a glance at the feature list puts that particular fear to rest; there is indeed a scripting language included (and the About page gives a little more information about it). So apparently it's not so much no coding as no coding necessary; I'm guessing it may be possible to create a game without any coding at all using default procedures, but that the scripting language optionally allows you to change things around if you want to. Good to know.

(Also a minor turnoff: On the main page of the game's site is a quote disparaging RPG Maker. Not that I'm an RPG Maker partisan, but it always rubs me the wrong way when a company specifically ridicules a rival by name. I loathe those Dish Network commercials jeering at DirecTV for the same reason.*)

Though 001 Game Creator (as its full name is given on some pages) can be downloaded for free, there's also a paid subscription version available. The subscription model's a bit odd, though: instead of just buying the program once, you pay monthly or yearly. The free version already seems pretty feature-rich, but the subscription version adds a few other bells and whistles, including support for 3D model file formats and further distribution options. For now, of course, I'm using the free version, though it's not impossible that I may upgrade to the paid version in the future if I like the program, if I want to use one of the features in the paid version, and, of course, if I have the money to spare. While the website makes a point of the ability to export created games to any platform, this seems to be one of the features that requires a subscription.

So, having downloaded and extracted the program, I fired it up to take a look.
A karateka, a knight, and an astronaut walk into a bar...
To get a feel for what the engine could do, I decided first to try out the sample games that were included in the distribution. There are four sample games included: a card game, a role-playing game, a space shooter, and a tower defense game. For no particular reason, I tried the tower defense game first—I'm not generally a fan of tower defense games, but I figured I'd give these all a try. Anyway, this game turned out to be surprisingly easy. While there were some moments during the first few waves when I thought I might be in trouble, that didn't last long; I didn't have to erect a single new tower after wave 20 or so, because every enemy entering the screen was almost instantly obliterated anyway by the ones I already had. After that, I just let the game run to see what would happen. I guess I won, because after wave 50 no more waves came, so despite the lack of any winning message that seems to have been the end of the game.
None of the guys not clustered around the top left intersection have seen any action in more than twenty waves.

So... yeah, a lackluster game, but it was only intended as a demo to show the system's capabilities anyway, and on that regard it seems to have done adequately enough. The graphics, effects, and controls all seemed decent, and I didn't notice any glitches or problems. So next I tackled the card game. This turned out to be Go Fish. Not much to say about this, except that the default controls that can be shown at the beginning were wildly inappropriate. (I gather, however, that it's possible to disable this control display, and/or replace it with a customized version.)
I guess magic and weapons might make Go Fish marginally more exciting.  Or maybe not.
The space shooter was similarly underwhelming. It just had endless waves of enemies, and power-ups that changed the player's weapons. The biggest problem with it was that there was no indication of what the controls were. By trial and error I eventually figured out that the control key was used to fire, but if there were any other controls beyond that and the arrow key I couldn't find them. Still, again, it served its purpose to showcase the program's abilities.Then I tried the role-playing game.

And here there was some possible cause for discouragement.

Like the other demo games, the role-playing game was short, with only two areas. In the first area, the player character interacted with some NPCs and collected some items, and in the second area he killed some spiders. So far so good, except I found that after the spiders were killed I could suddenly wander off into the river. At least, I could for a while, until the game suddenly remembered that the river was supposed to be an obstacle, rather inconveniently when I was standing in the middle of it.
...And then the hero decided to stand around in waist-deep water for the rest of his life.  The end.

It may be that this is just a problem with the coding of this particular demo game, and not indicative of a problem with the 001 Game Creator itself. I hope that's the case. Still, such a game-killing bug in one of the demo games included with the program is a little worrying.

Regardless, I figured if the demo game had an ending I may as well see it all the way through... and it was short enough that restarting and playing it through again wouldn't take much time. So I started over, collected all the requisite items on the first screen, went down to the second, killed all the spiders again, and then left the screen.
You can't tell me what to do, demo RPG!  You're not my real father!
Or tried to.I couldn't find any more spiders, but the game wouldn't let me proceed. So I tried going back.
And was foiled by bad grammar.

Couldn't do that either.

After wandering all over the map (except into the river) and not finding any more spiders, out of frustration I attacked a random tree.

And thereby purely accidentally killed the final spider, which had apparently been hiding behind that tree and for some reason hadn't run out and attacked me like the others. I guess this may not technically be a bug, but it's certainly bad design.

...but of course this epic finale made it all worthwhile.
Issues with the demo RPG notwithstanding, though, this program looks like it has a lot of potential, and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it. So, of course, having gone through all the demo games, the next step was to take a look at the editor.  When I go to create a new game, the first thing I get is a choice of what kind of game I want to make:

When you select one of the demos, you just get an error message about the game already existing.  So why are you given the option to select them in the first place?
Now, this is an issue I knew would come up when I got to a general-purpose game creator that can be used to make games of multiple genres. (I just didn't necessarily expect to be dealing with such a program as my very first entry.) What type of game should I make? What if the program happens to be better at creating one type of game than another, and I happen to pick the one it's worse at? How can I ensure I'm giving the program a fair shake? I guess maybe the ideal thing would be to try to make every type of game the program is capable of making, but obviously that's not going to happen any time soon... it's going to take long enough to try to make one game with each program, let alone multiple games.

I foresaw this question arising, but I never did come up with a good answer. I think I'm just going to have to take it on a case-by-case basis. And in this case... well, let's see. I said in the ground rules that if the program came with a set of resources I would use them, and it seems that there are resources included only for action RPGs and platformers, so I'll go with one of those. Of the two... well, when you click on the Beginner's Tutorials, the first tutorial that comes up is for an action RPG, so I'm going to assume that's the type of game the program is most geared toward, and that's what I'm going to go with.  (Plus there are two different action RPG resource sets and only one for platformers, which again indicates that it's action RPGs the developers were most focused on.)

That still leaves the decision between the "Pro" and "MS Paint" graphics, but what the hey... I'm going Pro.

Now let's look at what resources the game comes with. There's a fair assortment of tiles... maybe not enough to give enough variety for a large game, but there's certainly enough to get started with, and I was planning on eventually adding my own resources later. The tile are divided into three categories: Floor, Lower Object, and Upper Object, presumably affecting whether they're drawn over or under the characters and each other. There's actually a bit more variety in the tiles than is initially apparent, because when you put floor or wall tiles of the same type next to each other they automatically adapt appropriately.
I'm not sure what purpose these walls serve here.

As for the sprites... well, those are interesting. There aren't separate sprites for different characters. Rather, there's one sprite for the body, another for the hair, and so on, and they can be put together in different combinations. Furthermore, most of the sprites are predominantly grey; I'm assuming when you create a particular character or monster (or, in 001's terminology, "Actor"), you also define the hue... meaning you can use the same sprite with different hues for palette shifted creatures. While all this may end up being a little more work to use than just a single sprite per character, it's actually kind of nice, in that it means I'll be able to make a wide variety of distinct NPCs without needing a separate sprite for each one.
Something tells me adding new sprites isn't going to be simple...

But we'll pick up from here next time. Or rather, we'll pick up from here after I take a look at GameMaker.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Concerning Chronology

So, a reader (UbAh) commented regarding my statement that I wasn't planning on taking the programs in chronological order:

I am a fan of chronological because it will give your blog a sense of progression as more features become available in newer software. This way you blog about the new things in the next program instead of lamenting whats missing...

He raises a good point, of course, and there's certainly something to be said for going in chronological order. In this blog, though, I'm more concerned with comparing the features of different game creation programs than in tracking their development over time, and, while it's a matter definitely worth considering, I think there are some good arguments for not going in chronological order, as well.

For one thing, I'm not sure there is as clear a progression in game creation programs as there is in CRPGs and adventure games. Of course the graphics, speed, and other such features tend to improve with the hardware, but as far as the interfaces different game creation programs seem as often as not to try to reinvent the wheel each time. This is all the more true when you look across programs intended to create different genres—if the various CRPG creator programs out there don't seem to have copied much from each other, for instance, even less so have they copied from programs intended to create platformers, or adventure games. Of course, there are exceptions—Chris Hopkins' Adventure Creation Kit was clearly inspired by Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set, for instance; Dungeon Craft is a fan remake/upgrade of Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures; and the various RPG Maker programs are obviously related, each building on its predecessor (though in at least one respect RPG Maker VX was a step backward from RPG Maker XP). And certainly within particular genres there are programs that in some sense came first; a case could be made that it would make sense to address WinAGI and SCI Studio, which create games like the original King's Quest series, before programs like Adventure Game Studio or SLUDGE that create more sophisticated games, or that GAGS and AGT deserve a look before more advanced text adventure creators like Inform, TADS, and Hugo.

But then there's also the fact that games are in most cases released only once with no further refinements aside from patches and expansions, and even those seldom come out more than a couple of years after the original game. Many game creation programs, however, are built upon and improved over a period of many years. Take Inform... it was first released in 1993, but the current Version 7 only came out in 2006, with a completely new syntax. So where would I put it in the chronology? If I put it at 1993, that's deceptive because the current version of 2006 is much different from what it was then. But if I put it at 2006, I'm ignoring its history and not acknowledging its status as one of the earliest sophisticated text adventure creation programs. I suppose in principle I could do each version separately, but the incremental changes between successive versions are small enough that that would get boring for both me and the readers. (Actually, the differences between Inform 6 and Inform 7 are big enough that they might be worth doing separately, but not earlier than that.) Similar concerns apply to Adventure Game Studio, the first version of which was released in 1997 and version 3.2.1 of which was released in April 2011.

But maybe the biggest reason for not going in strict chronological order is that my primary concern is comparing the features and interfaces of various game creation programs, and it's the most advanced, most recent programs that are of the most interest for my purposes. Older programs are certainly worth a look, both for historical reasons and to see if they perhaps included some clever feature that was forgotten in their successors. But I'd definitely prefer to get to recent programs sooner rather than later. If I tried using all the programs in chronological order, it would be years before I reached the current decade—true, my list may not be nearly as long as The CRPG Addict's, but on the other hand it generally takes longer to create a game than to play one. So while I'm certainly happy to dip occasionally into the software of yesteryear, I don't really want to have to wait the better part of a decade before I get to something more recent.

Still, again, there is something to be said for going in chronological order. So I think maybe I can strike a reasonable compromise. I will go in chronological order within a related sequence of programs. For instance, if I come to the RPG Maker games, I'll try those in order. I'll look at FRUA before Dungeon Craft, and ACS before ACK. But I'll take those sequences (or standalone programs) in whatever order they're suggested. Which means at some point I should redo my list to reflect this "threading"... but I'll get around to that later. I hope this should strike a balance between the value of taking a historical look at game creation programs and the immediate applicability (and fun) of trying out recent programs.

In the meantime, this does raise a question: So far, I've received one suggestion for the first program to blog about, 001. This program can make games of various genres (the demos it comes with include a tower defense game, an action RPG, a shooter, and a card game), and has no obvious predecessor it's clearly inspired by... but for the sake of historicity perhaps before dealing with it I should tackle the first such general game-making program... which I believe would be GameMaker. (Not the popular program published by YoYo Games that was first released in 1999, nor the hyphenated DOS program released in 1991 that I just found out about and I guess I should add to the list, nor still a graphic adventure creation program by that name that I also just found out about but won't add to the list for now only because it's apparently available only for the Mac, but a program first released for the Commodore 64 in 1985.) So... assuming that I don't get dissenting suggestions over the next few days and 001 continues to be the frontrunner, should I go ahead and start with 001, or should I start with GameMaker to lay the historical foundation? My inclination is that in the future I'll start by dealing with historical precedents, but for the first entry on the blog I'd rather bend the rules a little and just go with a modern program, and pick up GameMaker the next time a general-purpose game creation program comes up (there are several more on the list). Thoughts?

[EDIT: Orrrrr... I could concurrently create games in a recent program (such as 001) and an old program (such as GameMaker). That way I get to simultaneously examine a new program like I want to do, and also look back on its historical context. This is either a great idea or a terrible idea. Perhaps I shall try it and find out which.]

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The List

Remember in the first post when I said I had almost a hundred game-creation programs already in my list? Yeah, well, while I was writing the last post I ran across some more and followed up some other leads, and... I'm up to over two hundred now. We'll see how many of them I ever get through, but anyway here's the initial list:
It could be that some of these don't belong in the list. Though I've given them all at least a cursory glance to make sure they fit the criteria laid out in the last post, I haven't had time to look thoroughly into most of them, and it's possible there are some that don't. Given how long ago I started this list, it's also possible that some of the programs on the list are now dead and unavailable. If you see any that don't belong in the list, by all means let me know. Likewise if you know of any programs that do belong on the list but aren't.
(The list does include some programs intended for children, to help teach them how to program. I was uncertain as to whether or not I should include those, but finally decided in favor... if I do end up looking at them, at least I can give some commentary, for whatever it's worth.)
And now, I leave it to you, the (as of the moment I write this nonexistent) readers: With which program should I start my journey?
(If anyone does happen across this blog this weekend, though, and comments here, don't expect any replies from me till Monday. This weekend is 24 Hour Comics Day, an event involving a challenge to create a full twenty-four-page comic in twenty-four hours. I've participated (and succeeded!) every year since 2006, and I don't intend to break my streak this year. So I'm going to be busy creating a comic till noon tomorrow, and after that I'm... probably going to be asleep. It's possible I may take a short break during 24 Hour Comics Day and manage a comment or two, but don't count on it.)