Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Ground Rules

Okay. So, before I jump into this whole blogging-game-creation-systems thing, I guess I ought to set a few ground rules, so I can pretend I have some idea what I'm doing. So here goes.

  • Unlike The CRPG Addict and The Adventure Gamer, I have no intention of trying out the game creation programs in chronological order. Rather, I will let readers choose. Readers are welcome to post comments to suggest what program I should try next. I don't necessarily promise I'm always going to go with what they want... but I probably am, because it's easier than deciding for myself.
    • [Edit: After some further discussion and thought, this rule has been modified. I'm still going to be working with one modern game creation program at a time, chosen by readers, but I'll also work concurrently with old game creation systems, taking those in chronological order. That way I get the best of both worlds: I can trace the development of the genre over time, while I don't have to wait years until I finally get through all the early systems and get a chance to try out some modern programs.]
  • When trying out a game creation program, I intend to do my best to actually create a good game with it, to the best of my abilities.
  • I will not, however, necessarily continue with a particular program until my game is finished. Creating a game can take a long time, and I don't want to be posting about the same program for several months straight. I will continue with a given program until I get tired of it or my readers do, and then I'll move on to another.
    • This doesn't mean I'm just going to leave a bunch of games forever unfinished, however. I may come back to a program I've dealt with before to continue work on a past project. Readers are welcome to suggest a particular such project to return to.
  • When a game is finished, I will make it freely available. There's no point in creating a game and then leaving it sitting on my hard drive for no one to see.
    • I may or may not make available unfinished versions of games in progress. It depends on how presentable they are, whether or not they give anything away I don't want given away, and probably what mood I'm in.
    • I will not necessarily make freely available editable versions of a game. That is to say, in the case of a game creation system that compiles source code into an executable, I will not necessarily release the source code. Where the system allows the option to require a password to edit a game, I may release my game password-protected. This is primarily because I may put secrets and Easter eggs in my games that I don't want to make too easy to find. If anyone wants to know how I did something in particular in my game, however, I'll probably be happy to tell you.
  • When a game creation system comes with preset resources (such as RPG Maker's Runtime Package), I will attempt to use all the resources it contains. All the monsters. All the tilesets. All the tiles within each tileset. There are several reasons for this. For one, it helps me to get a feel for and enables me to comment on not the program itself, but for the associated materials. Besides, if all those resources exist, I figure someone ought to use them. Maybe the biggest reason, though, is just because I enjoy the challenge of trying to make sure to have a place in my game for various monsters and items that don't necessarily seem to fit together, and finding a way to have it make sense.
    • This in no way precludes me from creating and using additional resources in addition to those that came with the game. Nor do I consider it impermissible to make slight edits to those resources to better fit them into a particular game.
    • If a game comes with multiple, discrete packages of resources (such as the Adventure Construction Set's Fantasy Builder Set, Spy/Mystery Builder Set, and Science Fiction Builder Set), I will choose one of them to apply the above guidelines to. Even if it may be in principle possible to combine the packages together and use them all, I will not necessarily feel obligated to do so. Hey, I have my limits.
  • I've got a lot on my plate, so don't expect daily posts, much less multiple posts per day. (Today, apparently, being an exception.) I'll try to post several times a week, but I almost certainly won't be able to post every day. I'll make an effort never to let more than a week go by without posting, though.

And now the rules for what kinds of programs I'll be dealing with. Basically, this blog is about computer game creation systems, programs and utilities that are specifically designed to allow the user to create computer games. That being said, there are some ambiguities that should probably be addressed:

  • Programs for making any type or genre of game are fair, er, game. Personally, my favorite genres are CRPGs and adventure games. (I've been developing something of a taste for platformers lately, but not to nearly the same extent.) However, I'm more than willing to play around with a game creation program that's designed to make other kinds of games.
  • The programs must be available in a form that can be run on a Windows PC. If it can only be run in an emulator, that's fine, as long as that emulator can be run on a Windows PC. This isn't because of any matter of principle, or an attempt to narrow the field. It's just a matter of practicality, because I only own a PC. (Well, that's not entirely true. I do have both a Mac and a Unix machine, but they're both (a) very old, and (b) in storage.) If I ever get other computers, this restriction is likely to be broadened.
  • Freeware, shareware, and commercial programs are all suitable subjects for the blog. However, I'm not necessarily going to be able to run out and spend money on a program, not because I don't want to, but because I'm, well, not rich. (In a similar sense as the Sahara Desert is not wet.) I'm not saying I'm going to pirate programs... I want to legitimately buy copies, both to support the companies and to stay on the right side of ethics and the law. What I'm saying is that if a program costs money, I may not be in a position to acquire it right away. Feel free to suggest commercial programs, however. There are many commercial game creation programs I already own. And if I don't, at least getting suggestions about one is likely to motivate me to get a copy when I do have money to spare, even if I can't right away.
  • For similar and yet entirely different reasons, programs allowing the creation of 3D games may take a low priority. This is because programs allowing the creation of 3D games generally require the creation of 3D models, and I'm... not good at that. I want to learn, though, so go ahead and suggest 3D game creation systems if you want to; I'll likely still be able to put in some work on them using premade models, and it'll further motivate me to try to learn 3D modeling.
    • Similar notes go for game creation systems that require other skills I don't currently have. I am not yet, for instance, proficient with the Lua scripting language (which many modern game creation systems seem to use). Again, however, I want to learn it, and I'll probably be able to do a fair amount with the systems even without knowing it, so feel free to suggest systems that use it.
  • To qualify for coverage on this blog, a program must be primarily intended for the creation of new games. Level editors for existing games don't count. I love level editors. Having a level editor is, in my eyes, a major point in a game's favor. And it's really tempting to include level editors in this blog. But there are a lot of games with level editors out there now, and it's not really the same thing as creating an original game, so I'm going to have to exclude them.
    • In the case of a game that comes with an associated editor, it qualifies as a game creation program if and only if the editor was treated as at least as big a selling point as the game itself. Neverwinter Nights, for instance, qualifies (the 2002 game from BioWare, not the 1991 MMORPG). It shipped with a full single-player campaign (plus another campaign in each expansion set), but the marketing materials always made it clear that the main intent was for users to create their own scenarios with it; the campaign that came with it was just a bonus. Dungeon Siege, on the other hand, doesn't qualify. While the developer did release a toolkit that allows extensive modifications, and some modders have created entirely new games with it, the toolkit was never given a level of promotion anywhere near that of the main game.
  • Libraries, frameworks, and engines like Unity3D, Flixel, and OGRE are beyond the scope of this blog. To be covered here, the system must allow the user to create a full game, with no other programs required (except possibly to create graphics and other resources).

Okay, I think that's enough to get things started. Tomorrow (or, I guess, today, since it's after midnight now): the list of programs under consideration!

(P.S. Yes, I'd left my computer's power cord at home. Phew.)


  1. I've considered making a game using one of these tools. If you ever want to collaborate let me know. I may join you on some of these as well. If you get good enough with some of these do you think you'd join any weekend competitions like ludumdare?

    1. Hm... I hadn't really considered trying to collaborate with readers, but depending on how well the programs in question lend themselves to collaboration it could be interesting.

      As for Ludum Dare, that's something I've long been wanting to try. It wouldn't be the first such time-pressure activity I've done; I've participated in NaNoWriMo, the 48 Hour Film Project, and, as mentioned at the end of the next post, 24 Hour Comics Day. I guess the main reason I haven't tried Ludum Dare is that I don't think I have enough experience in game creation to be able to work fast enough to create a game in 48 hours.

      Then again, honestly I shouldn't let that stop me. My first time doing 24 Hour Comics Day I'd never created a comic before and I still managed to finish one. I really ought to just bite the bullet and try it. Let's see... according to the Ludum Dare website, the next Ludum Dare Event is in December. That gives me time to convince myself I know what I'm doing. Okay. Assuming it doesn't fall on a day I have a commitment I can't get out of, I'm going to do this.