Games I have made

Posted on 9th Jul 2009 at 11:31 by Joe Martin with 7 comments

Joe Martin
I once heard that most music journalists are generally people who got into the business because they lacked the drive or ability to actually be a musician themselves. Likewise, I’ve heard it said that games journalists are probably people who lack the drive to actually make their own games.

For me, that’s pretty true and it’s bred within me a massive respect for game developers, because making computer games is damned difficult. Not only are there the technical issues of knowing how to code and how to actually make the game, there’s the management issues too. You have to know what makes a game good and, if you’re working as part of a team, you have to be able to keep a group of people focused on a single cohesive vision. You need a logical mind that knows how systems should function and what redundancies need to be built in for every eventuality.

Over the years I’ve tried my hand at making a number of different games, starting when I got a copy of AMOS for the Amiga 500+ we had at home and I started tweaking the example games that came with it. I didn’t get far, but I got a basic understanding.

Moving up to PC, I eventually discovered the Klik ‘n’ Play game maker, which let you build games out of simple and easily graspable events. The game would literally ask you “What should happen when this object collides with that one?” and you’d build a response. I actually did quite well with that and, since I was about 14 or 15 at the time, built a rudimentary top-down shooter based on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Games I have made Games I Have Made
Concept art for Pacifist, click to enlarge

Unfortunately, as with all the other dozens of games that I started making or thinking about at the time, the idea eventually fell through. Creating even a simple game can be a long-term project and I, constantly distracted by school, work, girls and games I could actually play without having to assemble them first, never got far into them. No matter how simplified the design tools were, my mind always rebelled against itself and I found something else to do and quickly forgot about the game I was working on.

A while back I even tried to make a game with the bit-tech community, though the project eventually fell apart as the team couldn’t get organised. Titled Pacifist, the idea was that it would be a 2D platformer where players could choose to play as either a political activist or a political oppressor. Protesting a war, the activist would have to infiltrate the seat of government lower the flag at the top of the building as a symbolic act – all while using agility and stealth to avoid violent confrontation. The oppressor would play the exact same levels in reverse order, repelling the advances violently. The whole thing was a kind-of commentary on the political situation in Tibet, but never got beyond a few scrawls of concept art and my lengthy design document.

Oddly though, the game I got the furthest with making was actually one that was the hardest to make – a Thief map called ‘The Burrick Pit’. Built in the massively unwieldy DROMed editor, the map had a rough skeleton assembled and was actually playable. The idea was to enter an illegal gambling den where giant lizards were pitted against each other through the pit in the centre of the den. Rising up out of the pit, you’d then have to traverse the stalls while avoiding the guards, rob the safe at the top of the map and then descend the tower-like map as a flock of punters came in.

Games I have made Games I Have Made
This is what the map-maker for Thief, called DROMed, looks like

Right now I’m working on another game and I’ve deliberately set my sights for it super, ultra low. It’s an old-fashioned text adventure – a format I chose based on the simplicity and innovation that the genre allows for. I’m not entirely ready to talk about it yet and I haven’t worked on it in a while as I’ve been busy with some other things, but the idea is that it’s a very linear and short twist-in-the-tale kind of story. It’s very much inspired by 9:05.

When I’m able to get stuck into writing it ('it' is called A Hangover, by the way) I hope to blog about it some more – and the real function of this post is to force me to commit to that because, no matter how short my attention span is, I really want to try and put my money where my mouth is at some point in the future. It seems awful of me to critique games for a living without ever trying to actually create some myself.

I also expect that this kind of thing is pretty widespread – that there’s a lot of idealists out there who play some small little indie game and say to themselves “I could do that”, but who never get very far with it. I’d like to know if that’s true and hear some of the stories about your failed (or successful) attempts at game creation. Hopefully I’m not the only person in the world who’s too lazy to ever finish making a game.


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CardJoe 9th July 2009, 12:06 Quote
Looking back, I suppose the title for this blog post should have really been "Games I Haven't Made"...
Hugo 9th July 2009, 16:06 Quote
Originally Posted by Joe
It seems awful of me to critique games for a living without ever trying to actually create some myself.
Way to insult pretty much all of your contemporaries :)
CardJoe 9th July 2009, 17:39 Quote
Originally Posted by HugoB
Way to insult pretty much all of your contemporaries :)

Not really. All of the games journos that I really respect have at least made an effort to make something creative in the field, whether it be mods, maps, soundtracks or just fiddling around with game creation tools.
Claave 9th July 2009, 17:51 Quote
Good luck with the game Joe (has it got anything to do with last weekend?). Hope this blog doesn't mean that you'll be expecting us to make motherboards and graphics cards in the labs though!
Arkanrais 10th July 2009, 06:36 Quote
I had a few year stint with the old RPG maker 2k/2k3. even with an engine all set up for me to work around, I still found myself pouring countless hours into something that was going nowhere fast (the end tally of hours ended up in the low thousands). I thoroughly enjoyed making maps and having interactive things in it, despite the amount of grind work it took just to get a small well made village done. Bug testing events and custom scripts became a complete pain in the ass though, especially when spending over an hour debugging a treasure chest that wont work (or several days on a new menu subsystem that ends up getting scrapped). It tends to kill your passion for a project after spending days on end bug testing and fixing what turns out to be only a small party of the game, then realizing you're going to have to repeat the process at least a few dozen more times.

still, it was a lot of fun, and did give me a small idea of what kind of work and effort goes into creating a finished product.
Sheiken 11th July 2009, 09:47 Quote
I completely agree on your point Joe, I think alot of pc enthusiasts who are technically inclined and interesed at some point, have tried their hand at making games or at least content (maps/mods) for existing games, and most have probably also failed miserably! :P Myself having tried making maps for UT2K3 and campaigns for NwN, it time consuming and hard making something worth playing to say the least!
Grimloon 14th July 2009, 15:32 Quote
FRED 2 was probably what I used most. Putting together the AI scripts and toggles for just a small battle gave me a lot more appreciation not just for the programmers and artists but for the level designers as well.
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