Reposted from http://www.ludumdare.com/
Hello world and it’s loved ones. I am MorleyDev. I’m an English computer science student currently on a paid internship at an awesome company obsessed with agile development. Yes, I have been indoctrinated in those ways, so this Ludum Dare will be an interesting test for me. I will be streaming via Google Hangouts and Air, so feel free to check that out. I’ll have to put up links as they go online because of how hangouts on air seems to work (don’t think you can have a permanent link to an unstarted Hangout or embed unstarted Hangouts in a web page, unfortunately).
Language: C++ (GCC for the new C++11 features, using the latest nuwen.net build for MinGW to compile on Windows)
Libraries planned on using: Boost, JML, Google Mock, UnitTest++, SFML, Lua
Targeted OS: Windows, maybe Linux if I have time.
Starting code - Well it’s not exactly “code” but I’ve created an Eclipse project with options to help me do some Testing and Cross-Compiling (if it comes to that). I hope. Maybe. It has some empty mains and the like but nothing “game” related so hopefully it’s allowed and nobody will lynch me in my sleep.
Where I’m not too worried – I’m a programmer. I program. I’d like to think the coding in and of itself won’t be too hear-pulling-out-of-head-and-feeding-to-self-difficult. I’d like a challenge sure, but a challenge I can do.
Where I’ll probably fail - My graphical skills are to be compared with a blind monkey drunk off it’s arse, high on every illicit drug known to man and being repeatedly hit over the head with a shovel. The monkey is also dead. I’m not an artist and so my “art” will be simplistic at best and ugly at best.
Where I’m worried I’ll fail – Ideas, obviously. But also time management. I like to test code and such, and so my feedback cycle will need to be a short one. I’ll probably use compile time to make art assets and such to keep my momentum but it’s a big concern for me. Coding on a slow-as-slow netbook last Ludum Dare actually made me ragequit due to the slow feedback cycle, but since now I have my quad-core hyperthreading laptop back from the repairing place that hopefully won’t be an issue. Hopefully.
- MorleyDev (http://morleydev.co.uk/)
A common mistake people learning programming with an eye towards game development make is the idea that they require a game engine. It just seems natural, a car needs an engine to move so surely a game needs an engine. If only life were so simple.
Look at the history of most of the successful game engines in history, let’s use the Unreal Engine and the id Engine for my examples here, and you’ll find they started off with the game and the engine came afterwards. The Doom Engine (precursor/father to/first version of the id Engine) was not written to be a powerful game engine (for the time), it was written to run Doom. It just so happened a lot of the code got reused in other projects and thus the id Engine was born.
The Unreal engine began, oddly enough, with the game Unreal. Then a lot of the code for Unreal got used in lots of games that followed, being changed, refined and completely rebuilt along the way.
Game engines are not so much invented as they are accidentally created. You write a game, and then you refactor a lot of the code you used so it can be used in a later game. This alone is often enough for the developers/publishers/marketing department to say that both games run on a modified version of the same engine. And I guess technically it’s true.
The idea of a game engine is inherently ill-defined, it can mean a whole lot of things. At the end of the day, seeking to create a “Video Game Engine” is a foolish endeavour, as trying to create something ill-defined often is. Without a lot of luck and skill, you’ll get distracted by the shiny things you can do and at best you’ll wind up with a fantastic technical demo, but not something wholly individual you can use to make a game.
In fact, one could easily argue that the creation of a technical demo, getting someone to run around the screen, is one of the simplest aspects of game development. It is often the unique aspects of a game, the unique code which doesn’t quite always fit efficiently into the average generic “engine”, that provide the real challenges in coding and in developing.
The reason the Unreal Engine, the id Engine and the Source engine are at their current state of awesome is because they have been used to create so many games that the code-base has been refactored, modified and reused countless times in a long, iterative process. This is how a true game engine is made: iteratively.
The best way to make a ‘game engine’ is, at the end of the day, almost always going to be to make a game. The old adage, “Make games, not engines”, is as true today as it was in the days of Doom.
Quote of the Day
“My advice to you, if you’re trying to write an engine, is: Don’t. No matter what your reasons are — it doesn’t matter if you’re writing an engine so you can write your dream game, or if you’re writing an engine because you think it will be a good learning experience, or any number of similar reasons. They’re all wastes of time.”
Now, I’m an Elder Scrolls fan. Morrowind remains one my favourite games ever. Oblivion was a bit of a disappointment for me, not RPG enough to be a good RPG and not FPS enough to be a good FPS, but a long series of mods corrects that particular problem nicely and when heavily modded it stands only a bit behind a heavily modded Morrowind.
Morrowind still wins, largely because of having a much more interesting world, more grey morality and more political intrigue in the plots.
Also Oblivion made axes “Blunt weapons”…uhn, what the fuck? I mean, I can forgive combining Short and Long blades into one Blade skill even if it does make next-to-no logical sense…but one could argue broadsword vs claymores are different skills logically, so I’ll let it slide as disagreement on where to draw the “Realistic enough but still fun” line. But calling Axes blunt is just stupid.
And Morrowind’s enchant system was pretty cool in my opinion.
Anyway, my long list of complaints aside I’m still a fan. And as such, raised a few please expressions from this trailer and the interviews. Then again, Bethesda always were good at talking but don’t always back it up in the final product.
It sounds like they’ve taken some cues from Oblivion mods, their time with Fallout 3, which is a good thing. And they’ve finally ditched the out-dated GameByro engine they’ve been using in one form or another since the turn of the millennium!
I’ve heard talk about some political houses, which is reminiscent of the Houses of Morrowind which were probably all my favourite quest lines in Morrowind.
Another complaint with Oblivion was after Morrowind’s very unique and interesting world, it Oblivion very cookie-cutter high-fantasy in comparison. Even Oblivion’s music wasn’t very interesting in comparison (though that’s only in comparison). Skyrim looks very stereotypically Norse, but that’s how it’s always been portrayed in the games (Solstheim in Morrowind was the same). But it’s in-game lore is pretty cool so let’s see what they can do with that.
Combat sounds better, magic sounds better, stealth sounds better, plot lines sound better, the world sounds at least a little bit better, heck even the music sounds better. In short, I think I’m going to need a new computer.
Quote of the Day
“Once I dug a hole and filled it with clowns. Or was it clouds? Must be clowns, because clouds don’t smell.”
Sheogorath – The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
I’m not going to deny it, I find moral choices in video games fascinating. On the one hand, having options and therefore the illusion of control is very nice. On the other, for f*cks sake video games, why is the choice always to be either Jesus, Satan or apathetic?
At it’s core, our sense of “Morality” is just avoidance of the negative consequences of actions that aren’t worth the potential benefits of those actions. Conscience is the voice in our head that says “Well, if we get caught doing x sh*t will hit the fan and life will suck for awhile”. Whether this is something inherently involved into people, or a conscious process, does not change that this is where morality stems and a moral system in games needs to be designed to reflect that. Games have no real consequences anyway, which is why games have to dangle some form of engineered carrot in front of players.
Star Wars: KoToR had simple carrots, dark side powers which hurt enemies and light side which healed and buffed allies. Being light side or dark side was basically a playing style choice. Dark side sometimes had an extra money carrot, but not always. Sometimes you got more from light side. Or you could take less light-side points by asking for a reward but get more money or…you get the idea.
Mass Effect has two carrots: Being a bastard gives you renegade and lets you do more intimidation, being a paragon let’s you be more charismatic. But the carrots are the same both ways, being renegade is just funnier to watch most of the time. I can’t be the only player he basically did all the big paragon choices but at every other step of the way was a complete bastard, just so he could laugh at the bastardry.
Both these carrots give players “the weaknesses of amorality”, being a grey made you inherently weaker which sucked.
Personally I’d like to see a game implement a morality system akin to that of the World of Darkness: One-way. Being cruel cost you morality, but when only your current morality was above the level of cruelty of that action. A common thief would not lose any more morality from stealing, but if they ever kill someone they’d take a plunge. Also it means the game can easily keep track of how to treat the player, you can’t “puppy-poke” your way to becoming the Lord of the Sith.
Of course some kinds of carrots would be required. WoD implements “derangements”, as your character goes more (a/im)moral they go insane(r). This means players have to balance the rewards of their “evil” actions with the risked penalties of such actions. Also this situation can lead to interesting problems, like the “batman dilema”. If Batman (the player) kills Joker (some bad guy), killing becomes easier for Batman (Morality score lowers) and he may therefore do it again (no longer risk of gaining a derangement from murder). You effectively put the player at the top of the slippery slope and watch them roll down.
Understandibly, choices and a morality system can only be implemented into a relatively freeform game, otherwise they feel incredibly painful. They are best suited to games which, like novels, explicitly make one of their purposes simply to be making you think. Take for example, Planescape: Torment. A cult classic with very little emphasis on combat and much ultimately on a simple question:
“What can change the nature of a man?”
A question with so many answers that reveal so much about the person creating the answer. Take me for example, ask me this question and my answer would be profit. What can change the nature of a man? What he stands to gain from making that change. Others would come up which so many different answers, age, time, death, belief, hope, fear, regret, so many possibilities. These kinds of games are fascinating. They offer insights into the human condition, and our own depravities.
Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, all of these were story based in my opinion. It was the story that interested me, the story that kept me playing, and the choices that story provided that made me play again.
These are the games that we replay because we want to see real differences in our choices, they are highly character based, highly plot heavy, and I think we need more of them. I am interested in what you all think of almost entirely story-driven games, to the point of being almost if not entirely interactive fiction. From a game development point of view, the pros and cons of such games would be a fascinating discussion.
So, what is your opinion on low-action, high-narrative games? What do you think can change the nature of a man?
Quotes of the Day
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
“What makes mankind tragic is not that they are the victims of nature, it is that they are conscious of it.”
Eversion is for sale on Steam for about £3.14 (10% off until 14th of June). It’s one of those Indie Games with a huge well-deserved rep, as it does what Indie Games do best: Takes a simple idea, perfects it and deconstructs it at the same time.
Essentially it’s Super Mario Bros written by H.P. Lovecraft. It looks and advertises itself as a Cute and Cuddly at first, and you do think “Oh great, a tacky Mario clone…”, then the real game begins. And Holy Shit, it begins.
I won’t spoil anything for y’all. Instead, I’m going to simply say you have to trust me on this one: There is a reason it comes with the warning “Not indicated for children or those of a nervous disposition”. If you have such a disposition I suggest you heed the warning.
Quote of the Day
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
Call of Cthulhu – H.P Lovecraft