Games I have made

Written by Joe Martin

July 9, 2009 | 11:31

Tags: #amiga #game-development #interactive-fiction #text-adventure #thief

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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