Saturday, February 05, 2005

Making Games: The Return

I got a couple
really good comments from the last post, and I'd like to address them.

Anonymous said that one problem with indie games is the generation of content.

Being an avid reader of industry mags, this seems to be common even amongst the giant developers. Peter Molyneux himself (I can't find the link now) said that one of the most difficult things to put in games are animations - they require a great deal of time investment to get right, and even when they are well done, if you have two actors using the same animation loop they invariably end up like clones and become unconvincing (unless, y'know, they're supposed to be clones). He suggested coming up with a way of blending different animation sets together to add a measure of randomness.

I'm a fan of BlitzBasic, even though I haven' t been able to do anything of note with it. As programming languages go it has a relatively short learning curve, and the version I use is geared toward 3d and actually has some decent features built in. The problem is that any complex game would require some serious assets - meshes, texture maps, 3d models with animation, music loops. Even going for cheap or free programs, I would need to become familiar with Blender, a 3d world editor (I'd suggest Worldcraft - now called Hammer), some music software (maybe Fruity Loops, which requires some money, at least for good loop packs), some way of animating your models (suggestions?).

Major studios spend large amounts of time in coordinating their various content creators in such a way that they can merge it all together and constantly update the game, test it and tweak it. Alienbrain Studio is one way developers can do this - but even this solution is little more than a taskmaster that tracks the actual content generation and file updates.

This, of course, is way too costly for poor schleps like me.

Macromedia's Flash has always appealed to me. Back when I used to truly enjoy learning about html I thought Flash was just the bee's knees. Of course, then the web expanded exponentially, everybody brought out their own special ways of spicing up websites, all manner of bits and little intrusive programs to download and around that time I lost interest in plumbing the esoterica. It just became too difficult (without the time and money) to specialize in, and far too confusing for me to devote all my free time to.

Sorry, I'm getting way too tangential.

I think what I'm really looking for (within the next 5-10 years) is a game development suite that functions much like an HTML WYSIWYG editor. The meat and potatoes of the code is hidden (yes, I know the Visual languages purport to do this - but most of them only allow you to setup elements visually, and then you've still gotta drop in and figure out your code), and you manipulate elements of applications (not just buttons, but calculation sequences, data to be manipulated, the kinds of assets you're importing) all the while being offered examples of common solutions and warnings about sloppy application flow - but you are still just a click or two away from the actual code. This kind of system allows inexperienced people to just sort of fiddle around while learning how things are put together, and the code layer allows those same people, once they have gained some experience, to begin truly creating their own code.

I would've liked to see Starcraft use this idea with their easy-to-use editor, opening up easy access to the AI scripts, the unit stats and abilities, the 3d models used - everything, basically.

Andrew Stern replied to my concept of PiSpeak with this awesome link. There is a great example of something new to me - ABL - that appears to be a way of describing behaviors of actors in a simulation. This reminds me of Erasmatazz, an 'interactive storytelling tool for writers'. The site has some resources useful to those interested in simulating interpersonal drama.

One point is how to create behaviors that are truly original to each actor.

I don't have a solid answer for this, only a simple one. Find a way to have personalities favor certain behaviors, have those behaviors linked to specific animations, and find a way to (as Peter Molyneux suggested) blend different sets together along with variation (within certain tolerances) to create something truly original.

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