Please feel free to distribute this document electronically as much as
possible for non-profit use only. This document may not be printed
and/or distributed in any fashion in any for-profit manner whether
for a newsletter, online zine, or professional publication without the
written permission of Benjamin G. Sawyer.
Improvements from Version 1.3
New and Improved Book Section
New and Improved Magazine Section
New and Improved Internet Resources Section
New and Improved Online Services Section
Now Featuring Karen Crowther's Shareware Gamers FAQ!
Now Featuring Ron Gilberts Design Document and Game Design
Added Section on Rating and the RSAC
Added Section on Macromedia Director
Contributors: The following people have assisted in the creation of
Dave Snyder/MVP Games, Bruce Lewis CyberSims, Gregg Seelhoff,
Jim Bucher, Akiva Atwood, Chris Crawford, Kevin Gliner/CGDA,
John Eichelberger, and Chris Newland.
Plus anyone I forgot and thanks to all my downloaders over 2500 I
know of with the first version.
THE ULTIMATE GAME DEVELOPERS SOURCEBOOK
Coming this fall from Coriolis Group Books.
Yours truly is teaming up with The Coriolis Group, publishers of
PC-Techniques Magazine, Michael Abrash's Zen of Grpahics
Programming, Diana Grubers Action Arcade Adventure Set and Lary
Myers 3D Games Action Adventure Set among others to bring you
the most comprehensive guide and sourcebook ever seen in the
history of Game Development Texts.
I have spent countless hours researching and writing about how to do
game development, who to call, what to use, how to design, produce
and market. I have and still am interviewing dozens of top game
industry producers, designers, marketers and analysts to bring out a
book which covers the entire realm of the industry.
Look for it this fall from The Coriolis Group.
Keep looking for Game Devlepors FAQ updates which will
supplement and compliment the book!
COMPUSERVE GAME DEVELOPERS FORUM BECOMES
OFFICIAL LAUNCHING FOR GAME DEVELOPERS FAQ
I have recently taken on the role of Assistant Sysop in Compuserve's
Game Developers Forum. Please drop by for the latest release of the
FAQ which goes through Quarterly Updates.
ANNOUNCING GAME DEVLOPERS CONFERENCES ON
COMPUSERVE'S GAMDEV FORUM
Starting in August of 1995 I will be hosting regular conferences with
industry proffessionals on Compuserve's Game Developers Forum.
These will be regular Bi-Weekly sessions complete with a speaker or
speakers a topic and a Q&A roundtable. Join Compuserve and GO
GAMDEV for more information on this program.
WORLD WIDE WEB VERSION OF THE GAME DEVELOPERS
FAQ FROM THE CORIOLIS GROUP
In conjunction with the Ultimate Game Developers FAQ The
Coriolis Group is publishing the WWW version of The Game
Developers FAQ. In addition to all the information contained here
are live links to all the coolest sites for game developers to check out
and much much more.
For more information point your web browser towards
Everyone who frequents CompuServe's GamDev forum, especially...
Without Karen initially persuading, (suckering) me into this, I would
not have thought I could be helpful. Her advice is always available
and always good. Anyone else wishing to thank her should purchase
her games: Rescue the Scientists (Retail from Comptons), Pickle
Wars (shareware from MVP), Math Rescue, and Word Rescue
(Shareware from Apogee).
Ron is the co-founder of Humongous Entertainment which produces
Childrens games for a wide vareity of platforms. He posted on
Compuserve's Game Development Forum some great information
about design documents and computer game design in general and I
ask if I could include a revised version in this new update and he
said sure. Ron's advice is excellent and I am glad to make it more
widely available as part of the ongoing GameDev FAQ Update!
Swen came all the way from Belgium to help me to explain some
DOS Specifics like DOS Extenders and Midpak that programmers
should learn. Anyone else wishing to thank Swen should either
contribute to his collaborative game project titled Chronicles (visit
the CompuServe Gamdev forum for more info) or buy his upcoming
Adventure RPG Ragnarok.
Keith is the publisher of the Coriolis Group, which has recently
brought out such books as Visual Basic Multimedia Adventure Set,
Arcade Action Adventure Set, and PC Game Programming Explorer,
to name just a few. I cannot thank him enough. Keith spotted my
work early on and has served as an excellent resource, editor and all
around cheerleader. Anyone else wishing to thank him should buy
his books and even if you didn't initially want to thank him, you will
probably want to do ultimately, anyway since they are among the
best books published.
The following developers\producers for their divine inspiration to
me, I've never met them, but their games have always inspired me to
become a game developer.
Bill Budge (Pinball Construction Set)
Danielle Bunten (Seven Cities of Gold, M.U.L.E.)
Chris Crawford (Balance of Power, Excaliber)
Don Daglow (Producer of many EA Hits)
Richard Garriot (Lord British)
Sid Meir (Pirates, F-15 Strike Eagle)
and Bill Williams (Sinbad, Alley Cat, Necromancer)
OK! WHAT DO I DO BEFORE STARTING TO WRITE A GAME?
A lot more work than you will do once you start coding!
HOW DO I PREPARE?
1. First find a good Chinese food take-out place. You will be eating
in a lot.
2. Flesh Out Your Design.
Try to really flesh out your idea as much as possible. Put your ideas
on paper first. Diving in might seem like the quickest way but
sooner or later, you are going to hit design and programming snags.
Why? Because you have not completely thought through your idea.
Always remember: designing and coding are two separate tasks that
deserve equal attention.
3. Line Up Your Resources.
Like a cook preparing ingredients, during the design process I line
up lists of the graphics, sounds, and music I will need. Remember,
creating a game requires a lot of non-code items. Make sure you
have a good idea of what those will be and how you will acquire or
4. Preparing a design document
A design document is an overall catch-phrase for a complete written
account of what you intend your game to be. Games require
planning and the design document is the formal instance of your
plans. What follows here is an edited and revised version of a post
Ron Gilbert of Humongous Entertainment placed in Compuserve's
Game Developers forum. Humongous is a fast growing children's
entertainment company based in Woodinville, Washington and
makes awesomely animated games like Putt Putt Joins the Parade
and Freddi Fish!
The most difficult part of designing and writing interactive stories is
the form of the script. You will find that everyone does it
differently, so basically the choice is up to you. Over the course of
the last 10 years, I have designed and written many interactive stories
and adventure games and have never kept the same format.
First, don't prototype you project. Prototyping is for people who
don't understand the medium. If you (and your prospective
company) understand the medium, you both will be able to
understand it in a linear, written form. I suggest you product the
This is exactly like the ones for movies. It briefly describes the story
and major characters. Don't worry about it being interactive and
having branches, just write the main branch or the most important
ending. Other endings can be mentioned but don't spend time
flushing them out in the treatment. The treatment is for a quick
This is a document the describes the interactive design of the
products. It includes sample descriptions of what the play will do
What form is the interaction is taking?
Are they make story choices in a branch story composed on scenes,
or are they roaming an environment as in a adventure game?
Do they pick up items?
How do they talk to people they meet?
What does the interface look like?
These are all VERY important issues that must be talked about in
the design document.
The best way to get this information across is by comparison to other
products. "It's just like Myst, but underwater". "It's just like
Monkey Island, but with talking cars". Don't be afraid to draw these
comparisons, it's not a sign of a lack of imaginations, just the
opposite, it shows that you're well versed in what other designers
have done successfully.
The design document is where all the interactive design goes. If you
are creating a adventure game style world, make a map. Show where
all the charters are, and where everything can be found. If your
story is branching, then make a flow chart with little boxes for each
scene and a once sentence description of what happens.
The script resembles a movie script, but each represents each box, or
location or interaction in the design. The great thing about an
interactive script is that you can throw it up in the air, gather the
papers up and it DOESN'T MATTER.
Advice on submitting design documents to companies.
If you are trying to sell this to a company, do step 1 and step 2, don't
bother with step 3 until you get an OK (or you just don't have
anything else to do!). Any company that knows what it's doing
(which are very few), won't need to see a script to understand what's
going on. Unlike film and TV, the script is not early as important as
the design. There are thousands of people out there that can write,
but very few who can design.
There is also something else very important to remember when
selling your design and/or script. Unless you're just interested in
just soaking someone for a bunch of up-front money, pick a
company that has done something you like. [editor - I would ad that
selling a game design is very tough as I talk about later, this isn't to
say don't try just be aware it's tough!]
There are hundreds of multimedia companies that hove no idea what
they're doing and you have a good chance of getting hooked up with
one of them. Don't sell it to "movie" studio that happens to have an
interactive division. They are notorious for not knowing what there
doing. This is a brand new art form that is understood by very few
people. You may have a great story and design that get ruined by the
implementation, and unfortunately you're reputation as a designer
goes along with it.
I don't know if any of this is helpful or not, and just
remember...everyone does it different, so there is really no right or
My advice has more to do with how I organize my work as a part
time game maker:
For organizing my game, I got a loose leaf binder. In the binder, I
have three sections: To Do, Design and Resources.
The To Do section is a running list with notes about stuff I want to
work on to make my game. For example I might have an entry titled
Movement Scheme For Enemies, and below it some notes
concerning how I might do it.
At the beginning of the section is a running Top Ten list. Not my
list of the best David Letterman lists, but a list of the next ten
features or things I am going to do when I sit down to work. I do this
because, like you I pursue this craft in my spare time. I find that
good design notes and a To Do work list helps me make the most of
I also always carry a printout of my code so I can edit it on the road.
By using lots of pen and paper, I turn what spare time I have away
from my computer into productive time.
This is simply a running set of sketches, short essays and notes
about the overall design like storyline and
interface design, etc. I am constantly adding to it until I have a
complete picture of what the game will be, always being careful not
to do too much.
Just as I said before, your game will have many elements besides
programming code. This section is a running list of the artwork,
sounds, data files, etc. which will need to created.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER ISSUES AND QUESTIONS THAT
DEAL WITH DESIGN?
DECIDING ON A PLATFORM.
Windows or DOS? That is the question.
Lately, there has been a huge shift toward the Windows market for
games. Windows has been used mostly for applications. Recent
developments for Windows. The new WinG graphics library and the
upcoming release of Windows '95, means Windows is becoming
more and more the dominant form of PC Game development. Bill
Gates wins again.
On the other hand, many computers which do not use Windows still
exist. Some people refuse to give in to Microsoft. These people
remind me of people who say they can ride out hurricanes.
In addition to this major decision come secondary decisions. For
example, like hardware requirements, if your game is multi-player,
what networks will you support? Will your game will require a
A great deal of game development does not happen on the computer.
It is very important to design, document and plan your program. I
cannot stress this enough.
AM I UP TO IT?
Remember Not Everyone is Ray Tobey.
Discovered by the inventor of the Apple Computer, Steve Wozniak,
Tobey programmed his first commercial game, SkyFox, at the age of
16! Rumor has it, Bill Budge in his 30's at the time - author of
Pinball Construction Kit, quit the game business when he saw
Tobey's amazing game.
Its Important To Finish. Always walk before you compile!
The most important thing to consider when developing games is to
finish them. I must have started at least three projects which were
beyond my means before I got smart and scaled back my ambitions.
It may seem neat to make a DOOM style game right away. That level
of programming takes a lot of work and experience (Id had been
creating games for several years prior to DOOM). Start simple,
learn, read, and build your skills.
A finished game with less flash and dazzle is better than no game. In
short, learn to work within your skills and learn to finish.
WHAT IF I WANT TO SELL MY GAME WHEN IT IS DONE?
What you mean you don't want to slave for seven to twelve months
and then give it away?
IS IT UNIQUE?
Either by storyline, game dynamics, graphics or whatever, your game
in order to have any chance at success has to have a discernible
difference from everything else out there. Remaking a clone of
Asteroids is not a good way to go about making money because it
Remember: not every game need be a best seller. Just understand the
level of sophistication, polish, and uniqueness that such a product
requires. Even if you feel your game is not up to these standards,
press on, and you will see that there are many outlets beyond the
retail realm for showcasing and receiving credit for your work.
IS IT BETTER?
One way to be unique that is it just simply better. Many games are
newer versions of older ideas. For example, NASCAR by Papyrus-
now certainly car racing simulations are nothing new-but NASCAR
is absolutely amazing. It is simply better, so not only will it sell
outright, but anyone with a love for car racing simulations will want
this game too.
Being unique is a general code word for simply offering the
consumer of your game a specific reason to choose that game when
they compare it to verses other available options.
WHAT SHOULD I DO ONCE CODING BEGINS?
Order that chinese food, lots of it.
All of the steps in the design stage above apply while coding too. I
just want to add a few things to this.
Even God took a day off!
Breaks help a lot remember to rest. Try to take breaks from time to
time. My trick is to take regular breaks, sometimes programming a
second project, a more mundane small application utility. This keeps
me programming, just not in the same manner.
COMMENT YOUR CODE.
Reedabilllity es gooing 2 b impertant.
Remember to comment your code. A typical mistake of many
programmers, game or otherwise is not placing comments in your
code. Game programming requires a lot of clever work arounds,
much more so than other forms of programming, and requires serious
optimization many times late in the work. This means commenting
is even more important for games.
WRITE REUSEABLE CODE!
As you write your game try to make sure you create code that can be
applied to other games later. For example my RPG game, which
features a tiled multiple scrolling map. Now certainly the map can
be used for other games, so I made sure it was wellcommented and
very open ended to apply to future projects I have in mind.
Everyone has ideas that need development.
Games are perhaps on of the most creative mediums ever. They
require music, sound, art, storytelling, writing, programming, and
more! This requires a lot of brainstorming!!!
If Leonardo or Michaelangelo were alive today, there is no doubt
they would be game developers. Also, if Leonardo were alive today
he wouldn't have paid 30 million dollars for his book at auction
which Bill Gates did.
Every creative person needs to come up with ideas, and with games
even more so, as this medium has perhaps the most fickle customers.
So lets talk a little about brainstorming.
I don't have anything special to say here, but I always think of two
things I have read or heard from two great programmers when
dreaming up ideas:
LORD BRITISH a.k.a. RICHARD GARRIOT Origin Systems:
Author of Ultima I-VIII and Worlds of Ultima and for trivia buffs,
I always emulate Richard Garriot in that he constantly carries a pad
of paper around to work ideas out immediately. You never know
when an idea can come to mind. I also try to make little notes about
books I've read and movies I've seen. I use these notes later when
considering actual game ideas like I described
above. This journal process has always served many other creative
types as well and it works well for game design similarly well. A
small tip here is to avoid the massive carry of a pad, I purchase
reporters notebooks which fit perfectly into a jacket pocket or pants
pocket as well.
I would add only the following comments of my own:
PLAY LOTS OF GAMES
The Worlds Best Excuse.
Spend a lot of time reading about and playing other games. A lot of
great ideas exist which are merely new twists on existing themes.
Again, remember the unique rule-attempt to differentiate!
I'm lucky I have a few friends who play lots of games-so every once
and a while I take a trip over to their house and play all their games. I
spend several minutes with each, evaluating the way they play, the
Become a Comparison Developer!!!
I am constantly in stores reading backs of the boxes, and evaluating
demos. In a creative medium like this, ripping off someone else's
ideas is how we create. When a new game is written, it attempts to
incorporate (read: rip off) all of the current ideas out there and then
move beyond them (only to create
new features which themselves are incorporated). This is how games
evolve. So, being as much of a player as creator has a lot of merit.
READ READ READ
And did I say Read?
Spend a lot of time reading non-technical materialsbecause I enjoy
Adventure/RPG games, I draw a lot of my ideas from mythology,
science fiction, etc. You have to read. A programmer of games is a
new-age Renaissance person. They must have an understanding of
many different elements of the arts, technology,
and the general world around them. How are you going to write a
game about geopolitics if you haven't read about the world around
you? What are you going to do-just make it up? Read Read Read.
Never brainstorm on your computer. Use paper and a pen or pencil.
Always brainstorm in a relaxed atmosphere, and set aside time to do
so every week.
WHEN IN DOUBT, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.
If you can't seem to generate what you feel is an original idea,
consider what many writers simply do, write what you know. I am
an RPG nut, so I am writing what else, an RPG! Of course, I have
some innovative ideas for that RPG, but starting with an idea based
on what I know got me going initially.
For other reading on creative brainstorming, check out the writing
section of your favorite bookstore. There are usually several good
books about creative idea development to be found there.
WHAT IS GAME DESIGN?
"The answer my friends is blowing in the wind." Bob Dylan
The answer is infinity. Well, sort of, game design is an endless
process which we could talk about forever, but you and I don't have
forever, so here is a "Reader's Digest" essay about game design to
help you understand the thought process about creating games.
Game design concerns one thing tantamount to all else and that is
Interaction. What separates games from similar creative mediums
like, art, movies, music, and books, is that the player interacts with
You don't stare at, or just listen to a game-YOU CONTROL IT! So
as designers, we have to create a product which entices people to
play, and at the same time, provide the storyline, the emotional feel,
the realistic tone, and the other qualities all other creative mediums
give us. A tall order, but this is what makes creating games so much
Playing means making decisions. Therefore our games need to
create situations where the player has to decide what to do, and then
to perform that action, which our game then reacts to. This can be as
simple as PAC MAN where the player has to decide whether to go
UP, DOWN, LEFT, or RIGHT, or as complex as Balance of Power;
should I or shouldn't I arm the rebels in this country?
This is what makes games appealing: A set of decisions which the
player controls and, based on their skill and intelligence, by which
they ultimately decide the outcome of their game.
So when sitting down to design a game, attempt to create
entertaining interaction, try to provide an easy way for the player to
make decisions about the situation you put them in, then return
interesting outcomes which in turn lead to new situations and the
whole process starts over until there is a
KEEP IN MIND:
As you sit down to design your games try to keep the following
things in mind as you decide on what it will be:
Am I creating Interaction? Does my design create a decision
dilemma for the player or not?
Are clear situations provided to the player? Is there enough
information in the game (graphical/sound/text) to illustrate to the
player what situation they are in.
Am I providing them with the proper information to make decisions?
Is the interface by which the player commands the game clear and
easy to use? Does it provide the proper information to them to help
them input desured actions?
Do the outcomes of the player's decisions end or continue the game?
Does skill and intelligence of the player produce the outcome?
Random outcomes not based on the skills of the players decisions
are not games. Players must know they are controlling the outcome.
Is it entertaining? If it isn't fun, they won't play it.
In short, concentrate on providing interaction, creating player control
of their outcomes based on their skills and intelligence, and make it
WHAT TYPES OF GAMES DO WELL?
The are many types of games which do well. Game players come in
many shapes and sizes. Here is a list of game categories which seem
to dominate the shelves. Remember that GOOD GAMES will do
well regardless of the category, but by evaluating these categories
you can find a niche to write a GOOD GAME in. The following not
in any order of importance.
3D Games - Now commonly referred to as "Doom Style" games,
these games feature texture mapped 3D environments and usually a
lot of action and shooting. Already several books have come out
show you how to write games like this.
RPG - Role-Playing-Games are like Dungeons and Dragons, though
they might be about space, postapocalyptic, sci-fi oriented, they still
share the statistical characteristics and strategic features of games
Adventure - Not to be confused with RPG's these programs, such as
Sierra's King/Police/Space Quest series or Lucas Arts Indiana Jones
games, are more puzzle based games, and are not based on building
up a character, or statistics like an RPG.
Edutainment - This is a hot hot category right now. Games like
Carmen Sandiego and Rescue the Scientists are traditional
educational games with exciting game elements melded in. Games
which become "learning experiences" so to speak, rather than the
first generation of "flash card" like products.
Retro Games - This is a relativly new category of games. What the
term refers to is the recreation for a new platform of an old classic
like say Microsofts Arcade Pack which features 4 original coin-op
Simulation - Computer Simulations like Flight Simulator, F-15
Strike Eagle, and Comanche have been excellent sellers. There is
nothing like a detailed simulation to entertain gamers. However, be
careful, trying to put together a complex simulation game can take a
lot of work. Gamers in this category are extremely picky.
Sports Games - EA probably tripled the size of their company on its
sports titles alone. Prior to the release of their first classic, Earl
Weaver Baseball, sports games tended to be simplistic arcadish
games or dry statistical models. Earl Weaver brought both of those
approaches together and gave birth to the
statistical/simulation model. One note here: Check out FIFA
Soccer for the 3DO an amazing look at the where this type of game
God Games - God games refer to those simulations where you
essentially simulate an environment and give the player control over
factors which affect it. SimCity and Sim Earth as well as Populus by
Bull Frog/EA are great examples of this game type.
Shooters: Usually viewed from above, the screen scrolls as the
player -you guessed it- shoots everything. Examples might be
Raptor from Cygnus/Apogee or Space Invaders and Asteroids.
Fighting games: Fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Virtua
Fighter have become so popular they really do warrent their own
category. Most of these game involve heavy arcade action as players
either vs. the computer or their friend duke it out in some for of
hand-to-hand combat with special moves and sometimes hand
weapons like swords or flails. Other games in this category are
things like Street Fighter, and One Must Fall.
Platform games: Ever since the original Donkey Kong, 2D
side/verticle scrolling screen, jump n' shoot games have been
amongst the most popular form or arcade games made. In the PC
world the role of shareware alone has brought side scrolling games
like Commander Keen, Jazz Jackrabbit, and Duke Nukem to much
Overall, though many games tend to have 80% of themselves firmly
rooted in one of these categories, great games always tend to overlap
into other game types as well. Magic Carpet, a huge hit right now
(Bull Frog/EA) is both a flight simulation, an adventure game.
It's always good to keep track of new and interesting gaming types,
there are more than what I've touched on, and new hybrids emerging
every day. Keep track and you might just create a game that is either
a benchmark for its category, or the newest game for the next great
Oh and did I say GOOD GAMES sell well?
HOW DO I GET A JOB AS A GAME DESIGNER?
Jobs are tough write your own game!
AS A PROGRAMMER/DESIGNER
As for an actual job, a good article appeared in the February 95 issue
of Computer Gaming World. Without going into detail I will
summarize the key points.
1. Getting hired is tough. There is a lot of competition, programming
and/or art skills are a must.
2. Having a good demo or a good game already completed is a big,
3. College graduates are the choice of company recruiters, and a non
game specific background is also important.
In short, go to college-this isn't a simple job-and write something on
your own. It will give you at a big advantage.
THEY'RE ARE OTHER OPTIONS
As the game industry evolves from single designers who did
everything to team oriented multimedia megagames, there are many
other job types which have opened up.
Artists 2D & 3D. Musicians, Writers, Level Designers, Marketing
If you feel you have a special talent - like Art for instance - and you
feel you understand Game development as it relates to art (or writing
or ...) then you might want to put together examples
of your work and send them to the human resources departments of
Remember, though: As with any creative medium - or any job for
that matter, getting one will be tough. It won't happen overnight.
Also, if you are approaching the Game Development field for a job
in one of these support positions, it is important to really understand
the process and the difference that the notion of interactivity
presents to the product. Writing your own game might develop that!
If you're really interested in the industry, check out:
The Computer Game Developers Association.
What is the CGDA?
The CGDA is an association of interactive entertainment
professionals dedicated to serving the careers and interests of its
members. It's not a trade association or a union. The purposes of the
To foster information exchange among professionals in the industry
To represent the community of interactive entertainment developers
when policy issues arise in industry or government
To increase artistic and financial recognition for developers
To enhance the quality of interactive entertainment and educational
Why should I join the CGDA?
The most important reason for joining the CGDA is that it lets you
participate in a community of people with similar interests and
concerns. The CGDA will take an active role in helping to set
government and industry policy on important issues such as software
ratings. In addition, the CGDA will offer a variety of services to its
members, designed to assist them in their careers.
They also have a newsletter which has all kinds of good info too.
What does it cost?
Membership will cost $75 for 1995. (Foreign memberships will be
How do I get in touch with them?
Computer Game Developers' Association
555 Bryant Street Suite 330
Palo Alto, CA
voice: +1 415 948-CGDA
fax: +1 415 948-2744
Please note: In order to keep costs down, this phone line is not
staffed by a live person. Leave a message and someone from the
CGDA will return your call as soon as possible.
All right Deductible Junkets!!!!!
Several conferences exist. The major one to attend is:
The Computer Game Developers Conference (What else did you
expect it to be named,)
This is held every year in the spring. In 1995 it is being held at the
Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, CA, April 22-24. Contact the CGDA,
an affiliate of the producer of the conference for more information.
There is also an East Coast Developers Conference.
This is held in the fall.
Call Alexander Associates in New York +1 212-684-2333 for more
What About The Consumer Electronics Show?
CES is a good place to go too, but it is mainly a show for retailers
and vendors to hook up, so while you'll have fun playing all the
games and looking at the latest gadgets, the amount of networking
you can do isn't as good as the Computer Game Developers
What About Comdex/Windows World?
These are business-oriented shows, I've never seen much in the way
of games at either show.
CAN I SELL MY IDEAS?
Write your own game, everybody has ideas.
The fact is, just like in any other creative medium, ideas are
plentiful. This means it is unlikely a publisher would be interested
in your idea alone. In fact, the way copyright laws work, they
probably won't even look at it because it could open them up to a
lawsuit if you later claim they 'took' your idea.
In order to attract the talent to make the game you will need to have
capital, or some very friendly developers. However, if you're reading
this, you probably now know that you need to develop your ideas
yourself and that is probably what you had in mind to begin with.
So, read on!
OK! Enough talk about ideas and getting employed, lets find out
how to turn our ideas into finished games and our finished games
WHICH LANGUAGE SHOULD I USE?
The dominant language of game development is C/C++ for both
Windows and DOS.
Almost every game you see is written in this language originally
developed at AT&T Bell Labs. C is the original version of the
language and C++ is a newer version, geared toward a system of
programming known as object oriented programming (OOP for
short). C++ programming is not much different from C, so I use the
two together since even most C compilers you can buy will allow for
both flavors of C programming. C is also a great language to write in
because it is easy to move a hit games C/C++ code from one
platform to the other - more so than any other language. Even though
"easier" hybrid languages exist for Windows (which we will discuss
below) C/C++ is the dominant Windows development
What more can I say - it's the dominant language of game
The Road Runner of languages.
Since it is the fastest language, some Assembly Language is used.
Assembly is usually used to create subroutines to call from C/C++
for sections requiring intensive speed. Assembly language is the
most difficult to understand. The general law of computer languages
states: The lower level the language, the faster it is, and the harder it
is to program in it. Don't be discouraged though, learning Assembly
is a great tool; DOOM would not have had it's blazing speed without
some programming in Assembly, and people who know it can
accomplish amazing things.
With its portability and easier learning curve, C/C++ is much easier
than Assembly. C/C++ like assembly "compiles" to standalone
However no one said programming in C/C++ was easy either, just
easier than Assembly, and many people are a little intimidated by all
of the coding required and such. First, with a little work and some
good books, programming in C/C++ is not as hard as it seems. Hell -
even I know how to program a little in C! There are, however, some
alternatives to programming in C.
You mean I can create great Windows products and actually get
some sleep too?
Visual Basic from Microsoft is a hybrid form of Basic written
especially for Windows. VB works in the Windows environment so
you can create neat interfaces and professional looking products.
Visual Basic also has a much easier learning curve. In addition by
learning how to access the Windows API, a special slew of calls to
the Windows Operating System, you can do some nifty animation
and sound effects!
There are also third-party add-on products that extend its VB's
features which are referred to as VBX's. VB skills can eventually be
used in C/C++, especially concerning API calls. This makes your
skills here transferable to the next level of Windows programming
However, you should know that VB has its drawbacks. C/C++ is
much faster, and speed in games can be crucial.
I don't think you'll see Doom being created with VB any time soon.
VB also does not create stand-alone executables like C/C++. VB is
what we call an interpretive language it doesn't actually compile.
While you can create "executable stand-alone" versions of your VB
programs (royalty free), your user must also have the
VBRUN300.DLL file in order to use the program. While you can
distribute this DLL (and many users already have it on their systems)
this is an extra burden for VB to carry. More and more, though I am
amazed at the stuff possible with VB. I wholeheartedly recommend
it to beginners, and even pro's, to create games. If you find it too
limited or slow, than just move on to C/C++
ARE THERE ANY OTHER CHOICES?
The other language is Delphi, a recently released hybrid Windows
programming language, from Borland. Delphi is a hybrid Windows
version of Pascal. It allows you to create full .exe files with no
additional files needed (as opposed to VB) and its very fast.
Delphi allows you to do a lot of things VB can't like write your own
DLLs and .VBXs and of course it compiles. A tip here is check out
The Coriolis Groups web page at http://www.coriolis.com they've
constructed a complete index to Internet resources for Delphi
One note it does require 6mb of memory.
And Don't forget Director...
Many multimedia developers have been using this product for quite a
while and some have even shipped games with it. I believe Journey
Project (the original not Turbo) was done in Director as was Myst on
the Mac and HellCab.
With the current release, Director is true cross platform. It's amazing
how a product of this kind can create binary compatible files for
both Mac and Windows. Basically, you take your multimedia app,
create it all on a Mac, copy everything to Windows, and it runs
without a hitch, identical to the Mac version. OR THE OTHER
WAY ROUND. There are some exceptions, but they are mostly
minor, like remembering (on the Mac) to stick to the stupid 8.3 file
name conventions, etc.
Creating things in Director is really fast feedback is immediate. I've
seen several programmers who have problems adapting to the
Director paradigm, but I myself didn't experience this. It's fun,
powerful, easy, and you (almost) automatically get both a Mac and a
Windows final product. A 3DO player is in beta. A Director player
engine is also being integrated into Netscape Navigator.
The programming language, Lingo, is a complete language, and fully
OO. You can even switch ancestors on the fly! Tech support here on
CompuServe is grrrrrrrreat (they won an award for it). So is the user
community, both here and on Internet.
On the downside. Director has to move a lot of stuff around. It's too
slow for arcade games. Lingo is an interpreted language, which
means that it's in the Visual Basic performance class. Definitely not
C. But if your goal is to develop something than can convey an
aesthetic experience, and you expect your audience to have time to
enjoy a development of character and narrative quality, it seems to
me that Director is a good choice.
If you're not intending to produce arcade games, I think Director
warrents a look. Understand also that the package is somewhat pricy
by beginners standards but still you get a lot for your money and
Macromedia often sells bundle deals with Director and ton of other
cool multimedia products like Premiere from Adobe or sound
editors, so shop around.
C/C++ is the leading development language of game creation, Visual
Basic by Microsoft has some merit, especially for non- action
intensive products, and Delphi, a new language for Windows, by
Borland shows promise. For beginners I recommend Visual Basic,
perhaps Delphi if they know some programming already. For people
already familiar with VB or other flavors of Basic or Pascal, go for
C/C++ and some Assembly.
It pays to be multilingual.
While you may have chosen one language to become proficient in,
take the time to learn about some of the other languages I've
While you may not want to program in C or Assembly, having a
basic knowledge can help you look at code examples, and gain ideas
for whatever language you're using. I'm drawing on my rudimentary
knowledge of C to read books about Windows programming to learn
more about controlling Windows from Visual Basic. While I can't
write a program in C, I can dissect code, understand so I can learn
Concentrate on one, but pay attention to the others.
WHAT ARE SOME PROGRAMMING BASICS and DESIGN
If you're absolutely brand new to programming, you have a lot of
work to do. Order some more Chinese food and maybe a lot of Jolt
One trick: Build your game-developing skills by designing new
levels\scenarios with games that have built-in editors. For example,
learn about wargame design by developing neat scenarios with
Empire Deluxe's scenario editor, or how about a new level for Doom,
using many of the public domain and shareware WAD file editors?
A list of some of the better 'Designable Games' can be found in the
Learning The Ropes.
What I've provided here is a list of basics specific to game
development that assumes you know programming basics. If you
don't know basics, like variables, looping conditions, etc. skip this
and come back when you do. If you've already mastered some of the
basics, here is a rundown of the type of game specific programming
abilities you will want to learn about. Not all will be needed
depending on your game, but that is for you to determine.
Graphics files can come in many shapes and sizes. You should be
somewhat familiar (if not thoroughly familiar) with the various
formats and how to load them into your program for later use in
animation and such. the new PNG, PCX and BMP are Examples of
Another point to be made about graphics is that 320 * 200 used to be
the dominant form of games, but with most things progress has
raised that level. Right now the dominant resolution is 640*480
which is also the default Windows resolution.
Animation in games involves copying sections of the screen to and
from sections of memory that contain the graphics information.
Widely referred to as a BitBlit, it is one of the most basic graphics
programming skills you will need to master.
AI or Artificial Intelligence concerns the creation of intelligent
reactions by the game's of the situation and the player's decisions.
Most commonly used to create computer opponents assessment. It is
not an arcane art and many established methods have seen their most
useful twists and applications by game programmers. Bullfrog the
makers of such games as Populas and Magic Carpet has especially
embarked on a mission to bring more innovative AI to computer
games, check out their newer titles for the results as they develop.
Here is a list of the specific items you need to understand which
concern are involved in games for DOS.
In DOS, programmers mainly use MidPak and DigPak to create
music and data files and to control their playback. These programs
allow a developer to write sound routines for multiple sound board
types with one set of code, saving an extensive amount of
Mode_X is a special VGA graphics mode which displays 256 colors
on the screen at once. Every game programmer for DOS, needs to be
familiar with working in this special graphics mode.
Much has been written about it in the books listed in the Book
Section of this FAQ.
FastGraph from Ted Gruber Software is a library of graphics routines
and software which helps with displaying graphics on the screen in
Mode_X, as well as many other useful game-oriented tools, like
joystick reading. Many programmers use it and the company offers
excellent support. While it is not necessary to have this product to
make games, many hours will be saved by using it. A shareware
version of the program, called FastGraph Lite, is available on the
GamDev forum on CompuServe, as well as
on a disk included with Action Arcade Adventure Set, by Diana
Gruber, from Coriolis Books (See Book Section).
Without going into a dissertation on how DOS memory works, let
me explain what this is. A DOS Extender allows you to program
your DOS based game without the memory restrictions placed on
traditional DOS programs. Before DOS extenders came along,
games were limited how much memory, they could use to store
graphics, sound, etc. in the computers RAM. Today's games require
256 color graphics and sound; this means you will need to use as
much of the computers memory as possible, and thus you will
probably need a DOS Extender. So, investigate these programs and
choose one to
use. One of the more popular is a product called DOS4GW.
Here are specific Windows items you should familiarize yourself
THE WINDOWS API
The main component that Windows programmers need to learn about
is the Windows API or Application Programmers Interface. The API
is a pre-defined set of routines that the programmer can use to do
many things in Windows, from the basic displaying of text in a
window, to the more complex playback of full motion video. Several
good books exist which detail the multitude of API calls. Even if you
plan on using a much higher level language like VB, you can still
make use of the Windows API. In fact for VB game development it
is absolutely necessary!
Of special interest to Windows programmers are three special new
products that were created specifically to help with the construction
of games in Windows.
The Windows Game Developer SDK
I really can't comment much on this but if you're serious about
Windows 95 game development either get in on the Beta and Beta
Forum or wait for the bugs and final version to ship and get in on the
developers program then. Understand for beginners that you don't
have to have this kit to do the development.
WinG And WaveMix
Even though Microsoft is readying the new Windows SDK these
may still be useful in that they are available now (the SDK as I said
is still in BETA) and for Win 16 3.1 development the still are useful.
WinG (Win-Gee) is a new version of the Windows API which
includes many new and redesigned API calls specifically geared
toward the intensive graphic and sound requirements of games. Game
programmers for Windows are especially advised to familiarize
themselves with this new API.
This special additional API for Windows allows you to manipulate
multiple .WAV files in real-time for your games. Windows as it is
does not allow for simultaneous playback of multiple .WAV files.
With WaveMix this problem is solved. However, be warned:
WAVEMIX has started life as a non-supported program from within
the ranks of Microsoft. Recently, problems and bugs have cropped
up. Microsoft has announced new support for the product, but it is
uncertain at this time when the bugs will be fixed. Investigate
thoroughly if WAVEMIX can work in your program--it might, it
While not as necessary for Game Development as other products,
WinToon can be a great tool for animationintensive products.
WinToon is a utility whereby you can create animated cartoons
which are stored in the Video For Windows format, making later
playback very easy because of Video For Windows wide acceptance
and extensive existing API.
All three of these items can be found in the WINMM forum on
CompuServe and Via Anonymous FTP at ftp.microsoft.com.
Level II CD-ROM
If you're even somewhat serious about Windows Development save
up the $500 and join as a level II developer with Microsoft. It'll be
the best $500 you ever spent and will get you a number of tools,
operating system updates, documentation and much much more. For
those on a little more of a budget there's a $200 jumpstart
development but, it's not nearly as extensive still there are some
useful things like Video for Windows stuff here you might find
WHAT TOOLS WILL I NEED?
As we have already said, creating a game is far more than knowing
how to program. Games include music, sound, and of course,
graphics. Therefore there are many other tools and products you will
need to collect before creating your game. Let's briefly discuss some
Let's take a brief moment to discuss 'C/C++' compilers. You'll
remember C/C++ is the dominant language of game development. C
however, unlike VB and Delphi, has many different implementations
to choose from. Here is a run down with the pro's and cons of the
Everyone has their favorites, but the most popular version of C/C++
seems to be Watcom, followed by Borland, and then Microsoft.
All of the products above have a Linker option which will let you
produce DOS EXEs even while developing in Windows.
Here is a more specific rundown contributed by Chris Newland (so
blame him if you disagree -- actually I think its overall well done)
Borland C++ 4.5 $495 Retail
If you can afford it ($495 retail, probably more if you are ordering
from another country) this is a really good package.
Some things to be aware of are:
The size of the box is huge!...some people have expressed difficulty
installing it...a resident DPMI extender is used instead of
DOS4GW....However, 6070% of the libraries out there are Borland
Turbo C++ 3.0 DOS $99 Retail
This is the last great compiler. From what I hear, Borland will no
longer be supporting their DOS package any longer. It's got
powerful tools and just about every library on the market supports it.
And once you get a feel for using it, you can easily zip up a file that
has the command line compiler, basic library files for all memory
models, all include files and even one or two 3rd party libraries in it
and still be able to fit it on a single disk to take with you when you
program on another machine.
Be aware of the following:
You don't get a library reference so you will probably have to buy a
TurboC++ specific one....The BGI is slow and limited.... It comes
with NO Windows tools, so if you ever decide to write Windows
games, you will have to get another compiler.
Turbo C++ 3.1 WIN $89
Hmmm, this is cheaper than the DOS package and it comes with
many more tools...I wonder what Borland is trying to tell us? This is
a good solid package with lot's of features. It comes with an
application wizard, written by a 3rd party outfit, that will develop the
shell for your applications totally...leaving you to do the boring
tedium of actual programming.
For your consideration:
This compiler will not link to a DOS EXE....If you develop in it,
make sure you run Windows in High Res SVGA Mode or you'll be
ALT-TABing back and forth.
Microsoft Visual C++ PRO $229 Retail
Forget the Standard Edition if you want to program games, it doesn't
allow you to compile to a DOS EXE, but the Pro version does.
As a general Game compiler, I can't say I would recommend this one
and from what I hear, no one uses it for DOS Game programming
either, however, on the Window's game programming front, WING
and the latest CARTOON graphics packages work seamlessly with
it. And of course, they are both by Microsoft.
Symantec C++ 6.1 Standard $99 Retail/ Pro $199 Retail
The interface is great. You have a TAB type interface where each
note tab is a seperate programming function, i.e. EDIT, DEBUG,
etc.. Either version will compile a DOS EXE in Windows, but the
Pro version comes with a DOS Command Line version that allows
you to develop solely in DOS if you want.
Most stores are selling the 6.0 version. If you buy it, immediately
upgrade to 6.1. If you don't you will find that Windows will start
crashing in your house and I know you don't want to step on all of
that glass ...On the same note, I have WFWG and if you run 6.0
or 6.1 in it and you have 32bit File Access turned on, you will
TRASH your system. I had to reinstall WFWG twice before I
figured out what it was. My system ran slower, but it ran happier.
Watcom C++ 9.0 $199 Retail
This is a good package and most of the games you see that bring up
the DOS\4GW message are using this compiler for development. I
only had 1 oppurtunity to use the compiler and I found that it was
different but still excellent for developing games.
Inline assembly is declared differently in Watcom....DOS Extender
programming requires you to access memory differently as well...a
reference to the screen at address A000 will have to be extended out
to 00A000 to account for the extended memory addressing. This
probably will be changed once in a #DEFINE statement in your code
and you will never think about it again......From what I hear, Borland
libraries won't work with it.
Be careful to make sure that the package you buy has everything you
need, including Windows support. Windows is, as we have said, the
emerging dominant game platform, so you will need Windows
A PAINT PROGRAM
You will definitely need a paint program to create or edit graphics
for your game. Behind every good programmer even ones who aren't
artists is a good paint program. My personal recommendation is:
Deluxe Paint IIe
This program, from Electronic Arts, allows for editing images in 256
colors in many different resolutions. Also included is a good
conversion program to output your graphics in many different
variations of size and graphic formats. It also is fairly cheap, costing
less than $100.
Whatever paint program you use, make sure it can output to different
sizes and formats, and additionally be able to paint in 256 colors in
multiple resolutions (especially 320*200 and 640*400).
As I write this update EA has officially discontinued Deluxe Paint --
however if you act fast you may still locate a copy at some of the
larger mail-order places. There is also a chance EA may sell the
product to people who want to continue updating it. Stay tuned.
You may also wish to use a scanner or digital camera to incorporate
drawings on paper. Just remember: If this is your desired process,
scanned artwork looks like scanned artwork. Many artists sketch
out their artwork in line drawings, then scan it in and from there add
color and other embellishments.
Any developer worth their salt may scan, but they always touch it up
in a paint program to clear up color distortions and imperfect scans.
Just an additional note here, I was visiting a friend who is an
excellent critic of games -- in fact he is called upon by distributors
when he returns from CES to get his opinion which they use to
decide how much of which games to order. Anyways we were
talking about game art and looking at his SONY
PSX/PLAYSTATION!!! - the new gamebox from Japan. He made a
point that I thought is very relevant here -- GAMERS LIKE
ARTWORK --scanned pictures may look more real or whatever but,
the fact is people enjoy art and animation created by artists its part of
the enjoyment factor. It may seem obvious but it really hits home
when you actually state it. I'll say it again people like art.
You will also need to get a conversion utility to convert a graphic
file to different formats. As I said, Dpaint comes with a very good
Debabbelizer, a commercial product is a very powerful and popular
stand-alone graphic conversion utility.
Many programmers create animation by programming it directly with
individual frames of animation they've drawn. However-there are,
some programs which help you create stand alone animated files
which can be used for more intensive animation.
We've already discussed this above.
Autodesk Animator is an excellent 2-D program for creating
animation, Autodesk has published several Windows and DOS
programming tools for people interested in creating products which
use these animation programs.
This product uses the Dpaint engine, but only works in 320x200
mode and creates animation. Go to the GamePubA forum and
download EA's C source code for controlling playback with your
VIDEO CAPTURE SYSTEMS
In addition there are several Video Capture Cards and Programs on
the market which allow you to create digitized video. The two major
formats for these video files are QuickTime, which was created by
Apple but exists for Windows (and possibly DOS, but not yet), and
VFW (Video For Windows), which was created by Microsoft and
Intel. Also, look for the book How To Digitize Video for more
information about creating animation of this kind.
Looking to create neat 3-D scenes or programs like 7th Guest? Then
you will need a 3-D modeler.
Two of the better DOS-based 3-D programs are:
This program was originally created for the Amiga PC more than 5
years ago and is now steadily finding users among DOS-based
AUTODESK 3-D STUDIO
This was the main 3-D modeling program used by many program
houses before they could afford Silicon Graphics Workstations.
GRAPHICS PROGRAMMING Libraries
Several programming aids are available to help you with creating
graphics from the programmer standpoint, as opposed to the creator.
We have discussed two of these: FastGraph, from Ted Gruber
Software, and WinG.DLL from Microsoft.
For VB, there is one really popular package called MediaKnife.VBX
It helps VB programmers create really wild graphics by bypassing
VB's internally slow routines. $349 from Media Architects, (503)
SOUND and MUSIC
The most important feature of doing your own sounds is having a
good sound board and a GREAT MICROPHONE!!! A key fact,
sound recording, is no matter what the format is, is a good
Any sound engineer will tell you the same.
This is a great shareware sound editor I have recently found. It's
available in the WinFun Forum, among other places on CompuServe.
Music is the hardest thing to get if you're going it alone and don't
have a lot of money.
A tip here is to use public domain MIDI files, though always check
with the author of the Midi file before including it to make sure the
song is actually public domain. While a song may be public domain,
the actual arrangement created by the author may not be.
As for professional composition, post messages on the MIDI or
GAMDEV forums on CompuServe but be prepared to provide proper
compensation: Just like any other worker, musicians expect to be
EDITING MIDI FILES
This is an excellent shareware MIDI program I have used a couple of
times. You can find it in the WinFun forum among other places.
We've already talked about MidPak and DigPak a little.
DigPak/Midpak costs a one time $1000 fee for use in commercial
programming and free for noncommercial programs. You can
contact the creators of DigPak/MidPak at there BBS:
The Audio Solution
747 Napa Lane
St. Charles, MO 63304
BBS: (314) 939-0200
DiamondWares Sound Tool Kit
+1 914 638 4615
This package has been out for several months now in a real mode
version and has been getting good reviews. Called Diamondwares
Soundkit, it offers the same functionality of the stalwart
MidPak/DigPak, and, according to the company, has a much cheaper
and better royalty arrangement. In addition a protected mode version
is just about shipping check with Diamondware for more info.
On the high, high end there are pacakges like HMIs Sound Operating
System, but I suspect most of the readers of the FAQ will find all
they need in the above two solutions or will be using Windows API
or Direct Sound libraries.
WHAT ABOUT DEVELOPING GAMES FOR OTHER
At this point I'll take some time to discuss some issues and tools
concerning game-developing for platforms other than MS-
Much of what we've talked about conceptually applies to any
conceivable platform. Since we've now discussed some of the
specifics concerning MSDOS/Windows development, I will discuss
specifics for Video Game machines, like 3DO, Sony PlayStation and
SEGA, as well as the Mac.
While it has never achieved the success of the IBM\Clone world,
Apple's Macintosh still has a sizable installed base of users who
want to play games. Indeed, some major products saw their first
version created for the Mac, (Myst, Balance of Power and SimCity,
to name a few.) However, the Mac, in all seriousness, is best viewed
as a good platform to port wildly successful games from the
As for languages to use, Mac game development doesn't feature some
of the Hybrid languages like Delphi and Visual Basic. The two
major development languages on the Macintosh are 'C/C++' and
Pascal. Think C and Zortech C seem to be the most popular brands
of C/C++ and Think Pascal seems to be the dominant brand of
As for tools, the Mac perhaps has better graphic, and music tools
than the IBM/Clone world.
VIDEO GAME CONSOLES
Without going into much detail, let's talk about developing games for
such platforms like 3DO and SEGA. These systems were
traditionally, cartridge based and are now becoming solely CD-ROM
based. These platforms are developed to play only interactive
entertainment, and are not computers. Yet now, many are even more
powerful than computers you and I are using, especially concerning
graphical output and sound, which is of course the basis for games.
Video Game development is accomplished using what is commonly
known as a cross-development-system. A cross-development-system
is one in which a game is programmed on one machine but written
for another one. For example, I might use a Mac-based cross
development system to create a game for the SEGA. These systems
are sold as "Development Kits" and sometimes are available not only
from the Company but other sources as well. They can be very
The best way to find out more is to write directly to the particular
company about what the contents of their development kits and what
hardware they work with.
Keep in mind though that writing a game for a Video Game machine
is expensive; if you can't find a publisher, chances are you won't be
able to publish the game, given the methods of distribution
associated with Video Game systems and the royalties the
manufacturers collect in licensing fees.
If you are successful at creating a computer game, you might,
however--like in Id's case--want to move it to other platforms to
reach a wider audience. Chances are though, if you are in this
situation, You're already working as or with an established
Non MS-DOS/Windows development consists of Macintosh and
Video Game System platforms. Macintosh is a viable, yet less-
developed option because of a smaller installed base, and while
Video Game Systems have a large installed base, development via
Cross Development-Systems can be costly and generally is not
recommended to beginners as an initial foray.
I KNOW A LOT MORE BUT, STILL NOT ENOUGH TO WRITE
Well, say no more. I've compiled below one of the best lists around
(if you find a better one, send it to me!!!). If you can't learn game
development after reading this stuff, then I don't think anyone can
For beginners and pros alike, designing scenarios/variations for
existing games with level/scenario/environmental editors is, as said
above, a great way to build skills. Many of the online services
maintain sections where you can upload your creations for others to
play and enjoy. Now what follows is not a complete list by any
means, look through your existing software collection and through
new products on the shelves for other interesting editable games.
DOOM 1.666 Registered and Doom II - Id Software
In order to edit and experiment with levels in Doom, you might want
to check out CyTech CodeHouses, DOOMWARE developers
network CD. This is packed with WADS, Editors, Sounds, and
Graphics.Sold for $34.95 Call 1-800-382-5656
These products are available at your local reseller or favorite mail
order resource. All include builtin editors.
Klik and Play: Maxis
This is a game construction kit which helps you make neat arcadish
products, which can be distributed free-of-charge when you're done.
Example creations exist on CompuServe GamDev forum.
SimCity/SimCity 2000 - Maxis
Another great product from Maxis contains excellent scenarios
Empire Deluxe - New World Computing
Empire is one of the all-time greatest computer wargames. It
includes an excellent scenario editor and many examples already
exist on the Net.
Flight Sim Toolkit - DoMark
This product allows you to create your own 3D flight simulators.
Lode Runner - Sierra-OnLine
This is a remake of an all-time great platform game which includes
an excellent editor that can be used to create your own puzzling
WHAT TO READ
Computer Gaming World
Next Generation\The Edge
New Type Gaming
Dr. Dobbs Journal
Visual Basic Programmers Journal
Morphs Outpost on The Digital Frontier
Computer Graphics World
Game Dev Specific
The Journal of Interactive Entertainment
Ziffnet Threads (For Ziffnet Subscribers)
Zshare (Available On-line GO SHAREWARE) Lots of
Shareware Development Coverage
Note: The Journal of Interactive Entertainment Design, published by
Chris Crawford is not available in stores or on line: Send a check
for $36 to:
Journal of Interactive Entertainment
5251 Sierra Road
San Jose, CA 95132
I've tried to provide as much information as possible to locate these
books at your local bookstore. I've also tried to give a brief synopsis
of what the book covers and what language you need to know to
understand the source code. If you can't find them, or you live far
from a bookstore, call the Coriolis Group 1-800-410-0192. They not
only publish their own books but they also carry the majority of
titles listed here from other publishers.
Building a 3D Game Engine in C++ by Brian Hook (J. Wiley and
Sons, 1995, New York, NY)
The book discusses interactive 3D graphics. It touches on a lot of
subjects, but it also ignores some fairly important ones which were
too complicated to go into well. Specifically, 2D and 3D clipping
are not really discussed, and various forms of perspective correct
texture mapping weren't included.
However, the book explores a plethora of topics that I have not
found in print anywhere else. These include things like object space
culling and shading, various transformation, lighting, and projection
optimizations, how to calculate a REAL projection equation, using
callbacks to make autonomous objects, programming the PC joystick
correctly, programming the Thrustmaster cockpit, basic bounding
sphere collision detection, =
Gouraud shading, linear texture mapping, Z-buffering, etc.
The most important aspect of the book, is that it ties everything
together into a single executable, a pseudo-Asteroids type game in
3D. It does texture mapping (linear) and flat shading and it shows
how all the pieces are put together. The code is heavily commented
and supports Borland C++ 3.1, 4.x, and Watcom C/C++ 10.0a.
Interesting datapoint - the Watcom executable is twice as fast as the
Game Programming Starter Kit by Andre Lamothe and SAMS
(SAMS, 1995, New York, NY, ISBN - 0-672-30825-8)
This package is a great deal at $49.95 it includes "Teach Yourself
Game Programming in 21 Days", The professional version of MS
VC++ 1.0 and an electronic CD version of "Teach Yourself of
Visual C++ 1.0 in 21 Days". Ideal for beginners and students.
The Black Art of 3D Game Programming by Andre Lamother (The
Waite Group Press, Corte Madera, CA, ISBN 1-57169-004-2)
A complete tutorial on polygon 3D graphics and Game programming
to date. Included in its 1400 pages is: 2D graphics, mode x, parallax
scrolling, artificial intelligence, collision detection, efficient object
representations and data structures for 3D games, multitasking, 2D
clipping, input devices, modem to modem commmunications and
games, on-line games, sound fx and music, 3D sound, voice
recognition, remote sound fx, algorithmic sound, 3D math and
fundamentals, 3D clipping, level of detail, shading algorithms, flat
shading, gouraud shading, texture mapping, hidden surface removal
techniques, Z-buffers, depth sorting, painters algorithm, BSP tree's,
voxel graphics, advanced optimization, 3D collision detection, two
complete working games using the books libraries, dozens of demos,
both Borland and Microsoft versions of the source code, a CD full
of tools, a sound editor, 3D modeler and shareware games.
Action Arcade Set by Diana Gruber (The Coriolis Group, Scottsdale,
AZ, 1994, ISBN 1-883577-06-3)
This book covers the basics of arcade game creation, specifically
side scrolling games similar to classics like Duke Nukem, or Rolling
Thunder. It includes information about the FastGraph graphics API,
Mode_X, collision detection, sprites and much more. The
accompanying disk includes FastGraph Lite, the shareware version
of FastGraph. The book requires a basic knowledge of C. Of
special note is a chapter on marketing your game using shareware
and LCR marketing.
Flights of Fantasy by Christopher Lampton (Waite Group Press,
Corte Madera, CA, 1994, ISBN 1-878739-18-2)
Flights of Fantasy, covers the basics of creating 3D flight sims.
While it is a little dated the fundamentals here are well explained. It
starts with some of the most basic 2d graphics programming routines
and ends up with the basics of 3D programming. The accompanying
disk includes all the source code. A basic knowledge of C is
needed to understand this book.
Gardens of Imagination by Christopher Lampton (Waite Group
Press, Corte Madera, CA, 1994, ISBN 1-878739-59-X)
Gardens of Imagination is Chris Lamptons (Flights of Fantasy)
second book and shows you how to create 3-D games like
Wolfenstein and Doom. Chris Lampton's wonderful writing gives
you a lot of good help in creating your own raycasting engine.7 It
comes with a disk full of source code and requires a good knowledge
Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus by Andre LaMothe,
Seinatore and Denise Tyler (Sams Publishing, ISBN 0-672-30507-0)
There is a lot of different information covered in this large book. It's
main coverage is devoted to the creation of a raycasting engine, but
there are also chapters on the creation of sound and music, game AI,
Artwork Creation and more. This book requires an intermediate
understand of C. All of the source code and resources are included
on an accompanying CD-ROM.
Visual C++ Multimedia Adventure Set by Peter Aiken and Scott
Jarol (The Coriolis Group, Scottsdale, AZ, ISBN 1-883577-19-5)
This new book covers WinG and WinToon and other Windows
programming tenants for gamers and multimedia developers. Topics
covered are full-motion video, animation, music, image
manifpulation and special effects. All of the source and resources
are included on an accompanying CD-ROM.
PC Game Programming Explorer by Dave Roberts (The Coriolis
Group, Scottsdale, AZ, ISBN 1-883577-07-1)
Dave Roberts has created an excellent introductory book on using
C/C++ to create DOS based arcade games. Dave explains in great
clarity all of the fundamentals in using ModeX, MidPAK, Keyboard
and Joystick handlers. The book also goes step by step through the
creation of a shoot'em up game including collision detection,
scrolling screens, memory management and design. A full disk of
source code is included with the book.
Teach Yourself Game Programming In 21 Days by Andre LaMothe
(Sams Publishing, ISBN 0-671-30562-3)
The game programming version of the venerable "21 Days" series
from Sam's is written by the same person who did their "Tricks of the
Game Programming Gurus". While tricks concerntrated on 3D
raycasting principles this book is more a broad based range of
fundamental procedures, code and tools that should bring beginners
a solid background in a number of areas game developers have been
proficient at for years. The book includes a CD-ROM full of
shareware and code from the book.
Creating Turbo C++ Games by Clayton Walnum (Que Publishing,
New York, NY, 1994)
This book which is tailored to the inexpensive Borland C++
compiler (but which isn't exclusively in need of it) contains over 400
pages of fundamental information on topics like 256 Color VGA
Graphics, Object Oriented Programm and Class and simple complete
games like a dungeon program, a card game and a life simulator.
Certainly not real time 3D graphics but a for beginners a good solid
Programming Games In C Robert B. Marmelstein (M&T Books,
New York, NY 1994)
This book covers a pretty simple level of game construction in C. In
fact it's so simple that nothing concerning VGA graphics is included!
The book covers mostly simple arcade games and comes with a disk
of source code.
Graphics Programming and Animation - Ultra Fast Assembly
Routines for EGA/VGA Graphics Animation by Peter Jungck (R&D
This book and disk combination covers how to directly access the
VGA hardware for fast graphical routines with over 170 programs
and an example game. Included is Jungck's ProGraphx Toolbox
which he has used to develop various shareware products. The main
languages used are Assembly and C with some Pascal examples as
Dungeons of Discovery:Writing Dazzling Windows Games with
WinG by Clayton Walnum (Macmillan Computer Publications, New
York, NY 1995, ISBN 078-970-0603)
This is a really nicely done book which covers the WinG
programming extension for Windows. Walnum who has been
writing for years (some may remember him from the old Atari
magazine ANALOG) explains WinG very well and shows it in a C++
MFC format. Not only does the CD-ROM come with complete
source code and the WinG library but as covered in the book is a
complete 3D dungeon (not a raycaster!) program to disect and
Amazing 3D Adventure Set by Lary Myers (The Coriolis Group,
Scottsdale, AZ ISBN 1-883577-15-2)
This book offers the latest and greatest version of Lary Myers ACK
3D raycasting engine including graphics, source code and map
editors. Covers both DOS and WinG versions. Just a note here if
you've seen versions of ACK before they may be derivatives of the
original 2 year old version this book is the official source code guide
to the latest version.
Netwarriors In C: Programming 3-D Multiplayer Games in C by Joe
Gradecki (John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, ISBN 0-471-11064-
This book and CD-ROM combination is takes an older version of
Lary Myers infamous ACK-3D gaming engine and marries it with
some fundamental network protocols like IPX to create multiplayer
versions of 3D games like DOOM. The CD-ROM in addition to
carrying a the source code and demonstration games includes a
number of files from the super x2ftp.oulu.fi Internet site.
How to Create Computer Games & How To Create Adventure
Games, Franklin Watts, New York, 1986.
Chris Lampton has written many books and while his Flights of
Fantasy and Gardens of Imagination contain information useful to
many game programmers today. For absolute beginners and
especially young children interested in programming, in 1986 he
created two small titles on game programming which might still be
found in your local library. Both of the texts cover creation of
games in generic Microsoft Basic. Definatly out of date but I told
you I was going to get every last book I could find!
MAC Oriented books
Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus (SAMS)
Don't know too much about this but SAMS is doing a MAC oriented
Sex, Lies, and Video Games - How to write a Macintosh Arcade
Game by Bill Hensler (Addison-Wesley, Reading MA, ISBN 0-201-
Don't know too much about it but it does include an 800k disk.
Visual Basic Books of Note
Visual Basic Multimedia Adventure Set by Scott Jarol (The Coriolis
Group, Scottsdale, AZ, ISBN 1-883577-01)
For those of you using VB in your development process this is a
must have book. It Covers many aspects of VB useful for game
development like Sprite Animation, WaveMix, Video For Windows,
Hypertext, Midi and more! The CD-ROM contains a suite of
interesting tools and code samples.
The Visual Basic Guide To The Windows API by Daniel Appleman
(Ziff Davis Press)
Another must have for VB users this is an extensive book, covers
how to call the Windows API with VB code. VB is a little different
in the way it handles calls to the Windows API and no other book
will show you better how to do it than this extensive book. Includes
a disk of code samples and other useful information.
Programming Games for Beginners: Visual Basic for Fun and Profit
by Chris Howard (SAMS, New York, NY, 1993, ISBN: 0-672-
This book is a nice introductory level book for people new to both
VB and game programming. It includes source code for many
different types of games VB is well suited for like card games and
other less real-time-graphics oriented products. Chris rights very
well and all in all this book makes for a good first stop.
Build Your Own PC Game in Seven Easy Steps, Using Visual Basic
by Scott Palmer (Addison-Wesley, 0-201-48911-2)
This book due out in September 95, covers both VB4 and VB3 game
design. It covers three specific games, a text adventure, a graphics
adventure and an arcade game. The accompanying CD-ROM has all
the source and ready-to-use games, art and sounds.
Encyclopedia of Graphic File Formats by James D. Murray and
William VanRyper (O'Reily and Associates, Sebastopol, CA, 1994,
There have been guides to graphics file formats and then there is
this. All others pale in comparison. Just some of the formats
included are BMP, TIFF, GIF, Kodak Photo CD, Dore raster file,
Pixar and Rayshade to name a few. The CD-ROM includes all kinds
of source code and vendor tech documents.
Zen of Graphics Programming by Michael Abrash (The Coriolis
Group, Scottsdale, AZ, 1994, ISBN 1-883577-08-X)
The Zen master himself Michael Abrash weighs in with all his
ModeX expertise and then some. Over 1000 pages of awesome
graphics programming power. An Included disk provides the latest
version of his Xsharp graphics programming routines.
Bitmapped Graphics by Steve Rimmer Windcrest: ISBN 0-8306-
Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, Foley and Vandam
This is probably the single most referenced and used book in the
entire history of computer graphics. It is the one programmers turn
to over and over, for fundamental and theorectical discussion of high
performance computer graphics and animation programming. If
you're doing anything polygon based or even a good raycaster this is
a book that probably should be open and in your lap much less on
Digital Image Warping by George Wolberg (IEEE Computer Society
Press Monograph, Los Alamitos, CA ISBN 0-8186-8944-7)
This book covers a wide range of advance digital alogorithims and
code. It's definatly not for the introductory programmer, but if you
want the goods on texture mapping, morphing and other realtime 3D
graphics this along with Foley and Van Damns text is a must have.
Learn 3D Graphics Programming on the PC by Richard F. Ferraro
(Addison-Wesley, 1995, Reading MA, ISBN 0-201-48332-7)
An incredibly interesting book due out in September of 95 this book
covers creating 3D graphics especially in relation to Criterions
Renderware which is included in some form with the book!!!
Applied Graphics Algorithims for C++ Programmers by Marv Luse
(Addison-Wesley, 1995, Reading MA, ISBN 0-201-40845)
This book slated for Sept. 95 is billed as an all-in-one resource to
the real-world application of the most powerful graphics algorithms.
It covers everything from a line graph to 3D rendering and animation
DESIGN ORIENTED TEXTS
The Art of Computer Game Design by Chris Crawford
Every time I see someone ask Chris Crawford himself for a copy of
this book he says its quite outdated. Of course the optimist in me
says it's not, the fundamentals contained in this book are essential to
people who need a course in the early axioms created in the
industrys begginnings. Originally published by McGraw Hill. This
is available in unbound form. To order send a $25 check made
payable to "Chris Crawford Games", PO Box 360872, Milpitas, CA
Balance of Power - International Politics as the Ultimate Global
Game by Chris Crawford (Microsoft Press, Redmond, WA, 1986,
In 1985 Chris Crawford wrote not just a game but an acompanying
book about its development. The game Balance of Power was an
amazing work of art, its focus on geopolitical concerns of the
superpowers was not only enlightening for its lessons and
This book covers the design concerns, strategies and thoughts about
this classic game of international diplomacy.
Entertainment in the Cyber Zone - Exploring the Interactive Universe
of Multimedia by Chris McGowan and Jim McCullaugh. (Random
House. New York, NY, 1994, ISBN 0-679-75804-6)
A very interesting book that covers a broad range of games and
interactive multimedia titles. It includes interviews with designers,
writers and producers of products, a look at various hot games,
coverage of the hardware you can use to play games and more.
While this book is written for players, developers will find the
discussions of the products and the interviews and opinions of
developers here useful.
Computer Gamesmanship, Elements of Intelligent Game Design by
Levy. (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY ISBN 0-67149-532-1)
This textbook style book focuses on the basics with AI and
fundamental game design issues discussed and showcased. The
basics include programs for chess, checkers, and poker. again mostly
featuring various associated algorithms.
The Complete Wargame Handbook by James Dunnigan. William
and Co., (ISBN 0-688-10368-5)
This is a really interesting, albeit dated book on wargame design. It
doesn't cover any programmign issues with code, instead it focuses
on games out at the time of it's writing and discusses general issues
concerning design wargames.
Multimedia Production/Techniques Oriented Texts
Multimedia Demystified a guide to the world of Mutlimedia from
Apple Computer, Inc. by Apple Computer and New Media Magazine
(Random House, New York, NY ISBN 0-679-75603-5)
This is simply an amazing resource. While it's produced by Apple
Computer it doesn't really concentrate on MAC multimedia but
multimedia in general including games. There is a wealth of
information here about financing, art production, sound production
and much more. It's got information for both pros and beginners.
CD-ROM Buyer's Guide & Handbook by Paul T. Nicholls, Ph. D.
(Pemberton Press Inc., Wilton. CT)
From the publisher of CD-ROM Proffesional magazine comes this
useful book on CD-ROM Production Issue, such as mastering,
duplication, indexes and much more.
Business and Marketing Books
Zap! - The Rise and Fall of Atari By Scott Cohen (McGraw Hill
Press, New York, NY 1984. ISBN)
One can't but wonder what might have been if Atari hadn't blown it?
Would we even have heard of companies like Nintendo, Sega or even
Microsoft? The fact is for a breif moment Atari was everything
there was in the consumer marketplace. However blow it big they
did and if you want a hardcore look at the people, problems and
mistakes that caused it check out this book. Hopefully others will
learn from Atari's mistakes.
Phoenix - The Fall and Rise of Home Videogames by Leonard
Herman (Rolenta Press)
Did just Atari blow it? Well yes and no others were there trying to
stake out turf and still others today have revived the entire industry
to a new era. This book is about as complete of a history of the
Videogame industry past and present as one could possibly get. It
covers all the major machines and their associated stories Magnavox,
Nintendo, Sony, Sega,
Software People by Doug Carlston. (Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-671-
This a great book, albeit a little dated, about the early days of the
computer biz and the computer game biz specifically. Doug Carlston
is president and one of the original founders of Broderbund
Software, makers of such hits as Karateka, Print Shop,
Lode Runner, Living Books and of course Myst!
The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawaski. (Scott Foresman ISBN 0-673-
Guy was one of Apple's first Evangelists and was just recently named
as an Apple fellow putting him in prestigous company with people
like Alan Kay. No not Apples answer to Jimmy Swaggert. He spent
time trying to get companies to produce products for the Macintosh
when it first shipped. He later went on to become president of Acius
which makes 4th Dimension, a powerful database product for the
Mac. This book is sort of a neat hybrid of marketing advice and
anecdotes from the computer business. It is also a laugh riot, Guy is
somewhat of a comic.
Managing Software Maniacs by Ken Whitiker
If your a manager, team leader, or producer in the games business
you've got to deal with a lot of different people and technical
problems. This book is really a common sense guide about pulling
together and motivating a software development team. With over
200 pages of topics like dealing with engineers, managing risk and
scheduling this is a guide well worth some attention by people who
need to manage game projects.
Building a Successful Software Business (O'Reily and Associates,
New York, NY ISBN)
This book is really about setting up a business with a tayloring of
specific advice about selling software. If you need information about
selling, pricing, positioning, dealing with bankers, staff this is a
great resource for you. Being a lone-wolf developer is one thing
running a development house or successful publisher is a completely
different set of circumstances that this book can help you with.
How To Sell Your Software by Bob Schenot. (John Wiley & Sons:
This book from the author of the online document The Shareware
Book covers a wide range of issues about selling software including
Shareware, Catalogs, Retail Channels and Bundling.
NEW BOOKS ON THE WAY
These haven't yet been published but keep an eye out for them.
New Game/Multimedia Development titles coming from Coriolis
Visual Basic X Multimedia Adventure Set--A new edition that
features Windows 95 (and a version of a product I can't mention
yet!). Learn how to build an HTML-driven hypermedia engine that
you can also use as a Web browser. Also, learn how to push VB and
Windows 95 to the max to perform fast animation and all the other
trimmings. This should be a hot remake of a real classic. Pub date:
end of summer/early fall.
Windows 95 Game Programming Adventure Set--You guessed it,
this book will get you on the road to developing great games for
Windows. Pub date: early fall (As soon as I can get the authors tied
down to finish the book.) Watch for covergae of the new MS Game
Ultimate Game Developer's Sourcebook--If you have zillions of
questions on game development, design, marketing, legal stuff, and
so on, then we'll have lots of answers for you (at least we'll try to
answer them as best we can). Lots of best game developer pals are
contributing to this book so it should be a classic.
Network Gaming Adventure Set--This technology is the future of
game development--game servers, game networks, message passing,
and so on. This book shows you how to use VB, Windows 95, and
some really hot custom controls to create games that can be played
with your favorite pals across local area networks and the Internet. Is
this stuff cool or what? Pub date: As soon as Microsoft tells us its
okay to publish this book and give away all these secrets. (early fall).
Software People by Doug Carlston. Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-671-
This a great book, albeit a little dated, about the early days of the
computer biz and the computer game biz specifically. Doug Carlston
is president and one of the original founders of Broderbund
Software, makers of such hits as Karateka, Print Shop, Lode Runner,
Living Books and of course Myst!
The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawaski. Scott Foresman ISBN 0-673-
Guy was one of Apple's first Evangelists. No not Apples answer to
Jimmy Swaggert. He spent time trying to get companies to produce
products for the Macintosh when it first shipped. He later went on
to become president of Acius which makes 4th Dimension, a
powerful database product for the Mac. This book is sort of a neat
hybrid of marketing advice and anecdotes from the computer
business. It is also a laugh riot, Guy is somewhat of a comic.
Building a successful software buinesss by David Radin (O'Reilly
and Associates, 1994, New York, NY, ISBN 1-56592-064-3)
This book covers how to be a software entrepenuer or how to
improve your existing software business.
Managing Software Maniacs by Ken Whitiker
Covers lots of stuff concerning managing software development and
marketing, including some stuff about shareware.
Making Money Selling Your Shareware by Steven C. Hudgik.
Windcrest/McGraw Hill: ISBN 0-07-030865-9
How To Sell Your Software by Bob Schenot.
John Wiley & Sons: ISBN 0-471-06399-1
PCGPE.Txt and PCGPE.HLP - The Game Programmers
This is a document compiled together by a group of regulars from the
Rec.Games.Programmer newsgroup on the Internet and is available
in DOS based (.TXT) and Windows based (.HLP) flavors. It is a
hodgepodge of many different game-oriented programming articles,
like starfield creations, reading joysticks, graphics, etc.
You can find this on the CompuServe GAMDEV forum among other
Define.Zip - A general glossary of game programming terms
available in the CompuServe GameDev forum.
Design Theory Thread - The ongoing discussion on Design Theory
in the GamDev forum which is sort of moderated by game
development master Chris Crawford is now being archived for all of
you who aren't daily visitors to the forum.
ONLINE SITES FOR GAME DEVELOPERS
AoL has several good things for game programmers.
It is an excellent site for uploads for shareware authors.
In addition AoL has a lot of content stuff like newspapers and
magazines, plus an extensive search engine for wire feeds.
I use this to search for news on Game Development to see press
releases and stories about the industry its an excellent place to keep
up on the business until I start a weekly or find one that covers it
CompuServe has perhaps the best single service for Game
Developers and that is the GAMDEV forum which if you have read
this far is a personal favorite hangout.
In addition here are some other interesting places on CompuServe to
Go GAMDEV - The Game Dev Forum
Go Multimedia - Using any multimedia resources like Director or
Video files? Go Here.
Go GAMERS - Good place to read about what people are playing
and what they like
Go SDFORUM - The sdforum is the hangout for all the major
programming journals including Game Developer
Go SHAREWARE - The official forum of the Association of
Go VBPJ/MSBASIC - These two forums are useful for VB
Go WinMM - The official Microsoft forum for multimedia/game
development with Windows.
Finnally you might want to GO ZIFFNET. Ziffnet is a section of
CompuServe which is extra -- $2.95 a month I believe. It offers
access to many Ziff magazine forums including Computer Gaming
World and you also receive ZiffNet Threads every quarter which has
lots of Shareware entertainment coverage.
These are sites on the Internet from which you can download various
development oriented stuff from via FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
For more about USENET NewsGroups and FTP in conjunction with
CompuServe GO INTERNET.
ANONYMOUS FTP SITES CONCERNING GAME
WEB SITES CONCERNING GAME DEVELOPMENT
I would reference a lot of other game sites that are coming on but if
you just go here there will be an index waiting for you.
Bulletin Board Systems
Software Creations BBS--The Home of the Authors.
A Division of Linton Enterprises
26 Harris Street, Clinton, MA 01510
Telephone: (508) 368-8654
Trying to keep track of Japanese Based Consoles and Games? A look at the Import
Business can help.
Many companies both in the games business and outside looking in are trying to
keep constant tabs of gaming development around the world. In addition rabid
game players crave not just the latest releases here, but anywhere they can get
them. With the Saturn only recently released, and the SONY PSX not out in the US
yet as well as the imminent release of the Ultra 64 next spring many game players
and watchers who refuse to wait turn to importers.
Japanese consoles like Saturn and PSX have been out in Japan for quite some time
and much of the software for those machines is released first by a factor of several
months at times over there as well. This time lag and the ability for most games to
be playable without any knowledge of Japanese or instructions coupled with deep pocketed
gamers has given rise to a small niche group of importers who deal with Hong Kong and
Japanese trading companies to import in the hardware and software. Prices can be
sometimes double what they will be here when the US version debuts
One company specializing in serving this market is NY based Tronix Multimedia
(+1 212 447 5980). Tronix President Joe Catuadella says, "We'll there are a few factors
behind this, number one are rabid game fans who want games as soon as they're available,
or want games they hear may never be shipped in the US, number two, we get some companies
who want to evaluate new products as well and find it easier to deal with us than tracking
down Japanese contacts of their own."
Either way it's an interesting trend, to combat this there may be changes in hardware to
cause incompatibility (which are overridden by adapters and hardware fixes). Mostly this
is to create roadblocks for Pirating, and to ensure worldwide licensing compliance with games
based on licenses. For the most part prices keep importers business to just a small number of
gamers. Adds Catuadella, "It's interesting, companies should understand that due to the
prices and obstacles to get them, these game are only played by diehard fans. As a benefit
these people alert all their friends to upcoming hot games, it's the best word of mouth
you can get! I don't think it's going to grow beyond that."
O.K. I'M NOW AN EXPERT. I CAN PROGRAM DOOM III NOW
You aren't done yet, its time to order some more Chinese food!
You're far from done.
Before you start showing the world your game, you might want to
make sure there are no bugs or problems.
Even with many promised solutions with Windows 95, there are
many slight differences among machines out there. Even moderate
Beta Testing will let you know if there are any problems. Beginners:
don't make the mistake of not asking some friends, online or across
the street, to check out your game prior to releasing it, to make sure
it runs properly.
Posting a solicitation on CompuServe for Beta Testers always seems
to bring a response.
If you're really concerned about problems with unknown beta testers,
and if you plan on using use the shareware method contact the ASP,
The Association of Shareware Professionals. They have a Mentor
program setup to help with things like beta testing.
MANUALS AND DOCUMENTATION
In rushing to create games, many beginners fail to understand it is
important to create documentation for your game.
Either by good Help Files, via a Readme.Doc, or a full fledged
printed manual, at some point your player will have questions.
Remember before you ship, via shareware or even send out a demo to
a company create some good documentation concerning installation,
how to play, storyline etc. I have seen many games where the
documentation really helps, (e.g. the superb documentation for
Ultima) Poor documentation even if written by a professional writer
can be traced back to the programmer/designer many times. Keep
notes and include docs. It is that simple.
I'M WORRIED ABOUT PROTECTING MY IDEAS. HOW DO I
COPYRIGHT MY GAME?
(Editors Note: Some of this was edited and outright lifted from a
nice earlier piece on game design by Travis S. Casey titled
Design.153, last updated in Nov. 94. It is available on the
Internet and may be referred to as the Rec.Games.Design FAQ)
If you're in the U.S., England, any Western European Country,
Canada, or Australia, anything you write is considered to be
copyrighted under the terms of the Berne convention that all these
countries adhere to.
A copyright does NOT protect your ideas. All a copyright does is
protect the expression of an idea. Thus, it's perfectly legal for
someone to take all the rules of, say, Advanced Dungeons &
Dragons, paraphrase them, and eliminate references to Dungeon
Master and a few other terms TSR has trademarked, and sell the
That said, including a copyright notice in your work does give you
one benefit: it makes it easier to collect damages if someone does
copy your material. If there is no copyright notice, the copier can
claim "innocent infringement" (that is, "I didn't know I couldn't copy
it") and get off with a slap on the wrist.
In addition, you may want to look into registering your copyright. In
the U.S., at least, this provides definite proof that you wrote your
material first, and allows you to collect money from copiers beyond
OVERALL REMEMBER: YOU CAN'T EXPECT TO HIDE YOUR
EVERY IDEA IN SECRECY OR BEHIND LEGAL FIREWALLS.
YOU SHOULDN'T GIVE AWAY ALL YOUR IDEAS OR SHARE
HUGE AMOUNTS OF SOURCE CODE, AND COPYRIGHTING
HELPS. JUST REMEMBER, IN A CREATIVE MEDIUM SOME
SHARING MUST HAPPEN BEFORE YOU WILL GET
FEEDBACK. DON'T BE TOO AFRAID TO SHARE.
If you only create games for your own play, then stop reading. I
suspect, however, you want some tips on how to let others enjoy
your work and maybe even make some $$$.
HOW DO I PUBLISH MY GAME?
You can pursue two routes. The first is submitting it to a publisher
who will then distribute the game. Or you can consider or self
I THINK I'LL SUBMIT.HOW DO I CONTACT A MAJOR
First off, before you do, you need to realistically ask yourself: Do I
think this is a game a publisher will want. If not, see self publishing.
If it is, then here are some tips:
Do some research, think about which publishers might be best for
your product. For example, Microprose is well-known as a leading
publisher of Simulation software. Picking a logical match will help.
REQUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION
When you have decided on the company, contact them either by
letter or phone, and ask them to send you information about their
guidelines for unsolicited submissions. Read this and give it to your
lawyer to read it over.
Most likely, the guidelines will include a nondisclosure agreement
which bars you and them from discussing the product publicly and
requires that you submit a demo version for evaluation.
NEVER SUBMIT SOURCE CODE OF ANY KIND WITHOUT
SPECIFICALLY BEING ASKED FOR IT AND EVEN THEN
CONSULT YOUR LAWYER.
GET A LAWYER
I am not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV. If you plan to submit a
game professionally to a publisher, get a lawyer first-- preferably one
with a good background in contract law and copyright law and, if
you can, find one in the computer games industry.
Now before you go getting the wrong idea, let me explain. I refer
you to a lawyer not to have you march in a bunch of suits to do your
negoiating for you. That's a fast way to nowheresville.
I refer you to them for use as a personal resource, on your end.a
lawyer may never be needed for a face-to-face meeting with your
publisher, but always run contracts and legal documents of any kind
by an attorney. I had a friend who was once burned in the GamDev
biz becuase he had failed to understand a clause which held his
company responsible for conversion costs and sales. This actually
reduced his overall compensation for their product which went from
good to poor because they were required to port
it to poor selling machines.
Most game companies are on the up and up. That, however, is no
excuse not to have a lawyer handy to check things out. Lawyers,
fortunately or unfortunately are a necessary part of the business.
"Ma'am, we're professionals" - Jake Ellwood
Just remember that submitting your product to a publisher requires a
professional outlook on your part. Always remind yourself that this
is a serious business. At times fun, at times serious.
Type all correspondence.
Send multiple disks, in case of damage. In some cases send a long a
videotape of your game as well, it's easier to show off and it's harder
to screw up.
Make sure you include all background details, manuals and other
necessary materials and be patient-if your game is truly good, a
publisher will eventually take interest.
WHAT IS SELF PUBLISHING?
Self publishing is either Shareware or the commercial creation of
your own company to publish it. (I won't go into much depth about
this. If you've got the money to create a retail software company you
don't need my advice!) Mostly though, self publishing is
WHAT IS SHAREWARE?
Shareware is the hottest software marketing concept since the album
Shareware is the process of giving away a portion of your game, say
1/3 and from within the product, soliciting, a purchase of the final
2/3 or full version of the game.
Note: Some people--including the ASP--hold that the shareware
version can be no different than the full version. There is no 1/3-2/3
This is derived from the practive of some Shareware authors who
were shipping products with essential features disabled from their
products. The technique, known as crippling, is outlawed by the
ASP because it hurts the notion of a full-workingversion and
discourages people from using shareware to begin with.
I would say that this is a very plausible view. However, much
research has shown that without strong incentives, registrations
suffer. This is a debate that will rage for a long time.
My general rule is that your game should offer a complete experience
in the Shareware version: That it have a beginning, a middle, and an
end, and all the features required for it are available. For the
registered version, offer an enhanced version. Just be careful not to
offer an unplayable shareware version, you will be doing yourself
and every other shareware author a great disservice.
Shareware authors write their game, then after deciding on what
features/levels etc. of the product they will include in their
"shareware" version, give away that portion. Via uploading to online
networks, BBS's, and the Internet shareware authors make their game
available to millions of computer users (who
subsequently may copy versions and give them to their non-online
friends) for next-tonothing. Then users download or acquire the
shareware version and if they like it, and feel enough incentive to
upgrade, will usually send a check or credit card order(if you can
accept them), directly purchasing the full version from the author.
Shareware has been noted recently with the success of DOOM and
other products from companies like APOGEE, EPIC and MVP
which have used the Shareware method.
Shareware's main attraction is the low cost for marketing and the
high margins of direct orders (cutting out the publisher, the
distributor and the retailer means more money per copy for the
creator). It's other attraction is the ability to publish special interest
stuff for example: a sailing, simulator--that otherwise might not sell
in a crowded retail environment.
However, there are downsides to Shareware. Selfpublishing is a lot
of work, and not every consumer has the means to acquire shareware
versions, and recently it is getting crowded with tough competition.
On the bright side, the business is still growing by leaps and bounds.
There is too much to be said about Shareware beyond the simple
stuff I've touched on.
THE SHAREWARE GAME AUTHORS FAQ
Now a breif interuption to bring you even more information on
Shareware. Since many of you reading this document are going to be
hobbyists/beginners shareware is an execellent avenue for you to use
to publish your game therefore I have asked Karen Crowther, author
of several shareware hits to reprint the contents of here Gamers
Shareware FAQ in its entirety with in the GamDev.FAQ. That
being said here it is:
The Game Shareware FAQ by Karen Crowther
What is shareware?
Shareware is a marketing method that is most successfully used for
business applications but can be used for games if done properly. In
Shareware, a game (or portion of a game) is released on a try before
you buy basis. The expectation is that the customer will send in a
registration if s/he likes the game. The reality is that the customer
will only send in a registration if you, the author, have convinced
him that he absolutely MUST have the rest of the game. The tools
you use to convince your customer to register are called incentives.
What are some good incentives?
The most successful incentives were pioneered by Scott Miller of
Apogee when he invented the trilogy method. He released the first
episode of his Kingdom of Kroz games and reserved the next two
episodes for those who registered (paid). This 1/3-2/3 rule is still
extremely important. The customer must perceive that they are
getting much more than the shareware portion when they register the
Other incentives include: Allowing multiplayer mode only in the
registered version, giving hints and cheat codes (this is not enough
on it's own), allowing different modes of play, providing more art,
tiles, cards, game scenarios.
How do I present the incentives?
Your shareware game is an advertisement. Never lose sight of this
primary purpose. So you need to tell your prospective customers
WHY they should register and HOW they can register. Put the
information as an item on the menu. Display an ordering screen on
exit. Be sure your customer knows all about the incentives you've
People tell me that distribution is everything. Is this true?
Not for games. The people pushing distribution are for the most part
either vendors who stand to make far more money than you on your
game or well-intentioned business application authors who don't
that shareware games are a completely different market.
First, games are in high demand for retail. So you have the
opportunity to ask for and get royalties on all retail distribution of
your game. Second, a business program customer is looking for a
single solution to his problem. Once he finds it, he'll continue
using it longterm. He'll register it because most operations and
government organizations require that all shareware on their
computers be registered and because he'll want updates. Many
business aps such as tax programs, zipcode programs and the like,
need to be updated on a regular basis and any way that the author
can get a user, is going to make them money.
Now, how many gamers do you know that are looking for the one
perfect game which they will then play over and over again? Not too
many - eh? Not only that, when the corporation MIS manager finds
the game on their computer, do they demand that it be registered?
So we game authors need to take a look at distribution and ask
ourselves is this distribution going to help us or interfere with other
ways we can make money?
What are the good and bad shareware distribution channels for
BBS's - Bulletin Board Systems (both private, online services and
Internet) are the backbone of the shareware distribution. BBS's are
your best friends for shareware distribution. Not only are their
customers your best customers, but their distribution is how your
game will be picked up by every other type of distributor.
Catalog Disk Vendors - Catalog vendors are also great sources of
registrations. Their customers are used to ordering by mail (and
you, the shareware author, are a mail order business) and are likely
to order from you, if they like your game, rather than taking a chance
on ordering another unknown game from the catalog vendor.
Shareware of the Month Clubs - These companies run boiler room
telemarketing operations. There have been numerous complaints that
some do not disclose the nature of shareware to the customer. The
salespeople offer to send the customer monthly disks in exchange for
a monthly fee. My experience is that I have gotten registrations from
Retail Sales - Retail sales run the gamut from disks in sleeves sitting
in a cardboard box on some store counter to beautifully packaged
games indistinguishable from ordinary retail games.
Retail sales are a poor source of registrations and allowing them
without royalty contracts is going to cut into one of the most
lucrative sources of income that you have.
Retail customers are used to walking into a store, paying their money
and then OWNING the erchandise. Telling them that they must
register when they are in the mindset that they already own the game
just doesn't work. Many retail customers do not ever shop mail
order. They are not your customers. They will never be your
But! If you are receiving royalties on these sales, they become a
source of income that can bring in hundreds or even thousands of
dollars per month. Some of my games make more in retail than they
in shareware registrations. More on this in a later section.
Cdrom Sales - CDROM discs are the pits as far as game registrations
go. Why would anyone pay you $20 or $30 for two additional
episodes if they still have 2,999 of the 3,000 games on their cd
So we do not allow nonroyalty cdrom distribution. The larger
shareware companies such as Id, Apogee and Epic also restrict the
number of games that can be on a cd to 10 or 15.
But there is one problem with prohibiting cdrom distribution.
Remember when I said that BBS's are the backbone of your
distribution system and your best friends? BBS's are now mounting
cd's rather than
using up scarce disk space for their games. So you most certainly
DO want to be on the popular BBS-ready discs that most BBS's use.
The bottom line is that you need to keep control of your cdrom
distribution and use it to help you, refusing permission to cd
publishers who are just going to make themselves money while
decreasing your chances for retail royalty contracts.
JukeBox Disk on Demand - The customer puts money in these
machines which copy their chosen game from a cd onto a floppy
disk. This is another twist on retail sales and you want to get
royalties for this
for the same reasons as any other type of retail sales.
How much money will I make?
Most shareware games only make a few hundred dollars a month in
registrations. The exceptions are the top 2 or 3 games in each
category. These games can make thousands or even tens of
dollars per month.
How can I make more than a few hundred dollars?
As we said earlier, shareware is a marketing method -- and it is only
one method that you are going to use to maximize the income on
First, you need to ask for royalties for retail distribution. The going
rate seems to be 10 cents per unit although some companies require
CDROM vendors will whine at you that they can't afford to pay 10
cents per unit for the 3,000 games on their disk. Your reply will be
that you only allow distribution that will lead to royalties or
registrations and that unless they have a popular BBS-ready disc,
you are not there to provide them with free product.
Many authors prepare what is known as a Low Cost Retail (LCR)
version of their shareware. This game is usually identical to the
shareware version (including advertising for subsequent episodes)
but it omits
the word, "shareware" and is sold as regular retail.
LCR license sales can net you 50 cents to $1.00 in royalties per unit.
Be careful of contracts that ask you to do tech support. You do not
want to do that since you may find yourself answering thousands of
calls if your publisher makes a manufacturing mistake. Ask for 50
cents to $1.00 per unit MORE if you do tech support. That is what
most game companies budget for tech support. Also, be sure you get
NONexclusive contract so that you can license your game to many
LCR publishers come and go. The big guys of last year are this
year's duds. Figure that only 1 out of 10 contracts is going to make
you much money. And remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in
bush. If choosing between two vendors, choose the one who gives
you up front money. ALL of them will tell you they are going to sell
100,000 units. And all of them are to put it charitably, unduly
How do I protect my copyright?
Never, never, never release your shareware without a
VENDOR.DOC file which lists the conditions under which your
game can be distributed. (See Vendor.doc in our library).
If you don't explicitly say what can and cannot be done, you run the
risk of losing control of your work. You'll publishers getting rich
off of your game while you don't see a penny. You worked hard.
deserve to be paid for your work.
In general you want to consider the following for your license.
(Here's where I have to put in the obligatory disclaimer about seeing
your lawyer because I am not giving you legal advice. I'm just
telling you what I did )
1. Users can give away copies of your shareware provided it is
complete and unmodified.
2. BBS's may distribute your game provided it is complete and
3. Your shareware may not be included on a cd without a written
4. Your shareware may not be sold in stores or to distributors
without a written contract.
5. Your shareware may be sold by catalog sales for a small fee to
cover media and duplicating costs, provided the vendor discloses that
it is shareware requiring additional payment to the author.
6. You reserve the right to withdraw permission to distribute your
shareware from anyone with 30 days notice.
7. The distributor agrees only to distribute the most up to date
version of your shareware.
8. Any permissions not explicitly given in this license are reserved.
What other files do I need with my shareware?
You need a FILE_ID.DIZ. This is a plain ASCII file with 10 lines of
45 characters. The first line should be able to stand alone and
include the game name and the most important information. Some
only list this first line. Some will list all 10 lines. Most BBS's have
automatic software that unzips your FILE_ID.DIZ and uses it for the
What are some optional things I should do?
Rudy Ramsey's VENDINFO standard allows you to brand your
executable with information about your distribution requirements.
Some vendors use an automatic VENDINFO reader to quickly scan
games to determine whether they will be included in their lineup.
Vendinfo also allows you to brand your program with the RSAC
game ratings, if you so choose.
You may want to include a game ratings symbol. At this time, only
Walmart requires that games be rated. RSAC is the organization of
choice for shareware authors since we had a hand in it's design and
have a shareware member on its board of directors -- not to mention
it is cheaper than Nintendo's ESRB rating organization.
How do I get started?
OK. You put incentives in your game. You TOLD your customer
about the incentives and how to register. You wrote your
VENDOR.DOC and your FILE_ID.DIZ.
Ideally, you should write a short install program. Use LHARC to
compress your program (NOT your FILE_ID.DIZ and
VENDOR.DOC). Then use LHARC to create a self-extracting file.
Your installation program should just uncompress your game to the
user's chosen drive and directory. For Windows games, you'll use
the standard Windows install.
Now, take your install program, your game program files
(compressed), your VENDOR.DOC, and your FILE_ID.DIZ and
compress the bunch with PKZIP. This time you are going to leave
them as a ZIP file. Do NOT turn it into a self-extracting file.
Where do I send it?
Upload your game to Compuserve (GAMERS or ACTION). Upload
to AOL, Delphi and GENIE.
Upload to Software Creations, Exec PC and Planet Connect.
Send it to Reasonable Solutions, The Software Labs and MicroStar.
If you are a member of The Association of Shareware Professionals,
submit it to the catalog and to the ASP cd.
Now what do I do?
Contact the known royalty-paying LCR vendors.
Be patient. It will take 6 months until your registrations get up to
speed. It will take 9-12 months until your retail contracts start
This Shareware FAQ is under construction. Send your questions,
feedback and additions to Karen Crowther 71501,3553.
Copyright Karen Crowther 1995. This FAQ may not be distributed
unless it is distributed complete and unmodified and this copyright
notice is included. It may not be reproduced in any periodical
written) without permission. It may not be sold for any fee
whatsoever without written permission.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SHAREWARE
If you are truly interested in the Shareware method, I implore you to
do the following two things:
JOIN THE ASP
The Association of Shareware Professionals. This organization,
accessible on CompuServe (GO SHAREWARE), is the best resource
for budding Shareware authors. There is a ton of information
available about Shareware marketing in their libraries, so fire up
your modem and check them out.
There has been a lot written about Shareware recently, much
concerning its viability, tips on how to be successful at it, etc. Most
of this is available from the ASP but there are articles showing up in
traditional business publications, mainstream computer magazines
and books. Shareware is more than just simply labeling your
software SHAREWARE and waiting for thechecks to arrive, so a
few days reading about it will go a long, long way towards being a
successful shareware publisher.
TALK TO OTHER SHAREWARE PUBLISHERS.
As I mentioned before, there are also several successful shareware
publishers, many of whom you can find in both the GamDev forum
and the Shareware forum. They can offer tips and perhaps even aid
you in publishing your product. While you will split your profit, the
shareware method they use still provides
higher margins and many will tell you that their established expertise
and distribution networks will result in more sales of the full version
then going it alone. In addition, they may help with the development
by finding you artists and musicians and other resources. However,
that is not for me to corroborate and
if you are interested in what these companies have to offer, you need
to contact them directly.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PUBLISH?
There is no easy answer.
Shareware is all the rage right now, because Id hit it big time with
Doom and Wolfenstein and MVP, Epic and Apogee have created
excellent businesses and the margins are higher. Remember, though:
Successes of any kind are exceptions to the rule. The fact is most
shareware products don't make the millions that Id
made. Don't get discouraged, you may be the next exception, just be
prepared to be happy for a mere trickle of orders. Shareware success
is about good products and great effort--read the stuff about
shareware I referred you to, and you'll see.
Self-publishing requires a lot leg work. Processing orders, technical
support, and so on are going to be big requirements on your time.
Even if you sell only 10 to 20 copies a month after 2 years, you may
have some 500 users. That is why many people submit to publishers.
In addition to helping with programming, publishers can market your
game much better than you yourself.
In short: Just as in many things in life, there are tradeoffs. My advice
is to follow these rules:
Self-publish via freeware if: (That is, simply give the complete
product away for free). Remember to maintain that it still
1.You don't think your product will generate enough sales to be
2. You don't have a desire for the money you might make.
Self-Publish via shareware if:
1. Your product is good--not good enough for a publisher--but you
still think people will pay for it.
2. If you really are someone who enjoys the idea of creating the next
successful publisher, not just the next great game, and you're seeking
a potentially higher profit margin.
Use a Retail-oriented publisher if:
1. Your product is good enough.
2. You want to concentrate on nothing other than making
3. You want a traditional Retail distribution of your
Use a Shareware-oriented Publisher if:
1. Your product is good enough.
2. You want to concentrate on nothing other than making
3. You want to still use the Shareware method.
All political and freedom of speech stuff aside what are the facts
about game ratings.
Well the fact is game rating is a major need now for publishers,
many retail outlets like Wal-mart are requiring ratings. There are
two main ratings agencies the ERSB (Entertainment Ratings Service
Board) which is a secretive panel (a la the MPRA, motion picture
ratings agency) and was formed by the major software publishers
with the cooperation of SEGA and Nintendo.
In response to the fees and process that the ESRB used a group of
PC oriented small publishers formed the RSAC or (recreational
software advisory council) which has a much cheaper process which
includes a program you run that generates a filled in questionaire to
submit for a rating from the RSAC.
Right now the RSAC is trying to push for it's ratings process to be
acceptable as well as the ESRB, citing the need for the RSAC for
smaller publishers. In a cooperative move the CGDA (The
Computer Game Developers Association) has endorsed the RSAC
If you haven't been on CompuServe's Game Developers forum you
might not know that the CGDA Endorsed the RSAC ratings process
for software. The RSAC is a more PC based and independent based
rating process and costs much much less than the ESRB. However,
so far Toys R Us has said it will only carry ESRB rated software. Of
course Toy's until recently hadn't carried PC based software.
In making the endorsement the CGDA wished to through it's weight
behind the RSAC in hopes of persuading large merchants like Toys
R Us to adopt the standard. In a post on GamDev Ernest Adams,
CGDA president summed up the endorsement this way. "The CGDA
does not oppose ESRB, nor do we wish to discourage its use. We
encourage the use of RSAC labels, and we hope all parties
concerned (Congress, the publishers, the retailers, the developers,
and the consumers) will give RSAC at least as much credit as they
do to ESRB." For more information about the RSAC call +1 202
You can find their ratings program in Compuserve's Game
Developers Forum among other places.
WHAT's THE PUBLISHER'S PRESPECTIVE?
We've talked a lot from the developers prespective but the other side
of the equation is equally if not more important. I asked Dave
Snyder of MVP GAMES to write up a little something about what
goes through his mind as a publisher when he approaches game
development and submissions. Here's what he had to say:
I cannot give you any general rules on submitting products to other
publishers. Nor can I give you any general rules on what publishers
look for or what they expect in a submission.
The only general rule is to contact the publisher directly before
submitting a product to find out what is of interest.
Moreover, while every publisher will tell you that they will consider
any type of game, the fact is that most publishers specialize in
certain types of games. Familiarize yourself with what types of
games a publisher has done well before submitting anything.
Here's another thing not to expect from publishers these days: an
advance, unless you are an established developer with at least one hit
under your belt.
Advances are big risks for publishers. All of us, MVP included,
have paid advances at some point in the past and have not gotten a
product in return. Since these days there are more good games than
can possibly sell or even be published, you are selling in a buyer's
market. Consider that lots of publishers, including major ones, have
faced recent financial difficulties, with more to come, and you will
see that publishers must be very careful how they spend their money.
Having said what I cannot tell you, I will say what MVP expects.
First, we want to see at least a demo. While we don't care whether
the artwork, music or sound effects are polished (we have
professionals to do that), we do want to see a good implementation
of an interesting idea.
And we want to see enough of it to be in a position to make a decent
evaluation. We are not interested in seeing mere ideas, generally
speaking, because everyone has ideas. We want to see some sort of
implementation of that idea.
Frankly, we are much more concerned about your commitment to the
project, your ability to pull it off, and your ability to take direction
and criticism, than we are interested in seeing a polished product.
When a publisher invests in a product, even without paying an
advance, that represents a substantial commitment of resources. A
publisher is buying you, not just your product.
You have to convince the publisher that the investment is worth it.
You should have ideas on how to complete a cool game, but you had
better be willing to listen to direction. MVP, and, I suspect, most
other publishers, are not interested in prima donnas.
The world of computer games is as competitive a business as there is
these days. Unless you are committed to working 80-hour weeks, for
as long as two years or more, don't kid yourself about trying to break
into it. Most of those who are developing games full-time have done
that. Lots of others are willing to do that. That is the norm in any
extremely competitive business. Since getting an advance will be
tough to do, you must be committed to working your day job, and
putting in at least 4 hours a day, every day, on your game.
No taking Saturdays off. No parties, no social life-no kidding. Just a
few years ago, people could make it in this business without making
that kind of sacrifice, but that is not possible any longer.
Finally, consider a small publisher for your first game. Usually a
small publisher will give you more attention and help than a large
publisher can. Consider shareware, but work with a shareware
Even if you hope someday to release shareware games on your own,
work with an established publisher first. Your game will be better,
you will learn from their experience, and you may find that you don't
especially want to run a business, you want to just write games. If
you do find that, working with a publisher will spare you from
getting into something you later discover prevents you from doing
what you want.
IS DEVELOPING GAMES THAT BRUTUAL?
Yes and no. Dave certainly conveys the seriousness of the business
and the time it takes and the competition.
The life of a Game Designer is brutal for beginners, just as any
similar competitive industry is. However as Chris Crawford pointed
out in an Email to me while discussing finishing touches,
approaching it as a hobby much like photography can be fun! If you
do something and you think it's really good or you find your skills
are developing to a professional level then maybe the next step takes
you to that level.
Overall, have fun. Just don't get stary-eyed ideas that your work will
make you a millionaire. Work hard, regardless of your goals.
Well, I hope you've found the above informing. I've found Game
Developing to be a big trial-and-error process.
Why? Because not enough of the know-how has been disseminated
and that makes it difficult to learn, let alone even start.
Game development, unlike a lot of other programming, is at the
forefront of the technology curve. That is why you see games
pushing the hardware limits of your machine more so than, say, a
Wordprocessor. So much of what you see done today was figured
out by someone only yesterday. Thus, it takes time to filter out.
It is frustrating to have all these ideas in your head and no way of
knowing how to accomplish them. If that is your case, I hope I have
enlightened you enough to motivate you to go out and learn.
Only now have enough books, experts, and tools come together that
give people the power to create their own products. There are not
too many businesses like that left--surely no one can go out and
make a hit movie with a camcorder. But even with a 4 meg 386 that,
maybe even millions will want to play. Hopefully, with some
devotion, hard work, skill and a little help from (this FAQ) above, it
will be your game. GOOD LUCK!!!
Any one wishing to correct, object or update information in this file
E-mail Corrections to: Ben Sawyer@AOL.Com or at my
CompuServe Address: 73522,1470 This FAQ will be updated once
every two three months.
Please be sure to include non-email contact information and your
full real name if you are using a screen name and, how you would
like to be named in the donors column.
Submitters remember that this FAQ is a general purpose FAQ aimed
at general game development issues. Please stick to the basics.
ANY ADVICE GIVEN HERE IS NOT LEGAL IN ANY WAY, I
AM NOT A LAWYER. ALL OF THIS ADVICE IS GIVEN TO
YOU AS IS AND IS NOT MEANT TO COVER EVERY ISSUE
AND HEREFORE USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. I TAKE NO
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ITS CONTENTS. I DO
NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY OF THE
PRODUCTS MENTIONED ABOVE AND HAVE NOT
RECEIVED COMPENSATION FOR LISTING THEM AND TAKE
NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THERE USE. HAVE A NICE DAY ;-