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The State Of The Game: who am I and why am I posting this first entry?

Posted by irreversible, in rumblings 19 February 2013 · 683 views

Hi.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a good blogger (sometimes I even forget to introduce myself!). Neither am I an organized person or what I'd call a good programmer (I'm not even const-correct). I can't get myself to write unless someone is prodding me in the back or, well, paying me. I'd like to point out, though, that this journal is the result of neither of such circumstances.

I am a hobbyist with a God complex. I code when I like, what I like and how I like. And I love the feeling when I create something that just works.


In any case, I finally decided to create a kind of an outlet for myself, because more often than not whenever I sit down I find myself learning new things. Moreover, I find myself slowly crawling on the backs of giants that have come before me and building my own little sand castle there. It has dawned on me that these little sandcastles, as trivial as they may be, often contain extensive research and learnings that one cannot simply Google for (or sometimes even pick up from a book).

I am not a professional and I've never worked in a professional team on a professional game engine. As such I consider myself exempt of tradition that goes with this ideology. I can allow myself to drift and get sidetracked and oftentimes I find it highly amusing and interesting when I do. Yes, it's annoying as hell when you want to get a boring piece of code down and you rediscover something like fractals, but over the years I've been programming now (15 or thereabouts) I've experienced a number of moments of profound unification when something completely trivial I picked up while I was hopelessly sidetracked has come back to save me at a time of desperate need, and given me insight that has allowed me to solve a completely unrelated problem in a novel way.

Case and point - about two years ago I became interested in diffusion curves on the GPU, which was just a little side-thing I was doing, trying to get all those fancy colors on the screen. It served no purpose. I was trying to get something entirely different working and I got sidetracked. I was weak. Well, I still am. But jump to years forward and my recent dabbling with signed distance field integration is something I took directly from that experience.

What I'm trying to say is that as an independent hobbyist who loves doing stuff, I love not having a plan. I love not having deadlines or someone sitting on my back every Monday about my progress. I love taking the slow scenic route, which most professionals shun. And I love working on stuff that one would usually not bother with!

Another case and point - so far the only libraries I'm using are STL and freetype and I refuse to even consider doing things the easy and sensible way. Which is not to say I'm stupid. If I was on a clock and had to meet a deadline, I would wake up every day at 7 and work with an existing engine.


* * *


So, what is the "engine" about I'm working on and how's it special? More importantly, why am I working on it?

On the technical side I can answer the first question quite easily: it's special, because it aims to unify an RPG-style streamable game world with the concept of a dungeon crawler style FPS.

"Huh?"

Exactly.


The second question is a bit harder (in fact, I don't really know a specific answer to it), but it harks back to my childhood when games used to be different. Better? Not necessarily. More difficult? Yes. But above all, they were just different.

They felt special. I'm talking about moments like meeting the Archvile in Doom, which made me and my friend poop our pants, because we were still pretty new to FPS games and if you're still struggling with your controls, then things like the Archvile tend to be scary. Or the Vore from Quake 1, who I still consider to be one of the most unique monsters in any FPS.

I'm talking about games that managed to use absolutely minimal aural and artistic means while being restricted by CPUs with up to a few hundred clock cycles and less than 10 MB of RAM to create some of the most haunting game worlds out there. I'm talking about games like X-COM that kept you pinned down for weeks and had you replay the game over and over and over again. Not just scenarios. The game!

I've played through Half-Life, Doom 2 and Unreal so many times I find it nauseating. Conversely, I managed to play FarCry 2 for two hours before wanting to break my keyboard (that's around when I discovered all enemies would keep respawning for the duration of the entire game) and as much as I love the Bioshock games, I simply cannot get myself to re-install them, because I simply don't feel the urge to play them again. I do feel the urge to go back to DeusEx or System Shock 2 or RTCW or The Thing (the game), though, because underneath all that simplicity and reduction to need-based design (as dictated by the target systems of the day) I sense a deeper experience than in most modern games. Misplaced streamlining and dumbing down are the two most horrible things about games and sadly, most modern titles make ample use of both. And there, somewhere way deep in this disparity... lies the reason why I want to go back to the olden days and build everything from ground up.

The forthcoming entries will likely be a mixture of bragging, technical "aha!" and "hmm" moments, and stupidity, as I stumble on my way towards building a functional FPS engine. I'm not starting from scratch, however. I've been working on some of the components I'm using now for years and hopefully - fingers crossed - I'll be able to force myself to write about them in the future (especially if someone wants to prod me in the back with a pack of money)!




Setting out to create and FPS engine is no easy task. I like that you are self motivated as you will find most of the Devs here are. I would agree that games like DeusEx was outside teh era od dumbed sown play. You could attack that game from so many ways and never feel that you had to go just one route to win.

I am interested to see what you create and hope you continue to post updates even if they are small steps in your mind.

Thank you for a positive pat on the back, Navyman! I thought long and hard before getting myself to gather thoughts about this. It's been a fun thing for me for almost two years now, working on various components on-and-off and I have a feeling that in another year there's going to be more to it than just fun. If not, then hopefully at least I'll have helped someone else on their way!

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