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Is today programming a games easier or harder than in 8,16- bit era?


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#1 fir   Members   -  Reputation: -460

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:27 AM

I wonder if today (I mean 2010+ era) programming (also making & shipping)

gammes are easier or just harder than in late 80 or early 90-ties (it is in 8-16-

bit era of atari/c64/amiga)....?

 

I must say that I think probably it is much harder, but would like to hear opinions on this.. 



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#2 Lactose!   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 5305

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:47 AM

Depends on the game.

With the tools available today, making a game is a lot easier than it was 20 - 30 years ago, when we're talking about similar types of games.

That in mind, we can now also create stuff that was impossible to do (or at least get running) 20 - 30 years ago, which will be more complex affairs.

 

People can now create small games without knowing much about programming at all, just using various game engines and visual scripting.

Huge AAA titles (like GTA series) take an incredible amount of people and time to create.

 

Depending on the game, shipping can be easy as anything (host it on a website somewhere and share a link), or very hard (this game is only printed on mint-condition SNES cartridges).


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#3 RobTheBloke   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2349

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 06:53 AM

To make a game of 'commercial' quality is much harder now.

 

Back in the 8bit days, you'd need to understand the machine down to the lowest level to make a game work, but then the complexity of the computers was much simpler (so it was something you could learn within a year or so). The 16bit era was a little bit more involved on the programming side, but still achievable. The only real problem was a lack of reliable information on the systems you were developing for (we are talking about a pre-internet time, so finding out information involved library searches, asking friends, buying specialist magazines/books etc).

 

These days getting your head around CPU registers, SIMD, & multi-threading will take a lot of time. Sure the dev tools are better, but back then we'd just worry about painting a few 32x32 sprites and a few parallax backgrounds in Deluxe-paint. These days you'll spend months doing modelling, you'll model super high res models to generate normal maps, then you'll be painting up any number of textures for your specular/diffuse passes. Whilst there are simpler languages than C++ available, you'll still need to understand how 3D mathematics work, and you'll be working with multiple languages (e.g. HLSL/GLSL). 

 

Certainly you could pick up a game engine off the shelf that allows you to get something working fairly quickly, but you'll still need to spend time learning and understanding what is a very complex piece of engineering. 

 

Developing for 8bit/16bit was actually very easy. The hard part was reading seriously unpleasant technical documentation to help you understand how  to write games (because there weren't that many tutorials, although there were plenty of code & hex examples you could pick apart). 



#4 mark ds   Members   -  Reputation: 1658

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:43 AM

I remember writing games for my Acorn Electron which included lines like

 

DATA 41,71,78,13,124,7,14,65

 

Those numbers represented literal machine code instructions which you could call to execute. Talk about flying blind - there were none of those namby pamby compilers/debuggers to help you! Writing text adventures was always fun too - you had to think about how you used every single bit so it would fit in memory. Ahhh, the good ol' days.

 

However, it's true that things have gotten orders of magnitude more complex, so yeah, it was easier back then.



#5 fir   Members   -  Reputation: -460

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:56 AM

I also think back then it was much easier .. so world goes in the strange way when you should have much easier you got much harder



#6 RobTheBloke   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2349

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 12:44 PM

The development tools do make things far easier now than they did back then (where you'd be writing your own HEX->Machine code editors in BASIC). 

The difficulty of game development today though, is simply because the machines are so much more capable, which means you'll be using a lot of 3D/4D mathematics because the users have come to expect flashy 3D graphics with bump mapping, DOF, ambient occlusion, etc. 

That complexity simply wasn't there in the 8/16bit days, because the hardware wasn't capable of handling it. 



#7 BHXSpecter   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2051

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 06:07 PM

As the others have said, it depends on the game. For example, if you wanted to make a game to emulate an 8-, 16-bit game today (graphics and sound wise) it would be super easy thanks to all the tools and libraries out there today. If you get into games like COD, Battlefield, Final Fantasy XIII, Uncharted, etc. where everything is way more complex to do and then it is harder even with the tools and libraries. Though, with some of the engines they have, I guess you could take COD and Battlefield (well at least COD) off the list as examples.



#8 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 29877

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:21 PM

Beyond just instructions and options, the complexity of the worlds has also increased by many orders of magnitude.

Many of the very old games, the 8-bit games and the hardware-board games, had exactly one screen. There were no levels, or dungeons, or rooms, just one screen.

Games like "Adventure" and "Pitfall" really got the players used to multiple screens, and Pitfall's 256 screens (basically variations of specific elements) was revolutionary. Available space was often measured in bytes or even bits so these worlds were impressive, and in some ways many of them are still quite remarkable for their implementation details.

Today's games have amazing requirements for content. For some open world genres 10GB of content is considered small, with 40GB or 50GB getting fairly common. This is much more difficult than a map for pac-man.

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#9 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 2491

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 02:32 AM

It depends.  If you mean actually programming a AAA game then there is no contest today its harder because gamers demand much more from their games the best graphics, believable AI, Achievments, Multiplayer.  Don't forget in the 8 bit era people could spend £20 on a text based adventure game.

On the otherhand nowadays it is fairly trivial to write a hello world in C++ but, back on the Amiga most people wrote in Assembler and had to write their own bootloader just to run their program.



#10 fir   Members   -  Reputation: -460

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 06:50 AM

As the others have said, it depends on the game. For example, if you wanted to make a game to emulate an 8-, 16-bit game today (graphics and sound wise) it would be super easy thanks to all the tools and libraries out there today.

 

 

strangely i am not sure even if we talking about such simple games

- to learn a library like SDL you need today to learn so many things

so i am not sure if this is easier even in such small game case 

 

Also doing music for game, i dont know how easy it is today (not doing it) but back then i think tools were simpler, so today they are maybe better but also more complex

 

In 8-16- bit era there was myriad of very fine stylish games today are not present (or i do not know of)



#11 LennyLen   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 4674

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 08:38 AM


The hard part was reading seriously unpleasant technical documentation to help you understand how  to write games (because there weren't that many tutorials, although there were plenty of code & hex examples you could pick apart). 

 

For me, when I had an 8-bit Atari the hard part was finding any information.  There was no internet of course, and none of the libraries in my city had any books on the subject, and nor did any bookshops.  I managed to find a magazine store where the owner was willing to special order magazines for me, but the cost was far beyond my budget as a child.

 

Pretty much everything I learnt about programming it came from experimentation.  I wrote programs to poke (I was limited to BASIC only) sequential memory locations with various values and eventually discovered where graphics memory was stored and how to change the colours of pixels.  Eventually i worked out how to rewrite the character set so that I could PRINT my sprites in text mode which was quicker than drawing pixel by pixel.

 

I actually managed to make some fairly decent games.  The worst part was that as I had no storage media I had to write the code down on paper, and rewrite it each time I turned the computer on.  Until I eventually talked my parents into buying a tape drive.


Edited by LennyLen, 10 February 2014 - 08:39 AM.


#12 fir   Members   -  Reputation: -460

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 08:54 AM

 


The hard part was reading seriously unpleasant technical documentation to help you understand how  to write games (because there weren't that many tutorials, although there were plenty of code & hex examples you could pick apart). 

 

For me, when I had an 8-bit Atari the hard part was finding any information.  There was no internet of course, and none of the libraries in my city had any books on the subject, and nor did any bookshops.  I managed to find a magazine store where the owner was willing to special order magazines for me, but the cost was far beyond my budget as a child.

 

Pretty much everything I learnt about programming it came from experimentation.  I wrote programs to poke (I was limited to BASIC only) sequential memory locations with various values and eventually discovered where graphics memory was stored and how to change the colours of pixels.  Eventually i worked out how to rewrite the character set so that I could PRINT my sprites in text mode which was quicker than drawing pixel by pixel.

 

I actually managed to make some fairly decent games.  The worst part was that as I had no storage media I had to write the code down on paper, and rewrite it each time I turned the computer on.  Until I eventually talked my parents into buying a tape drive.

 

 

haha, print sprites in text mode, that was good, what machina it was?

 

I got not such problem, i was doing the coding on c64 (about 1990-1991), but there were good books avaliable and also even fairy magazines, 

 

though ofc i was not even hear of c because those magazines 

did not mentioned it (pascal been considered as a serious language

but c64 was not capable to handle compiler of that),l c language was not even mentioned there in this word

 

everything was much easier, i did one demo for c64, 3 elegant pulsating ripped balls on down screen border, some ripped music with amazing high bass music, some scroll, some dancing sprites row (letters probably), and some fluid backround with effect of my invention, writing values to some register about $D016 made a background something like a floating patterns in the thing calles stereograms (or such i remember this) it was fine effect i didnt seen before and it was nice 



#13 dejaime   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4131

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 12:54 PM

Well, that is a hard to answer question...

I think programming the same games we had back then (like in cloning something) is way easier,

but developing games that would meet contemporary standards will probably be harder.

There's a reason to why teams grew so much and to how many specializations arose...


Edited by dejaime, 10 February 2014 - 12:55 PM.


#14 LennyLen   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 4674

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:17 PM


haha, print sprites in text mode, that was good, what machina it was?

 

It was an Atari 800.  Around 1985-86.

 

I'm sure if I'd lived in Europe or the US, it would have been much easier to find books, etc.  But New Zealand was still a little behind the times back then.



#15 BHXSpecter   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2051

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 02:29 PM

strangely i am not sure even if we talking about such simple games

- to learn a library like SDL you need today to learn so many things

so i am not sure if this is easier even in such small game case 

It is easier, learning a library like SDL is definitely easier than having to write your own, which I have read was done for games on Atari, NES, and SNES. The programmer, from the interviews I have read with veterans in the industry, had to write a lot of libraries themselves to make ideas work on games due to the hardware limitations.

 

Also doing music for game, i dont know how easy it is today (not doing it) but back then i think tools were simpler, so today they are maybe better but also more complex

Tools were simpler, but again, from a programmer's perspective, you had to compress the music files in order to make them fit in the memory. 

 

 

In 8-16- bit era there was myriad of very fine stylish games today are not present (or i do not know of)

Yeah, I've been playing games since the Atari 2600 days. I remember a lot of great games that you don't see anymore or you see poorly done attempts to bring them to the present. 



#16 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2517

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 05:07 PM

What does "harder" mean?

Is it harder to build something that few people in the world have ever had any experience doing in unexplored territory and having to build your own tools that you don't even know that you need yet as well as support a myriad of hardware configurations that are such that the already limited audience that you're selling to require some pretty significant technical skills themselves?

Or once that frontier has been tamed a bit, is it harder to train individuals to use modern tools to approach the advanced concepts that have become common-place and to push the envelope further and further for an audience which although it has grown immensely it has also raised the bar considerably to what it considers acceptable?
 

Success in either environment would be hard. And I don't suppose that shouldn't be very surprising.



#17 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 10829

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 02:02 AM

Things were simpler back in the day just as a function of systems complexity -- The simple microcontrollers you might find in a modern games controller or running the front blinkenlights/disc-eject panel on the console itself is orders of magnitude more capable and complex than, say, an Atari 2600. What once the whole, is now relagated to a fractional measure of a tiny percentage of the system's overall complexity. Back in the day, you read a 200 page paberback book that described literally every last detail of a system -- today, that's the chapter on GPU register usage.

 

No one human being today can master an entire modern system, let alone also wearing the artist, designer, producer, audio engineer, and marketer hats. Back in the day, the entire company was not uncommonly one dude in his bedroom, part-time.

 

On one hand, the limitations they faced were increadibly limiting, but on the other, there's something freeing about it. You knew with certainty what the hard limits of the system were, and that with skilled programming could achieve them exactly. Today, we have a good idea on the upper bound, but other considerations bottleneck peak theoretical performance, and we spin round and round figuring out how to make the bottleneck just a little bit wider, moving our own goalpost. The sky is the limit these days, and the sheer number of options can be paralyzing -- back in the day, with relatively limited options, you just figured out a creative solution and got on with it.

 

But the thing is, the details we have today are more-or-less the same details we had to deal with back then -- how can I shed a few more cycles? How can I best allocate my registers? How can I squeeze more information into the same amount of memory? These are questions modern and old-school engineers both recognize. The only thing that's changed, really, is the sheer number of details that have to be considered in concert.


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#18 fir   Members   -  Reputation: -460

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 04:09 AM

Things were simpler back in the day just as a function of systems complexity -- The simple microcontrollers you might find in a modern games controller or running the front blinkenlights/disc-eject panel on the console itself is orders of magnitude more capable and complex than, say, an Atari 2600. What once the whole, is now relagated to a fractional measure of a tiny percentage of the system's overall complexity. Back in the day, you read a 200 page paberback book that described literally every last detail of a system -- today, that's the chapter on GPU register usage.

 

No one human being today can master an entire modern system, let alone also wearing the artist, designer, producer, audio engineer, and marketer hats. Back in the day, the entire company was not uncommonly one dude in his bedroom, part-time.

 

On one hand, the limitations they faced were increadibly limiting, but on the other, there's something freeing about it. You knew with certainty what the hard limits of the system were, and that with skilled programming could achieve them exactly. Today, we have a good idea on the upper bound, but other considerations bottleneck peak theoretical performance, and we spin round and round figuring out how to make the bottleneck just a little bit wider, moving our own goalpost. The sky is the limit these days, and the sheer number of options can be paralyzing -- back in the day, with relatively limited options, you just figured out a creative solution and got on with it.

 

But the thing is, the details we have today are more-or-less the same details we had to deal with back then -- how can I shed a few more cycles? How can I best allocate my registers? How can I squeeze more information into the same amount of memory? These are questions modern and old-school engineers both recognize. The only thing that's changed, really, is the sheer number of details that have to be considered in concert.

I also think so. (i remember my attention of this things was caused that carmack said this in some interview) Ist this a bit of killing situation ;\? (the more complex it is the more harder is to do something with this*) I wonder if after 50 years we will got yet an order of magnitude more complex systems yet, and what it will change

 

*today I have some view on some topics (know some language things, some  graphics, some system) but this take me about 10 damn years (depend on how to count this), this is disaster


Edited by fir, 11 February 2014 - 04:12 AM.


#19 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3829

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 04:44 AM


I also think so. (i remember my attention of this things was caused that carmack said this in some interview) Ist this a bit of killing situation ;\? (the more complex it is the more harder is to do something with this*) I wonder if after 50 years we will got yet an order of magnitude more complex systems yet, and what it will change
 
*today I have some view on some topics (know some language things, some  graphics, some system) but this take me about 10 damn years (depend on how to count this), this is disaster

 

I think the key might be to realize you can't know everything, and you don't really need to.

You have to choose what details are worth your time, and what details to leave to others.

 

I've got 10 years of being full time employed as a software engineer, and another 10 years before that learning and doing hobby-stuff, and I still feel like a noob a lot of times, and there are plenty of areas I've never touched, and I learn new stuff daily.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if in 50 years, you will need an AI/Expert system co-programmer to help you with software development.


Edited by Olof Hedman, 11 February 2014 - 04:46 AM.


#20 Matias Goldberg   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4977

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 12:33 PM

This is all relative.

 

In the 80's-90's Making a successful "AAA" game that reaches the masses could be made by one man, or a team of 5 people. It was considered "hard" in its time though. For example Pac-Man

However, to reach the masses, one would have to have a publisher or similar backing them up since Arcade HW, console licensing fees, and distribution & packaging costs were very high. Pac-Man was made by 3 men, but published by Namco; who took most of the profits and paid for most of the costs.

 

Today, making a successful "AAA" game requires +50 people (just scroll the credits of any AAA game, they're insane), but distributions costs are much lower.

 

Nonetheless, today it's possible to make decent looking, competent titles by a small team that can reach the masses even with a low budget; thanks to open source engines, Unity, UDK 4, Youtube, Wordpress. What the press today refers to an "Indie" title (back in 90's an Indie was a creepy guy in a garage with a passion for gamedev who rarely got acknowledged and shared their experience with other Indies using 56k modems; getting a rotating triangle rendering on screen used to feel like a major achievement)

 

So, again... it's all relative.


Edited by Matias Goldberg, 11 February 2014 - 12:33 PM.





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