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The Building of Caveman - Part 1

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Norman Barrows


The Building of Caveman, Part 1

in this series of posts i will explain the process of making the game
Caveman v3.0.

What was done and why.

this is done in hopes that it may help others in their quest for success.

first, who i am:

i'm life long gamer.

as a little kid (before computers!), wargames facinated me.
that big hex map with all that terrain, and all those unit counters! and the
dice and the charts! WAY too cool! there was something seriously cool going on

then there were arcade games like "night bomber", a very rudimentary
b-58 hustler flight sim arcade machine. it had a backlit plastic 3d
conveyor belt of plastic for the ground mesh, and used some sort of illuminated
platic for the missiles in flight. then it was mirror projected to the view
screen of the cabinet. explosions were backlit under the "terrain mesh".
i can still remember the "shoo,shoo,shoo - booom, boom, BOOM!" sound effect
it made when you cut loose with a salvo of missiles. . i was so little i
had to stand on a stool to play!

later came D&D, then Traveller, then both at once! Two years as president of
the wargame club in high school. I also designed few table top games during
this period. There was a super RISK type wargame with land, sea, air and
carrier units, land, sea, and air bases, and land sea, and air zones for
movement. There was a sharship combat game, turn based strategy with carriers,
battle crusers, fighters, and such. and there was a simple futuristic RPG
inspired by the first star wars movie, set in a huge abandoned space station,
the rules of which were made upduring one of those rpg club convetions a
friend took me to once. Everyone always wanted to play in my D&D world, i was
almost always the DM, seldom got to be a player, but i learned as a player
from a great dm (thanks John Durfee!). i learned one of my first and best
game design lessons there: NO MONTY HAUL!

About the same time, i took my first
programming class (sophmore in high school i think it was). interperted
basic on an ibm 360 mainframe accessed remotely via 3 dumb tremials and a
teletype terminal, each running at 1200 bits per second. . I wrote a
turn-based clone of the arcade game "lunar lander" on that system. you'd
input your x and y thrusts, and then it would draw the next frame .
You should have seen how many trees i killed when i ran it one time on the
teletype terminal. to clear the screen and draw the next frame, it did a page
feed. so every frame printed an entire page on an 18" wide line printer
teletype terminal. the classroom was awash with printer paper! .

after high school, i used my buddy's mom's pc to write a text and vector
graphics turn based D&D game. it was a sperry rand pc with 64k, 2 360k
floppies and a CGA card. interperted basic on dos 2.11.

a couple years later i got my first pc, an 8khz 8088 overclocked to
10khz. word was, for second year physics lab, even if your experiment was
unsucessful, if you could write it up correctly with all the charts and
graphs etc in a word processor, "real professional like", you got an A.
so that was my justificsation for getting a pc. now adays its almost
de-regeur, i'd assume. at first i wrote a few apps in basic: text editor,
autoscheduler, quicken-type software, etc. and "flying saucer shooter" -
think missile command vs flying saucers, and you get ground based lasers.
my first realtime arcade game!

then i got into developing operating environments and integrated packages
(look them up!).I learned how to write just about every kind of app.

flash forward about 6 years. By this time i had almost completed my
software engineering degree at OSU (i switched from aerospace when the
cold war ended). i had worked as a systems analyst for the air force
as my engineering co-op, specializing in needs analysis and puchase
recommendations for executive information systems software (looks it up!).
i had also worked for the OSU school of medicine dept of anatomy where i
specialized in needs analysis and purchase reccomendations for
multi-media computer network systems (they were putting Gray's anatomy
online for the first time ever anywhere - in high resolution full
living color).

one day, me and a buddy were DLing Star Trek games, and they were all
the same top down view, sector quadrant, turn based text mode trek game.
i said, "I could write something better than that!" - and in six weeks, i had.
showed it to my friends. they said, "looks cool! needs better
explosions!" (you know how players are! ). so i added better explosions.

then i sent an email to the sysop of the biggest BBS at OSU, and asked him
very politely how he thought i ought to distribute it. he replied that the
model recently established by a new game called "castle wolfenstein 3d",
where you gave them a little for free (about 5% of the game - roughly $1
worth of content at wolf's originl price point of $20), and if they
liked it they paid for the full version. sounded good to me. but my game
was a mission based starship flight sim, not a level based shooter.
so i limited it to 4 types of missions (out of 10) and 10 missions
completed max (vs unlimited).

then i posted it to the local bbs's. about 3 weeeks later someone uploaded
it to AOL. i didn't even have an account. it became a top 10 download of
the week on AOL, with over 10,000 copies downloaded the first week.
all thanks to good copy in the file description (marketing, marketing,
marketing!), and a cool game to back it up. for a flight sim it was
pretty easy to play, as you could automatically lock onto any target with
the computers, and fly to it or attack it.

SIMTrek was followed by many other games, apps, and utilities on and off
over the years (this is the fourth time i've started or re-started my
software company).

i was blessed with a second hit when i restarted Rockland Software
Productions for the second time in 2000. Caveman v1.0 was picked up by
the local NBC news in Washington DC (where i live) as a last minute
xmas gift. response was so great it crashed the website!

about 3 years later, i got cracked by a team out of eastern europe.
the cracked version of Caveman v1.3 was posted on a warez site in
Africa, hosted on servers in Russia. it was probably on other warez
sites as well. losses were so bad, i had to fold the company.

in 2006 i started developemnt of caveman 2.0, a full first person
view virtual world implementation of the game, and almost finished it.
but i lost funding and the project had to be abandonded.

in 2012 i re-started rockland software productions for the fourth time.
so i was (re)starting my software company from scratch. what to build?

this is where the story of the building of Caveman begins...

part 2:


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