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Vlad Tepes

A Question Regarding Technology and Creation

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A pleasant evening to you all. I am starting the design treatment process for my adaptation game that I wish to create. For a first time attempt at design, and ultimately proposing this game to the community in hopes of help developing this game, I wish to ask this of you: What level of technology should I aim for as a first game? I realize the vast amounts of progression in graphics and game programming and that there are many who can produce fabulous models and amazing game physics and enemy AI, but should I seek these people out or should I start with a sprite-based, side scrolling style a la Pitfall? There tends to be a trend to start at the simple and progress, but when there are people out there that have the skills to start out at say, circa mid-90's technology, why begin at circa mid-80's? I am fine with any outcome, as this game will (if successful) undoubtedly be brought up to todays technological level so starting with SNES-style games would suffice. Which 'era' should I shoot for designing this game? This will determine the level of skill I will be requesting when looking for people to help me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Vlad Tepes [edited by - Vlad Tepes on April 1, 2003 2:48:33 AM]

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Good evening to you as well.

Lets see. First off, just a quick note--this Design forum rarely focuses on the technological aspects of games, but rather the design of the gameplay. From your post, I would guess that you would most likely get a better response to this in the For Beginners forum, simply because this type of topic comes up fairly often there.

But let me see if I can help you out. Your question is basically where to start, what genre, and what goal, correct?

So. Everyone is going to tell you to start small and to complete that small project. Now, starting small is relative to your experience. How old are you? Not trying to judge you by your age, but rather where you may fit in in the academic curve. Math: Have you taken any algebra, geometry, trig, calculas, or linear algebra? Lets see. You don''t really need calculas to get started. The others would all be very beneficial. Calculas can come in handy down the road. Have you taken any physics? You have grand aspirations for your game, so you will need some understanding of basic physics. Game development focuses alot on mimicking real life through "cheats", as intense physics calculations are too computationally expensive. A basic understanding is a Good Thing (tm) though. Do you know how to program in a computer language? It really is a necessary requisite. Are you familiar with any graphics APIs? This will be helpful.

Lets say we assume that you have decent understanding/aptitude for math (the previous list minus calculas). I say aptitude in that if it really isn''t that difficult for you, you can get alot of info from the web and a few well purchased books. Lets say a basic idea of physics, and you know C++ adequately to get started and have an idea of how to program in general.

If this is the case, I would recommend a very simple and basic game, but in 3D. It is not overly difficult with the proper tutorials and books to get started, provided you can stick with it. I would highly recomend digesting some info from gametutorials.com, nehe.gamedev.net, and purchasing OpenGL Game Programming by the owners of this site. This will get you started with OpenGL and give you pleanty to work with for quite a while, while also giving you more than enough to make a simple game. If you get through much of these materials and understand whats going on, you should be at a point where adding complexity flows naturally.

If you are not at this level, I recommend you hold off and try and get at least close to it before delving too deeply into game programming, to very likely save yourself lots of frustration and wasted time.

Good luck, and if you post your basic skill/aptitude level, perhaps I can point you to the proper resources to help you out.

The Tyr project is here.

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The last thing I meant to point out is that pretty much everyone here wants to design and make their games. Very few people are going to get involved working on "your" game, and let you do all of the desiging. I wouldn''t start requesting people to work on it until you have something up and running, and don''t hold your breath hoping to get people "who can produce fabulous models and amazing game physics and enemy AI" unless you have a very good start to your project. People of this skill level are only going to jump into projects with a reasonable chance of success or a paying salary. A very good start includes basic functionailty and good documentation and vision.

Again, good luck.

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OctDev, thank you for the reply and as per requested, here is a basic rundown of, well, myself.

I am a college student (age 20) who is majoring in creative writing and minoring in history. I''m what you would call a jack-of-all trades type of individual, I write, I can draw to some extent, I am technically savvy (I can pick up on things quickly), and I''m a musician (guitar for 6 years, clarinet for 10).

Focusing more on the technical side of things, I know a little about a lot, firstly the graphical aspect, my strongest field: 3DS Max, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Studio MX, Rhino and even AutoCAD, I have basic working knowledge of them and pick up on things very quickly.

Math and the sciences: I took business calculus last year and passed with a C- so that tells me I''m not too good with the math, but basic and advanced algebra, trig and what not I''m fine with, functions finally clicked with me in 12th grade.

Physics is something I''ve always enjoyed, I took it in my senior year of high school and got an A but haven''t touched it since, so I''m a bit rusty, but I know how to calculate velocities and what causes black holes.

Programming: I took a summer video game programming course at DigiPen Institute of Technology 4 years ago and made a fun little 2D fighter game. It was quite amusing when one of the sprites that was suppose to resemble a fighter had no crash detection while the other did...somewhat of an unfair advantage, but it was fun working with code. Alas, that was the last time I touched the stuff. I remember the software was Codewarrior and thats about it, but I''m sure I could pick it back up quite easily, as things come naturally to my family.

That is pretty much the extent of my skills and hopefully this gives you an idea of where I am. I''m, as you can tell by my major, more geared towards the creative side and farther from the technical, but I''m willing to pick up some programming skills along the way.

Vlad Tepes

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Alrighty cool. Here is what I would suggest...

To get into the game developmetn industry, the trend seems to be for you to supply a necessary skill. This skill must be done with competency, and it must not be game design. Game design seems to be the holy grail for most, and it is typically a position filled only by internal staff or by experienced game designers.

I would suggest learning a skillset well while also developing design docs on your own, thinking about the future. Based on your qualifcations, I would say get some mastery over some of the media creation tools and techniques. 3D modeling, skinning, textures, graphics in general. Audio creation and manipulation, from composing to sound effects. Tons of tools to get to know--many are free/open source. Get that Linux (or prefereably, *BSD ) box up and running. Keep Windows too; seems like most of this industry develops on it while gearing for it (at least for PC games). You said you have some great Max skills--improve them!

Now, you lead me to believe that you have a smattering of programming knowledge and a decent grasp of some of the math and physics involved. I think this is great in that it will give you as an artist a perspective as to what the programmers are thinking. This will help resolve future issues and make things like unpolished tools and scripting go easier for you. I think if you are graphically talented and more experienced you should continue to focus on that aspect and not delve into the programming too much--focus on the smaller skillset and make it stronger (this is starting to sound like my specialization thread in this forum ).

Keep writing your design docs. Write different docs for different games, for two audiences. 1 for your dream team to implement, when you have tha game design job. 1 for your hobby team to work on and have a chance of succeeding in a manageable time frame. Check out one of my design projects and get involved (shameless plug); the link is in my sig.

And go ahead and try and put together a team if you think you are at a point where you can contribute something other than design and can handle directing things. Not to say you can''t also design, of course, just that to get together a team you will probably need to bring something more to the table, like your arts skills. Have concept art and a decent hobby design document to get some interest going, and let people contribute to teh design as well. They will be happier and your game will be better.

Pick up a copy of "Game Architecture and Design", it is a really good book, and fairly timeless. I have that one; I also plan on buying "Swords & Circuitry: A Designer''s Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games"; really good reviews and after thumbing through it at the bookstore today it looked even more appealing.

Good luck. Did I mention my project?

The Tyr project is here.

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My attitude is to try and keep things modular in my game design, so I can put together a very lame, but basically complete shell, with place-holders for pretty much everything, so I have a ''playable'' product, then upgrade each of the modules as I get round to it - or as I get sufficiently bored/frustrated with the place-holder - this means I haven''t yet made the jump to 3D (the 3D renderer is a fairly big chunk, even as a basic placeholder with no real features and needs to be designed around from the start) but does work for a "wake me when it''s done" style hobby development. Also works best when you''re collaborating live rather than online...

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OctDev and rmsgrey, thank you again for your input. Currently I own an Apple iBook and looking into getting a PC, well, I know I''ll need one regardless. Might there be any opensource or free C/C++ compliers, photo rendering and 3D modeling software that will run on a Mac? I need to make the transition to PC soon, as I''m growing tired of hiking over to the design labs at my school to use the SGI computers. :D

Vlad Tepes

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Vlad;

The only game you are ever going to design successfully is the game that you want to make more than anything else. It''s your game, design it any way that fits your vision the best.

Having said what is the primary motivation needed to make it through the long months or years of development, once having it designed (and this can be on paper or in a text doc of any kind -- as long as it has the structure of a design doc addressing all the things you will need to make the complete game), then you will probably find yourself in an interative process discovering which features, environments, AI''s and art assets will represent your original vision best as you see it manifest.

Ironically, this tightly focused vision of your design will clearly indicate to a technologically savvier person what can and cannot be implemented in the existing reality of game program implementation proper.

The point is you have to get the design well prepared and be prepared once that point is reached to work with the limitations or advantages the technology will allow you to incorporate into the gameworld the design represents.

HTH,
Addy

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