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Little Coding Fox

How do you test game design concepts without writing everything from scratch?

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Hey there,
I've got a 3D game that is kind of complex, to the point that i _will_ have to write my own technology due to a requirement, which is a custom world editor for users to create worlds to share with other users.

As such, i can't use most game engines out there since they either dont have their source available, or i'd have to learn all the inner workings of said engines, or they cost a lot of money.

However, I don't want to write something from scratch because my coding skills, although decent, aren't strong enough for me to write the entire game by myself, and so far even though i've been producing results and generated some interest in the game, i have yet to find someone who wants to help me.

As such, i'd like to ask: Is there a way i can test some of the games concepts, maybe some sort of prototyping library, preferably without using another game engine since most of what i learn there will most certainly be wasted?

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There are some very modular engines available these days (Unity, Shiva, etc.), and I'd be a little surprised if you couldn't do what you're wanting to do using one of these engines (even the custom world editor).

Is there any particular reason you think the world editor would need to be created from scratch rather than being based on existing technology?

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Mainly because the world editor would be very game-specific. My goal is to write the basic functionality of the game with various ways to extend it, as it is a sandbox-based game, and provide a world editor where players can create and share their own worlds, races, technologies, items, etc.

I tried to find some game engines, but either they didnt work all that well, or were extremely expensive for me, or they didnt provide a way for me to create this custom tool.

I'd like it to not be embedded in the game, since i want it as a tool like Valve's Hammer (although much simpler), and since i want the average user with minimal scripting skills to be able to make at least a simple world, i can't rely on other much more complex editors as my world editor.

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Original post by Little Coding Fox
Mainly because the world editor would be very game-specific. My goal is to write the basic functionality of the game with various ways to extend it, as it is a sandbox-based game, and provide a world editor where players can create and share their own worlds, races, technologies, items, etc.

I tried to find some game engines, but either they didnt work all that well, or were extremely expensive for me, or they didnt provide a way for me to create this custom tool.

I'd like it to not be embedded in the game, since i want it as a tool like Valve's Hammer (although much simpler), and since i want the average user with minimal scripting skills to be able to make at least a simple world, i can't rely on other much more complex editors as my world editor.
For what it's worth, Unity should meet all of the above requirements (there might be some other engines that would as well).

If you're finding that not to be the case (with Unity or any other engine), perhaps you could describe the problems you're running into.

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Many design concepts can be tested with pen & paper type board setups or quick mockups in flash or tools like Unity. Hell you could probably even LARP them [smile]

-me

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Unity should meet all of the above requirements

IMO, it shouldn't. Unity is too universal. You can do lots of things there except the things that you really need. I have considered it too for my game and it was really obvious that it couldn't fit my specific needs. It's a toy for kids, not a serious engine.

EDIT: The exact problems were waste of time and.. uh.. waste of time - it required objects to add components (it's hard to review a block of text and icons quickly but it's necessary to make sure that components will work), made my fingers jump around the keyboard to do simple tasks (Blender, for example, doesn't do that), it was heavily asset-centered - it would take hours to make simple levels out of primitives and even if I had the assets - the transform tools were hard to use effectively. And the script editor was so behind other more modern editors that I simply hated using it.

OP:
You should really try to make that engine you want. Today, it's more than possible with all the APIs, libraries and articles available. Just remember to avoid the feature creep and remember that your main goal is to make a game, not an engine and you should be able to finish it.
As for prototyping... you could try UDK if you already have some basic artwork, otherwise just use your imagination. Play the game in it.

P.S. What's wrong with an in-game editor? It's just a different place for the same code (and probably less code because many functions would be shared)...

[Edited by - snake5 on December 2, 2010 12:52:19 PM]

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Original post by snake5
You should really try to make that engine you want. Today, it's more than possible with all the APIs, libraries and articles available.


I tried using OGRE for graphics recently but i had some troubles with a bug which ended up not being fixed. What graphics engines would you (everyone) recommend?

Quote:
Original post by snake5
P.S. What's wrong with an in-game editor? It's just a different place for the same code (and probably less code because many functions would be shared)...


Mainly that since it is a 3D RPG with world streaming (mind you i had that working previously on my initial attempt), it requires very different processing of data and writing an extremely flexible GUI that supports every kind of widget known to man, along with bloating the Core game's source to support everything would be a definite no-no.

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Original post by Little Coding Fox
Mainly because the world editor would be very game-specific. My goal is to write the basic functionality of the game with various ways to extend it, as it is a sandbox-based game, and provide a world editor where players can create and share their own worlds, races, technologies, items, etc.
Take a look at Atmosphir, a game (well, or perhaps a meta-game) that leverages an extensive world editor. The game is built on Unity. I listened to a talk by the lead developer, who raved about how easy it was to implement the world editor in Unity, compared to their previous technology set -- the basic functionality was laid out in less than a week, and the total migration effort only took a few months.

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What graphics engines would you (everyone) recommend?

I recommend using APIs directly.

Quote:
it requires very different processing of data

Exactly the same processing of data. That comes from my experience, btw.

Quote:
extremely flexible GUI that supports every kind of widget known to man

Now that's a feature creep... use your imagination and you'll see how it's all possible without fancy and "widgety" editors.

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along with bloating the Core game's source to support everything would be a definite no-no

Editor can stay in it's own corner. A game level class can also be merged with editor and there is no code bloating. I have done that and game level class is actually the only place my editor-specific functions are in. Ok, maybe terrain class too.
My big advice here is: design your system, and don't try to stick it together based on some assumptions - think about how each part of the game code will affect the whole thing. Compare the pros and cons of all methods you know and don't be afraid to try new methods too.

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Original post by snake5
It's a toy for kids, not a serious engine.
Look, I'm not advocating for Unity specifically (it just happens to be an engine that I'm fairly familiar with), but when I see a ridiculous statement like this, I have to respond to it. Unity has been successfully used in numerous commercial projects, so by any reasonable definition it is in fact a 'serious' engine.
Quote:
The exact problems were waste of time and.. uh.. waste of time - it required objects to add components (it's hard to review a block of text and icons quickly but it's necessary to make sure that components will work), made my fingers jump around the keyboard to do simple tasks (Blender, for example, doesn't do that), it was heavily asset-centered - it would take hours to make simple levels out of primitives and even if I had the assets - the transform tools were hard to use effectively. And the script editor was so behind other more modern editors that I simply hated using it.
It sounds to me like either the engine just wasn't a good fit for you, or you just didn't know how to use it effectively. Plenty of people use Unity and don't have any trouble at all with the things you mentioned. (It's true that the script editor that's shipped with Unity in the past is only so-so, but you can use another editor if you prefer.)

If it didn't work for you, fair enough, but I don't see any reason to discourage the OP from checking it out. It may not have been a good fit for you, but it works fine for plenty of other people.

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