The Hardness Strikes back

If you’ve not read part 1 yet it might be worth going back and reading it. I’m going Empire Strikes Back on this post and getting right to it.

So, with my lack of a Mac being a problem, I needed to find something that’ll let me make a game in Windows. Quick poke around Google and I’ve found a programme called ORX, which says it’s OpenGL whatever that is and, after having a look to see what that is, it turns out to be the thing that I should be using to build a game – that was lucky. What wasn’t lucky though is that ORX thing wasn’t what I needed.

…Hours Pass.

Just spent ages trying to install the thing I thought I needed, Microsoft Visual something or other; it was a free version they had on the website but I can’t get the bloody thing to install correctly so I’ve had a look around the net to try work out why. Turns out I’m not the only one that can’t get it to work but no answers as to why unless you count the one I found on the official forums, thanks for the help Jeff! I’m not even sure if this is what I want anyway.

Yeah thanks for the help, Jeff!

I’ve been reading message boards and blog posts all night, It seems this C++ thing is quite important and people go to Uni for years to learn it. I can’t afford to go to Uni; I have a mortgage and a dog. I had a thing for my Amiga 600 that came free with a magazine that let me make my own games, I was like ten and I made a shooter; it was great except that I put too many guns on the first boss and couldn’t get to my own second level, but the boss was awesome! That’s about as complicated as I want to get, but there must be something out there that will let me do that. Thinking about it now Little Big Planet is what I need, that way I can just draw what I want.. tell the game what it’s made of and that’s it done. It just takes time. But I sold my PS3 didn’t I! Seemed like a good idea at the time. I could have made my game in that, ok so it wouldn’t be the 8 bit adventure I’d originally hoped for but it would still be pretty cool.

Registering as a devloper is the easiest thing I've done so far.

I’ve looked into the Xbox indie games thing to (write what you know and all that) and I even signed up to the programme, so technically I’m now officially a games developer – I picked my avatar for the forum and everything, but I don’t think that developing for the Xbox is really what I should be doing for my first game. I think the iPhone game thing is gonna be a hard push too so I’ll look at a way of making it so that anybody can play it for free, which means it’ll most likely end up on the PC.. maybe browser based.

I’m sure somebody on Twitter I follow is on a course; I’ll ask them maybe that will give me some idea as to where I should start (can you believe I’m halfway through the second post on this and still no closer to getting started?)

Ladies and gentleman please put your hands together for Natasha Horan

Hello Tasha thanks for coming! I think we’ll start by asking what exactly it is that you’re studying and where are you studying it?
I’m studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Games Development and I’m studying it at the College of North East London.

Why? Is it for the money? The fame? Or the love of games?
Honestly? The love of games, I’ve been playing games since I was seven and have always found them fascinating. Along with this I have also always found myself evaluating games and pointing out errors and things that I personally feel could be better (but most gamers have probably done that right?) I have even gone as far as to come up with solutions to the problems I feel I have identified, it was this that led me to looking at video game development courses.

Describe your average day on your course, except without the parts where you wake up late, watch Will and Grace then pop into Top Shop before wandering over to college.
Firstly, I don’t watch Will and Grace (anymore) ahem, anyway an average day will start with logging on to the computers, a short presentation/talk from the tutor and then we will get on with our assignments.  The tutor will then come around and see how we are doing (and tell people to get off YouTube).  Our assignments range from animation/Flash/game engines (the awesome stuff) to object oriented design/poster design/ programming (the not so awesome stuff).

What was the last new thing that you learned on your course?
How to rig and bind a character for animation, this is for an assignment to create a 500-600 frame animation that will be at our end of year show.

So far what do you think is the coolest thing you’ve made/done/programmed?
The animation (Maya) work is fascinating, it’s also incredibly tedious and long winded but as you persevere with it you get a great deal of satisfaction from the final product. Also we have been using Unity recently and I have started making a very basic ‘worm shooting fireballs’ game with the help of some online tutorials, which is a great learning experience.

When did you think, “ah ha! I know I’ll make games”?
I decided to look into games development when I was working in a video games shop during my GCSE work experience. I was talking about games all day and I loved it (I mean, who wouldn’t?). During this work experience I started to realise how much I really liked games and how although they were only a hobby/spare time filler I could actually see myself making them, so I looked into some courses and found one in the college just down the road, applied and got in.

This is one of the games Tasha is currently working on, I'm guessing you play as the little guy.

I’m guessing you work in teams on things, who’s in your team and what do they do?
We do have assignments that require team work; the most recent one was to create a game with a unique or new control idea (peripheral included). I worked with two guys in my class; Ashley and Daniel. We came up with a game on the Nintendo DS that used a Kaleidoscope attachment and used light going through the colours to affect the battle system. That description doesn’t make it sound very impressive. Within our group we delegated jobs, but we came up with the idea as a group. Ashley was in charge of story and putting together our pitch presentation, Daniel in charge of level design and putting together our pitch presentation with Ashley, and I was in charge of creating mock-ups and putting together the final design document.

In the easiest way possible of describing it how do you go from having an idea for a game to actually having the game finished?
Well, I haven’t actually been required to finish a game. I do have two games in production, one is a basic collecting coins Flash game and the earlier mentioned ‘worm shooting fireballs’ game in Unity. I have a book full of game ideas that I hope to find time to develop in the summer. The best way to start is to storyboards your whole idea and map out your levels, create a document describing EVERYTHING, story, playable characters, non playable characters, enemies, allies, weapons, absolutely everything, make it so that someone could pick up this document and know what your game is about and how it will be executed, without having to consult you at all. That is the best possible way to start.

What programmes are the easiest for a n00b to start teaching himself with/ what programmes do you use for different jobs?
I would suggest Unity and Flash – you can find great, easy to follow tutorials online for both these programmes. You may also want to look into some 3D modelling software if you are going to use Unity, I personally use Maya but you can also try Cheetah 3D, Blender or 3D Studio Max. I use Unity, Flash and Maya for my projects and find them very easy to learn and use.

What are the chances of a 25 year old bloke with no knowledge of programming making a game that people would want to play?
I think it’s very possible, stay positive. Develop your idea, don’t rush it, take your time and map it out right. There’s nothing worse than coming up with a great idea but having it fail because you didn’t plan it out. Create that document and familiarise yourself with some software and nothing can stop you.

Oh man this is gonna be harder than I thought thanks for the kick in the groin Tasha, no but seriously thanks at least now I need to do up until now I’d just installed unity and stared at it thinking what the hell to do next.

You can go now.
Thanks for coming.

352 pages of Halo. They are big pages too.

Now I don’t know if you were paying attention just then but when Tasha said “create a document describing EVERYTHING” my mind went to Forbidden Planet and the Halo Encyclopedia that has been sat teasing me on the shelf for the last few months. That book contains everything Halo and even a book half that size would take me an age, and that’s before starting the game, which I still don’t know how to do! But Tasha is studying this which means somebody who knows what they are doing is teaching so I’ll listen and crack on with that. Something else I’ve learned while trying to research how to make a game is that you have to start with kind of copying the evolution of games and working your way up. I can’t jump right in and create a cinematic space opera which ends in me leaving my secretary to die while I’m off probing for ore which I didn’t need. I should teach myself Space Invaders before trying to make Zelda. I honestly thought I might be able to cobble something together in a month. How stupid I feel now! This whole “making my own game” thing is giving me a new kind of respect for games though even the bad ones. You would think my game should be fairly simple to make but even the simple looking games are incredibly complicated.

So as for some more of the game, you have read this far it only seems fair your rewarded. I left you last stranded at the top of Spon Street with nothing but your 8 bit iPhone, your backpack and the keys to your flat. Oh and an alien ship just crashed through a block of flats setting Coventry’s ring road on fire. Now, all games need weapons and my game is no different – you’ll pick up different weapons as you go but to start with you have your flat keys for jabbing baddies with and your back pack which will act as a shield. I already mentioned how your iphone is the menu system, it will keep you updated of your mission objectives by a fake version of Twitter (I was thinking of calling it “Twaker”) which would give you updates as you play as well as little timed optional sub quests that you can head off and try to do for bonus items like better weapons an extra health. These parts would take place in the “dungeons” of the game which are actually the shops around town with the streets of Coventry acting as the main game map area. I’d like the game to have little sections that require that you maybe use the internet to find out geeky things that will allow you to get a boost and somehow expand the game but I’ve not fully fleshed out the idea yet. I think I want the game to have a time limit too so it kind of sets the pace, gives the game a sense of urgency and so people know how far in they are and aren’t surprised by the point in the game where I clearly got bored with making it and it just ends. Oh yeah and the baddies I forgot about the baddies they are zombie robots guys.  Actual.  Zombie.  Robots.

There's not a chance in hell I'm making a game that big.

I feel like I’m stood looking out at the galaxy from the window of a star ship knowing what needs to be done but not really knowing how. I’m going to crack on with the development and follow the process that Tasha’s told me to and we’ll see where we end up, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me but at least I know what needs doing now. Do or do not – there is no try.

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Ste says:

    I did computer programming for a year at college before I decided college was shite and jacked it all in. Foolishly. But anyway, it was HARD. There was a couple of programmes we used, one of them was visual basic, I can’t remember what the other one was called but it was text based, i.e you entered lines of code, its did something… hopefully. Long and short of it, I wish you a shit ton of luck because I’m getting the impression that your fucked and your gonna need all the luck you can get!

  2. Lee says:

    I’ve been working on the design document still, Its basicly just scribbles on a note pad but its quite funny to look at. again big thanks to Tasha the articles been getting much love on twitter this morning.

  3. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Zombie… robots… okay, now you have to get this thing made, because I want to see that.

    Interesting interview with your games development student friend. With regards to what you’re trying to do, she’s probably right in saying Flash would be your best bet. Though you’d need the proper Flash toolset, which is bloody expensive, the free version only plays existing Flash movies and games.

  4. Lee says:

    @preach – that’s probably the biggest obstacle I’ve had to try and over come. back in the day I would of all been freeware and guys just sharing code but trying to find something that’s free for somebody to start learning with has proven really difficult.

  5. Rook says:

    Have you considered writing one of those choose your own adventure books? Read many of those when I was a kid. Could give you another creative outlet while you’re learning. :D

  6. Kat says:

    When’s the release date dammit! You developers are always delaying!

    Can the zombie robots ride lil pink dinosaurs please?

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    Loved this… and great interview btw :) Are you having any sort of collectables planned for the game? I was thinking packs of Quavers or something or maybe coke cans.

    Flash games would seem the best way to go tbh, there are some great little ones out there.

  8. Adam Adam says:

    The only thing one can collect a vast amount of in Coventry are STI’s so its probably best not to have collectibles, PEGI and all that…

    Hmmmm….seems like we have hit a wall here, I’m not on as Publisher of this deal for nothing! I left a bag of Haribo in the flat for you and so far all we have is an interview with a talented young lady and you got yourself a nice book! This is hardly a return of my investment….

  9. [...] only US based efforts will be eligible.  Sad news indeed for GamingLives writer Lee’s ‘Justbiglee’s Big Adventure‘ Last five articles by GL [...]

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