Create Computer Games – Get Started on Creating Your Own Virtual Worlds

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I’ve always loved video games, ever since I first played them on a friend’s computer in the afternoon after elementary school. There’s something almost magical about the fact that we can move images around and interact with virtual worlds, a living fantasy presented for us to interact with however we please. I’ve also always wanted to make games myself but, until recently, didn’t have the technical knowledge to do so. Now, I’m a second year software engineering student, so if I weren’t able to code a game without too many dramas there’d be something drastically wrong. But what about the common person: the person for whom the term ‘memory leak’ conjures up images of their grandfather, ‘pipeline’ is where the water flows, and ‘blitting’ is unheard of? Well, everyone can get in on the game creation process, and you don’t even need to learn ‘real’ programming to do so.

So where do games start? With an idea. Games, like all fiction, require an idea to be successful. Sure, in the same way you can just sit down and write a story without foresight, you can jump on in and slap a game together. However, unless you get ridiculously lucky, the best works are usually the ones that have been well thought out beforehand.

There are two methods of planning a project. You can start from a known technological standpoint and build your project on top of that or you can just go for the design, add as many features and ideas as you like, and then remove the ones that you can’t use when you’ve decided on the technology you’re going to implement the game with. In general, the second type is probably the best one to go with when designing games. When you’re first starting out however, the first option will save you many headaches.

So, for a first game you’re going to want a pretty simple idea. Don’t get me wrong, crazy-go-nuts game ideas are fantastic, and there should be more of them out there, but you’re not going to be able to create a real world simulator with fifty billion virtual people all interacting real time with your actions having a butterfly effect on the future of the virtual universe when it’s just your first game. Really. Many people try it; none that I know of have succeeded. Imitation is the best way to start out. Simple games such as ‘Space Invaders’, ‘Tetris’, ‘Pacman’ or even ‘Pong’ are great places to start. All are largely simple to create but have some inherent challenges. ‘Pacman’ for example, requires path finding for the ghosts. I recommend that you start even simpler than that for your very first attempt. ‘Space Invaders’ is a nice point to jump in. You can make a simple, complete game without much effort and it’s almost infinitely extensible.

If you’re stuck for an idea, pick a genre that you enjoy. Do you love adventure games such as ‘Monkey Island’, ‘Grim Fandango’, ‘Space Quest’, ‘King’s Quest’ etc.? Design one of those. Are you into fighting games like ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Tekken’, ‘Soul Calibur’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ and so on? Come up with an idea for that. Do you like first person shooters such as ‘Quake’, ‘Half Life’ or ‘Doom’? I don’t recommend it as a first project, but you can always give it a go. Feel free to be as generic as you like, this is a learning experience after all.

Now that you have your idea it’s time to flesh it out. Don’t worry about the technology or the fact that you may not know how to actually implement a game just yet, just grab yourself some paper and a pencil and go crazy with ideas. Describe the main characters, game play, goals, interactions, story, and key mappings, anything you can think of. Make sure you have enough detail so that someone can read through the notes and play through the game in their head with relative accuracy. Changing game design during the coding process is almost always a bad idea. Once it’s set, it should remain set until the tweaking phase (I’ll go into this more later) or you’re likely to enter ‘development hell’, where the project goes on and on; more and more work is done with less and less outcome.

At the end of this period of your game creation, you should have the following:

– A written outline of the game’s characters and possibly a sketch or two (be they space ships, yellow circles, cars or the prince of the dark kingdom of Falgour, you need to know who or what the player will be and who they will compete against)

– A written outline of the story (if there is one, this isn’t too vital for ‘Space Invaders’ or ‘Tetris’, but for ‘Uber Quest: An Adventure of Awesomeness’ it’s a really good idea)

– A description of game play, written or storyboarded. Storyboards are visual representations of ideas. Draw your characters in actions, with arrows showing the flow of action and short written descriptions detailing the events occurring in your image (because some of us aren’t fantastic artists and our images can be a little… open to interpretation…)

Now that you have a fleshed out idea, it’s time to work out how this will all get put together. If you’ve gotten to this point and are worried that you’re going to have to spend years learning complex programming languages in order to implement your idea, fear not! Others have already done the hard yards for you. There are many RAD (Rapid Application Development) Tools available for game creation, a number of which are available for free online. Some of them still require you to learn a ‘scripting language’ (a simplified programming language made for a specific task) but in general this isn’t too complicated or involved. I’ve compiled a brief list of some of these I have found at the end of the article. The free ones are listed first, organized by game genre.

Well, that should be enough to get you started in the creation of your game. The most important thing to remember once you’ve gotten this far is that you need to complete your game. Many people start a project and then lose interest and it fails, or they keep moving on to one new project after another without finishing anything. Start small, build a working (if simple) game that is, above all else, complete. When you get to this stage you will always have a huge number of things that you wish to change, fix etc. but you’ll get a great feeling from knowing that it is, in its way, finished.

From this point, you can start the tweaking phase. Play your game a few times and ask others to do the same. Take note of what isn’t fun or could be better and change things here. At this stage, it is more important than ever to keep backups of previous versions so that if a change doesn’t work you can go back and try something different without losing any of your work. It is at this point that you can add all new features, improve graphics and sounds, whatever you please, safe in the knowledge that you’re working on a solid foundation.

When you’re happy with your game, why not share it with the world? There are many cheap or free places out there for you to host your files on and then you can jump on link lists and forums and let everyone know about your creation. Well, I hope that this has been a helpful introduction into the art of creating games. It’s a great deal of fun, and can open whole new avenues of creative expression for you to explore. Jump in and have fun!

Links:

General Game Creation:

(Tools that allow easy creation of many different game types)

Game Maker: http://www.gamemaker.nl

MegaZeux: http://megazeux.sourceforge.net/

Adventure Games:

(Games such as Monkey Island, King’s Quest, Space Quest etc.)

Adventure Game Studio: [http://www.bigbluecup.com]

AGAST: http://www.allitis.com/agast/

3D Adventure Studio: http://3das.noeska.com/

ADRIFT (for text adventures): http://www.adrift.org.uk/

Role Playing Games (RPGs):

(Games such as Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Diablo)

OHRPG: http://www.hamsterrepublic.com/ohrrpgce/

RPG Toolit: http://www.toolkitzone.com/

Fighting Games:

(Games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Soul Calibur etc.)

KOF91: http://sourceforge.net/projects/kof91/

MUGEN (unfortunately the site is largely in French): http://www.streetmugen.com/mugen-us.html

Side-Scrolling Games:

(Games such as the 2D Mario Games, Sonic the Hedgehog, Double Dragon etc.)

The Scrolling Game Development Kit: http://gamedev.sourceforge.net/

There are many others available as well. One particularly useful site for finding game creation tools is: http://www.ambrosine.com/resource.html

Also of note, although not freeware, are the excellent game creation tools available by Clickteam at: [http://www.clickteam.com/English/]

Klik and Play and The Games Factory in particular are the programs to have a look at and download the free demos of.

If you really want to do things right and program the game yourself, there are some excellent programming resources available at the following locations:

Java Game Programming:

http://fivedots.coe.psu.ac.th/~ad/jg/

http://www.gamedev.net/reference/articles/article1262.asp

http://javaboutique.internet.com/tutorials/Java_Game_Programming/

Visual Basic Game Programming:

[http://markbutler.8m.com/vb-tutorial.htm]

C++ Game Programming:

http://www3.telus.net/alexander_russell/course_dx/introduction_dx.htm

http://www.rit.edu/~jpw9607/tutorial.htm

General Information:

http://www.gamedev.net/

http://www.gamasutra.com/

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Source by Daniel Punch

God Bless China – Why You Can Make More Money In China And Australia Than The USA

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Back to the past

You may also recall reading a newsletter with information on who the world's largest oil companies were (refer to "Invest News" August 2005) and how they spend their money diversifying into other industries. The "common sense" belief that higher oil prices would make oil companies go broke, may be commonly held … this does not mean that it is true ….

Oil goes up, buy more oil …

Huh? Since the article was written, the price of oil (and petrol) has continued to rise at a massive rate. The profits of oil companies have increased dramatically, as has their share price. Did you buy into any oil companies? Prices on fuels and lubricants have risen by 21%, so did we all buy 20% less oil? Nope, we bought 18% MORE.

The oil companies do not just have us over a barrel; they have us over millions of barrels a day … Did you buy into oil companies yet?

See the Past, now look at the Now

OK, so you've got the message about the oil companies. Like the dinosaurs that they dig up, these huge juggernauts * will rule the world for a long time. Do not fight it, get used to it, and learn to profit from it. If you do not take my word for it, look at what the major investment managers are doing with their money.

Which fund managers are buying into oil companies, and how much are they buying? Are they hiring to make more money in the future than they did this year? The fund manager's job is to make money in the future, so what are they doing now?

Fund Manager —–

What is in their Top Ten? (as at June 30th 2005)

Credit Suisse —- Mortgages, phone companies and finance companies.

Barclays: —– Total Fina Elf is number two, Exxon Mobil at seven.

Merril Lynch —– Total Fina Elf is number two stock on their list also Platinum Royal Dutch Shell is number ten stock

UBS Global —- Total Fina Elf is number 3, BP at number 10

Westpac Intl —- Exxon Mobil number 1 stock held

BT USA —- Exxon Mobil number 2

BT Global —- Exxon Mobil number 1

BT European —- Royal Dutch Shell number 1, Total Fina Elf number 3

Oil = Money

If the oil companies are not going to make massive billions of dollars worth of profits in future years, then why are the largest and smart fund managers investing into the oil companies? Perhaps with all their money and all their research, the major oil companies know that major oil companies will continue to turn gargantuan profits. Perhaps with the largest fund managers' money and research, the fund managers have also come to the same conclusion: oil equals money.

Save the trees: shoot a beaver …

Sure, you can buck the trend against the juggernauts *. You can invest all of your money into stocks other than mining and oil. You can invest into "new" areas such internet stocks and bio-technology. You can invest into mortgages and finance companies like Credit Suisse. You can invest into eco-responsible, genetically unmodified, environmentally-sustainable alfalfa-eating, alpaca-friendly, tree-hugging hippy stocks **.

It may make you feel good. It may even make you a dollar or two. A good idea is to diversify your money: – have some smiley, care-bear investments ** and also have a little bit of investment into some of the "smash, pillage and wreck the environment" stocks.

Exxon / Mobil hurt some penguins with a leaking oil-tanker. Fine, sell their shares, punch the CEO, or volunteer at Greenpeace.

Union Carbide upset some people with dodgy battery acid. Throw out your torches, toys and computers or choose to make a positive difference.

When I discovered that a subsidiary of BHP was mining uranium, I felt so bad about it that I donated some of my BHP dividends to my favorite charity ***. Now, BHP were not making uranium nuclear weapons, it was for nuclear energy; and it was not BHP, just one of their connections.

I am not crazy enough to sell all of my BHP shares just because some of their friends are a little environmentally unfriendly: – that would be silly. Beside, I can do a lot more for the environment by gifting thousands of dollars to good causes, than I can by chaining myself to a bulldozer … Bulldozer. Hmm, that gives me another excuse to use the term "juggernaut" … ☺

Speaking of big powerful, heavy things without restraint or social conscience, let's have a look at the world's largest super power and large economy. Do you know who it is? Do you think that the answer may change in future?

Live in the Now, Look to the future

Hey, I do not wish to be an alarmist; you have the newspapers and horror movies to make you fried. I just wish to point out a few things and make you "alert but not alarmed".

Question 1 Who in the world uses the most oil?

Question 2 Where do the oil users get the oil from?

Question 3 What are they prepared to do to keep it this way?

If you answered, "USA", "The Middle East" and "start wars", you would be fairly close to the truth … or the truth, as it was, for most of the last century. In the last few decades we have seen the USA using most of the world's oil, and sourcing it from the Middle Eastern countries. We have seen the USA involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq (part two).

In more recent years, the amount of oil being used by China is on the rise. Soon, your answers to the above three questions will be "China", "Africa", and "anything".

Be prepared for a world-wide shifting of the scales. Why does China source their oil from African countries and not Middle Eastern countries? Does the oil taste nicer? Does it last longer? Is it cheaper? Or does it simply not raise the ire of the US government, as Africa is not seen as de-facto US soil?

Anyone stomping around in the Kuwaiti oil-fields for long enough would unexpectedly upset the USA: look at what happened to poor old Saddam Hussein in 1991. Oops, it happened again in 2003. The USA sees the Middle East as their own little vegetable patch . They let the gardeners have a few carrots to keep them happy, but they do not like any rogue rabbits intruding, or any sign that someone else wants to dictate gardening terms or market conditions.

Prepare for War …. again …. ho-hum

Will there be more wars in the Gulf? Probably. Will things change? Not much. Sometimes the US sells arms to the left side ("allies") and sometimes the US sells arms to the right side ("axis of evil"). Sometimes they sell weapons to both sides ("Iran-contra") and blame it on Oliver North. So long as one side wins and agreements to sell oil to the USA at a fair price, they are happy.

In the style of true diversity, the US does not really care who wins: the winner will sell them oil, and the loser will come back and buy more weapons for next time. The USA is a business. They sell guns and buy oil in the same way that Australia sells steel and buys DVD players. War is a business activity for some countries. It is good for their economy. Realize this, and thank God if you are smart enough to stay out of the firing line and in front of the check-out queue.

So the wars in the Middle East will continue, much like the war between Coke and Pepsi, or McDonalds and Burger King. It's just business. It's just money. It's nothing personal. The "War on Terror" will be never-ending; it will just ebb and flow, like the tides. America makes weapons and needs to sell them. They use oil and need to buy it. What are you gonna do? They are the largest economy in the world and they need to protect their economy from anything that would threaten it. God bless America …

In all probability, the pugilistic Americans are a threat to world peace, inasmuch as they believe that it is their duty to police the world ("finish the wars that others start") and supply arms to the highest bidder. By the same token, we are probably lucky to have them. Without the massive power of the world's "school bully", there could be complete anarchy.

As much as the US Marshall Plan is objectionable, it (and its clones) can be seen to have helped the world at large. It is arguable that victory in World War One could have gone to Germans, or eluded the British a lot longer without the help of the USA. World War Two was also seriously decided by the entry of the good old USA. The US involvement in Korea, Vietnam and Kuwait were possibly self-serving, but did have some positive impact on the rest of the world.

Where does this leave us? And what about China? Hmm, glad you asked. China is not even going near the Middle East. No need to. Why fight over something that has been cooked over for centuries, against an enemy that has lots of money and plenty of guns? The Chinese are not into suicide, Hare Kari was a Japanese trait …

While Americans fight Arabs in the Middle East (and anyone else who enters), China is quietly and diligently drilling for oil in Africa … Shh!

Will China fight to survive, or will they buy friends? The Chinese are making friends in Africa, building infrastructure, creating jobs, buying oil. They are sourcing blood to infuse into their economy. Far from sucking Sudan and Zimbabwe dry of oil to feed the Chinese machine; it is more of a symbiotic relationship.

You are illegally to find Africans hating Chinese in the same way that the Arabs can hate the Americans. For every Chinese oil-well in Africa, there are thousands more schools and jobs. African people who used to till the soil are now drilling for oil, on larger wages. Their once uneducated children, who were destined to work farms, are now studying to become geologists and engineers for the oilfields.

The Chinese do not need to sell weapons to the Africans or the African's enemies; instead, the Chinese do a nice sideline in selling cheap DVD players, laptop computers, cameras, T-shirts and the like. Just as the Chinese bought plenty of Australian steel and coal, then wave Aussies cheap plasma screen televisions, they are now doing things with the African nations to get oil. Can we blame them? Of course not, it's a free world, is not it? Well, maybe it's not free; it's just not so tightly controlled as it once was …

Who's the Boss?

It is certainly interesting to live in a generation where we have seen the Japanese economy and the American fire-power dominate the world for almost 50 years. The Japanese economy has since stalled, the Indians and Chinese are spending more on their armies than the USA and with all this strutting and chest-paving, I am glad to live in Australia …

OK, so some researchologist is going to check my facts, do a Google search and claim that the Asians are NOT putting more money into military spending than the USA …

Think again. With the same $ 100 note, I can pay an American man for four hour's labor, or one Chinese man for more than a week … The wages in Asia are minuscule when compared to average wages in America. The American-made TV costs ten times as much as the Chinese one. Do you think that armaments, tanks, guns and bombs are any different? They are all just products. It is all just labor. When you read that China spent $ 15 Million on their army, the Americans would have to spend over $ 200 Million to have the same impact …

If all arms were mercenary, you could pay both sides to fight each other. A million dollar investment on each side could see 25 US Marines fighting against over 300 Chinese soldiers. Both sides will have the same training and equipment; it's just that one side paid a lot more for their boots than the ones that were "Made in China".

If 300 men bought 25 men, which side do you think would win?

There is no need to panic, just watch the economy .

Again, I will say it again. Be alert and not alarmed. We are NOT facing the "yellow peril" that grandma feared. Australia will not be invited by masses of hungry Asians who want to take your life. Just as the Japanese did not take your money at the point of a gun; you gave it to them! After Japan lost the war in 1945, the Japanese battled to get their country back onto its feet, and then made a success of their economy and their people.

Economically-empowered Japanese businessmen started buying up Australian soil on the Gold Coast, they were not stealing it. They could not have taken our homes and land if we did not first take their money. We gave up our territory willingly.

The Chinese will not invade your back yard, because that will result in a war. As we have seen previously, the only winners in a war are the Americans … and nobody wants that to happen … The Chinese will simply continue to make products to offer you, and you will continue to give them money. Occasionally, neauvo-riche Chinese businessmen will buy all of the Australian land from the Japanese and the Aussies.

The Chinese will become our new land-lords and we will all live in harmony without a shot being fired. Some of you may not believe my forecast of Australia becoming "little China". You are entitled to your opinion. No-one thought that that war-torn Japan would go from wasteland to dreamland within a few short decades. Quick tip: learn to nod and bow.

Thank God and watch the destination of your dollar .
There will be no use complaining once the Chinese own half of Australia: the time to protest was last week when you went shopping … People complained when the Japanese bought the Gold Coast, but these whingers were the same half a generation and half their wages on buying Japanese watches, Japanese TVs and Japanese portable stereos. Be thankful that the Japanese actually injected their money back into Australia. Without them, we may have been broke and stuck with owning the Gold Coast ourselves …

Hmmm, maybe we should send the Japanese a Thank You card … Or A Thank God card. Can you send God a Thank You card?

Thank God that the Chinese are buying Aussie steel and coal. If we sent all our money to China to buy appliances and T-shirts, and if the Chinese sent that money to Ecuador to buy raw materials, Ecuador would go broke!

The Chinese economy is booming, India is coming second, and Australia is coming along for a ride on the coat-tails of our Asian neighbors. We are making money, creating jobs and things are looking good. Our old buddies, the British and the Americans are on the roads and have been for some time. Their economies are sick and may not recover. The question is, will you offer to help our old imperial friends or will you switch camps and learn Mandarin?

Shé Shé is Chinese for Thankyou

Next time I go shopping, I may make a conscious effort to "Buy Australian" to keep jobs here and to support my immediate neighbors inside of my country. There is a very strong chance that I will "Buy Asian" if the price is fair and the quality is good. There is an extremely low chance that I will buy products from the UK or the USA. It's not just that I have zero respect for the leaders of both countries, their economic policy, war-mongering antics and education systems … the citizens also talk funny! ☺

Thank God I live in a country where I can openly criticize not only my own political leader, but the leaders in other countries as well. I can also criticize the popular media and choose to disbelieve most of what they say.

Thank God the economy of my country is more closely aligned with selling "good" things that people need, such as steel, coal, gas, wheat and wool; not selling things that people just want, like stereos (China), drugs (South America) and guns (USA).

She'll be right, mate

If a world-wide recession happens, people will still need to trade with Australia to get our wonderful and essential raw materials and agricultural items. There will be less demand for baseball caps and more demand for minerals and food. We will be OK.

Australia is an English-speaking nation in the middle of Asia, giving us license to trade with other English speakers on the other side of the world, or trade with our closest neighbors in our region. We can make our own terms of trade and create our own destiny. We do not have arranged marriages and starving citizens like those in India, nor do we experience government control and internet censorship like the Chinese. There is no over-crowding in our country and you can have as many children as you can afford to feed. Our children can have religious education at school and do not get frisked for weapons on the way into class. We truly are the lucky country.

If you are Australian, take a deep breath and allow your chest to swell with pride. Chances are, this is the lucky country because your fore-fathers (and fore-mothers) were communicating who dug with the Imperial British task-masters and built infrastructure for the new colony. Their offspring (and your ancestors) were probably free settlers who fought against invasion by foreign powers in several wars. You do not have to fight for your country now, just invest into it.

Think Global, Act Local

Buy Australian when you can and when you want to.
Buy Asian sometimes without feeling guilty. After all, they are our neighbors and they buy our stuff too! It is possible that your job absolutely depends on a product, service or raw material being sold in Asia.

Do some research on the internet or at the library. Read about US economic policy, read about the Marshall Plan, watch "Bowling for Columbine" or "Fahrenheit 911" on DVD. Realize that sometimes politicians lie, and the bigger the economy, the bigger the lie has to be in order to protect it.

Know that the media is used by governments and corporations to sell you things that you did not know that you needed; not all the time, but often. Realize why Derryn Hinch spent a lot of time in jail, and why John Laws lied about the banks paying him. Look for the story behind the story. Be alert and not alarmed. Know the "destination of your dollar" and find out "who's taking your money". Look long-term. Then hold your breath and invest.

Jeremy

* A juggernaut is an "irresistible force that destroys everything in its path" (named from the Indian "Jagganauth", a Hindu deity who is engaged on a large float during religious festivals. ☺

** You can find eco-friendly, tree-hugging, smiley care-bear investments with many fund managers these days. Yes, I do tease them, but with a big wink. Many "sustainable resource managed funds" out-performed benchmarks, with some returning over 20% in 2004-2005. Ask your financial planner for more details.

*** To discover my favorite charities, you will have to read Invest News September 2005 "Keep me for Free" or donate money to INVEST to see the hidden webpage. Thanks to the person who donated $ 15 anonymously last month. This helps to keep the website going and enables us to offer you free education, free mp3's and free books.

This article, e-mail and its attachments are not intended to sentence any form of financial advice or recommendation of, or an offer to buy or offer to sell, any security or other financial product. This advice is general in nature and does not take into account any of your unique circumstances. We recommend that you seek your own independent legal or financial advice before proceeding with any investment decision. Remember to send this to your friends if you learned something. If you can read this then you probably do not need glasses, contact lenses or shares in OPSM.

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Source by Jeremy Britton