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A developer who spent 13 years making his childhood game (gamasutra.com)
358 points by radmuzom on June 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments

That pretty much defines 'art' I think. The artist is compelled to see the vision through, it isn't about the money or the time or the cost. I am quite impressed he stuck it through.

A long time ago (1983 to be precise) I started rewriting Empire, a curses based turn based strategy game (Hi Walter!) because I was convinced I could make it so much better and I had spent a lot of hours playing it. When I was at Intel working on a high end graphics chip I joked with one of the design engineers that it would be cool if you could see little armies fighting but we both agreed there probably wouldn't be enough CPU / graphics capability to do that in real time, at least not in our lifetime :-).

While I never finished my efforts (-1 for me I guess) I learned so much along the way, I bought Dunnigan's excellent 'How to Make War' book which was the bible for wargames at the time (and to some extent still is) and tackled path finding algorithms, and automated forces deployment, and strategic evaluation with limited vision, and all sorts of really interesting problems/puzzles that each offered up a ton of interesting insight. Bottom line it wasn't a waste of time for me, even though I have nothing to show for it.

I love that Adam stuck with it and got it done. Very inspiring.

Similar story, I got hired by a game development company to make a strategy game involving an aircraft carrier, a ton of aircraft and all kinds of boats and characters. When it was done it was a mini multi-tasking operating system, it taught me more than any project that I'd done up to that point. And the fact that it all played out in real time on a screen made it very easy to see if it wasn't keeping up.

This was on an ST so definitely not a slow machine and yet there were quite a few tricks required to keep it all moving smoothly with close to 100 objects on and off screen.

Good times :)

What is the name of this game?

Well my wrist reflexively ached when he described it and a picture of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrier_Air_Wing_%28video_game%... inserted itself into my head :-)

Pretty close. The game was called FlightDeck and the publisher was Aackosoft. It was a bit earlier though, 1980s, I'm a bit hazy on the exact date but it would have to be somewhere around 1988 or so.

Here are some shots from the MSX version (which was made a few years earlier by an absolutely awesome programmer called Steve Course).


That looks as though it might have been inspiration for "Carrier Command".

What an amazing feeling it must've been. I absolutely LOVE hearing these developer war stories from 80s and 90s, although 90s more because I am a 90s kid.

It definitely makes me feel that today's average devs are spoiled with all the innovations that have taken place...and still can't roll out a hit.

If you haven't seen it already, you might enjoy reading "It's Behind You" by Bob Pape. It's about how the game R-Type was ported to the ZX Spectrum back in the day.


HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6470106

If you want to read more about that particular gig:


I had a similar thought when I watched the video. Actually, I thought about the concept of 'Quality' as introduced in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Two moments in particular:

- the consistent lighting part: the guy is making this giant epic thing, so you'd think he would cut himself some slack on what really looks like a detail (I wouldn't have noticed it, especially not in this type of game). And yet, the guy absolutely obsesses over it because, you know, that's how it feels right.

- the 'aging' part, when he explains how he kept upgrading old sprites or levels as his skills improved so they "would match up to his standard".

And the best part is that the guy doesn't come off as being arrogant or anything. Just a dude, making the game he would like to play, and making sure it's as good as he dreams it to be. Inspiring.

>That pretty much defines 'art' I think. The artist is compelled to see the vision through, it isn't about the money or the time or the cost. I am quite impressed he stuck it through.


>I love that Adam stuck with it and got it done. Very inspiring.

I agree, and I also like how Adam was realistic in describing the burden of seeing the project through completion as an albatross.

There are several side projects I work on that I've never been able to finish, but I don't feel the psychological burden of them. It's hard to know if that means I'm just not committing hard enough to completing side projects, or I'm appropriately moving on at the right time. Either way, maybe one reason I don't feel like there's much 'artistry' to my output is that I'm not willing to take on that heavy of a burden.

Just food for though. Inspiring stuff. I found the PuzzleSolver program included in the download just as interesting as the game, btw.

Are you sure about the book title? That one is a guide to post ww2 combat whereas this one:

The Complete Wargames Handbook


Is about how to make computer war games.

This one: http://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Fourth-Edition-Comprehensive/...

Called "How to Make War" and it describes the mechanics, the theory, and the variables that impact the prosecution of warfare. The Wargames book was, in my opinion of course, a derivative which attempted to re-contextualize the information from HtMW into something more directly 'wargame like' but, again in my opinion, it left out too much to be useful even for that.

The Wargames book predates htmw by 10 years so htmw is the recontextualisation but thanks because the reviews on it don't really relatw to gaming.

I just bought it so I'll see for myself. I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

    When I was at Intel working on a high end graphics chip 
    I joked with one of the design engineers that it would 
    be cool if you could see little armies fighting but we
    both agreed there probably wouldn't be enough CPU /
    graphics capability to do that in real time, at least 
    not in our lifetime :-)
You really didn't think that would be possible in your lifetime in 1983? I'd think that would have seen pretty feasible by then, seeing as there were games on mainstream computers doing that not even a decade later.

Heck, I bet you could get something resembling that working on a 1985-vintage amiga.

I realize that this is an off the cuff sort of comment but two things stand out, first you have give credit to the Amiga as it was stunningly better than anything else when it was released in 1984, and as wonderful as it was, Populous (perhaps the first game will small isometric animated battles) didn't come out until 1989. In 1983 running Microsoft flight simulator on the CGA card was state of the art :-).

Since I was at Intel at the time neither one of us expected computers to get 1,000x better than they were at that moment in time (the 80286 @ 10Mhz woo hoo!) I was driving a BARCO 1024 x 768 RGB monitor that cost Intel $3,000 to purchase, they were predicting it would be under $1,000 in the next 10 years or so. Its hard to have little animated pieces running around recognizably on a pixel budget of 15 x 15 and perhaps 8 bits per to select out of a color pallet of 4096.

So the photo realistic stuff we saw at Siggraph we didn't expect would be 'real time' in our lifetimes, certainly not at anything close to affordable a price. And yes, we were way off base, but that is the nature of things.

It's funny how being closer to the reality and more informed about the technology can mean one's guesses about the future are more pessimistic than people making pie in the sky guesses (think scientists versus sci-fi authors).

I'm not directly involved in tech/hardware and I'm imagining full on reality-quality 'virtual reality' beamed into people's brains within 20 years. I imagine those in VR would scoff at this, but I'm kinda hoping I'll be closer to the truth ;-)

Hah, being a grad student in machine learning I feel this quite strongly. The popular science perception is that computers are already close to being smarter than us (BS articles about Turing tests don't help...), whereas it seems like if we truly reach computers that "think", it won't look anything like what we're doing now.

> It's funny how being closer to the reality and more informed about the technology can mean one's guesses about the future are more pessimistic than people making pie in the sky guesses (think scientists versus sci-fi authors).

Bill Gates has an interesting quote about this phenomenon, for which I forgot the exact wording... it says that you are always wrong as to how fast things will occur, but you are also wrong when you think stuff will not be available for a very long time. There's many examples of such assumptions being wrong now and then.

Did you never see what a 1mhz 6502 could do?

KnightLore 1984 http://retrospec.sgn.net/users/ignacio/images/knightlr.gif

Did you never go to a video games arcade?

BattleZone came out in 1980

Seriously, the PC took years to become State of the Art when VESA local bus freed us from IBM dictating the game with E/ISA and ceeding control by trying to force MCA on the world.

Anyone who knew about Trocadero http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Trocadero knew what was coming

There was a Transputer network game doing realtime raytracing!

Since I was at Intel at the time neither one of us expected computers to get 1,000x better than they were at that moment in time

Wasn't Moore's law[1] as widespread as it is nowadays back then?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_law

Yes, and in fact Gordon was still Chairman of Intel, but the thing about exponentials is they are always S curves. The trick is knowing when they are going to taper off and go flat :-)

You mean a logistic function. It starts off looking exponential. Exponentials don't go flat.

> Populous (perhaps the first game will small isometric animated battles) didn't come out until 1989.

I think Guantlet beat Populous by several years on that score.

Hi Chuck!

This article is pretty light on content. Much more interesting is the well-produced video the dev made himself, talking about his experience making the game, and talking about why it took 13 years.

The Game That Time Forgot:


I recommend people take a look. The video is indeed well-produced and the style reminded me of the director of Love Actually and About Time. It was not what I was expecting.

And it ends with the Space Harrier theme! Massive pangs of nostalgia just started flowing through me.

Game looks pretty cool actually from the video!

You can try it yourself, it's free: http://www.tobiasgame.co.uk/

With all of this dedication to a project, I had to download it and try it. Early on there's a room where everything is pitch black and it wants you to go back and find something "luminous." So you're thinking, probably a flashlight or torch or something.

Nope. It's a paintbrush with luminous paint. And it doesn't just light up the room, you have to fling gobs of luminous paint all around to reveal platforms in an otherwise dark room. And it's not just a ball at a time, each gob also trails lesser speckles that also help out.

I know this isn't ground-breaking or anything, but it's certainly a refreshing surprise from what you expect from games these days. It's something you wonder about, where the answer is clearly, "well, why not?"

I went from interested to impressed in a matter of minutes. I thought I was just going to download it to see what it was like, but now I'm curious what other great ideas will come out of no where.

I've been working on a roguelike for, I think, about 14 years now. It's gone through several rewrites, different languages, different UIs, and it's never come close to being done. These days, I tend to think of it more as a garden: something for me to putter around in but not as much a product (though I would love to get it to a point where other people can play it).

I really like the garden analogy. It's something I usually feel obscurely guilty about just puttering, but I probably shouldn't. Personal projects are supposed to be a hobby, not an obligation.

I have a similar game. I have a text based online football game, and can relate a great deal to many things he said, like the albatross.

I will start trying to reframe it in my mind as a garden. That sounds much nicer :)

I think 500 people right now play my game, and if anything that makes the weight of it all larger.

> a text based online football game

What? Can you describe it differently? I have no concept of how this could be played.

You are the GM of a team. You play against 31 other players in a professional league. You sign free agents, draft players, deal with injuries, choose plays for your team to run, when you want. Every real day, is a game "week" so you play a game a day, unless it's the offseason.

You have a salary cap you have to deal with. Trade with other human players. Try to win the Championship.

A season lasts a real time month from start to finish. The players are all fake, they grow up. They make pro bowls, and try to make the hall of fame.

We have leagues that have run over 70 seasons at this point.

that's amazing

I'm guessing something more like Football Manager than a game where you're moving the actual players in real time.

You are correct. There is no visualization for what happens, but there are summaries (box score) and play by play data.. long text file with lots of details for hardcore fans.

so...i am not a huge football fan, but this sounds interesting. Can you link it?

If you're not a huge football fan, it will be an over complicated mess to you, in all honesty.

It's a hardcore game. I've been trying to make it easier, but given the difficulties in the engine (vb6 and classic asp), it's been difficult to create a structure that makes sense. Plus as a hardcore fan, I have a lot of blindness on how to make it easier.

I really relate to everything he said in his documentary. Do you rewrite tons of work? Do you re platform? Tons of issues.

It was started in 2004, so that's a lot of old crud and bad coding.

The community helps some times with javascript plugins, and sometimes full windows utilities to make all the data easier to take in, but it's still a mess.

I need to figure out ultimately what I want to do with it, but it's a fun game, a good premise, there are other competitors with similar challenges. I don't know... :)

look at hattrick.org it's been running for years now.

hattrick is nice

I wonder if all developers could be roughly split into two groups: those who have lots of small initial projects and those who have mostly one big project (also unfinished but with more progress).

I'd put all people, including non-developers, into two groups. Those who finish their side projects and those who don't. The size of the first group is very, very small.

You must be careful about that distinction - some projects are never "finished". Especially in the case of code, where the traditional definition means less "complete" and more "unsupported and unmaintained", i.e. analogous to "dead".

Doesn't that tie to his point about ambition? People with side projects with huge ambitious goals don't complete them, because the goals are so large.

My side project is a fully realistic nfl simulation that mirrors the exact details of a real football game. The ambition is what never makes it "complete". I have a functional, effective football game. But is it a true accurate simulation? no. Is that even possible? Probably not.

and a middle group of folks with some big projects and some little ones.

so, no then

I have a giant pile of smaller projects too. :(

Off Topic: Some people say that Game Development is Saturated, but I believe that there is still a lot to accomplish and still tons of ground braking innovations in every sphere of Game Development are waiting for many more generations of prodigy. Some people say that the Graphics are solved but I believe, we still have miles to go for true realism. Please carry on with the innovations in game dev :)

As an example, Papers Please is a game which has been technologically possible for... maybe even decades. Still a wonderful, fresh game.

Graphics is important and I believe we will continue to see further innovations in this space.

However, I believe that we still need to achieve a lot in "story-telling" in games. The Mass Effect series is probably one of the best out there - the setting, characters, interactions, morality and gameplay.

If you think ME is the epitome of storytelling in digital gaming, I highly suggest you grab Planescape:Torment from Good Old Games[0]. And grab a few mods to modernize the experience[1].

0. http://www.gog.com/game/planescape_torment

1. http://www.gog.com/news/mod_spotlight_planescape_torment_mod...

So true! I still have the game box sitting on the shelf for this! It's been ages since I played it through, but it is still the game I look back at the most fondly!

Never realized there was a push to mod the game so extensively. Gonna have to give these mods a try and replay this one!

I feel exactly the opposite. To hell with graphics and story-telling - I want to play a GAME with good GAMEPLAY

What exactly does that mean?

Maybe he means that, when he wants to be told a story, he reads a book or watches a movie, and when he wants to play a game, he plays a game. I feel mostly this way myself: when I want to do something interactive, I want to do something interactive, not watch cutscenes or listen to or read dialogue. I guess this is why singleplayer story-driven games have never interested me very much, and why I prefer multiplayer games or open-ended singleplayer games (like sports or flight sims back before online games). Sometimes playing singleplayer, story/exploration-driven games feels like more work than play to me. There's 5 different branches in this dialogue tree; if I skip some, what if I miss some important detail, or something amusing? Better sit through all of them...then maybe I can get back to playing the game.

This makes sense from the narrow perspective that a compelling story has to be told through cutscenes or dialogue.

I don't see any reason there can't be interactive story-driven games. I agree though, games with a pre-defined story, and a path you have to follow, tend to lose a lot of the interactivity one would like in a game.

Extremely late to respond but the most simple example that comes to mind is Chess. Chess is all gameplay and does not rely on fancy graphics/art and there is no real story. It's pure gameplay.

I like games with great core mechanics, balance, etc. Hell I actually value soundtracks over graphics or story.

If you enjoy ME, be sure to try Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I & II, which easily measure up. I'd say even better, but that might be my fondness for that particular universe (the universe of KotOR is much richer than that of the movies).

For-Profit Game Development is completely saturated. Especially for salaried workers.

For-Hobby game development, or entrepreneurial game development (low probability of pay-off) is a blooming field.

People like MAKING GAMES.

And don't forget non-realism, there's still lots to explore in that area too.

While I see the appeal in realism, I'm in this camp. I don't really play any games with "realistic" graphics. I'm sure they'd be fun, but I've just never gotten into them.

I play old games, or "casual" games on my phone, neither type of games where realism is much of a factor.

I have a game idea I hope I get time to do one day, but if I ever do, it will be 2d - on purpose - and somewhat pixelated, also on purpose. In part because I love some of the visual effects of pixel art. And realism would not even remotely be a priority for the graphics.

For me, video games not only serve as an entertainment package. They are a whole different worlds to me. I dream of a game which could bring me into alternate reality, with near perfect settings from the real world, with my own twist, and a game in which I will not respawn again, much like Rouglikes in UHD 3d.

I am trying to make such a game, but its too hard to complete by myself in such a short lifetime :/

I knew I wasn't going to play it, but I found a let's play so I could see the details.


If you're interested.

This game changes your screen resolution, if you don't want this you have to select 'windowed' in settings.exe.

That's awesome! Reminds me of Cave Story[1], a platforming-shooter created by 1 man over 5 years, also originally released for free.


I'm always impressed when I see people who have spent such a large amount of time on a single project. Me personally, I keep flitting from project to project, creating a prototype, or a proof-of-concept before I get interested in something else and pursue that. I think a lot of people fall into these categories, breadth first vs. depth first. It's probably best to seek a balance between the two, as then you will still devote enough time to polish the outcome, while still having the time to explore many completely different projects.

Yep, that's me, too. Always coming up with new ideas for great projects, moved by a great spark of curiosity, but usually those projects just tend to die because after some time I've learned most of what I wanted to (I start getting into the boring details, like polishing, bug fixing, etc) and also because new ideas and new stuff to learn just appear and take all my attention. Even though I know that for every new project the chances of completion are close to 0, I still start them every time because it's still fun to experiment and useful to learn. And, who knows, maybe one of them might spark my curiosity long enough to make it a more serious project that might actually get to somewhere.

Dang. Props to the guy for seeing this through to the end.

I know I've had this same type of vision, except it was when I was making wads for doom. I had this wild idea of making this "super awesome" multi-level castle. I soon was bogged down with slowness and trying to do things the engine just couldn't handle causing artifacting et. al. Anyway, unlike this guy, I just gave up. :D

I'm really happy this developer stuck through and made this game. It's really inspiring and it shows that not all projects have to be motivated by external motives. Sometimes you just want to make something because it matters to you.

I also try to write a game since roughly a decade. But i'm really lazy, so i spend much more time in figuring out how to write a sufficiently good game in as few time as possible than to write that game.

That's great. It's kind of (personal interpretation here) Rick Dangerous meet Wonderboy. Congratulations to the author for believing in his own dream, that's real dedication.

I guess he didn't read "Lean Startup"

He should learn to code and remake it for Android or iOS?

Are there any good such games for mobile platforms? Maybe the game is not good enough though...

I, for one, applaud his effort :-)

This is awesome.

Well, it still didn't took as long as Duke Nukem Forever.

But nearly.

This is some crazy persistence and dedication to a project.

And to think my 5 years was long, 5 years I will never get back working on my web scraping project: http://scrape.ly

Windows-only sigh

How difficult would it be to port this?

edit: it's not a snarky, rhetorical, question – I really want to play this

So you'd have to port the Multimedia Fusion 1.5 (MMF) engine he used to make the game in. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multimedia_Fusion

That thing is going to be closed source, ancient, and not actively maintained. 1.5 seems to have been released in 2001.

Why don't you download a free MS VM from https://www.modern.ie/en-gb/virtualization-tools#downloads and then try it on there using something like VMWare or VirtualBox

Were later versions of MMF somehow not backwards-compatible?

No idea; a quick Google tells me there were some compatibility issues



I work on Gang Garrison 2, a game still actively developed which is also reliant on a dead game creation tool (Game Maker 8.0), so this is sadly familiar.

Do you know what happened to the project to redo GG2 in Python?

It got abandoned after a bit. Nobody is willing to do the work needed to "finish" it.

Considered a ground-up rewrite using something like Unity? They have some kickass 2D tooling now, plus you get physics for free

Unity is closed-source; I'll bet in ten years we'll see the same thing happening again, with people trying desperately to find some way to run these old games that were developed on the no-longer-supported Unity platform.

Dunno, I'd say Unity has enough traction behind it to not suddenly disappear. It's a major contender now.

Developers write their own code in unity (C# or JS) as well as bringing in their own assets (music, art, etc). So even if the unity engine disappears, authors will be able to release their work in a meaningful fashion.

It works fine with wine.

I can confirm this.

Wine is always worth a try.

If there are any problems, (1) make a reportable Wine bug (2) report it to the dev, who may be able to help.

I would try it with Wine and see.

With Wine everything is fine

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