Impossible Programmers
by Roloff "deleto" DeJeu

No, I'm not gonna bore you with my impossibility to catch the thief in Keystone Kapers and do some police brutality on his ass.

I want to talk to you about impossible-to-program-games.

Now if I'd take a DeLorean, fly back to 1980 and show the guys at ATARI that were about to start ActiVision some of the more (graphically) stunning VCS games of years later, would they be shocked with disbelief? Or would they quickly point out the bigger ROM size and complain about their programming kits? The original first programmers and creators of the 2600 estimated that only a dozen or two different games could be made on this programmable Pong-DeLuxe machine.

We all know Pac-Man sucks because Tod Frye had to do with 2K (as he claims). Yet he managed to produce California Games in the late Eighties, working at Epyx. At CGExpo '99, A French programmer showed Frye a stunning port of Pac-man, with graphics and motion as good as the arcade version - on a 2600 no less! Frye just nodded and went off to play his favorite classic game: Craps in the casino downstairs.

What has always stunned me is the difference in quality of the first games that come out of a game console and the ones made for it years later. Appearently, programmers become more inventive along the way, and figure out ways to hack around the impossibilities of the machine.

A limitation in resources often forces improvisation and can lead to very original and creative solutions to problems. Just take a look at some of the indie-low-budget movies that have been made in the last couple of summers. They may not be showcases of visual eye-candy, but sure have great plots, characters, dialogues and are move you emotionally.

A couple of years ago I went to a great seminar at CGIX (a European equivalent of Siggraph) called "Why Today's Games Suck", and I'd like to end with the same plea as the host did. Please you (classic-platform) programmers, with all the tools available these days, don't forget to be creative as well. Thanks to the internet, sales, marketing and distribution is not a burden, and is something you can control yourself. EMUs, FAQs and home-made developers kits, free carts (packaging) and cheap (EP)ROMs make it so easy compared to the Eighties to program - but make one lazy and spoiled as well. Show us something we not haven't seen before, but haven't played before. If you succeed, here's a slogan you are free to use: "GAMEPLAY DOES MATTER!"

And a lot of great products are team-efforts by the way, so if you're a great math nerd but suck at design and writing story, ask someone else to do it for you!

If you can't find anyone - I'm available.

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Last updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 04:04 PM