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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Column: The RISC OS Gaming World

Column: The RISC OS Gaming World

Posted by Nathan on 01:00, 30/3/2001 | , , ,
Nathan's take on RISC OS games programming

As a few of you may know, I have been involved with a lot of behind-the-scenes projects in the RISC OS world, some that have fruited, some in progress and some dead. Over the past 4 years I have become to realise the difficulties that underlie this tiny market through my own and colleagues mistakes.

The 2D vs 3D debate

The constant comment on the newsgroups and forums always involves someone saying something along the lines of "A game has to be 3D to be any good." Whereas this comment may hold some water in PC land there are a number of recent games that are 2D available for the Dreamcast and even the PlayStation 2 such as:

  • Capcom Vs SNK
  • Fantavision
  • Slipheed
Added to the fact that the RISC OS market is small, the gaming market is even smaller. How many games developers do you think there are? 10?....5?....VOTI are one, Artex another and Paradise as well as the odd other game that strains through. In PC land vast groups of people work on a project but there is simply no manpower or reward for doing this on RISC OS. RISC OS developers are driven by enthusiasm rather than money and most of the coding takes place in spare time, and games take an age to complete. Graphics artists are hard to find, coders are hard to find, group coordination is hard to find....enthusiasm is hard to find.

Also, in my personal experience, the number of coders who say and never do is frightening. I take on board that everything has to be in the spare time but I don't like "It'll be done this weekend." when it never is. Worst still is no sign of anything being produced and then they just vanish. I have come to rely on only a few coders now and am very wary about getting new coders onboard.

3D engines have also been widely publicised but none have been finished to be used by anyone and the current developers can't take time out to write one because that stops another game or two being released in that time frame. It's a pity that these sad "2D games are rubbish" people don't help out in the market, it's strange why they bother posting to RISC OS boards at all, maybe they get a kick out of it.

Newsgroup/Forum Problems

The sole coders amongst us have it harder, they have to do everything themselves and sometimes venture onto the newsboards asking for ideas, one of the worst comments to make here is, "You don't want to do that, you want to do a game based on...."

Coders have their own ideas and will implement new ideas just so long as it doesn't mean a complete rewrite. This type of comment kicks them in the teeth and I have had to save many a person from abandoning projects because of stupid, misplaced comments given to them, even by only one person and sometimes I haven't been able to talk them out of it.

The Future

I am constantly in search of people to put together for groups to tackle projects. I have made no money off this scene, I gave all SunBurst money to Owain and all Chaos Engine monies were turned down. Stupid isn't it? I feel guilty taking any money as I want the coders to have the maximum they can have.

If you are a coder, graphics artist or musician or want to offer your support then get in touch, I'll arrange suitable teams and keep support high.


It comes down to this....everyone goes on about the RISC OS community, if this is true then why can't we stick together and help each other out with helpful ideas and resist any urge to post something detrimental to anyone. We are in the same boat and currently it has holes in it, the gaming market is one such hole. There are too many holes for our patches, we need coders and groups....get active and do something....there is no room for enthusiasm killers.

  Column: The RISC OS Gaming World
  alasdair (12:24 2/12/2000)
  Michael Stubbs (17:13 3/12/2000)
    Martin Savage (19:47 5/12/2000)
      Owain Cole (11:21 12/12/2000)
        Owain Cole (11:28 12/12/2000)
          Christopher James Bazley (18:19 14/12/2000)
            Christopher James Bazley (18:20 14/12/2000)
              Symo (11:32 5/1/2001)
Alasdair Bailey Message #87810, posted by alasdair at 12:24, 2/12/2000
Posts: 17
I agree with Nathan on the point about our coders needing thicker skin. Many of the comments people make on newsgroups are meant 'in the best possible taste' to borrow a phrase and are not to be taken negatively.

Thinking about it though, it might pay to listen more to what the grumblers say because at the end of the day, they represent the market for the games...

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Michael Stubbs Message #87811, posted at 17:13, 3/12/2000, in reply to message #87810
Unregistered user Well, I am a musician and I have Sibelius 7, so if I ever get some free time I would be willing to help with that side of a game, if someone is willing to explain how to get music into a format useable in a game etc.

I won't really have any time until about March 2001, though :(
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Martin Savage Message #87812, posted at 19:47, 5/12/2000, in reply to message #87811
Unregistered user I'll do some graphics for any worthwhile game just as soon as I graduate and have no more 4am bedtimes...

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Owain Cole Message #87813, posted at 11:21, 12/12/2000, in reply to message #87812
Unregistered user I'm a coder. I have some free time that I can use. Unfortunatly I am being forced to convert graphics by an evil slave driver. Ahem
BTW Nathan, the level editor has a bug.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Owain Cole Message #87814, posted at 11:28, 12/12/2000, in reply to message #87813
Unregistered user But seriously folks, I think one of the major contributing factors to the lack of quality games out there is the sheer time it takes to wirte a non-arcade game, and th etime for the user interface. SFE is arcady, and a good one at that, but it only took a few days to code the actual game. Hell, you could play SFE about 5 hours after I started (bugs permitting!)

However, the user interface took about 2 months to write and hone.

In comparison, SunBurst, the game (acrade part) was finished in 1 year. (Full time job held down at same time). The Interface took 2 and a half YEARS to write, ie the station bits, missions, testing missions checking missions, playing through the game etc.

It takes ENORMOUS dedication to spend 3 entire years on a project, then to have somebody slag it off in a review or a forum (eg look at acorn arcade's own review of SB, it's hardley that complementory. Nit picking and all. <quote> And I was HORRIFIED to find that after you loaded it up, it went back to the desktop, and you actually had to CLICK on the ICON!!! to run the GAME!!!!.......... I was disgusted to find that the interface for inside the stations was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!!! (get that, completely different!) form that required to fly the space craft around in space </quote>

Really? No sh*t

What I'm getting at is that it's basically not very rewarding to spend 3 years on somehting and for people to come out with comments like that. I don't know if I can be bothered any more.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Christopher James Bazley Message #87815, posted at 18:19, 14/12/2000, in reply to message #87814
Unregistered user I agree with both sides of this argument:

There is no use writing games, then ignoring the fact that the people who are your prospective customers don't like them. It is one thing to write games for yourself (in which case you do what you like), but I think to sell them, you have to listen to the gamers.

On the other hand, I constantly get the impression that neither gamers, nor programmers who aren't games coders, have any idea of the amount of time and commitment required to write even the smallest game.

It is very difficult for people to understand the complexity of what they are playing, and the fact that it is unreasonable to expect something written in someone's spare time to measure up to games with huge teams working on them.

There are three solutions to the problems currently in the RISC OS games community:

1) More understanding from games players about the enormity of the task of coding a game, and the dedication, time and effort required to do it.
2) Consideration of the prospective market, by games programmers. If you write a lame game, you should expect lame reviews. Reviewers can't lie because they admire your dedication.
2) Single programmers engaged on big projects should consider getting a team together to take responsibility for things like graphics, sound, music, organisation.
3) Otherwise, single programmers would be well advised to work on small-but-beautiful projects. SFE being a good example. Also Caves.

Just my thought for the day.
Incidentally, on balance, I thought that Sunburst was quite well-received (compare to reviews of Shuggy, Destiny!)

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Christopher James Bazley Message #87816, posted at 18:20, 14/12/2000, in reply to message #87815
Unregistered user Yes, I know I can't count. Just one of my many failings as a programmer, I'm afraid ;-)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Symo Message #87817, posted at 11:32, 5/1/2001, in reply to message #87816
Unregistered user Well I've been out of the Acorn market for some years now (but may return after my current PC Exile project is finished) but though I am writing this game for the PC, I still face the same problems - I'm coding on my own (though I do now have an artist) I hold a full time job, have to cram in whatever free time I have in the evenings when I've already spent the day coding at work and am knackered though its 100x more fun than what I'm doing during the day :)

And yes it does take years to get a game right, but in this life you have to take the rough with the smooth, having created a forum for my Exile conversion (www.symo.org.uk/exile *cough* *spam*) I have recieved great enthusiasm and many ideas, some possible, some not - but hey, everyone's entitled to an opinion. Initially I tried to accomodate everything but there comes a point where you have to draw a line in order to stick with your original concept of the game - the 'sequel' is a good way of doing this :)

When I wrote Citadel 2 on the Beeb, I did that in my spare time over a period of 4 years! I only got paid £100 for my efforts as the Beeb market had died pretty much by then, but I wasn't in it for the money.

Symo's final thought - whatever you're working on keep at it! There's no rush - we're doing it for fun not commercial gain so keep that in perspective.
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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Column: The RISC OS Gaming World