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Monday, July 31, 2006


The "Make Game" Button

Last week I saw another one of those annoying "you can be a game designer" commercials. In it, the two guys were in this huge room, lounging around and talking about how this was their work! To prove it, one of the guys said, "add that sound to that character" and the other guy complied by reaching down and pressing a button on the arm of his chair, like he was Captain Kirk or something.

Here's the way it works, folks. Computers are stupid, stupid things. Making a video game means getting this stupid, stupid machine to do the same thing, without fail, every time, even while the player is doing any number of other infinite things. It takes planning, tools, and careful use of resources. And yet, there is still this public perception that all it takes is pressing a button. Oh, if only it were that simple.

Arcade Update - Exterior Complete
Wahoo! It looks like a real game! Now I need to start scrounging for computer parts to upgrade the interior. Click here to see all of the pictures and see how it looked before I began.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Mid-week update

Blogger seems to be working a little better now, I thought I'd post a little mid-week update. As an experiment, I've added a link in the Media section to a downloadable demo of my last 3D Ultra Pinball title, Thrillride. Of all of the titles in the series, I think this was the most enjoyable one to do, not the least of which was the opportunity to work with the great folks at Hershey Park. The 3D Ultra series, by the way, sort of cemented my reputation at Sierra as "the guy who makes those pinball games." Sigh, I miss those days.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Technical Difficulties

If it's not one thing, it's another. After several days of heat advisories, a thunderstorm knocked out the power for five hours and a second thunder storm threatened us with rising waters. Now it's back to the heat again. But the only thing that's really stopping me from posting on time is Blogger and some strange delays they are having on their end. But I wanted to let you know I was still here. More later.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Five little words...

We're smack dab in the middle of the hazy days of summer. It's Monday and promising to be a hot one this week in the balmy Midwest. Which usually means mistakes will happen. In the process of making a game (or any venture where there's a lot of people working on the same thing) mistakes occur and it's up to folks in quality control to find those mistakes and bring them to our attention so we can fix them. It is often during this process that we see those five little words that we dread: "it would be nice if..." These words are usually followed by a suggestion that seems trivial on the surface, but threatens to trigger an avalanche of bugs and errors as programmers, artists and designers inadvertantly destroy the fragile house of cards that the rest of the game is resting on, all to attempt to satisfy the needs of a tester who, truth be told, probably wasn't all that adamant about the suggestion in the first place. And so it goes, the initial fix creating new bugs that need fixing, resulting in more error reports and more musings and suggestions and it's a wonder anything ever gets delivered on time at all. So if you're ever wondering why your favorite game still hasn't reached the store shelves after six months since it was promised, it's probably because of those five little words: "it would be nice if..."

Monday, July 10, 2006


In which I discuss Tron and Pirates...

Since I've been building the arcade machine (see the last 4-6 week's entries) I've been thinking about games that I used to play when I was younger. One of the things that really gets those brain cells moving are the sounds, the music. So I felt compelled to search the library catalog for the soundtrack to Tron, that 1982 classic from Disney. I put the transfer request in and I was very excited when I was notified that it was ready for pickup. However, instead of a CD, what the library handed to me was a 12-inch LP in a heavy media case. Turns out that the description just said "disc" - they left the compact part out. Even so, I think they need to come up with a better way of describing these things. Of course, what I really want is the Tron soundtrack on CD!

This weekend, most of America flocked to see the return of Jack Sparrow in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I'm guessing more than a few folks are out there wondering if they can take a little of that action home to play on their home PC. Well, the jury's still out on the officially licensed game, but one game that really brings all of that fun into a little silver disc is Sid Meier's Pirates! This is an updated version of Sid Meier's 1987 release (under the same title) and none of the gameplay that made the original so much fun has been interfered with at all. Raise a crew, pick a flag and start harassing other ships that sail the Caribbean. Bombard them with your cannon and fight ruffians with your sword (the sword fighting is a bit more hollywood than historical, but hey, it's a game). Search for treasure and win the heart of a pretty damsel. Yo ho!!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Game related injuries

One of the drawbacks of being as old as I am is that I'm not as limber as I used to be. Truth be told, I hurt myself by playing real football with my son, just throwing passes to him. Seems that I need to work into it a little more before I try to be John Elway. All this proves is I need to spend less time sitting behind a computer and more time outside. Now how to convince my boss of that?

By the way, some folks contacted me wanting to know more about that "skin" I made for my arcade machine. It's for a game launcher (also known as a "Front End") called MaLa that is designed to provide easy access to numerous applications that folks want to run on machines like the one I'm working on. I'm holding on to the one I made for the Gamecreature machine, but if you want one that's similar, you can click on the link on the Media page to get your own (it links to the MaLa website, so you can get a copy of that as well - it's pretty useless without it, really). I really got a kick out of making it and seeing it interact with the software. I'll definitely be making some more skins. Drop me a note in the comments section below or directly if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Arcade Update - Putting it Together
Things are really taking shape with the cabinet now. We've moved it upstairs and it actually plays games now. There's a few more things I needs to do before I can call it "finished." The plastic molding needs to be replaced and I want to put something in to replace the missing bezel. And the CPU is as slow as a slug (I think I've mentioned that before). At any rate, here's how it looks now (check out how it used to look here):


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