Category Archives: Computer Game

Not Just for Nerds and Code Monkeys Anymore

It used to be that there was a lot of coding and tech involved in making a computer game. And, while that still is the case in some regards, the process has become incredibly streamlined and simple. Games and the way we make them have truly evolved. Before the widespread use of phones and tablets, nobody would play a simple word game if it didn’t have amazing graphics or lots of customization options. It wouldn’t be worth the trouble. But now, with the allure of playing anytime, anywhere, against people from all over the world, people just want the game to be bug-free and responsive. And usually cheap. That doesn’t sound all that hard to do, does it?

With the easy access to gaming platforms, there is a huge market for good games in every genre. And because there is such a demand for them, more people want in on it.  It used to be a lot of people spending long hours hunched over a keyboard, straining their eyes at millions of lines of code to make a game work. But not anymore. Nowadays, there are shortcuts galore for anybody interested in making a game.

There are programs like GameMaker, where you can drag and drop your entire game without knowing a single bit of actual programming. No need for years of college courses to teach you programming languages that will be obsolete by the time you graduate,then trying to find a company to help you develop your idea. If you have a cool concept, now you can put it together and make it happen all on your own. Then you can export it to just about any platform, including Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Windows, Xbox, and Playstation, depending on what you use to create your game. If you use GameMaker, you can even make push notifications for your players, and it offers support for ads and in-app purchases so you can actually make money off your game once it is released. There are a few different versions of the programwith various levels of features, but one of them is free. FREE.

Then you have games like Minecraft where the users can create their own worlds, or run the game fromtheir own servers, basically creating their own game environment. You can add all kinds of extra coding to make mods. Whether you consider that cheating or not, mods can have a huge impact on how that game looks and performs. It makes the game incredibly personal and unique. There are plenty of tips and how-to videos to add mods to your game online and on youtube.

Major studios have gotten in on this craze, too. There are games like Lego Dimensions, Super Mario Maker, and Disney Infinity, where the whole premise of the game is having the ability to modify your world. In the case of the Lego game, you are building things in real life with bricks that will be translated into the game. Super Mario Maker is exactly what it sounds like: you can design and play your own Super Mario Brothers games. In the Disney Infinity series, you can use “creativi-toys” to modify how characters act as well as create your own challenges and adventures. You also get online access through games like these to share worlds with other players, so people all over the world can be playing the things YOU created.

Don’t let coding intimidate you. There are tools everywhere you look. If you’re inspired, get your game out there!

Minecraft Hacks That Make Life Easier

Minecraft Hacks That Make Life Easier

Some people are not big fans of altering or cheating in games. But I look at it more as game…improvement, if you will. Although I really enjoy them, I don’t have a lot of time to play games like Minecraft, which are huuuuge time sucks. You sit down and start playing, and the next time you look at the clock, five hours have gone by and you’ve missed at least one meal. Which means I do use a few tricks to help me better use my time, but only when I am playing on my own. Nothing too obvious or that would be an incredibly unfair advantage (this is my one gripe with invincibility). Here are a few that I use on and off when I have time to play but not enough time to deal with some of the nonsense and monotony.

For example, unbreakable tools. This means less time mining and building tools because they never wear down or break. It isn’t too hard to do, and there are plenty of youtube videos out there to show you how. If you already have an inventory editor, you can change the “damage” value to a negative number and that will work, too. I don’t really feel like this one is a big deal because all I am really doing is saving myself some time. I don’t do anything else with it, except keep my tools safe. Highly recommend.

XRay mod… It is time consuming to always be looking for the more valuable materials, and it can be really difficult. If you use an XRay mod, you can see special ore blocks that will save you tons of time so that you can get everything you need quickly and easily. Yes it is a distinct advantage but oh man does it make life easier. I cut the amount of time I need to play in half with this. Well, I’ll be honest. I actually spend the same amount of time playing, I just don’t have to spend as much of that time mining. There’s so much about this online that you should have no problem figuring out how to do it.

Radar mods. Again, I really only use this as a time saver, if I am looking for someone specific or avoiding mobs and the like. A mod like RadarBro will give you icons for anything you will run across, and you can tag allies so they’ll show up. It can be invaluable if you are lost or in a new area and trying to hook up with a friend. Or if you just don’t feel like dealing with mobs or other enemies.

So there you have it. Just a few things to make things easier for you but doesn’t always make other players angry or give you too much of an advantage. I like to look at it as being more informed than the average player… use only in single player mode. If you are going to be on a multi-player server, either turn all mods off or clear it with the other players first. It’s a different type of community, so act accordingly.

Gaming Machines

Gaming Machines

If you’re interested in game dev and want to get started on your own, or you just want to play the latest and greatest games on your computer, you need a model that can handle the work. I go with a PC for my gaming stuff based on how easy it is to get into to swap out parts if something goes bad or needs to be upgraded. Some people use laptops for the portability factor, and if that’s important to you, more power to you. I have found that games are a huge battery drain and overheats laptops quickly. Plus, I also have a good sized monitor (it is 32 inches) because it can help with eye strain, so I’m not lugging my stuff anywhere.

Save yourself a lot of aggravation and do not scrimp on the processor. I cannot stress this enough. Get a quad core. The higher the GHz, the faster it will be and the more your computer will be able to handle. This can make or break your gaming computer. Intel is more expensive than AMD but is usually worth the extra money, as their processors are superior.

The next thing is the graphics card. Stay away from those low-end cards and spend the money. It will be worth it in the end. The higher quality the card, the smoother your game is going to look and the better it will run. With the resolution, the higher the numbers, the better it’s going to look, especially if you want an oversized monitor. And speaking of monitors, if you have one in mind, check the hertz rate. Just like on your TV, the faster the refresh rate, the smoother movement will look, so choose accordingly. That slick hi-def monitor won’t do you any good if the card you get can’t handle the refresh rate. Here’s a good rule of thumb when considering the memory you’ll want your card to have: 1GBfor displays below1080p;  2GBfor1080p;anything more than that, you’ll need to go higher.

Next is the hard drive. Hard drives are costly, and so this is something you need to consider before purchasing. Buy only as much as you think you’ll need. The rest of it will just sit there unused, so it won’t help you any. I tend to delete games once I beat them, so I don’t need as much space as you might expect. Check out a few games you’re interested in playing and see how much space they’ll take up. You can always upgrade this part later, through flash drives, additional hard drives, replacement drives, or servers. If you guess wrong, you aren’t doomed. I prefer SSD, especially for laptops (let’s face it, you bang the crap out of those). Yes, they cost more, but they also load faster, which helps with games that take awhile to boot up. It is something you’ll notice, believe me.

The sound card is only important if you want it to be. Typically now sound cards are part of the motherboard itself, so there isn’t as much flexibility there. You can go with a separate card if you like, but keep in mind that it will only sound as good as the speakers/headphones you are planning on using. If you invest in some killer speakers, then a higher quality sound card makes sense. And you’ll need to upgrade it if you want to play in 7.1 surround sound. Honestly, this is a bit tricky, as what sounds good to one person might not to another, and you may not even notice the difference between and upgraded card and the stock one.

RAM isn’t actually as important as you think it is. Again, this is a pricey component, especially if you try to customize a PC from the manufacturer, so buy only what you’re going to need. Check those game boxes and you’ll see most require around 8 GB. If you know what you’re doing, it is pretty easy to add additional RAM (if you don’t know, the internet does, so based on your DIY confidence level, you should be fine), so you can put in more later if you find 8 to be a problem.

That’s all for today. Hope this has given you enough info to help create a game system that’ll work for you.

Retro Style

Retro Style

When it comes to video game systems, I make sure I have the best new system, controllers, and gear. I’ve been known to wait overnight outside a store a time or two. I like the complete immersion of current video games, with their ability to make you feel like you’re really pitching in the ninth inning of the World Series, or that you’re really wearing MJOLNIR armor and following Master Chief’s orders. But when it really comes down to it, I am more of a classic guy. I can’t help myself. Call it whatever you want—lame, reliving my childhood, whatever, I don’t care. As a programmer, I still enjoy games that had to rely on a good story to interest the players without the distraction of HD movie-style graphics, a killer soundtrack, and more than just a d-pad and two buttons. Plus, it’s a lot less work.

I’m not alone in this. Just check eBay. Old video game consoles and retro games are to today’s older generation as the baseball cards they left behind in their parents’ attics were to them. It’s how some people are putting themselves through community college.

True story.

If you’ve found this blog and you’re interested in classic games, there are a couple ways to go about it. You can spend a lot of money tracking down games on their original consoles, and be a retro gaming purist. A great resource for you if you’d like to go that route is Racket Boy, which has just about everything you can think of—lists of games and their value, guides to help you out, forums to reach like-minded others, and a store for hard-to-find accessories and adaptive equipment.

If you don’t care about authenticity, you can get things like the Intellivision Flashback—it’s got sixty of their most popular games on it, plus replica controllers. Nintendo also has some of their older, more popular games (as well as Sega and Turbographx 16) available for download in their online store. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty close. It is also cheaper and less time consuming than tracking down the old consoles, games, and accessories.

If that all seems like too much work, money, or trouble, you’re in luck. There are sites like Play Retro Games and Game Oldies that have games as far back as Atari! There are also a bunch floating around on the appstore and in google play. Next time you’re really bored, check it out and see what you can find. Even if you weren’t around when some of these games started—Mario’s been around since his stint in Donkey Kong back in 1981—it is something to do until the next game comes out. It is an even better way to test out titles and see if they are as great as you remember. I’ve found that they usually aren’t, because I can blow through them way faster now than when I was a kid (no homework or bedtime holding me back) but somehow they are still worth it.

Anyway, hope I gave you some food for thought for today and reopened up your video game library to some titles you may have forgotten about.

Start Here

Start Here

If you are interested in game dev, the first thing you need to think about after you have your concept down is the POV you want. Everything else about your game’s look and feel will be dictated straight from this point, regardless of how fancy or high tech the graphics or complex the plot. There are three POVs in gaming:

First Person: this is the way that we see the world around us naturally. The player’s view will be straight ahead, and the camera will need to pan from side to side to simulate the player turning his or her head. Many games use this POV because when done correctly, it can really “sell” the player on the reality you are immersing them in with your game. Your goal when creating the game is to have players forget about the distance between themselves and their screen; you want them to believe that what they see on the screen is what they’re seeing through their own eyes. Technically great graphics or photorealistic images and high-quality sound will help perpetuate that illusion. Many shooting style games are first person, as it lends itself to be more accurate for targeting and more realistic gameplay (i.e., looking through a scope). If not done properly, it can really throw off the player’s perception and make the game both difficult to play and potentially nauseating.

Second Person: this is a little less typical, and seen mostly in text based games. Second person narration relies heavily on the pronoun “you,” which made it so effective for text-based game immersions. Everything in the game is influenced by “you” as the character, so the plot will rely on things that are initiated by or happen to “you” as the player. Text based games are very low tech and old school, but can be combined with graphics and given more of a comic book feel. Second person visually may be harder to pull off, because you would have to create a second, non-player character as a witness to the game. There isn’t really a logical point to do things that way, but if you can come up with an interesting concept, it might be very cool and can set your game well apart from others in its genre.

The last, and most common, is Third Person. In this POV, the player can see the character that they are controlling. Most scrolling games fall into this category. You may or may not be able to pan around the character; it will depend on the type of game and the look you are going for. If you are planning on having characters run, climb, and jump a lot, it will be easier if the player can see their entire avatar for better accuracy. There’s a reason all those Mario games are third person!