Ifs and Elses

Ifs and Elses

So, in my last post I discussed my criteria for what I’m going to count as a game creation system for the purposes of this blog. But as I said in that post, there are still quite a few questions that that post leaves unanswered. So in this post, I’m going to try to answer them… covering all the miscellaneous questions that I can think of pertaining to my plans. (Admittedly, there’s some overlap between this and the previous post, and some of these points probably could have gone there, but… oh well.)

  • Modern games are created by large teams. Can I realistically expect to make whole games by myself?
Well… I’m arrogant enough to think I could create a whole game by myself; I have the programming, artistic, and writing skills to do everything if I wanted to. But it would take me a long time, and, yeah, for a modern game engine it may not be realistic. The key word here, though, is “modern”. For the game creation systems from the 80s and early 90s, I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic for me to create a game on my own. When I get to the age of complicated 3D engines… well, okay, then it may be another matter. But it’ll be a long time till I get there, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Maybe I’ll have to modify my criteria a little when I get to that point. Maybe by then I’ll have collaborators helping me out. Maybe there’ll be tools developed by then that make it more feasible for one person to do everything. In any case, this won’t really be a concern for quite some time.
  • What about game systems in other languages?
Most of the game systems on my list are, of course, in English… but not all of them. There are some in Russian, some in Japanese, I think a few in German, maybe a couple in Spanish… I’m sure there more in other languages I’m forgetting. Will I still cover these systems? Well… I’m going to try. I have an interest in languages anyway, so it could be kind of interesting to try to muddle through and figure things out. (Though help from native speakers may be appreciated, when I come to those games… though that won’t be for a while; unless there’s one I overlooked it looks like the earliest non-English system on my list dates to 1986, and I’ve got about a hundred systems from 1985 and earlier to get through first.)
  • What about a game that’s gone through several versions?
There are a lot of game systems that have been released in several different versions, sometimes over the course of several years. Do I count each version as a separate system? Or do I just go with the earliest version? Or the latest? For commercial releases, there’s a fairly easy solution; each separate product counts as a separate release, but patches or updates to a game aren’t. Thus though they were released by the same company and are clearly related, RPG Maker 95, RPG Maker 2000, RPG Maker 2003, etc. are discrete systems; so are Virtual Reality Studio and Virtual Reality Studio 2.0. For shareware or freeware systems that were continually developed over many years… then things are going to be a little trickier, and I may take it on a case-by-case basis. If it’s an obscure system with no historical significance that only had a few years of development and then disappeared, I probably won’t bother trying to tease out the differences in the various versions over time and I’ll just look at the latest version. For a more prominent or important system, though, like Quest or Adventure Game Studio, I think I’ll count it as a separate system each time the main version number increases by 1. (This is assuming I can still get my hands on the older versions of the systems in question… but more on that in another point below.)
  • What if I can’t afford a game system?
At the moment, I’m not exactly financially flushed. I hope that will change over the next year or so, but at least for now I can’t necessarily buy every game I’d like. (As I mentioned in the previous post, I work as a studio teacher, and union studio teachers make pretty good money. Unfortunately, I’m not in the union yet.) Fortunately, that won’t be an issue for this blog for a while. Most of the systems I’ll be dealing with from the 80s and 90s are either freeware or abandonware. (And yes, I realize “abandonware” is not legally a thing, and technically it is still against the law to download these games if I don’t have an original copy, but, um, *cough*.) But for any game that is available through legal channels, I’m going to buy it legally, and eventually I’m going to reach a game where that applies. In that case… well, if I reach a game on my list that I can’t afford to buy, I guess I won’t have much choice but to skip over it, and then come back to it later when and if I can afford it. However, my hope is that my financial situation will have markedly improved by the time I reach any such systems on my list, so if all goes well this will never be a concern.
  • What if it’s for a platform I don’t have?
My intent, ultimately, is to cover all game creation systems for each year I get through. This includes systems on all platforms—not just IBM-compatible PCs, but other computers as well, and even consoles. This, of course, may come to present a problem since I don’t own computers and consoles of all these platforms. It won’t be a problem right away, though; I think for pretty much all the earlier systems, I’ll be able to use emulators. When and if I get to the point where I reach a game on my list that only runs on a platform I can’t emulate, though… well, then, in the best-case scenario by then I’ll have enough money to be able to buy the computer or (more likely) console I need. And if not… see previous point.
  • What if the system is not available?
This is a real concern… there are a number of game creation systems on my list that I’m not sure I’ll have any way of acquiring. In some cases, this is because they were internal engines used by a game company but never publicly released; in other cases they were shareware games from companies that no longer exist or individuals with no current known contact information, or freeware games playable on or downloadable from sites that have long since gone down and aren’t available on the Wayback Machine. When I run across a system on my list that I can’t get a copy of… well, then I guess I’ll write about the system and share what information I can find about it, but I can’t very well make a game in a system I don’t have, so I won’t be able to do more than that. Though of course, if I later do manage to get a copy of the system in question, I reserve the right to go back and cover it then. I said regarding some of the points above that they weren’t likely to become an issue for quite some time; this, however, will be an issue quite early, because one of the first ten games on my list falls into this category—a text adventure language called F written at the University of Waterloo on a mainframe called a Honeywell 66. These games, and the F compiler itself, have apparently been lost, so unless they turn up before I get to it (which isn’t entirely impossible, since they may still exist on a mainframe archive tape somewhere, but probably isn’t very likely), I… actually won’t be able to say much more about it than there is on the page linked in this paragraph.
  • What about resource packs packaged with a system?
Many game construction systems come with preset resource packs that can be imported into or used as a framework for the game. When I get to that system and make a game with it, will I use the provided resources, or will I create my own? The answer, at least for popular and/or historically significant systems, is both. I’ll try making a game with the provided resources, and I’ll try making a game from scratch. In fact, if possible, I’ll specifically try to fit everything from the provided resource pack in my game. If the game creation system includes more than one resource pack, I’ll try to make a game with each of them. That means, for instance, when I get to Adventure Construction Set, I’ll be making four games with it… one fantasy game, one spy/mystery game, one science fiction game, and one with all (or mostly) customized graphics and other resources. Again, though, I may take this on a case-by-case basis, and I may give more cursory treatment to an obscure and uninteresting game system… though I don’t know if many obscure and uninteresting game systems are going to include multiple resource packs anyway.
  • What about expansion sets?
I said I’d count separate commercial releases as separate systems, but what if it’s not a standalone release, but just an expansion set? Well… if all the expansion adds is new scenarios but it doesn’t meaningfully affect the game creation aspect, I won’t bother with it. But if the differences significantly affect the game creation, then yes, I’ll treat the expansion as a separate system. For example, I think the Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide expansions to Neverwinter Nights add enough options and additional material to warrant treating them separately.

Anyway… I think that pretty much covers the ground rules for the blog, so in the next post I’ll show the big list of games I’ve compiled for it. And in the post after that… I’ll finally introduce the first system I’ll be covering. (The first system I’ll be going over was created back in 1974… any guesses?)

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