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Author: Jalen Wanderer

Jalen Wanderer runs Comparative Creation, a blog about computer game creation systems. As his day job, he is a studio teacher, working with underage actors on film sets. In his spare time, he writes, draws, composes music, and wishes he had more spare time.
The Limits of Wandering

The Limits of Wandering

All right, so, I’ve come up with an idea for the game I want to write in Wander, and I’ve started coding it. (I don’t have the entire game and all its puzzles planned, but I have enough to get started.) Working title: “The Eye in the Forest”. I’m… actually afraid some of the puzzles might be a little too tough. There’s one especially near the endgame that requires some use of different mathematical bases… then again, while they may be difficult, I don’t think any of the puzzles are actually unfair, and I like the way they fit together enough to go with it… what the hey.

So now that I’m working with the language, what do I think of it so far? Well, like I said in the last post, I actually kind of like the quirky syntax of the fields. It takes a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of it it’s kind of fun. That’s not to say this would be my first choice of a language to write a text adventure in, of course, because it has some pretty significant limitations. So let’s talk about that a little.

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Extras from the Eighties

Extras from the Eighties

Huh, okay, when I posted my Big List, I knew it wasn’t a complete, final version, but I did at least think I probably had the earliest game creation systems covered.  I had no doubt I was still missing a lot of game creation systems from the 2000s and 2010s, and maybe even some from the 90s, but I thought my list was probably pretty much complete through the 80s.

Of course, I was wrong. I’ve since found out about at least two games from the 80s that weren’t on the list.

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Wander: Language Overview

Wander: Language Overview

So, now that we’ve looked at the surviving Wander games, let’s take a glance at the Wander language. (I’m not sure “language” is entirely the right word… data file format? But I’ll call it a “language” for purposes of brevity.) I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it as I actually start using it to make a game, but for now let’s just see what we can get from the documentation.

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Wander: The Surviving Games

Wander: The Surviving Games

So, last time I discussed Wander as a whole; this time I’m going to talk about the surviving Wander games. (And then next time I’ll go into the Wander language itself.) I’m not going to do a play-by-play of the games; if you want that you can go to Renga in Blue or CRPG Adventures, where Jason Dyer and Nathan P. Mahney, respectively, provide playthroughs. I’m just going to briefly summarize the games to provide a frame of reference in case I want to refer to them later.

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Wander (1974)

Wander (1974)

Every text adventure fan knows the name of Adventure—a.k.a. Colossal Cave. Created by Will Crowther in 1976 and expanded the next year by Don Woods, Adventure gave its name to the genre class, and was the first adventure game of all.

Except that it turns out it wasn’t.

Oh, adventure games do take their name from Adventure; that much is true. (And if you insist on calling them “interactive fiction”, you’re dead to me.) But it seems that Adventure wasn’t really first after all.

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The Big List, Mark 1

The Big List, Mark 1

And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Or if not, at least the moment I’ve been waiting for. The big list of game creation systems.

Yeah, I said it would be “a few more days”, and it’s been a week. I wish I could say I’ve been working assiduously on this list all week and it’s just taken me that long to get it done, but the truth is that I started a new on set teaching job this week (working on a horror movie filming out in Topanga Canyon), and it’s kept me very busy, and I couldn’t really put in the time to finish the list. In fact, it’s still not completely finished, in the sense that there are still more sites I’d intended to scour that I haven’t had time for yet. But rather than further delay the main point of this blog, which is to say actually looking at game creation systems, I figured I may as well go ahead and post the list as it is so far. I’m reasonably confident in any case that it’s pretty much complete through the 80s, and it’ll be long enough before I get through the systems from the 80s that I don’t really have to worry much just yet about what lies beyond. That being said, if you know of any game creation systems that aren’t on this list, please post a comment to let me know.

The list is very very long, so it’s going behind a cut… Further explanation and discussion below the list.

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The Neverending List of Doom

The Neverending List of Doom

Hm, sorry, it’s been a week since my last post.  It’s not that I’ve been neglecting the blog, and certainly not that I’ve abandoned it; it’s that the preparation for the next post has been taking a lot longer than I expected.

I said before that my next post would be the big list of game creation programs I’d be working with, and that should still be the case (that is, the next post after this post should be the big list of game creation programs).  The problem is, I’m still working on the list.  I didn’t think I would be.  I’d already spent weeks on it.  But I wasn’t quite done… I had a few more sites I was going to check out, a few more leads to follow up on.   Still, I already had more than two thousand games in the list… how many more could there be?

Well… I’m over three thousand now, and I’m still not done following up on those leads.  And not for want of trying.

If it were just a matter of copying a few names down from a list somewhere, that would be easy.  But for each system, I want to link to a webpage about it, if I can find one.  Sometimes that requires delving into the Wayback Machine.  And I want to find out when the system was first released, or at least make some kind of reasonable estimate.  Sometimes that requires delving into the Wayback Machine.  Anyway, it’s been quite a bit of work getting this list together, and the work’s not quite done yet.

The fact I have over three thousand systems in the list doesn’t mean I actually expect to cover more than three thousand systems, of course.  Many of them won’t be available; others will turn out not to meet my criteria when I look at them more closely; and by the time I get to the 2000s when there really starts to be a huge glut of game engines I’m likely to narrow my criteria anyway… up through 1989 there are only 225 systems currently on my list, which seems more manageable (especially since a lot of them are level editors that may only require a quick post or two), and even through 1995 there are fewer than 500; it’s after that that things really start to get out of hand, and some stricter winnowing may be needed.  But for now, I want the list to be as complete as possible, even if it may be cut down later.  And rather than toss up what I’ve got so far, I want to get my list as complete as I can first.

Which means you’ll have to bear with me another few days; sorry.  The big list is the last of the preambular posts, though; after that we’ll get to the more fun and more interesting part of actually going through the game systems.  We’re almost there… we’re just not quite there yet.

I mentioned before that I’d started this blog on Blogger a few years ago, but didn’t keep it up, but that that was probably mostly due to lack of preparation, and I’d laid the groundwork a lot better this time and expected to be able to keep it going.  Well… I’ll tell you, putting this big list together has itself provided me with a lot more motivation to keep this blog going.  With all the tedious work I’ve put into compiling that list, I want to make sure it pays off; I don’t want to have gone through all that for nothing…

(Current count of game systems on the big list: 3049.  I don’t expect it to grow to 4000… I’m well past the point of diminishing returns where each time I go to a new site with listings of game creation systems, most of the systems there are already on my list.  But I may have a few hundred yet to add…)

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.)

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What’s In A Game?

What’s In A Game?

So, if I’m going to be blogging about game creation programs, one central question that has to be addressed is that of the criteria for inclusion. What is a game creation program, exactly? (This is by no means the only important question that has to be addressed, but I’ll cover the others in a separate post.) For many programs, the answers are obvious. GameMaker Studio is obviously a game creation program. (Heck, it’s even right there in the name.) Intuit QuickBooks just as obviously isn’t. But there are some edge cases that have to be considered.

The decisions about these cases are by nature arbitrary. By their nature, these cases are ambiguous, and an argument could be made either way. But I have to draw a line somewhere, so in this post I’m going to endeavor as best I can to firm up exactly where the line will be drawn.

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