More and more people, particular the young, are
entertaining themselves with computer games. Many are spending more
hours at gaming than an other form of entertainment. After many hours
of play, few consider making games, probable because making games is a
mystery to most. In this article we'll look behind the scene at two
game makers, id Software the makers of the 3-D action game
"Quake", and EZONE.COM, a popular game and animation web
site. I'll explain how programmers, artists and writers work together
to create games. I hope that with a deeper understanding of game
construction young people can get an early focus on careers that are
in tune with what they enjoy doing.
Click once in the area below and
then play on your keyboard.
The Makers of Quake
Some people choose to play in a world filled with
terror. At every turn, they fight monsters and demons, and team up
with others over the Internet to fight for territory. This is the
world of "Quake" created by the company id Software, founded
in the early 1990's the youth full team of John Carmack (programmer),
Adrain Carmack (artist, not related to John), and John Romero (game
designer). Over the past 10 years id Software has produced
increasingly realistic looking, three dimensional, action packed
games. Their first game was Wolfenstien 3-D, followed by Doom, Doom
II, Quake, Quake II, and recently Quake Arena. The games have won many
wards for innovation and technical excellence.
Although id Software is unique in their level of
excellence the core roles in the team are the same roles found in all
game making companies. All games begin as an idea that has to be
communicated and refined by a game designer. The images and sounds in
the fantasy world has to be created by an artist. The programmer has
to bring the story and artwork to life by constructing the game code.
Let's take a closer look at these three roles.
The Game Designer
The realistic look of an id Software game helps make
you believe you are in the scary world. Also, the game is tense
because you must killed-or-be-killed, and at the same time quickly
develop strategies to find the right weapons and health restoring
kits. Game designer John Romero (now founder of Ion Storm) is
responsible for planing out these game elements. He conceives of the
challenges or levels in the game that keeps the players on their toes.
In general a game designer writes the blueprint for the game.
A game designer plays tons of games, and usually
focuses on one particular game type or genre. There are many different
game genres - action, sport, strategy, puzzle, simulation and so on -
it's hard to become an expert in the design of all of them. By playing
alit of one game genre and learning its history the game designer
becomes familiar with techniques that can be reused and updated for a
new game. For a brand new game he or she writes a game concept paper,
a short description of game. In brain storming sessions the entire
team expand on the game concept paper and the game designer writes it
all down in a game design document. The game design document looks
like a large comic book, filled with sketches and detailed description
of how all the elements of the game work together.
Simple pen and paper and a vivid imagination are the
main tools of game designer. If you can describe what you find
exciting about games and visualize new twists on existing games you'll
enjoy working as a game designer.
Drag your mouse over the black
square to 'paint'.
Everything you see or hear in a game has to be touched
by the hand of an artist. In the early part of building the game,
artist Adrain Carmack would make the sketches for the game design
document to help the team visualize the game. After all the details
are nailed down he creates the wire frames outlines of the objects in
the world. He also draws the skins or textures that cover the wire
frame objects to make them look real.
The game artist uses several different computer tools
for creating the artwork. A 3-D modeling program, like 3-D Studio Max,
is used to create the models. A paint program, like Adobe PhotoShop,
is used to create textures. A sound editing program, like Macromedia
SoundEdit, is used to create music and sound effects. Depending on the
size and budget a game team may have several artists working on the
different artwork. A 3-D artist would specialize in construction the
3-D models. A 2-D animator would create cartoons characters. A
musician would create music. A sound designer would create sound
Even though all the artwork has end up on the computer
and many computer tools are used, the game artist starts out creating
work in the hard-copy world of pencil, paint and musical instruments.
If you find yourself sketching your favorite game character in the
margins of you note book, a career as a game artist may be in the
stars for you.
John Carmack, learned programming on the job, by
working on small consulting projects and other games before starting
id Software with his two friends. John Carmack created a 3-D Engine, a
program that calculates the realistic world and draws it on the
computer screen. This is challenging because about 30 images have to
be computed each second to give the illusion of motion. For the images
to appear three dimensional the engine has to consider how the player
is looking into the world, the lighting conditions, the effects of
fog, water and other elements that add to the atmosphere. The engine
has to be fast and deal with complicated visual factors.
Every game needs at least one programmer, a person
that writes the computer instructions that drive the look and the
logic for the challenges in the game. A programmer writes in a special
computer programming language which looks like a mixture of English
and math equations. If you like math and solving puzzles, you can be a
game programmer. Most programmers start out with an easy to learn
language like Basic, Pascal, or Lingo. Then they may learn a
traditional language like "C/C++", the one used by John
Carmack to write his games. It may take a year or two to master your
first language, after that other languages can be mastered pretty
Easy and Fun Gaming at EZONE.COM
Over the past 10 years id Software has create six
games intense games that appeal "hard-core" gamers - people
that like to spend the many hours it takes to master the challenges of
3-D action games. The universe of games is pretty diverse and includes
many other game forms that don't require the same level of dedication.
Many players enjoy fun games that they can get into quickly.
Rather than work with the traditional tools many game
makers are using the Macromedia's Shockwave Construction Kit, which
allows them to create games quickly and deliver them on the web. One
example are the Australian brothers Simon Edis (programmer and
designer) Jamie Edis (artist) the creators of the web site WWW.EZONE.COM.
Over the past 3 years they have created over 100 games that are
available for all to enjoy, free of change on the web site. Like a TV
channel they get paid from advertising placed on their web site.
EZone.com is only one example of many game makers who
"broadcasting" their creations on the web.
By putting their games on the web, the Edis brothers
have also vastly simplified their business. The don't have to worry
about putting their games onto a CD-ROM, getting that CD-ROM into a
box, selling those boxes to the many layers of distributors to get it
into stores, and then dealing with another layer of advertising to
make people aware of their product. They can focus on what they love
to do: make lots of fun games.
The Edis brothers are able to work so efficiently
because the Shockwave Construction Kit combines an easy to learn
computer programming language called Lingo with an animation program,
a paint program and other editors into one package. Rather than have
to learn and use a dozen or so separate tools to build a game, they
use one tool and get the job done faster. They use the extra time to
create humorous cartoon characters, like Lenny Loose Jocks, and create
stories and games about Lenny's treks through the Australian outback
or misadventures in Pluto.
Whether you like playing the intense action games of
id Software, or the fun and easy games on WWW.EZONE.COM,
I hope you are able to see how your interest in games can be
transformed in to a career as a game designer, artist or programmer.
John (JT) Thompson is author of the Lingo programming language
that drives Shockwave for San Francisco-based Macromedia Inc.