134: What If Everyone Could Make Videogames?

What If Everyone Could Make Videogames?

"The actual creation process is somewhat a black box; how does a novice create a game? When I was young, the barrier to entry was more dependent on how much code I wanted to copy than it was trying to figure out the process, but these days development is much more challenging. There are a handful of efforts to simplify the development tools and process, but even the simplest game development tools at this point are complicated.

"But what would happen if we could make game development simpler? What if everyone could make videogames?"

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Hmmmm....Flash is good, but what about Java development? Look at:

http://www.bluej.org
http://www.greenfoot.org
http://www.alice.org
http://www.jmonkeyengine.com

All of these environments are FREE, easier to use than both XNA and Flash, can make games that Flash just can't handle and work across Windows, Linux and OS X. For everyone to make video games, you have to hit the most dev systems at the lowest barrier to entry. The platforms I posted the links to fulfill these requirements, Flash and XNA do not. :)

Still too complicated. You'd need a "high level" designing tool (which is to Java/C++ what Java is to bytecode), perhaps like the Crysis level editor, for this to become really widespread. Perhaps some royalty-free models and textures. The real problem at the moment is the AI needed for games. How easy would it be to make a Hitman: Blood Money level in Crysis? Difficult. But a lot easier that coding it from scratch!

And the result would be the same as elsewhere on the internet: Loads of teeth-pullingly bad, unoriginal repetitive dross, with the odd piece of world-changingly great genius buried underneath it.

J

jezcentral:
Still too complicated. You'd need a "high level" designing tool (which is to Java/C++ what Java is to bytecode), perhaps like the Crysis level editor, for this to become really widespread. Perhaps some royalty-free models and textures. The real problem at the moment is the AI needed for games. How easy would it be to make a Hitman: Blood Money level in Crysis? Difficult. But a lot easier that coding it from scratch!

And the result would be the same as elsewhere on the internet: Loads of teeth-pullingly bad, unoriginal repetitive dross, with the odd piece of world-changingly great genius buried underneath it.

J

No problem. Check out environments currently in development like:

http://www.stencyl.com/screenshots/img-sw-2-full.png

or

http://youtube.com/watch?v=wwUpWTf_eU4

-Chris

jezcentral:
And the result would be the same as elsewhere on the internet: Loads of teeth-pullingly bad, unoriginal repetitive dross, with the odd piece of world-changingly great genius buried underneath it.

This is spot-on. I immediately thought of music when I saw the title of the article - there'd be great bands, awful bands, unfinished bands, wannabes ... pop oriented, art for art's sake, new ideas bubbling through the esoteric into the mainstream ... political songs, loud and visceral, easy listening and fluffy ...

I think if there were fewer barriers to experiment with game development, that overall we'd so more innovation in gaming. Just like music, there'd be people trying experiments for the joy of it and not to sell the most units. Elements of some of them would become popular, and we'd see many of those ideas and notions used in the mainstream games.

We already see this happening in games, through game mods and UI mods being integrated into widely published works (WoW UI mods being adopted into the Blizzard UI, and then into other games, for example). What I think we'd see open up more is story, style, and content ideas.

It'd be fun. It'd be horrifying. Sometimes, both.

It's a little unfair that middleware such as Game Maker, Torque or Darkbasic aren't mentioned at all. Certainly they play a part in making the process of game-making more accessible. What relevance does XNA have to an audience who can't even write VB or Python.

Great timing... we're planning to release just such a product in the coming months. We've done a few beta tests over the last few months with various groups (you may be able to find an invite out there somewhere). We think we've created a very smooth ramp that takes casual game players to casual game makers (not casual games, but casually making games).

And no, it's not a trivial "widget" like Pictogame or similar where you're just changing a few pictures in an existing game (though you can do just that if you want)... we let folks write their own "game recipe" (game genre) if they want.

And it's Flash-based... because Flash is better adopted amongst the average casual game player than Java by a large margin, and it's better suited to the task.

When i read the part about sharing in flickr and stuff, I immediately recalled this:

http://www.metaplace.com/

it says on the description: "Build a virtual apartment and put it on your website. Work with friends to make a huge MMORPG. Share your puzzle game with friends. We have a vision: to let you build anything, and play everything, from anywhere. Eventually, anyway. We have to finish first."

its built in flash i think.

tgilbert:

And it's Flash-based... because Flash is better adopted amongst the average casual game player than Java by a large margin, and it's better suited to the task.

Would have to disagree here. Amongst the casual game players, they don't care. Amongst the casual game developers, it is split, almost down the middle. As for reach, Java is installed on virtually every desktop in the WinXX world and OS X as well, with over 80% Java 1.4+ on Win platforms and practically every new Win system shipping with current Java.

CMelissinos:

No problem. Check out environments currently in development like:

http://www.stencyl.com/screenshots/img-sw-2-full.png

or

http://youtube.com/watch?v=wwUpWTf_eU4

-Chris

Cheers. That's EXACTLY what I mean. (Having seen the Crysis level editor, I'm tempted to buy the game just for that. My PC can't play the game itself on a decent setting. :D )

J

I think the advent of those online games you find by typing in game's into google is an indicator of the sort of quality you'd get.

th15:
It's a little unfair that middleware such as Game Maker, Torque or Darkbasic aren't mentioned at all. Certainly they play a part in making the process of game-making more accessible. What relevance does XNA have to an audience who can't even write VB or Python.

Fancy meeting you here lol...

I was actually thinking the same thing. In the article he talks about how everyone is sharing these days but that video games are still behind the curve. However, you fail to mention the great community at YoYo Games which is a big part of the homebrew community. Mentioning XNA just makes the barrier seem that much more imposing but XNA and Game Maker are two totally different programs. Game Maker is about as simple as it gets. The whole time I was reading this article I kept thinking: "why isn't there any mention of Game Maker?"

What if?

RPG Maker has a vibrant community. The games are in 2D - but customized graphics and sound make up for it. After all, it's about gameplay and story telling isn't it?

Download a game from

http://www.rpgrevolution.com/game/

I suggest

http://www.rpgrevolution.com/game/86/

or check out the game maker for yourself

http://www.enterbrain.co.jp/tkool/RPG_XP/eng/

if everyone could make videogames, the video game industry would look like newgrounds.com

terrible.

goodpoltergeist:
if everyone could make videogames, the video game industry would look like newgrounds.com

terrible.

Everyone can write. Does that mean that writing, as a whole looks terrible? No. It means there is a huge quantity of written work out there and much of it is poor and some of it is great. Greater than if only a select few were 'allowed' or 'capable' of writing.

100,000,000 people making games, including professionals.
1,000 people making games, including professionals.

Which group is likely to create more games that appeal to more people?

Remember, the internet allows us to ignore crap, so the fact that a lot of bad stuff gets made is irrelevant. As long as the great stuff is easy to find, and it is, more = better.

I also think that having more people do things is not a bad thing, it's a good thing. A lot of the innovation that comes in other forms of media - television, video, music - much of it comes from the freedom and ease by which you can get in on the entry level. While there are many people who will never pass that entry level, there are quite a few who will be passionate enough to go beyond that, to work at something that might be the next big thing.

Games should be no different. Sure, if the entry level was wider, you would get a lot of bad games. But a community of people helping one another with game development and with game design would be a huge boon to the industry in general, building both interest and innovation.

I don't think it's a lack of easy to use tools that prevent people from designing games. We have software like RPG Maker, AdventureStudio, etc that are almost entirely point and click and incredibly easy to understand. The issue that I face most often when I'm feeling creative is trying to create assets. If you aren't much of an artist than forget it. Either your game will look like garbage and no one will want to play it (or worse - you won't want to finish it) or you'll use asset packs that make your game look like everything else. What we really need is software that brings the other elements of game design to the same level of simplicity that coding is at. I'm longing to find software that will give me the flexibility of a really good character creation system so I can actually make my game look the way I want it to.

Easier tools for novices will happen. Case and point: Little Big Planet.

And as games become more accepted as a serious medium, more people will start getting into game development. Then, the market will naturally create better and cheaper tools for all skill levels. Good times are ahead - as with most things in life, it just takes a little time and patience.

Never going to happen.
- Not everyone has the talent to makes games.
- Not everyone can spend the time, nor has the will, to get into the required tools, even if they're made to be as simple as possible.
- The games produced by amateurs will often be small productions, most of them drowning in a mass of hundreds, then thousands games, and even more. Oh sure, more people may be able to make games, but enjoyable games?... nope.

Now, sure, if only 10% of creators, say, make good games, 10% of 1,000,000 people will always mean more good creators than 10% of 10,000 persons. But relatively, I don't see the percentage changing much. It may gain a couple of points in the next two decades, but I don't expect that number to plummet.

Easier tools will probably reveal more talents, people who might have had good ideas, but couldn't get them working; I know some people like this, who can't get into any tool, which they find castrative, but still have intriguing theoretical small concepts which would be worth the try.
That said, I'm not sure there's such a huge untapped potential.
Then there's the obvious point that as the industry will grow in countries which making video games is certainly far from any priority (like in Africa), we'll see probably find new geniuses, but this in no way will increase the percentage. It would just increase the dev population.

stevesan:
Easier tools for novices will happen. Case and point: Little Big Planet.

I'm not sure about your point here. LBP doesn't strike me as a game made by a bunch of anyones with near to no formation and almost entirely relying on easy tools.
The story of the Media Molecule tells a very different story, and started with one man and some good old garage-type work on C++, aside from his pro-work.

Now, if you're talking about the level makers, these things existed for ages, and there are various levels of complexity to them.
The example you bring is not accurate either I'm afraid, because I would bet my hat that the principle between LBP's level editing requires that the levels should be very easy to make, to reach a large audience and be quick to play with the less bugs possible.
They're ought to be extremely focused, limited to one game, and above all, they don't make entire games, but just help to develop a limited and small fraction of a game's overall content.

You won't cut it. To make games, you need someone who has a good grasp on logic, to produce the code, even if it's done using middlewares with already accessible coded functions which you can drag and drop into your code window, such as (url=http://www.virtools.com]this one[/url] (which also comes with recent Wii and PSP support). This (expensive) software lets you create a wide variety of games which are not too specific, but it still requires a lot of efforts, logic and organization to create something that works and makes sense.

I'm not counting the requirements on various graphic ressources, music, etc. from the moment you try to make something a tad bigger.

Well, the number of bad games would skyrocket. However it would open up those hidden gems. Games you need to dig deep to find.

UncleWesker:
Well, the number of bad games would skyrocket. However it would open up those hidden gems. Games you need to dig deep to find.

Mhh... how many people would bother digging deep to find a game in an ocean of them, though?
How many would even bother reading the press or a site which reviews those games?

If everybody could make games, then we would need a much more thorough system to identify which are worth playing. Presently there's very little between word of mouth and major, general-purpose review sites and review aggregators. A more populist development process means that there will be a much greater proportion of terrible, unfinished, or otherwise undesirable games. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, since there will still be a greater absolute quantity of excellent games. However - and this is the problem faced by all distributed media (which is increasingly what the Web is best at) - there needs to be a more robust way to bring games to the people who would appreciate them. Mere popularity is not good enough, since it can't account for taste, but something like the Digg model would need to appear.

Thinking of it, an unrestricted profusion of average games would lead to a situation similar to what Atari experienced with their home consoles, decades ago. The business models would drown in an ocean of mediocrity and who knows what kind of fastfood-like monster might emerge from this.

Saturation never helps. Nor that it matters because I don't see any tool appearing in the near future giving any person the ability to make a game.
It requires talent, dedication, a certain logic and knowledge.

 

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