Game Player, Game Programmer

Greg Costikyan's essay Welcome Comrade! is a call to arms for hobbyist game programmers:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Alright Jeff, let’s leave this corporate shill work behind and start a game company. :wink:

Check out Dark Basic Pro, and several other programs (Blitz3D, etc… I don’t know them all)

This is the way to go, a way to demo ideas using easy to use coding and lots of pre-made content, eliminating 65% of the grunt-work.

I’m not saying you can make a premium, AAA title with less work, but you can get your idea up and running, with a little bit of an audience, and maybe sell somebody with a working crude copy of your dream game.

I messed about with Dark Basic a bit, but I found it easier just to use a language I knew, C++. Coding little games in Delphi is exactly how I got into coding as well. Little Space War! clones and the like. I even got my art teacher to accept a couple as assignments :slight_smile:

I don’t think an article on “indy game development” can pass by without mentioning Valve’s Steam. While the article talks about the lengths needed to go to now to program a game, Valve have made it alot easier to get published. While the process is slightly different, they have published several “indy” games, only encouraging more risky but innovative games.
I’ve always found it sad that the latest poly-pushing 3D shooters mean it’s alot harder for young people to get into programming. Generaly, when youre young, you want to program games. But who’s happy with a crappy side-scroller when you really want the next Doom3? I know it’s a blanket statement, but it applies alot of the time.
Certainly the best way to prototype a game is to use an existing engine (be it a modified existing game engine or building one quickly with something like Blitz3D).

Didn’t everyone involved in programming who once had an 8-bit home computer get into it because they wanted to write games?

yes, daniel, then we realized that while everyone else was trying to get into that 2-billion-dollar industry, the 200-billion-dollar industry of EVERYTHING-ELSE-COMPUTERS-DO-IN-SOCIETY came along with salaries twice as high and could promise i’d be able to go home at 5pm on Friday.

Daniel: Everyone our age did, pretty much.

[Atari 8-bits rule!]

youngin said: “Hobbyist game programmers are no more,”

Nah. They just moved. The people who would have been making ShareWare games for Apple II and DOS 15 years ago are now the people writing very good Flash-based and Web-based games, and probably reaching bigger audiences doing it.

Some of them are doing quite well, too.

how many of us gamers dreamed that an ultimate job would also be a game tester…all day long just playing games and getting paid for it. Then you hear about the reality of it.

  • extremely long hours
  • no choice in whaty games you play
  • you HAVE to play even the sucky games
  • you can’t play it complete it, you have to play level 1 10,000 times, then onto level 2
  • pay is less then crap

so instead I would rather work as a business programmer, and dish out $70 for subscriptions and a random new game per month, and do what I enjoy, playing games.

Don’t get me wrong programming a cutting edge game sounds great, but how many people have a truly unique idea for a game, rather then a combination of existing games modified to our own liking?

If you liked the programmer interviews link here is a “Programmer’s Diary” that Andrew Braybrook wrote for Zzap 64 when he created Paradroid.

Two of my favorite games to play are indy’s.

Notrium -

TubeTwist -

@John Galloway - Try TubeTwist. My 4 yr old can beat the first level (10 puzzles?), and loves trying the other levels. He is getting better at them. And my 2 yr old likes to watch him play. :slight_smile:

Just ask the guys at Penny Arcade about jumping from customers to authors.

I don’t know how much funding Myst actually had to start. I seem recall it was very “apple” in its start. is another one of those sites that has software to do your own development work and allow syou to run your own MMO RPG/FPS

I fell in line with some of the rest of you here, checking into to the gaming industry but finding low salaries, and very long hours. Worse yet, I found that most of the more lucrative gaming companies required that I had some previous game development experience. I never once came across a introductory position in which I’d take my knowledge gained from Comp Sci, and apply it to learning how to program on the job.

Therefore I found some business position that offered the salary, work-life balance, and intro program. Now, while those things are nice, it is still often hard to come to work knowing that my dream of having my name at the end credits of FFXV or something will not happen. Maybe someday in the future, when I get sick of all this AJAX business…

One of the big things these days is the rise of game creation kits. One of the big ones is Garage Games ( who do 2D and 3D engines. I’d say these will - in the future - provide a lot of help for would-be gamers.

Also id Software has always done a lot of a work for the scene by releasing the source to their engines: one of the big successes has been Nexuiz, a free, open-source multiplayer FPS. It’s based on the “Dark Places” engine, a heavily tweaked version of the original Quake Engine with support for dynamic lighting and bump, gloss and offset mapping.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the major problem these days is not programming, but rather media creation: with better graphics and sound engines, there is huge pressure to create good-looking graphics and sounds, and that’s not easy. In fact it takes a huge amount of work. Garage Games is helping out on that front by selling pre-made 3D content to help prototype your game, the idea being that a studio, having seen the prototype, would then fund the hiring of some qualified artists.

Realistically, it’s content these days that is the next big step: someone needs to organise a repository for free content, and encourage people to contribute to it. The programming part has been largely solved.

For the record, it’s indie, not “indy” unless your talking about a racing game.

I live in Eugene, OR, the home of Garage Games and I’ve met some of the guys there. I really think that they are trying as hard as they can to kick-start an indie game revolution. Art assets are an important part of games, but that has been made too big. Of all the next-gen console games out there 90% or more look great, but only about 10% are fun for more than 5 minutes. The fun factor is based on the gameplay, concepts, and lots of programming and tweaking of code. It’s really up to the programmers to make games fun again.

Hobbyist game programmers are no more, for the very reasons the referenced articles cite. But this void of talent, drive, and skill has been filled by hobbyist mod programmers.

There are plenty of wonderful mods that hang off the framework of game engines and yet explore totally new forms of gaming than the original game itself.

I wanted to write games so bad when I was a kid.
I had an Atari ST and STOS Basic (a special games writing BASIC) –

I’ve tooled around with other stuff - C, C++, too.

Turns out, I can echo the same theme everyone else here is squawking: business software pays a lot more and you don’t have to work 65+ hours a week. It’s not as cool, but I can be cool on the weekends.


The games industry is horrible. There are too many people, especially comp sci majors, who want to go into it and they’re willing to take cuts in pay to get in where as they could be making more at other companies. I know of people that are perfectly fine programmers who interview with game companies and since they haven’t worked in the game industry before, are offered insanely low offers where as offers from non-game companies pay well, have better working enviorments and work less hours.