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David Javelosa

Copyright © 2001-2020, David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.


week 01 - interactive entertainment technology & history


The Main Concept - The Goal/Topic
Every game must have a clearly defned goal. This may seem obvious but it is a very common mistake. Game design goals are the absolute difference between a good and bad game. Some times the importance of clear goals does not become evident untill later in the development cycle, and then it may be too late. The topic must resonate with the player and the game play; and remember, the number one job is to be the advocate for the player!

Research and Prep

Once a concept has been decided on and a goal defined, everything about this topic must be researched. The best game designers immerse themselves in their game's topic, it's world, and it's language.

Design Phase

This is where the play mechanic is applied. What makes your concept a game? Why would it be fun? Would it be fun using physical pieces? or does it have to be digital? Will it be replayable for hours? or a casual couple of minutes? This is where the concept, the goal and the main topic is made to be playable.

User Interface

This applies to both physical and digital games. It also applies to both 2D and 3D gaming. How does the user interact with the game? Is the player an avatar (3rd person, remove)? first person? Do we use the cursor keys? a mouse? on-screen buttons? special game controller? joystick? And that's just the I of I/O. For the output, how does the game feed back to the user? Heads-up display? sound? vibration?

Game Play Mechanic or Structure

How do we maintain the fantasy of the game and still have a practical system? a working piece of software? The game play still needs to center on the main concept. Does the complexity of the the design exceed the limits of the available tools? Can the tools deliver the suspension of disbelief? Can the player find the optimum game experience that allows the attainment of flow? Remember, too many features can also just get in the way! How can you empower the user within practical restraints?

Programming Structure

This is where the concept and game mechanic must be laid out as a logical flow chart to be created in software. All of the commands and instructions that are to be engineered must be possible with the authoring/programming tools. This is where all variables and routines need to be clearly defined and proven capable. All resources, such as memory, storage space, processor speed; need to be mapped out and tested to show if the game will actually run on the platform hardware. The program needs to be stable and bullet-proof to the user's every possible action. Code must force the desired action and still be as elegant and efficiant as possible.


If all of the above plans have proven themselves, then documentaion needs to be formalized. Commit all design features to paper. Define the I/O structure and the game play mechanic in terms of programming instruction. Reconcile the player's experience with the technical considerations.

Programming Phase

This is the easiest part of the process, believe it or not! Though it is repetitive, it is generally very straightforward. It requires patience, acquired skill, and dedicated focus. It cannot be rushed or under done. In a sense, this process requires as much "flow" as the actual game play itself.


Needless to say, this activity is as important as all of the other design procedures put together. Playtesting should be started the moment any part of the game is playable. And testing will need to happen again and again, for every possible combination of the program. Sometimes this happens just to find (and kill) the bugs; sometimes this happens to determine the target audience of the game for marketing purposes. But again, the main job is for the benefit of the end player.

Review & Repeat (if neccessary!)

Once the game is playable; or released; the feedback will never stop. Everyone is a critic. As a designer, the decision rests on you as to whether the game is complete. But the public is the final judge. If they don't buy the game, you lose the money AND your message as a game developer is not heard. If you are satisfied that you have met all or most of your original goals, celabrate; and start planning your next project!!

(Special thanks to Chris Crawford)


The Esthetics of Pixel Art

Game Technology History

3000 BCE -- Backgammon

2000 BCE -- Checkers, Go

300 CE -- Parcheesi

600 CE -- Chess

1120 -- Dominoes

1850 -- Mah Jong

1889 -- Nintendo begins publishing playing cards.

1900 -- Darts

1930 -- Pinball

1931 -- Battleship

1935 -- Monopoly

1959 -- Risk

1962 -- Spacewar

1971 -- Computer Space

1972 -- Atari introduces the arcade game, Pong, and Magnavox introduces the first home video game called Odyssey. The video game industry is born.

1973 -- Dungeons & Dragons

1975 -- Atari releases arcade game "Breakout" designed by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

1977 -- Apple introduces the Apple II, the first mass market personal computer. Atari releases the 2600 Video Computer System, a dedicated home game computer.

1978 -- Space Invaders

1979 -- Asteroids

1980 -- Atari introduces PacMan coin-operated video game machines. Mattell launches Intellivision

1981 -- Donkey Kong

1982 -- 16-bit vector graphic technology appears in the arcades with Williams' Defender and Atari's Tempest. Atari's Battle Zone is selected by the Pentagon to be developed into the first virtual reality military simulator. Home video game market crashes. First release of Microsoft Flight Simulator for 8 bit computers.

1983 -- Philips and Sony introduce the CD rom.

1985 -- Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. First version of Tetris. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego for home computers.

1989 -- SoundBlaster is released as the first mainstream audio standard for the PC. Sim City for the b&w Macintosh. Nintendo Gameboy. Sega Genesis (Mega System)sega

1991-- Sonic the Hedgehog

1993 -- Two landmark computer games accelerate the game industry's dominance: MYST and DOOM. Sega releases first CD-rom system: the Sega CD. Atari releases the Jaguar a "64bit" game machine using two 32bit processors.

1994 -- Sony Playstation (PSX)

1996 -- Nintendo introduces the N64, the first true 64bit cartridge game machine, based on SGI technology. Releases Pokemon.

1997 -- Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic introduce the DVD standard, based on MPEG II. Microsoft introduces DirectX, a technology that allows PC games to address the hardward directly in Windows, standardizing game development for the PC. Grand Theft Auto first release.

1998 -- The Internet establishes itself as a true multimedia delivery platform with the speed of DSL and the wide popularity of the MP3 music/audio format. The vast growth in cellular phones and hand-held devices and game machines makes multimedia portable. DDR and Legend of Zelda.

1999 -- The Sega Dreamcast is released on 9/9/99 and is the first game console to ship with an internal modem, supported by Sega.net.

2000 -- Sony introduces the Playstation2. This game machine's features combine almost all the elements of multimedia to date. It has a DVD player, extremely high speed graphics (66 million polygons/sec) and audio rendering (up to 48 channels) capabilities. Maxis releases Sims and is aquired by EA.

2001 -- Microsoft introduces the X-Box and Nintendo introduces the Game Cube (fall), each with capabilities exceeeding the Playstation 2. Features for the X-box include modem and internal hard-drive. The Game Cube features a proprietary 3" CD format and linking to the Game Boy Advance hand-held. Halo becomes "killer app" for X-box.

2002 -- Continued advances in portable computing, cellular internet connection, multiplayer gaming, and next-generation titles. With the dot.com crash fading into history, both console and on-line gaming continue to grow with advances in grapics and hardware applications. Microsoft launches X-box Live.

2003 -- Nokia announces the N-gage, first to address the mobile phone gaming industry by creating a game machine that is a phone. nVidia delivers gForce graphic technology allowing real-time animation quality graphics for games.

2004 -- Nintendo DS

2005 -- Sony plans to release the Playstation 3 and with the new hand-held PSP plans to offer a new way of delivering entertainment media.

2006 -- Microsoft releases the X-Box 360 continuing the search for the "holy grail" of on-line and set-top convergence. Projected to be the centralized entertainment hub for video, game play and internet connectivity, the stage is set for full multiplayer networking

2007 -- Sony PS3 is in release with enhanced performance for Blue Ray video. Nintendo Wii releases with an innovative motion sensitive controller set; creating a new standard in game ergonomics. Nintendo's DS gets a classy make-over and continues to lead the hand-held market with wi-fi connectivity.

2008 -- Another year of new titles hoping to boost PS3. Internet connectivity becomes standard for all major platforms as a strategy for on-line customer support.

Nintendo Wii releases with an innovative motion sensitive controller set; creating a new standard in game ergonomics. Nintendo's DS gets a classy make-over and continues to lead the hand-held market with wi-fi connectivity. Another distinctive feature of the console is WiiConnect24, which enables it to receive messages and updates over the Internet while in standby mode.

2010 -- Both X-Box 360 and Playstation 3 support Netflix on-demand streaming video, further coverging the worlds of home video entertainment and internet based media. Motion sensitivity is also supported for 360 and PS3.

2011 -- Independent Game Movement gets mainstream distribution from the big manufacturers: Playstation Home, Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare.

2013 --Largest growth area in game development: iOS, Android, HTML5, and native mobile devices.
Announcements for XBox One and Playstation 4 continue to up the ante.

Sources: Understanding HyperMedia 2000, Wired Magazine, Internet research

A video game player is a "black box" electronic product that is designed to do one thing: entertain.  Although they may have several components in common with desk-top computers, they lack the "open architecture" and versatility for general purposes.  They are most commonly designed as a peripheral to the "installed base" of the television set, much like the VCR.  More recently they have been designed with the "home theater" concept as part of the ultimate playback system, including a large screen and a powerful stereo or surround sound system.

The original video "game" was generally a cartridge based software product engineered to be played on a machine with little or no instruction for the user.  The "operating system" on a video game is always supposed to be completely transparent.  The control interface is as simple and non-obtrusive as possible.  Customized settings are always optional and never mandatory.  As a closed system, there are rarely compatibility problems.  However, bad components are not easily accessible and generally an entire system is replaced when faulty.  The hardware is optimized for the performance specification, manufactured with the most cost effective parts, and sometimes even sold at a loss to gain market share and platform dominance.  Price point to the consumer is a major consideration.

In the beginning, early personal computers and game machines were very close in technology and capabilities.  The 8-bit processor based PC, Apple II, Commodore 64, etc. were basic systems capable of simple graphics, minimal sound production, and restricted processing power.  Used strictly for game play, these systems were of passing interest.  The same technology packaged into a dedicated entertainment box, however, could be optimized to perform quite satisfactorily.  The early systems, like Mattel's Intellevision, Coleco-vision and then the enormously successful Atari 2600, proved this in a market that had no other similar competition.  As technology advanced and became more accessible, game machines and computers would also leap-frog each other in advanced capabilities.

The earliest hurdle digital technology had to stride for entertainment purposes was that of graphic presentation.  The first computer games could only send their output to a printer.

Before the development of bit-map and sprite technology became wide spread, most computer games were text based, either as an abstract, descriptive presentation, or actually using the alpha-numeric text characters as graphical components in an 80 (or less) column grid. With sprite generation, the game now could take advantage of an object or character built up from a set of "pixels" in a grid of much higher resolution.  This collection of pixels could be manipulated as one "sprite" across coordinates on the display.  Stationary pixel groups or "tiles" could be repeatedly used as background art with a minimum of memory storage.

The sequencing of several single sprites into the location of a character would allow the usage of traditional cell animation techniques in sprite animation.  This technique plus the manipulation of it's screen coordinates is the basis for most side-scrolling video game character animation. However, even this simple animation technique could have a crucial impact on the processor, affecting game play and speed.

Transistors -- 8-bit technology -- 16-bit technology -- 32/64-bit technology -- 128/MIPS

Graphics: text - vectors - bit maps - sprites & tiles - texture maps - polygons

Audio: buzzers - square wave generators - FM synthesis - waves - CD audio - interactive sound

- demos
- interface
- components

Assignment: REVIEW Chapter 1 - Game Maker's Apprentice - Running a game.

Copyright © 2001-2014, Philip van Allen & David Javelosa