GAME DEVELOPMENT AND PROGRAMMIMG
I have been interested in Game Design and Programming since I first played Nutting/Atari's Computer Space arcade game in 1973. It was at Circus Circus casino amongst all the pinball machines & skeeball. I fed quarter after quarter into that beautiful blue fiberglass beast. I decided at that time, that working with computer graphics, displays, controls & sound generators was what I wanted to do in my professional career, Lord willing.
I worked hard in school, focusing on math & science & I learned to solder & build simple LED circuits & sound generators. I got a 1/2 scholarship to Georgia Tech, where I studied Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. One night I spent several hours playing SpaceWar! on a PDP8 minicomputer. You had to use toggle switches on the minicomputer front panel to control the ships & fire torpedoes.
It took me years to realize that this game, written in 1962 in assembly language, was actually the inspiration for the Computer Space game developed by Atari founders Nolan Bushnell & Ted Dabney, for Nutting Associates in 1971. I think the reason I didn't make the connection, was that when I saw Computer Space, I knew that there was no minicomputer inside, they were still too expensive. Even the PDP-8 or PDP-11 of 1971 were about $15K, which today would be $100K. Further, microprocessors were not very powerful yet (8 bit microprocessors did not come out until 1972, so people were just beginning to use them & they were also not cheap). So I guessed, correctly, that Computer Space must use cheap integrated circuits, like gates, latches, counters, etc. I've seen the schematics...Dabney was a pretty smart lad. I was only 10 years or so behind these guys & I was inspired by them at that time by way of this arcade machine, but of course, Atari was not well known until Pong hit the bars. I started programming games & graphics in Fortran & Basic at the Georgia Tech computer center & on a PDP-8 in the EE Graphics Lab.
My EE Computer Graphics professor decided that the best way for us to really learn computer graphics was to develop a graphics based computer game. He said we would do a dungeon/cave exploration game like the "Adventure" text-based game, except where it says " You are in a room with a door to the North & West.", we actually had to draw the rooms using graphics commands. Inside the rooms there needed to be props, inventory items & threats. This was a lot of fun & I learned a lot. Most people drew stick figures & boxes with text in them. I was very proud that I had drawn a very believable attacking grizzly bear with teeth claws, etc. I decided to put the vector data into a lookup table & write a small interpreter loop that would run through the data moving & drawing as needed, based on the vector data. I put in X/Y offsets as well as a scale factor in the interpreter, so that I could easily move the bear around the screen based on a timer & finally have him get bigger, Bigger, BIGGER...until he filled the screen. It was actually pretty striking! Everyone loved it.
With my BSEE degree in hand, I landed a job in the Flight Simulator industry, where I was able to dive into graphics, displays, sound & coding. I worked on the very first F/A-18 Hornet Flight Trainer to serve US Navy pilots. I actually got to sit in a real F-18 with the cockpit powered up & got to play with the controls & displays. Mind you, this was 1979, so there were only a few aircraft with a Head Up Display (HUD)...super cool. The simulator was a big success & some of my designs were passed on to build a version for Canada & a weapon system trainer for training dog-fighting!
As it turns out, I used that data table drawing technique several time in my work, where I needed to do vector graphics on a navigational map (say a coastline) or on an avionics display. So, the lesson is, any circuit that you design, or code you write, that worked well, and you are proud of...tuck it into your bag of tricks. You never know when you may need it again.
Speaking of getting a paying job...As soon as I got my first few paychecks I bought some necessities:
|1) Mattress to put on the floor of my apartment
|2) Moog synthesizer
|3) Atari 800 home computer
I had a blast playing the Moog, but probably even more fun programming the Atari 800 in Atari Basic (I still have both machines). The onboard color video chips, sound chip & I/O chip were absolutely brilliant, fearlessly doing the fancy stuff, while the 6502 micro did all the logic & math. With a little secret sauce, you could move colorful objects smoothly on the screen while producing decent chip-tune music & read joysticks & paddle controller, all with just a few lines of Basic (with several Peeks & Pokes mind you). I even learned how to encode 6502 uP machine language helper routines into memory & call them from Basic. This enabled high-speed video & sound effects as well as synthesized speech. Pretty cool for 1981.
The simulators I have programmed over the years are, in a way, large and complex video games...the term "Serious Games" comes to mind. Over the years I have tinkered together a few little games, some of them are shown below.
WHY NOT DEVELOP SOME INDIE GAMES?
I think now is a good time for me to establish my own Indie game development company. The tools are very powerful & inexpensive. There are millions of people who love to play videogames. There is a resurgence of the old-school, casual & "retro" game styles. This is good because these games can be a lot of fun to play, but they can still be developed by a very small team...even one person (Tetris or Minecraft anyone). I am lucky that I can do a fair job of the engineering, programming, art, sound & music. I just need some solid game play ideas & a little encouragement.
My current INDIE effort is called "uWannaZooma?" It is a semi-first-person space flight simulator shoot-em up. The idea is that you Zoom to various planets that harbor secret robot weapons factories, bent on destroying all humanoid life in your sector of the galaxy! You try to take out these factories with your high-tech attack fighter. But caution: you only have so much energy & if you are detected, the robots might start firing back & boom there go your shields. If successful, your resistance colleagues will provide you upgrades to your ZoomFighter craft, as you Zoom to the next death machine robo-factory planet!
Developed in Unity by MARDONIX. Requires game controller for fun flying & shooting!
Here are some screen shots of the Alpha version of uWannaZooma?
Please keep an eye open for uWannaZooma? coming to a game machine near you!
A few years ago, I had the idea to do some casual games based on old TV shows I loved. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy designing and programming them.
Obviously, this software is freeware, use at your own risk.
Seaview Voyage - The Video Game - episode 1
The first in the series is based on Irwin Allen's classic "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" series. It is a 2D side-scrolling shooter.
To get an idea of my mindset when I designed this game, please try my Generate Voyage Episode script below. Plot strings created in collaboration with www.plotsquid.net
Generate Voyage Episode
This software is a freeware work of fan-art. Use at your own risk.
VTTBOTS © Irwin Allen Productions & 20th Century Fox
Download ver 1.1 Zip File
Sometimes I look for a software tool online & can't find exactly what I want, or sometimes I decide it costs too much. On occasion, I decide I will just write my own. This is an area where I can list this software & make it available to the public.
KanaQ - Practice quick recognition of the Japanese Hiragana & Katakana alphabets on a Windows PC. My first C# effort.
Back to Mardonix Home