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Game Development Guide

Atari 5200 Guy

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How would you like to learn how to make a game for your favorite Atari console or computer?  Here's the thing...it's one thing to know how to write code that these machines understand but it's an entirely different aspect to actually sit down and plan out a game idea.  It will require patients, dedication, and imagination.  It will also require respect of other games because those games are going to be protected by their owner but it is not wrong to use other games for inspiration. 

What this guide will attempt to teach are ways to get ideas started.  If knowledge is gained and used regularly to get game ideas down the world of Atari might see more great games in the future.  Everyone who has played Atari games will have favorites but will also have questions as to why a game didn't do something here or there.  This would be the chance to answer those questions even if it means creating a new game from scratch.

There are a few things to keep in mind.  First and foremost...this guide will in no way attempt to teach programming.  That is for another topic for another day.  "Then why is this topic posted under the PROGRAMMING section?"  Because in order to program a good game one needs to know some common steps and mindsets to make a game.  This will be easy for some, challenging for others.  It is thought, and hoped,  that by posting something like this here others reading this will share what they've done and others will provide creative criticism to aide in what others are doing. 

The whole idea is to gain knowledge on some insights as to how the games we enjoy playing are generally made.  The concepts that will be shared here are just the basics.  It will be up to those reading this to take what is being presented here where they want to go with it.  Also, not everything has to be shared.  If an idea comes to mind that you want to try to finish it's OK to keep it under wraps until the project is close to completion.  

With all of that said there are a few things we need to get started.  These are:

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil or colored pencils

It will also help to decide which Atari console/computer that is of most interest.  While I can't go into all of them it will help to see which one gets picked the most so there is some idea on how to go about working out the rest of this guide.  Which means this will be done in parts, about a week or two between each section.  This gives plenty of time for topics to be absorbed by those interested and time for members to post questions and responses.  It also gives me time to work out the direction to take.  

What To Expect

By the time this series comes to an end members should have the abilities to create graphics/sprites to use in their game projects, be able to express the kind of sounds/music they would like to have in their game, be able to have/tell the story behind the game, have everything they need to storyboard a game from start to finish.  

What NOT To Expect

What will not be taught here is programming.  This post's only concern is to teach how to put a game idea on paper that has everything it will need.  We will not be going over how to program the 2600, 5200, 7800, Atari 8-bits, ST, Jaguar, Lynx, or any other game console or computer.  That is for other posts which will be more time consuming than actually designing.  We will get into those later but the first concept is to get those ideas down on paper.  Why paper and pencil?

  • Paper and pencil don't require batteries
  • Paper and pencil won't forget what is made with them
  • Paper and pencil won't get a virus or malware attack
  • Paper and pencil are portable
  • Paper and pencil are cheap and available everywhere school supplies are sold

So we are not going to be writing a 2600 game...at least not yet.  But what we are going to do is get ideas down on paper.  Where do we start?  With a story.

The Story

The story to a video game does a few important things.  It iis the building blocks and glue that put the game in perspective.  It also gives life to every aspect of the game.  Imagine, for example, Kangaroo.  Its story explains how monkeys kidnapped Mama Kangaroo's Joey and now she has to rescue him.  From the story the rest of the game can be thought out.  What are the characters to be or look like?  How is the player going to accomplish the task or tasks in the story?  As with Kangaroo we have a Donkey Kong style game where Mama Kangaroo has to climb trees.  She has to fight off monkeys, jump gaps, climb ladders, just to reach her Joey.  

So see what kind of story you can come up with.  Remember, it's OK to get ideas from other games already available.  What's not OK is to use anything from those games.  I hope others find this series of interest and I look forward to reading what others come up with. 

Before I go I have to express one thing:  never let money be the only reason for making a game.  The number one reason for making any game should be for the love of video games or the machine the game is being designed for.  If a game is being designed strictly for the money then don't bother trying because games made where money was the only reason for making a game were never successful.  I want to see games where this guide helped them get started to be successful.  Coming up with a game concept just for the money is actually a waste of time.

See you in the next post! 

Edited by kamakazi20012
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2 hours ago, Justin said:

Terrific to see leadership with programming here! Love this idea and what you're doing. Keep up the great work 🏆

You're welcome but I won't be teaching programming this time around.  What I'm after is those interested in making video games to have the basic knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make a game.  I'm also going to be expressing what making a game should be all about.  I don't want people coming in full force and making games just to make money.  Money should never be the reason behind making games.  Those that do that don't and never will care about the video game community and we don't want that.  I want people that want to make a game because of their passion for video games and the machines whether it be one or many.  

If people coming here because they want to make a game but they haven't got a clue on where to begin then I hope this guide will point them in the right direction to having all of their ducks in a row.  It is soo much easier to come to the programming stage after spending time putting together everything conceptual on paper from the story to character designs to world appearances that are to be put in the game.  There is a reason to my madness for doing it this way that will all come together in the end.  

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