Monday, December 12, 2005

Game creation revisited

Thanks to a recent copy of Computer Gaming World, I had the opportunity to try out the demo version of a new utility that assists gamers in creating their own first-person-shooters -- the aptly-named FPS Creator.

Using a simple mouse-driven interface, any gamer can now drag-and-drop game elements (rooms or portions thereof, scenery, weapons, enemies, etc) onto a blank slate and create a new game in a matter of minutes. There's no need to know much about scripting, but each item has its own attributes which can be modified to your heart's content. Want to change the hit points on an enemy, or the weapon that it carries? Simply right-click and choose the appropriate option on the menu to the left. Did you place the table too close to the door? Pick it up and move it. Want to set up a multiplayer frag-fest? Just choose 'Multi-player' from the game preferences menu, place some starting points, and you're ready to go. The customization options seem pretty deep, but from what I saw are set to work fine with the default choices.

The game even comes with a couple of default graphics styles, so you don't have to be an artist to make things look good. Choose from the (sometimes-cliched) genres of sci-fi or WWII, and all of the textures are taken care of for you. Hang things on wall, add a few blood spatters, and you're ready to go. Supposedly, you can add in your own textures if you're so inclined, but my art skills are limited to basic geometric shapes and patterns. I was happy to stick with the basics the game provides, as everything looks much better out-of-the-box than I could do on my own with years of work.

When you're done creating the world you've always wanted to shoot up, save it and compile it into an executable file to share with your friends, and even set up a LAN or internet game. What could be better than setting up a deathmatch game with your buddies, where you already know all the secrets of the map? Sure, it might be a lame way to get kills, but oh well...

Playing through the demo, though, only allows access to certain items. A few standard rooms, weapons, and scenery devices are available, with the full library unlocked in the paid version. I also wasn't able to find much by way of online tutorials, but the basics are easy enough to pick up on your own, and the official website hosts a discussion forum for more complicated issues.

All in all, this seems to be a great program, especially for non-programmers. Home-brewed game-design made easy and approachable, with plenty of room for growth as your experience increases -- exactly what's needed to get more gamers interested in the craft of creation. I'll be playing around with this one for a while.

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