Games Making Games and My History With GCSs

Apparently I haven’t made a post about this yet? Okay then:

First of all, I just need to say that I prefer the term Game Construction Set because I’m using Game Maker Studio 2 to make my Toolkit-style game. So I’m going to be using the term GCS to refer to all the things he calls “Game Makers”.

My personal experience with Game Construction Sets starts with Pinball Construction Set. We did have Pinball Construction Set at the time, and I remember it being amazing at the time, mostly because there wasn’t anything else even a little bit like it.

Over the next ten years I heard of Wargame Construction Set, SEUCK, and a few others. Most of them either weren’t that interesting to me, weren’t available on the system I was using at the time, or simply weren’t available by the time I had heard of them. At the time, retail distribution often meant games would stay on shelves for a year or less, so if you wanted something that came out more than a year prior you had to try your luck at yard sales.

I was aware of GCS Game-Maker and did indeed want it, but my father refused on the grounds that it didn’t involve any programming and would be too limited. He didn’t want it to distract from my programming studies. In the end, I think he wasn’t completely wrong, but I also think seeing the limitations for myself might have inspired me to try to make my own version. Things would be very different if I had tried to start making Game Blocks twenty years ago.

3D Construction Set 1 and 2 were both terribly primitive games far ahead of their time. I had both, and did what I could, but they were just too limited by the technology of the time, the user interface designs of the time, and were basically too much like CAD tools and not enough like actual GCSs. If 3DCS had been more like the level design tools for Quake and other 3D games that came out later, I think they might have been onto something. But as the products actually were, I can’t recommend them.

Somehow I hadn’t heard of Adventure Construction Set, Bard’s Tale Construction Set, Unlimited Adventures, or Dungeon Master until after they were no longer available. Or perhaps I did hear of them but didn’t pay attention because I didn’t care about RPGs until later. I have several of them on GoG.com now, and ACK is free.

Fortunately, by the time RPG Maker 2000 was translated by Don Miguel, I did care about RPGs and boy did I love RPG Maker 2000. Don Miguel was a Russian computer science major who was not very fluent in English or Japanese, but didn’t let that stop him from trying to translate a game from one language he wasn’t fluent in into another. For those of us who couldn’t or didn’t want to import RPG Tsukuru from Japan because we wouldn’t be able to read any of it, Don Miguel’s just barely functional translation was far better than nothing.

I started a whole bunch of different RM2k projects, but the only one I really “finished” was a short one I made as a present for Mom on Mother’s Day. Even though my ideas usually proved too ambitious to actually complete, I did learn a lot about how a really good GCS works. Recent RPG Makers have become even better, but I think in a lot of ways they lack the simplicity of RM2k.

(Although I obtained it via filesharing at the time, I was one of the people demanding at the time that ASCII release an English version of RPG Tsukuru 2000. It wasn’t just because of the language barrier, but also the difficulty with American Windows’ lack of support for Japanese fonts. Fifteen years later, I was able to finally buy an English copy.)

I completely missed out on both ZZT and Megazeux back in the 1990s because I had the mistaken impression that they were both basically Caves of Thor clones with no real customization. I thought Caves of Thor was okay, but lacked depth. If someone back then had explained to me what ZZT-OOP or Robotic was, I would have demanded to have registered versions of both ZZT and Megazeux as soon as I could.

If you’ve read this weblog at all, you know how much I like Super Mario Maker so I won’t say too much here. Instead I’ll point out how he completely glossed over WarioWare Inc.! WarioWare’s incredible potential and tragic lack of support for more advanced features is, even more than Mario Maker, what inspired me to start working on something like Game Blocks. Sometimes, when I’m taking a break from programming, I’ll still reach over and play with WW Inc.

Anyway, hopefully soon people will start adding Game Blocks to the lists of Game Creation Tools. In the meantime, I guess I need to get back to work on it.

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