Why does the 4K game competition excite me so much?
I have been down lately, really really down. A plethora of problems with my house, with work, with the world economy, and with my personal economy have put my attitude and psyche in the complete crapper lately.
So, why does the 4K Game Competition, sponsored jointly by our friends and colleges at UrbanSquall and GamingYourWay excite me so much? It might be because I am just now finishing up the incredible book, Racing the Beam, which goes in depth into the development of 6 original Atari 2600 carts. This book details how skilled the brilliant original 2600 coders were at squeezing game play into 2K (and then later 4 and 8K carts) given the serious limitations of the VCS architecture. Basically the machine was meant to play Pong and Tank (and it did those incredibly well), but was never meant to have multiple sprites for games like Asteroids, Space Invaders or Pac Man. It took some serious trickery to simulate multiple sprites and effects on the machine. Scrolling horizontally was a HUGE problem and the machine didn’t use a bitmapped screen, it used a line by line display based on the firing on the electron gun in the TV. NOTHING about making those games was simple. I’m about to finish the book and need something to work on. I have multiple personal game projects going, but all of them are HUGE engineering efforts that take a lot of time to even get back into, much less make any significant progress on.
So, why does the 4K Game Competition excite me? I don’t care about winning the prizes, although it is awesome that the GYW and UrbanSquall teams are offering great prizes. It just seems to invigorate me to work on something with inherent limitations and try to squeeze everything out that I can given those limitations. In today’s game development (even in Flash to some extent) we can do pretty much anything we want given enough time, money, and other necessary resources. In some cases that seems to paralyze me (and some others) because we don’t know what our next move should be.
So, the nature of 4K gives me a limit and a goal and something to shoot for that is doable in a small amount of time. I planned to blog about the game (or games) I am creating, but because UrbanSquall wants entries to be anonymous, I will start to blog about the methods I am testing out to squeeze data and game play into such a small package. I hope I can get multiple 4K games complete in time and submit the one I like best. Maybe these limitations will be just the thing to get me motivated again to make my own games (at a more rapid pace).
Anyway, I am excited about this competition, and not because I want to compete with you guys (I probably can’t win), but because I want to compete with myself.