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What Makes a Good Game

Posted on 1 September 1998

The following text was written by Alan Wong :

This has eluded many of us for a long time. What makes a good game? I started to think how we can all come together to create the elusive good game when I was responding to an Article here at ticalc.org. From writing my response, it hit me. Why not write a whole article devoted to the good game, and so I also thought of ways to quickly make good games, which introduced me to the engine, which we do not have as of yet. Sure we have side scrollers, but their coding is different, since they are not made in the same way. Then I thought, what do we need to make these engines, and here comes talent, time, and ideas. And then finally, I thought once more what we need, and I could not believe I missed this in my initial thought, but it is the most important part, fun. Making an equation, I came up with this:

Calculators + Engines + Talent + Time + Ideas + FUN = Good Games

To an extent, this is important. I did not include sound and graphics since the TI calcs are not very good in those areas, and they are not as important as the other parts of the equation. There are some good graphics out there, but in making an actual game, the graphics should be toned down a bit for playability (1 fps for a game is not that good), and sound is basically out of the question (I would look kinda stupid wearing headphones attached to my calc, non?). I also have ideas about these two, but first, lets look at my initial spark of light on the subject, caused by the comment. In the following paragraphs in italics, is my comment to Why Big Assembly Coding Projects Are Possible by Gerard Imbert. Read if you haven't read it, since I will base my later ideas on this.

Well, if I knew 86 assembly like the back of my hand (which I don't by the way) I would code a big project (and I have a ton that I'd like to do, but I'll get to that later). I believe that the 92 is not the only calc that is not getting a lot of attention. So far, I've seen a lot of games for the 82 (ffx, and lots of new ones in the past several weeks) and the 83. The 85 is now starting to gain some ground (a new rpg). But the 86 is lacking a bit in the big programming part (although Joltima is one big one). But what I am getting to may not be an idea many have come across.

This idea, I believe will give us calc owners with many good games and even let us inexperienced guys have a chance. What I'm talking about is the engine. No, not cars, but game skeletons. If ticalc.org can somehow get a team of super talented programmers (and I know quite a lot of names in that category) to come together and make the basic engines (side scroll, rpg over head, fighting, first person perspectives, myst type, and blah blah blah blah), then all the other people have to do to make a good game is add several elements (art, levels, story/plot, and FUN). This may help extend the amount of games, plus introduce the beginners, instead of dropping them into a pool of code (which I hate... but o'well).

Now that I have pushed forth my idea, maybe someone can pick it up. Now, lets add my idea of games that all the calcs need in their gallery. One, has anyone heard of Castlevania? Wow, good side scroller to pass the time away. Next, let us see a spin off from the Myst type games, those will help speed up the science classes. What about the RPG's? I have one I want to make, but I have no talent whatsoever. This is Pokemon (Pocket Monsters) for gameboy. In this game, we can take advantage to the short distance between people in classes, and the link ports. This game has a person collect an insane number of monsters (near 200), and build their levels one by one. Then the fun comes, battle between calcs for monster superiority. And last but not least, what about a book. What about putting a whole book into the little calculator to read and pass the class time. This is very possible (not with huge books though).

Anyway, this is my opinion (and I hope I spelled everything right.. hehe) and I would hope that everyone takes this seriously, and spawn big projects on all calcs by forming the skeleton for great games. And for inspiration for new games, just check out the gameboy games, since the calcs and the gameboy are almost the same, or you can come to me...

Well, now that you've seen my opinion, I would like to expand greatly (read, greatly, meaning large amounts of text). The title of this was "Calculators + Engines + Talent + Time + Ideas + FUN = Good Games" (I shortened it afterwards), and basically, this equation is right. First, you have your calculators (an obvious ingredient), but what comes after are the more taxing elements, all leading up to the final product (hopefully). But why am I writing this? Well, everyone wants good games, and I'm going to give you my opinion as unbiased as I can. Let's start with the engine.

In the comment in italics, I said that it would help the beginners start and also help many game projects to get started, and that is right. But most importantly, this engine will give us one thing lacking (IMHO) in the calc world now, speed. A good game is few and far between, and by creating flexible engine types, we can role out good games after several weeks to one or two months of work. Note, I said good, since a game can be a technical feat, but still quote unquote "suck". Anyway, this engine should allow lots of games to be completed in short amounts of time, which lets us have more games to take to class and show off to friends (hehe). This since the production of the game will (read very carefully) be based basically on art, level and sprite design, and making it fun, instead of making it work.

The next several things can be put into a clump. Talent, time, and ideas are important, but can be put together. Talent is needed, since a good engine can still churn out bad games. Here's an example. Say we have a mario / sqrxz type engine. One person puts a lot of time to make good sprites and levels, and these levels are challenging (like in sqrxz *cough*praise*cough*). And another person makes a game with this non animated sprite and a flat level with a couple enemies, and one can finish it in a couple seconds. You tell me which is fun (which is talked about later). Next, time is the essence. No one has enough of this. But with the engine out of the way, more time can be spent making the game itself and making it fun, instead of making it work through tedious testing. Finally, ideas are important. Would you rather play a game with its own world and interact in it like a real world (The Legend of Zelda 64: Ocarina of Time, by Nintendo), or a game that is like an interactive movie with slick cg (Final Fantasy 7 and 8, by Square), or would you rather choose a game that was thrown together with no good idea at all, more like a jumble of what a game could have been (too many games to mention, but one is ET on the Atari). Anyway, what I'm getting at is that ideas are important too. Let's try to stop copying, and try to improve games. If you think I'm contradicting myself, I'm not. Even if we use the same engines, we can still improve games in many ways (which I will get to later).

Now for the biggest chunk of the good game factor. I would personally put it at 99% of the good game factor, but some may give it slightly less, but no matter what, this will make or break a game. This is the fun in a game. With out this, why even play the game? Just dump it for more space on your calc, or use it as a door stop or Frisbee. In the most recent issue of Nintendo Power, Volume 111, they interview one of the best in the video game industry. He is Shigeru Miyamoto, and he recently won the Hall of Fame award in a new awards program for the video game industry, The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. In the interview, he explained one way he makes games fun. This is to balance a game with 70% objectives and 30% surprises. Also in the interview, he says he wants to create a miniature world in a game, much like what he is doing with Zelda 64 (coming out November 23 this year by the way), and also that he stresses actual interactive action and immersion (another words, fun) into the game rather than the cg movies, fmv movies, plot, story, etc. since the latter only adds to this action and immersion. He wants us to play a game rather than watch a movie. If all this sounds a little too advanced for our little wimpy calculator compared to the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo64, and the upcoming Sega DreamCast, it might be. But fun is fun, and if we could some how get the fun into a game (and this may come in many forms, who knew dropping blocks was fun?) then we could have the ultimate achievement, the good game.

Now the equate for this is the good game. These can come in many forms, and here is a quick list of games that sold well for consoles - Zelda, Mario, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Castlevania, and many more. These are classics in many of our minds, but what makes them good? Good question, but there is no answer. The things in the equation are only quick overviews of my opinion, but there are so many other things, such as graphics and sound (maybe not for the calcs). These add to the immersion. As long as you keep in mind what games are for you should have no problem churning out good games. And this you is to all of you (and me), since working together is one way to make good games, since you have many opinions on good games, rather than just one. Any way, the thing about games is to make them fun. We play games to be entertained. This is why fun is so important. If you keep in mind what makes your day, and what makes our days, then you have one part of the many parts of good games. Then lets think of other possibilities, like our natural tendencies (bloody games seem to get more attention - Mortal Kombat). All in all, anyone should be able to make a good game.

If you remember back to the beginning of this article, I mentioned graphics and sound are not as important as the rest of the parts. This is true, graphics and sound only add to the fun. But here is a radical idea (just like the engines idea). Why can't we have several groups of people concentrate on one aspect of the game? I can't program, and I don't expect myself to be good enough to make a good game for a while, but I can do computer art effectively. So why not have some people just make graphics as good as the calc can handle, and the other people make sound effects (if needed). Then we can have archives of sprites and graphics for use with the engines just to speed the process along a bit. I'm not saying that making a Frankenstien game (put pieces together) is the way to go, but with this graphics library and engines library, we can concentrate on the fun of the game, not the technical stuff.

This concludes my huge article on what a good is game is and some ideas on getting to this dream on the calc even with such a somewhat limited backing (face it, not everyone on the planet has one, and not everyone that has one even has a clue how these games are made or even knows they exist). Here now is a list of what I think are possible games that can be made on the calc and still be fun (some mentioned in the above italics):

  • Final Fantasy (give us some ports PLEASE!!)
  • Pocket Monsters (Pokemon - really really good game, huge backing in Japan)
  • Castlevania (no one gets bored of a hack and slash or whip game, just make new levels and bingo, instant new game)
  • First Person Perspective (maybe we can get a multiplayer action going on now, lets make a 4 port connector for 4 people in the same game - hint hint hint hint)
  • Simple Board Games (I'm tired of finding that second player, why not add an AI? Don't make the Space Odyssey one though..)
  • Puzzle Games (sure fire way to get us through classes, but just make new types, not clones of Tetris)
  • And finally, something that might not be even possible, but at least someone can prove me wrong... A type of Mario 64 game.
  • And maybe a slide show movie and etext books on the calc can help a bit.

Anyway, have fun programming and making games, and I really hope you all consider these ideas (since it took me forever to write, but hey, I got stuff to get off my chest). Feel free to respond and add other pieces to the good game puzzle. And finally (real this time), nothing is impossible, it just seems that way until someone achieves the impossible.

  Reply to this item

Re: how do i get games....83+

how would i get "zasm" games to work on an 83+, they work fine on 83's but not on the 83+ why and how can i get htem to work?

Reply to this comment    10 June 1999, 00:28 GMT

A little help here?!
Mike Weber  Account Info

Can anyone figure out how to attack in STARCRAFT 0.6 beta(app)? screenshots make it look like you can... help me figure out the whole game, please!

Reply to this comment    26 October 2005, 21:18 GMT

Re: What Makes a Good Game
smooth763  Account Info

can someone PLZ tell me how to get the game from my computer to my calc plz i really tried everything

Reply to this comment    13 November 2005, 14:58 GMT

Re: Re: What Makes a Good Game
Colin Hart  Account Info

It helps if you have a usb to 3.5mm cable. If you do read the instructions. If you dont go buy one.

Reply to this comment    25 February 2008, 02:55 GMT

Re: Re: What Makes a Good Game
Jason Ronkin  Account Info

1. Get a linking cord
2. Download TI Connect
3. Download program and extract files
4. Connect Calculator to Computer
5. Right click the extracted *.8xp files and chose Open With... -> TI Connect
6. If the computer can't seem to find your calc, try turning it off and on and pressing refresh until it does

Reply to this comment    15 July 2011, 22:54 GMT

Re: What Makes a Good Game
Kiran Gurung Account Info

I like your equation for making a good game very much. Would you relate the equation to mobile phone games please? Especially the second component of the equation, the engine. I am writing a literature review on mobile games and part of it covers what makes a good game.Thank you very much

Reply to this comment    13 August 2006, 16:37 GMT

Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
Mike Smeen

Now, I agree with you totally, but one thing i want ALL programmers to listen to:

- Make a pinball game!

Pinball is the only type of game that i haven't seen on the calc, and in my opinion it is the coolest idea I've thought of. I'd especially like to see one for the ti-89, due to the AWESOME possibilites it has for a game of this calibre.

Reply to this comment    1 September 1998, 04:07 GMT

Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
David Phillips

I had that idea a little while ago. I might do that for my first 89 game. We'll have to see.

Reply to this comment    1 September 1998, 04:35 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"

make an 86 version, too

Reply to this comment    1 September 1998, 22:08 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
Mathieu Lacage

impossible... The 86 and the 89 don' t have the same processor...

Reply to this comment    2 September 1998, 12:18 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"

It's definitely not impossible to port an 89 game to an 86. It's just a little more difficult than, say, porting an 83 game to an 86. The biggest problem would be screen size differences, and that hurdle's been leaped before.

Reply to this comment    9 October 1998, 20:56 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
arthur becks  Account Info

Well don't count on it you stupid son of a bitch.


Reply to this comment    28 October 1999, 02:09 GMT

Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"

Pinball would kick @$$! I think you're right, that is the only type of game that really isn't represented on the ti-xx calcs.

Reply to this comment    1 September 1998, 04:37 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
(Web Page)

I thought of that a while ago. Maybe when I am done with these few HUGE projects that I am working on, I will start one. Maybe a joint project with a really good programmer.

Reply to this comment    1 September 1998, 04:54 GMT

Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"

Make a pinball game for the TI-83 hey were getting over looked here!!!

Reply to this comment    9 October 1998, 01:58 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
copu demon

hey how `bout the TI-85???

Reply to this comment    14 February 1999, 21:16 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: What Makes a Good Game
AnihilationNation  Account Info

what bout the ti-84 plus... dont foget about us!

my calculater is dumb... what is 2+2?

Reply to this comment    21 December 2004, 06:37 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: What Makes a Good Game
jeff l.  Account Info

5... At least according to my calculator...

Reply to this comment    23 January 2005, 00:30 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: What Makes a Good Game
Gamer83+ Account Info
(Web Page)

I'm pretty sure there is one already. It's not AMAZING, but it's pretty good. It's called Acelgoyobis. The link leads to it.

Reply to this comment    10 April 2006, 20:16 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: What Makes a Good Game
Willman722 Account Info

umm... you just responded to something from 1998.

Reply to this comment    23 August 2008, 18:49 GMT

Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
Chris  Account Info

Yes, I've had this idea for the past few months. I even started coding something. So far there's the board which scrolls up and down (It's a 4grayscaled board) based on Epic Megagames's version. In fact the board for testing purposes was ripped from them. But I came onto a point which was critical to the game : The bouncing. It requires a rather simple equation if I may say so, but the equation is filled with multiplications and divisions something which is possible but very slow on calcs. Of course threre's always the tables for the angles but then that's a memory issue. For now I'm working on something else, if someone else wants to join me into further developping the pinball game, I will gladyly share the code with them (Atlease what I have so far).

BTW : The code was designed for the 86 but was expected to land for the 85 eventualy.

Reply to this comment    30 September 1999, 05:22 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Article: "What Makes a Good Game"
Daniel Fuller  Account Info

I have a pinball game in the process of being made. I have the ball bouncing the bar at the bottom moving but am having a bit of trouble getting the blocks to dissapear when hit. The bouncing really wasn't that hard and not too big. If you want to talk, my address is Raven1@echoecho.com

Reply to this comment    8 May 2001, 22:43 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Article: What Makes a Good Game
Jason Ronkin  Account Info

thats not pinball thats brick breaker...

Reply to this comment    15 July 2011, 23:04 GMT

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