Sunday, February 6, 2011

Building Your Own Game Engine - Introduction

Fast forward from my last post, the game that I was making with students from the Utrecht School of Arts (HKU) for the Dutch Game Garden is done. At least within the project frame that was given by the school. We decided for "The Jelly Reef" as a name and you can read more at The game has been showcased on few occasions and has received some very positive reactions. This is the first in a series of six articles on how the game was developed. The articles will cover some details  of the game's engine structure and all the technical choices made along the way. The next articles will focus on Basic Structure, Tools, Game Play, Physics and Collision Detection, and Graphics. The articles should be informative to any small team trying to develop a game, as much of the patterns reappear again and again in very different types of games. First, a screen-shot can give you an idea about The Jelly Reef and there is a montage at the end of the article.

Before there was any game, there was the team and the clients request, so many of the initial decisions came from there. The team was 9 peoples strong; 3 programmers, 4 artist and 2 designers. Two of the programmers on the project, including myself were part time and the third one had a background in interaction design with little experience in programming. All the artist on the project had background in 2d art. For the vast majority of the project, design was handled by the lead designer, as the other designer was perfecting the art of slacking. We knew that we were working with the Microsoft Surface, so technical choice number one was the choice of language, C# and was done for us. Because of performance reasons mentioned in the previous post, we decided to go for XNA instead of Silverlight. With the background of our art guys we knew that we would be making a 2d game and the top down perspective of the device reinforced the decision. While we did have the option to use a game engine like Unity, we didn't think that it would be a good fit the projects needs, so we decided to build our own.
For the first three weeks the team was brainstorming on possible concepts. Time is always in short supply so the tech team was eager to start working on something, to avoid sleepless nights at the end of the project. We discarded some of the concepts and merged features from similar concepts. From the handful of distilled concepts, we took a common denominator and started working on that. This is exactly what the next article will discuss.

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