Monday, 14 January 2013

What’s old is new again

  So the New Year drags on, as it does for me in this full time job.  I’ve managed to steal an odd moment or two to dig back into gaming, and I’ve become quite surprised at the odd choice for my hobby.

  I’ve dug up Wario Ware DIY, a game not too far old, but one I became angry with because of its limitations, and started “coding” a collection of the old arcade classics.  I’m going to use today’s blog to ramble a bit about what made these old games so good, what Wario Ware can do to realize them, and how I’ve struggled, and I think even grown, trying to recreate them.

  First a bit about Wario Ware DIY.  I put “coding” in quotes because all of the coding is done for you.  WWDIY is a masterwork in limiting the communication line to something pretty close to ‘just what I want to say’ in machine language.  This lets the user focus on the assets, typically the art and animation of a game, the music, and the design, or putting it all together.  I’ve tried coding before and you’ll hear much of my hesitation to try it again.

  There are strict limits though.  Specifically, WWDIY can only make the six second microgames that fit Wario Ware, a harsh enough limit, but one that keeps the user from attempting any projects that are too big.  It also, much more maddeningly, limits the game designs to one and only one input, tap.  Want to use the DS buttons?  How about the microphone?  Want to drag and draw on the touch screen?  You cannot program any of that in game.  This restriction feels the most discomforting of all.  Further, I keep finding labor saving actions that I should be able to do, like copy code in many instances, or change the size of artwork.  When Nintendo/Intelligent Systems set out to define everything for you, they clearly missed some ideas, and doing without hurts the experience.   

  Honestly, a truly painful part of the software is the hard cap: each object can have only five events (for things like the die event, the create event, the “at the specified time” event).  This wouldn’t be so bad if you had only a full set of Boolean operators, otherwise known as the “AND” and “OR” keywords.  They let you mix operations; for instance “AND” is included and its event only triggers if all of the noted conditions are true.  There is no “OR,” so each event has to be included individually.  This makes collision events impossible; you could make a hero and three enemies, but the hero may not have the three events to spare to die at the hands of each of them.

  Shoot, that’s already 500 words.  I’ve only been describing the limits I’ve had to work within!  I think I’ll make the post for tomorrow all about showing off.  Rest assured, you’re only missing out if you like to laugh at hilarious failure.  Until then!

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