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At one time Narbacular Drop was an entry in the fledgling Independent Games Festival, a once insignificant component of the Game Developers Conference. With the success of indie games on Xbox Live and elsewhere, interest in the festival has increased hugely in the past few years with the top companies scouting talent, and the talent looking to outdo one another to gain the scouts’ attention. At the very least game developers will have a chance to sell their games on the XBLA or Sony Home, and earn something for the hundreds of hours individuals and teams have spent hunched over their keyboards bringing life to their visions.
The top-three games from the festival, as determined by a panel of judges, were Synaesthete, created by four students at Digipen IT (http://typos.digipen.edu/index); Fez, created by a group of Montreal programmers (www.kokoromi.org); and the mind-blowing Crayon Physics Deluxe (www.kloonigames.com/crayon) developed solo by Petri Purho. Purho won $20,000 for his game, which will be available for PCs soon, and is reportedly being courted by several game design companies.
Crayon Physics Deluxe is essentially a puzzle game where players have to move a red ball around a piece of paper to collect stars. You do this by drawing ramps, boxes, levers and other objects in crayon, all of which work according to your designs. For example, you can balance a beam on a box, place the red ball on one end of the beam and drop a big box on the other end of the beam to launch the red ball into a star.
So how do you develop a game, anyway?
As usual there’s more to it than meets the eye. The first thing you need is a physics engine, which you can either design yourself or assemble by using codes from other gaming engines. Halo 3, to use an extreme example, is based on the Unreal Engine, which probably cost millions of dollars to purchase. Purho, a student, used the Box2D physics engine available for free at www.gphysics.com.
To get a feel for what’s involved, there are a few online game tutorials where you can learn about physics and create your own game. One popular tutorial is Storm The Castle (www.stormthecastle.com), and Game Discovery (www.gamediscovery.com/development/) has some good information and tools. Searching WikiHow (www.wikihow.com) will also turn up a few tutorials. For gaming ideas, check out www.experimentalgameplay.com.