TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Games People Write
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:12
Column Tag:Book Review

Games People Write

Jump into games programming with advice from the experts.

By Mike Scanlin

Tricks of the Mac Game
Programming Gurus

By McCornack, Ragnemalm, Celestin,
et al.
Hayden Books, 1995
ISBN 1-56830-183-9
861 pages (softback) with CD-ROM. $50.00

The desire to write a computer game has probably recruited more people to study computer programming than any other kind of software. Certainly, this is true for me. It was 15 years ago when I asked for my allowance in quarters so I could go down to the local arcade and play games. I remember wondering how they made those games and thinking that it must be the coolest job in the world. Then came the day my grandfather gave me a 16K Apple ][ computer. As with many people, it changed my life. I became obsessed with learning everything there was to know about programming games. It was a slow process of trial-and-error, with lots of hacking and disassembling in between. I can only imagine how much quicker I could have learned everything if I’d had a book like Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus back then. I would have saved so much time that I might have gone outside once in a while, had a few friends and maybe even gone to the movies occasionally.

While there is much to be said for figuring out how to do something on your own, there is also something to be said for not reinventing the wheel all the time. This book explains and solves many of the problems you will encounter while writing a Macintosh game. It will give you enough of the basics so that you can concentrate on game playability, good graphics, and sounds, rather than figuring out things like how to hide the menu bar, how to create preferences and saved game files, and how to correctly let people configure their keyboard controls independent of their country or keyboard model.

This book was written by many people, each explaining everything he knows about his area of expertise (graphics, sound, QuickDraw 3D, networking, PowerPC, etc.). There is not much source code printed in the book (for space reasons - it’s a big book as it is), but the accompanying CD-ROM has lots of documented source code on it.

The beginning of the book reviews GWorlds, GDevices, CopyBits, PixMaps and palettes. For the uninitiated these concepts can be overwhelming, but the author does a good job of telling you just what you need to know to get started. There is a simple demo application called Clem the Clam that shows a little animated clam walking across a background (with appropriate masking). It’s a great app to learn and experiment with.

There is a chapter on how to make good sound (overlapping sounds, background music, etc.), as well as a discussion of an included code library called Hollywood. This library allows you to play AIFF files, 'snd' resources, mono, stereo, MACE-compressed, streaming sound, 8-bit sound or 16-bit sound, and it can do them all at once. This is a great way to get up and running using sounds with minimal effort. The only effort is coming up with good sounds for your game. The mechanics of playing them from within your game are taken care of for you.

A similarly useful chapter covers networking. Taking advantage of the Macintosh’s built-in networking capability has never been easier. It covers AppleTalk in detail (ATP and DDP), and goes into Apple’s new networking protocol, OpenTransport, as well. Once you’ve read this material you will no longer be intimidated by the concept of writing a network game. As in the sound chapter, the grunt work of networking has been taken care of for you. Now you just have to come up with a good network game idea.

Once you’ve got sounds and networking under control, the remaining areas to concentrate on are graphics and game design. Throughout the book there are references to little tricks with graphics: fast blitters, masks, working with offscreen PixMaps, optimizing for CopyBits. I especially like the one discussing how to encode (and compress) 8-bit indexed images so that your blitters are faster. You’ll find there are many examples using 8-bit indexed images. That seems to be the appropriate lowest common denominator you should shoot for if you want to reach the broadest possible Macintosh audience. It also makes porting to non-Macintosh systems easiest (there is a complete chapter on porting and what to consider).

Game design is, of course, the hardest part of any good game. This book has taken care of many of the mechanical aspects involved in writing a good Macintosh game, but it can’t solve the creativity problem for you. It’s up to you to work with good artists, good musicians and good creative people to make your game really fun to play. There are a couple of chapters on how to make the entities in your game appear realistic. The equations for realistic collisions, distance covered by diagonal movement, acceleration due to gravity, etc., are given along with clear diagrams.

Several optimization tips are given, including: using fixed-point math when you can (velocity calculations), using the floating-point registers on a PowerPC as the fastest way to write your blitting loops (for maximum data transfer throughput), using aligned data on the 603 and 604 (which sped up one game’s blit loop by a factor of two when compared to the unaligned case), and using no more than 8 parameters per function so the PowerPC can pass them in registers. There are other details, too, but I’ll let you ferret them out on your own by reading the book.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone considering writing his or her first game. I also recommend it to people who are unfamiliar with sound or networking. Those skills can be useful even in non-game applications.

Having said all that, there are some things about this book I didn’t like. For starters, it really does feel like it was written by many different people. There are places where it’s redundant. I’m not sure I need to be told how to hide the menu bar in three different ways in three different chapters. That tends to confuse, more than help. Which is the best way to hide it? I still don’t know. It would have been great, too, if they could have gotten everyone to agree to a common set of coding guidelines and naming conventions. Consistency enhances comprehension when you’re looking at someone else’s code.

Several of the authors suggest boosting speed by using tables to look up various things (entity behavior, dungeon maps, etc.). While I applaud that technique, I would have made more things resource-driven instead of using static data in the source code. Perhaps, though, the authors used static data for demonstration purposes (to avoid adding the complication of custom resource templates), or for portability reasons.

While some of the authors are very good at explaining their optimizations and why they did things a certain way, others are not. For example, one of the code snippets calls MoreMasters() four times during initialization with a comment that says, “so we won’t run out of handles”. But the phrase “run out of handles” is misleading, because the issue is memory fragmentation, not running out of handles. Nowhere is it explained how to determine the appropriate number of preallocated master pointers (i.e. by exercising your program thoroughly and then looking in the heap to see how many were created).

There are a couple of typographical problems, such as the occasional double-hyphen in the source code (a post-decrement) being converted into an em-dash by some overly aggressive file translator. I’m not sure if novice programmers will know that x-; means x--; (I guess they’ll have to figure it out when they try to compile). Throughout the book there are “Note” paragraphs set on top of solid 10% gray rectangles. Maybe it’s just the copy that I received but about half of those paragraphs were missing the background rectangle or it was so light that you couldn’t see it. The result is that as you’re reading the text you sometimes come across what seems to be a completely disjointed paragraph. Not a big deal once you’ve encountered it a couple of times, though, because you know to skip it and keep reading the text in the following paragraph.

There are also some things that are downright strange. Apparently, one of the authors is Swedish because some of the screen shots contain Swedish text and buttons in the Open/Save dialogs. That adds confusion in an English book because the text around those dialogs was discussing how to save and load games, not how to internationalize. Also, there is a chapter called “Aesthetics” which emphasizes that a consistent look-and-feel can help your game, but then goes on to label the OK button as “Okay” in a standard Macintosh dialog (right next to a Cancel button). To anyone with Macintosh experience, it looks distinctly odd and unnecessarily different.

Despite the above problems, the code is readable and the game logic and diagrams are clean. Also, in a series of interviews, published Macintosh game authors answer some of the non-technical questions most curious readers will have, such as, “How many people worked on that game?”, “How long did it take?” and “What tools did you use?” If you would like to see the sun, have friends, have time to go to the movies or maybe just learn a bit on how to write a Macintosh game, then you should read this book.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Google Drive 1.20 - File backup and shar...
Google Drive is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or... Read more
Simon 4.0.3 - Monitor changes and crashe...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
Vitamin-R 2.23 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
iDefrag 5.0.0 - Disk defragmentation and...
iDefrag helps defragment and optimize your disk for improved performance. Features include: Supports HFS and HFS+ (Mac OS Extended). Supports case sensitive and journaled filesystems. Supports... Read more
PCalc 4.2 - Full-featured scientific cal...
PCalc is a full-featured, scriptable scientific calculator with support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations, as well as an RPN mode, programmable functions, and an extensive set of unit... Read more
FileZilla 3.10.2 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.10.2: Note: Now requires a 64-bit Intel processor.... Read more
The Hit List 1.1.11 - Advanced reminder...
The Hit List manages the daily chaos of your modern life. It's easy to learn - it's as easy as making lists. And it's powerful enough to let you plan, then forget, then act when the time is right.... Read more
Bartender 1.2.32 - Organize your menu ba...
Bartender lets you organize your menu bar apps. Features: Lets you tidy your menu bar apps how you want. See your menu bar apps when you want. Hide the apps you need to run, but do not need to... Read more
ClamXav 2.7.5 - Free virus checker, base...
ClamXav is a free virus checker for OS X. It uses the tried, tested, and very popular ClamAV open source antivirus engine as a back end. I hope you like and use ClamXav a lot and that it helps keep... Read more
xScope 4.1.2 - Onscreen graphic measurem...
xScope is powerful set of tools that are ideal for measuring, inspecting, and testing on-screen graphics and layouts. Its tools float above your desktop windows and can be accessed via a toolbar,... Read more

Dungeon Hunter 5 Coming on March 12
Gameloft has excitedly announced that Dungeon Hunter 5 is on its way! Once again, you will adventure across the land of Valenthia exploring dungeons and fighting monsters. The game will have a new asynchronous multiplayer mode called Strongholds... | Read more »
It Came From Canada: Jurojin: Immortal N...
At this point it’s pretty safe to say that no MOBA is going to dethrone Dota 2 and League of Legends anytime soon. After all, if Batman can’t do it, nobody can. However, with a genre as popular and profitable as this one, there’s still room for... | Read more »
Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Advent...
Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Adventures! Review By Amy Solomon on March 3rd, 2015 Our Rating: :: LIVELY LANDSCAPESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tiny Farm – Animals, Tractors and Adventures! includes farm-related... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: February 23-27, 20...
Final February Fun at 148Apps   How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you’re looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out... | Read more »
GDC 2015 – Does Not Commute is Definitel...
GDC 2015 – Does Not Commute is Definitely a Game You Should Keep an Eye on Posted by Rob Rich on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] We were teased about Mediocre Games’ (Smash Hit, | Read more »
F84 Games & POW! Announce Stan Lee V...
F84 Games has announced that it is working with legendary comic creator Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment to produce Stan Lee’s Hero Command. The game will be a action adventure of heroic proportions. | Read more »
Setlyst Keeps Your Set Straight So You C...
Setlyst Keeps Your Set Straight So You Can Focus On Rocking Out. Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Space is Vast, So Space Agency Has a Vas...
Space is Vast, So Space Agency Has a Vast New Update! Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 2nd, 2015 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Size DOES Matter Review
Size DOES Matter Review By Campbell Bird on March 2nd, 2015 Our Rating: :: HARD TO BEATUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad This rhythm game has a unique control scheme and performance system that make it feel like a true... | Read more »
The first ever action 3D card battler Al...
On the other hand, you probably haven’t played an action 3D card battler – until now. Step forward, All Star Legion. All Star Legion is a 3D QTE-based action RPG card battler, but fear not – the game itself isn’t as convoluted as its description.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Another Tranche Of IBM MobileFirst For iOS Ap...
IBM has announced the next expansion phase for  its IBM MobileFirst for iOS portfolio, with a troika of new apps to address key priorities for the Banking and Financial Services, Airline and Retail... Read more
Sale! 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $250 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
WaterField Designs Introduces the Minimalist...
With Apple Pay gaining popularity, Android Pay coming in May 2015, and loyalty cards and receipts that can be accessed from smartphones, San Francisco’s WaterField Designs observes that it may be... Read more
Sale! 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro for $...
 Best Buy has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1774.99 $1799.99, or $225 off MSRP. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Price valid for online orders... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $170 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on...
 B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
Apple Launches Free Web-Based Pages and Other...
Apple’s new Web-only access to iWork productivity apps is a free level of iCloud service available to anyone, including people who don’t own or use Apple devices. The service includes access to Apple... Read more
Survey Reveals Solid State Disk (SSD) Technol...
In a recent SSD technology use survey, Kroll Ontrack, a firm specializing in data recovery, found that while nearly 90 percent of respondents leverage the performance and reliability benefits of SSD... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Pay Automation Engineer - iOS System...
**Job Summary** At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring passion and dedication to your job Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Event Director, *Apple* Retail Marketing -...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global engagement strategy and team. Delivering an overarching brand Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.