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

iClock Pro 3.8 - Customize your menubar...
iClock Pro is a menu-bar replacement for Apple's default clock. iClock Pro is an update, total rewrite, and improvement to the popular iClock. Have the day, date, and time in different fonts and... Read more
VirtualBox 5.2.0 - x86 virtualization so...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
Dropbox 37.4.29 - Cloud backup and synch...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Google Chrome 62.0.3202.62 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Chromium 62.0.3202.62 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 62.0.3202.62: High CVE-2017-5124: UXSS with... Read more
Fantastical 2.4.3 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
Things 3.2.1 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more
A Better Finder Attributes 6.06 - Change...
A Better Finder Attributes is the ultimate file-tweaking tool for OS X. It combines photo-shooting date and file date changing along with a few unique tricks of its own. Change EXIF Timestamps at... Read more
MacCleanse 6.0.5 - $29.95
MacCleanse is the product of thousands of hours of intense research and development. It meticulously scans all of the nooks and crannies of a computer for unnecessary junk that can take up huge... Read more
Smultron 10.0.2 - Easy-to-use, powerful...
Smultron 10 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. You can use Smultron 10 to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece... Read more

4 of the best Halloween updates for mobi...
Halloween is certainly one of our favorite times for mobile game updates. Many popular titles celebrate this spooky season with fun festivities that can stretch from one week to even the whole month. As we draw closer and closer to Halloween, we'... | Read more »
Fire Rides guide - how to swing to succe...
It's another day, which means another Voodoo game has come to glue our hands to our mobile phones. Yes, it's been an especially prolific month for this particular mobile publisher, but we're certainly not complaining. Fire Rides is yet another... | Read more »
Time Recoil (Games)
Time Recoil 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Time Recoil is a top-down shooter where you kill to slow time, dominate slow motion gunfights, and trigger devastating special... | Read more »
Campfire Cooking (Games)
Campfire Cooking 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Returner 77 (Games)
Returner 77 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Returner 77 is a cinematic space mystery puzzle game. You are in a giant alien spaceship hovering above Earth, after everything... | Read more »
Dune! guide - how to toe the line and ge...
Publisher Voodoo is at it again with an all new high score chaser -- Dune! In this fast-paced arcade game, you have to propel yourself along sand dunes, gaining enough momentum to jump above the line to score points, while making sure you have... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Your favorite part of the week as officially arrived. It's time to take a look at the best deals in games. Things are admittedly a bit sparse, but there are a few diamonds in the rough to see you through if you're... | Read more »
Be the last person standing in Legacy of...
Yoozoo Games’ popular action MMO Legacy of Discord is getting a huge new update to celebrate its first anniversary. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of an exciting survival mode titled Last Guardian. This new survival mode will pit you... | Read more »
Home Street guide - how to make friends...
From the creators of Food Street comes Home Street, a new simulation game that tasks you with building a social network and designing a beautiful home. It's a bit like The Sims, but you won't have to worry about the daily chores involved (feeding,... | Read more »
Color Ballz guide - how to bounce to the...
Color Ballz is an addictive new arcade title from Ketchapp Studios. It takes old school mechanics from games like Brickles and puts a fun twist on it. Your job? To catch balls with a paddle and send them back into a chute to be carried back to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $120 off M...
B&H Photo has 2017 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook... Read more
15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off M...
B&H Photo has 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $2249, $150... Read more
Roundup of Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs,...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2017 21″ and 27″ iMacs available starting at $1019 and ranging up to $350 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free... Read more
Sale! 27″ 3.8GHz 5K iMac for $2098, save $201...
Amazon has the 27″ 3.8GHz 5K iMac (MNED2LL/A) on sale today for $2098 including free shipping. Their price is $201 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (Apple’s $1949... Read more
Sale! 10″ Apple WiFi iPad Pros for up to $100...
B&H Photo has 10.5″ WiFi iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for $50-$100 off MSRP. Each iPad includes free shipping, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 10.5″ 64GB iPad Pro: $... Read more
Apple iMacs on sale for up to $130 off MSRP w...
B&H Photo has 21-inch and 27-inch iMacs in stock and on sale for up to $130 off MSRP including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 27″ 3.8GHz iMac (MNED2LL/A): $2179 $... Read more
2017 3.5GHz 6-Core Mac Pro on sale for $2799,...
B&H Photo has the 2017 3.5GHz 6-Core Mac Pro (MD878LL/A) on sale today for $2799 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only . Their price is $200 off MSRP. Read more
12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray MacBook on sale for $11...
Amazon has the 2017 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free: 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray MacBook: $1199.99 $100 off MSRP Read more
Bare Bones Software Releases macOS High Sierr...
Bare Bones Software has announced the release and immediate availability of BBEdit 12.0, a significant upgrade to its professional strength text and code editor. BBEdit 12 introduces a new foundation... Read more
Yale Announces Availability of Apple HomeKit-...
Yale Locks & Hardware has announced that Apple HomeKit support for its Assure Lock family is available this month. The new Yale iM1 Network Module, which provides support for the Apple Home app... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
Job Summary The Apple News Product Marketing Manager will work closely with a cross-functional group to assist in defining and marketing new features and services. Read more
Fraud Analyst, *Apple* Advertising Platform...
Job Summary Apple Ad Platforms has an opportunity to redefine advertising on mobile devices. Apple reaches hundreds of millions of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad Read more
*Apple* Information Security - Security Data...
Job Summary This role is responsible for helping to strengthen Apple 's information security posture through the identification and curation of security event data. Read more
Lead *Apple* Solution Consultant - Apple In...
…develop a team of diverse partner employees focusing on excellence to deliver the Apple story. Even when you're not present, you will maintain a consistent influence Read more
watchOS Frameworks Engineering Manager, *App...
Job Summary Join the team that is shaping the future of software development for Apple Watch! Apple is looking for an exceptional software engineering leader to Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.