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

Apple Pro Video Formats 2.0.2 - Updates...
Apple Pro Video Formats brings updates to Apple's professional-level codes for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. Version 2.0.2: Includes support for the following professional video codecs... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.2.2 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Apple Compressor 4.2.1 - Adds power and...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Powerful... Read more
Apple Motion 5.2.2 - Create and customiz...
Apple Motion is designed for video editors, Motion 5 lets you customize Final Cut Pro titles, transitions, and effects. Or create your own dazzling animations in 2D or 3D space, with real-time... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 10.00b1 - File, p...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
CrossOver 14.1.6 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Printopia 2.1.14 - Share Mac printers wi...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Google Drive 1.24 - 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
Chromium 45.0.2454.85 - 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 45.0.2454.85: Note: Does not contain the "... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2.5 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more

Spirit Hunter is an Upcoming Collectible...
Boomlagoon, the team behind hybrid CCG/runner Monsu, has announced their newest project: a collectible card game/action RPG named Spirit Hunter. [Read more] | Read more »
Zen Brush 2 (Entertainment)
Zen Brush 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Zen Brush 2 is a drawing app focused on the strong yet beautiful feel of the East Asian ink brush. | Read more »
NetNewsWire (News)
NetNewsWire 4.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: News Price: $3.99, Version: 4.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Follow the Web NetNewsWire 4, completely written from the ground up for iPhone. NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the... | Read more »
Huzzah! Farming Simulator 16 Supports Cl...
As though it weren't difficult enough to resist the siren call of Farming Simulator 16, now it's been updated with cloud saves - so you can jump between devices without missing any of that precious crop-harvesting time. [Read more] | Read more »
Don't Starve: Pocket Edition Finall...
I've made no effort to hide my enjoyment of Don't Starve: Pocket Edition, but I will admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that it was only available for the iPad. Well nuts to that, because Klei Entertainment has made it universal! [Read more] | Read more »
Goat Simulator Wasn't Enough? Then...
If you just didn't get enough goat in Goat Simulator - or if you've been wanting to play a simulated MMO as a microwave - then you're in luck! Goat Simulator MMO Simulator is out now, and it's a game about simulated goats in simulated MMOs. Plus... | Read more »
You Can Play Madfinger Games' Unkil...
Madfinger Games - probably best known for the Dead Trigger series - has officially launched their newest zombie shooter (that isn't called Dead Trigger), named Unkilled. [Read more] | Read more »
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone (Music)
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: ** 50% OFF Special Launch Sale - For a Limited Time **The ELECTRIBE reborn in an even smaller form A full-fledged... | Read more »
Toca Life: City Just Got a Bunch of New...
Toca Life: City is Toca Boca's most popular app (number 1 in 47 different countries, apparently), and it's just had an update that adds a bunch of new content. [Read more] | Read more »
My Country 3D is More About Cities than...
My Country 3D is an upcoming city builder from Game Insight that looks pretty decent - although the name seems a tad out of whack for a city builder. Ah well, it is what it is. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Near-Office Input Functionality Virtually Any...
Today Logitech introduced the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse, giving users the freedom to work on any device, most anywhere. According to... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 4, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
Will You Buy An iPad Pro? – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
It looks like we may not have to wait much longer to see what finally materializes as a new, larger-panel iPad (Pro/Plus?) Usually reliable Apple product prognosticator KGI Securities analyst Ming-... Read more
eFileCabinet Announces SMB Document Managemen...
Electronic document management (EDM) eFileCabinet, Inc., a hosted solutions provider for small to medium businesses, has announced that its SecureDrawer and eFileCabinet Online services will be... Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils American-Made, All...
San Francisco’s WaterField Designs today unveiled their all-leather Cozmo 2.0 — an elegant attach laptop bag with carefully-designed features to suit any business environment. The Cozmo 2.0 is... Read more
Apple’s 2015 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
128GB MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP,...
B&H Photo has 11″ & 13″ MacBook Airs with 128GB SSDs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $799.99, $100 off MSRP... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679, save $...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Content Partner Engineer - *Apple* TV - App...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for an experienced engineer with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. The candidate will Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description: Customer Support Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.