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.

 
AAPL
$119.00
Apple Inc.
+1.40
MSFT
$47.75
Microsoft Corpora
+0.28
GOOG
$540.37
Google Inc.
-0.71

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.0.3 - Easy-to-use b...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.3 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more
Voila 3.8.1 - Capture, annotate, organiz...
Voila is a screen-capture, recording, and annotation tool that is a full-featured replacement for Mac's screen-capture and screen-recording capabilities. It has a large and robust set of editing,... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Maker...
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Makers of Scrap Squad Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Relevant Games has announced they will be releasing their reverse tower defense game, | Read more »
Tripnary Review
Tripnary Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRAVEL BUCKET LISTiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Want to create a travel bucket list? Tripnary is a fun way to do exactly that... | Read more »
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is...
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is Now Available for $4.99 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Mmmm, Tasty – Having the Angry Birds for...
The very first Angry Birds debuted on iOS back in 2009. When you sit back and tally up the number of Angry Birds games out there and the impact they’ve had on pop culture as a whole, you just need to ask yourself: “How would the birds taste... | Read more »
Rescue Quest Review
Rescue Quest Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PATH BASED MATCH-3Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide a wizard to safety by matching gems. Rescue Quest might not be an entirely original... | Read more »
You Can Play the Final Chapter of Lone W...
You Can Play the Final Chapter of Lone Wolf: Dawn Over V’taag Right Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swords of Anima (Games)
Swords of Anima 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A new tactical turn-based RPG experience. Command the Savior Rex Squad in an epic journey of courage and deception. Can you... | Read more »
Audio Defence: Zombie Arena
Audio Defence: Zombie Arena By Lee Hamlet on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DRAGS ITS FEETUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad From the makers of Papa Sangre comes a defense game that forces players to listen carefully... | Read more »
Tales from the Borderland​s Will be Comi...
Tales from the Borderland​s Will be Coming to iOS by the End of the Year Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Telltale Games has announced | Read more »
Sunburn! Review
Sunburn! Review By Campbell Bird on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: DON'T DIE ALONEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Platform through the depths of space to make sure your entire crew dies together in this satisfying... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Early Black Friday MacBook Air sale prices, $...
 MacMall has posted early Black Friday MacBook Air sale prices. Save $101 on all models for a limited time: - 11″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $798 - 11″ 1.4GHz/256GB MacBook Air: $998 - 13″ 1.4GHz/... Read more
Why iPhone 6 Tablet/Laptop Cannibalization Is...
247wallst.com blogger Douglas A. McIntyre noted last week that according to research posted on the Applovin blog site the iPhone 6 is outselling the iPhone 6 Plus by a wide margin . Hardly a surprise... Read more
Worldwide Tablet Growth Expected to Slow to 7...
The global tablet market is expected to record massive deceleration in 2014 with year-over-year growth slowing to 7.2%, down from 52.5% in 2013, according to a new forecast from International Data... Read more
Touchscreen Glove Company Announces New Produ...
Surrey, United Kingdom based TouchAbility specializes in design and manufacture of a wide variety of products compatible with touchscreen devices including smartphones, tablets and computers. Their... Read more
OtterBox Alpha Glass Screen Protectors for iP...
To complement the bigger, sharper displays on the latest Apple devices, OtterBox has introduced Alpha Glass screen protectors to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The fortified glass screen protectors... Read more
Early Black Friday Mac Pro sale, 6-Core 3.5GH...
 B&H Photo has the 6-Core 3.5GHz Mac Pro on sale today for $3499 including free shipping plus NY sales tax. Their price is $500 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from... Read more
Early Black Friday sale price: 15-inch 2.2GHz...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale today for $1699.99. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $300 off MSRP, equalling Best Buy’s price... 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
Early Black Friday iPad mini 3 sale: $75 off...
 Best Buy has iPad mini 3s on sale for $75 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online orders... Read more
Early Black Friday MacBook Pro sale: 15-inch...
 Best Buy has posted early Black Friday prices on 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with models on sale for $300 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free local store pickup (if available... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*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
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.