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Review by Richard Brindley

Name:         The Games Factory
Publisher:    Europress
Format:       CD-ROMgfside.jpg - 15.4 K
Available:    Now

Requires:

O/S:          Win 3.x / Windows 95
Processor:    486/33 (Win 3.x) / 486/100 (Win95)
RAM:          4Mb (Win 3.x) / 8Mb (Win95)
Graphics:     Windows-compatible
CD-Rom:       Quad speed
Soundcard:    Windows compatible

Tested on:

O/S:          Windows 95
Processor:    Pentium Pro 200MHz
RAM:          256Mb
Graphics:     Matrox Millennium 8Mb WRAM
CD-ROM:       Toshiba 12x SCSI
Soundcard:    AWE32 / Yamaha DB50XG
Controls:     Mouse / Keyboard

The Games Factory

Back in the eighties, when men were men, and games developers were unwashed long-haired smelly sweat-buckets who spent hours poring over machine-code coding sheets, programming a game was a labour of love; you could spend hours just getting a sprite to animate properly without crashing your microcomputer.

With the advent of more and more sophisticated computers, sound cards, graphics processors, and so forth, the development time for even a simple game has increased exponentially, with games developing having to know the ins and outs of all manner of different hardware and operating systems. In the ensuing chaos, almost more time and money has been spent in the industry on developing games development engines which go quickly out of date than on developing the games themselves.

A niche has been created for the amateur games developer; the person who has a spare few hours here and there to release their creative juices on their now all-singing and all-dancing PC, but doesn't have the time or money to invest in developing their own development tools.

The direct successor to Klik and Play, The Games Factory is a DIY games creation program which attempts to fill this niche.

While it's not going to let you create a 3D game such as Quake in 10 minutes, there are certain types of game where it's a more than adequate development tools, the most obvious being arcade shoot-em-ups, platform games, and adventure games. The Games Factory can also be used to create Screen Savers.

Installation is very easy; the program detects whether you're running 16-bit or 32-bit Windows, and installs the appropriate version of the software. It will also install Video for Windows, Apple QuickTime, and DirectX as necessary. There are three installation options available, a minimum install of 6Mb which runs everything from the CD, a medium install of 7.5Mb, which runs everything from the hard drive, and leaves all the libraries on the CD, and a full install of 213Mb which installs everything onto the hard drive.

Once everything is installed, you click on The Games Factory icon, and off you go.

The Editors

In order to simplify your games creation, The Games Factory divides the creation process into several different stages. This is done by use of the "Editor" screens. Each editor screen allows you to manipulate the characters of your game in a different way, for example, one controls which characters are put on the screen and how they are animated, while another allows you to add music, sound effects, and moment to the game. Easy access to each editor is gained by clicking on the relevant toolbar icon.

Storyboard Editor

Most games are comprised of several different levels, and this screen allows you to add levels to your game, copy levels, and change the order of levels by moving them around. The storyboard is also where you define the size of the playing area, if you want to use fade techniques between levels, and if you want to add password protection between levels to allow easy entry to each individual level similar to what was done in Lemmings.

Level Editor

The level editor is the initial "blank page" of each of your levels. It displays your play area and is where you decide to put background objects and the main characters of your game. It is from this screen that you have access to the libraries of all the different objects that you can use, and where you can create your own animated objects, text, and other object types to be used in the game.

Event Editor

This is where you put the meat (or the nut roast for our vegetarian readers) into the game. I found that once I'd got used to using The Games Factory, I spent most of my time in this editor. It's here that you decide all the events in the game, e.g. what happens when the missile hits the spaceship, how many times Dale's car rolls over when he takes the corner too fast, that sort of thing. All of these events are defined here, and you decide which actions to apply to them; which sound to play, create an explosion or destroy an object, add to the score, subtract a life, and so on.

The Step-Through Editor

This is a great tool for the novice Games Factory user. If you haven't quite worked out beforehand what happens when the custard pie hits Gadget, or what happens when the elastic snaps on Gary's trousers, the step-though editor is an extremely useful tool. Programmers will be familiar with the concept; you run the game in step-through mode, and every time an event is about to happen (because of a collision, or whatever), the game stops, and the step-through editor prompts you to enter the next action. A bit like the "what happens next" in Question of Sport, I guess, except that if you want Maradonna to be sent off for handball, you can actually make it happen. The only problem with the step-through editor though is that it always gives you a list of every possible action; the majority of time, you don't actually want anything to happen, and it can get a bit annoying after a while.

Tutorials

There are five tutorial games included with The Games Factory, and the manual combined with the game provides an excellent self-tutoring tool.

Spacebattle

gfspace.jpg - 8.3 KThis is a very simple space invaders type game, and shows you the very basics of creating a game with The Games Factory. Even so, a lot of the procedures which are taught during this tutorial are basic to all games and are extremely useful in further development. The most important thing covered by this tutorial is the step-by-step creation and management of events. It goes through the creation of the playing area, the addition of fade-in and fade-out techniques, and the definition of how sprites are animated.




Pointblank

gfpoint.jpg - 10.1 KThis is a shoot the gangster/Virtua Cop (well, not really, but that sort of idea) game, which introduces you to timed animation events (the gangster popping-up at timed intervals) and the addition of MIDI music into the game.






Pulverise

gfpulv.jpg - 4.9 KThis is an Asteroids style game. If you remember the arcade game, there's lots going on, including the splitting up of the asteroids, and the 360 degree movement of the ship. More complex movement and animation concepts are taught in this tutorial.






Submission

gfsub.jpg - 16.5 KThis is a submarine race game, which although fairly simple in terms of game play, uses some fairly complex techniques to achieve the end result. The previous games have been based around a 640x480 play area - this is the first game which uses a 320x200 window maximised to be "full screen". The DirectX API allows the display of windowed graphics to display full screen in this manner. The main thing about this game is the use of a play area bigger than that being displayed on the screen; it introduces scrolling the screen around the main ship, and the ability to pick up power-ups - an essential part of any shoot-em-up type game.

Kung Fu

This tutorial could be based on any of the side-on arcade fighting gamesgfkung.jpg - 12.6 K such as Mortal Kombat, etc, and really gets to grips with how to construct a fairly complex game including many hidden values such as player energy levels, number of hits, etc. It draws on some of the many pre-defined fighting characters in the library, all of which can be used in your own game to customise the idea. You get to use the full gamete of animation options here; you must define the animation when standing still (the bounce on the heels sort of thing), when kicking, when moving to the left or right, and when taking a blow.

What happens then?

Once you have completed the tutorials, you're ready to create your own game.

Excellent. So what do I make it about.

OK, now, here comes the crunch. It's all very well having a good quality games development system such as The Games Factory, but it's not going to suddenly spark your grey matter into coming up with an absolutely incredible idea. I'm sure we've all played games where we've said "I could have done better than that", and this is your chance. A good game is created in the imagination; a good tool merely makes it come to life. And this is a very good tool, to be sure.

Conclusion

If your head is brimming full of games ideas, but you don't have the time or the inclination to learn C++ and the DirectX API calls, The Games Factory comes a long way into letting you realise your dreams. If you're a cabbage head who wants a quick route to glory, go and learn plastering or something.

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Richard Brindley for Game Over!

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