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    When Will Video Games Become Easy to Create?

    by Paul Grabowicz
    July 2, 2008

    When will we have a software program that makes it as easy to create a video game as iMovie makes creating a video?

    That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot, as we prepare to launch our Remembering 7th Street video game project, something we’ve been working on for nearly three years.

    We hope that our re-creation of Oakland’s old blues and jazz club scene might inspire local media companies to produce their own virtual world replications of aspects of a community’s heritage.

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    But to create a video game like ours would require several game programmers and a budget few local publications could afford.

    There are some alternatives, such as Second Life, in which the creation of a virtual world is relatively easy. But Second Life has limitations I’ve noted before, such as difficulties creating engaging game play and having to host your virtual world on the Second Life site.

    There are a lot of other companies that offer virtual worlds in which which people can create avatars, pick and furnish a virtual living space and interact with others (see, for example, Kaneva ). And for years, many popular video games have allowed “mods,” or modifications in which a player can create a new level to a game or a new version of it.

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    But none of these comes close to allowing a layman to create from scratch a rich virtual environment with complex game play.

    Two other Knight News Challenge Grant recipients – the Gotham Gazette and the University of Minnesota – also have projects to produce video games for news sites, and they’ve commented on this blog about some of the challenges they’ve faced (see especially this post by Fabio Berzaghi, who makes a point similar to mine).

    If anyone knows of other people or companies experimenting in this area, I’d love to hear about them.

    Tagged: production technology videogames
    • Microsoft has made some headway in this direction with XNA, but so far the rules for actually publishing a game using XNA to a platform where it might make money (Xbox Live Arcade) are quite restrictive for the amateur designer. It’s not completely free, but the upfront investment is in the low hundreds instead of the 10,000-15,000 dollars for most console game development kits. It’s also easier to use than plain programming languages, but still isn’t quite something that anyone can pick up and use right out of the box, it requires some knowledge of scripts. And obviously design experience for the game mechanics themselves.

      The XNA webpage is here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb200104.aspx

      Full Disclosure: I once worked for Microsoft’s PR firm on some XNA business, but have not for going on two years now. I’ve been a gamer, in the games industry and designing games far longer. :)

    • Paul Grabowicz

      Thanks much for this, Jason. I’ll definitely check it out.

      Paul

    • Larry R.

      There’s a program called 3d gamestudio that I believe is the easiest program so far to create decent video games with no programming. I found a tutorial on the web at http://www.juniorgamemaker.com that can have you creating a video game in about an hour. The good thing is that all the software are free or give a free trial so you don’t have to spend any money on software if it’s something your not interested in.

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