OPEN LETTER TO ALL GAME MANUFACTURERS
by Stefan Posthuma and Richard Karsmakers
On the "Computer Orgy" (see elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS),
when finishing the previous issue of ST NEWS, we came up with the
idea to write an article with guidelines for game manufacturers.
Having spent many an hour playing games ourselves, we feel we
have the necessary knowledge to be able to write a column like
What makes a game addictive? What makes a game playable? Which
games are excellent regarding one or several criteria? What is
necessary to make a game sell well and make it a potential hit?
Most software manufacturers will probably have spent a lot of
money investigating this, but some haven't (or at least it
appears that they haven't, considering the quality of the games
they produce). So we made a small checklist for all games authors
to read. All about what makes a game GOOD.
On the next pages, we will go into individual aspects. They will
all be clarified by some games following a minus sign (-) that
are typical examples of how NOT to do it, and some games
following a plus sign (+) that are examples of how to do it the
1) An important point in game sales is advertising and packaging.
People like it when a game contains a poster, whereas the common
CD-box packaging is quite repulsive. The press releases should
involve flyers, posters and stickers.
- Strikey, Brataccas
+ Jinxter, Barbarian, Terrorpods, Obliterator, Vixen
An excellent PR agency is Barrington Harvey (the people behind
Vixen). The best packaging is still done by Psygnosis.
2) The graphics of the game are by far most important. Some games
require rather simple yet functional graphics.
- Turbo GT, 500CC Grand Prix
+ Plutos, Bubble Bobble, Super Sprint, Giana Sisters, Impact
Some game require quite complex graphics - here, the color
palette is VERY important!
+ The Pawn, Captain Blood, Defender of the Crown, Obliterator,
The best graphic artist is Pete Lyon (can be reached through
3) The MUSIC and sound incorporated in a game are also very
important. Some games do not need advanced music (such as
Phantasy and Scrabble), but other games are just craving for good
music! And we mean GOOD music, so that means written by either
Rob Hubbard, David Whittaker or Jochen Hippel. A lengthy title
sound is welcome, and different levels need different pieces of
music as well. Sound effects need to be realistic and extensive.
NO digital music (takes up too much disk space, which had better
be used for more extensive graphics)! Digital sound effects can
have a good effects, though (Sidewinder, Obliterator).
- Indoor Sports, Virus
+ Giana Sisters, Defender of the Crown
The best music programmer (especially for conversions) is Jochen
4) To keep up a game for a longer time - so that people keep on
playing it - it is absolutely necessary to include a hi-score
table that can be saved to disk (utterly extremely, yes, even
absurdly ridiculously simple to program). For sports games, this
also means saving of best times, largest distances, etc. The name
to enter in the hiscore table should be at least three digits in
length, whereas longer ones are also nice. Creative hiscore input
would be nice, too (Prohibition, Hades Nebula, Space Pilot,
Overlander - though the latter doesn't save 'em).
- Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid, Impact, Sidewinder, Arkanoid II
+ Super Sprint, Crazy Cars, Goldrunner II
5) Sometimes, loading takes a while. A picture (if possible with
some simultaneous animation/scrolling and music) while loading
would be very nice then.
- Space Harrier, Maniax
+ Terrorpods, Obliterator, Barbarian, Super Sprint
6) Pictures should be crunched on the disk to save storage space
(which can then be used for MORE graphics or music).
- Chamber, Knightmare
+ Strikey, Defender of the Crown
Degas Elite and N-Vision can produce compressed picture. A
utility called Tiny can compress Degas or Neochrome pictures as
well (quite compact, one might add). If you have trouble writing
de-compression routines, I suggest you contact STRIKE-a-LIGHT in
Eindhoven, who will probably know how to help you.
7) Loading time should be limited to the smallest possible amount
of time - as long as the disk drive keeps up with the turbo-
loader. Some games really take TOO long to load, whereas some
games even reload a level when it's already in memory!
- Sidewinder, Test Drive, Defender of the Crown, Maniax
+ Virus, Brataccas
8) When using a copy protection, you should use one that works on
ALL disk drives (also Cumana, Nec, older Atari drives, MEGA STs).
Check the protection only once (not, like Arkanoid, every time
you start anew).
- Virus, World Darts, Pool, Gauntlet II
The best protection yet is thought to be in Firebird's "Return to
Genesis", by Steve Bak.
9) Scrolling should be SMOOOOOTH! Do not even attempt to write a
scrolling game when you can't scroll smoothly!
- Major Motion
+ Goldrunner (I & II)
- Skyrider, Uridium
+ Return to Genesis, Dragonflight, Winter Olympiad
The best scroller (in ANY direction) is Steve Bak (to be reached
through Microdeal or Firebird).
10) An option to pause a game is very practical as well. How many
times doesn't one answer the phone because he's playing "Super
- Super Sprint
+ Bubble Bobble, Goldrunner II
11) A quit option is also very handy - if you want to abort a
game because you've died earlier than you wanted. Often, you have
to go through killing your other lives before being able to start
12) No MENU BARS in games! They make it messy...
- Out Run, Enduro Racer
13) When possible, include a two player mode (if possible even
with Split Screen facility). Simultaneous playing is to be
preferred above one-after-the-other playing.
+ Super Sprint, Bubble Bobble, Pitstop II (about the best - on
the Commodore 64), Time Bandits
14) To keep game play as interesting as possible for a longer
time, the game needs to have a clear goal and lots of bonus
elements. The first level should not be too difficult or lengthy
(as with "Arkanoid II").
- Arkanoid II
+ Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble, Giana Sisters, Impact
15) When the game doesn't save hiscores or in other ways needs
access to disk writing, make sure the disk cannot be written on
(by selling a game on disks with no WP-tabs, for example). This
prevents accidental erasure as well as virus multiplication. When
this is not possible, you should always immunize the disk
(putting $60 and $38 on the first two bytes of the bootsector).
16) While playing the game (especially with shoot-'em-ups), the
player should have a fair chance at success. So no things that
suddenly fly into the screen so that the player has no fair
chance of survival! Fair play lasts the longest. So no random
elements that almost surely mean death (like in Hewson's Exolon).
That's about the most important we wanted to tell to you. We
welcome opinions about it, and we sincerely hope that the
software companies will answer to all these needs.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.