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RaMtiGA - Raising a Middleworld to its Golden Age
RaMtiGA - Raising a Middleworld to its Golden Age: Blog
Feb 19

Written by: Jashan Chittesh

Over at the Unity forums, there's currently a thread about "how we got started with programming" and I thought that was a great opportunity to finally finish my "history" section of how I got into game development. It's more than a year ago that I started this, but then got "carried away" with developing Traces of Illumination.

So, I've actually completed that part in the Unity forums but will copy that whole posting into this blog entry, too, so that it's stored for the record ;-) You can check the original posting in the Unity forums right here ... or read on:

Wow, what an awesome thread ...

I had started writing down my "game development history" in my Blog a little while ago ... but never finished it. But here's the first two entries:

The very first glimpses... around 1980 or so...

My very first "game programming experiences"

I really enjoyed reading taumel's posting (haha, and now he's the third certified "epic poster" Wink ). And it seems like we share a bit of history: The very first time I remember getting in contact with "computer games" was actually with a friends pocket calculator which had a special "game mode". I don't remember how that game worked, but it was something with digits going left/right ... and it was a lot of fun Wink

We also had the Atari VCS 2600. I remember exactly when we got Missile Command. The sun was shining outside but we darkened the room and played like crazy. Haha, and there was Pac Man, too. What was Pitfall about? I think I've had that one, too - but don't remember what it was all about.

Living in Germany with somewhat funny "protect our children" restrictions (those actually drove me into playing with some "kind-of-dark" things in my revolting teens), I think I only saw Arcades from the inside while travelling to other countries during vacations. That was rare fun!

When I was 10 years old, I got the Commodore C64 - this awesome machine. Hehe, yeah, and I remember typing those endless lists of numbers from computer magazines to get some new program. That was how I got my first sound tracker and started making music. Hehe, and I remember that I "employed" my mother to help with that. Actually, I think she did most of the hard work. Man, she was patient Wink

What was the name of that Joystick-Killer? Olympic Games? Hehe, we did destroy a few joysticks in those "sports" competitions. I think the most important game for me on the C64 was Elite. That actually was the game that inspired my dreaming of creating large-scale open-ended multiplayer worlds. I still remember preaching to one of my school's friends on a sunny early after-noon right after school about how cool it would be to have a virtual world where you could actually do space travel - and play with all your friends to team up against those bad-ass enemies in epic galactic wars.

Anyways, the sound tracker I had kind of pulled me away from playing games a bit and I started getting into creating music a lot more. The programming I had started with also kind of faded away. I still did play a few games, like Kaiser (very early "society simulation") and a few others but mainly spent my time trying to create funky grooves. During the next couple of years I spent any money I could get on synthesizers, sequencers and home-recording equiment. I still had that dream of creating computer games ... but I felt the time just wasn't ripe, yet.

That was also the time when I got my first Amiga ... and I think I had a couple of them (the 500, 1200 and ... I still own my Amiga 4000 Wink ). There, I had "KCS" - Keyboard Controlled Sequencer. And I had my very first experiences with 3D modelling, with Realsoft 3D - which was still called Real3D back then.

Hehe, I still have some of my "work" from back then online on my very first Website. I originally hosted that on AOL (which was my first "contact" with the Internet ... I participated in one of their early field tests in Germany before they went online officially Wink ). My biggest project back then was creating a music video to one of my songs ... unfortunately, the technology was an incredible pain to use so I gave up after about one or two minutes of "material" (for an 8 or 9 minute song).

At that time - while my first experience was actually "re-programming" a basic computer game (pun intended) - I was completely away from programming and just enjoyed doing music and graphics stuff.

Also, I didn't play that much ... but of those games that I did play, Bard's Tale definitely was one of the games most worth mentioning ... I played all 3 of them and remember those hours and hours I spent mapping those dungeons out. Another pretty cool game was Ambermoon which I had played with a friend ... every night until 8am in the morning, then went to sleep for half the day before we went back to play, yay Smile

I think the first time I really got into 3D games was quite a bit later on the N64. And one of the most important games for me that I played definitely was "Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time". I mentioned that before: That game touched me so deeply that I literally cried for half an hour when it was over (and poor Link had to go back into his childhood when it was obvious that he was about to have a really good time with that sweet princess ... and then ... all those different kinds of beings all partying together in Unity ... after me not sleeping for about 36 or so hours or non-stop playing Wink ).

I think it was playing Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time in combination with watching The Matrix (20+ times, in three different languages including Spanish which I barely understand Wink ), which got me started with writing my first "design document" (well, no, to be honest: "loose collection of unrelated ideas" Wink ). A movie can be a really powerful means of communication - but a game with its potential to have the player fully immersed is a completely different dimension.

It was more or less around that time when I also had my first attempt of "interactive 3D". With ... OMG: VRML. There's also still some remains of that on my second Website - if you still find a decent VRML-player you might actually be able to have a look at these experiments. Interestingly, that got me in contact the first time with people interested in creating games professionally ... but I was too busy with studying computer-science and making quick money with software-development to get into that at that time.

And ... the time was simply not ripe.

Around that time, I had started studying computer-science and really learned the concepts. For one of the early courses we used Java as programming language - and it was really interesting for me to see how my visual and musical ambitions completely faded away (kind of painfully) and instead I got into "software-engineering creativity". Java was the first programming language I felt was really worth getting into more deeply.

At some point in time I bought the Dreamcast. Soul Calibur rocked (those fighter-ladies were just tooo sweet Wink ), but Shenmue was another real "milestone". Wasn't Shenmue the first game of which the budget was higher than that of contemporary Hollywood movies? ... that kind of scared me ... creating a game seemed to be totally out of reach for me.

I had looked a bit into screenwriting and creating movies but creating a feature-film seemed completely out of reach ... and it wasn't even interactive Wink ... but now that AAA-games were even more costly to create than movies it seemed the dream would just stay that: A child's dream never to be fulfilled.

Then came EverQuest (for me, at least ... I really wasn't following the games market that closely). That was really something I had been waiting for: Finally real multiplayer! Wow! Hehe, I remember playing with my girl-friend back then, and she getting real angry at me because I - being the healer - let her die in some dungeon ... and me getting jealous because she was talking to that high-level elf-something. Haha, and those famous corpse-runs (don't ever die in a huge lake with pyranhas).

At the end, after dipping into a short episode of "game-addiction" (for a few weeks), I gave away all my in-game possessions and "left that world" (after a short session of running around and telling everybody that there's some magical other world we could return to if we just decide to Wink ).

After many many years of not doing anything musical, I started getting Cubase and some other tools (like, a pentatonic steeldrum, for instance Wink ) ... and one sunny after-noon "got back into making music" by writing a song I called "Coming Home". That was a funny experience because I was used to composing with a sequencer, creating one track after the other, everything by a well-defined scheme. And now I had created a song just with my voice, memory (for the melody) and a sheet of paper Wink

Hehe, I also got that one online on a site I created for the spinner dolphins of Hawaii which are a bit "overrun" by a somewhat careless kind of "pseudo-spiritual dolphin tourism": Coming Home on

Then my brother tried hooking me into World of Warcraft (he never really got into EveryQuest even though I tried my best Wink ) ... I didn't install WoW for about six months after I had bought it. Too scary Wink ... then I played until about level 14 and jumped into Second Life and right after that "" for a short moment (... of very long nights). But those aren't games ... those weren't real fun (Second Life actually implemented many of the ideas I had written down in that loose "design document": for instance connecting "real world money" with "game money" or user-created content ... stuff that's really hot today but that I totally lost interest in).

One thing I really like about WoW is how they have those quest-series that relate to old games (like Legend of Zelda). People can say about Blizzard whatever they want - but they do have humor. Haris Pilton, yeah! Wink

Well, whenever I got into a game, I usually stopped after a short while because I got so overwhelmed with inspiration that I preferred developing ideas instead of spending my time playing. So I think it was in fact World of Warcraft that gave me that final "kick" to start actually developing my own game.

It was easy to see that developing a game engine would consume way too much time ... so ... I started looking for game-engines I could use. I played a little with XNA (because I really like the .NET framework) but since a lot of my friends own Macs I wanted to find something that would build for Mac, too.

So, I came across the Mono Website and there was a link to Unity.

Saw it, and thought "wow, this is very cool, I want to try the demo" ... and realized: No, this is Mac only. Used the forum search (hint hint) and asked kindly what the best Mac would be.

The time was almost ripe Wink

I immediately noticed that there was something special about the community around Unity. Everyone was really friendly and really enthusiastic. Felt like I had found something precious. Cool! Smile

Back then, everyone was very excited about the upcoming Unity 2.0. And I was hoping that with Unity 2.0, there might be Mono/.NET 2.0, too Wink ... so I got ready to get my Mac Pro (I knew I needed a "proper" machine Wink ) ... and got a bit busy with work so I have to admit, I actually missed the original announcement of Unity 2.0 (but got my Mac Pro ... so at least I had prepared myself for that magical moment).

Then, one very special day I checked back on ... and saw that Unity 2.0 was out. I looked at the demos and found the tropical island demo ... and ...

I knew: NOW, the time was ripe!

Before getting Unity, I got Cheetah3d - and after some 10 years of not doing any "3d stuff" started creating the first model for my first game Wink

As I knew that 32 years of waiting had finally come to an end and that my life would never be the same again once I started "playing" with Unity, I still waited until December before I actually bought my Pro license.

Now, it's all together and after coming the full circle, everything makes a lot of sense. And as a secret for those who actually read such incredibly long postings: Since the Tropical Island demo was when I really knew "now, finally, after all those long years, the time is ripe", I'll be building it into "one of my games" as a very special tribute to Unity at a very special point of that game where you really wouldn't expect a tropical island to appear Wink


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