and this section of the chronicles deals with zzt game making and game reviewing. most of my zzt career was put into making zzt games, and i somehow balanced my game making with my commune life, which probably had something to do with me using a laptop in conjunction with the internet. i also avoided the boards for the majority of my career, so i avoided the newbie/oldbie debates and concentrated on my games. welcome to chapter three.
the mcqueen chronicles, chapter three - a lot of tips on game making
tip one: fuck the commune. forget even being involved in it, when you're making your first games. maybe your first release will suck, so get your first release out, get some comments, then completely cut yourself off from the commune. don't go to the boards, don't go to irc, maybe speak with a few oldbies in private, over aim and e-mail. an oldbie is smart. so is a newbie. it's a group of oldbies or a group of newbies that are stupid. when you complete your game, get it beta-tested. those same oldbies you talk to? make them your beta-testers. send them to them. get their comments. if he says "needs more graphics", improve the graphics. take inspiration. don't steal. be inspired. if he says "there's a bug in so in so", then fix the bug. unless you can figure out the music system in zzt, you're better off not putting in music, unless one of the oldbies you're speaking to turns out to be jojoisjo, adam parrish, or kevin carter. after you've fixed all the bugs and improved whatever needs to be improved, release the game, gather a few comments. if they're good, get into the commune.
tip two: unless you like flaming and getting flamed, avoid the oldbie/newbie wars. see chapter one for details.
tip three: don't overhype your games. that's what killed stasis qube. talk about a few of the features of your game, then hush up. i sort of did this with november eve, and i did it to perfection with gem hunter 3. yes, you'll hear my own successes with my tips, so there you go.
tip four: always aim for zzt.org game of the month. that's what inspired me for both november eve and gem hunter 3 (not for welcome to hell, i knew welcome to hell wouldn't get it). aiming for zzt.org game of the month will improve your game skills tremendously.
tip five: my fifth tip can be controversial. with that second game you've made from tip one, apply for a big-time programming group. interactive fantasies, lame game, eagle rock interactive, and, if my thoughts are correct, vision tech, are prime examples of this. let me tell you a story. i applyed for damage incorporated in spring 1998 with gem hunter 1 (this was pre-gh:se). and i got accepted. so when i made gh:se, i decided to greatly improve what i have done for gh1. and it clicked. you can greatly see how improved gh:se is over gh1.
tip six: whatever you do, don't rip games off. don't rip characters off, either. unless you ask, like benco does for ripped off. ripping some ideas off is fine. like the item-hunting concept of gem hunter. i don't mind. i don't care. as long as you don't directly steal the code, taking the idea of an engine will work.
tip seven: you can easily learn how the programming of zzt works by editing a few games. that's how i learned zzt programming.
tip eight: graphics are a nice aspect of zzt, that gives your game a certain atmosphere, but they're not vitally important. when you get to making big-time zzt games, though, your graphics would probably need to be good. the programming is what makes the game, though. lab really needs to learn that before he releases another disaster like madf.
tip nine: music is not at all important for a not-so big game. i've had the luck of being friends with some of the best music makers in zzt, including king og, viovis, and kevin carter. i do not make music that often. in fact, i've only made the soundtracks to two games. gh1 and gh3. which brings me to another thing. you're going to probably need music in a big-time zzt game. or at least sound effects. you can easily do sound effects. they're not as complicated as, say, a song.
tip ten: the programming, as i've said earlier, is the most important piece of zzt. the rest just add to it. if anything, work on your programming a whole lot. ask someone good at programming a good question or two. just don't ask koopo. he's a little edgy when it comes to newbies asking a question. i suggest asking someone like the dutch zzters and jacob hammond. i'm very sure they'll answer your questions.
tip eleven: if people named lemmer, knightt, or chuck dislike your game, ignore them and hear what the other people have to say. lemmer, knightt, and chuck tend to be very tough towards games. i'm big on humor, graphics, and programming, and i'm one of the few "island of the jerks" fans left in the universe. so you can say that i'm a lot easier with zzt games.
tip tweleve: now comes the hard part. the concepts. making a new concept with zzt is hard as hell. the last decent new concept was masamune's zztris. as far as i'm concerned, you don't have to make a really new concept. take a concept and twist it, instead. add something else to it, like i did with action/adventure games and item hunting. look what koopo did with story games. interactive movies! look what kevin carter did with cinematic games. rock operas! look what myth did with atmospheric games. winter!
tip thirteen: object deletion is a fact of zzt life. one of the car cinemas in november eve was deleted six times. just deal with it, and program it again. backup copies help, too.
tip fourteen: plots are easy or hard, depending on what you do. november eve, the hoodian/ifzztea winner for best storyline, was written as i went along. the plot, based on the squaresoft game, parasite eve (one of my top five console games of cool), was so messed up that it actually made sense. the plot followed gem hunter 2, and soon after november eve ended, welcome to hell and gem hunter 3 started. think of a great concept, plot-wise, and go along with that. parodies, satires, pointlessness, or dead seriousness. you decide, it's your motherfucking game.
tip fifteen: balance the gameplay. part action, part cinema. or all action, little cinema. don't do what i did and make lots of cinemas, a bit of action, with november eve. that hurt it in the long run.
tip sixteen: swear all you want. we don't care. look at what teen priest did for us.
tip seventeen: puzzle games are generally not successful. there have only been at least three or four good puzzle games. <untitled>, winter, mission:enigma, probably koopo the lemming. those are the best that come to my mind. as far as the xod games, go... a third grader make xod and boulder xod. doesn't impress me. <untitled> did what boulderxod could not do. make a longer and harder game using the same concept. i don't give a damn if it won classic game of the month, or not. evan darrow could win classic game of the month.
tip eighteen: toolkits. you need to get a toolkit, to compact the stk you use. i reccomend shades toolbox and either snack, lemmer toolkit:vblegh, or *cough* vstk: version peter gabriel. hell, make one, if you want to join the millions (and the millions!) of zzt's fans who have already made zzt toolkits.
tip nineteen: unless you're really involved in the commune, don't use cameos that much. cameos piss some people off. i use them because i have lots of good friends. the best cameo ever is lemmer and scissorman from november eve/gem hunter 3. but that's just my opinion.
tip twenty: get zzt encyclopedia. that is truly the best programming-related thing you can ever get.
-tseng mcqueen, 4/5/2000