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Author Topic: What's the easiest to program a game?  (Read 5195 times)
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unbreakable
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« on: March 24, 2008, 09:27:10 PM »

I didn't want to put this in PC/Console, since it could apply to either.

Anyway, I've been thinking of finally, after years of threatening to do so, trying to program a game.  But... I'm not a great programmer, especially with the nuts-and-bolts stuff like assigning memory and stuff.

So what's the best (read: easiest) way to go?  I would actually like to, at some point, try getting the game onto a mobile platform (like possibly DS homebrew or the iPhone homebrew).

To start with I'm aiming pretty low, I'd like to do a kind of small basic Ultima 1 type of RPG.  Then I'd like to move on to a basic kind of Bard's Tale kind of game.

So what would work?  Would Flash be worth using for something like this, since iPhone could possibly maybe get Flash someday?  Several years back someone recommended Java... but since I really hate the kind of horrors it unleashes on PCs it's been installed upon, that doesn't seem like a good option.
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kronovan
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2008, 05:25:38 PM »

I'm no expert, but I've toyed a bit here and there with coding a game. If you know any of the programming languages that Microsoft develops an IDE for you can more or less take your pick. If you want some decent graphics and sound you can use any language that lets you link the DirectX libraries. When I played around I used both MS VB.NET and Visual BASIC because, despite knowing some C++, I'm most comfortable with BASIC. I've also been told by friends working in the industry that C Sharp, C++, J Sharp and J++ are much better languages to use.

Unfortunately I have very little knowledge and no experience with Flash. I know from watching my sister's animation work that you can do some good animation and visual effects with Flash. Based on some of the Flash games I've played, I'd imagine the same is true for the Flash development tools.
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skystride
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2008, 10:10:01 PM »

You could try Java.  Everything you need to get started is free.  You can later port it to J2ME (Java micro edition) which works with PDAs.  Flash is probably a good option too.
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2008, 02:46:06 AM »

You might be better off going in one of two different routes.  First of all, I believe the XNA Personal package (whatever they call the single-user non-professional edition) is $99, but that might be for one year. That would be a way to take a look at the different games other developers are making out there and it's one way to get your feet wet with minimal investment.

The other thing you could do is start making maps and/or mods for Unreal Tournament or Neverwinter Nights (1 or 2).  It would help you to get an idea for scripting and how to work with assets around an engine.
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2008, 03:07:23 AM »

I always found BASIC easy but  I haven't used it since circa 1982 hehe
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2008, 04:17:19 AM »

I believe the XNA personal edition is actually free and has some excellent libraries for writing games.  The 100 a year is if you want to 'upgrade' to where you can run your code on an xbox 360.  You can still develop and run the games on PC if I understand correctly.

I'd suggest C# as the easiest language to use.  The perf hit is minor for most game development using these two together and it's easy to pick up and write.  Java is very similar to C# but in my personal opinion just falls flat with library support for new developers.  That said, I'm going to admit that I don't at all care for Java and have a bit of personal bias.  It's good for cute little web toys etc but falls flat in anything more serious.

I know of at least 4 different groups using C# and the personal XNA framework for hobbyist to mid level professional projects and have heard nothing but rave reviews.

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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2008, 10:17:42 AM »

The big problem here is that you're aiming to potentially, in the future, port your games to other platforms with what may be vastly different capabilities and limitations. By going this route, you're basically eliminating DirectX, C#, XNA, and so on, from your list of potential languages to use. I don't think you should start thinking about ports yet. Do that when you feel you're good enough and have a deep enough understanding of what you're doing. If you want to port your old games to a different platform at that time, you might as well be better off just recoding the whole thing anyway, since you've probably learned a lot to make the code more efficient at that point.

Make no mistake, coding a game is no easy feat no matter which way you go. It's going to require patience, planning, clear goals, a deep understanding of your programming language of choice, and the ability to control your own impulse to keep adding features.

I'd suggest you begin with C#. I recently started toying with it, and I discovered that it's a lot of fun to code in. Sure, it's not really a language you're going to be able to use outside of a Windows environment, but it's easy to learn, easy to use, well documented, and heavily supported by Microsoft. It'll allow you to use DirectX and possibly even XNA (I'm not very familiar with it, so I can't say for sure), and it'll let you develop internet-based games and applications if you feel like it.

If you take the whole game-programming thing seriously though, there's no way around it: You'll eventually HAVE to learn C++. All serious game developers make their games in C++. While developer tools, map editors, and so on are often made with languages like C#, the game engine itself needs every bit of speed and control it can get, and for that, C++ is the only alternative. It's a tricky language to learn however, and will test your patience over and over again for a long time. It's probably more than you're looking for, but no discussion on game development languages would be complete without mentioning it.

No matter what language you end up choosing, it IS going to be a lot of work. You should familiarize yourself with every aspect of the language before you even consider coding a full game with it, and you should code plenty of non-game related test applications so that you get some real experience with building usable code. It's not an easy process, but it's fun and incredibly rewarding if it's your thing.

If all of this sounds too involved and you'd just like to get right down to making games, you might instead want to consider some kind of game maker tool. I'm not familiar with the options here, but it could be as simple as making modules for Neverwinter Nights 2, for example. You'd lose a lot of flexibility going this route, but you'll avoid all the boring stuff and get right to what you really want to do: make games.

Scared yet? slywink
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2008, 08:24:24 PM »

Yeah, C++ is what I believe the vast majority of today's games is coded in. It can be a bit daunting to start with, so I'd choose an easier to understand language that's similar. Java and C# are both good choices and they're virtually the same syntactically. I personally prefer Java for a number of reasons, but you can't go wrong with either.

I'm not sure if you can get Visual C# free anymore, so you may need to pay a bit up front to use it. Java is (of course) entirely free. Eclipse and NetBeans are a couple of good coding environments for it.
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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2008, 08:29:12 PM »

Ugh.  I'll have to see, perhaps I'll try taking a class on it.  I really don't have the discipline anymore to sit down with a tech book and just dig in.

Does anyone think Flash would be easier to manage?  What I'm trying to do isn't incredibly ambitious, but just the same, coding things from the ground up would be quite a chore no matter how simple.

I do understand what you are saying about feature creep, though.  That's kind of why I wanted to start with something really, even purposely, basic- an Ultima 1 type game.  Even something just like what was in System Shock 2 would be great (that GamePig game... what was it called?  It was great!).
« Last Edit: March 28, 2008, 08:34:04 PM by unbreakable » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2008, 08:36:37 PM »

Quote from: unbreakable on March 28, 2008, 08:29:12 PM

I really don't have the discipline anymore to sit down with a tech book and just dig in.

If this is the case, do not try to code a game from the ground up.  Even coding Ultima I is a daunting task if you aren't technically proficient.  I'd either use some kind of RPG toolkit or find an easily modable game and give it a try.  That will let you focus on content, which seems to be what interests you.
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« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2008, 09:08:00 PM »

Quote from: Ænima on March 28, 2008, 08:36:37 PM

Quote from: unbreakable on March 28, 2008, 08:29:12 PM

I really don't have the discipline anymore to sit down with a tech book and just dig in.

If this is the case, do not try to code a game from the ground up.  Even coding Ultima I is a daunting task if you aren't technically proficient.  I'd either use some kind of RPG toolkit or find an easily modable game and give it a try.  That will let you focus on content, which seems to be what interests you.

It's not so much the sitting there and working, it's more the having to learn something on my own (like a programming language).  For the most part, most of what I know now about computers, servers, networking, etc has been from self study and on the job.  However, I'm kind of tired of that route now, I just can't sit down and consume the knowledge of a text book like I would ten to fifteen years ago.

I can program and do scripting, but I'm not all that great at it.  Also, if I do it for too long, it starts to give me a headache.  It's mostly because I'm not all that great at it, I can't just rattle off the way of doing it.  Every solution involves digging around for proper syntaxt and reinventing the wheel.  If I knew the languages better, it would be easier, that's why maybe doing it over time through coursework would be a better way for me.

I wouldn't mind a pre-packaged gaming system, but I haven't seen any for a while which were any good.  The last good one I played with was, I think, on the Amiga  icon_smile
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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2008, 10:07:27 PM »

Quote from: unbreakable on March 28, 2008, 09:08:00 PM

Quote from: Ænima on March 28, 2008, 08:36:37 PM

Quote from: unbreakable on March 28, 2008, 08:29:12 PM

I really don't have the discipline anymore to sit down with a tech book and just dig in.

If this is the case, do not try to code a game from the ground up.  Even coding Ultima I is a daunting task if you aren't technically proficient.  I'd either use some kind of RPG toolkit or find an easily modable game and give it a try.  That will let you focus on content, which seems to be what interests you.

It's not so much the sitting there and working, it's more the having to learn something on my own (like a programming language).  For the most part, most of what I know now about computers, servers, networking, etc has been from self study and on the job.  However, I'm kind of tired of that route now, I just can't sit down and consume the knowledge of a text book like I would ten to fifteen years ago.

I can program and do scripting, but I'm not all that great at it.  Also, if I do it for too long, it starts to give me a headache.  It's mostly because I'm not all that great at it, I can't just rattle off the way of doing it.  Every solution involves digging around for proper syntaxt and reinventing the wheel.  If I knew the languages better, it would be easier, that's why maybe doing it over time through coursework would be a better way for me.

I wouldn't mind a pre-packaged gaming system, but I haven't seen any for a while which were any good.  The last good one I played with was, I think, on the Amiga  icon_smile

I hear what you're saying, but game programming is constantly learning things on your own that you probably have never encountered in other programming fields.  Not all of those things have to be interesting to you (I'm not a big fan of graphics coding, personally) but the majority of them should be, or you'll quit before you've even gotten off the ground.  You can't just go pick up a semester or two of C++ and have the knowledge to code a game.  They won't teach you about graphics, sound, AI, GUIs, etc.  Not to mention, you'll probably want to build content creation tools in a completely different language (I use C# for instance).  For every hundred hobby games that is started, I would doubt that even one gets finished.  It takes dedication and, more importantly, passion to finish a game.

That being said, just a quick google search found me this site which lists a bunch of different Ultima games being developed in different ways; from the Lazerus (Dungeon Siege mod) project to remakes using more primitive engines, I think you should be able to get started here.  The one that looks the most interesting to me on a basic level is the one that appears to be inspired by the Adventure Construction Set.

I'm not trying to discourage you, just trying to point you in the direction that will give you the most success.  Good luck!
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2008, 12:58:43 PM »

One of the best books I've owned on the subject of Game Development (sitting on my bookshelf right now) was Game Coding: Complete, Second Edition by McShaffry.

Amazon link, sans gamingtrend $$ link, because I don't know how to get that in place - http://www.amazon.com/Game-Coding-Complete-Mike-McShaffry/dp/1932111913/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206795248&sr=8-2

The book's also not in print anymore, and is a little bit dated. But it has some great fundamentals, and explains a lot about DESIGNING a game in an object oriented sense. It's a higher-level book, and I wouldn't recommend it to learn a new programming language, but I was very impressed by the book, the way it's laid out and how logical everything was.

For learning C#, there's a book I've recently started digging into - from the Head First series no less, which teaches a fair amount, and is not as dry as most technical books. A friend of mine swears by this series now for learning, but they do make horrible reference books.  http://www.amazon.com/Head-First-C-Brain-Friendly-Guides/dp/0596514824/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206795367&sr=1-1

The book has some great programming examples - and it even takes you through making a simple dungeon-hack style game. Once you have the framework in place from the book, you can build up from that too. I definately recommend checking it out.
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2008, 01:17:19 AM »

Quote from: unbreakable on March 28, 2008, 08:29:12 PM

Ugh.  I'll have to see, perhaps I'll try taking a class on it.  I really don't have the discipline anymore to sit down with a tech book and just dig in.

Does anyone think Flash would be easier to manage?  What I'm trying to do isn't incredibly ambitious, but just the same, coding things from the ground up would be quite a chore no matter how simple.

I do understand what you are saying about feature creep, though.  That's kind of why I wanted to start with something really, even purposely, basic- an Ultima 1 type game.  Even something just like what was in System Shock 2 would be great (that GamePig game... what was it called?  It was great!).

As a professional programmer/engineer who is 'currently' doing all Flash development... yes, Flash would be the easier way to go. There are options to do Flash for free (Flex 2/3 SDK and FlashDevelop), but you don't get the Flash IDE which would help a lot with the visual aspects. Although that depends greatly on what method you want to use for the visual elements.

Now for the counter point. A full fledged RPG is going to be crazy hard to build at all, let alone in Flash. There will be some specific difficulties using Flash. You could pull this off with C# and you can again get the tools free (Visual Studio Express for C#). But I believe you will have a much longer getting started time.

If you want more info on Flash just let me know.
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« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2008, 02:12:23 AM »

RPG Maker?? biggrin
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unbreakable
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« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2008, 01:38:12 AM »

Quote from: Canuck on March 31, 2008, 02:12:23 AM


There actually is an RPG maker for the PC, but it was way too JRPG for what I wanted to do.
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Semaj
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« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2008, 08:55:19 AM »

Ive been toying with coding my own game for years now

Now MY current quest is to code a cheezy web browser based game as such I ahve been all over ASP, sql and other database driven things for a while to make sure I am proficient enough for what I'll need.

Any coding project is going to suck balls when you have a hard time learning languages.

As such I'll start you out by making you go to Microsoft.com

Here let me find the link you'll need.

http://www.microsoft.com/express/

With this you can start on your way to what you will need.  The Visual languages are ridiculously easy for designing the basics of the game you will be running and almost any book can walk you through the editing process.  Now when I say almost any book, most C# books involve making you do things with Express and you quckly get an idea how to edit and how to do things in the language.  It's probably never going to win you coding awards, but it's a easier start than digging down with books and a compiler hoping shit works out right.

The Express collection allows you to choose from a few languages, and you can connect it right up to a database for all your needs.

However if you really are going to design one, you will need to spend a little time in preproduction (a lot of time) developing your game before you ever start coding.

I know the discussion in our software engineering class was how to make "the dream curve" a reality.  And it works best when you go through all the stages of software development (I dont think you will need to worry about some things, but pre production testing, information/Data flow diagrams, etc.) will make your coding a lot easier.  The more you can break down what you need to code and what exactly it needs to do, the better off you are when you finally do sit down to code.

I dont know of any solid books for designing software, but if you find one that covers all the stages...
-Pre Project planning (One of these I think was to decide who your target audience will be and if there is a market.  This was designed more for people who wanted to create software for a company, and were  going to put in bids for it.  You dont want to develop software no one will use...)
-System Spec (Problem and solution spaces... although this does have more to do with a customer than making it yourself.)
-Systems Engineering
-Information Engineering
-SW Planning (I dont think you need to worry about a SRS, but it cant hurt)
-Architecture (top level design, etc)

After these steps in theory you could start to code, but based on the planning you do, you might have everything broken down into its basic components, making the actual coding a lot easier.
Usually what happens is people ignore early steps and the codework suffers as a result.

I had to take a class on this in college, I was the lead designer, my team got an A smile

An example of slightly more prepared software development.
So first, deicde what you want to make.
Then decide if you really want to make it.
Then decide the scale it will be at (How big a rpg, how many bosses, is it one huge dungeon?  is it multiple changing dungeons?  Will it be bards tale perspective or will it be more of a eye of the beholder?)
Then decide the software you want to use based on your above decisions.
Then write up a storyline for your rpg (or do that before the scale)
The decide what your interface will be doing, what it needs to do and what happens in specific instances, draw diagrams for every different thing that occurs, odds are it will be its own separate function. some will be their own classes.
Decide how they all link up, try to make logical conclusions, dont be afraid to be wrong, changing something now is 100 times easier than after you have coded everything.
Decide what every function you have determined needs to be made needs to take in, and needs to bring back.
make sure you arnt missing anything the game will be doing.

start coding....

In theory by the time you have hit the coding aspect you have a clearly defined outline of everything that needs to be done.  That way you can code sections of it, and test those sections to make sure they work as planned.  Connecting all the pieces together at the end should be a cakewalk unless you change how things connect as you code.

I'd suggest finding a decent book on the subject, not because you need one, but because a guideline on the ideal steps to take and whats involved in each step would allow you a better understanding and a easier time in the end.

Me, I'ma sit down and start coding a project from scratch for humor value slywink
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2008, 10:35:54 AM »

I'm going to agree with Semaj on this one....your initial Design Document is going to shape EVERYTHING YOU DO!  I've got two games I want to write (one for PC and one for Xbox Live Arcade) and my documents for both of them are quite sizeable.  The PC title one I am even working on a board game variant just to see how much fun the setting would be.  If you can't sit down and define your game on paper...then I wouldn't worry about the coding aspect.  Also, when writing things down...don't worry if they are too fanciful or complex.  Get it all out there, know the big picture, then start paring it down to the core game.
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« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2008, 07:01:46 PM »

Quote from: Dreamshadow on April 02, 2008, 10:35:54 AM

I'm going to agree with Semaj on this one....

I want this on record, and recorded for posterity, it may never happen again in my life smile
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« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2008, 12:59:25 AM »

Quote from: Kyoujin on March 26, 2008, 04:17:19 AM

Java is very similar to C#
C# was based, in part, on innovations in Java.

Quote
but in my personal opinion just falls flat with library support for new developers.  That said, I'm going to admit that I don't at all care for Java and have a bit of personal bias.  It's good for cute little web toys etc but falls flat in anything more serious.
That's pretty funny, given the vast world of Java libraries and the widespread use of Java for enterprise class applications in the military and industrial sector.  It's not 1998 anymore....

The original poster can follow two paths.

One path is to learn C# and to make use of XNA.  There'll be a lot of handholding, which suits well an aspiring game developer who has no programming experience.

The other path is to master level development and scripting in UnrealEd (or equivalent), as suggested above.  This is a narrower task, a more immediately rewarding one, and an excellent way to cultivate an understanding of scripting fundamentals.

Of the two, the second would probably be most wise but the first more fun.
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« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2008, 09:39:14 AM »

How much do you do codework Grumble?
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« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2008, 01:45:29 PM »

Here's where i'm at...collision detection is something i'm trying to figure out...i may just drop back to 2D smile



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« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2008, 05:27:07 PM »

I don't know about Java either.  From my workplace experience, Java just means crappy, almost universally.  I also end up cleaning out a ton of Java-based viruses, so just from the standpoint of maintaining a secure system I would move away from even having Java installed on a machine.

I'll check out some of this stuff.  Sadly, work is not getting back into "hectic" mode.  I was foolishly hoping it would throttle downward.
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« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2008, 07:13:22 PM »

Quote from: unbreakable on April 08, 2008, 05:27:07 PM

I don't know about Java either.  From my workplace experience, Java just means crappy, almost universally.  I also end up cleaning out a ton of Java-based viruses, so just from the standpoint of maintaining a secure system I would move away from even having Java installed on a machine.
Since what you're saying makes even less sense than what Kyoujin said, it's likely that you're confusing Java (a robust, highly secure, library-rich enterprise-class programming language) with Javascript (the scripting language supported by most browsers).

They're not related.  They're not even the same kind of language.

Confusing "Java" with "Javascript" is like confusing "protein" with "proton" -- it makes no difference... unless you're actually trying to say something meaningful.

From da link
Quote
Java remains an incredibly important development and deployment platform for the enterprise. The range of application servers and development tools is broad. The capabilities of Java EE are unparalleled, with a multi-vendor breadth that Microsoft’s .NET platform can’t match.

That said, Java would not be your first choice for game development (nor Kyoujin's) even if you understood what it was.  For someone trying to go from "dream + no experience" to "concrete result", you're better off learning scripting in a level editor and then -- once you understand what you're really up against -- using the most hand-holdin' IDE you can find.
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« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2008, 08:51:03 PM »

I wanted to make fun games awhile back and now I have 3 fun games to my credit, all of which  I am really quite proud of and my family and friends love. I basically "borrowed" a ton of images and sound fx from copyrighted materials so I'll never ever release them to the public.  But my heat miser vs Snow miser game is a hit in my circle ( and probably could be sold commercially).

ANYway it can be done.  personally i would recommend http://www.yoyogames.com/

This allows you to basically go as far as your coding skills will allow you all the while making things that should be easy, to be easy.  Internet multiplayer play and support isnt the best but other than that, I give Gamemaker a big thumbs up. You could get started in one night, I know I did.  Heck I am just a former graphic/web designer who is now a project manager for governmental software, so I basically had very little real hard coding training and I pulled it off.
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« Reply #25 on: April 11, 2008, 07:18:30 PM »

Quote from: Grundbegriff on April 08, 2008, 07:13:22 PM

Quote from: unbreakable on April 08, 2008, 05:27:07 PM

I don't know about Java either.  From my workplace experience, Java just means crappy, almost universally.  I also end up cleaning out a ton of Java-based viruses, so just from the standpoint of maintaining a secure system I would move away from even having Java installed on a machine.
Since what you're saying makes even less sense than what Kyoujin said, it's likely that you're confusing Java (a robust, highly secure, library-rich enterprise-class programming language) with Javascript (the scripting language supported by most browsers).

No, I do nothing with browsers.  I'm talking about stuff using one of the various versions/update levels of the JRE.  I'm assuming the Java Runtime Environment is actually Java, not JavaScript, but if you say it is I'll take your word for it.
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« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2008, 12:52:51 AM »

Quote from: unbreakable on April 11, 2008, 07:18:30 PM

Quote from: Grundbegriff on April 08, 2008, 07:13:22 PM

Quote from: unbreakable on April 08, 2008, 05:27:07 PM

I also end up cleaning out a ton of Java-based viruses...
... Javascript?
No, I do nothing with browsers.  I'm talking about stuff using one of the various versions/update levels of the JRE.  I'm assuming the Java Runtime Environment is actually Java, not JavaScript, but if you say it is I'll take your word for it.
I'm surprised, but I won't dispute your claim that your work environment exposes you to "a ton of viruses" coded for the JVM.  Sounds like a peculiar scenario.

Our customers, all military/intel, seem pretty comfortable with Java-based software and security, so my sense of Java differs from yours. 
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hitbyambulance
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« Reply #27 on: April 14, 2008, 10:40:35 PM »

i made my first game (a point-n-click adventure in the style of the LucasArts and Sierra titles) in Macromedia Director, which is now Flash. it really wasn't overly difficult. i can only imagine it's gotten easier now with the new abilities and tools available. i would recommend Fenix, but there's not so much tutorial information available in English.
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happydog
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« Reply #28 on: April 15, 2008, 02:47:14 AM »

Quote from: hitbyambulance on April 14, 2008, 10:40:35 PM

i made my first game (a point-n-click adventure in the style of the LucasArts and Sierra titles) in Macromedia Director, which is now Flash. it really wasn't overly difficult. i can only imagine it's gotten easier now with the new abilities and tools available. i would recommend Fenix, but there's not so much tutorial information available in English.

FYI: Director and Flash are two different products. Director is overall more powerful, yet a lot more difficult to work with. Flash is much more mainstream and has plenty of info. But I would also argue that niether is actually "easier" to use now days. They both have many, many more features and much more advance programing languages. But don't forget that Flash holds a vast majority of the casual gaming market.
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QP
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« Reply #29 on: June 27, 2008, 01:57:20 PM »

The games from TO Jam 2008 are up...lots of XNA stuff, I think I had the only gamemaker based one..check out the scourge, one of my favorites this year.

(All the games were made in 3 days, though some there have had a bit of work done after the fact).

here's mine.  Not the best, but I made it solo in 3 days (had a sound guy, that's it!)
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