Way back in the mists of time (the early 1980s), commercial games software was written by industrious souls in their bedrooms. As time wore on and the games market exploded into the multi-billion industry it is today, this motley band of homebrew programmers disappeared to be replaced by more formal teams of "professional" coders, skilled in the black arts of PC coding. Over the last few years there has been a number of half-hearted attempts to put the programming power back in the hands of the enthusiastic amateur, but none have caught the mood quite as well as the oddlyf named DIV Games Studio
. Rooted very firmly in the realm of the BASIC, with elements of C and other high-level languages thrown in for good measure, DIV
is an impressive package. Note that it does not
do 3D. You cannot produce Quake
with this package in its current form. (An updated version with full support for 3D is in the works.) That aside, what DIV does do is to give the amateur an astonishing amount of power to produce anything 2D and throws in a Mode 7-alike for good measure. (Think Mario Kart
on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and you've got the right idea). This is also an integer-based language, so forget floating point. String handling is poor, although there is a downloadable add-on from the official site that helps redress this issue.
Play with this tool for any length of time and it soon becomes obvious that the shortcomings are more than made up for by DIV's strengths. It's a joy to code with the command set given, which includes pre-built functions for collision detection, distance between onscreen objects, full screen scrolling and more. Everything is handled by the custom development environment that incorporates a graphics manipulation environment text editor--with full syntax colouring, full debugger and sundry other utilities designed to help pull all the bits together to create an identifiable game. The gaudy yellow manual is worth keeping by the desk. It falls short in some areas but in others excels with its description of the command set et. al., which hopefully won't hold too many people back. a thriving community of users has sprung up at the official Web site, so users are always on hand through a series of online message boards to give help and coding advice--and to clarify the bits of the manual that haven't translated well from Spanish to English.
To claim that this package will turn the user into a games expert would be wrong, and don't expect to be able to churn out games by the minute. First and foremost, this is a programming environment with its emphasis completely on games. It requires time and patience from the newbie and a little understanding from the older hands to get over the initially high learning curve and to start to get the best out of it. That said, from a cold start this reviewer had a passable, if graphically dire, version of Defender up and running inside of two hours--no mean feat if you've ever wrestled with the intricacies of packages like Visual C++. Nor is this a tool for the gaming professional. That said, if you're a weekend coder with a yen to finally create that electronic version of a table top wargame, a retro fan who wants to recreate the halcyon days of Chuckie Egg and Space Invaders or a newcomer with patience and a desire to create rather than just to play this is a great way to have a crack at games coding. But if your creating is tood, there's nothing to stop you turning out Shareware or even commercial(esque) games, since the distributors grant owners full rights to distribute their creations without paying royalties. --Gordon James