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Time to create a new game


GenetixJ
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It's a good question. I heard nanochess did Oh Mummy in one day. Other games seem to take thousands of hours. For an experienced Intellivision programmer I'm going to guess about 500 hours might be average. It would be interesting to hear what the programmers experience has been. Their first game should take the longest.

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This question should probably be in the programming sub forum

It depends on why you are making a game?

Are you making it just to say "I made an Intellivision game!" If so, then you could spend a couple hours and make a game that does "something" and doesn't take advantage of the Intellivision's capabilities but satisfies the bucket list.

Anyone can program but it takes work, imagination, and work to make a good game.

 

This comes from a professional programmer and also manager of a programming team. If you set out to do minimal effort and don't take advice or constructive criticism then don't be a programmer :)

 

Now for reference

Nanochess made Oh Mummy in 8 hours. He had the Amstrad version for reference and could have done lots to enhance and extend it but he had a complete and playable game. The new Sydney Hunter took signifigately longer and there were more than one person working on it.

 

I have several games in progress that I have put 100's of hours into, graphics, animation, music and I still don't feel they are good enough to release yet because a crappy or incomplete project passed off as done reflects on me as a person.

 

Post beta testing of IntyBASIC Showcase took longer than the work leading up to the beta test, same with SuperPro GoSub, easily spending 40 plus hours on Showcase and over 100 on SuperPro Gosub. Graphics and sound can take more time and effort than just coding.

 

It also depends on what you are trying to do? Replicate an arcade game with lots of moving objects? Time to learn advanced techniques.

 

Recreate Tetris and be beta testing in a couple of days(hours if you are nanochess) but what about polish? Are going to have a simple "game over" or "congratulations" as your game over screen or are you going to take the time to actually draw a graphical one? The questions can go on for paragraphs.

 

Best advice is to read the tips and tricks dos and do link below and plan out what you want before you even start coding, draw a quick storyboard of title, attract mode, game levels, game over or game end screens, even Easter eggs. Plan ahead, too many people program themselves into a corner.

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/257212-intybasic-tipstricks-and-dos-and-donts/

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Hundreds of hours on really good games for programming. For sure, from what I've heard and what Tarzilla has posted.

 

 

Then take into account getting it into your hands in form of CIB....with stuff being done by a bunch of people.

 

Releasing games is a lot of work.

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For you programmers out there- I'm curious, how long would you estimate it takes to complete an 'average' game? Lets refer to the 1st complete beta-testable game. How many hours?

 

I don't think there is such a thing as an "average game" when you're talking about home-brews. In this scene, making a game is a craft, where each programmer has his own methods and discipline, and they mostly work on it on their personal time, as it permits. Moreover, most home-brew programmers end up making one game, maybe two, so there is very little output to compute an average.

 

The other factor is that, at least in my experience, your very first game will be very hard and take considerable time. This is because you're mostly feeling your way around, trying to learn at the same time that you are trying to express your game ideas. For subsequent games, you already have experience and context, but you usually want to do more and better than your first, so it may take longer still.

 

However, this is a hobby, not work. There is nothing that says that you have to commit certain hours of each day to it. There is nothing that says that you have to finish by a certain date -- or even at all. You do what you can, while you want to; and you quit or give up whenever it is not fun anymore. It's fine either way, and nobody judges you. :)

 

There is no "average," it's all up to you and what you want to put into it. However, to give you an idea, consider that me -- an absolute amateur that only thought he knew what was needed to make a game -- I spent about 6 months working on a port of Pac-Man, on and off, mostly a few hours each week-end. Then two hyper-condenced weeks of almost 20 hours a day during my Christmas vacation turning that into a single-level "demo" game I called Christmas Carol. Then finally, I spent the next 18 months, again on and off, mostly on the week-ends, with spurts of sustained effort every few months, polishing it into the final game that was released.

 

Other examples from which to learn something are the entries in the IntyBASIC contest. The contest lasted six months. Most games submitted were conceived and programmed during that time, and most of them were mostly finished by the end.

 

Your mileage may vary. :)

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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And it seems that programming projects take significantly more hours when its done part time.

 

But still budgeting/estimating total hours for a programming project should be a reasonable thing to ask. And should be possible once the scope of the game is defined.

 

Edit:

A simpler question might be how many hours did your intellivision programming project take. I'm sure nobody logged their time but maybe a reasonable guess.

Edited by mr_me
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And it seems that programming projects take significantly more hours when its done part time.

 

But still budgeting/estimating total hours for a programming project should be a reasonable thing to ask. And should be possible once the scope of the game is defined.

It should be a reasonable thing to ask, but perhaps not that practical to answer. Without the pressures of commercial appeal, delivery dates, marketing, and other factors, a programmer may be absolutely free to do as he pleases with his game.

 

For instance, I re-wrote the core Christmas Carol engine three times -- from scratch -- at various points during its development. As you can imagine, this prolonged its development considerably. Part of the reasons were typical: due to speed, flexibility, maintenance, etc. However, mostly it was because I could. My background is in systems engineering and architecture, and I find it the most enjoyable when I am designing systems and frameworks rather than the minutiae of actually putting it together and doing the "grunt work." Plus, I just didn't feel comfortable with the last approach I took, and had the luxury of revisiting it at my leisure.

 

Similarly, my second game has been delayed already for several years now because I am writing a game development framework to use for all my future games (again, it seems this is the most "fun" part for me), and that is consuming my hobby time. Since I have the luxury of designing this framework however I please, and to take however long I need, I do not need to scope it ahead, document it, nor prepare a development project plan -- I could, and probably should, but you can't make me, and I won't. ;)

 

I can instead let it grow organically, re-inventing parts and evolving others as I shape it into its final form. Can we budget that?

 

Likewise, I know of some programmers that code furiously to get some cool parts done so that they can see them at work, and then slow down or procrastinate immensely, or don't put as much dedication when getting to the boring stuff, such as testing and debugging.

 

Then there's the matter of the final "spit-and-polish," which seems to take even longer than the rest of the game. Once again, this is mostly because the home-brewer can get away with it. It's his game, his hobby, and his time, so no pressures to complete or release it, and so he is free to continue adding or changing as he wishes.

 

Again, it's a hobby and most programmers will do things in their own way and take as long as they want. You could try to "average" it, but whatever you get out of it won't be very useful, and it is still not clear how that is going to apply to a total newbie.

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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For example, a project of 1000 hours could take six months full time or six years part time. But that doesn't change the number of hours worked except for some inefficiencies of working part time.

 

How many hours work would you guess Christmas Carol took including the three re-writes or starting from the last re-write; not including the spit and polish? For example, so many hours per weekend multiplied by so many weeks plus the full time spurts.

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For example, a project of 1000 hours could take six months full time or six years part time. But that doesn't change the number of hours worked except for some inefficiencies of working part time.

 

I understand what you are trying to say, but I think we're both talking past each other. My point is that, precisely because this is a hobby, the programmer won't scope out nor prepare a project plan to compute the total cost of the project.

 

Of course, the programmer could calculate that a project will take 1,000 hours, but more often than not, he will just start coding on his free time and see where it goes. :)

 

How many hours work would you guess Christmas Carol took including the three re-writes or starting from the last re-write; not including the spit and polish? For example, so many hours per weekend multiplied by so many weeks plus the full time spurts.

 

I sincerely have absolutely no idea. I guess I could have computed right when it was fresh in my mind, but the more time passes the harder it gets to retain those details. And to my point above, I have the luxury of not having to dedicate my time and effort in figuring it out.

 

I say that not to be flipping, really, just to drive a point. :)

 

Plus, I'm slow. I am very slow at programming. Much slower than your average coder, so my 1000 hours may be 200 to you.

 

-dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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  • 1 month later...

In Intellivisionaries episode 31 at about 3:32:00:

 

http://intellivisionaries.com/episode-31-vectron/

 

Keith Robinson provides a useful data point. Mattel assumed 5 months and $30K to create a standard 4K EXEC based game (e.g. the early 2 player sports titles). He suggests that larger more sophisticated games took longer, but does not provide details, other than noting that the gestation period of Pinball was ~2 years elapsed.

 

I think it would be unwise to assume less than 5 months for a good quality homebrew, because

  • Homebrew development is not done as a primary task and is therefore inefficient
  • Homebrew developers not as specialist as the Mattel devs and typically do not have the support of a team or a swathe of corporate learning to solve problems
  • A good quality game will be significantly larger than 4K and will not use the EXEC
  • Although modern general tools (editors etc) are much more sophisticated, the platform specific tools (development frameworks, test harnesses) are probably less mature than those used in the 1980s. Although this is changing rapidly with things like the LTO Flash.

 

Cheers

 

decle

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I think it would be unwise to assume less than 5 months for a good quality homebrew, because

It all depends on the programmer, the game genre/atyle, amount of polish added and the amount of free hobby time.

 

Homebrew development is not done as a primary task and is therefore inefficient

In some cases it may be more efficient, because the hobby programmer isn't being dragged off into meetings, or having to answer to their manager, they don't have to help or mentor other programmers and so on.

 

Homebrew developers not as specialist as the Mattel devs and typically do not have the support of a team or a swathe of corporate learning to solve problems

Some of the modern Inty homebrew programmers probably know as much or maybe more than the system's BITD programmers did. I get the feeling that there are more Inty programmers at all levels now, than there was back in its heyday.

 

A good quality game will be significantly larger than 4K and will not use the EXEC

Yep! Nobody is using the EXEC these days, and games don't have the same masked ROM and marketing constraints that they did BITD.

 

Although modern general tools (editors etc) are much more sophisticated, the platform specific tools (development frameworks, test harnesses) are probably less mature than those used in the 1980s. Although this is changing rapidly with things like the LTO Flash.

Once you have written a game or two you tend to have your own framework and "utility" functions/library to call upon. I'd say development is much easier with modern tools/emulators than the repetitive code/burn/test cycle used to develop the original line up.

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The exec and baseball would have had to have been mostly done within four months. It was started after jan ces 1978 and had to have been mostly done before the summer students started in May. That's about 8k of code. The exec made it easy for the new programmers to make those early games. If I remember correctly the guy who did basketball finished early and then teamed up with another programmer to do football all in summer 1978. So less than three months for those early games. Now the game concepts and graphic art were designed by others so this is purely programming implementation time. Listen to the Intellivisionairies baseball, basketball, and math fun episodes.

 

Five months is about 833 hours working full time. And almost all the games at Mattel were exec games so its almost double the time of the early games. Games like Pinball and Motocross took years because they had different programmers giveup and others takeover trying to figure out how to make the physics work. Alot of time was also spent trying to compress the code to fit in the cartridge which became less of an issue with larger cartridges.

 

The developers in those days did not have to burn roms to test their programs. They had ram cartridges plugged into their development systems. Some development systems were better/faster than others even in those days.

 

These guys were mostly working fulltime nonstop on one project. In my experience programming part time, jumping out and back in projects is not efficient and would need more hours. "Fine tuning" can go on forever so without a deadline these projects could take forever if you want.

 

Edit:

From the Vectron interview Mark and Keith were also managers while doing Vectron and Solar Sailer. That would have messed with the schedule for those projects.

Edited by mr_me
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Time-to-release a 21st Century Intellivision game is also tough to approximate due to the "stuff" that folks want to put into it. I know the good folks at Intv Prime spent months digging into the capabilities of the AY-3-89xx sound chip and experimenting with experts in the MSX and Spectrum and Atari ST communities since that is where the sound and music expertise is today. The BSRs didn't have to do that and in many cases couldn't due to ROM space restrictions. On and on.

 

Anyway if I had a VP standing over me "HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE" I would estimate 5 months of work time, typically spread across 18-24 months of calendar time to make a game with the quality of the original 125. The BSRs could spend 5 months of work time during 5 months of calendar time. DzJ might take 3 weeks of "programming time" but a large amount of time making the framework to make the game. etc

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In the Treasure of Tarmin podcast APh programmer Tom Loughry mentions both the first AD&D and Treasure of Tarmin were three to four month projects. Those were 6k and 8k games and one programmer. He says anything longer than four months was considered a "stalled" project.

 

Mattel typically had multiple programmers on projects including graphics and sound specialists. They tried to get multiple programmers doing game play; sometimes it worked sometimes it didn't. Treasure of Tarmin was fairly ambitious but not as much as World Series MLB. I'm estimating World Series was done over second half of 1982 and start of 1983, estimating around 8 or 9 months and that's a 20k game. It had mostly one programmer with help for sound/music/voice. It was also that programmer's first game.

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