Bonus Time with Andy Stone
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Our interview with Game-Maker programmer G. Andrew Stone is long and detailed, yet not every thread made the cut. They may have tangled the flow of conversation, or they may have been too specialist even for this rather specialized article.
Though they did not fit the greater discussion, these fragments still may interest Game-Maker users (or the exceptionally curious). Here, then, are the outtakes, grouped by topic and presented as-is.
One of the bigger and simpler problems is the inability to set a flag, so that things in a level stay changed. So right now you could easily enter a dungeon over and over to collect the same treasures.
Yes, that was on the "to-do" list...
The Game-Maker Exchange
I also want to ask a bit about the Game-Maker Exchange program [an irregular mailing of select user-submitted games]. I'm guessing that would be more your dad's territory? I was wondering how long that went on, and how many games it covered by how many authors. From what I saw, most of the games involved were pretty experimental.
Yes, he would have the best memories – but I happen to have all the user letters, since he foisted them off on me during one of his cleaning "purges".
Oh, that could come in handy. I have seen several users lament their lost material, due to hard drive failures and general entropy. Some of them say they sent in disks at one point.
I have no disks, unfortunately. Just letters.
Graphically it was 320x200 8-bit (like Game-Maker). It split the screen in half, putting two players’ top-down views of the maze side-by-side on the screen. In fact, although Game-Maker was one player at a time (I think? Suddenly I feel that 2 simultaneous characters were possible… or [am I thinking of] Game-Maker Pro?), I had always been more fascinated with what we now call P2P games.
You're saying the code for two simultaneous players may actually be buried in GM somewhere? So how did this work? You make it sound as if the two players are blind to each other's progress, but it sounds like they're both using the same keyboard. I assume that both players are on the same display, then?
Yes. Remember that there were no laptops, no dual displays, no network (other than dial-up) at that time. But anyway, the point is that it is fun to have two people madly typing on the same keyboard. My brother and I used to play games that way when we were too young to do it alone. For example, the original Wolfenstein on Apple. He would move; I would shoot and work the other keys. I don't know if you ever played it, but it was top-down and a "keypad" let you move in any direction, and another ASD "keypad" let you shoot in any direction.
I briefly experimented with taping a piece of paper [down the middle of the screen], but it was more fun to glance over and see where the other player was. But that was quite challenging. I mean, you could move through the maze as fast as you could type; it did not scroll, it snapped by one block. So, too much glancing would slow you down!
Technically, would you say Labyrinth is the first Game-Maker game? Or is it a separate entity that the tools split away from?
It is separate, because the play engine was completely different and much simpler.
Does it still exist?
Attached is the core C program. It also requires other modules for display, etc., and I have the original link line. So I'm sure I could dig those up too, but they are just generic stuff...
I'm afraid the blocks (pictures) may be permanently gone... unless they are hiding in an archive somewhere.
I notice that the code seems to use 20x20 blocks, at least in the version you've shown me. Is the format the same as Game-Maker’s?
Yes, I guess I had chosen 20x20 before Labyrinth. As I was thinking where I might have put all the data, I sort of hazily remembered reusing it. And that jibes; in a four-person company nothing is wasted. So I dug around and found the walls, starting at block 25 of the Terrain [block set]. I'm sure that the grass is in there too somewhere!
Between Terrain and Houses there’s sort of gradient from green grass to brown, and then maybe to pure mud. Are those from Labyrinth?
Yes those grasses before the walls look like the right blocks.
Looks from the code in this version I only had two blocks. I seem to remember having more, though. Now that I think about it, I seem to remember that it was too obvious to go fully to mud so I chose a subtle change...
Do you recall what the characters looked like?
No, I forget. But they were not animated. Just placeholder characters. I think, though, you could see the other guy on your maze when you crossed paths.
From the code you can see that they are a single block, #15. But what is this "SWIRL" thing? Dammit, can't remember!
It looks like you distributed the game as shareware at one point, or meant to. Did anything come of that?
I don't think I ever got around to it, although I may have uploaded it to a friend's BBS.
The date also stands out to me -- January 1st, 1991. It looks like it was less than a year between Labyrinth and the first commercial release of Game-Maker. How quickly did the full package come together?
Yes, it was a tight schedule since less could be done during the school year. It was a very intense time.
This is all kind of frivolous, but the ad and box contain shots that I have always wondered about. In both there’s a sort of isometric maze built from Nebula tiles. On the box there's also a sort of dungeon game, and a mysterious thing with a gravelly floor and what looks like the base of a stalagmite. Were these real games, or just mock-ups for the sake of the packaging?
Yes, I built [the maze] to test gravity and ladder playability, and to experiment with isometric views. I reused the Nebula blocks for efficiency but really liked the result. But it never became an actual Nebula level as it did not fit the theme.
I think [the dungeon] was my dad's first attempt at a game. It was that single room, and you could walk around in it and do some stuff.
I'm surprised that most of it wasn't thrown into the Game-Maker CD. I will have to dig around!
EJR Tairne is a freelance writer and editor, sometime game theorist, and general grump. He has written lots of stuff for the Gamasutra family of publications. Most if it is pretty grumpy. You can read more grumpy things on his grumpy blog, that he updates whenever he feels like it.