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PC Gamer     -     June, 1995     -     Vol.2 No. 6     -     Reviews     -     Pages 93 & 94

Game Creation System

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Category: 3D shooter tool kit
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Developer: Pie in the Sky Software
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Publisher: Pie in the Sky Software
                1596 Ayrault Road
                Fair Port, NY  14450
                   (716) 425-8782
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Required 
We  Recommend
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386; 4 MB Ram
VGA; Mouse
486; Sound Blaster
or compatible
sound card
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M.S.R.P.:  $69.95
 
Using the GCS isn't as much fun or as easy
as you might think, but a little patience will be rewarded with a game of your own making.

Once you've built your level, you can set the guard parameters to a com-
 fortably easy setting, or one that could pass as your worst nightmare.
 
   I doubt there's a single computer gamer who hasn't wondered at least once what it would be like to design a game. After all, who knows more about gaming than a gamer? 

      For most of us, though, there's been one little obstacle -- we have enough trouble programming  a VCR, and writing miles and miles of computer code seems completely out of the question. 

      That's where Pie In the Sky Software's Game Creation System comes in.  The GCS 
is a complete game authoring program that lets non programmers create their own 3D shoot-'em-ups with a series of point-and-click tools.  The games you create are stand 
alone programs that can run on just about any PC, which means once you've tried your hand at design, you can try your hand at marketing -- if you think your game is good enough, you can sell it without worrying about any licensing fees or legal entanglements.  But before you get too deep into a dream of writing the next Doom and driving a Ferrari just like John Romero's, let's just say you're not likely to find fame and fortune with the sort of games the GCS lets you produce.  It's not a high-end development tool - not by today's standards, anyway. 

      The basic game engine -- the program that displays and animates the 3D mazes you design and plays back the sounds and music you create -- is a pretty good one, but when compared to current games like Doom or Dark Forces, its limitations become obvious.  Its graphics fall somewhere between the classic 3D shooter Wolfenstein 3D and the slightly more advanced Operation Body Count.  It does, however, feature support for a variety of controllers and sound cards, and its graphics move very smoothly even on the minimum recommended system.  And the GCS gives you a library of ready-made objects, wall textures, and enemies to work with, so you won't have to worry about creating or importing your own graphics until you're ready to. 

      The World Editor, the program where you'll do most of your work, has a pretty intuitive, mouse-based interface; you just select a wall texture, then click and drag on a grid to create a top-down view of your maze.  There's no online help or tutorial to guide you through the trickier aspects of the process, so you'll want to keep the manual handy and pay close attention to the tips and instructions it offers. 

      There are a few demo levels you can jump in and tinker with right off the bat, but with all the tools the GCS gives you, you'll want to start building bigger and better games before long. 

      Of course, there are some elements of game design the GCS can't handle for you. The best set of tools in the world can't keep you from making a bad game. After hurriedly slapping together my first few levels, I took a test run through them and realized they were not only terribly short and poorly organized, they were something much worse -- boring.

With a library full of strange objects, you'll be able to add a lot of variety to your levels. 
 
      The second time around, I put a little more thought into the process, and I actually came up with something playable.  With a few final touches, like ominous lighting and some choice sound effects and music (GCS has support for MIDI music and .WAV files for digitized sound), the levels I designed didn't look half bad. 
      I still haven't created my dream game of a demon-infested elementary school  (or would that be redundant?) - but the ability to create and import brand new textures, characters, and weapons will  go a long way toward achieving that goal. Using the GCS paint program, you can take scanned images of your friends and
Starting with the existing items from the basic library you can begin building your perfect level with a whole host of walls, doors, etc., to suit your own personalized tastes.
 
     family and convert them for use as animated characters in the game, or create new and exciting weapons. The process of animating these characters is pretty involved and time-consuming, but well worth the effort if you want your vision to be complete. 

     While animation, music, and sound files go a long way towards making your game a unique and personalized experience, not everybody wants to just run around and shoot stuff. So if you're interested in creating something with a bit more depth than your average shooter, you can import text strings to turn your virtual world into a mini adventure game. You could create hostage situations, bank robberies or perhaps even a nice Sunday school sermon that's interrupted by a group of leather-clad bunnies spouting their radical propaganda. 

     While this feature opens up a lot of creative ideas, there is a limit to the number of text files you can display in a given game, but unless you're planning a first-person version of 'War and Peace', this probably won't be a problem. 

     Pie in the Sky is also offering additional libraries of ready-made wall textures, enemies, etc., but since the option to modify the basic library of textures or design your own from scratch is already built into the system, it's doubtful many users will need them. 

     Still, as customizable as the GCS is, there are a few elements you won't be able to change. Unlike 'Doom' or 'Wolfenstein', the game screen isn't resizable, and the status bar (where your health and ammo stats appear) takes up a significant portion of the screen. These things detract from the game, and they instantly label every game that's created with this system.  Also, the basic game engine doesn't include the popular modem or network options that seems to be a near requirement for any first-person shooter released today. 

     While there's little chance of seeing any retail games created with the GCS, it'll probably inspire more than a few ambitious gamers to release their creations online as share- ware or free ware.  It'll be interesting to see how far these would-be designers can go with the tools GCS provides. 
                                                                        -Todd Vaughn

    Do-it yourself
     Gunplay
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     Testing your level for the first time is
     pretty exciting, especially when you've
     filled it full of bad guys.  Say, didn't I
     put a guard around here somewhere?

     Ahh, there he is, just waiting to be
     gunned down.  He looks so lonely, I
     think I'd better head back and make
     him a few friends.
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PC
GAMER
FINAL VERDICT
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HIGHS: A simple interface, plenty of tools, and a library of objects to get  you started.
81%
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LOWS: The basic engine you're building on doesn't really stand a chance against the current crop of 3D games.
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BOTTOM LINE: A reasonably priced  construction kit that lets you show  your friends how games should be  made.
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 This review was taken from PC Gamer.  PC Gamer, and it's entire contents,
Copyright 1998 Imagine Media.  All rights reserved.