Guide to Building a Gaming Computer

A Gaming Computer, also known as gaming PC, is a personal computer that is capable of playing computationally and graphically demanding video games. They are very similar to conventional computers with the exception that these machines are fitted with performance-oriented video card and other specifications. This type of computers can be easily bought in the market but at a much higher price compared to the conventional computers. Since most of the gamers are both cost and performance conscious, most of them opt to build their own gaming computer than buying a built-in gaming computer.

Building your own custom gaming computer simply means you buy all your computer components separately and piece them up together to guild your gaming PC. With this method you can achieve a fast and cost-effective gaming computer suited to your own gaming needs. Besides saving a lot of money and having an efficient machine, building your own gaming computer can also be a lot of fun.

How to choose your components?

Perhaps the biggest challenge one can face when building their own gaming computer is choosing the right components for your needs. So without further ado, here is a simple guide in order to help you in building your own gaming computer.

1. Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is one of the most important core components in all computer systems. The CPU is a portion in the system that carries out the instructions of a computer program. In simple terms it could describe as the brains of the computer. The performance of your games and other applications will depend on this microprocessor.

Choosing the best Central Processing Unit (CPU) for your gaming computer can be a hard decision to make. Picking the latest, fastest, or most expensive processor on the market won’t always result in the right CPU for your particular system. Some processors are designed to work with a certain or specific motherboards, thus the CPU type limits the motherboard type you can use.

For a gaming computer, you will really need a powerful CPU for it to performing superbly. Luckily these CPUs are supplied by Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) at an affordable price.

Intel has the Core i7 and Core i5 processor models. Currently these models are the most popular ones used for gaming purposes, which are mostly recommended for gaming computers.

AMD, on the other hand, has the Athlon and Phenom series. If you want to go AMD, you can try the most recommended Phenom X4 series.

2. Motherboard

The motherboard is the hub of the computer system. It is where all other components are connected to. If we consider the CPU as the brain of the computer system, then the motherboard is the central nervous system. Thus buying the best motherboard is a good investment.

After choosing your CPU, next you need to consider choosing your motherboard for your gaming computer. When selecting a motherboard, you should remember three things.

First, a motherboard will generally support one type of processor only. Different CPUs have different connectors that physically vary with one another, Make sure that your CPU plug is suitable to your mother board connector.

Second, motherboards have a certain speed limitation depending on the processor model. Maximum processor speed allowed by the motherboard will be quoted in the motherboard specifications. Before buying, check whether your selected motherboard can support your chosen CPU.

Third, motherboards are the ones who can dictate the type and amount of RAM you can have. In a gaming computer, you would want to have either DDR SDRAM or RDRAM which is at least 1G worth. So ensure that your motherboard can support this type and amount of memory.

Here are some examples of well-known motherboards manufacturers where you can browse for your perfect gaming motherboard: ASUS, ABIT, MSI, XFX, EVGA, Intel, and Gigabyte.

3. Hard Drive

The hard drive is the computer component responsible for storing your files and programs. When buying a hard drive for your gaming computer, consider these three main features: speed, size, and the type of interface.

[Speed] Basically the faster the hard drive spins the fast you are able to access and transfer your data. Currently, the best hard drives in the market these days can have a speed around 7200rpm (rounds per minute). In a gaming computer, you don’t want anything less than this; else it will cause delays between reading and writing data.

Faster hard drives that reach speeds of 10,000rpm and 15,000rpm are available in the market at a higher price. For your gaming computer, a 7200rpm hard drive is already enough for but if you can shell out more money, then you can opt for these faster hard drives.

[Size] Hard drives come in different sizes, which can range from 80GB to 500GB and more. For your gaming computer, it is always recommended that you purchase the largest hard drive you can afford. This will allow you to store lots and lots of software and data (including games).

[Interface] The interface of the hard drive is responsible for managing the exchange of data between a computer and the hard drive. Currently, the most commonly used hard drive interface used today is Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA); which comes in two forms, the original Parallel ATA (PATA) and the newer and faster Serial ATA (SATA).

There’s also the expensive Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) which are used primarily for high-end workstation computer. For you gaming computer, it is sufficient enough to have the SATA if your motherboard can support it.

4. Video Card

Choosing the right video card that is supported by both your CPU and motherboard is a very important and tough decision to make. The gaming video card you choose will be responsible for producing the dazzling 3D graphics and effects seen in the latest computer games. A better graphics card can deliver a better 3D gaming experience, so the best and affordable video card should be bought for you gaming computer.

The graphic processing unit (GPU) can be connected to your motherboard through AGP or PCI Express slot. For you gaming computer, it is recommended that you use a graphics card connected through a PCI Express slot on your motherboard.

The speed and efficiency of the GPU should not be the only thing that counts when buying your video card. You should also consider the advance 3D rendering effects such as anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, bump-mapping, pixel shaders and much more. For your gaming computer, consider a video card that can support such latest 3D rendering techniques in the software world.

Like the CPU market, there are two primary competing companies that current dominate the graphic card. These companies are ATI and nVidia. ATI is responsible for the Radeon series, while nVidia is marketing the GeForce line of cards.

5. Power Supply

One of the vital and overlooked components of the computer system is the power supply. Without a power supply, the computer will not be able to operate its functions. Its main purpose is to convert AC power from the main line to usable low-voltage DC power for the internal components of the computer. The power supply gives out three different DC voltages to your computer 12VDC, 5VDC, and 3VDC which are used differently by computer components.

Each power supply has a certain amount of energy or wattage based on their maximum output power. Wattages commonly ranges from 300W to 500W but some high-end gaming power supply can reach ranges of 800W to 1kW.

If you want to use a power supply for you gaming computer, it is recommended to have at least a power supply ranging from 500W and above.

6. Gaming Monitor

One of the most expensive components in your gaming computer would be the computer monitor. When buying a gaming computer monitor you only need to consider three things: size, native resolution, and price.

[Size] Computer monitors comes in different sizes from the small 15 inches to a larger 23 inches, and even larger. 17 inches is a common size and large enough for most people, but if you want to increase your viewing and gaming experience then a larger size monitor is advisable.

[Native Resolution] Each monitor has been designed for a certain resolution, which is known as the native resolution. If you change the resolution of a monitor to a resolution that doesn’t coincide with its native resolution; the image will then be scaled and the quality will be lessen significantly. Native resolution of a monitor is dependent on its size. Here are some examples of native resolution for common sizes:

17 inches 1024×768

19 inches 1280×1024

20 inches 1600×1200

[Cost] Prices vary greatly between sizes, where smaller ones cost cheaper than larger ones. So choose a size that can satisfy your need while taking into consideration your budget.

7. Gaming Keyboard

Custom built keyboards designed specifically for gaming can give an edge to a gamer using it. But currently, there is no general gaming keyboard that can be recommended for all gamers. Why? This is due to the fact that different gamers have different or varying styles of play, posture, and wrist anatomy. So basically, there is no such thing as a gaming keyboard that is best for everyone.

According to Build-Gaming-Computers, one of the best gaming keyboards available in the market is the Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard. This keyboard has been custom-made to meet a gamer’s need. It specifically features:

a. An adjustable, backlit LCD screen that displays important in-game information during gameplay;

b. Backlit keys to play in the dark or low-lit areas;

c. 18 programmable “G keys” used to execute macros; and

d. Timer controls to keep track of game events.

8. Gaming Mouse

Like the gaming keyboard, choosing the best gaming mouse can help increase the level of your gaming experience. Using a custom-designed gaming mouse gives the best accuracy and control which allows you to play games at your best.

Computer mouse come in different types which are the optical, laser, and ball mice types. Currently, optical and laser type mouse are commonly used due to their precision and better tracking, allowing for more accuracy and control.

When selecting the best mouse for your gamin computer, you should consider a number of factors. One of the most important one is the resolution. Resolution is the number of pixels per inch a mouse’s optical sensor and focusing lens can see when you move the mouse around. The higher the resolution a mouse has, the better the accuracy and precision.

Next consider the responsiveness of the mouse. It is the number of megapixels per second the mouse can process. This is important especially in fast-paced games such as first person shooters games. The more megapixels per second the mouse can process, the more responsive it is; thus it offers faster and precise control in your games.

Good and Bad in Gaming

Gaming is one of the biggest hobbies and even careers in the world. People play games for fun or learning while others record videos about the games. In this article, I will focus more on gaming itself and not so much the side of how to make gaming videos. Gamers come in all different ages, genders, religions, locations and shapes. The backgrounds of people who are gamers make gaming that much more fun.

Backgrounds of gamers can play a part in the type of games that people play. There are all kinds of combinations for different categories relating to the type of games and type of gamers. You really need to look at the game’s website to get all the pertinent information prior to buying.

There are many online platforms where you can buy games from such as Steam or Humble Bundle. Those sites will give you the description, videos by the company, pictures, user and non-user tags, reviews, website, company and their social account(s). Be aware the game’s website might not show you everything you need to know. As a minimum, a gaming company will show a short sales pitch description, small amount of pictures (5 at best), one or two videos by them and their social accounts. The most they will provide is an informative description, their social accounts, user reviews and videos by them.

Let’s dive right into what is perceived as negative about gaming. The majority of the negative things about games come from the real-life people on those games, the type of games and the types of games for the wrong person. A game can be poorly made but it’s not always the case where the game itself is bad. It could be where it was the wrong type of game for the wrong person. This is where the categories come in. Maybe a game has a bit of violence. That doesn’t make it bad; it just makes it the wrong type of game for a seven year old. Or maybe you bought a puzzle game for a person who loves action type games. So the action loving person won’t enjoy it, but that doesn’t make the puzzle game bad!

The types of games are endless from nudity, drugs and alcohol, horror, gambling with money and more. These different types are wrong for youth gamers as well as wrong for people who don’t like seeing such things.

Gaming has good and bad sides just like everything else. The key is how good and bad are those sides. For example, some games have a bad side with players that like to fight a lot. This is common in games. Understand for a lot of gamers this is not a big deal; however, for youth who are new to the game or even gaming in general this can be frustrating. There are times when you want to avoid the bad sides all together. There are times when the good outweighs the bad. If this happens and there are no problems with the game itself; then the bad side is just that one little fly in your room which is no big deal. Caution: If the bad outweighs the good, I would strongly recommend avoiding that game.

Another aspect that people will nag a game developer or creator about is representation. Should I say, a lack of representation which is not limited to race, body type and message in the game. If you are able to customize your character, then of course you will not have a problem with representation. There is a problem in some games where they don’t represent strong and smart females, minority females and males, big, small, tall, and short females and males. Notice how I didn’t put “males” after female for strong? That’s because males in games are ALWAYS represented as strong and smart.

In games that show a male strong and smart, he will mostly likely be white, tall, thin, movie star looking and buff. You will rarely see him be a minority, short, chubby, not buff, nerdy looking, while still being strong and smart. You see this even LESS for females. Some females in games are also white, tall, thin and strong while showing skin like no tomorrow. You only see THESE females in MMORPG games (Massively Multiplayer online Role Playing Game) though. RPG games are meant for fantasy worlds where you mostly fight people and monsters. Of course the females’ stats will be strong but they won’t look strong.

In most games, when they add a character for you to play they always add a white male first, then a white female, then a black male, and then a black female. They don’t even really add people who are mixes of races or in between. When it comes to the black characters they only add one shade of “black” or “African American” and not every black person on earth is that shade.

In games, the majority of the characters are always thin and tall. You don’t really see characters that are short and thin, tall and chubby, short and chubby, etc. There are a lot of people who aren’t thin and who aren’t tall.

Then lastly, there is the mental message that goes with the gender, race, and body type. What do I mean by the mental message? Some games send an indirect message about that character being strong and smart or something else. While for other games it can be a mental message either on purpose or not. For example, in the game you play and you see a minority female who is short, chubby, nerdy looking and her traits are to be a goof ball, naive, and dumb. It could send a mental message to you that people that look like her are just like her. They’re not smart, they aren’t thin, and are not tall. They did poorly in school, etc. etc. So you start thinking those things based on not only seeing this in that game over and over again, but when it happens in other games too.

The worst part is NONE of these things are true. Yes, some people aren’t thin, tall, and maybe not that bright; but not EVERYONE is like this! You do have short chubby minorities who are smart as all get out! You have all kinds of combinations of people who ARE smart! Of course, all these things about gender, race, body type, and messages aren’t just in gaming; they’re in movies, TV shows, ads, etc. What’s interesting is that some of the creators who make the games, movies, TV shows, ads, etc., are minorities themselves and they make up the population of the earth. (Search “world population by race 2016″ and click the first three links if you don’t believe me.)

Quick disclaimer: I AM NOT BASHING ANYONE! Yes, I was shouting that. This section of the article is telling you what I know, read, hear and experience in gaming.

If you don’t believe me go look at today’s TV shows, movies, ads, and games. A show to look at for good representation is Milo Murphy’s Law. Two games to look at as a reference for good representation are OverWatch and Atlas Reactor. Now in these fields it has gotten better for representation specifically gender, race and just now starting body type (specifically in this order). Some games even add robots and creatures as playable characters to avoid having problems with representation. This removes the problem of users wanting a character to represent their actual or preferred gender, race, or body type because now there is a character most users can agree on. After all, you can’t please everyone.

Alright, now that I ranted and got the bad stuff out of the way; let’s get into the good parts of gaming! You have gamers as young as three years old and as old as 90+! No matter your age, race, gender, religion, culture, or location gaming can be good for anyone. Gaming can not only be fun, but beneficial and educational.

A benefit with gaming is it can help youth have more confidence in themselves and be more social. If they play an online multiplayer game and talk to other players around the world, this can help then get used to talking to other people besides family and they gain confidence in what they’re saying. They can go from an introvert to a social fanatic! It can happen fast or slowly. Even if it’s not a game but a place for gamers, artists, fashion designers, car enthusiast, etc. to chat; it will still help them be more social. Keep in mind though, typing to someone and then voice chatting to someone are two different experiences. Youth can be very social when typing but very shy when voice chatting.

This is how I am. Before I was shy when talking to people I didn’t know whether it was online or offline, now I’ve become more comfortable with it because I know how to handle myself and have confidence in myself. But when it comes to voice chatting online, I’m the quiet person on the chat. Counterproductive right! You might even forget I was in a call with you! Before when the people at the bank said “Hi” I wouldn’t say anything, now I actually respond and say “Hi. How are you?” After that I don’t really expect to talk with them so I’ll be quiet again lol. See what I mean? After socializing, in general, over time you get better at it and become less nervous and more confident in yourself.

Another benefit with gaming is team work. Sometimes in games the only way to win or accomplish a goal is to work with one or more players. In certain games, players are allowed a task can be accomplished with only one player, but it might be harder unless you have more players than yourself. Other times certain tasks can’t be accomplished with one player and need two or more. There are times you make a group with your friends or family to finish the goal. Other times you can make a group with people you didn’t know.

This is where it can get tricky. If it’s a game where you can make a group that’s invite only, you’d just invite your friends or family. You can strategize with them, you’d be more comfortable talking with them, and you’ll all agree to work together. If it’s a game where there is no group system but you can still work with others, aka free for fall, and you can talk with them there may still be a goal that can only be completed with multiple players. Do you have to play with other players you’ve never talked to before if your family and friends can’t join you and you really want to complete this goal?

This isn’t a bad thing though! This is where you not only become more social but you learn how to work with other players you’ve never met before. If you always play with your family and friends you both already know how to work together, how the other thinks, etc. But if it’s someone you’ve never met it can be a little difficult. Me and my brother grew up doing everything together without really having any friends, maybe colleagues and associates but not really friends. So we were very used to knowing what the other wanted or how they played etc. But when we actually got two friends, it was very difficult to agree on many things. So if you play and work with other people now it will be easier later. Me and my brother have improved our skills to work with others.

Another benefit is patience which ties in with team building and socializing. After all, in order to get better at something you not only have to keep doing it but you have to have patience while doing it. There are many times in games where you have to wait. Just like reading is in everything, you have to have patience for everything. In games you always have to wait for something. You need to have patience for finding something, something to finish cooking, something to finish dying, your friends to come back from going afk (Away From Keyboard), the next wave of monsters to come, the next level to open up, etc. etc. I had to have patience when writing this article! So gaming can help you have more patience in gaming and everyday life.

Another benefit is hand and eye coordination. When you’re gaming you have to pay attention to what’s happening on your screen while also pressing your controller or keyboard button to do more things on your screen. If you want to move your character in that game, you have to use your keyboard and mouse or a controller while still looking at your screen. It’s like learning how to type. Most of the time you’re supposed to learn how to type words and sentences while looking at your screen without looking at your keyboard. This same thing applies to gaming. You have to be able to press the needed keys in order to accomplish that thing you’re trying to do while looking at your screen. After all, if you’re pressing your keys but not looking at your screen, how are you going to know if you’re doing it right?

Now, this one is a benefit and educational benefit – memory. Games can help improve your memory. How? Let me tell you. Take what I said above about typing. The people who can look at their screens and type without looking at their keyboard have something called “muscle memory”. When they want to make a certain letter appear on screen they just have to press that key and they don’t have to look at the keyboard because they have press that key so many times they themselves and their muscles remember where that certain key is. You have muscle memory already. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your keyboard right now. You see where all the letters, numbers, and symbols are right? The letters are not in alphabetical order. So whenever you tried to type your name or something on a digital keyboard where the letter were alphabetical; Did you take you longer than usually to type that word and was it weird and confusing? It was. I’ve done it. You know why?

When you type or text to someone you know the word you want to make appear on screen and you remember where the keys are. Maybe you can’t tell them in order if someone asked you but if they asked you to type a word you’d be able to type it because you know where the keys are. For me I know how to spell certain words when I’m typing but maybe not how to spell it verbally. This is because I’m seeing the word being spelled in front of me. Technically when we type to each other we’re spelling out words and then reading them in our mind. But when you speak out loud you don’t see the words you just hear them. Sure, when you read text on screen you hear them in your mind, even right not you hear these words I’m typing, but you don’t verbally hear them and you’re seeing each letter make up that word. When someone spells something wrong you immediately notice it because it’s not spelled right and you read it. When someone speaks something you don’t read any letters, you only hear the word.

So games can help you build up muscle memory and mind memory. If you can store items in game you have to remember where you put it, or if you need a recipe to make something you might remember the recipe, or maybe you remember a detail about something important, or maybe you remember the way through a maze or the way home. Some games are even built just to help improve your memory or the only way to keep progressing is remembering certain facts. My mom can type without looking at the keyboard but struggles with trying to walk in games.

So now let’s get into the educational benefits. One educational benefit is math. Now, the game doesn’t have to have a goal to teach you math in order for it to have math. The point of going to school is to get an education! Not socialize, but you still might make friends. So this applies to all games. The game doesn’t always have to have a goal of J but it might include J. Its goal might be X but it might still have J. In some games you can build houses and use recipes to make items. How big do you want your how to be? 30 blocks X 10 blocks X 60 blocks? Did you understand what I just said? Let me say it differently. 30 blocks on the X axis (left and right on the ground), 10 blocks on the Y axis (up and down on the ground), and 60 blocks on the Z axis (up and down in the air). This is how you’d build a house, using math, in a game called Minecraft. With these coordinates it means your house will be a rectangle with a very tall roof. Let’s use Minecraft again for this next example.

If you want to make 4 swords for example, what do you need? You need wood and iron. How much wood? How much iron? We’ll start with the handle. You need two sticks to make the handle for one sword. One wood log can be turned into four wooden planks, take two and you can then make four wooden sticks. You want to make 4 sword handles. So how many wooden logs do you need? One. For the sword itself it takes two pieces of iron. You want to make 4 swords, so how much iron do you need? Eight. See? Depending on what you’re making and how many of that thing the recipe can call for lots of resources or just a few.

Another educational benefit is problem solving. There are lots of games with puzzles or none but it can still include problem solving. A good game for example is Scribblenauts Unlimited. In this game you go to make different places solving people’s problems to make them happy which gives you an item to cure someone. In order to solve their problems, you have to use adjectives and nouns to solve the problem itself or make something to solve the problem. The best part is you can solve that problem many different ways and no way is the wrong way. Some games even change based on your choices and we call these “paths”. Some paths can change, stay on the same route, or end. So you need to solve each problem the best way otherwise you may choose the wrong path or a path that ends.

Another educational benefit is reaction timing. If you don’t want to die in a certain game your reaction to something could be the deciding fact of your survival or grave. The more you test your reaction timing the faster you will get and soon you’ll be able to react to things quickly. This can come from games with combat like MMORPGs, shooters, and PvP (Player V Player).

You do a lot of these things in games without even knowing it! When you play that game you just have to do A, G, M, and S to do whatever it is you’re trying to do, without knowing in the real world those skills are technically called B, H, N, and T and used in 3, 6, and 9. See? So you just have to get used to applying those skills in the real world.

Some games are better for certain ages or interests. Some games are meant for little kids, some are for teen and young adults, and others are for adults. Then there are games just for people interested in robots, cars, fashion, princesses, ice skating, etc. So the games could have the same benefits, but those benefits might be better for certain people than others.

Some games are being used in schools or college, as tests for robots and even to teach certain topics. I recently got a game that will teach me how to read and write the Japanese characters while surviving in a game world. Some people who don’t speak English now know it enough to talk to English speakers just by playing or watching games in English! If you find someone who knows how to speak, read, or write a little Japanese; ask them if they have watched Anime. Most English speakers know some Japanese because they play or watch Anime things.

Top Ten Classic Video Games

10. Pong

Origins: Pong was based on a game called ‘Tennis for Two’ which was a simulation of a game of tennis on an oscilloscope. Physicist William Higinbotham, the designer, goes down in history as creating one of the first electronic games to use a graphical display.

The Concept: The game is intended to represent a game of Tennis or Table Tennis (Ping Pong). Each player has a bat; the bat can be moved vertically. The screen has two horizontal lines on the top and bottom of the screen. A ball is ‘served’ and moves towards one player – that player must move the bat so that the ball hits it. The ball rebounds and moves back the other way. Depending on where the ball hits the bat, the ball will move in different directions – should it hit one of the top or bottom lines, then it will bounce off. The idea is simply to make the other player miss the ball – thus scoring a point.

Game play: while it sounds utterly boring, the game play is actually very addictive. It is easy to play but very difficult to master, especially with faster ball speeds, and more acute angles of ‘bounce’.

Nostalgia: for me this is the father of video games. Without Pong you probably wouldn’t have video games – it started the craze that would continue grow and become a multi-billion dollar industry. I will always remember this game!

9. Frogger

Origins: this game was developed by Konami in 1981, and was the first game to introduce me to Sega. At the time it was very novel and introduced a new style of game.

The Concept: Easy – you want to walk from one side of the road to the other. Wait a minute – there’s a lot of traffic; I better dodge the traffic. Phew Made it – hang on, who put that river there. Better jump on those turtles and logs and get to the other side – hang on that’s a crocodile! AHHH! It sounds easy – the cars and logs are in horizontal rows, and the direction they move, the number of logs and cars, and the speed can vary. You have to move you frog up, down left and right, avoiding the cars, jumping on logs and avoiding nasty creatures and get home – do this several times and you move to the next level.

Game Play: Yet another simple concept that is amazingly addictive. This game relies on timing; you find yourself dinking in and out of traffic, and sometimes going nowhere. The graphics are poor, the sound is terrible, but the adrenalin really pumps as you try to avoid that very fast car, or the snake that is hunting you down!

Nostalgia: I love this game for many reasons. I played it for a long time, but never really became an expert – however, it was the first ever game I managed to reproduce using Basic on my ZX81 – I even sold about 50 copies in Germany!

8. Space Invaders

Origins: Tomohiro Nishikada, the designer of Space Invaders was inspired by Star Wars and War of the Worlds. He produced on of the first shooting video games and drew heavily from the playability of Breakout.

The Concept: aliens are invading the Earth in ‘blocks’ by moving down the screen gradually. As the intrepid savior of the Earth it’s your task to use your solitary laser cannon, by moving horizontally, and zapping those dastardly aliens out of the sky. Luckily, you have four bases to hide behind – these eventually disintegrate, but they provide some protection from the alien’s missiles.

Game Play: this is a very repetitive game, but highly addictive. Each wave starts a little closer to you, and moves a little fast – so every new wave is a harder challenge. The game involved a fair amount of strategy as well as good hand eye co-ordination.

Nostalgia: I wasted a lot of time playing this game. While originally simply green aliens attacked, some clever geek added color strips to the screen and the aliens magically changed color the lower they got – that was about as high tech as it got back in the days of monochrome video games!

7. Galaxians

Origins: Galaxians expanded on the Space Invaders theme by having aliens swoop down on the defender. It was one of the first games to have colored sprites.

Concept: Take Space Invaders, add some color, remove the bases and make some of the aliens swoop down at you and you have Galaxians. Essentially the concept is the same as Space Invaders, you’re defending the world against alien invaders, but rather than the whole screen full of aliens moving down at you in a nice orderly fashion, you get groups of aliens swooping down in haphazard ways.

Game play: if you liked Space Invaders then you’ll love this. The strategies are different, as you often have to avoid two or three different groups of alien ‘swoopers’ but if you can shoot them as they swoop, then you get some great bonus points. The game is difficult until you get used to some of the patterns

Nostalgia: this was one of the first games that I played on a desktop computer that was almost exactly like the arcade fame. I had an old Acorn Electron, and this game was almost perfect on this little machine. I miss my old Acorn Electron!

6. Defender

Origins: This game was created by Williams Electronics in 1980. The Game was designed by Eugen Jarvis, Sam Dicker, Paul Dussault and SLarry DeMar. It was one of the first games to feature complex controls, with five buttons and a joystick. While slow to catch on due to its difficulty, it still was a popular game.

Concept: Most of the shoot-em-up games of the era were horizontal shote-em-ups. This game changed the playing field by being a vertical shooter. Yet again aliens are intent of doing nasty things to earth – this time they are trying kidnap 10 humans. You are in charge of the sole defender and must kill the aliens before they kidnap the humans. You fly over a ‘landscape’ and can see your humans mulling around on the surface. The aliens appear and drop towards the humans – you can kill them at this point, but should they grab an alien, you must shoot the alien, and catch the human before the alien reaches the top of the screen.

Game play: This was a great game that was easy to play but tough to master. Shooting the aliens and catching the humans gave the best bonuses, and this formed a major part of the strategy. There were some different type of aliens that chased you making the game a lot more hectic than others; often it was just a relief to finish a level. While not as addictive as some, it did give a feeling of achievement when you reached a high score.

Nostalgia: I went on vacation with a friend for a week and we spent the entire week in the arcade playing this game and the number one game on my list (I won’t reveal the name now!). It was one of the best memories of my teen years!

5. Missile Command

Origins: In July 1980, Atari published a revolutionary game. It didn’t have a joystick, but had a ball that controlled an on screen cursor. It was programmed by Dave Theurer and licensed to Sega.

Concept: Those pesky aliens are getting smarter. Rather than sending space ships down to fight, they’re hiding in deep space and sending a bunch of missiles to blow up the Earth’s cities. This game was unique as it use a ’round’ joystick. You used this to move to a point on the screen and then fire a missile into this spot – the culminating explosion would destroy any missiles that hit the ‘cloud’. The missiles were essentially lines that moved down from the top of the screen at varying angles and speeds – some of them would split into multiple ‘missiles’ half way down.

Game play: this is a very strategic game. Placing your bombs in the right place and timing them right could essentially clear the alien missiles quickly and easily. As the game move on you found yourself spinning the wheel frantically trying to get the bombs in the right place. This game was adrenalin pumping fun – sometimes you seemed to be up against impossible odds and yet you’d breath a sigh of relief when one city survived.

Nostalgia: this was one of the first games I played on a table top machine. While these didn’t really catch on, it was still fun to be able to put a can of soda down while you played!

4. Breakout

Origin: This game was heavily inspired by Pong. It was created in 1976 by Atari, with Nolan Busnell and Stew Bristow being the key designers. It’s probably one of the most cloned games ever, even today there are new games based on the same theme coming out. Apparently the Apple II computer was inspired by this game – wow where would Steve Jobs be now without Breakout.

Concept: The idea is simple – you have a bat at the bottom of the screen that can move back and forth. Above you is a wall of bricks. A ball will move from your bat – every time it collides with a brick, the brick disappears and the ball bounce back at you. Your task is simple – stop the ball going off the bottom of the screen by placing your bat in the way and bouncing the ball back at the wall – you also have to remove all the bricks in the wall to progress to the next level!

Game play: this is a fairly difficult game to master. As the bricks get lower each level and the ball speed increases, it becomes more and more difficult to ‘break out’. Also, sometimes the angle that the ball comes off the bat is so acute that it is very difficult to judge where the ball will bounce! It’s one of those games where you just keep on saying ‘just one more game’ and before you know it five hours have passed.

Nostalgia: when I lived in Wales we had a little utility room that housed books and my little ZX Spectrum – I used to spend hours playing this game as my Father sat and studied. It was like a male bonding session!

3. Hang On

Origin: This game was released in 1985 and was developed by Sega. It was one of the first ’3D’ racing games and one of the first to introduce a ‘realistic’ aid to playing the game – that it a larger replica motorcycle style cabinet, with speedo, brakes and a throttle. This game became the benchmark for future racing games and lead to the highly praised Out Run series. The game cleverly used ‘billboards’ and trees to give you the feel that you were moving at high speed.

Concept: You are a motorcycle racer – you sit on top of a bike and have to race around a 3d race track, overtaking other riders and reaching certain checkpoints within a time limit. The game featuring different places and conditions (such as night).

Game play: Yet another easy game to play but very difficult to master. Timing the turns was essential, especially if other bikers got in the way. Each slight touch of another bike, or crash into a barrier slowed you down and made it harder to reach the checkpoint in time. The awesome graphics (for the time) made this game pleasurable to play as you really felt you were in a race. It is another game that kept you coming back for more.

Nostalgia: As a kid I always wanted a real motorbike, so this gave me a feeling that I actually had one. I was very good at this game (an d Pole Position) and constantly had my name on the high score table – it’s perhaps the only game I could truly say I was a master.

2. Pacman

Origin: Developed by Toru Iwatani, and programmed by Hideyuki Moakajima San, this game came out in mid 1980. The name is derived from a phrase that relates to the sound when your mouth opens and closes (allegedly). Namco produced the game, but it really took off in America when Midway released it.

Concept: You are Pacman and you are very hungry. You find a maze full of ‘dots’ and zip around eating them. Unfortunately there’s some ghosts who aren’t too happy about this and they will chase you and eat you – but hey, there’s some really big dots that give you the power to banish the ghosts back to their central cage. The maze is complex, filling up the whole screen, but there are no dead ends – there’s also a passage way between each side of the screen. In the center, is the cage that holds the ghosts – occasionally bonus fruit appear next to the cage. You essentially have to eat all the dots in order to progress.

Game play: This is a simple concept, but with pretty decent graphics and an addictive tune it became a huge success. There is a lot of strategy to the game – each ghost follows a set pattern (although eventually they’ll forget this and follow you) – in fact there are books dedicated on the best route to avoiding the ghosts. The game gets harder as you go, with the ghosts speeding up and getting smarter.

Nostalgia: there’s something about the music in this game that is just so catching -even as I write it I can hear it in my mind. It’s one of the first games that I can remember using music as a major selling point. I wasted many hours playing this game, and although I was never great I always had fun trying to devise new routes. It is also probably my most successful programming achievement – I designed a version of this for the Acorn Atom and I actually sold a couple of hundred copies (again in Germany) – I am proud that as a twelve year old, I was able to use logic and programming skills and make some money doing it.

1. Asteroids

Origin: It’s truly amazing to think that this game was first released in 1979 – I’ve been playing it for 30 years now! Developed by Atari and designed by Lyle Rains and Ed Logg, the game cleverly used vector graphics and real inertia physics to convert a simple concept into a classic game.

Concept: Your little space ship has strayed into an asteroid belt. With the use of thrusters, a trusty laser cannon and a hyperspace unit, you must move your spaceship in all directions over the screen and avoid the asteroids. You can go anywhere on the screen and even going off the edge is OK – it just happens to be a wrap around universe. The asteroids come at you from all angles. Initially they are large, and are fairly slow. Once hit they split into smaller asteroids, and these smaller asteroids split again – the smaller the asteroid the faster it goes. Occasionally a nasty alien ship will appear and start firing at you – he’ll occasionally hit the asteroids and split them. The idea of the game is simple – destroy all the asteroids without colliding into them or getting shot by an alien.

Game play: Wow what can I say. To really succeed at this game you have to use strategy – firing at all asteroids will fill the screen with a lot of small fast moving asteroids, making it difficult to avoid collisions. Therefore the game required that you pick off one asteroid at a time, and then deal with the smaller asteroids. While doing this, you also had to maneuver gingerly; with real inertia, you often found yourself drifting without realizing it and suddenly you’d be in the middle of four or five asteroids.

Top 5 Most Important Aspects of Your Game

So you’ve decided to plunge yourself into the world of game development, have assembled a team of mighty warriors to tackle all the big issues and are ready to create the next best game in the industry… trumping WoW, Guild Wars… (you get the point). You’ve chopped up all your brainstorming and assembled some really keen concepts for a storyline and you’re ready to go. But amongst all the programming, the character concepts, the dungeons, and the quests – what are truly the most important aspects of your game that will determine whether someone enjoys themself? Read on, and allow me to share with you what I think.

When we do decide to take that plunge into the development of a new game, there are five things you should consider very carefully, and pay a great deal of attention to. There are probably more of these that will hinder or help you along your way, and your ordering may be different than mine, but these are what I always hold to be the most important. Over the next week we will reveal each aspects, and at the end of the week culminate with the complete article. For today we’ll begin at the top, with number 5.

Number 5: Storyline

When crafting your game, there is no better inspiration for features and activities, quests and dungeons, than your very own highly developed and custom tailored storyline. Some may balk at this statement, claiming that storyline is easily overshadowed and un-necessary when you have intense graphics that make your fingers tingle, or when you have combat so intense that you’re literally ducking out of the way from behind your monitor. While these things definitely contribute to an awesome game, and can lead to a lot of excitement (in fact, they’re on the list too!), they cannot make up for a lack of storyline. One thing many players crave whether consciously or not, is a strong storyline that leads them into caring about the game – it entices you – and makes you feel as though your wildest dreams may in fact be possible in this environment. Storyline can be simple and to the point while being so flawlessly done that it serves as the crux of the entire game (EVE Online: We’re flying through space, blowing people out of the sky…) and at the same time being so rich and deep with lore (the complexities in lore and story surrounding EVE is so great that it entangles even the most basic ships and inventory items) that it compels players to write their own histories.

Not only does storyline help players become engaged with all that you’ve slaved over and worked for, but it helps you the developer along the way. If you’ve been smart, and from the beginning dreamed up an intoxicatingly deep history of your game setting, it will constantly serve you throughout development. It will provide clues into what features want to be a part of the game, what doesn’t need to be included, and what does or doesn’t fit. An architecture professor of mine once said, when referring to the site analysis portion of architecture that we could find out a great deal about what we should be building on the building site by simply visiting the location, and “envisioning the invisible building that wants to be built”. This is true in architecture, and it is especially true in game development and dreaming up your storyline/game setting.

Storyline may be important, but is it more important than a snazzy game setting so rich and vibrant that your tempted to stay indefinitely? Well, maybe – just as long as your 3d representation isn’t bogged down by hundreds of thousands of nasty polygons or quads. Why in the world is Artwork important, anyway?

Number 4: Artwork

I’ve heard many, many times that the artwork/3d models/characters found in your game won’t make or break things. I agree with this in that it won’t make or break the entire game, but artwork and professional looking/feeling models definitely help you out along the way. Think of any movie you’ve seen recently where the sets were absolutely incredible and stunning – one such example (although not necessarily as “recent”) are the Lord of the Rings movies. Throughout the entire set of movies, rich and diverse settings are abound, and help the immersion factor like you wouldn’t believe. Would the movie have been “broken” by less awe-inspiring scenes? Probably not, because in the case of The Lord of the Rings, there were a lot of other incredible aspects. Did the awe-inspiring scenes make the movie just that much better, and give it just that much *more* to drool over? Yes, Definitely. The same kind of effect can be seen in the game industry. I play games that have incredible graphics (EVE Online) and other that don’t (Dark Ages). I am however, addicted to both of these games for different reasons, but you can bet that the stunning environment in EVE certainly helps to inspire its large player base.

Additionally, your artwork can seriously effect the mechanics of your game. Many developers over look an incredibly important aspect of their 3d models – poly count… That’s to say, the number of triangles (or *shiver* quads) your game has. Many of the free 3d models you may find on the internet are gorgeous, but are so incredibly detailed that using them in a computer, real time environment would not be wise because you are typically trying to appeal to as many systems as possible. Console systems have the luxury of (for the most part) assuming that everyone’s running on an even playing field. Those of us developing games strictly for the computer don’t have this luxury. Suffice it to say, it’s important to find quality, low poly game content, and there’s certainly enough of it out there that there’s no excuse for you to be shoving your game full of characters that are in the 10,000 poly range (many online companies limit their avatars, or characters, to around 2500-5000 polys).

The lower your poly count on your 3d models, the smoother your environment is going to run on the widest range of computers… usually. One thing to keep in mind throughout this entire process is how your engine handles polygons, and to find out what the ideal poly range is that you want to aim for for characters and scenery. In most cases higher character polys are more acceptable, with scenery (buildings, trees, etc) being lower in poly. Another engine specific feature to keep in mind is whether or not the engine supports Level of Detail (LOD). LOD for those who may not know is a system where the engine will use very low poly versions of a model if the player is far away, swapping the model in and out for high quality versions the closer you get to it. As far as I know, almost every engine out there supports LOD, but some like Active Worlds do not.

Down the road we go with Number 3: Music! Some may say (and argue) that music for an online game should be included into the category of “Artwork” – while this may be true depending on how you look at it, music in a game is incredibly important *aside* from your 3d models and 3d characters and so it receives its own spot.

Number 3: Music

In many ways music is the heart and soul of any environment you may create in 3D – it is literally the sound trick to which events occur, players win battles to, return home to, etc etc. Music is a vital tool used to set the mood in any setting, and without it your game will feel dead and like something is missing. In many ways, music helps to express for the player the mood of a specific area, it enhances and emphasizes what you are relating to your player. Do you want them to feel sad, anxious, excited, fearful? Because hearing is one of our primary sense (seeing, smelling, etc), one could argue that it is just as powerful in linking and creating memories. It should be one of your *top goals* to make people remember your game – making your game memorable is one of the tricks in making it both enjoyable and something that people will tell their friends about. Hearing, and the music in your game is one of the more subtle qualities that plays a huge part in how an environment *feels*. Think about what your favorite movie would sound like without sound and music?

This highlights another important aspect that is a sub category of music: sound effects. While music is the key that gives your environment some feeling and life, sound effects are what make the environment tangible and feel realistic. When a player is able to knock over a trashcan and as a result they hear the clanging of aluminum and tin rolling down the concrete they’re standing on, the player has an increased feeling of interaction with the environment. Think of the effect and life the environment takes on when a player goes from walking on stone, where their shoes may be clacking, to walking on dirt or mud, where the sound would naturally change quite dramatically. making good games is about mastering small (but powerful) details that immerse your player.

Many independent developers may shy away from placing such an importance on the music played in the game because in some ways it can be hard to come by for people with limited budgets. While music can be expensive (alright, no foolin’ it IS expensive) to have custom made, you can find some great deals on royalty free music for purchase online. In many cases these tracks are professionally made, and available for flexible licenses – either for independent folks, or commercial studios. It’s not uncommon for instance, to find 5-6 tracks on an indie license for around $100. has some great deals on music and sound effects – the sound effects found there are definitely a deal. You can find the page directly by visiting their content packages. also has some great resources relating to music in games, and provides a nice directory of sites containing stock and royalty free music. Check it out here.

At a later time it would be nice to include a directory of our own of some great music resources. Look for that later. In the mean time, let us know what you think about Music and Sound Effects inside of games that you’ve played, whether you thought they were effective and important to your gaming experience… And if you don’t agree, you can let us know that, too!

Now that we’ve covered much of the meat of your game (Storyline, Artwork, Music), we’re going to delve a little bit farther into game design and really define the skeleton of your game – the backbone, the thing that ultimately keeps people coming back to your game day after day. Storyline, artwork and music are important things that will really make your game feel complete, and make it less likely that people will stand in your local village, and look around wondering “What’s missing?” But ultimately when it comes to the development of your game, we’re now getting into what really matters. That brings us to today’s post…

Number 2: Game Flow

When it comes to game design in today’s world there are really three primary types of flow that you game can follow. What exactly is game flow? The game flow, or structure of your game, is how players interact with it and storyline events, quests, missions, etc. It determines whether players can branch out and make the game what they want it to be, or if they’re locked onto a track that guides them into their pitfalls and excitement. Appropriately the three types of flow are as follows: Sand box, Roller-coaster, and a hybrid mix of the two. In many cases the way in which your game engages people, and how it forces them to interact with the environment and progress in the game will determine the types of players you attract to your game.

The most “traditional” game play style, or rather the most frequently used in the past has been that of the “Roller-coaster”. This type of game play is just as the name implies – users begin the game (get on the ride) and are carefully lead through the build up, the climax of storyline, pitfalls, exciting twists and turns, and ultimately the game ends with a rush of excitement. This could also be equated with the experience reading a book gives where there is a definite beginning and a definite ending of things. Many RPGs out there fall into this category, where your goals in the game are explicitly defined (conquer the evil demons of the sea and save the pretty girl) and while these games are a lot of fun, in some ways this system doesn’t always work as well in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s) where you have dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people interacting with one another. This isn’t to say that there aren’t MMOs that pull it off (Guild Wars specifically comes to mind), and this isn’t to say that MMORPG’s that go the route of the Roller-Coaster aren’t wildly fun (as Guild Wars is). This IS to say that in more recent years people have begun to favor a newer breed of game where the options appear limitless, and if instead of rescuing that pretty girl from the evil demons of the sea, you want to go and be an innocent farmer… more power to you!

Enter the “Sandbox” games. In more recent years there has been a big push to these sandbox’s where people can do what they’d like. Similar to roller-coaster games, the name is synonymous with it’s real life counter part, the sandbox. The idea is that upon entering the game, if you decide to ignore the over arching and present storyline (remember our pretty girl), that you can do just that without any significant consequences. This type of game play is sometimes said to appeal primarily to hardcore style gamers, although I’m not sure I fully buy into that philosophy. Often times I’ve found many casual players in sandbox type games who simply enjoy socializing with one another, mining together, exploring, etc, without all the insane time commitment of pursuing the major storyline events. In many of these games political and religious systems can be found, as well as a variety of job occupations. From what I’ve seen however, these games tend to be far more time intensive than roller-coaster games, simply because of the amount of time you need to pour into your character to forge your own path (and be successful at it). While some many not agree with me here, I would say EVE Online is definitely classifiable as a sandbox, as a majority of EVEs content, gameplay, and activities are created and inspired by the players themselves. GTA3 is also considered by many to be a sandbox game. That in itself is an important note: in sandboxes you will normally find a wealth of systems run by the players themselves, like guilds and factions – usually there is also an economy in game that is facilitated totally by players selling their personally made goods.

Finally, very recently we’ve hit a time when some people are discussing ways to make what you could call a mix between sandbox and roller-coaster games. I have yet to come across a good example of how this has been done (or how someone is working on one), I’ve only heard slight mention of it here and there. From what I gather though, there would be a few central over arching storylines taking place at one time, giving users their choice of how to proceed, and along the way providing ample opportunity for players to branch off onto their own paths, while still allowing them to come back to the big storyline. Some may again classify this primarily as sandbox, but I would argue that if at any time there is a great deal of direction coming from quests, storylines and developer driven content, that you begin to get more into roller-coaster elements. If anyone has run into what you’d consider to be a good example of a sandbox roller-coaster hybrid, please let me know! If you’ve ever read one of those “Choose your own ending” style books that plagued elementary and middle schools, you’ll understand what a sandbox roller-coaster hybrid might be like. While the player has choices (perhaps many, many choices!), things are still ultimately “guided” by an over all storyline, while leaving room for player created content. At the end of the day though, all of that is easier said than done.

Ultimately, deciding on what game system you use, or “Game Flow” method you use is going to be vital in developing your game. Like storyline, it will give you direction and more easily help you to make decisions about whether or not a specific feature would fit into your game. Not only will it help you to make decisions, but as a result it will help to shape your game. Direction and determination are absolutely mandatory in game development, and deciding on a Game Flow will at least help you in the direction department ;)

We’ve covered some incredibly important aspects of your gaming environment – from visual stimulus, and the sounds that pull your travelers deeper into your game, to the stories that inspire and the game mechanics that help shape your players’ characters. However, at the end of the day there is one aspect that will bring everything home and determine whether or not your game is bursting with eager players, or an emptied ghost town.

Number 1: Activities, baby!

While friends within games come and go, quests are released and beaten, items are unveiled and later trumped – at the end of the day the gaming community is not unlike society at large; we are a disposable group of people. We love to love the hottest items, spells, houses, quests, but eventually they become something of yesterday and cease to draw as much excitement from the people who have been hanging around your game for a while. Many games falter because they fail to recognize that new content is a must, even if the content you already have is incredible. The typical gamer can crunch through your average game in less than a month and if you’re planning to release a game that has a monthly subscription, or the need to retain players for an extended amount of time, that’s bad news for you. Ultimately the solution to “What next?” and “Why are people leaving?” is to imbue your game and all of its nooks and crannies with valuable content and *things to do*. It is from this area that it seems most of the discontent for games comes from which means that it is not only imperative to have plenty of activities in the game when it first releases, but to follow up on those activities with new things to explore, find, and participate in in the following months and years of the games life span.

Not only does providing and planning activities in the beginning stages of your game design help create a game that will be fun to play, but it may also help to inspire other areas of your development as well. Events can inspire your storyline, and your storyline can help to give you ideas of activities and new plot lines, for example. In many ways this aspect of your game is what will help to build and foster the social community within your game, which is ultimately what ties people to specific games: the friends and community that would be left behind if they were to leave.

Ideally, there are a whole host of event and activity types you can create within your game. Some of them are global style events that involve almost everyone active in the environment at the time. Examples of such events would be those relating to real world holidays like Christmas, Halloween, etc. More often than not those are time periods in games where if there is nothing new going on, your game will lose out against real life in the excitement category. People will choose to spend time doing things other than playing your game, if this is the case. Now, while we at TGS appreciate family time and all, this is bad news for you. Create global events that match up to real life events that will make being inside your environment during this time fun, exciting, and provide the extra bit of holiday spirit for your players. There are also events that are recurring, such as player run elections and hunting parties that give your players something to do year round. Optimize these activities and make them readily available to players so that these are things they can easily take part in and enjoy.