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Development Model


Game consoles are popular because they are specialized for the purpose of video games, while being general enough that any type of game effect can be programmed. Thus, the task of creating a game console is twofold; one task is to perform enough of the labor of running and managing a game that the console user derives some benefit from the console, and the other is to keep from restricing the game programmer sufficiently that he/she can program any desired game or effect. Without both of these two goals being met, a game console is very weak indeed; a console that could only run space shoot-em-ups is destined to failure as much as a console without standard controller ports. In any case, a balance must be struct between lean simplicity and structure, which both aids and guides the game programmer when producing a game for one's console.

If there were no benefit to be derived by the game programmer from having a console, then consoles would have faded from existence, in reality, the opposite is true; consoles are a booming market (just look at PSX and Dreamcast sales). This boom, incidentally carries over to something similar in the realm of PC games, the 3D Engine. There is a lot of talk about 3D Engines nowadays, but it wasn't always the case. It seems only yesteryear that every game company was creating its own highly optimized 3D engine for games it created at high expense and with much leaked secrecy. Like the hard game market, though, 3D engines have been generalised and sold to developers outside of the original companies. Often, the 3D engine will have a distinctive look and recognition among fans, who chomp a new releases just to see new models in their favorite engine in the same way that console owners line up in stores to get the next big game for their console system.

z* hopes to be to networked games what servlets are to web services. Perhaps a little wierd, probably a little slow, but cozy and easy to use. Just as a beginning programmer can manage to make a web service with a servlet, a beginning programmer should be able to create a game with z*. This also means that good programmers can be highly productive with it, and will probably use it for mid-level 3D systems. Just as postscript describes a page better than HTML, z* is not the end-all of 3D gaming. We are hoping that it becomes the universal first-step in 3D gaming, and in most cases, the last step, too.

Overall, we hope to benefit the open source community by helping to reduce the barriers to entry for scripters and young programmers who have the energy and creativity to produce top quality game stories, artwork etc. These young programmers are often discouraged by the difficulty in just "getting it on the screen" that so many of us have faced in the past. We will never replace top quality, cutting edge 3d and game programming, but we can hopefully provide a good tool for mid-level game development, and especially, take advantage of the creative talent that's running around text MUDs and other such multiplayer games, by making multiplayer programming trivial.