Editor's nook...


  Last week, I chatted briefly with Allen Halsted, one of the programmers at Digital Tome. He said he had been working on the AI (Artificial Intelligence) for Siege of Avalon. I persuaded him to take a break and give me an overview of game programming.

  Now, I suppose this might be tiresome to some of you, but I didn't know anything about game programming. Siege of Avalon, I learned, is probably the first commercial retail game to be completely written using Delphi.

  Maybe that seems strange because Delphi is mostly linked to database applications. Corporate businesses use Delphi, but game companies have recently preferred the object-oriented programming language, C++. Bjarne Stroustrup at Bell Labs developed C++ and it's been a great programming language for games.

  When Digital Tome started, the company decided to go with Delphi. Delphi was a viable choice because it now has about the same power as C++ where it counts for this project. It's just that few others ever harnessed that power for commercial games.

  Delphi's gone through its share of upgrades. In 1983, Anders Hejlsberg created Turbo Pascal. Borland, now called Inprise, took it and worked on a Visual Windows Component expansion of it under the code name "Delphi." That eventually became its official name.

  Delphi isn't just a developer's tool or a computer programming language. It's a full RAD or Rapid Application Development programming environment. Delphi can handle a lot of the time-consuming and mind-numbing tasks of normal Windows development, thus allowing easier drag-and-drop visual programming, quicker creation and debugging, and ultimately, a faster delivery to market of true 32-bit optimized applications.

  Plus, since Delphi has a basis in Pascal, it's easier to follow along and has a more error resistant nature, which can make long-term maintenance easier. Computer programming languages like Pascal and BASIC were teaching languages so they had to be easily understandable to students. C, on the other hand, was designed for minimal human typing, so it relies on a more cryptic and less self-evident nomenclature.

  I'm not trying to say any particular way is intrinsically better. It really depends on the needs of the company. If you think about Digital Tome's schedule when Siege or Pillars start up, these chapters have to be churned out and released fairly quickly. Compare that to the two or three-year schedule of some companies. It's clear that when you have different priorities, you might want to break from the pack.

  OK, thanx to Allen Halsted for the enlightening discussion. I appreciate it.

Til next time,

listening to Difference Engine

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