Making the most of… PowerPoint

A good piece of advice for anyone out there who’s trying to do the same thing we are, is to always make the most of what’s put in front of you. It sounds obvious, but just because you can’t program C++ or you think DirectX is a science fiction TV series, doesn’t mean you can’t make something you can be proud of. It’s far too easy to give up before you’ve begun.

Back in the day, when our combined knowledge of programming consisted of something done a long time ago on ZX Spectrum, the thing we were making the most of, was PowerPoint. We were big fans of Myst and Riven, which had come out for the Sega Saturn a year or two earlier. Now to most people, PowerPoint doesn’t exactly connect with the world of games development, unless you’re thinking of those high powered meetings where men in suits try to convince other men in t-shirts that making a game for their latest blockbuster movie is a really good idea…

However, fortunately for us, one young lad saw another use altogether. He realised that a PowerPoint presentation wasn’t a million miles away from a point and click adventure game, like Myst, and once he found out you could save a presentation as an exe… well, he was half way there. I mean, think about it, isn’t it obvious? Put some pictures in a slideshow with buttons for left and right and you can be walking around anywhere you like in no time. How long would it take someone to make something that could do that with any amount of programming knowledge? The fundamentals are already there for you.

Admittedly, we never actually finished a game using PowerPoint, we always moved on to something else before we really got going, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be done. I’d say that even now, it’s not only distinctly possible, but it wouldn’t be half bad either. Some of our versions included in-game video to show moving doors and the like, as well as audio. We’d even got as far as implementing a few puzzles to give the player something to think about.

What makes a game good isn’t all about the fancy effects you can put in anyway. A gripping storyline can draw you through anything, even if the surroundings are a bit low res and there’s no ‘jump’ button. Can’t exactly remember if we’d worked out a way to save your progress though, but then who needs that anyway? I’m pretty sure there would also have been issues with lag when there was a lot on screen and I’ve no idea how it would’ve coped when the levels got really big, but should you really be thinking that big when you’re using PowerPoint as game engine for goodness sake?

Yep, if we’d had the time and the inclination to finish development, we’d have had a PowerPoint based version of Hydris that would have worked, and we’d have been bloody happy with it too.

So, there you go, however ridiculous something might sound, it’s usually worth having a proper look at. You never know where it might lead…


    There were days before power point you know, It actually started on a floppy disk with pictures and a notepad file telling you what picture to look at next, Viz may still have it.

    Then Access database, that one was alot better, still no power point though.

  • Yeah I know, but I was only interested when it was PowerPoint and it’s not like you can even remember how the Access one worked now is it? :-p

  • I remember when you clicked something that played an audio file, it opened up in media player and you had to listen to it there. Yeah fair point it wasn’t much cop.

  • Feel free to write an article about it by the way, I’d be blinking interested to hear how it would’ve worked :-)

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