DarkBasic – 3D GameMaker review

Build your own 3D games
Photo of DarkBasic – 3D GameMaker

Have you ever played a computer game and thought “This is rubbish. I could do much better than this (if I could program, draw, write music, etc.)”? So have we, but somehow we’ve never really had the chance. Not since the days of the BBC Micro, anyway. Today’s games are so vast that you need a multitude of skilled people – designers, programmers, artists, musicians, and so on – just to create a relatively simple shoot-em-up.

This is where The 3D GameMaker comes in. Based on the DarkBasic game programming language (don’t panic, you never see any of the code), it lets you create 3D games simply by picking the elements you’re interested in and putting them all together. The resulting game can be packaged up as a single executable file and run on any machine with DirectX 7 or later installed.

If that sounds complicated, it’s not. The software has a really simple interface that guides you through each stage. You start by selecting a scene (i.e. the general background and level layout) from a wide range of different ones. These, along with the other game elements, are gathered under sections that include Shooter, Horror, War, Space, Driving, Jungle, Cartoon, and Silly. You can download more from the Web or create your own using the built-in editor.

After selecting the scene, you can then choose the player character, weaponry, the enemies (and their weaponry), obstacles, the end of level boss, game power-ups (points and health) and more. You can also change the sound effects associated with players, vehicles and weaponry and change their skin bitmaps too. The background music can be changed too – you just plug in your own MP3 files.

There’s no problem mixing and matching themes, either, so you can use an alien backdrop with horror characters, space weaponry and an end-of-level cartoon rabbit (“the teeth, the teeth!”). Well, it worked for us.

The ‘basic’ mode gives you these simple options, making it easy to get to grips with the software. But in the ‘standard’ game editor you can also set the game’s objectives, change the screen layout, create 2-player games and set the difficulty level. You can also adjust fogging and depth levels, select the effects of bullets and obstacles and do lots of other tweaking. Once it’s all finished you can export it as a stand-alone program, save it for future use or just wipe it all and start again.

Alternatively, just let the software do its own thing, choosing random elements from each section and automatically plugging them together. The results are generally entertaining and a good starting point for your own ideas.

Company: DarkBasic

Contact: 01889 570 156

This is a fun way to express a bit of gaming creativity. Some demo games are included and they're OK, but not professional quality. With a bit of imagination you should be able to do better yourself, but don't expect to be able to create the next Quake. The physical limitations of the game engine - edge detection, collision detection, movement physics, etc. - just won't let you do that. But the price is good and what you get will be enough to hold your interest for a fair time.