Do It Your Bloody Self: DarkBASIC For $0

By Alec Meer on December 17th, 2009 at 7:27 pm.

Ah, DarkBASIC takes me back. Its various iterations made regular and hard-fought-for appearances on the coverdisc of the magazine I used to work for, and at the time were one of very few ways for amateur types to make a standalone videogame of their own, without having to learn coding or resort to modding. Never got around to trying it myself, but I got the impression it was pretty decent. Take a look at (and play) the kind of stuff that’s been made with it here and here. And now it’s free – ad-supported, but it’s the full Professional edition, entirely bereft of its former $70 pricetag. Presumably it’s a response to the likes of Unity and the Unreal 3 SDK going similarly free – this is one case where a crowded marketplace is only good news. Dance! Dance with joy! Or we’ll kill you!

Oh, and DarkBASIC creators the Gamer, er, Creators have another freebie…

It’s the FPS Creator, “which enables the creation of rich, engaging 3D First Person Shooter games by people with no previous programming or 3D modelling experience”, it says here. It’s not a massively advanced engine – understandable, given it needs to be accessible – but it can create stuff that’s visually on a par with the original Half-Life, or thereabouts. Creatively on a par? Well, that’s up to you. It is free, but carries a few more restrictions than DB – notably, no multiplayer creation options, and you can’t make your game standalone. Unless you pay to upgrade, anyway. Not a bad deal, though: if you do create something you’re proud of, there’s no licensing or restrictions on publishing it. Go to it. Make wonderful, twisted, free things.


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  1. Dominic White says:

    Darkbasic is probably the most overlooked of all the engines. Still, it has been used for a bunch of remarkably good commercial indie projects. The Elite-esque Evochron series are made using it, as is the RPS-featured Tank Universal. Most notably (and probably least-sold) is the System Shock-Meets-Myst shooty adventure Tecno: The Base.

  2. Tei says:

    I found “simple” languages like Basic that are easy to learn, a limiting factor wen you want to make something interesting. Programming videogames is a race for speed, so C++ could be a better vehicle.

    • Dr. Derek Doctors, DFA says:

      Generally speaking, by the time you’re trying to eke out that extra clock cycle from your rendering loop, you’ve already paid some US$250,000 for iD Tech 4 or other engine. Adding scripting on top of a native-code game engine (see: Games, Garage, and Ty, Uni-) is more than enough for the modest needs of most indie developers. Asking inexperienced game devs to use commercial C++ toolsets is like putting a drunk infant in the driver’s seat of a Ferrari Enzo in a crowded pedestrian thoroughfare: theoretically hilarious, but in practice he’s too short to reach the pedals.

    • scoopsy says:

      Programming FPS games may indeed be a race for speed, but look at something like CivIV with a large codebase in Python, or Psychonauts which was written mostly in Lua with only scaffolding and “critical” parts written in C++.

      Even in a race for speed, you really only need to optimize your bottlenecks. It’s a well known programming paradigm that 80% of runtime is spent in 20% of your code, so optimization really doesn’t make sense for the rest of your project.

    • pepper says:

      Remember, Python is mostly for the non-engine programmers. So you create a Python wrapper so that they only can acces what you want them to and not horrible break your engine into a FUBAR state(thank you for CVS/SVN).

      Although, when you have a company like DICE, not giving us any python documentation for BF2… well that’s just rude of them.

  3. Astraljokers says:

    I’m so giving this a very very hardcore try, and see what I come up with!

  4. Clovis says:

    Not sure if anybody here has tried several of the new free game-design programs, but I was wondering which of them would be best for making something like a Strategy game? I’m not really interested in 3d graphics, just something that where I can make a clicky game that plays like Sim City or Civ or something. Or, I guess flash is better for that, no? Is there some kind of free version of flash?

  5. Petethegoat says:

    I would also recommend Game Maker, but if you are interested, I would recommend Derek Yu’s excellent shmup tutorial as a better alternative to the official tutorials.

    Start here. Bear in mind that he does use code, but he still factors in absolute beginners, so no worries. :)

  6. Jazmeister says:

    I hated darkbasic when I bought it back in the day. Annoyed the crap out of me, felt like I wasted my money. Of course, I hated all life and listened to angry music. Now that I’ve matured, I cherish all life and listen to angry music.

  7. Frye says:

    I don’t really believe in this kind of game-construction-kit, the results never seem to rock my boat and i don’t think they function as a talent showcase or an educational stepping-stone either.

    You can get quite far if you spend that month or so it takes to get the most out of this sort of thing on learning a proper language instead. It really isn’t all that hard or time-consuming. Heck it was only one subject of about 10 in my school (ICT), the others having mostly to do with communication skills, business, social skills, design etc. Just don’t be terrible at math, buy a good book and get on with some high level language like Java first.

    Graphics design, on the other hand, is way more technical than I thought when i tried my hands on it and i am grateful I gave up quickly. Being a creative person just isn’t enough, you really need to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades to make proper use of the likes of Maya, 3d-studio, Poser and other tools. Apart from being a talented artist of course. So even if you aspire to become an artist, I’d sooner spend my time getting to grips with stuff like Blender (free) and just mess about with it instead of this.

    I see this sort of thing as a game and as such a nice waste of time.

    • Dominic White says:

      “I see this sort of thing as a game and as such a nice waste of time.”

      Tell that to these guys:

      Full, commercial games, sold on major sites like Gamersgate and Steam. There’s a whole bunch of commercial stuff made using Game Maker as well.

    • Weylund says:

      @Frye: I would recommend exactly the opposite. If you’ve got some ideas, find a free tool that works and do what you can. Someone who has been writing code for a long time has an excellent chance of gaining a serious grasp of a new language in a month (heck, most professional programmers do that pretty regularly) but folks who just want to try and build a game (and may just end up with a prototype that they’ll carry on through bigger and better languages or engines) should just get started.

      Spending a month trying to wrap your head around a language, hoping to gain enough skill to build or work with an advanced engine is an exercise in frustration. Hone your design skills first or you won’t know what you need when you start programming.

    • RobF says:


      We need to let more people make games. Be it in Dark Basic, Flash, Gamemaker, MMF, Construct or even Scratch it doesn’t really matter. Most people don’t really want an educational stepping stone (I know I certainly don’t) they want to make the games that sit inside their head and get them out to the world, free or commercial.

      There’s very little 2D you can’t do in Gamemaker/MMF/Construct and with the right person at the helm Dark Basic and Blitz can throw out masterful stuff (although I’m often shocked at how long DB has been around and how little of note has been made in it over the years compared to Blitz, their userbase is/was massive and it’s never quite made sense to me), stuff all that “you need to do proper programming” lark, stuff it to heck. For 90% of the games people will want to make, you don’t need to.

      There’s people out there who don’t have the slightest inclination or need to learn proper programming or if they’re like me, find it incredibly tedious beyond reasoning.

      People want games, people want to make games. That’s what it’s all about and the past few years has seen a massive surge in the tools becoming accessible to all and sundry and that’s precisely why we’re seeing more interesting and great things appearing in recent times than in quite a while. Sure, it’s countered with a 99% shit rate too, but that’s par for the course with anything and most of it is totally off peoples radar regardless.

      So aye, couldn’t disagree more really with your advice.

    • DMJ says:

      @Frye: Yes, it’s a game and a waste of time. You read RPS, so clearly a portion of your leisure time is spent in pursuits which are both a game and a waste of time – from a certain point of view.

      I’m working on a game, off and on. I’m not pursuing it seriously, but it’s entertaining me.

      I’m learning to appreciate a lot of things about the games I’m playing, and I feel a moment of honest appreciation when I see a well-executed feature in a game. By extension, it also makes me more discriminating – I have less patience for a feature botched by lazy design.

      It’s turning me from a passive consumer of gaming entertainment to someone who has at least a beginner amateur’s eye.

  8. Railick says:

    It’s to bad just having really good ideas for game mechains and what not isn’t enough to make games otherwise I’d have made a hundred by now ;P What I need to do is wrangle up a bunch of good coders and artists and convince them I have a good idea and just tell them what to do . The problem with that though is, since I have no coding knowledge, I wouldn’t really know if they could even do what I was asking of them which I could see being a problem.

  9. bhlaab says:

    I can’t talk up Multimedia Fusion 2 enough. Runs incredibly fast and smooth even on modest systems with no loading times (ie better than Game Maker and Flash by default)

    Instead of coding, it turns creation into a series of IF…THEN logical statements (more or less “coding” without the seemingly arbitrary need to learn a second language) and even though it comes with pre-made movement etc engines you can build your own from scratch.

    And it supports user-made plugin objects. For example, even though MMF is strictly 2D-only someone has just come out with a surprisingly advanced Wolf3D-style raycasting plugin.

    • Jon says:

      Altough i used TGF and Klick&Play as a kid and loved them, I can’t really defend Clickteams products any more.
      TGF2/MMF2 is insulting, it’s like they didn’t even try to improve them over previous versions.

  10. Sam Crisp says:

    What about Scirra Construct? I’ve only played around briefly with it but it seems like a cool open source MMF-style game maker. Very, very buggy I found, though.

  11. Sam Crisp says:

    bhlaab: What about Scirra Construct? I’ve only played around briefly with it but it seems like a cool open source MMF-style game maker. Very, very buggy I found, though.

    • bhlaab says:

      Never really tried it. Interface was really confusing compared to MMF and it is way too buggy and crash-prone to be much good.
      Plus the one major leg up it has, GPU Acceleration, is coming to mmf soon enough (there’s a beta version out)

    • Jon says:

      It isn’t really that buggy anymore and I personally find the interface much more logical than MMF or Gamemaker.

  12. Dylan McCall says:

    Tecno: The Base is ALSO done in Blitz3D. (Which, from my personal experience, was a great product, although at this point very dated. Its successor – the unfortunately named BlitzMax – is fantastic).

    Evocron, on the other hand, does look DarkBasic-ish :)

  13. Dylan McCall says:

    Tecno: The Base is ALSO done in Blitz3D. (Which, from my personal experience, was a great product, although at this point very dated. Its successor – the unfortunately named BlitzMax – is fantastic).

    Evochron, on the other hand, does look DarkBasic-ish :)

  14. Madjack says:

    Nice to see Tank Universal getting a mention ;-)

    I did check out DB early in the day (back around 2001 I think), but moved on to Blitz3d as it seemed more stable and fundamentally better thought out. Haven’t checked it out again recently though.

  15. Paul says:

    I agree with Frye. I’ve played around with DB a little, and I wasn’t impressed. It reminded me of VB, and if someone is going to take the time to learn Darkbasic then why don’t they actually learn a real language that is useful on a resume and has real application somewhere? Hell, if they’re not all that skilled then they can still learn VB, which is no harder than Darkbasic and the knowledge of which could still be useful outside of hobby programming.

    And yes, you can point out a handful of examples where someone has done X with Darkbasic, but those guys are not the types of people who had little or no programming skill, suddenly decided they wanted to write a game, picked up Darkbasic and pounded away. I’ll bet you that the shining examples of how to use Darkbasic were written by guys who were adept in other technologies, too.

    That’s the problem with Gamemakers as a whole. If a Gamemaker is easy enough for any scrub to learn, use, and write their game from start to finish in a reasonable amount of time, then the games won’t be very good. If one is complex and deep, then the aspiring game developer either won’t be able to learn it well enough to recognize their vision, or could better invest their time learning something else.

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