Game Design At 8: Alien Black Hole

By John Walker on July 20th, 2010 at 12:00 am.

I drew a good cartoon of a duck when I was eight.

Thanks to Phill for pointing us toward Alien Black Hole. It’s the work, so the website claims, of an 8 year old called Ross, who using Game Maker published it on his site, Thunder And Lightning Games. Now, we were once 8 year olds, and we remember we spent most of that year laughing at farts, falling out of trees and running away from girls. (Please note the obvious joke being omitted here.) We’re a little suspicious. Because despite its extremely simplistic appearance, it quickly reveals itself to be a rather good idea. 8 year olds don’t have good ideas, do they? The enemies that follow your ship around, chasing you as you aim for the exits, also destroy the level’s walls when they get near. Soon those walls are in your way, so you’re going to need the pursuing enemy’s help. Smart, eh? It’s a very little download, you can get it from here.

Ross is asking for donations to fund his purchase of a new laptop, so he can make more games. And there’s a unique way of leaving feedback for the game:

“If you donate £5 or more I will send you the full version of Alien Black Hole with extra levels! If you want to say what you think you can email my dad.”

It’s a tough game, as it happens. One mistake (and often that mistake can be Game Maker’s, with its dodgy default controls), and it’s back to the very start.

I really hope this is for real. And apologies for posting this at what will definitely be after Ross’s bedtime.

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18 Comments »

  1. colinmarc says:

    12 would’ve been more believable…

  2. Mo says:

    I started writing games at 10 using Klik & Play, one of the precursors to Game Maker. Mind you, I wrote a dodgy Arkanoid clone for my Mum. Ross seems to have topped my efforts and two years earlier to boot!

    Good job Ross! :)

  3. RobF says:

    I write all my stuff with my (now) 6 year old. It’s how War Twat ended up with yellow diggers and handbags as enemies :D

    He’s also the best tester one could ask for. ‘Course, when you let him loose with him free to tell me everything he wants in there, you end up with this:

    http://www.glorioustrainwrecks.com/node/790

    Kids are ace!

    • jeremypeel says:

      That Darlek game is hilarious fun, RobF; I’ve never thought of developers as hero dads but your kid must absolutely love watching you make games out of their flights of fancy.

      More power to you!

    • DMcCool says:

      “Developers as hero dads” is actually a really nice way of looking at what drives a lot of game developing, I bet. Also, first to request an RPS post on this game. Preferably a wanky one posturing on the significance of reimagining familiar game concepts or scienarios with new player-roles.

  4. Faxmachinen says:

    Heck yeah, I was doing this stuff as an 8-year-old. Klik & Play on a 486 with Windows 3.11. Too bad the internet was hardly even invented yet. We bought fricken’ game demos on floppy disks for 15$.
    My creations are long lost now, but from what I remember, they were awesome. I remeber getting about 60 homing missiles on screen at once before the whole 8MB of RAM was depleted.

  5. Pesforozo says:

    Interesting concept, somewhat let down by the fact that you can just fly over the red blocks.

    Without cheating though, the difficultly does suitably ramp up, and it’s very impressive if indeed conjured from the tiny hands of an 8 year old.

  6. Max says:

    The game broke halfway through so I could fly through the red blocks and the black holes didn’t destroy them. But it is a neat idea. It’s a good basis for a puzzle game.

  7. Denilson says:

    I also remember Klik & Play, and loved to make games with it. The year probably was 1996, I was about 11~12 years old, with 486 PC running Windows 3.11 and an incredible amount of 16MB of RAM. I would only get Internet access a year or two later, and then I started to find all those nice other games people have made using the K&P, CnC, TGF, MMF…

  8. TeeJay says:

    LiL Poison is the Youngest Pro Gamer in the World! He started video gaming at the age of two years old!

    http://lilpoison.com/biography.html

  9. Xercies says:

    Ah so many remember Klick and Play…I used to create loads of games as a young un in that program…really great for someone young. Making lots of(kind of crappy) platformers. Ah those were the days. Trying to make an RPG in it…wasn’t so successful.

  10. Lambchops says:

    I remember Klik and Play. I was rubbish at it and got bored. This is when I discovered I wasn’t particularly creative!

  11. Mr. Versipellis says:

    I was modding morrowind at 11, I think… Maybe 10? I actually made some okay stuff I think, I did house mods and quests, all of it porperly scripted. I even made Orzamammar at one point – that’s the Orc capital city, it was awesome…

  12. Xocrates says:

    Hey! I released a Game Maker game yesterday and no-one made a post on me :(

    That’s Ageism that is!

  13. CMaster says:

    Indeed. I was also making games at around about that age with Klik and Play.
    If you really want, you can download some of them by clicking on my name link.

    (Not to say that this game isn’t good, haven’t looked. Just to agree with other posters saying 8 year olds making competent games isn’t unimaginable)

    (Let’s see if this ends up in the right article this time)

  14. Durns says:

    Fantastic alt-text John – made me giggle.

  15. Bru says:

    Back when I was 8 years old, during the heady days of the 80s when the 386 was the hot new thing, I used to sit in the back of the class with my friend, drawing elaborate platformer games that we wanted to code. Nothing came of it because neither of us had a computer, and we were only allowed a half hour a week on the school computers, when it wasn’t a class related assignment. And of course, no encouragement from either of our parents.

    Really, I’m glad to see this kid get help and encouragement from his dad. Sure, it’s only game maker now, but if it lights a real fire under him, maybe 20 years from now he’ll become one of the greats in the video game industry.

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