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April 27, 2011 / jwaxo

Klik ‘n’ Play I (Creation Rights)

I’ve always had a skill for poorly-made, pixelated graphics.

Sorry about the delay on this post; I was moving all weekend and for the past two days and only now have extra time that isn’t being spent eating ice cream and sinking, exhausted, into the couch.

I’m not certain how many people can say that game demos have changed their lives, but they definitely changed mine. Without game demos, I wouldn’t have gotten so interested in creating video games, and I wouldn’t have then studied 3D animation, and I wouldn’t have attended the university I attended for their virtual technology degree, and wouldn’t have gained the skills necessary for my current career. All because of one specific demo.

Probably the best places to find game demos back in the day were on the discs of the Sim games (closely followed by MECC, creators of the awesome Oregon Trail). Not The Sims, which probably deserves its own article, but the original Sim games (which you never really see anymore): SimTower, SimAnt, and, most especially, SimCity 2000. Expect a full post on SC2K some day; there’s far too much to say about it here. The important thing about SC2K, and what pertains to it here, was the demos that it came with.

The demos that specifically came with SC2K are lost to time, unless you own a copy of the original disk, which I do not. There was a video of SimTown, which I watched many times over, and a point-and-click adventure based off of Greek myths that had an annoyingly timed first mission.

The most important of these demos, though, was Klik ‘n’ Play.

What was Klik ‘n’ Play? Simply, it was the game that created more games. Utilizing a very simple ” if-then” spreadsheet, you could program any number of actions and reactions to objects that you would place onto a field, and then storyboard different fields together.

THE AMAZING POWER OF THE CONSEQUENCE TABLE.

You could draw anything you wanted in a 32 color system as an object, and animate anything with as many frames as you wanted, tying the animations to different directions or actions or whatever you wanted. The collision system was a little wonky, sure, but you could do transparency and ladders and racecars and things! It was definitely the most robust game-creation system I had ever seen.

My first experience with programming, you see, had started in third grade, when I discovered a book called “Computer Jokes”. It wasn’t really that funny, asking such questions as “What does a computer eat for a snack?”, but every joke was somehow tied in with a list of commands, all of them numbered in a multiple of ten. After using our tenuous internet connection to discover that I could produce this strange magic in a program called QBASIC, and QBASIC came with my computer, I was soon producing these computer jokes myself.

Well, at least the ones that were compatible between GBASIC and QBASIC, which was about 50%. But that extremely misleading book taught me an important lesson: I could replicate those text adventures that sometimes came with Softdisk Monthly! If I could do that, what other games could I make?

They eat computer chips! Ha ha! CLASSIC.

When my hands were done being cramped from all of the typing, and I was a sage fourth-grader, I happened across the demo for Klik ‘n’ Play and realized exactly what it could do, where I could go with it. Those silly drawings I made could become realities! If only this stupid thing wasn’t a demo that prevented saving and gave me access to the full tools and let me make more than three screens.

Maybe by that point it was already an old game (probably, as the game was out in 1994 and I was in fourth grade in 1998), but I could not find Klik ‘n’ Play anywhere. And boy, did I search. My parents were dragged everywhere in search of this game that would at last let me experience my dream, or at least the dream that was attainable, since the ability to turn into a tiger was unrealistic even by fourth-grader standards, and I plan on talking about Animorphs at a later date, anyway.

At one point we were in North Dakota, visited my dad’s side of the family, and I forced my parents to accompany me into the mall where I politely asked the lady there if they had it. By a miracle, she thought she did, and had overheard her son talking about it earlier! Ecstatically I waited as she checked the computer system, and wasn’t even disappointed when she didn’t find anything. After all, I was on the right track! She wrote down a website, probably to my parents’ consternation, and I tucked the piece of paper into my pocket safely.

When we at last got home across two states, I typed it in.

Wow. A Guns ‘N’ Roses fansite.

I eventually found it on some random website, with one in-stock. It was my first purchase on the internet, and I had to use my mom’s credit card to get it. It took four weeks to ship, and I had almost given up hope. But then it arrived, undamaged box and nice, large manual et all.

There was a warning on the first few pages of the manual: “Please contact ClickTeam about acquiring the rights to distribute blah blah blah…” I didn’t care. I just wanted to make games, not sell or distribute them. Why should I care? After all, a fourth-grade entrepreneur would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

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