This is part 2 of an ongoing series.
Before Stunts (if I recall correctly), I had spent a lot of time on a video game whose very purpose was creating, not circuits or maps but animated movies: Cartooners. The game offered you a handful of backgrounds (from a park to the surface of the Moon), some props and a few animal characters, all pictured above. Each character had a handful of animations such as walking or jumping, and with some clever “editing” you could make a character dance or kick a ball. See for instance this movie I found on YouTube.
Another “game” I remember from my 486 era was the aptly titled 3D Construction Kit II. This was more of a meta-game, as it purpose was to create 3D videogames – first-person
shooters adventures. It gave you a set of basic building blocks, but also a gallery of predefined objects, from chairs to houses. You could tie actions to different objects: push this buttont and a door opens, shoot that coconut and it falls to the ground. Pretty cool stuff, but it required some skill to do these things.
The next in this series wasn’t so nice: the ground-breaking (and bone-breaking) Doom. Sure, there were Wolfenstein 3D, Ultima Underground and many more before, but Doom was the one that pushed the new genre to new heights and caught the eyes of gamers (and game developers, as soon there was a flood of so-called “Doom clones“). In contrast with the games I’ve talked about so far, Doom didn’t include a level editor, but due to it’s popularity people everywhere hacked the hell of it, giving rise to a list of tools for tweaking or creating the WAD files that contained the game data. Beyond editing maps (I can’t remember which one I used, but DCK sound familiar), there were a lot of total conversions that transformed Doom in a completely different game. Even today there are fan-made games that rely on modified versions of the original Doom engine, such as this cute Sonic platform game.
I wasn’t very competent with FPSs back then, so I took shelter on a map editor and built corridor after corridor, and
trying failing to get my friends to play my creations. Like 3D Construction Kit, Doom required real skills to produce beautiful – let alone playable – levels. Crap abounded in the sea of user created levels (not mine, I stayed on my pond ;), but I guess many good game designers first cut their teeth while trying balance open spaces and hordes of blood-thirsty monsters.