Saturday, February 8, 2014

Excel Games and inspiration

Being a fan of Microsoft Excel and video games, I was in disbelief when I once saw an article linking to a YouTube video about a Super Mario clone being created in Excel. And yet it is real as you can see on the following video:

When you're not a Excel programmer, you'll probably just think: "This is cool." or "Yay! More ways to procrastinate at work!".

But as a developer, I find it absolutely awesome. Here's a technical analysis of the great things I see in there:

1) Mario is animated. His feet and arms move relative to his body as he walks. When he grabs a mushroom, his body does not instantaneously become big, but it progressively extends. Enemies are also animated, as are mushrooms, flowers, coins, etc.

2) Mario is subject to gravity and stands on platforms. Moving a character horizontally is easy. But for the character to be able to move around, be blocked when walking into a wall, or standing on platforms, it takes some coding. Try and figure out how YOU would code this!

3) There is music. And not just that! The music changes with the context. When Mario grabs a star and becomes invincible, the music is instantaneously changed to the invincibility music. Handling music is not that easy in Excel, or maybe I just haven't spent enough time programming with music. Great stuff!

4) There are other sounds. As if managing music was not enough, some game sounds (like jumping on an enemy) will also be played on top of the music. I have to wrap my head around this and figure out how he did it!

5) It manages keyboard input. OK, this is probably not that hard to do, but it requires attention to detail.

6) There are blocks of many natures. Jump under a mushroom block and it will give the effect of producing a mushroom. Press "down" when standing on a pipe and you access another level. Jump on the flag and you end the level. Jump under a breakable block and it disappears.

7) It has the levels stored somewhere and it loads them in the main window.

All in all, it may not be that big of a project, though I am clueless about the sound aspect of things... but it is a nice accomplishment that requires good skill.

From the author's page, I followed this link to the download page, which contains other remakes of retro games like Bomberman or Qix, and I find it really inspiring. In the next few days, I'll certainly create a few copies of simple games and use them as examples of VBA programming.

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