From Cocktail Napkin to Complete

As a boy, I loved the “bookcase” games of the once great Avalon Hill game company. Playing games like The Guns of August, Rise and Decline of the Third Reich and Luftwaffe with my cousin are some of my favorite geek memories.

A game I particularly liked was Source of the Nile, a game that put you in the role of a 19th century explorer leading an expedition into the heart of the dark continent. It featured a map of Africa that, aside from costal areas, was unexplored. When your expedtion entered an unexplored hex, its contents, including terrain, natives and flora/fauna, would be procedurally generated via card draws and die rolls. The goal was to make your way across Africa, making as many discoveries as possible and hopefully finding, you guessed it, the source of the Nile.

The concept was cool and the game play was fun and it seemed ripe for a port. I immediately thought of doing it as roguelike. I’d built a few (ok, half built) in the past, mainly using various flavors of libtcod and it seemed like a natural fit for the game. When I stumbled on the rot.js project, I knew I’d found the right framework.

In a way, this is not a natural choice… javascript is my least favorite technology, even more than regular expressions, and I say this as a guy who worked as a MUMPS developer. When I saw the book Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja, I remarked that “The first secret is to not use JavaScript”. But as much as I hate to admit it, javascript has come a long way since I last had to seriously deal with it back in the day. At work, there are ominous conversations about node, backbone and angular and the host of other nightmarish javascript frameworks lurking around out there and it seems that what was barely ready for prime time in 2003 is now a force that I will have to reckon with.

What better way to beard the lion in his den than to write a game with my least favorite language ever. I’ll have a pretty great framework in rot.js to help along the way, so I can concentrate on making a game and not having to re-invent all the wheels it takes to get a game from cocktail napkin to complete.

We’ll see…

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