Papers 06 May 2003 06:00:46

But Can You Make Pong?

So you want to begin making games, maybe you already started on one, maybe you and a few friends decided to try being a studio. Think you got what it takes? Of course you do, or at least you can learn fast enough during the process. I think you are wrong, or at least misinformed. Making games takes experience, discipline, dedication, know-how, and a driving idea and/or boss.How can you get that experience and discipline needed to tackle any game for years to come? I believe I have the perfect solution. Some may laugh, others may doubt, but here it is: Make Pong.

This is where you go “Eeewww…nono, we want 3D, massive worlds, immersive sound, latest-and-greatest features!” But seriously, why not try to see if you can do Pong? Such a simple game can’t take more than a day to make; maybe two days if you only work on it in your spare time – more like a month, I say. You may even use 3D and immersive sound.

Are you up for the challenge?

Pong (nostalgic)

Bring It On!
Pong. 2 pads and a ball. 2D playing field, player pads on the left and right side, boundaries on the upper and lower edges, with the ball bouncing around inside. Nothing fancy, nothing revolutionary, but it has everything modern games have.

The Rundown
Core Components
Game Logic
Controller Input
User Interface
Single-Player Mode
Computer AI
Multi-Player Mode
Peer-2-Peer and/or Server-Client
Multiple/Shared Input Devices

Oh my, suddenly the innocent Pong looks quite complicated. Allow me to elaborate…

Core Components: Game Logic
The game logic is the basic ruleset. We have 2 players, meaning one will win and one will lose. Points are gained by shooting the ball beyond the opponents pad. A simple rule such as “first to reach 10 points wins” will do. If you want to further complicate the game you can add (moving) obstables to the playing field, or perhaps bonuses.

Core Components: Graphics
Good old 2D will be more than adequate, yet it won’t hurt to render the playing field in 3D just to get to know 3D graphics APIs. Could also have fancy particle effects follow the ball.

Core Components: Sound
Play me a fanfare when I win and a *doink* when the ball bounces. This is probably the part most would say can be skipped. I admit it’s a small part of Pong, but whaf if I would like to have the *doink* play on my left speaker when it bounces on the left side of the screen?

Core Components: Controller Input
Joystick, mouse, or keyboard? All three at once? One thing is for sure, this is the easy part. You only need to worry about one axis with a joystick or the mouse, and two buttons with the keyboard. The challenge here is to find a good balance between movement in hand and movement on screen.

Core Components: Physics
You’ll need to deal with velocity in 2 dimensions, and physics regarding bouncing. 2D velocity can be expressed using vectors. Bouncing can seem trivial at first, but to make the game fun you could have the ball bounce differently on the edges of the pad as opposed to a clean bounce on the middle. The ball could also speed up more and more as the game progresses.

Core Components: User Interface
The UI has strong ties to Graphics and Controller Input, alongside a weaker tie to Sound. It’s all about showing the menu, presenting the player with his current score, having text input fields for high-score rankings, so on so forth…not the most exciting part, but must be done. A game is not finished until it has a proper UI!

Single-Player Mode: Computer AI
One could argue how much AI applies to Pong. However, the computer player should be a variable opponent; meaning difficulty levels. An easy computer could just move the pad to where the ball is right now, while a smarter computer would attempt to predict where the ball will be. Further subdivions of difficulty levels could affect the speed at which the computer moves the pad. The ultimate computer AI will adjust itself to always be a challenge throughout the game.

Multi-Player Mode: Peer-2-Peer and/or Server-Client
A good chance to use sockets, make up for lag, and learning what to actually send over a remote connection. The old issue of whether to use P2P or Client/Server also shows up, alongside how to combat cheating.

Multi-Player Mode: Multiple/Shared Input Devices
Two players on one computer. You probably know what Multiple Input Devices are from console fighting games. On a PC it’s hardly fair for one to have the mouse and another to use the keyboard. Thus you might want to implement Shared Input Devices, in this case sharing the keyboard.

End Note
Well, there it is. The good old game Pong can be quite a challenge, and certainly not something you finish in a day or two. And this is exactly the reason I believe Pong is the perfect game to test your skills as an all-round developer and/or studio. It’s not overly ambitious, yet it requires a good amount of discipline. Look at it this way: If you can’t finish a simple game of Pong, do you truly think you are ready for the big games?

Pong (modern)

12 Responses to “But Can You Make Pong?”

  1. on 30 Apr 2007 at 22:05:20 1. said …

    XPong – My first XNA endeavor…

  2. on 12 Jun 2007 at 06:43:01 2.Dan H said …

    I liked the article, it’s a great reality check for programmers looking to get into games. I followed a Google link here to get some ideas for Pong AI for a clone I’m putting together right now, and as much as I agree with most of your points, I think you’re waaaay off base on one point- it doesn’t take a damn month to make Pong. If you’re talking about a “simple game like Pong”, without any real graphical bells and whistles, I think you’re overshooting it by about three weeks. But I’ll let you know how mine comes along

  3. on 13 Sep 2007 at 20:30:30 3.Bobby Kania said …

    I made pong!!!! woot!!!!
    It’s in java.

  4. on 16 Dec 2007 at 18:17:28 4.Blogerko said …

    Wowo, this is interesting

  5. on 14 Apr 2008 at 04:37:53 5.Highwire said …

    I dont get how to because i dont know how to do coding and/or programming. Is there an article anywhere that’ll tell me how to so i can do this?

  6. on 12 May 2008 at 08:59:50 6.Speedrun said …

    Really Nice article. I followed a link here to get some ideas for Pong for a clone I’m putting together.

    Btw, I am posting a link to this article on my blog.

  7. on 24 Dec 2009 at 22:41:23 7.Robert Kania said …

    I made pong in java,

  8. on 20 Aug 2010 at 07:18:40 8.Let’s do an iPhone game said …

    […] But can you make pong? […]

  9. on 26 Nov 2010 at 11:55:25 9.Jamari said …

    I dont get how to because i dont know how to do coding and/or programming. Is there an article anywhere that’ll tell me how to so i can do this?

  10. on 30 Jan 2013 at 19:26:55 10.But Can I Make Pong? « My 13 Skills said …

    […] development – something I hope to do eventually – and came across one article titled “But Can You Make Pong?” After making a handful of 1% finished project, I decided to create Pong and actually finish it. So […]

  11. on 13 Feb 2013 at 18:35:29 11.Molarchy - Mobile Game - Indie Gaming Insider said …

    […] even simple games take a LOT of effort to execute well. An experienced game developer once wrote “But Can You Make Pong?” this is a great question that anyone looking to get started should ask […]

  12. on 15 May 2014 at 08:23:13 12.G1337 said …

    I made a pong game that isn’t pong with Python [instead of trying to score against an opponent, you have to keep the ball in the playing field. If it goes outside the field, you lose. It’s basically just a one-player high score game – you control both paddles, and one moves the opposite direction of the other].
    The problem is, I don’t know how I export it.

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