Sunday, December 6, 2015

ODTUG APEX Gaming Competition - How'd They Do It? (Part 1)

At Kscope 15 this year we launched the first ever ODTUG APEX game competition. The APEX community responded with 15 entries! Each and every one of them left me thinking "How'd they do that?" So, let's find out more about the games and those who wrote them.

Leading off is Gabriel Dragoi.

First off, tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Gabriel Dragoi, based in Bucharest, Romania. Currently I work at B-LAY, an IT Asset Management company. Up to this, i was an Oracle employee for 6 years. Can be reached by email at or via LinkedIn

How many years of APEX experience do you have?
5 years of developing APEX applications, internally for Oracle and as a freelance developer.

What motivated you to participate in the APEX Gaming Competition?
I am an APEX enthusiast (and small evangelist) so I took it as a challenge.

What is the name of your game?
I built two games for the ODTUG APEX Gaming Competition:

1) [APEX - based] [Text/UI] Role Playing Dungeon Crawler Game (RPG for short); Not a very imaginative name, I grant you, but self-explainatory

2) Alchemy

Briefly describe your game...or in your
1) RPG To quote from the game: " wake up startled. Where are you? How did you get here? You look around and see some walls. The light is dim, and the sound that woke you up is still lingering . You can only see a few paces in each direction. But you are brave. Life is an adventure! What will you do next?"

It is an interactive, semi - UI/semi - text-based role playing game where the user steps into the life of a character that wakes up in a dungeon and needs to find their way out. The user is presented with a list of actions (Look, Grab, Move, Attack) and a set of arrows poining in all directions. They decide which action/direction combination they want to try, and the result is displayed via text message. They can also see themselves on a map, which can be displayed on request.

2) Alchemy This is a variation of the mobile/desktop alchemy game, where users get a set of basic elements and then have to combine them in paurs to obtain new elements, and so on.

How long did it take you to develop your games?
1) RPG - This game took a couple of weeks, working on and off.

2) Alchemy - just 5-8 hours. It helped that i could reuse a lot of basic code from the first game.

What was the most challenging element of your game design and how did you overcome it?
Building a game with a story - RPG - first presents a great issue - how much of the story can you include in the game? Considering that I found out about the competition only a couple of weeks before the deadline, I had A LOT of plans of what features to include in the game, and not a lot of time to code them all. So I had to start with the basic game engine, and work in as many details as possible before the deadline.

Of course, there were lots of technical snags, too. Building an interactive game in a framework designed for working with data is not very straightforward, and I did want to do it natively in APEX. So I had to work on PL/SQL procedures invoked in AJAX calls by dynamic actions (boy, do I like the sound of this! :) ) in order to control the action of the game.

Also, displaying the map, centered on the character, was a bit tricky. So for every display of the map, I looped through a cursor containing the table with the map details and generated HTML code straight into a modal dialogue page. Along with some JavaScript, it all came around perfectly.

And apart from all this, one really important issue which I did not foresee was calibrating the game so it could be playable. The monsters should be only so hard to beat, and the weapons and other items did not have to be overly powerful, or useless. So, i admit, this part was mostly trial and error. I think I spent at least as much time playing the game as actually coding it.

All in all, I wished I could have included more features in the game (travelling to different maps, gaining XP, leveling up), which would have added greater complexity and more challenges. I am sure all of them could have been done, given enough time. Next year, I'll be more prepared

Alright, how can I play?
1) RPG:
2) Alchemy :

Anything else you'd like to add?
A great big THANK YOU for organizing this. I'm looking forward to any future editions

Thanks, Gabrial for giving us a peek under the covers. In the coming days we'll share more insight into the other games that were part of the contest.

...our journey continues

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