Sunday, 14 April 2013 18:29

Microsoft Excel used as RPG game engine

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Unity, Unreal and Havoc are but three game engines used as the basis for many modern computer games. However, it appears a new force may be in town in the unlikely form of Microsoft Excel.

Cary Walkin is a Chartered Accountant in Toronto, Canada, and is presently studying for his Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

However, despite such professional and academic pursuits, Cary turned his mind from the mundane world of corporate finance to an arena-based nethack-style role-playing game.

Cary had the ideas down-pat, but what he lacked was a background in “traditional” computer game programming. Yet, not to be deterred, he applied what he knew, being a master in Microsoft’s ever-popular spreadsheet app, Excel.

Cary jokes that underneath every role playing game (RPG) is a massive spreadsheet, and now the massive spreadsheet is the RPG itself.

The result is a macro-driven Excel spreadsheet which quite literally does indeed provide an arena-based role-playing game which boasts over 2,000 different enemies, 39 item modifiers resulting in over 1,000 possible item combinations and attributes, a story behind the game, eight boss encounters, four pre-programmed arenas followed by procedurally generated arenas, 31 spells, 20 unique items and 37 achievements!

Play follows the usual role-playing format: your character has a variety of attributes that determine his or her strength, defence ability, and other characteristics. By moving through the arena and vanquishing foes the player gains experience points and finds new equipment, and levels up, providing new skill points to assign to attributes.

Graphically, the game represents the kitsch but popular ASCII-art used in nethack style dungeon crawler games.

The lack of refined artwork does not detract from the simple of fun of the game, which is bolstered by simple amazement that such a work was developed within Excel.
The game is free to download from Cary’s WordPress blog but requires Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010 or 2013 to run. It does not work on Macintosh versions of Microsoft Excel. Be careful to only download the game from the blog itself; it is possible that in time malicious persons could inject malware into the Excel macro code and any copy of the game downloaded from any other source should be treated with suspicion.

Cary states the game was partially fuelled by procrastinating his MBA studies, but also to keep the creative parts of his mind focused and exercised, with a day job more rooted in logical and structured processes and analysis.

Cary hopes one day his passions of finance and gaming can merge, leading to a managerial finance role at a game company. Blizzard, are you listening?

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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