You can actually package games in Excel spreadsheets, PDF documents, and PNG images. Our 3003 video shows how this works and whether it is really fun.
Transcript of the video:
Here’s a look what’s in this folder:
– An Excel spreadsheet
– A PNG image
– And a PDF document
You’re probably thinking boring now – is this an Office 3003 episode or something?
But what if I tell you that these are all three GAMES, and actually pretty good ones? Stay tuned.
PLAY IN AN EXCEL TABLE
Excel, a program that some people love dearly and a lot of people hate it a lot, because it just does very stupid things a lot of the time. Anyone who has ever tried to enter the version number in a table, for example, probably knows what I’m talking about. EY EXCEL, THAT’S NOT A FUCKING DATE!
In any case, you can not only tinker with formulas in Excel, you can also play games. To do this, however, you have to activate the so-called VBA macros, this is “Visual Basic for Applications” and you can do great things with it, but unfortunately also nasty. That is why macros are switched off by default. You should be aware of this before you try out Excel games – it is best not to try them at all, if you really want to, then at least first throw the Excel file on www.virustotal.com, because it also detects macro viruses.
For example, there are several Tetris variants that run directly in the Excel wallpaper. It’s really funny, but they’re not that much fun. The best Excel game I’ve found is Arena.XLSM, this is a turn-based role-playing game, which actually kept me entertained for quite a long time. You play a laughing emoji; and when you are wounded you become a sad emoji. The opponents are curly brackets – yes, well, a bit basic, BUT THAT IS NOT A PROBLEM, BECAUSE GAMES SHOULD FOLLOW THE FANTASY! The game mechanics are in any case deep, you can assign experience points yourself, there are different weapons, and from character level 10 you even get spells. AND: There are achievements, which is pretty funny because they are simply displayed as an Excel spreadsheet. The game, which is somehow logical, was developed by an accountant, Cary Walkin.
By the way, there are also people who have fun in Excel without playing games, they just know Excel very well. Microsoft is actually trying to establish Excel as an esports, no joke. The final of the FINANCIAL MODELING WORLD CUP recently took place, where you could see several men entering formulas in Excel against one another in order to solve very complex tasks. Let me say: League of Legends can pack.
GAME IN A PDF
So and now for PDF. Is that called Undying Dusk, and it looks like a normal game, a retro dungeon crawler like Dungeon Master? Yes, it is, but behind it is actually a completely normal PDF document, one with 197,992 pages. Whenever I click something, another page is called up; for example, if I click on the arrow to run forward, I come from page 14204 to page 159378. That works amazingly well; there is even music: I have to start it manually with a click, and a website is opened in the background that plays the music.
The whole thing works in almost every PDF viewer, but in most every page change takes so long that it is no longer fun. That is why the developer of Undying Dusk recommends the very fast open source PDF viewer Sumatra PDF; that’s the best way to do it. The game is based on the browser game Heroine Dusk, which is programmed in HTML5. Yes and ok, it works a whole lot faster – I still think the idea with the PDF is fantastic.
GAME IN A PNG IMAGE
And now my very personal favorite; Play as a PNG image. Specifically, it’s about Pico-8, a FANTASY VIDEO GAME CONSOLE, as the makers call it. The system mimics the graphics and sound capabilities of 8-bit machines from the 80s. The games built with Pico-8 may use a maximum resolution of 128×128 pixels with 16 colors, and a game may be a maximum of 32 KByte in size. I have just saved the text of this video here as a PDF; the file is three times the size, just times that for comparison. The concept behind Pico-8 is reduction to the essentials, i.e. to gameplay; So that you don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities of modern hardware when building games.
So and now comes the best: You can play the Pico-8 games easily in your browser, for example on the website of the Pico-8 developer Lexaloffle. But you can also simply right-click on the icon of a Pico-8 game and save it as an image – the result is a PNG file that you can view with an image viewer. BUT: The PNG ADDITIONALLY contains the game itself. HOW COOL! And you can just throw it at a Raspberry Pi, for example, or clap it at a retro emulation handheld like my Anbernic RG351MP and then play the thing there. The Pico-8 community is really big and they have already released hundreds of impressively polished games. I can play thousands of commercial games here on my handheld, but honestly, I spend most of my time playing free Pico-8 titles right now. Here are three really great ones:
Celeste Classic 1 and 2 – these are hardcore-difficult platformer that were actually made by the development team of the 2018 indie super hit Celeste.
Alone in the Pico: A short but wonderful de-make of the old Resident Evil ancestor Alone in the Dark.
PInballvania !: A surreal game of skill in which you collect balls in 20 levels just by turning the playing field, in between there are even bosses.
So: who needs a PS5 when there are PDF, PNG and XLS? Bye!
c’t 3003 is the c’t YouTube channel. The videos on c’t 3003 are independent content and independent of the articles in c’t magazin. Editor Jan-Keno Janssen and video producers Johannes Börnsen and Şahin Erengil publish a video every week.