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Making an RPG in a Spreadsheet is Easier Than It Sounds, but Takes Longer Than You'd Think

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Last fall, Cary Walkin was enrolled in business school at York University in Ontario, taking a course called "Advanced Spreadsheet Modeling." He quickly realized the application could be used for more than just accounting.

Five months later, he finished Arena.Xlsm, a role-playing game played entirely within Microsoft Excel. Walkin said he sacrificed his evening game-playing time in order to develop the game.


"All video games at their core involve the player interacting with something and then getting a response based on calculations as a result," Walkin told Digitally Downloaded. "A macro in Excel performs the exact same function, the user calls the macro, the macro calculates and outputs a response." That's how he built a video game in something that most people are using this week to do their taxes.

Walkin isn't the first to think of making a game in Excel; he notes that versions of Missile Command and a tower defense game preceded his. But the latter two use the real-time computation of Excel in 2010; Arena.xlsm uses Excel 2007, which can still serve up turn-based gameplay.


Walkin updated the game to include a collections-based quest, and has plans for another update that adds new enemies and arenas. He said he'd be glad to convert Arena.Xlsm to other platforms "if there is a game publisher/developer who wanted to work with me on it.

"You may have been able to guess from Arena.Xlsm's graphics, I can't draw very well," he notes.


Interview: Cary Walkin, the man who made an RPG in Microsoft Excel [Digitally Downloaded via Reddit]