Tuesday, 27 November 2012

History of Computer Games - Part 2

It is claimed that by 1982 approximately 8 million homes in America owned a game console and the home video game industry was making only half that of the arcade video game industry. Until 1986 the arcade video game industry was in a “golden-age” during 1982 the profits of the industry reached their peaks and the industry was surpassing even the pop music and Hollywood film industries.

From 1977 with the creation of “Adventure” the home computer game started to take off, initially in a genre called “adventure” later renamed “interactive fiction” whereby the player explores a text-based ,typically Tolkien-esque, world. Memorably the trilogy “Zork” created by Infocom has been named a classic. The depth of the worlds in interactive fiction games was far greater than any other game at this point and lays the groundwork for the RPG genre’s success. In 1984 “The Hobbit” was made, it was an interactive fiction which started to have a graphical nature to it, the interactive elements were still typed but there were images as seen in the image to the 
right. This genre of game had a focus of not being the like the violent games that were out there during this time on the consoles and arcades. The text-based interactive fictions stopped being published before the 1990s but the genre carried on in the form of “Myst” and one of the games of my childhood, “Starship Titanic”.

Akalabet: World of Doom Screenshot

The two genre’s of adventure games and the typical video games were mixed up with the “Dungeons and Dragons” style games and “Akalabeth: World of Doom” was released in 1979 with pseudo-3D graphics and a first person perspective. The first RPG to appeal to a larger audience is thought to be “The Bard’s Tale” which was released in 1985 you can see an hours worth of commentated game-play if you so wish here. “The Elder Scrolls: Arena” was born in 1994 with a mix of story, exploration, adventure, and violence which had often been avoided by the text-based interactive fictions. The game, developed by Bethesda Softworks, was initially going to be arena based combat but the company shifted their focus towards the RPG genre. This series of games is a really good place to look at the development made in game culture, game technology/graphics and mechanics for story telling. As the series of games is continuing to this day, 20 years after the work started on “The Elder Scrolls: Arena” in 1992, unfortunately (in my opinion) Bethesda has finally given in and changed the game type with the development of “Elder Scrolls Online” to become a MMORPG (herein refered to as MMO) and has completely changed the style of game to become an MMO based in the Elder Scrolls world. Before this change all of their games maintained a very similar ethic and feel but the story and location was the thing that changed. Probably the first MMO was "Neverwinter Nights" which was an "Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons online computer product" released in 1991.

Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees
Meanwhile on the streets of London in 1982 the birthplace, or nurturing place, of the British goth subculture was opened “The Batcave”. Hosting regular new wave or post-punk bands the club became a meeting place, Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend, Bauhaus, Siouxsie Sioux and many other of the forerunners to deathrock or gothic rock would often perform. A couple of years earlier The Sisters Of Mercy were formed and are still touring to this day. The industrial music movement which came after this would surprisingly influence me via the games I played as much of the music for Quake III Arena was written by Front Line Assembly a band formed in 1986 after a split from Skinny Puppy.
Skeletal Family formed in 1982

Back to the games, 1992 sees “Wolfenstein 3D”’s release with all the basics of the game set up for “DOOM”’s success id Software released “DOOM” in December 1993, earlier that year I was born. I imagine “DOOM” is often incredibly overstated as one of the most important games in the history of computer games however having endlessly played “DOOM 95” and “Quake III: Arena” I’m ever in debt to id Software.

We are now looking at a period of time where the industry has expanded so much that talking about all of the different branches of the games world would be near impossible. Handheld games such as the “Game & Watch” by Nintendo have been widely available since 1980, consoles have expanded so that there are more than 2 companies dominating the market, personal or home computers have a large range of suppliers. The third-generation of consoles was released between 1983 and 1995, being the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), Commodore C64GS and Amstrad GX400 also the Sega Master System but this was less commonly available. During this generation PCs were competing with consoles a great deal however the NES dominated the US and Japanese market. One of the most famous consoles to this day was released in 1996, the Nintendo 64. Surprisingly 64bit CPU architecture went from super computers to consoles missing out personal computers, where the x86-64bit CPU was released in 2003.

Games themselves developed into all the different variations of genres which we now have to day during the 90s, for example from the MUDs (multi-user dungeons) came MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online-role-playing games) such as “Everquest” and “Ultima Online”... a genre to later steal The Elder Scrolls universe. RTSs (real time strategies) gained popularity and developed to form games such as the “Warcraft” and “Starcraft” series and the turn based “Heroes of Might and Magic”.

Another important aspect of these two decades was the decline of the arcade games. That and the release of “Half-Life” in 1998 by Valve and Sierra. “Half-Life” was at the center of my childhood and so I feel it cannot be forgotten in the timeline. The game that would be modded to create “Team Fortress”, “Counter Strike” and the lesser known but equally as awesome “The Specialists”, even “Ricochet”. Here are some images of the good old days and a video of “The Specialists” all the diving, slow motion Matrix themed fun you can have (unfortunately not very good footage).

Needed to be said.

No comments:

Post a Comment