Friday, 5 December 2008

A History of Videogames : Part 2

The 1980’s saw the games industry as we know it today to begin to take shape; it was an era of massive change with new companies being formed, change in Hardware and the first mascots of videogames being created. One of the first big changes was the way games were made in terms of new features and graphics. “Defender” was the first game to implement a radar system to tell the player what was approaching ahead of them and “BattleZone” became the first ever game to create a 3d world with the use of newly developed wireframe vector graphics.

In 1983’s “Dragon’s Lair” became the first ever game to feature ‘Full-Motion Video’ or FMV’S with the thanks of the large laserdisc it was released on, for which it was also the first. It was a landmark game as for the first time in a videogame there were no animated pixel characters or flat backgrounds, it instead used cartoon animation and ‘Hot Points’ where the player would have to click in time to advance the video or face a grizzly death.

In 1985 the ‘Third Generation’ of consoles began with the introduction or the ‘N.E.S.’ (Nintendo Entertainment System) and the ‘Master-System’ from SEGA. With these new formats game a string of games that would become forever identified with these systems and laid the groundwork for the first franchises in the games industry that still last to this day. The most notable of these new franchises were ‘The Legend of Zelda’, ‘Super Mario Bros.’, ‘Dragon’s Quest’, ‘Final Fantasy’ and the first ever stealth-based game ‘Metal Gear’. The 1980’s would become the decade that Nintendo showed the world that games had truly arrived to the masses and was now an everyday part of life. In 1989 they cemented this fact by releasing the first hand held console, the ‘Game Boy’. It became the best selling hand held unit of all time and gave the world the phenomenon that was ‘Tetris’ which has sold over 33 million copies and is second only to ‘Super Mario Bros.’ which sold 40.2 Million.

The 1990’s saw the games industry explode into a global powerhouse, Budgets became larger, production teams became bigger and Music and Cinema began to work together to create some epic stories and engrossing environments. The ‘Fourth Generation’ of consoles was ushered in by the Sega Mega Drive and the ‘S.N.E.S.’ and the mascot for this new generation was SEGA’S ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’. Design to be a flagship character against Nintendo’s Mario, the new high speed platform style of sonic became a driving force of a heated battle between the two companies. In 1996 Nintendo would re-secure their dominance (all be it for 12 months) with the introduction of the N64 and its flagship Launch Title Mario64, the first full 3D platform game which became a cult classic . Other key N64 titles of this era were ‘GoldenEye 007’, ‘Perfect Dark’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’. With the advent of CD technology being utilised for the first time in dedicated consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation, the stage was set for the biggest game of the 90’s, ‘Final Fantasy VII’. Now a lot of people argue this point and I’m not really a diehard fan of it as most seem to be but I still think it’s important, it opened the gateway for a wave of Japanese games to flow into the us and Europe for the first time and as we see the results today, the Asian influence is very noticeable in today’s society. It also showed how large film type storylines and FMV’s could work together to make an enthralling experience, Although I still prefer the ‘Broken Sword’ type of storytelling in games. It became the game that cemented the PlayStation as the leader in the videogame industry; dominance that would last until the mid 00’s.

Now I seem to have gone on a bit long here so I’ll try and keep this short, for me the best games came in the late 80’s and mid ninety’s, I remember as a child playing a ZX Spectrum when it was brand new and waiting for games such as ‘Fantastic Dizzy’, ‘Hungry Horace’ and ‘The Oracles Cave’ to load on its loud and colourful loading screens for 15 minutes before playing and just enjoying it for just the game it was without the worry of graphic being the selling point of a game, it was just more enjoyable. Queuing up with my dad on the Launch day to be one first people to get a Nintendo GameBoy and playing ‘Tetris’ for hours and never get sick of it, and I still play with the same enjoyment today. And then the mega drive, playing that for the first time and finding I couldn’t understand the language of the games because my parents had gotten a Japanese import and all the writing was in Japanese but still loving every minute of it. Games were so much simpler back then but way more enjoyable, I remember my dad sitting there trying to play Sonic 1 all day and night just so we could see the last level because as children it was a bit of a tall order, I don’t think any parent without much experience with games could sit there for 5 minutes these days and be able to get far in a game because they are so overly complicated. But the highlight for me was getting Broken Sword, this beautifully drawn game with compelling story and fantastic sound and animation was the biggest eye opener for me. I had always been interested in art and to see a game that looked like it had been drawn was the point when I thought that one day my art could get me somewhere, that I could be able to make games like this one day, it’s a possibility I’ve always hung onto and am now able to put into practice.

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