Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Computer Game History: Rebirth Edition (1980s-1990s)

As this timeline goes on, I am beginning to enjoy this little bit of research now as it slips more into current time. Picking up a fair understanding of the origins of something that had eaten away half of my life already, means I can only appreciate it even more.
Anyway, starting from the year 1977, began the ‘second generation’ of video game consoles and thus begins the next part of this history lesson. The age of Pong clones and random manufacturers died away and major home consoles such as the Atari 2600, Intellivision and ColecoVision were released overcrowding the shelves. This eventually led to the Video Game Crash in North America 1983, in which many home console companies became bankrupt and thoughts of the future of video games were highly doubted by business analysts.

Why? There were perhaps a number of reasons but my guess is that, maybe with such a mammoth amount of 8-bit whatever freaking consoles with masses of amounts of cassette, ROM cartridge ‘adventure’ games and blobs moving around on a screen, everybody realised better things they could do in their time such as read a book, draw, listen to the radio or fight to tune in their TVs at night. The important element to take from those years were the new genre based games, namely ‘Interactive Fiction’ or traditional adventure games, a major change in that these games were mainly single player and involved following textual descriptions and deciding what to do next. For example,

“You find a large empty well among a circle of tall trees beside the pathway.

>Climb down well

Inside well

You now find yourself stuck in a dark well with no way back, Har Har.”

You get the picture. Soon all this was replaced with mouse interactions and graphic interfaces but could have set the basis of what became the next part of the evolution of unique game genres.

It took two long, thoughtful, drunken, hard grafted years for the industry to revive and realise its true potential with the Third Generation of consoles. In 1985 was the release of the 8-bit Nintendo in North America or NES for short, or Famicon in Japan. The generation began with games that have now been a staple up until today’s years. They include Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest then followed by the Final Fantasy series and new genres such as the Metal Gear Stealth series. The NES lasted well on till 1995 so even while the fourth and fifth generation of consoles begin to enter the market.

So we now move into my years, and for me and my other university colleges, our best recollection of how games developed through our childhood. However I don’t recall console release dates so I’m going to have to go back to my internet browser to research this. One moment please. Aha, so the fourth generation was underway and major changes was the decline of arcades as 16 and 32 bit consoles began. 2D graphics had improved with key consoles like the 16 bit Sega Mega Drive in 1989, then 2 years later Nintendo responds with the 16 bit Super Nintendo while PC began to make the transition into 3D slowly and introduce even more new genres, Real Time Strategy, First Person Shooters and MMOs.
Swiftly moving on, the Fifth Generation said piss off to Atari once and for all and hello to Sony Playstation(1994) as it had to compete with the new Nintendo 64(1996) and Sega Saturn(1994) slipping out of the other two consoles competition since it failed in North America and Europe. Sony had a lead over the late Nintendo even though they were still a big hit across the globe.

Nearing the end of this entry, a hell of a lot happened during the 90s and I really don’t want to go through it all. The changes from the old generations were mainly the development of fully 3D games allowing genres to enhance and game developers to take their own route on it and also cartridges died and were replaced with CDs. So what happened next? All will be revealed in the next episode of, HIISTOORY!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Computer Game History: Origins Edition (1950s-1970s)

It was inevitable that with the growth of computer technology and being able to program, create and manipulate equations and data, soon computer games would form. Everybody needs some entertainment of course. It just took a few experts or risk-takers in the industry to explore this. From general knowledge, obviously to create a computer game would be to create an interface with controls specifically for that game and have it displayed on a TV or monitor etc. History can be confusing and other points may argue that what I may be defining is flawed. This is just my discovery of what I believe are relevant points that interest me.

So from sources I can gather, computer game origin lied in cathode ray-tube missile defence programs originally developed for military and academic purposes which make sense as, to learn, simulations can be a perfect training procedure before attempting the real thing. At this point, ‘games’ or ‘entertainment’ did not come into this but after not too long, it did. Apparently it began with a TV engineer called Ralph Baer, given a simple of task creating the best TV in the world but instead wanted to take this further to playing games on this TV. After refusal from his boss in 1951, he returned in 1966 to focus his attention on building the first video games. Let’s leave him and his ambitions there for a bit shall we?

There is not a major explanation of how they were developed but one of the first most significant computer games in the limelight was ‘spacewar’ in 1962 which many sources state. To run this spectacular game took a spectacularly large car sized PDP-1 computer. Then in came Ralph Baer of Magnavox in 1972 to release the first commercial video game console The Odyssey, containing 12 simple and sport related games. He decided to escalate this and create a light gun expansion known as Shooting Gallery.

However there was ‘Pong’ the first commercial arcade game in 1972 built by Atari, cofounded by Bushnell. Later in 1975 Pong was re-released as a home video game. Before then, a major boom of random developers tried to mimic and improve on Pong as home video game entertainment became more popular in 1973 in the USA, then when it arrived at homes in Europe around 1974.

Most of what was released lasted about as long as it would take the flu virus to clear up yet I guess it was rather interesting seeing what was forged by all these developers that had potential. The main point is that from the 1950s in which computers were large in size have now greatly reduced in the space of 20 years to the size of being able to fit in homes all over. Computer and video games became an alternative to just watching your TV, except you could get involved and play away from the arcade experience. One good point a website made is that because of this, games could be developed to last longer than a quick multiplayer game and that is where my next section in the task will basically take us, as games and technology evolve and focus more on home and personal entertainment. Until then, have yourself nice a cup of tea.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Who am I again?

Ok so after my pathetic attempt at an epic title for my blog, it’s time to introduce myself. My name is Kane Dainton and I was born and have lived in Leicester all my life. As much as people complain and loathe about it, I have enjoyed living here somewhat. Living in a rather quiet section of the city however, it has projected through to my overall personality, being rather reserved and laid back, allowing my imagination to be a large part of my entertainment. Other than that I have family and friends whom I love dearly and the variety of our interests and experiences has affected me in that I want to do just about everything in life. Not the bizarre obviously.

My father had a major interest in playing computer games during spare time, aside from fishing, and that ultimately influenced me. My household has had just about every single console known to man, from the Commodore and Atari all the way to current consoles. Having witnessed the evolution of consoles and increased technology requirements to live up to current competition, my eyes turned on the ‘graphics’ and visuals. I love how you can immerse yourself within a world that you know you can never experience in real life and that drew my attention to this course just before I started Sixth Form College. I wished I could create the next ‘big’ game and for me, art and imagination drove me to try and achieve this. Then again anybody can say this mushy ambitious stuff and I don’t usually like to come across like this because as much I try to be the best, I know I am not when I compare myself to my colleges. Only my progress and commitment with the software and art skills are what I would like to improve on for this year.

What else attracted me to this course? Well, before we had internet, our house is filled with magazines as, not only were we keen gamers we read a lot about the industry, reviews, hype and simply what was good and what wasn’t. It gave gaming more of a personality, so seeing critical games studies as a module I thought I could finally express my views.

If I was to have my dream job, it would be environment artist. Plain and simple. My Ideal Company? I love the works of Bioware who currently have an offer in that field. This means working for EA studios and looking at their requirements, not only do they expect good drawings and sketches but ‘solid technical skills’ being able to use, build and manipulate the ‘geometry of 3D spaces and components, especially organic and inorganic environments’.  This brings me back to course I am now studying in which visual design, straight away teaches single point perspective, an essential skill for working on environments, and organic forms such as trees you cannot ignore since we go out and about drawing as much as we can. Game production also covers the 3D aspect of it all, starting from the bare basics, as frustrating as it is to get to grips with in the beginning.

I won’t lie, my imagination definitely overrides my skills in the visual art department so, among anything I must develop on that and begin working at a higher, faster quantity in order to improve my quality. I must absorb every bit of help and criticism from my tutors and colleges and that is the bottom line. Serious talk aside, as much as this may be complex and scary and challenging and intimidating looking at others work, I am going to do my thing and have some freaking fun along the way. Hey? Yay!