Wednesday, 24 November 2010

An 80s kid in a 90's world

Hey people!

So six blogs down the line and you finally get to find out just how this little gamer began...the calm before they warped my mind and stole all of my precious little time...

In a galaxy far, far away…

So it's June 22nd 1990: New kids on the block were number one with Step by step (oh yeah!) the Simpsons were released on the Tracy Ullman show, Ghost was the highest grossing movie...and in the small town of Leicester the girl you now know as Amy Gilbert was unleashed upon the world...

Well enough of the third person...During my early years I'd already got my hands on an Amstrad CPC 464 
To give you an idea of what this fossil of the gaming world looked like here's a handy pic ^
So without age (yeah I know it’s hard to believe but I’m only 20) I can remember the classics of Dizzy, Asteroids and Lemmings! You see when I was growing up, with my mum short of funds my cousin Christian would always hand down his old consoles to me and my little brother which explains the title of this blog - I really was a 90’s kid growing up with 80’s consoles -and I loved it. The colour, the music! It really cemented my fascination with the 8 and 16 bit world. Throughout my years I went through the Amstrad, the Atari 2600, the Sega master system and Megadrive and my favourites the NES (which was voted the single greatest video gaming console out of 25 by IGN in 2009) and SNES :D I also remember the first PC of the house – given to us by a guy who used to m.o.t. my dad’s car. That monster of a computer had a massive, brilliant, totally huge (wait for it) 4mb of RAM!!! For that you could play majhong and write notes MSdos style…quite epic eh? Thing is all of these consoles and the 4mb dinosaur (now updated with a new brain of 32mb) I still have in the house. They still all work! The life support of my NES on my grandad’s brilliantly beige tv still bleeps :’)

So let’s get down to business…so what was my favourite game? There’s far too many favourites so I’ll run over a few diamonds and try to keep this blog within 500 words (so not gonna happen :P)

Rash, Pimple and Zitz

This kinda speaks for itself, so I insist before you finish reading my blog just listen to this –

Now how awesome was that? Just listening to the first bars of the music brings me joy. Battletoads Double Dragon: the Ultimate team really was the gaming height for me in the old school times. These are the times when “a battle cruiser the size of a city smashes out of the moon” and T. Bird calls upon the Battletoads and Billy & Jimmy Lee to save the day! Preferably for the 1player (as in 2player you could easily kill your teammate) this game was no easy ride. To cut a long story short, after much A and B bashing, I finally defeated the pixel perfect Dark Queen and the rest is history. Why do I love it? The colour, the music, the brilliance of the pretty much weed induced storyline – I mean 3 toads, led by a chicken (who has a PhD) teamed up with two martial art wielding twins, on a spaceship, getting bosses such as Big Blag and Robo Manus…*sighs*

(I know I’m writing this blog but just now I had to run out and ring the fire brigade as there was a fire at the end of Goldhill! Scary stuff!!! :O only on the Saff I guess….anyways back to gaming)

I’m Blue and Cyan…

Sticking with the NES, I now want to talk about a little blue guy that kicks several kinds of ass. Oh yeah it’s Megaman! Three to be exact, this was another of my loves and here’s the essential visage -

A rock solid game by Capcom (1990 – oh yeah something else cool that happened on my arrival) it boasted levels of bosses such as Hard man, Snake man and Gemini Man; the likes of which are missing from the games of today. I can remember playing the Shadow man level so many times I’m surprised my hands can draw and are not severely crippled. It really was rock solid although the elation at completing a level was like that of getting a process to work in 3Dsmax. Again the brilliance of 8 bit shines through with acid colours and a robot riding on a dog…
Get over here!

As I grew up I started to develop quite the talent at the beat ‘em up genre. Starting with Tekken 2 on the Playstation I still keep up with that series even now. I guess it’s brilliant when you get like 20 perfects in survival mode on your brother’s PS3, his mates in admiration cheering ‘’him’’ on and then he has to type ‘’yeah….that was my sister playing”. What can I say? Just don’t get on the wrong side of me and Nina Williams. I also have a soft spot for the Mortal Kombat series…yeah the soundtrack is on my phone – as soon as I hear “Choose your destiny” I’m gone…

So those were just a few of my favourite games…I guess that’s what I’d love to relive now. I mean the realism is brilliant in games at the moment. I honestly feel like I’m there. You can see every stone and taste and smell the environment just by playing a game like say, Gears of War… Although within the new Scott Pilgrim vs. The World download (the game I’m playing the most now) I truly feel I belong there. It is the most recent game to utilise all the old 8 bit magnificence I knew and still love. You see I feel back then we had the belief within games. Games like Battletoads where the storyline was so imaginative it blew our little minds. I guess I really am still an 80’s gamer in a 90s world (make that 00s).

For you fellow retro gamers… – 8 bit Trip by Rymdreglage – a brilliant video that through lego stop motion runs through all the old school to the future. This is the best timeline you’ll find. – the most amazing piece of engineering I’ve found…the NINTOASTER! Thing is it actually works. I really want one of them…gotta brush up on my electronics though before I have a go at making one :P


So 1100 words later i'm off...


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Evolution of Awesome... Final Round

Hey people!

So we come to my final blog on gaming history until we divulge into my own dark twisted gaming story (yeah underneath this cool exterior lies a crying dying emo). But enough of that, go on... go get the Tardis, phonebooth or whatever form of time travelling method is preferred (mines a DeLorean) It's time for the future!

"Tomorrowland…where the future becomes the present"

So it's the year 2000 and after surviving Y2K we're not dead (bring on 2012!) So what’s changed? I mean I still and always will have the love (and epic house rhythm) of a 90’s kid but I think 2000 was just a different milestone itself. I got inspiration for this blog by looking through the 1960’s videos “house of the future” etc. I think they’re worth a look as they really are amazing… I mean with claims of new electric toothbrushes and a sink that adjusted to height! God we had it made.

So what of the gaming industry in the futuristic times of the big bad naughties?

This decade saw Sega exit the hardware market, Nintendo fall behind, Sony expand its lead in the industry as well as Microsoft developing a gaming console (the Xbox).

The main developments in this decade are as follows:

·         With the failure of the Dreamcast (it sucked) in the late 90’s Sega left the videogaming market… (And now they work for Nintendo!? Anyone else remember when Mario and Sonic were deadly enemies of the console war?)
·         Sony opened the decade with the Playstation 2, which became the top selling console.
·         Nintendo released the GameCube .
·         Microsoft produced the Xbox, which later became the Xbox 360 of today.

·         Online gaming excelled with the introduction of gaming services such as Xbox Live

·         (2004 onwards) The Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are premiered.
·         Sony released the Playstation 3, whereas Nintendo released the Wii and capitalised on casual gaming.

Graphically games soared – with HD video a definite hit with veteran gamers seeking complete immersion within games. Comparing this with the age old Atari (as much as I love it) you can see just how much games have come on within the last 30 years.

“From a time when people were thrilled to see a square white block and two rectangular paddles on the screen to today, where gamers explore realistic three-dimensional worlds in high resolution with surround sound, the experience of being a gamer has changed radically.”  (Reimer, J accessed 9/11/2010)

Also, looking at the beginnings of game developing to now there is a sharp contrast. In ‘The Evolution of Awesome #1’ I talked about Ralph Baer creating the first recognised video game out of boredom and people developing games as a hobby. Now just look at your average game company today. Game development teams can hire hundreds of people all specified to different areas; not only for game production but for admin, quality and marketing also.

Console wise we are already reaching infinity and beyond (as Buzz lightyear said it best) with Microsoft recently releasing Kinect for the Xbox a "controller-free gaming and entertainment experience". Another form of immersing the gamer fully into the game, this is similar to the Playstation Move and Wii technology etc. You see now, in the future, we don’t just sit down and play games we actually live them.

"With great power comes great..."
So like an American child star’s mother we’ve pushed and pushed the gaming industry to this point where it’s selling like no other. But like Lynne Spears we know it’s only a matter of time until our protege goes off the rails and ends up snorting coke and doing jail time. So now I’m asking what are the pressures of the gaming industry?
Well consulting the internet all the research points to…
  • The growing cost of development for games on next-gen platforms will increase demand from publishers to require new games to be deployed on many platforms.
  • Increased cross-platform development will mean less money for optimizing a new game for any particular platform.
  • As a result, with the exception of in-house titles developed by the console manufacturers themselves, none of the three major platforms (Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Revolution) will end up with games that look significantly different from each other, nor will any platform show any real "edge" over the others. Many games will be written to a "lowest common denominator" platform, which would be two threads running on a single CPU core and utilizing only the GPU.

The winners…

The PC and Revolution platform as it has the simplest design.

The losers…

Surprisingly, the Xbox 360 and the Playstation may find it difficult to “stand out” against the new competition.

Ultimately, I forecast that there will be no more console wars! Remember the fights of Nintendo and Sega? (Well if you don’t here’s a handy video - (Rolfe, J (2010) Console wars)

No longer will this happen as most content will be available on every gaming device.

So now we’re through the history and way out here in the future... anyone remember mouse in the maze? *laughs* I remember Mortal Kombat... but more of that in my next blog… 
So before you yell “FINISH HER!” I’ll bugger off…


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Evolution of Awesome... Level 2


So we started our conquest into the golden ages of video games last time with the humble first steps of the then tiny video game. Now we come to my favourite eras - the 80's and 90's! A time of Pacman and Mario...ringlets and grunge looks...Rick Astley and a little girl group called The Spice girls...(I gotta ask what were we doing to ourselves with this ear vomit?) Anyway, enough nostalgia... let's get right to it...starting with the 80's.

'Where we're going we don't need roads...'

“The Golden age of video arcade games reached its zenith in the 1980’s” – (Wikipedia, accessed 2/11/2010)

Throughout the 1980’s-1990’s where gaming grew majorly. Publishing houses appeared such as Electronic Arts (which has lasted 20years) and the low publishing cost of computer games allowed for bold, unique games – a legacy that has continued to this day. This age produced many technically creative and genre defining games such as:

·         Mystery house (1980)
·         Pacman (1980)
·         Donkey Kong (1981)
·         Mario Bros. (1983)
·         Dragon’s lair (1983)
·         Street Fighter (1987)
·         Alone in the dark (1992)

So keeping this in mind I thought I'd review a game that stole many of my days and nights way back when (and even now when I get the NES out the attic). So where is the mushroom loving Italian plumber when the mushroom kingdom is in need? Enter Mario!

Mario Bros.

Mario is obviously one of the most influential characters in gaming today; therefore I had to include the origins of this series.

Mario’s first outing might have been in the form of jumpman in Donkey Kong (1981) but by 1983 he had his debut in Mario Bros. This game portrayed the character as an Italian American plumber with his younger brother Luigi, who have to defeat creatures in the sewers of New York.

Mario was one of the triumphs of the 1980’s and it shows, as he is still Nintendo’s main mascot today. Over the years he has been in many inclinations as follows:

·         1981 – 1989 - Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong jnr, Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros (1,2,3)
·         1989 – 1995 – Super Mario Land, Super Mario world (2),
·         1996 – 2002 – Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine
·         2002 – present – New Super Mario Bros, Mario Galaxy, Paper Mario, New super Mario (Wii)

1980’s consoles

The primary gaming computers of the 1980’s emerged in 1981 & 1982: the Commodore 64, ZX spectrum and the Amstrad CPC. In 1984 the gaming market took over from the console market, following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and simple design. - video mash up of 100 Commodore 64 games in 10 minutes....(Yay! - visual aid :) ) 

The Commodore 64 was released to the public in 1982 and was very popular. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to the Colecovision. It would become the most popular console of its day in the USA and many countries and the best selling computer console of all time.

The Arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 saw the entrance of a new era of 16 bit machines. Also, the VGA standard developed for IBM’s new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256 colour graphics. In 1980 Nintendo also launched it’s Game and Watch line, the first LED hand held system. Tiger borrowed this concept of videogaming with cheap, affordable handsets and still produces games in this model to the present day.

In 1985 Nintendo released one of the most popular gaming consoles of all time – the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES. The Nes dominated the USA market until the rise of the next generation consoles in the early 1990’s and used large cartridges.The gamepad design of a directional pad and with 2 or more buttons became the standard. Looking at the NES today, it is clear that it embodied a number of Nintendo’s guiding principles: its unfussy construction, pale colour and lack of detail somehow hinted at a kind of family entertainment and proved that simplicity is definitely effective.

The 1990’s

'Pikachu I choose you'

“The 1990’s were a decade of marked innovation in video gaming” - (Wikipedia, accessed 30/4/2010)

Obviously the best decade ever...(I'm not saying why... just that a certain little game artist finally entered the world at this point). Moreover, this is the decade where video games finally got a bit tasty! video games became more realistic and you could finally class them into definitive genres. 

The 90’s was a decade of transition from pixels into full-fledged 3D graphics and gave rise to several genres of video game including the popular 1st person shooter. Handheld gaming became more popular due to the production of the Game Boy and home consoles became more common. Major developments in the 1990’s included the beginning of a larger consolidation of publishers, high budget games and bigger production teams.

Technology-wise the 90’s excelled with the rise of 3D graphics and multimedia capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs. Early 3D games began with flat shaded graphics (Starglider) and simple texture mapping. In 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog was introduced and gave Sega their mascot to rival Nintendo’s Mario.

The 90’s also saw the decline of arcade systems as with the arrival of 16 and 32 bit consoles, home video games became more advanced graphically than arcade systems.

Along with the NES and later its successor SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) there were many competitors including:

·         The Sega Mega drive
·         The TurboGrafx – 16
·         The Atari Jaguar
·         The Playstation and the Nintendo 64

 Alone In the Dark

Along with Silent Hill, this is probably one of the only games that made me actually poo my pants...eek! Although for what it did for computer games i think it deserves it's place in GA history, or at least my blog....enjoy!

Alone in the Dark (1992) developed by Infogrames, planted the seeds of what would become known as the survival horror genre today. It established the formula that would on CD Rom based consoles with games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

Items and characters in Alone in the Dark are three- dimensional, rendered upon a two-dimensional fixed background. Mixing polygons and 2D pre-rendered background images required a fixed camera angle, which designers used to their advantage to create dramatic scenes appropriate for a horror themed game.

The Game produced several sequels including:

·         Jack in the Dark (1993)
·         Alone in the Dark 2 (1993)
·         Alone in the Dark 3 (1994)
·         Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (2001)
·         Alone in the Dark (2008) 

In 1994 the Sony Playstation marked the point when computer gaming went mainstream. The Playstation sold 50 million units and their success can be attributed to a number of factors. The games were always credible, its timing was perfect – when consoles were rivalling the graphic capabilities of the arcade versions and Sony also lined up a stack of developers for the machine and ensured impressive titles available from the offset. Sony quickly became the most popular console of the decade outselling rivals like the Nintendo and poorly supported Sega Saturn.

“The Playstation may well be a beautiful machine, but by god doesn’t it know it.” – Railton, 2005
This generation ended with the discontinuation of the Playstation in 2006 (sob sob).
 So there you go! The history of computer games circa 1980/1990. Yeah there were some stinkers...Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (NES) anyone? Or maybe Atari porn? oh yeah....there was Atari porn! ( - seriously check out this guy's reviews they are quite awesome). But we Also got Mario, Sonic and Zelda to name a well as my personal favourite; Battletoads Double dragon! Ultimately if it wasn't for this booming era we wouldn't be where we are today...Also just think where we'll be are still growing, I mean they're still a baby really.

Truth is where we're going with game design...we really don't need roads :)