Some changes we have seen – Gaming from 1984 to 2021

I am going to go through the most important changes that have happened inside gaming from my birthday to this day. Back in 1984 we had already NES in some gamer’s living rooms. This wasn’t the first gaming device that I ever played. That place was conquered by PC. Computer games in the 80s might have had black and white or eight color graphics. Some games might have had 16 colors from which the graphics would be presented. The resolution was much lower than what we are used to today.

For games’ sounds there was only this horrible noise that was produced by the computers own speaker. In the 90s it was possible to buy a sound card for your PC and some gaming consoles, like Mega Drive, offered a better quality of sound. We were still far from a CD quality of sound effects and background and theme music. The quality of sound progressed as more and more and better consoles became available and as the technology advanced.

Getting the input from player has progressed. From keyboards, joysticks and simple controllers to game pads like Dual Sense and Xbox Elite. We have seen the beginning of real virtual experience. If you compare the controller that is seen in the related picture to the latest Dual Shock you really can see the difference. When the NES controller has only axis buttons and four other buttons my Dual Shock 4 has way more buttons. You really cannot compare these two in the means of human engineering.

What else has progressed? Designing games has taken major steps forward. Consider for example how much games like Doom and Diablo have influenced almost all types of video games. Besides bringing more technical advancements these games brought us some improvements in pure game design. Many games today have taken influences from role playing games. These features include developing and choosing a role or abilities to develop inside the game. You can gather experience and rare items that are able to be gathered by the player.

We have also seen how social media and internet have both made an impact. Did you at some time go to LAN parties? Well, I did. Haven’t been in those kinds of happenings in a while and this is also the trend as connectivity has increased so that you can get online almost everywhere in the world. Also the size of computers, mobile phones and consoles has been getting smaller all the time.

So if you would travel back to 80s you would see a different world. I think today we are dealing with lots of devices and activities that require more and more these skills that can probably be called something like “digital skills”. These skills include using social media and even marketing and using your visibility in your own advance and in collaboration with your friends and people also that you work with. We are all connected together and there is huge amount of data moving in these networks all the time. As some of us have combined sport activities to the new digital world I think that the amount spent exercising has decreased in overall.

Time will show in what direction we are moving. It has become clear that skills with internet, mobile devices, laptop and desktop computers and different kinds of networks are required. And so are also skills in teaching and providing a decent support for the final users of this technology. Big data has already made it’s impact on games that are actually gathering all kinds of data from within the game as the player makes its moves and progresses in the game.

Stay Awhile and Listen – The Book About Blizzard Entertainment

I was searching for something new and fresh to read. I don’t remember exactly on what website was it that I found a book about Blizzard Entertainment that was recommended as a good read for a gaming fan. The words I used for this search might have been something like “good gaming books to read”. I used this phrase and made a search through Google and I immediately found a website that recommended about five books. Some of these were already familiar for me and some of them I had already read. But a book about Blizzard? That sure sounded interesting to me.

As I started to read this book, it was titled “Stay Awhile and Listen”, I first noticed that text was written with a large and somewhat loose font. I didn’t let it bother me and kept reading. This book managed to capture my attention very efficiently. It introduces the people that were actually behind games like WarCraft and Diablo. It describes how they got inspiration from games like Dune II and UFO – Enemy Unknown and from earlier role-playing-games, not so graphical rogue-likes, and also from Dungeons and Dragons.

Diablo was very different than those other role-playing-games that were released on PC in the 90s. It defined a whole new genre of games combining action and traditional role-playing elements. It focused also in gathering different kinds of items that could be weapons, armor, rings or amulets that had special attributes. There could be, for example, an axe that gave, once equipped, more strength and maybe more resistance to enemies spells to its user. At first Diablo was designed to be turn-based but eventually it was made to be real-time. It featured an ability to play with multiple players through internet. Back in 1996 that was something revolutionary.

There have been two sequels made for Diablo and there was a whole genre of these new kinds of role-playing-games that many of us gamers have had the joy to play. I wasn’t so excited about traditional role playing or Dungeons and Dragons. To me Diablo was about the first RPG that I played, ever. I remember it being released for PC and PlayStation. The game that brought me closer to enjoying RPGs was definitely Diablo II. I liked Diablo 3 also very much. WarCraft then made something out of the genre that was initiated by Dune II. This genre was called real-time-strategy. WarCraft made some improvements to Dune II.

Before releasing these legendary games the guys of Blizzard were involved in computer technology as programmers and visual artists. They were working in this field already. They had some other interests also. It is told in this book that they really much enjoyed playing games like Sega Mega Drives NHL 94. Back in the 90s they were very young and very talented. So the book describes also their other activities and tells something about how this team worked and who was responsible for visual look, animation and programming. This was an effort of the whole team so you couldn’t tell so much about which member was actually responsible of the whole game. It was more like about they working as a team and every ones effort was needed.

I can recommend this book for any fan of 90s video games and especially for a fan of WarCraft, Diablo or them both. It was actually for me a fast read and I read it in about two weeks. At least that’s a fast read for me. It wasn’t a pricey book. It cost me about 20 euros and I bought it from a Finnish web store. So you should definitely read this book.

Some Nice Pick-ups from Clearance

I found an interesting offer from Scandinavian Web Store. The store was Discshop. They ship to Finland. I don’t actually know if they ship to other countries. There was an e-mail in my Outlooks inbox. It got me interested. There was a text written in large font, in Finnish, but it actually promised that behind it I would find many discounts of games and movies. The prices were promised to start from as low as one euro.

So, I followed the link. I found some very good games. I also ordered the TV series Silicon Valley and it was its third season. If you don”t know this series I can tell you that it is describing a situation in a big tech company and it describes the life of the firms CEO. Mike Judge is one person that is behind the series. And he was also responsible for the well-known animation series, Beavis and Butthead. So I paid 1 euro for this whole season. Imagine that, like Nas said in the song “If I ruled the world”.

I also purchased some other items. These were physical copies. That didn’t bother me at all. I bought Resident Evil VII for 2 euros. It isn’t such an old game. When it shipped I ahd a long period of time as I had to install this game. It came with three DVD discs. So the installation as a process was time consuming. I didn’t have to download the content but my DVD drive got a bit warm during this installation operation (that rhymes 🙂 ).

The shipping was three euros so I decided to buy some other items also that were in sale. So I ordered Devil May Cry 5 for PC, again, and it cost 2 euros. I also bought Crysis 2 for Xbox 360 and Street Fighter V and also Street Fighter – 30th Anniversary Collection. Finally they weren’t able to deliver that last mentioned game and I am going to get a refund from it. My orders total price was 19 euros. So I got four games and one season of television series.

This is my latest purchase. DVD is a bit old format. I don’t know if I continue to watch DVDs for long time. I just got a 4K 55 inch television. It might be a good idea to buy a 4K Blu-ray device that could bring me a better looking and sharper screen. It costs about 200 euros. Luckily it just might fit in my budget and also physically under my new tv.

The Ultimate Incompatibility (of Old Windows Games)

I have games. I mean, I have lots of games. Old games, new games, interesting games, rare games, big box games, err…PC games? Yes.  I have lots of PC games. How can you play old PC games? With a PC? Yes. But what is your operating system? What is your graphics card? Processor? Do you actually have today a SSD instead of HDD and does it really matter?

The point here is that you were, earlier, playing these games with a computer that had maybe Windows 98, Windows XP or MS-DOS. Now it is 2021. The standard in Windows is Windows 10. It was only while ago when Windows 7 lost its support from Microsoft. Hardware does evolve. Operating systems keep developing. There are many changes. PC is a strong standard but its weakness is that old games that you were able to play earlier don’t necessarily work anymore.

You can have an old PlayStation or NES. You can then play these games with this device. And the strength of consoles compared to PC is just that. They can deliver games and playing them is reliable. This might have something to do with the traditional mentality of computer gamers. It used to be a good thing that your PC was fast. So basically we are having games as physical copies lying around in corners. I have made tens or maybe even hundreds of purchases from flee markets. Many times the game finally ended up not working on my Windows 10.

One solution for this is setting up an old computer that is running some old operating system. I haven’t tried this trick. Some games are so popular that there are fan-made patches that enable you to play the game. If your game is compatible with DOS you can always download DOSBox. You can also try to run your games on some virtual machine that has the right operating system. Steam is full of old games that are available for purchase. They work. That’s what you pay for.

So operating systems change. So does the hardware. So drivers play a big role in this game of games. We are forced to update our devices. You have to buy a new phone in say two to three years. Computers might last a bit longer but you can’t play latest games with a pc that is five years old. At least if you don’t update it anyhow. This problem is also visible on PlayStation and even Xbox. Basically the problem is that some old games are just so good that some gamers still want to play them.

Why aren’t there better emulators for old PC games? And this applies most to Windows 98 and XP era. There would even be some commercially interesting ideas about this subject. Would you pay for a retro console or software that you could play your old retro style games?

Tools for Building Your Game

Do you want to know how to actually make a game? Do you have an idea? Let me tell you what it is about and what skills you must learn. You might already have a friend or two that are talented in for example doing graphics or making music with personal computer. Why wouldn’t you get to understand how to make your game? And wouldn’t it be fun even if you wouldn’t actually end up releasing a game?

We will start with 3D modeling. There is this method to make a 3D featured game. You will have to make all the objects that the player encounters and also all surroundings and so on. If you want to make a game that has only 2D graphics that’s ok. But in this blog post we are dealing with 3D environment. So for making animations and 3D models you have to learn to use Blender. Or one of your friends has to. You probably need also skills in programming OpenGL which is based on C++. SO you need to know programming also to “make things click”. you have to have a way for the player to interact. So you need input from player. This is also made possible through an interface that has to be programmed. Making a game isn’t actually all programming but it isn’t all creative thinking also.

You don’t have to make your game with C++. You have a wide variety of different programming languages to choose from. You can make games with Java. I have been fiddling around with SWING. It is quite easy to make a game with a GUI but no graphics. You can make for example a role playing game with a deep plot. There are also some game engines for you to choose from (in Java). Some of them are engines like LITIENGINE and LWJGL – Lightweight Java Game Library. You can find more information about them … again … from your favorite search engine. (Or I might write about them some day). Android is also build with Java. So you need to learn Java if you wish to make a game for a mobile device that runs Java.

What about Python? You might have learned basics of programming from some course for example with it. Python is very good for many purposes. You can make games with Python. Then you would maybe want to learn about Pygame. There is also a funny library for Python for making games that have ASCII graphics (and only ASCII graphics).

You can choose C and C++ and then you are again going to the direction of using OpenGL for so many things. Have you ever made websites? Then you must be familiar with things like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This is one way for you to make a game also. You can even use a library like Phaser that is based on JavaScript. You can also make your game with C#. You can also make something out of SQL or databases.

There are also some other ways to make a game that I haven’t yet mentioned here. There is basically tools that are built for making games. So they act like software that you can code and design your game with. Some of these tools are Game Maker Studio, Stencyl and Unity.

We have dealt with programming and 3D modeling. But you need also something else. You need graphics or to say it more precisely you need textures. Textures form the surface to your 3D models so they will look like they were actual objects in actual real world. Or that is their goal since a clever player always recognizes that he or she is playing a game and it’s never a real life situation. But, you need textures, right? Your tools for accomplishing this are free tools like GIMP and/or Paint.net and actual paid software application Photoshop. These tools are powerful and you have to learn to use them if you wish to make a game.

Some graphics can be made from sprites. So animation needs many still pictures that finally form the desired animation. But let’s think that we are building a game with 3D environment so we will stick to using Blender for the purpose.

Okay. What about music? What about sound effects? A good game has a dedicated soundtrack, right? You can make your own music or you can try to contact some independent artists. You can find these artists from SoundCloud or if you can speak in Finnish or at least in English you can try to talk to some artists in Mikseri which is a Finnish platform for releasing songs as mp3s on internet. But those are your options, basically. And music you can also find from YouTube. Try asking from some artist you dig.

You can find lots of sound effects online. You can try Freesound.org for example. Sound effects might be hard to make. It helps if you have a good quality condenser mick. These come nowadays with USB connection and they cost about from forty euros to several thousands. I would myself prefer a good and cheap mic for testing to record something. You can get creative with this. Slice an orange maybe and record that sound. You need to handle the audio clip. So you need skills in using an audio editor like Audacity or any other audio editor.

If you really want to make your own music to be played on the background you need to master some DAW. There are free DAWs, like LMMs, and ones you have to pay to use, like FL Studio or Renoise. There might be free to use demo versions that have some limitations. Some free DAWs I actually haven’t tried to this day are Pro Tools First, Ohm Studio, Cubase LE and Ableton Live Lite. I make my music with FL Studio.

You probably need some instruments. And I mean “virtual instruments”. There are lots of free VST instruments and effects. Some tools come with VST plugins and you can also buy them if you really need. A MIDI keyboard is a good thing to have. So you can make all the melodies with your virtual instruments. It doesn’t hurt if you have samples or if you have a friend that can play some guitar so you have all the diversity that is needed.

You will also need some gear. If you want to record vocals while you are listening to your instrumental at the same time you need headphones. Want to know why? Your voice starts to circulate if you don’t use head phones and you basically don’t want that to happen. You might also want to use monitor speakers. I have spent under 1000 euros for my studio, well if you leave the computer out…But you don’t actually need a super fast computer for making music. You can use your parents desktop really well. Just something that runs your audio software and has some space for your music. And you can buy for example a licence for OneDrive pretty cheaply so you would have 1 terabytes of space.

The last thing, I promise this is last in this long long blog post is about big data. What the f has big data to do with gaming, you might ask. It has every effing to do with today’s gaming. You ever think about how much data is moving in mobile activity all the time. There is also data to move in games. This can be something about how you make your choices in the game or what kind of weather happens to be or what time of the day it is. All this makes games very realsitic. But you know what? It makes them more boring. This is purely my opinion. But keep in your mind that there is a lot going on inside the game when you play it.

 

One Great DOS Game

In UFO – Enemy Unknown you face a serious situation. All the worlds countries have to set aside their disagreements because aliens are attacking the Earth. You first get to decide where are you going to set up your base. You get to build the base. You have money that you can use for research, training and otherwise imnprove your base. When you get to attack against UFOs you get also to missions that happen when an UFO gets shot down. For that you have to have soldiers, guns and you can evenuse tanks.

This game has many different areas. It combines very nicely strategy and action. I am trying not to spoil the game so much in this text since it has some moments in it that can be a bit suprising. I am not going to reveal any more about the plot of this game.

This game was first released for PC in 1994. When I first encountered it it was end of the 90s. This game was for me like candy for a child. That’s about how attractive it was. UFO – Enemy Unknown had many innovations that set it apart from some other strategy games. It also told a story that was full of Science Fiction influences.

I definitely recommend you to get into this game and give it a chance. It is an old game, but it also is a gold game or an oldie goldie if you want to use that term. If you are into DOS games already I can do nothing more than recommend this game. Also if you’re into alien stuff or have even a slight interest in Science Fiction.

Short Retro Moment

So this game is actually “Space Commanders”. It was released as a DOS game back in 1983. This is actually a game that I remember playing as a very young kid. This was made possible by the fact that I was extremely interested in computers when I was a young boy. There really weren’t any real violence in this game or I was too young to understand it. It is a game where you shoot objects but thanks to poor graphical presentation the deeper meaning of this game didn’t really come clear. Nowadays it is more important as the graphics are better to make sure that the content of the game is appropriate.

This is actually a clone of well known classic called “Space invaders”. I tried Space Commanders after so many years. It’s design is very interesting. I could be interested to see its source code. I don’t know if it is possible. Maybe I use my favorite search engine to find more information. I didn’t see, at least yet, who has designed this game.

I see already some structures in this game. I mean I understand some concepts and some designed features. I almost see the code in front of my eyes but not so clearly. The game works like this. You have a space ship that you can move to up, down, left and right. You can also shoot a bullet. Your mission is to shoot these, we can call them invaders, that are moving towards you. The game ends when invaders reach the bottom of the screen. Invaders move in, is that, six rows or in some kind of a formation. I don’t describe the movement so accurately.

There is a high score chart. It holds only the best score and the score gets deleted if you exit the game. After you have shot all the invaders you get back to where the game started and you face the next group of enemies. They  are a bit faster this time. At the top of the screen there is a randomly appearing space ship that moves from left to right. If you shoot it you will get a bonus score. When you get 10000 points you get one ship more for you to use. So you have limited lives or fighting ships to use.

This was a nice short moment for me to play my dear, now so retro, game. I remember playing the EGA version while this game was in CGA. I mean actually that this game is black and white while EGA version had some colors. It definitely brought some memories to my mind. And if you wonder what kind of a computer I played this with back then I can tell you that it had a 286 processor. I can’t remember accurately any more details about the computer.

Redream – A Dreamcast Emulator

Segas last gaming console, Dreamcast, was released in 1999, at least in Europe. It was actually released in November 1998 in Japan. It wasn’t a bad console. Many say it was the best gaming console that was ever released. To some it was even better than the first PlayStation. It sure was more powerful. It had many great games but it only stayed available for consumers to buy for a short period of time. Dreamcast was drawn from manufacture at the end of 2001. So there might have been more games released for this system if it would have been longer in the markets.

Some good Dreamcast games that I’ve played are Skies of Arcadia, NBA 2K2 and Crazy Taxi. I have heard that games like Sonic Adventure, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio are good games also. If you have a game for Dreamcast I haven’t mentioned here feel free to comment this post. Skies of Arcadia is a nice role playing game. It reminds a lot of Final Fantasy games. Crazy Taxi is a kind of a driving game where you pick up customers and drive them where they want to go. NBA2K2 is pretty much what the title says – a basketball game.

Let’s talk about Redream. It is a Dreamcast emulator. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. There is also an option for a download for Raspberry Pi. The setup is made easy for a user of a computer. You select the download that corresponds to your operating system. Then you unpack and just run the application. You might want to add shortcut to desktop also. The user interface is also easy to learn. You can see all the games you have currently. You can select the location of your rom files inside your computer. You can also adjust some settings concerning your saved games, input devices, video (for example the resolution of the screen you are using) and some other options related to localization.

Redream is a good looking Dreamcast emulator. It’s clearly the easiest one to use when I think about its competitors such as DEmul and NullDC. They required more fiddling with the settings. Dreamcast emulators, all in all, are far more easier to setup than a well known PS2 emulator PCSX2 is. Don’t get me wrong. PCSX2 is a great emulator. It just is a bit hard for a non technical user to setup. Redream also works very nicely. I haven’t had any problems. It hasn’t crashed at all as I have used it for some time now. You can download stable release or development release. This means that the stable version has been tested and development version is the most recent versio´n that has the most recent new features.

You can download Redream here

Introducing Cash Invaders (MS-DOS) (2002)

When the file sizes were smaller and graphics simpler there was a time when small games (I don’t know if there’s a good, English, term for these) had a place in a players hearth. Maybe they even had their place inside the computers operating system and more precisely the file system. That depended on how well the user of the computer had organized his or her hard drive space. You had to remove games sometimes to free some space. So you just couldn’t launch all of them. You had to make a choice.

Nowadays you rarely need to go through your hard drive trying to figure out what software to keep installed. You sometimes have to. I think it is stupid and slow. Did you nag about PS4s small hard drive? Do you think PS5 has too small amount of space included? Well, think about me trying to expand my hard drive, by updating my hardware, to be about 16 GB in the beginning of the 2000s. Do you get the picture..? We are super retro right here, you know.

If you have never played Space Invaders you might not get why I am writing about this clone of a classic. I actually didn’t play the original game but I did play a cloned game that was called Space Commander. The idea is to try to shoot some sort of “space bugs” that are moving slowly towards the player. Bugs are moving row after row. There are some good strategies for trying to beat this game but I think we are not going to go inside them so deeply. If these bugs reach the player the game is over. As a some sort of plot the game describes that these things you are shooting are aliens and you are a space soldier trying to block their way from destroying the whole planet Earth.

Cash Invaders saw the daylight in 2002. For me there is no nostalgia. I didn’t play it back then. It caught my attention as I was going through a library of DOS games found from the internet. It takes about 420 kilo Bytes of space. As I am crawling through internet to find more information about the game I arrive at a website that is dedicated solely to Cash Invaders. I feel happy. I didn’t find this through Google. I found it the way I have always found interesting homepages – through web pages that are linked to each other. On this website you can find the download of some versions of the game and there’s also a list of high scores. You can also find some pictures. The website is funny and I feel some nostalgic vibes when I read the contents and see the graphics.

This is the website

So there’s 100 levels. I reached level 16 on my first attempt. I read that the developers used some sampled sounds (from a movie “Independence Day”). Some sounds were taken from other smaller games. The graphics of the game are nice. A bit of 3D modelling also included. The game is nicely designed. I have only played a bit of this game so I didn’t get to the “cash system” but I think there is a way to upgrade your space ship as you collect coins from destroyed bugs. In overall it is a very nice and small DOS game that I can warmly recommend to any player that likes DOS content. See you on the next post. Have a nice day.

How Doom changed gaming?

Back in 1993 I was a young kid and I heard some of my class mates talk about this new game that was said to be totally awesome. They kept talking about it. Our crappy PC that our family had wasn’t able to run it. So I played it with my friends computer. And it definitely was something we players hadn’t seen before.

Creators of this game, mainly John Romero and John Carmack, brought to us a game that had never-before-seen graphics and which was also very violent. I remember a long conversation that I had as a kid about does Doom have some kind of a plot in it. You basically walk around and shoot monsters. But there is some kind of a story included though. You are a soldier that is ordered to go to work at Phobos, a moon of Mars, but someone has accidentally opened a teleport to hell. Everyone else is dead. You are figthing monsters from hell all by yourself.

Back in the day graphics were blurry. Just compare the original game to newer Doom released in 2016 and you clearly see the difference. Violence does exist but now graphics tell you more accurately what happens if you for example cut a zombies head off with a chain saw. Some people claimed already in 1993 that games were too violent. This kind of discussion is of course necessary but I think you can not blame solely games for real life violence. My opinion in this issue is that a healthy person can draw a line to what happens in game and how you act in real life. Of course everyone has an opinion but lets not, again, go there.

So how exactly Doom impacted gaming? Well, it certainly brought a 3D experience to larger audience. Makers of Doom had already released Wolfenstein 3D some years earlier. There was this new genre starting to rise its head. It was the birth of a genre called First Person Shooters. And I think Doom is the father of all FPS games that came later. If Doom wouldn’t have been released there wouldn’t be games like Quake, Half-Life, Unreal, Soldier Of Fortune and so on. Doom started it all. This might also be the reason why gaming industry started to grow towards games that included textures and 3D models. Doom was definitely a real pioneer in this formation of gaming that was yet to come even more popular.

Doom started its journey to minds of gamers as a PC game. There was one particularly smart way to release a game that was used by Romero and Carmack. It was called shareware. It worked like this – You could copy the first episode free and if you, or when you, liked the first part, you could purchase the whole game. This was first time that this kind of releasing of a game was used. And it was genious. Doom was also ported to many gaming consoles including Sony PlayStation and Super Nintendo. One of the best versions of Doom could be the one released on Nintendo 64.

Doom made a comeback in 2016 as the game was released to modern gaming systems. There have been numerous Doom games and listing them all would be pointless. You must not forget Doom Eternal that was released just weeks ago. It’s the latest Doom game right now. I think nobody seriously has doubts about how great game this really is. If you still think this game didn’t have impact on the whole gaming industry I will answer that it sure did shape me and some people I know as players of computer and video games.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial