The Relationship of Technology and Games

In this blog post I am trying to answer the question: what is the relationship of technology and games? There are several successful game companies based here in Finland. How did they get to that position? We are going to have to go back to the beginnings of the history of home computers. Commodore 64 was the computer back in the 80s. That was the tool for many programmers.

Commodore 64 provided means so that you could program games and other applications. You could start with Basic and keep going to some graphics and music to turning the whole device to parts and figure out how it ultimately worked. This was something that many persons drawn into technology and games did. This computer opened a path for them into the depths of technology and games.

There was a sort of a scene that formed around capable programmers in Finland. It was called “demo skene” which is a Finnish term meaning “demo scene”. This know-how made among these young individuals was something that positively impacted in the rise of know-how also in a more professional way. Things were looking good as Nokia also needed persons that were able to program applications to cellphones. There were many game companies here. Some of them are still functioning. You might know companies like Remedy, Rovio and Supercell. These companies were driven by some of the people that started their progressing from the era of Commodore 64.

I was thinking about this subject and how would I approach it. Programming is one thing. If you are hoping to make a game you have to know also very much of the functioning of the graphical system and also how the computer uses long term and temporary memory and also how you react and with which device (keyboard or maybe controller) to actions of the player. How does the experience of a video game take its final form. There’s lots of things going on while the game is running. Part of it is purely technical. The technology forms the experience.

It is somewhat true that games give you a similar reaction as does any modern form of art. Technology enables you to use techniques like programming and 3D modeling along with the design of the whole aural experience. There are these skills and if you are capable of using them in a strong way you can be successful in creating digital art that can be called a game. The player can enjoy this game even without a deep knowledge of the technology that lies under the hood of the device that the game is running on. There is something very magical in all of this. Games can be enjoyed and even studied by anyone that feels even a slight interest in them.

This is one of my dreams that I have had for now maybe tens of years. This was the reason I chose to study programming. I dreamed that I would be able to create some kind of a game. It might not be as powerful as a game like EA WRC is but there is this motivation inside my mind that I still have. I would like to some day be able to create games. This is a powerful dream that drives me forward and motivates me. Sometimes you don’t learn so fast and sometimes you have to learn details instead of the most fundamental concepts.

So, my path to learning more about computers does continue. I am not so sure if I am ever going to be able to be a part of some unit that would create something very beautiful in the form of a computer or video game. I do hope that these thoughts of mine were inspiring this time. Basically, I got tired since I already had played EA WRC for many hours today and this topic formed this time this kind of an output that formed this blog post. I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time, soon!

That Certain Randomness

There is this certain randomness in video games. There is fast learning involved especially when you start playing some game. Games are usually easy to pick up but hard to master. That gives you a feeling that you want to play this game some more. You learn a lot. How much does your skill develop when you are playing? It seems to develop a lot. That isn’t although the only thing your success in playing the game depends. It also has a lot to do with good luck. We can name this element “certain randomness”.

This idea became clear to me as I was one day playing again Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered. I had to catch at least 5 racers as a police officer. The task seemed hard. I kept failing and failing. After trying as hard as I could I got lucky. There were several bad guys captured. It didn’t have so much to do with my skills as it had to do with pure luck.

You might be familiar with randomness in programming. While it is debatable if the random number generated is actually random or not there is a nice way to generate a random number between certain values that can be defined in almost every programming language. At least this is possible in Java and Python. How I first got to know this type of numerical behavior was as I had to deal with a Java application that had to generate a value of a dice getting tossed. You basically had to generate a number between one and six and do it as randomly as possible so that it would describe in the source code how a dice would act in real life.

If you know anything about dices and how are they used in games like Yatzy or some roleplaying game you can figure that their role is to create this random feature that gives you a nice feel when you are playing. It gives you an element of luck. For example if dice gives you 1, 2 or 3 your hit of axe has hit and if it gives you 4,5 or 6 you have missed. You can also define the enemy’s body part that was hit and define the amount of damage caused. A common way to use dices in board games is how many times you can move your character. You get to move the character the amount of times that the dices value is showing.

Playing video games is not only about your skills or your reaction time. It would be very boring to play games that only required skill and would have nothing to do with luck. But if everything in a game is random that isn’t satisfying also. Take poker for example. It is nice to play a game or two of poker. Would you play poker for three hours? Would you enjoy the game if there were no money involved? Of course the answer to these two questions are both “no”. Poker is such a game of luck, isn’t it?

I think the best games are the games that mix randomness smoothly to the skills needed to succeed. If you succeed all the time doing exactly the same thing it gets quickly boring. You want challenge. And you want some surprises. Nowadays video games are getting more complex. This makes things more interesting to us players and I think for also game designers. While you can mix things up by making them abstract and random you always don’t even have to. That’s because games are more complicated than this. You can watch the statistics, like how many kills you have in a shooting game, and make these figures random but in this case the number of kills depends also about the players skills and this forms the players performance. Some things can be simple and random while others can just be thought to be like that.

Anyways. Thanks for reading, again! I am going to continue to have my couple days of since it’s the mid summer party here in Finland. I am probably going to play, make music and read some books. We already had a small meeting with a friend. I have also something more to tell you about our game that we hope to have for sale soon. See you next time!

Sega vs Nintendo – What was it all about?

Nintendo released a maximum mega hit gaming console back in the 80’s. It was called NES or Nintendo Entertainment System. Atari had released gaming consoles targeted to use inside customers living rooms. It was about the time when arcades were quickly challenged by these kinds of devices you could easily set up inside your own home. The trend was there. Personal computers, PCs, were becoming more and more popular also.

While Sega Master System wasn’t a very bad console it couldn’t fully challenge NES. Sega knew they had to release a better, more powerful, gaming console to compete with Nintendo. Mega Drive, or Genesis as it was called in the USA, was released at the end of 1980’s and in Europe right at the beginning of 90’s.

I remember clearly the commercial of Mega Drive. It was a promise to bring arcades to homes. It delivered graphics and sound at 16-bit quality instead of earlier gaming consoles 8-bits. If Master System didn’t have so many hit games Sega promised also to bring good quality software in the form of great games. Sonic The Hedgehog and Golden Axe II were some of the most popular titles back then with not forgetting some greatness that was brought to paying customers by games like Splatterhouse, Streets Of Rage and for example Kid Chameleon.

Nintendo had Super Mario. Can someone say seriously that Super Mario wasn’t a great game? I think no one would say or think that way. So he was the mascot of the whole NES and also Nintendo. The battle for the gamers hearts (and money) was ultimately bloody and sweaty. You can have, if you wish, a great debate about which console had better games then the other.

As the battle continued Nintendo seemed to take in consideration how violent some games were. They started to deliver fighting games with no blood, hockey games without fights and cute characters that might seem to appeal to younger audience. Sega instead was reaching for customers that wanted this kind of rawness in their games. They didn’t remove the blood or the violence. You have to remember that things were a bit different back then since games in general weren’t so realistic. Sega was also paying more attention to the packaging of their games since Master Systems games were catching critic on that issue.

So who won the battle? You can definitely say that both consoles and companies were doing great. Sega was successful and so was Nintendo. Later, Sega made some bad decisions and started to be in trouble. The last console that was released was Dreamcast. Nintendo instead has been bringing gaming consoles up to this day as Switch is their latest console. Dreamcast was released in the end of 90’s and Switch was released 2017.


Differences between serious and casual gaming

What really is casual gaming? Does it refer to playing at easier difficulty level? Does it mean not playing so many hours daily or weekly? In this article I try to explain this matter. There are many things that are or seem to be more important than playing. But sometimes you can combine playing with writing an essay or getting to spend some free time. We can go even further – what if you could also create new games and use your knowledge to your advance?

In my thoughts casual gaming means passing some time that you just seem to have to something that you don’t fully want to do. You are just spending time or even wasting time because you might be bored or you are waiting for something to happen for example waiting for the oven to warm so you can bake some pizza in it. This means that you are not so passionate about the actual game and all the difficulties and experiences inside the game are not the thing that you are interested in.

Let’s for a moment think about serious gaming. You are obsessed with the game you are playing. You want to find every piece of equipment, turn over every rock you find and reveal all the secrets that the game has. You are willing to receive everything that specific game has to offer. You are deeply inside this games world. You want to focus on the main character and side characters also. You seem to understand the story.

Studying is a lot like learning a new game. Some people try to figure what things are the most essential and learn them and even memorize some phrases or images or something that they find important. But if you want to learn things more deeply you want to understand why things are the way they are. You want to fully understand the matter you are trying to learn. Not just some phrases that some expert thinks are important. You want to understand what the game is. You want to know everything about it. So this basically is the difference. Casual gaming is a way to pass some time. Serious gaming is when you want to understand what you are doing inside the game.

As I’ve learned some programming as I was studying I came to understand games more deeply also. It opened some doors for me. My role would not be an artist or 3D modeller or graphical or texture designer. I would be the creator of games logic. That’s what game programmers do. They design the logic. You need a key from that room that opens a door to that next room. And so on. You can build on it.

This text is just one post in my blog. It appears to me that I have touched something important here and we can propably think about these matters in some other posts also. Some things like how can you get so much valuable information from games and how can you even make gaming from your hobby to a profession. I’d like to write more about game designing and eSports. I think there are many valuable things here and that gaming can be more than a simple way to pass time and it can bring you valuable things.

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