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.

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.

 

Final Fantasy VII Remake – A small preview

I played Final Fantasy VII way back when I still had my PS1 gaming console. I played it through and I remember it really took some time to complete it. Graphics were bad if compared to games released today. It had box with four CDs. Remember? PS1 didn’t have a hard drive. Hard drive was first introduced when original Xbox got released.

So for lots of us this new remake brings up so many good memories. The nostalgia is strong. It is a real joy to understand that they haven’t forgotten us older gamers that think FFVII was one of the best in this whole FF series, if not the best of them all.

Free demo of the game was released on PS Store. Demo took over 9 GB of space so it was a small introduction to this game. I played the demo and I think it’s a good response for nowadays gamers demands. Graphics and controls are great. You can choose to play with classic turn-based mode or with modern mode which reminds a lot about Final Fantasy XV.

All in all this is going to be one heck of a game. I would buy it. The release day here where I live is 10.4.2020. I’m waiting for this game. Hope to get to playing it soon!

Diablo series – Are you already waiting for Diablo 4?

I first got in to Diablo as my brother bought it for PS1. My mom destroyed the game, but that’s another story…I played this, but got really deep in Diablo 2 couple years later. I played it on my PC. I don’t think it was released on any other system back in the day.

Fast development of my role character and action in this game soon got me addicted. One Saturday I played Diablo 2 for six straight hours and that was kind of an record for me as a young teenager. I finally got through the whole game. It took many years for me to return to this series of games.

I had heard rumours of Diablo 3 being in development. Had read an preview article about this game. Hype was very strong. I finally saw Diablo 3 on my friends apartments floor. I was surprised that it was already and finally released. I was so hyped that I almost instantly bought a copy. I had to update my PCs GPU but it only cost me some 50 €. I liked Diablo I 3 also.

I ended buying a t-shirt and a poster. I still have them. And I remember how much traffic was generated back then as the game needed internet connection to register the player and to get to playing the game. It was very popular game. Had me playing Diablo 1 and 2 again a couple of timesboth.

So I thought Diablo 3 was OK as a game. I am waiting for another Diablo now and it is number four this time. While there hasn’t been any information about release date we are currently waiting for the game to be published on PS4 and PC or at least these are the systems I am waiting it to be released for. It is somewhat uncertain and time will tell if it will be out on PS5 also.

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