Whatever Happened To These Types Of Games?
Various types of games came and went over the years. The Pong-style paddle game that helped introduce the concept of videogames to the American public, once so prominent in the arcades and in the homes through the first hard-wired self-contained game systems, have dwindled away to where only a modernized Breakout clone, Taito's 1986 Arkanoid game, gets any notice. Then came Space Invaders, which introduced the shooter game category in various formats, including the scrolling shooters Defender and Scramble, which led to a whole string of scrolling shooters during the age of the Nintendo and Sega 8-bit and 16-bit game systems. Pac-Man, the game that gave us the maze game category of the early 1980s, came next, followed by Donkey Kong, the first of many platform run-and-jump games that would eventually lead to Mario being the main star of the seminal scrolling run-and-jump game Super Mario Bros. and a whole host of variants up to the present age. The fighting game category got its start in the mid-1980s with Kung Fu Master and Karate Champ giving us the scrolling fighter and the one-on-one fighter, both of which would be further refined in the 1990s. Alexei Pajitnov's PC puzzle game Tetris from the late 1980s became the source of inspiration for other similar puzzle games. The RPG game category that originated on personal computers would find its way to home systems by the 1990s in the forms of Final Fantasy and Legend Of Zelda. The 3D maze shooter would become commonplace after Wolfenstein 3D and Doom gave players a foretaste of what was to come.
However, some game categories would only appear for a while before being banished into the annals of history, rarely to be heard from again. These three categories discussed were also part of what shaped videogaming back in the glory days of the early 1980s:
1. Text adventure games -- Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when very few people owned personal computers, this type of gaming became popular among mainframe-type computers used in colleges and universities, beginning with those developed by Creative Computing for those that ran the BASIC programming language. Since those computers weren't designed with displaying graphics in mind, text adventure games focused solely on presenting the action conveyed through text corresponding to the actions that the player took by typing in simple number or letter-coded commands. As the games got increasingly more complex, the command system would eventually become more complex to where multiple-word commands almost to the point to near grammatical sentence structure would be the norm. Also, the presentation of the game's action would get more closer to making the player feel like he's in an interactive story rather than playing a game. Although Scott Adams of Adventure International would be credited for developing the first text adventure game of this type called Adventureland for the late-1970s-to-early-1980s personal computers, another company called Infocom would make this type of game become an art form with such releases as the Zork trilogy, Starcross, Planetfall, Deadline, The Witness, Infidel, the adult-oriented Leather Goddesses Of Phobos, and even one for children, Wishbringer. The late Douglas Adams of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book series fame even had the titular first book of the series converted into a text adventure game by the programmers of Infocom. Going even further to make these games appealling, Infocom packed most of their games with all sorts of interesting extras, some of which may contain clues that would help the player along the way whenever they get stuck somewhere.
However, as personal computers developed over time would feature graphics and sound capabilities that would make prospective home game players buy computers over videogame systems, text adventure games would end up having graphics that would help convey the action in place of or in addition to written onscreen text, and one game in particular, Sierra's King's Quest for the IBM PCjr, would mix text adventure gaming with standard videogaming action. With this becoming more prominent, Infocom's days as being the bestseller of text adventure gaming would be numbered, even to where they resorted to using graphics in their late-1980s-released text adventure games. By the 1990s, text adventure gaming would only be found in Activision-released compilations of Infocom's adventures and a few Kemco-released NES games such as Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and The Uninvited, which used simple gamepad-controlled point-and-click features to select game commands but otherwise used text and graphics to show what's going on. By the 2000s, text adventure gaming would be found as freeware on the Internet under the new term "interactive fiction", including new games of this type written by fans.
As an interesting side note, text adventure games have also appeared on the Atari 2600. Sears Roebuck, which obtained a license from Atari to sell their Atari 2600 in Sears stores as the Tele-Games Video Arcade, had a few games made by Atari that were exclusively marketed and sold by Sears. One of those games was Stellar Track, which was an adaptation of many Star Trek-type battle simulation games found on personal computers of the day. Though probably not a very big seller, Stellar Track was the only offering of its type for the 2600 until the age of game emulation, when The Dark Mage was developed and released as both a ROM image and a cartridge. That, and an adaptation of Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring into the text adventure game format, took the concept of such a game for the 2600 even further while also simplifying the process of controlling the action through the use of a joystick to select commands.
2. Vector graphics games -- As far as alternate technologies for videogames went, the "vector-scan" video monitors used in arcade games such as Atari's Asteroids and Tempest as well as in CinemaTronic's Star Castle and Sega's Space Fury provided a visual treat that lasted for several years, even as far as a company called General Consumer Electronics developing a self-contained portable home system called the Vectrex that used the same video technology for games. How "vector-scan" technology differed from the traditional use of "raster-scan" technology was this: instead of having the picture tube scan in a new picture on the screen in a constant pattern and using the beam to turn little tiny dots on the screen on or off, which is how "raster-scan" generates pictures, "vector-scan" scans a straight line onto the screen from any point to any point like a high-tech Etch-a-Sketch to generate images. This made for somewhat faster animated game images, though the tradeoff is that the images end up looking like outlines with no fill-in.
At first, arcade games that used "vector-scan" monitors had used monochrome-colored beams, but eventually by the early 1980s, Atari and Sega had introduced a multi-color version of the same technology for games such as Space Duel, Tempest, Space Fury, and Star Trek. The Atari-produced Star Wars game and its follow-up The Empire Strikes Back were among the last arcade games that made the best use of the technology to convey the action of being in an X-Wing Fighter, a Rebel Snowspeeder, or the Millennium Falcon fighting against the amassed Imperial forces. After 1985, however, "raster-scan" technology had completely dominated the arcades to the point where "vector-scan" was no longer viable. CinemaTronics, a company that was literally built on games using that technology, such as Star Castle, Armor Attack, and Tail Gunner, ended up being part of Leland Corporation, which brought out late 1980s arcade games such as Super Off-Road and John Elway's Team Quarterback, in addition to one of the games mentioned in the next section:
3. Full-motion video games -- Before this term was even coined, full-motion video (FMV) games got their start in the early 1980s when Rick Dyer from Advanced Microcomputer Systems approached former Disney animator Don Bluth with the idea of creating a videogame that would use a computer connected to a video laserdisc machine that was controlled by a game program. The first game that their new partnership company Starcom (later Magicom) had developed was Dragon's Lair, which gave players control over a bumbling knight's actions in a danger-infested series of rooms within a castle to save the beautiful Princess Daphne from an evil slumbering dragon. The initial success of the game inspired them to develop a second similar title called Space Ace, where the player as some sort of space cop gets zapped by an evil alien's Infanto Ray, turning him from a strong bruiser of a man to a weakling teenager, and he must pursue this thug across the cosmos to rescue his girl partner and have his manhood fully restored. The difference between that game and Dragon's Lair is that the player can choose at certain points in the game to "power up" from his weak teen self to Space Ace mode and take on greater dangers for greater points. Other companies such as Atari, Williams, Sega, Stern, and Gottlieb/Mylstar started to work with this new videogame technological medium to develop games that would mix laserdisc background images with computer-generated graphics such as Astron Belt, Firefox, and M.A.C.H. 3, but problems would begin to develop as well with this technology such as laserdisc machines constantly breaking down, making the games inoperable for long stretches of time. After a few years, however, arcade operators had enough of trying to make money off of laserdisc videogames, and so future production of such games had dwindled to where only one such company, American Laser Games, dabbled in producing a stream of laserdisc target-shooting games like Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock, and Leland Corporation got dibs on releasing the finished but rather late-to-the-party Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp.
Full-motion video games, however, would find themselves appearing on home systems with the release of ICOM Simulations games, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and It Came From The Desert, for the TurboGrafx-16 CD-ROM attachment, when video compression techniques would allow for full-motion video to fit onto a compact disk. Tom Zito, the man who put together two full-motion video games, Night Trap and Sewer Shark, for an unreleased videogame system being developed by him through Hasbro that used videocassettes as its storage medium, would transfer these two games to the newly-emerged Sega CD format in 1992. Forming a new company devoted to bringing forth more full-motion video games called Digital Pictures, Tom Zito gave Sega CD, 3DO, and Saturn owners more games based on this vision featuring directorial and acting talent from the film and TV industry itself. However, these games started to really show the limits of the full-motion video game -- primary of which was the limited interaction the player had in these games -- that by 1997, Digital Pictures would close its doors forever, leaving behind a handful of embarrassing failures of games like Slam City and Supreme Warrior which tried to capitalize on the success of the likes of NBA Jam and Street Fighter II, respectively.
Though not as prominent as it once was, full-motion video games now enjoy being presented in the format of DVD technology, with Digital Leisure doing the honors of transporting Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair II, and Space Ace into DVD-ROM and DVD-Video games, allowing even those who simply have DVD players to fully enjoy the classic full-motion video games of yesteryear.
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