Sunday, March 26, 2006

New Digital Paintings......Living Light...

Paintings in Light and 3D

After 38 years of working in two dimentions, I am finding that creating with 3D software the visions that have hitherto escaped me can become a reality. It is a great joy to see the light fall across the forms of the models and scenes I can create, and be able to in an instant arrange and adjust what before would be iimpossible to do within a single work.



Tiffany at the Open Door
Summertime

Mixed Media, figure in 3D, Obj and Rag Doll modelled in Poser 6.0, props and Obj., placed on oil painting background 1992 - 2007.



The Wings of Morning - Dancing for the Joy



Blessing of the Moon
3D Image created in Poser



Homeword Bound
Obj, model in 3D Studio Max, Texture in Maya, Poser 6.0, Photoshop CS



Visions of an Artist's Life

Entirely 3D scene, figures, obj. props, textures, lighting in Maya
Poser 6.0, 5.0, zBrush, Photoshop CS



Exploring Lepis Magna, - Travels with Max
Figures and Obj. Props, Rendered in Maya and Poser 6.0, Photoshop CS


Lunch on the Terrace - Summer on the Cote d'Azu
Entirely 3D Image, Poser 6.0, Obj. Props, Original Oil Painting Background




The Thrill of Flying Never Fades for Max and I
Figures Modelled in 3D Studio Max, Obj. props, Poser 6.0 and Photoshop CS

Self Portrait Mapped onto figure


Blessing the Sacred Sprng

Mixed Media, Poser 6.0, Photoshop CS, ZBrush2



Notes on 3D Design and Creative work by a 2D Artist :)

Grapic CGI imagery and modern software rendering allow a revolution in image creation and along with reserach into interactive game design and development, a comprehensive approach requires a researcher to study and develop skills in image creation, mapping, framing, rendering and building in the relevant 3D platforms: ZBrush, Maya, 3D Studio Max, Bryce, Blender, World Maker, in game editors such as the SandBox of CryEngine from Crytek, TESS from Bethesda for Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and figure rendering software such as Poser. These images are from this development study and research.

enjoy.....



Queen of the Four Wind
Render in Poser, Bryce, Obj. Modelled and Framed in Associated Platforms. 2006.
































Memories of Ancient Days - Painting in Illyrium
Foreground Figure, Textures, and Obj. Props, Poser 6.0, Bryce, Maya, Photoshop CS



RESOURCES FOR GAME RESEARCH

NEW HORIZONS – COMPUTER GAME DESIGN

Immersive Adventure and Experiential Games

History and Development of Innovative Computer Games with Emphasis on Myst Like Interactive Graphic Adventures

Christopher Gerlach, M.A. C.F.A. OXON COMPILER
August 2005 – April 2007

(This is ongoing research and contains quotations and original material from many sources, and these are included here for research and comparative purposes only, this is NOT a final publication as full permissions have not been secured for all matieral included. I am the complier and have included items of interest to my own directions of thought about gaming and the CGI industry and future)

"To my mind, present day computer games of the MYST class are ….. the most recent examples of a long tradition of works designed for the mind's eye -- the sharpest "virtual reality" of them all..."
Charles Cameron


These are selections from ongoing research from my study of interactive graphic games focusing on the ways that dynamic graphic imagery can extend and enhance personal vision in many ways. This is ongoing research, and as such, embodies my thoughts and feelings from my study of gaming today, and it changes as my understanding and experience with the different genres change and as the games industry itself expands and grows as do all human endevours. I am not an expert in any aspect of games design or development, just a very interested student and an artist looking at the work of other artists in a very interesting new medium that is very much part of our lives.

Introduction

The development of efficient and affordable personal computers has been a revolution in not only technology but also communication, education, entertainment, and creativity. All of these aspects of the IT revolution of the past 40 years also have made the use of personal computers and CGI one of the newest realms of dreaming, visioning and having fun. Games are one of the most beautiful expressions of our love of mystery, adventure and the flame of life that is in each of us.

Each of us, I offer, creates our own reality from the world around us, and we share our created worlds with each other to a greater or lesser degree as we live out our lives. It is this sharing that makes up the incredibly rich tapestry of life for each of us, for our relationships and families, and for our society.

So we are each of us a unique “instance” of beings that move among each other and our world, at times awake and aware and at other times, entranced and enraptured in the magic of dreams of our own making or that others tell us or show us or share with us.

Games and literature, music, art, have always held this special magic for us, and offer us not only escape but a chance to become more fully ourselves, realized in both the waking and walking world and the inner worlds of our minds’ and hearts’ eyes and feelings. We need to dream and to play as much as any other form of expression and sustenance, and without our dreams, life becomes a narrowing prison of hopelessness and fear.

So the search for the horizon, and for new horizons in games and through computer gaming offers much for the artist, the visionary, and seeker, the hermit and the hero in all of us. It was to understand and to vision along the narrow edge, the vast space of this fr0ntier that I began some years ago studying and playing computer games, when I could, experiencing the very first ones, on up to the present time of 2005 and beyond.

I had been doing wider research into the perils and pathology of our times in other disciplines and fell into this area almost by accident, but it was a happy accident for my study of games has returned a sense of meaning and context that more academic research into psychology, anthropology, ecology, history, physics, and other disciplines had clouded for me. I found not answers but clearer questions in my quest among the myriad genres of CGI games over the past forty years, as well as have met some wonderful, warm, intriguing and exciting people in all walks of life and all areas of the gaming world. Some of their thoughts and words are shared here along with mine and together I hope we can find a synthesis and a
Way through to the horizons that lie ahead.

Visions Made Real

As more and more modern individuals are forced to lead increasingly urban and high pressure lives, many slower and more naturally paced chances for people to experience, consider and relate to their own personal reality and their own personality development are lost. The development of some unique and advanced ahead of their time games has led to my research into the impact some Immersive and Experiential Titles, among them the Cyan Worlds Myst series. I now hope that this high quality genre will continue to develop, for many have had some concerns over the popularity of much lower quality, egregiously simplistic game trends, the impact of gratuitous fantasy based violence and aggression motifs found in film, TV and video-popular music culture have concerned many. The importance of higher end quality titles can be important for maintaining sanity and personal expression, and help us be happy and ourselves.

After a lot of study and thought about this, I found that the games and game designers and gamers that play the games were not the cause of the society wide problems we worry about. Indeed the games offer sometimes a way through to better lives, and a justifiable and very necessary release from that very life that some feel is “threatened” by game imagery and story lines. In the history and development of games all genres and subjects have been expressed, but in the end, they are games, windows on and from the world, and the window is clouded or clear not of itself, but by the viewer. And a house and or a life without windows is a cell, a prison, and a place of no hope. So games offer, as stories and arts have always offered, a way through and a path beyond what may be limited and limiting in our lives and times. Let us explore this world of gaming together.




SECTION I
Theory of Gaming

Gaming and the development of computer games is a continuation of the narrative traditions of all literature, prose, poetry and other forms of story telling and re enactment. In the modern crisis of personal reality being impinged upon and dominated by mass society and steadily degrading daily life, in the area of quality of life issues, such release for individual angst and personal dreams and hopes and aspirations becomes even more essential and central than it has been historically throughout recorded history.

The use of the computer generated dynamic imagery offers much in the way of interaction by the viewer and indeed draws the viewer into a more and more dynamic and interactive environment with ongoing work by designers and developers to create games that stimulate and involve not only the emotions and the innate "literature" of cultural stories, but also the intelligence and the intellect of the participant. This is progressing as AI or Artificial Intelligence in various forms become available for the coding of modern computer game creations.

"the fundamental qualities that make a good game have remained unchanged and elusive. Consumers still flock to buy original, addictive, and fun games, leaving many flashy products with million-dollar budgets languishing in the $9.99 bin. These costly failures demonstrate that the consumer does not desire a cinematic experience, but rather a quality gaming experience." from ;-Sid Meier, game designer.

"There's a conflict between interactivity and storytelling: Most people imagine there's a spectrum between conventional written stories on one side and total interactivity on the other. But I believe that what you really have are two safe havens separated by a pit of hell that can absorb endless amounts of time, skill, and resources. " -Walter Freitag, game designer.

Developing a Game

The designers must consider the way a story unfolds and the potential for interaction by the player, this will involve certain basic principles of the environment of the game and its back story:

Sequence
Computer games are dynamic over other forms of literature, as they can change and be altered by the gamer and the game play, they are non-linear / multicultural, meaning that they differ from narratives because they can have different sequences. But it does seem reasonable to claim that narratives are sequences evoking a sense of destiny, of events that are intended or seem to want to lead to each other. Roland Barthes says that narrative is the language of destiny. "the mainspring of narrative is ... what comes after being read in narrative as what is caused by." It is partly however to escape this cause and effect inevitability that people play games, to try to escape the seemingly imprisoned nature of their real lives. This freedom can be enhanced by intelligent narrative and enlightened game design.

Sequence matters in narratives, and the famed translatability of narratives between different media does presuppose fixed sequences. While you can recognize similarities between printed stories and their forms evolved in other media, you clearly can't deduct the story of Star Wars from Star Wars the game. There are limitations to narrative and how a sequence evolves. If you start playing a game that requires knowledge that is gained over many pages of a book, you must have some sort of brief or "informed awareness" from the game at the outset.

Unlike the fixed sequence of the narrative, Games seem to be based upon the relative freedom of the player, on the players' possibility of influencing the course of action, and it is this freedom, power as it were, that is a great source of appeal to modern gamers, often frustrated by the strictures and limitations of modern life, and often denied essential and first hand experience, such as craft of the hands, creating or harvesting, and living in a more directly experienced way.

Time
There are some very interesting temporal differences between games and narratives as in Gerard Genette's book Narrative Discourse- Narrative is a ... "double temporal sequence" There is the time of the thing told and the time of the narrative (the time of the signified and the time of the signifier). This duality not only renders possible all the temporal distortions that happen in narratives...(such as "years passed" etc) More basically, it invites us to consider that one of the functions of narrative is to invent one time scheme in terms of another time scheme.

It tells us something interesting about the narrative - it presents two different times, interacting. In the traditional view of the narrative, you differentiate the story and the discourse. Reading a story, you mentally construct a storyline from the discourse presented to you, in order of your discovery of it as the story unfolds. Certain essential facts may not be revealed at first, and need to be discovered, sought out, looked for, even guessed at, if they are hidden or intrinsic. So we get time of the narrated, time of the narration and time of the reading, or in the case of a game the time spent by the gamer as it unfolds.

But if we play a game like Doom, these temporal distances are clearly not present. You can press the control key, a gun fired, and this will affect what's happening on the screen. What you see on the screen isn't past or future, but present, and the impact we have seeing things happen, monsters die, etc, is a large part of the basic and most elementary appeal to players, often juveniles or adolescents who are quite often frustrated by restrictions imposed by age, life choice ranges, and or familial or societal dysfunction. So the three times, the time of the narrated, time of the narration and time of the reading are expressed in a game, and every time you have interactivity, either direct or implied.

Equivalently, and as a consequence of the interactivity, games do not use the temporal possibilities of the story/discourse pair. You don't get flashbacks or flash forwards while playing Doom, because such variations would preclude the interactivity: In a game, you are not able to first play a scene in the present, and then jump to an earlier point on the time line and have interactivity there. Because the first scene would then be determined by whatever the player does earlier on the time line. This would be a paradox.

The story/discourse pair is in other words meaningless in the computer game. The computer game simply doesn't have an active dualism like that.

If we go back to the Christian Metz quote, it seems quite clear that the computer game doesn't "invent one time scheme" from another time scheme. Which could indicate that it is not really narrative.

3. Narrative frames
On the other hand, most computer games do feature some kind of narrative framing. Take Space Invaders.

When we are urged to "play Space Invaders", it does imply a minimal story. The concept of invasion presupposes a time before the invasion, and from the 1950's science fiction it draws upon, we just know that these aliens are evil and should be disposed off. So there is a story, and from the title screen we know all of it: Earth attacked, Earth freed from the alien menace. This is the basic mode of the classical action game: A clichéd story with a well-known ending, and a game that actually never reaches that ending, it just gets harder and harder.

Development of Myst Type Adventure Games

The advances have been quite remarkable and even spectacular in some genres of gaming, and the Myst genre which is the main focus of my research especially, raises questions of the art of game design. This may be an uncommon topic, because with a few exceptions, games have had other aims and qualities. But for the few that do rise to the level of literature and art, this is a valid topic and starting off place for discussing the Myst phenomenon.

Ralph Koster on Games and the Medium and the Message

“To my mind, all arts are based around communicating something. They use a particular medium to communicate within the constraints of that medium, and often what is communicated is, in fact, thoughts about the medium itself (in other words, a formalist approach to arts--much modern art falls in this category). The medium shapes the nature of the message, of course, but the message can be representational, impressionistic, narrative, emotional, intellectual, or whatever else. Some art forms are solo, and some are collaborative (and they can all be made collaborative to an extent, I believe). And some media are actually the result of the collaboration of specialists in many different media, working together to present a work that is incomplete without the use of multiple media within it. Film is one such medium. And video games is another.

The video game requires the collaboration of a number of disciplines, some of them more technical than others. Yet to say that it is less of an art because it requires the engineering discipline of programming code is to also denigrate something like film, which has an enormously high level of technical competence required. (It's also to ignore the level of technical competence required for things like learning color theory or mixing paints, or constructing sentences or paragraphs, but that's another story).

One of the most common points I hear about why video games are not an art form is that they are just for fun. They are just entertainment. But most music is also just entertainment, and most novels are read just for fun, and most movies are mere escapism, and yes, even most pretty pictures are just pretty pictures. The fact that most games are merely entertainment does not mean that this is all they are doomed to be.

Mere entertainment becomes art when the communicative element in the work is either novel or exceptionally well done. It really is that simple. It has the power to alter how people perceive the world around them. And it's hard to imagine a medium more powerful in that regard than video games, where you are presented with interactivity and a virtual world that reacts to your choices. This is a medium with amazing potential, though I must admit that it suffers on the abstract level in a way that simpler media do not (film has many of the same issues though).

Right now, the vast majority of games don't really have anything to say. Some do, though. It's worth wondering, I think, why so many of the games and game designers that are considered legends are those with something to say. Nobody can deny that there is a clear artistic vision behind the work of say, Will Wright, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, or Richard Garriott. And it's not just about entertainment. There are subtexts and implicit messages, and sometimes overt preaching, in these games. And, yes, sometimes they might be artistic failures as a result. On the other hand, notice how much scorn gets heaped on games that are perceived as mere clones or knockoffs. The public already discusses and treats games as an art form, and uses the same standards of judgment for them as they do for films or novels or any other artistic medium. They just aren't comfortable with considering them to be art.

The challenge for game designers, of course, is whether to decide to pursue the possibilities of the medium. I'm not worried about the relative lack of this right now -- the medium is still very much in its infancy. One can hope that it can learn from the lessons of other artistic disciplines, but even if it doesn't, we're still basically in the Stone Age as far as designing interactive experiences goes. And the state of the art is not going to improve unless we have a decent means of evaluating what it is. Even though folks like Chris Crawford have been pushing this perspective for many years, I'm sure many game developers don't feel that video games are an art form.

Basically, videogames aren't going to improve as art and fulfill their potential until more people recognize that they are art, and are willing to discuss them as art. And that means that, eventually, we must gain a critique of the form.

Game design is an art and a craft, and like all arts and crafts, it has techniques and approaches, and that implies that it can support a criticism; said criticism exists though it is not very sophisticated. Mud design is also an art and a craft, and it also has techniques and approaches, but there is no criticism, no self-evaluation, no standards defined, no study of what has gone before. And without self-critique, it cannot improve except in fits and starts. If this genre is to evolve into more than game design, which I firmly believe it has already begun to do, then it will have to support at least the critical apparatus of game design, and preferably the critical apparatus of many disciplines that most people do not bother to link: server design, and writing, and hypertextual theory, and art (for graphics are coming and will dominate, it's not worth fighting over), and psychology and sociology... Game designers today generally do not know even the short history of computer game design; we must as a community educate ourselves and each other if we want the community and its art and craft to grow.”

The Myst Phenomenon

At times of technological and media advance, sometimes the actual literature which is produced by and for a medium or media advances past what the current awareness and understanding of the public and even the programmers and the industry members can totally understand. In the case of the Cyan Worlds Myst series, this continues to be true, I feel. The potential of the personal computer and computers in general to revolutionize advanced calculations of all kinds and personal experience and access to the world has changed greatly. Among these changes is the potential for computer generated imagery with its dynamic, motion capacities, graphics abilities to recreate reality in all forms, with sound and interactivity, to create an immersive environment and a deep experience. Few designers and even fewer game developers and publishers have responded to these potentials to the degree that Cyan, and its founders Rand and Robyn Miller did, and which Rand and the creative wizards of Cyan continue to do in 2006. The standards for innovation, and quality, utilization of the full range of abilities of CG design and depth of game conceptualization and manifestation, the fulfillment of the promise of the PC that Cyan has achieved remain industry standards of excellence. In research and analysis the Myst series offers many insights to the potential and capacities of the computer game in principle and execution.

The Myst Synthesis

The history of the Myst phenomenon started in a garage in Oregon, and has reached far beyond. The company that Rand and Robyn Miller created continues to find ways to push the envelope and the horizons of gaming in ways that are subtle, beautiful and exciting. The game series grew around and through a story that expresses history and achievement by a race called the D’ni who lived in a subterranean world and realm three miles beneath the New Mexico desert. Their cities and remains were found after their fall, from an internal civil conflict in the modern sense, but figures within the story, specifically Atrus and his family figured large in the D’ni world over the past centuries and the games up to the current Cyan project, URU, told aspects of that story.

I want to emphasize that I have no personal first hand knowledge of Cyan or the staff or their philosphy or intents other than from reading articles and the literature available. I tend to do my own research obliquely, and from a distance, for one, I am shy and it is quite hard for me to think my own thoughts from too close a perspective. And I respect the privacy of those engaged in game design, it is a personal journey and quest that I understand as a painter and an artist most of my own life, and I have no right to intrude on the process of others. But my interest in the subject has led to this research and my thoughts expressed here. Just understand, I am not an authority and speak only from my own perspective and the perspective gained from some years of careful study of games from their earliest forms, and from looking carefully at the Myst series and spending time among the forums and the community of fans and players of them as well.
As Cyan developed the series, the story appears to have expanded and grew in scale and vision to become a word unto itself and a world that was happily joined by thousands of gamers around the world of all ages, and backgrounds. With a hiatus of several years, the final current project, URU was started and then put on hold and finally is due for release this month, December 2006.
What has made the Myst series and the myst like games so unique in gaming literature is that there is a personal quest that the player can experience without the often found threats of death in game, costs of building up or leveling up and the complexities that make many simulations and MMORPG’s so strenuous and unplayable for many who could enjoy CGI gaming. The Myst series challenges the player through puzzles, contextual and integrated story challenges and draws the player deeper into an affinity and an affiliation with the game events with a light yet sure touch. I found that each of the series of the original Myst games, starting with Myst, and progressing through RIVEN, Exile, Revelation and End of Ages and finally URU had its own unique characteristics but were overall entrancing visually, and offered much for a wide range of players.

In the final and current release of URU Live, it appears the player will be involved in both the story line and a large community on line of other players in a dynamic world that will have ongoing new content and an expanding game play on all levels. It is perhaps the first time that multi player gaming has been moved into a new direction that contains both the fullest 3D game world and also one of the most developed and sophisticated game story lines I have seen. The aspects of gaming described in this paper are all expressed to varying degrees in the Myst games for they represent the ultimate in game design and technical balance, for the Cyan games consider both the actual game play and the meaning of the story in a integrated and sophisticated synthesis.

As our world moves more and more into the widening lattice of the internet and integrated exchanges of all kinds, the Myst games and Cyan’s design philosophy and directions expresses as few mediums can this new world we live in.

The danger of impersonal and indirect latices like the internet and modern life is that as communication that is indirect and remote becomes more and more the norm and easier, we become separated not only from each other, but from ourselves. We lack engagment and direct contact with life and experince and our fellows. We become isolated and alone and lonely in ways not even we ourselves may realize. But an invitation to a shared journey can bring us together thru those same means of remote communication and the internet and the shared experinces of a game like MOUL can bring us back together, with each other, and with ourselves.

And there is a delicacy and a subtly in the Myst games that allows a player to experience things on his or her own time and life framework, on a personal scale, and so the Myst games are in a way a return to reality as well as an escape from it. We all really live our own lives in our own moving bubble of space and time, and though we touch, and share and exchange in a thousand ways with each other each day, we are born, live and die alone. It is the ways we can see our reflection in each others eyes and in games such as URU and Myst, and the others that we find ourselves, as much as in introspection and self reflection. It is enough I feel to describe these remarkable games obliquely as I have rather than dissecting them individually or doing more detailed examination for that is amply done in many places already. My goal and interest was to see how the Myst games fit into the overall development of gaming and games and how Cyan and it’s gifted staff and leaders may be finding the way to the new Horizons that I have been looking for in the world of gaming.

Versioning and Instancing

One of the unique challenges for URU and the new generation of games that will employ all the potential of multi player communities and try to also include depth and dynamic story lines will be that of creating a game play that is individual, yet allows shared experinece and an overall theme and story line. The challenges of creating a workable and playable 3D world that has liveable frame rates are great. Though we are now seeing new generations of faster and more capable computers, millions of users will not posses the latest and greatest platforms. So the challenge of allowing numbers of players to interact at the same time that connectivity and data flow is allowable is a major one.

URU promises to be a very interesting test of this potential, and along with it, the questions of dynamic content and story line offer the new theory of dynamic versioning, and Random Real Time events and story trees to be explored as never before. In a real way, the technology preceded the design concepts for story integration, at least until Cyan began their work and development of their dynamic universe. It will be intriguing to see how this all plays out, and the stakes are high, for there are risks inherent in launching revolutionary games in the current game industry environment which is widely pursuing known goals and re hashing old themes and titles over and over. But along with the risks there are potentially great rewards, for at the cutting edge, the diamonds of new discovery are found, and honed into their new shapes, and I will watch with great interest as URU launches and the new Horizons are explored.

Another issue is that of player added modifications, a successful way for fans and players to feel involved with and to individually adjust their playing experinece. This is a senstive area as it is one path that MOUL and URU may take, but it will require very close suprvision by Cyan for this is not just another shooting gallery with nice sets, but a complex and very deep story based world. There is no room for random exploits and ego based grandstanding if the gameworld of URU and MOUL is to maintain its integrity. This will require some careful coordination on the part of Cyan and careful vetting of any player created materials. There is ample room in the game story itself and the way that multiplayer and community involvement is possible, for individual players to have a very rich game play experince, but it takes time for a new player to understand and learn the history and the ambience of the game story. This is true for any potential publisher and distributor for the game, as there is a development curve essential and vital for MOUL's fullest potential to be reached, and interrupting or limiting that development can cripple or handicap the game and prevent it reaching the depth and success that I feel is otherwise assured.

Myst Like Games

Characteristics of this Genre:

-1st person perspective/third person perspective or both.
-Solitary adventuring with limited character interaction and limited or no dialogue.
-multi player gaming possible with partial or full dialog for some formats.
-Puzzles at least or nearly as important as plot with plot often subtle or part of the discovery process.
-Limited or no inventory.
-Node-based movement with 2D graphics from slide-show (eg. Myst) to panned pre-rendered graphics (eg. Myst Exile) on up to full 3D graphics and game worlds such as
URU Live.
-An Immersive environment which often utilizes the latest Graphics/Video/Audio and processing resources available in order to enhance game play.
-Some possibilities of Mods and community involvement, with potential for more.

These games vary in quality, game play, story line, and the overall experience available, but most do contain aspects of both immersion and also role playing. Though the role playing genre is a separate one, the entire experience of leaving this current real world reality and entering into a game experience is a role play no matter what the context of the game. In the daily and “normal” reality we all share beliefs and rationality are often repressed or suspended. This can and often does create conflicts and deep stress in us all. In a game, we are excused from this paradox, and inner conflict, and one can then "play" at being in a different time, place, universe, and the like. The risks are limited, as one is playing in another universe, and there is no personal danger of injury or loss of life to the player, but there is an emotional investment in the engaged in experience. and this also includes an intellectual component which varies with the degree of believe-ablity and the subtilty and depth of the game design.

So it is the realm of game design and concept as much as the technical achievements of the code and the actual hardware display that the personal encounter with the game title is fulfilled, - or not. So the study of the MYST genre here is focused on the game experience, and the potential for the CG format to allow and enhance life quality for the gamer beyond "winning".

Myst Like Games: Story Based Interactive Graphic Adventures

This is a list of some current and recent titles that evoke an immersive environment often including challenges both in game play and in developing the player's understanding of the in game environment in order to access further game areas or to succeed or progress in the course of the unfolding game time line:

THE MYST GAMES
--------------------------------
Myst (1993 Cyan)
Myst Masterpiece Edition (Myst 'Enhanced':1994 Cyan)
RealMyst (Realtime 3D Edition of Myst: 2000 Cyan)
Riven (1997 Cyan)
Myst III Exile (Presto 2001)
Myst IV Revelation (Ubisoft Montreal 2004)
URU Complete Chronicles (Cyan 2004) (3D)
Myst V End of Ages (Cyan 2005) (3D)
URU Live (Q4 Release 2006) w/ GameTap

THE MYST-LIKE GAMES
------------------------
Alida
Amber
Amerzone
Aura
Beyond Time
Castle (MAC-only)
Celtica
Chaos: A Fantasy Adventure
Comer
Cracking the Conspiracy
Crystal Key1
Crystal Key
Dark Fall I
Dark Fall II (Lights Out)
Derek
Drowned God
Entombed
Forgotten, The
Frankenstein (Through the Eyes of the Monster)
Golden Gate
Isis
Longest Journey (in some aspects)
Lightbringer (Cydonia)
Lighthouse
Martian Chronicles, The
Milo
Mirage
Morpheus
Mummy, Tomb of the Pharoah
Nacah
NetZone
Nightfall (MAC-only)
Obsidian
Qin
Reah
Rama
Rhem
Rhem I
Rhem II
Riddle of the Sphinx
Riddle of the Sphinx II (The Omega Stone)
Schizm
Schizm II (Mysterious Journey II) (3D)
Secrets of the Luxor
Sentinel (3D)
Shivers
Shivers II
Starship Titanic
Timelapse
Timescape
Titanic, Dare to Discover
Zork Nemesis

BORDERLINE MYST-LIKE or CROSSOVER GAMES
------------------------------------------------
7th Guest, The
11th Hour, The
Alice - An Interactive Museum
Arrival, The
Atlantis The Lost Tales
Beyond Atlantis
Bioscopia
Blackstone Chronicles, The
Capri (A Quiet Weekend In)
Chemicus
Connections
Crystal Key
Eastern Mind
Egypt (Tomb of the Pharaoh)
Egypt II (The Heliopolis Prophecy)
Egyptian Prophecy, The
Faust, Seven Games of the Soul
Gadget
Gord
JourneyMan Project 1
JourneyMan Project 2 (Buried in Time)
JourneyMan Project 3 (Legacy of Time)
L-Zone
Mystery of the Nautilus
Necronomicon
Noir, A Shadowy Thriller
Physicus
Pompeii, The Legend of Vesuvius
Sacred Amulet, The (aka Aztec)
SPQR (The Empire's Darkest Hour)
Titanic Adventure Out of Time
Versailles 1685
Welcome To The Future

PUZZLE GAMES
----------------------
Cassandra Galleries
Jewels of the Oracle
Jewels II (Gems of Darkness)
Labyrinth of Time
Magnetic
Pandora's Box
Safecracker
Xiama

A Chronoligy of Game History

The following section is drawn from many sources, including Wikpedia which has an excellent history of gaming, from my own research now spanning 8 years of study and ongoing interaction with other game researchers, reviewers and game communities of many different genres. This is a vey exicitng time to be involved in the growth and flourishing of an entire new medium, media and literature filled with wonderfully interesting and interested people, dedicated to their own expression and to furthering the expression of the work of all.

SECTION II
HISTORY OF GAME DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN

Although the history of computer and video games spans almost five decades, computer and video games themselves did not become part of the popular culture until the late 1970s. Often the potential of each succeeding generation of hardware was not guessed or realized by the designers until after some far sighted and creative people had tried out or come up with the next step in the interaction of soft ware and hardware.

Early years
Three people are cited as the inventor of video or dynamic graphic produced games utilizing computing mechanics and capacities for rapid calculation and generation and alteration of screen imagery - a game played against a video game. The first television engineer Ralph Baer, who conceived the idea of an interactive television while employed by Loral Electronics in 1951 in Bronx, New York. No game was produced because his employer rejected the design, but he continued this early work 15 years later.

A.S. Douglas developed OXO, a graphical version tic-tac-toe, in 1952 at the University of Cambridge in order to demonstrate his thesis on human-computer interaction. It was played on the archaic EDSAC computer, which used a cathode ray tube for a visual display. In spite of its technological antiquity, the game is still playable on an emulator available on the Internet. OXO is the first known and extant graphical game to run on a computer. Other has likely been developed and never publicized or become widely known.

Many attribute the invention of the video game to William Higinbotham, who in 1958 created a game called Tennis For Two on an oscilloscope to entertain visitors at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Unlike Pong and similar early games, Tennis For Two shows a tennis court from the side. The ball is affected by gravity and must be played over the net. The game is played with two bulky controllers each equipped with a knob for trajectory and a button for firing the ball over the net. Tennis For Two was exhibited for two seasons before its dismantling in 1959. It was extremely popular with visiting students and children especially.

The 1960s

Many of the first computer games were set up on university mainframes in the United States and were developed by individual users who programmed them in their idle time. However, the limited accessibility of early hardware meant that these games were few and easily forgotten by posterity. I myself knew of a very early form of Star Trek
developed by the student programmers at the main frame at UC Berkeley in the early days and which survived hidden in the back files for years until the 1970's.

In 1961, a group of students at MIT, including Steve Russell, programmed a game called Spacewar on their new DEC PDP-1. The game pitted two human players against each other, each controlling a space ship capable of firing missiles. A black hole in the center created a large gravitational field and another source of hazard. This game was soon distributed with new DEC computers and traded throughout primitive cyberspace. Presented at the MIT Science Open House in 1962, it was the first widely available and influential game.

One of the developers of Multics, Ken Thompson, continued to develop operating system after AT&T stopped funding it. His work focused on development of the OS for the GE-645 mainframe. He actually wanted to play a game he was writing called Space Travel. Though the game was never released commercially (and apparently costing $75 per go on the mainframe), the game's development led to the invention of the UNIX operating system.

In 1966, Ralph Baer (then at Sanders Associates) created a simple video game called Chase that displayed on a standard crt television set. Baer continued development, and in 1968 he had a prototype that could play several different games, including versions of table tennis and target shooting. Under Baer, Bill Harrison developed a useable light gun and, with Bill Rusch, created video games in 1967.

The 1970s

In 1971 Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created a coin-operated arcade version of Spacewar called Computer Space. Nutting Associates bought the game, hired Bushnell, and manufactured 1,500 Computer Space machines. The game was not a success because many people found it difficult to play.

As Bushnell felt he did not receive enough pay by licensing games to manufacturers, he started his own company Atari, in 1972. The first arcade video game with wide success was Pong, released the same year. The game is loosely based on ping-pong, or table tennis: two players each control a "paddle" which has the freedom to move up and down at their end of the "court". A ball is "served" from the center of the court and as the ball moves towards their side of the court each player must maneuver their bat to hit the ball back to their opponent. Atari sold 19,000 Pong machines, and soon many imitators followed. arcade video game craze had begun.

University mainframe game development continued to accelerate in the early 1970's, although the game designers of the time saw the activity as a hobby, not the start of an industry. There were at least two major distribution networks for the student game designers of this time:

(1) - The PLATO System supported Control Data Corporation under the support of William Norris largely running on mainframe computers.

(2) - The DECUS software sharing system run by Digital Equipment Corporation for schools and other institutions utilizing DEC computers such as the PDP-10.

The gaming traditions in the early 1970's ran independently in parallel on these two separate systems, since any given school typically had access to only one brand of hardware and one supply of shared games.

Highlights of this period, in chronological order, include:

In 1971 Don Daglow wrote the first computer baseball game on mainframe while he was a student at Pomona College. Players could manage individual games or simulate an entire season. Daglow went on to team with programmer Eddie Dombrower to design Earl Weaver Baseball, published by Electronic Arts in 1987, which was the first commercial computer game to simulate a full season. Daglow also wrote one of several popular early Star Trek games for the PDP-10 during 1971-72.

In 1972 Gregory Yob wrote "Hunt the Wumpus" for the PDP-10, a hide-and-seek game, though it could be considered the first text adventure. Yob wrote it in reaction to existing hide-and-seek games such as Hurkle, Mugwump, and Snark.

In 1975, Will Crowther wrote the first text adventure game as we would recognize it today, Adventure (originally called ADVENT, and later Colossal Cave). It was programmed in Fortran for the PDP-10. The player controls the game through simple sentence-like text commands and receives descriptive text as output. So the interactive game genre had its start, albeit it was only text with very few graphic image components as this area developed, and they were very primitive at that. This was still a type of activity limited to mostly computer "geeks" or those knowledgeable about such matters and willing to spend the time and money to be able to access them, again mostly in college and university environments.

In 1976 Daglow, then a student at Claremont Graduate University, wrote what may be the first Computer Role Playing Game, "Dungeon". The game ran on PDP-10 mainframes, and was an unlicensed implementation of the new role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, and described the movements of a multi-player party through a monster-inhabited dungeon. Players chose what actions to take in combat and where to move each character in the party, which made the game very slow to play by today's standards. Characters earned experience points and gained skills as their "level" grew, as in D & D. Although the game was nominally played entirely in text, it was also the first game to use "line of sight graphics displays." In this case the graphics consisted of top-down dungeon maps that showed the portions of the playfield that the party had seen, allowing for light or darkness, the different vision of elves and dwarves, etc.

This advancement was possible because earlier games typically printed the game status for the player on teletype machines or a line printer, at speeds ranging from 10 to 30 characters per second with a rat-a-tat-tat sound as a metal ball or belt with characters was pressed against the paper through an inked ribbon by a hammer. By the mid-1970's many university computer terminals had switched to CRT screens, which could be refreshed with text in a few seconds instead of a minute or more.

At about the same time, the D & D first appeared on the PLATO system CDC computers on other colleges.

The Zork, started in 1977, was written Dave Lebling, Marc Blank, Tim Anderson, and Bruce Daniels. Unlike other early game designers, the Zork team recognized the potential to move these games to the new personal computers and make money from their work, and they founded text adventure publisher Infocom in 1979. The company had a string of text adventure hits until the format was supplanted by graphic adventures in the mid-1980's, and the company was later sold to Activision. In a classic case of one designer inspiring another, Lebling was a member of the same D&D group as Wil Crowther, but not at the same time. Lebling has been quoted as saying "I think I actually replaced him when we dropped out. Zork was 'derived' from Advent in that we played Advent, liked it, wished it were better, and tried to do a 'better' one. There was no code borrowed, or anything like that, and we didn't meet either Crowther or Woods until much later."

Exidy's Death Race (1976) sparked the first controversy over gratuitous violence in a video game, because the object of the game was to run over "gremlins"-who looked more like pedestrians-with a car. The controversy increased public awareness of video games and has never ceased to be debated.

The first home video games (1972-1977)

1972 also saw the release of the first video game console for the home market, the Magnavox Odyssey. Built using mainly analog electronics, it was based on Ralph Baer's earlier work and licensed from his employer. The console was connected to a home television set. It was not a large success, although other companies with similar products (including Atari) had to pay a licensing fee for some time. It wasn't until Atari's home version of Pong (at first under the Sears Tele-Games label) in Christmas of 1975 that home video games really took off. The success of Pong sparked hundreds of clone games, including Coleco Telstar, which went on to be a success in its own right, with over a dozen models.

Early handheld games

The first portable handheld electronic game was Tic Tac Toe, made in 1972 by a company called Waco. The display consisted of a grid of nine buttons, that could turn red or green when pushed. The handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges was Microvision designed by Smith Engineering, and distributed and sold Milton-Bradley in 1979. Crippled by a small, fragile LCD display and a very narrow selection of games, it was discontinued two years later. Although neither would prove popular, they paved the way for more advanced single-game handhelds, often simply called LED games" or LCD games" depending on their display system.

Mattel's 1977 LED electronic football game ushered in a short golden age of LED handheld games, especially sports games. At first composed of simple arrangements of LED bulbs, later games incorporated vacuum- VFD displays allowing for detailed graphics in bright colors. The heyday of LED and VFD would last until the early 80s, when LCD technology became cheap and durable enough to be a viable alternative.

Dawn of a golden age

The arcade game industry entered its Golden Age in 1978 with the release Space Invaders by Taito. This game was a runaway blockbuster hit that inspired dozens of manufacturers to enter the market and produce their own video games. The Golden Age was marked by a prevalence of arcades and new color arcade games that continued until the 1980s of the 1990s.

Also in 1978, Atari released Asteroids, its biggest best-seller. It replaced the game as the number one arcade hit. Color arcade games became more popular in 1979 and 1980.

Other arcade classics of the late 1970s include Night Driver, Galaxian, and Breakout.

Gaming on home computers

While the fruit of development in early video games appeared mainly (for the consumer) in video arcades and home consoles, the rapidly evolving home computers of the 1970s and 80s allowed their owners to program simple games. Hobbyist groups for the new computers soon formed and game software followed.

Soon many of these games (at first clones of mainframe classics such as Star Trek, and then later clones of popular arcade games) were being distributed through a variety of channels, such as printing the game's source code in books (such as David Ahl's Basic Computer Games), magazines (Creative Computing), and newsletters, which allowed users to type in the code for themselves. Early game designers like Crowther, Daglow and Yob would find the computer code for their games -- which they had never thought to copyright -- published in books and magazines, with their names removed from the listing. Early home computers from Apple, Commodore, Tandy and others had many games that people typed in.

Another distribution channel was the physical mailing and selling of floppy disks, cassette tapes and ROM cartridges. Soon a small cottage industry was formed, with amateur programmers selling disks in plastic bags put on the shelves of local shops, or sent through the mail. Richard Garriott distributed several copies of his 1980 computer role-playing game Akalabeth in plastic bags before the game was published.

Early 8-bit home consoles (1977-1983)

Video games were found cartridges in the second generation of home video games. Programs were no hard-coded into chips, but loaded into memory from storage and executed on general- microprocessors. Rather than being confined to a small selection of games included in the box, consumers could now amass libraries of game cartridges. Early cartridges were 2k ROMs, although this amount slowly grew over time to 16 kb.

In the game consoles, high RAM prices at the time limited the memory capacity of the systems to a tiny amount, often less than a Kilobyte.

The Fairchild VES was the world's first cartridge-based video game console. It was released by Fairchild Semiconductor in August 1976. When Atari released their VCS the next year, Fairchild quickly re-named it to Fairchild Channel F.

In 1977, Atari released its cartridge-based console called the Video Computer System (VCS), later Atari 2600. Nine games were designed and released for the holiday season. It would quickly become by far the most popular of all the early consoles.

In Magnavox released its cartridge-based console, Odyssey 2, in the United States and Canada Philips Electronics released this same game console as the Philips G7000 in many European countries. Although it never became as popular as Atari, it managed to sell several million units through 1983.

In 1979 Activision was created by disgruntled former Atari programmers. It was the third-party developer of video games.

More powerful consoles followed like Intellivision Colecovision. Unique among home systems of the time was Vectrex, the only one to vector graphics.

The popularity of early consoles was strongly influenced by their ports of arcade games. The 2600 was the first with Space Invaders, and the Colecovision had with Donkey Kong.

The 1980s

In the early 1980s, the computer gaming industry experienced its first major growing pains. Publishing houses appeared, some being honest businesses (and in rare cases such as Activision and Electronic Arts (now EA), successfully surviving to this day), and perhaps just as many being fly-by-night operations that were quick to rip off developers. While a significant number of early 80s games were simple clones of existing arcade titles, the low entry costs of the personal computer allowed for many bold, unique games, a legacy that continues to this day. The primary gaming computer of the 1980s emerged in 1982: the Commodore 64. Possessing some of the best graphics and sound of its day, yet put out at a bargain price, it quickly gained a huge share of the market.

The Golden age of arcade games reached its full steam in the 1980s, with many technically innovative and genre-defining games in the first few years of the decade. Defender(1980) established the scrolling shooter and was the first to have events taking place outside the player's view, displayed by a radar view showing a map of the whole playfield. Battlezone(1980) used vector graphics to create the first true three-dimensional game world Pole Position(1982) used sprite-based, pseudo-3D graphics when it pioneered the "rear-view racer format" where the player's view is behind and above the vehicle, looking forward along the road with the horizon in sight. The style would remain in wide use even after true 3D graphics became standard for racing games Pac-Man(1980) was the first game to achieve widespread popularity in mainstream culture and the first game character to be popular in his own right Dragon's Lair(1983) was the first laserdisc game, and introduced full-motion video to video games.

With Adventure establishing the genre, the release of Zork in 1980 further popularized text adventure games in home computers and established developer Infocom's dominance in the field. As these early computers often lacked graphical capabilities, text adventures proved successful. When affordable computers started catching up to and surpassing the graphics of consoles in the late 1980s, the games' popularity waned in favor of graphic adventures and other genres. The text adventure would eventually be known as interactive fiction and a small dedicated following has kept the genre going, with new releases being nearly all free.

Also published in 1980 was Roberta Williams' Mystery House, for the Apple II. It was the first graphic adventure on home computers. Graphics consisted entirely of static monochrome drawings, and the interface still used the typed commands of text adventures. It proved very popular at the time, and she and husband Ken went on to found Sierra On-Line, a major producer of adventure games. Mystery House remains largely forgotten today.

In September of 1982, the Commodore 64 was released to the public. It found initial success because it was marketed and priced aggressively. It had a BASIC programming environment and advanced graphic and sound capabilities for its time, similar to the Colecovision console. It would become the most popular home computer of its day and the best-selling single computer model of all time.

By the middle of 1983, the video game industry crashes.

The true modern adventure game would be born with the Sierra King's Quest series in 1984. It featured color graphics and a third person perspective. An on-screen player-controlled character could be moved behind and in front of objects on a 2D background drawn in perspective, creating the illusion of pseudo-3D space. Commands were still entered via text. Lucasarts would do away with this last vestige feature of text adventures when its 1987 adventure Maniac Mansion built with its SCUMM system allowed a point-and-click interface. Sierra and other game companies quickly followed with their own mouse-driven games. For more on the history of adventures games, see Adventure games, history of

The personal computer became a viable gaming platform PC/AT in 1984. The new 16-color EGA display standard allowed its graphics to approach the quality seen in popular home computers like the Commodore 64. Sound however, was still only the crude bleeps of PC speakers. The primitive 4-color CGA graphics of previous models had limited the PC's appeal to home users, but not to the business segment, where the PC had found most of its success so far.

Snipes is a text-mode networked computer game that was created in 1983 by SuperSet software to test a new PC based computer network and demonstrate its capabilities. Snipes is officially credited as being the original inspiration for Novell Netware. It was the first network application ever written and is recognized to be the precursor of multi-player games such Doom and Quake. In 1983, Drew Major and Kyle Powell probably played the world's first deathmatch over-the-network with Snipes.

The Apple Macintosh also arrived at this time. It lacked the color capabilities of the earlier Apple II, but the operating system support for the GUI attracted developers of some interesting games (e.g. Lode Runner) even before color returned in 1987 with the Mac II.

In computer gaming, the later 1980s are primarily the story of the United Kingdom's rise to prominence. The market in the U.K. was well positioned for this task: personal computer users were offered a smooth scale of power versus price, from the ZX Spectrum up to the Amiga, developers and publishers were in close enough proximity to offer each other support, and the NES made less of an impact than it did in the United States.

The arrival of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1985 was the beginning of a new era of 16-bit machines. For many users they were too expensive until later in the decade, at which point advances in the IBM PC's open platform had caused the IBM PC compatibles to become comparably powerful at a lower cost than their competitors. The VGA standard developed for IBM's new PS/2 line in 1987 gave the PC the potential for 256-color graphics. This was a big jump ahead of most 8-bit home computers but still lagging behind platforms with built-in sound and graphics hardware like the Amiga, causing an odd trend around '89-91 towards developing to a seemingly inferior machine. Thus while both the ST and Amiga were host to many technically excellent games, their time of prominence proved to be shorter than that of the 8-bit machines, which saw new ports well into the 80s and even the 90s.

AdLib set an early defacto standard for sound cards in 1987, with its card based on the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip. This would last until the introduction of Creative Labs' Sound Blaster in 1989, which took the chip and added new features while remaining compatible with AdLib cards, and creating a new defacto standard. However, many games would still support these and rarer cards like the Roland MT-32, which has a greatly superior sound quality not surpassed until very recently with some of the Audigy series, and Disney Sound Source into the early 90s. The initial high cost of sound cards meant they would not find widespread use until the 1990s. There is now a bewildering array of various sound cards available but this variety was slow in coming.

Shareware gaming first appeared in the late 1980s, but its big successes came in the 1990s.

Bulletin Board Systems and early online gaming

Dial up bulletin board systems were popular in the 1980s, and sometimes used for online game playing. The earliest such systems, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, had a crude plain-text interface, but later systems made use of terminal-control codes (the so-called ANSI art, which included the use of IBM-PC-specific characters not actually part of an ANSI standard) to get a pseudo-graphical interface. Some BBS s offered access to various games which were playable through such an interface, ranging from text adventures to gambling games like blackjack (generally played for "points" rather than real money). On multiuser BBSs (where more than one person could be online at once), there were sometimes games allowing the different users to interact with one another; some such games of the fantasy role-playing variety were known MUDs, for "multi-user dungeons".

Commercial online services also arose during this decade, starting with a plain-text interface similar to BBSs (but operated on large mainframe computers permitting larger numbers of users to be online at once), and moving by the end of the decade to fully-graphical environments using software specific to each personal computer platform. Popular text-based services included CompuServe, The Source, and GEnie, while platform-specific graphical services included Quantum Link for the Commodore 64, AppleLink for the Apple II and Macintosh, and PC Link for the IBM PC, all of which were run by the company which eventually became America Online; and a competing service, Prodigy. Interactive games were a feature of these services, though until 1987 they used text-based displays, not graphics.

Handheld LCD games

The success of the Nintendo Game & Watch LCD handhelds starting in 1980 spurred dozens of other game and toy companies to make their own portable games, many being copies of Game & Watch titles or adaptations of popular arcade games. Improving LCD technology meant the new handhelds could be more reliable and consume less batteries than LED or VFD games, most only needing watch batteries. They were also much smaller than most LED handhelds, small enough to fit in a pocket.

8-bit era, or 'Post-crash/Late' 8-bit era (1985-1989)

8-bit era

In 1984, the computer gaming market took over from the console market following the crash of that year; computers offered equal gaming ability and since their simple design allowed games to take complete command of the hardware after power-on, they were nearly as simple to start playing with as consoles.

In 1985, the North American video game console market was revived with Nintendo's release of its 8-bit console, the Famicom in the United States under the name Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was bundled with Super Mario Bros. and suddenly became a success. The NES dominated the North American market until the rise of the next generation of consoles in the early 1990s. Other markets were not as heavily dominated, allowing other consoles to find an audience like the PC Engine in Japan and the Sega Master System in Europe and Brazil. At this time, Squaresoft was struggling and Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to make their final game a fantasy role-playing game, and the Final Fantasy series was born. Final Fantasy saved Squaresoft from bankruptcy.

In the new consoles, the gamepad took over joysticks, paddles, and keypads as the default game controller included with the system. The gamepad design of an 8 direction D-pad with 2 or more action buttons became the standard.

In 1988 Nintendo published their first issue of Nintendo Power Magazine.

The 1990s

If the 1980s were about the rise of the industry, the 1990s were about its maturing into a Hollywood like landscape of ever-increasing budgets and increasingly consolidated publishers, with the losers being driven out of the business. Some of the best early companies, like Westwood and even Sierra were swallowed up with their best titles being picked over and designers and the people who had done the creative work shut out or lost in the shuffle. As this happens, the wide variety of games that existed in the 1980s appears to fade away, with the larger corporations desiring to maximize profitability of "units" rather than supporting quality and depth of the gaming potential and experience and focus on financial gain mainly, and lower risk.

This trend appears to be continuing into the 2000's unfortunately with even book publishing and all other media being hit by this decline of quality and knowledge in company leadership and increasing agglomeration and loss of diversity.

With the increasing computing power and decreasing cost of processors like Intel 386, 486, and Motorola 68000, the 1990s saw the rise of 3D graphics, as well as " multimedia" capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs.

In the early 1990s, shareware (long demo) distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms), Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), and id Software. It gave consumers the chance to try a portion of the game, usually restricted to the game's complete first section or "episode", before purchasing the rest of the adventure. Racks of games on single 5 1/4" and later 3.5" floppy disks were common in many stores, often only costing a few dollars each. Since the shareware versions were essentially free, the cost only needed to cover the disk and minimal packaging. As the increasing size of games in the mid-90s made them impractical to fit on floppies, and retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice, shareware games were replaced by shorter demos (often only one or two levels), distributed free on CDs with gaming magazines and over the internet.

Shareware was also the distribution method of choice of early modern first-person shooters (FPS) like Wolfenstein 3D and the unpleasant violence based and quite simplistic Doom which included a series of Doom I, Doom II, and Final Doom, with numerous player created MODS, numbering in the thousands. This began a trend of players working with authorized or illicit editors for the most popular games and the rise of gaming communities based on these leading titles which has continued to the modern day.. Following Doom, the retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice of offering demos, which had the effect of reducing shareware's appeal for the rest of the decade. During this time, the increasing computing power of personal computers began to allow rudimentary 3D graphics. 1993's Doom in particular was largely responsible for defining the genre and setting it apart from other first-person perspective games. The term FPS (first person shooter) has generally come to refer to games where the player has full control over a (usually humanoid) character and can interact directly with the environment; almost always centering around the act of aiming and shooting with multiple styles of weapons and limited ammunition.

1992 saw the release of real-time strategy (RTS) game Dune 2, which had been preceded by Dune I. It was by no means the first in the genre (that being 1984's Ancient Art of War), but it set the standard game mechanics for later blockbuster RTS games like Warcraft and Command and Conquer. The RTS is characterized by an overhead view, a "mini-map", and the control of both the economic and military aspects of an army. The rivalry between the two styles of RTS play - WarCraft style, which used GUIs accessed once a building was selected, and C&C style, which allowed construction of any unit from within a permanently visible menu - continued into the start of the next millennium.

Alone in the Dark (1992) planted the seeds of what would become known as the survival horror genre. It established the formula that would later flourish on CD-ROM based consoles, with games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

Adventure games continued to evolve, from the remarkable and well designed Westwood Legends of Kyrandia Series, with Sierra's King's Quest series, and LucasFilms'/LucasArts' Monkey Island series bringing graphical interaction and the creation of the concept of "point-and-click" gaming. Many of this period of Adventure Games included considerable in game text, and dialog, which brought back the use of text in a new form and re engaged the player in ways that were not addressed in the mere action and violence more simplistic products.

This led to a remarkable and up to this point, unique combination of both game innovation and technical possibilities of the new graphics capacities of the constantly evolving IT industry and CG development: Cyan Worlds and the Myst series. Myst and its sequels Riven, Exile, Uru, (originally intended as an on line interactive group experience but later releases as add ons to the game), Revelation and the latest and last of the series End of Ages, Myst V: inspired an entire new style of interactive, dynamic, immersion puzzle-based adventure games. Published in 1993, Myst itself was one of the first computer games to make full use of the new high-capacity CD-ROM storage format. It and Riven and the sequels utilize the high end of the graphics capabilities of modern computers, and bring the story lines of the games into full player encounter, with evocative sound tracks, deep background and game world sets. Myst went on to remain the best-selling game of all time for much of the decade, and was one "killer apps" that made CD-ROM drives standard features on PCs. Despite Myst's mainstream success, the increased popularity of action-based and real-time games led adventure games and simulation games, both mainstays of computer games in earlier decades, to begin to fade into obscurity.

In 1996, 3dfx released the Voodoo chipset, leading to the first affordable 3D accelerator cards for personal computers. These devoted 3D rendering daughter cards performed most of computation required for rendering higher-resolution, more-detailed three-dimensional graphics, allowing for more-detailed graphics than would be possible if the CPU were required to handle both game logic and graphical tasks. First-person shooter games (notably Quake) were among the first to take advantage of this new technology. While other games would also make use of it, the FPS would become the chief driving force behind the development of new 3D hardware, as well as the yardstick by which its performance would be measured, usually quantified as the number of frames per second rendered for a particular scene in a particular game.

Several other, less-mainstream, genres were created in this decade. Looking Glass Studios' Thief and its sequel were the first to coin the term "first person sneaker", although it is questionable whether they are the first "first person stealth" games. Turn-based strategy progressed further, with the Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) series (from 3DO) luring many main-stream gamers into this complex genre.

The 90s also saw the beginnings of internet gaming, with MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) in the early years. Id Software's 1996 game Quake pioneered play over the internet in first-person shooters. Internet multiplayer capability became a defacto requirement in almost all FPS games. Other genres also began to offer online play, including RTS games like Microsoft's Age of Empires, Blizzard's WarCrafts II and III, and turn-based games such as Heroes of Might and Magic. MMORPGs (Massively Multiplay Online Roleplaying Games), such as Ultima Online and EverQuest freed users from the limited number of simultaneous players in other games and brought the MUD concept of persistent worlds to graphical multiplayer games. Developments in web browser plugins like Java and Macromedia Flash allowed for simple browser-based games. These are small single player or multiplayer games that can be quickly downloaded and played from within a web browser without installation. Their most popular use is for puzzle games, classic arcade games, and multiplayer card and board games.

Gamers in the 90s began to take part actively once sufficient numbers of gamer became knowledgeable about programming and computers and their potential, (often at an increasingly younger age), with the creation of modifications (or "mods") for popular games. It is sometimes accepted that one of the earliest mods was Castle Smurfenstein, for Castle Wolfenstein. Eventually, game designers realized that custom content increased the lifespan of their games, and so began to allow and encourage the creation of mods. Doom was the first game to see a huge literature of player created add ons or mods, with literally thousands still in on line libraries maintained by individuals and also by id games itself. Half-Life saw the similar creation of mods with a squad-based shooter entitled CounterStrike. Since CounterStrike, many games have encouraged the creation of custom content. Other examples include Unreal Tournament, which allowed players to import 3dsmax scenes to use as character models, and Maxis's, The Sims, for which players could create custom objects.

Few new genres have been created since the advent of the FPS and RTS, with the possible exception of the third-person shooter. Games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Splinter Cell, Enter The Matrix and Hitman all use a third-person camera perspective but are otherwise very similar to their first-person counterparts. These more recent productions are more and more violent and simplistic and abusive, and show a sad trend in most recent game design trends to totally ignore the impact gaming has on the players, especially younger and more impressionable ones. Fortunately wider interest and concern has arisen over this troubling issue and indeed widespread and very appropriate outcry occurred recently when it was discovered that a recent release of the Grand Theft series has pornographic material hidden within it that minor age gamers could access. It appears necessary that some form of more active control may be necessary for some of the gaming genres.

Decline of arcades

With the 16-bit and 32-bit consoles, home video games began to approach the level of graphics seen in arcade games. By this time, arcades had earned a reputation for being seedy, unsafe places. An increasing number of players would wait for popular arcade games to be ported to consoles rather than going out. Arcades had a last hurrah in the early 90s with Street Fighter II and the one-on-one fighting game genre it founded. As patronage of arcades declined, many fortunately closed. Classic coin-operated games have become largely the province of dedicated hobbyists. The gap left by the old corner arcades was partly filled by large amusement centers dedicated to providing clean, safe environments and expensive game control systems not available to home users. These are usually based on sports like skiing or cycling, as well as rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution, which have carved out a large slice of the pie.

Handhelds come of age

In 1989, Nintendo released the Game Boy, the first handheld console since the ill-fated Microvision ten years before. The design team headed by Gumpei Yokoi had also been responsible for the Game & Watch systems. Included with the system was Tetris, a popular puzzle game. Several rival handhelds also made their debut around that time, including the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx. Although most other systems were more technologically advanced, they were hampered by higher battery consumption and less third-party developer support. While some of the other systems remained in production until the mid-90s, the Game Boy remained at the top spot in sales throughout its lifespan.

1994
Nintendo released the Super Game Boy, an adapter for the Super NES which allowed Game Boy games to be played in the console.

16-bit era (1989-1994)

History of video games (16-bit era)

The North American market was dominated by the Genesis early on after its debut in 1989, with the Nintendo Super NES proving a strong, roughly equal rival in 1991. The NEC TurboGrafx 16 was the first 16-bit system to be marketed in the region, but did not achieve a large following, partly due to a limited library of English games and effective marketing from Sega.

The intense competition of this time was also a period of disputed marketing. The Turbographx 16 was billed as the first 16-bit system but the central processor was an 8-bit HuC6280, with only its HuC6260 graphics processor being a true 16-bit chip. Sega used the term Blast Processing to describe the simple fact that its CPU ran at a higher clock speed than the SNES (7.67MHz vs 3.58 MHz).

In Japan, the PC Engine's (Turbografx 16) 1987 success against the Famicom and CD drive peripheral allowed it to fend off the Mega Drive(Genesis) in 1988, which never really caught on to the same degree as outside Japan. The PC Engine eventually lost out to the Super Famicom, but retained enough of a userbase to support new games well into the late 1990s.

CD-ROM drives were first seen in this generation, as add-ons for the PC Engine in 1988 and the Megadrive in 1991. Basic 3D graphics entered the mainstream with flat-shaded polygons enabled by additional processors in game cartridges like Virtual Racing and Starfox. MYST and the following series was one of the first major titles in the literature to fully utilize the potential of the vast memory capacity(for the time) over the pre existing systems.

SNK's Neo-Geo was the most expensive console by a wide margin when it was released in 1990, and would remain so for years. It was also capable of 2D graphics in a quality level years ahead of other consoles. The reason for this was that it contained the same hardware that was found in SNK's arcade games. This was the first time since the home Pong machines that a true-to-the-arcade experience could be had at home.

32-bit / 64-bit era (1995 - 1999)

History of Computer games (32-bit era)

In 1994-1995, Sega released Sega Saturn and Sony made its debut to the video gaming scene with the PlayStation. Both consoles using 32-bit technology, the door was open for 3D games.

After many delays, Nintendo released its 64-bit console, the Nintendo 64 in 1996, selling more than 1.5 million units in only three months. The flagship title, Super Mario 64, became a defining title for 3D platformer games.

Parappa the Rapper popularized rhythm, or music video games in Japan with its 1996 debut on the PlayStation. Subsequent music and dance games like Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution became ubiquitous attractions in Japanese arcades. They became known as Bemani games, the name derived from Beatmania. While Parappa, DDR, and other games found a cult following when brought to North America, music games would not gain a wide audience in the market until the next decade.

Other milestone games of the era include Rare's Nintendo 64 title GoldenEye 007 (1997), which was critically acclaimed for actually being a good movie-licensed game as well as the first good FPS on a console, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998), Nintendo's 3D debut for the Legend of Zelda adventure game series.

Nintendo's choice to use cartridges instead of CD-ROMs for the Nintendo 64, unique among the consoles of this period, proved to have negative consequences. In particular, SquareSoft, which had released all previous games in its Final Fantasy series for Nintendo consoles, now turned to the PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII (1997) was a huge success, establishing the popularity of role-playing games in the west and making the PlayStation the primary console for the genre.

By the end of this period, Sony had dethroned Nintendo, the PlayStation outselling the Nintendo 64. The Saturn was successful in Japan but a failure in North America, leaving Sega outside of the main competition.

The 2000s

DVD-ROM-based (aka 128-bit era) (1999 - 2004)

128-bit era

1999

Sega released the Dreamcast.
Connectix Corporation released the Virtual Game Station, a successful PlayStation emulator. Sony went to court to dispute the legality of the system, but Connectix won. The Bleem company released Bleem!, another PlayStation emulator.

2000

Sony released the PlayStation 2. The Sims was released. It was an instant hit and became a rapidly selling game, surpassing Myst in units sold, but not in quality and
Innovation.

2001

Nintendo released the GameCube and the successor to the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance.

Microsoft entered the videogame console industry by releasing its new home console, the Xbox. Its flagship game Halo: Combat Evolved, was also available at the system's launch.

Sega announced they would discontinue the Dreamcast and no longer manufacture hardware.

2002

Sega became a third-party developer for Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

2003

Infogrames, owner of the Atari intellectual properties, changed its name to Atari.
Seventh-generation (2004 - present)

2004

Nintendo released a brand new type of portable handheld console, the Nintendo DS.
Sony announces the PSP. Japanese launch of the PSP in December 2004.

2005
Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) is released to the US market on March 24.
Microsoft announces Xbox 360.

Nintendo reveals early details of the Nintendo Revolution.

2006
New Consol Units Released (Add details)
Impact of Vista, 64bit, etc discuss
Revival of Adventure Gaming possible with new companies and titles that push the edge of game design and graphics possibilities such as Theseis, like Dreamfall by FunCom could have been, and advances such as Crytek’s Crysis, Cyan’s URU Live, etc.

2007

Consol wars continue, with varying experiences but the fragile hope that good content will continue instead of repetitions villians, wars of good and evil, alien invasion, etc are my concern and hope for the future. URU Live launches early in 2007 with the advent of Myst Online URU Live through a promising partnership of Cyan Worlds and GameTap. Bethesda releases another official expansion of Oblivion, the MMORPG's evolve with Jade Empire with remarkable graphics and a deeper story line than many, and Second Life and other on line worlds evolve and there is the threat of major corporations openning sponsored and advetising focused worlds as well. The world of gaming continues to evolve.

Summary

In general, though the personal computing systems available and affordable for the average user are vastly better than anything available before, the quality and originality of the games seems to be in a decline. Frankly the degree of violence and mindless action appears to reflect an increasingly equivalent decline throughout modern society, not only among the young but at other age levels as well. The potential for computer games remains to be an educative, intelligence and developmental enhancement, but the future more and more lies in the hands of huge conglomerate corporations that have been misled by shallow marketing experts into focusing on profits in the short term and units sold. It lies with the innovators and creative leaders such as Cyan and in previous times Westwood, and Lucas Arts, and at times, Sierra, to continue to explore and push at the edges of the envelope in what computer gaming is capable of, and what the gamer can learn to like as well as think they want.

I feel, IMHO, that efforts to control or limit content in gaming are as limited in promise and realism as efforts to enforce by fiat or law social morals and levels of civility and compassion. The very best guides to taste and values will be quality and support of humane and compassionate content, by example. There will always be repetitious action oriented and gratuituous games as there are stories based on such in all media, written and filmed. Entertainment and tale telling has always had a wide range of genres. I focus by choice on what I feel is the highest and more artistic area, that of interactive story driven graphic games as that is my own interest and I feel the finest area that games can and do contribute towards. These will see the flourishing and support of the finer qualiteis in the player as well as in the literature. These are the elements of empathy with a character or story line, joy in visual and musical and aesthetic experinece and these resonate with the higher elements of our own natures. Such elements of a mature and developed person, at any age, come from within, and cannot be successfully long enforced from without with any degree of freedom remaining in the individual or the society.

True, some popular games show a large degree of reliance on repetitious violence, (Doom, Quake, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, the war sims, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, ) and aggression, and hyper activity for success in the game. But that is a symptom of society and its dis-ease, not the cause of that dis-ease. It is a result of fractured families, alientated and anguished individuals of all ages, lowered levels of quality of life at all levels of modern society, focus on material and superficial goals and aims, and the massive effort to train and indoctrinate modern people into being mindless consumers and willing sheep following the trends dictated by industry and media.

Games reflect their time, as does Art and Music, Theatre and Dance and Literature, and so many of our other cultural realms. My hope in this research into CGI game history and development is to track the changes and see how form has affected content and visa versa. The opportunity always exists to place into a game quality in content, game play and story, no matter what the genre or format of the game. This has always been true of all literature, both oral and written, and games are truly a new branch of literature that has dynamics that no other form of cultural expression has allowed before and also are accessible to a wider age and economic range outside of societal context than any other expressive medium. So games offer a truly unique and very revealing look at both our selves and our society and cultural state on many levels.


There will always be creative geniuses in this remarkable field, and it is hoped that they will continue to receive the funding and the support that development and innovation offers and allows.

IN CLOSING

We live in exciting times when our technology and our capabilities can run ahead of our understanding of what to do with them. We can ask of ourselves, what we can become as individuals and a society using the fullest potential of both our craft, technos and our own inherent intelligence? We all have unique powers of observation and distillation and understanding, and an equally unique and personal world of emotions, hopes, aspirations, fears, dreams and desires. What can games help us be and remember and become?

To live from the heart with computer game design may sound like an anachronism, but it offers some food for thought. Most games do not seem to appeal directly to the heart, though at times they can and do evoke emotions of all kinds. But it is the interaction of both sides of the mind that occurs in gaming, and this interaction involves both analog (appearance and feeling) and digital (mind, logos, coding, higher conception) in the mix. The limits we see currently, the failures of both game design and the game industry to keep up and promote the highest values in the games literature are not unchangeable and they are not new or unique to our most modern examples. This struggle between the quality of the art, and lure of the profit and perceived value for investment is an old old story for any medium, art form or time in history for literature of any kind.

In our hopes for quality as well as innovation and glitz, we can start with individual choice on the part of the designer, the developer, the critic and the publicist, and the industry analyst and go from there to awareness on the part of the us, as the public, for ourselves, and for our children, and for our society. This research continues on from this paper with this hope and vision.

“One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games -- and it cannot be done by men out of touch with their instinctive values. …Meditation, [Prayer} is the way to the heart..."
Carl Jung

So, from my heart and my own forms of prayer which can at times be playing a game……., I ask you, what can you, what can we do to bring to gaming what inspires, delights and intrigues, as well as what excites, entrances and amazes us and our fellow gamers.

Chris Gerlach
2006

One of my most respected collegues in games research has published a excellent analysis of game content and its relation to societal issues, Karla Munger, and the links for these remarkable findings is at:

Violence and Ratings and Regs - Oh My!

http://www.justadventure.com/articles/ViolenceRatingsRegs/VRR_toc.shtm


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Christopher Gerlach

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