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Computer Gaming History

A PC game, also known as a computer game, is a video game played on a personal computer, rather than on a video game console or arcade machine. PC games have evolved from the simple graphics and gameplay of early titles like Spacewar!, to a wide range of more visually advanced titles.
 
PC games are created by one or more game developers, often in conjunction with other specialists (such as game artists) and either published independently or through a third party publisher. They may then be distributed on physical media such as DVDs and CDs, as Internet-downloadable, possibly freely redistributable, software, or through online delivery services such as Direct2Drive and Steam. PC games often require specialized hardware in the user's computer in order to play, such as a specific generation of graphics processing unit or an Internet connection for online play, although these system requirements vary from game to game.

Early Growth

Although personal computers only became popular with the development of the microprocessor and microcomputer, computer gaming on mainframes and minicomputers had previously already existed. OXO, an adaptation of tic-tac-toe for the EDSAC, debuted in 1952. Another pioneer computer game was developed in 1961, when MIT students Martin Graetz and Alan Kotok, with MIT student Steve Russell, developed Spacewar! on a PDP-1 mainframe computer used for statistical calculations.

   

The first generation of computer games were often text adventures or interactive fiction, in which the player communicated with the computer by entering commands through a keyboard. An early text-adventure, Adventure, was developed for the PDP-11 minicomputer by Will Crowther in 1976, and expanded by Don Woods in 1977. By the 1980s, personal computers had become powerful enough to run games like Adventure, but by this time, graphics were beginning to become an important factor in games. Later games combined textual commands with basic graphics, as seen in the SSI Gold Box games such as Pool of Radiance, or Bard's Tale for example.

By the late 1970s to early 1980s, games were developed and distributed through hobbyist groups and gaming magazines, such as Creative Computing and later Computer Gaming World. These publications provided game code that could be typed into a computer and played, encouraging readers to submit their own software to competitions. Microchess was one of the first games for microcomputers which was sold to the public. First sold in 1977, Microchess eventually sold over 50,000 copies on cassette tape.

As with second-generation video game consoles at the time, early home computer games began gaining commercial success by capitalizing on the success of arcade games at the time with ports or clones of popular arcade games. By 1982, the top-selling games for the Atari 400 were ports of Frogger and Centipede, while the top-selling game for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A was the Space Invaders clone TI Invaders. That same year, Pac-Man was ported to the Atari 800, while Donkey Kong was licensed for the Coleco Adam. In late 1981, Atari attempted to take legal action against unauthorized clones, particularly Pac-Man clones, despite some of these predating Atari's exclusive rights to the home versions of Namco's game.

Industry Crash

As the video game market became flooded with poor-quality cartridge games created by numerous companies attempting to enter the market, and over-production of high profile releases such as the Atari 2600 adaptations of Pac-Man and E.T. grossly underperformed, the popularity of personal computers for education rose dramatically. In 1983, consumer interest in console video games dwindled to historical lows, as interest in computer games rose. The effects of the crash were largely limited to the console market, as established companies such as Atari posted record losses over subsequent years. Conversely, the home computer market boomed, as sales of low-cost color computers such as the Commodore 64 rose to record highs and developers such as Electronic Arts benefited from increasing interest in the platform.

The console market experienced a resurgence in the United States with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). In Europe, computer gaming continued to boom for many years after. Computers such as the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro were successful in the European market, where the NES was not as successful despite its monopoly in Japan and North America. The only 8-bit console to have any success in Europe would be the Sega Master System. Meanwhile in Japan, both consoles and computers became major industries, with the console market dominated by Nintendo and the computer market dominated by NEC's PC-88 (1981) and PC-98 (1982). A key difference between Western and Japanese computers at the time was the display resolution, with Japanese systems using a higher resolution of 640x400 to accommodate Japanese text which in turn had an impact on game design and allowed more detailed graphics. Japanese computers were also using Yamaha's FM synth sound boards from the early 1980s.

New Generation

Increasing adoption of the computer mouse, driven partially by the success of games such as the highly successful King's Quest series, and high resolution bitmap displays allowed the industry to include increasingly high-quality graphical interfaces in new releases. Meanwhile, the Commodore Amiga computer achieved great success in the market from its release in 1985, contributing to the rapid adoption of these new interface technologies.

Further improvements to game artwork were made possible with the introduction of FM synthesis sound. Yamaha began manufacturing FM synth boards for computers in the early-mid 1980s, and by 1985, the NEC and FM-7 computers had built-in FM sound. The first sound cards, such as AdLib's Music Synthesizer Card, soon appeared in 1987. These cards allowed IBM PC compatible computers to produce complex sounds using FM synthesis, where they had previously been limited to simple tones and beeps. However, the rise of the Creative Labs Sound Blaster card, released in 1989, which featured much higher sound quality due to the inclusion of a PCM channel and digital signal processor, led AdLib to file for bankruptcy by 1992. Also in 1989, the FM Towns computer included built-in PCM sound, in addition to a CD-ROM drive and 24-bit color graphics.

Many early PC games included extras such as the peril-sensitive sunglasses that shipped with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These extras gradually became less common, but many games were still sold in the traditional over-sized boxes that used to hold the extra "feelies". Today, such extras are usually found only in Special Edition versions of games, such as Battlechests from Blizzard.

In 1991, id Software produced an early first-person shooter, Hovertank 3D, which was the company's first in their line of highly influential games in the genre. There were also several other companies that produced early first-person shooters, such as Arsys Software's Star Cruiser, which featured fully 3D polygonal graphics in 1988, and Accolade's Day of the Viper in 1989. Id Software went on to develop Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, which helped to popularize the genre, kick-starting a genre that would become one of the highest-selling in modern times. The game was originally distributed through the shareware distribution model, allowing players to try a limited part of the game for free but requiring payment to play the rest, and represented one of the first uses of texture mapping graphics in a popular game, along with Ultima Underworld.

Emulation

Emulation software, used to run software without the original hardware, are popular for their ability to play legacy video games without the platform for which they were designed. The operating system emulators include DOSBox, a DOS emulator which allows playing games developed originally for this operating system and thus not compatible with a modern day OS. Console emulators such as NESticle and MAME are relatively commonplace, although the complexity of modern consoles such as the Xbox or PlayStation makes them far more difficult to emulate, even for the original manufacturers.

Most emulation software mimics a particular hardware architecture, often to an extremely high degree of accuracy. This is particularly the case with classic home computers such as the Commodore 64, whose software often depends on highly sophisticated low-level programming tricks invented by game programmers.

Software

Computer games also rely on third-party software such as an operating system (OS), device drivers, libraries and more to run. Today, the vast majority of computer games are designed to run on the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems. Whereas earlier games written for MS-DOS would include code to communicate directly with hardware, today Application programming interfaces (APIs) provide an interface between the game and the OS, simplifying game design. Microsoft's DirectX is an API that is widely used by today's computer games to communicate with sound and graphics hardware.

OpenGL is a cross-platform API for graphics rendering that is also used. The version of the graphics card's driver installed can often affect game performance and gameplay. It is not unusual for a game company to use a third-party game engine, or third-party libraries for a game's AI or physics.


Computer Gaming History

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