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50 Landmark Game Design Innovations 156

Posted by Zonk
from the on-your-left-we-have-mods dept.
Next Generation has put together a lengthy list of landmark game design innovations that many of your favorite games probably wouldn't exist without. They break them out into self-contained units, though it's sometimes ambiguous how they're demarcating game design elements. Just the same, it's an interesting look at where game industry trends have led us: "23. Gestural interfaces. Many cultures imbue gestures with supernatural or symbolic power, from Catholics crossing themselves to the mudras of Hindu and Buddhist iconography. Magic is often invoked with gestures, too--that's part of what magic wands are for. The problem with a lot of videogame magic is that clicking icons and pushing buttons feels more technical than magical. The gestural interface is a comparatively recent invention that gives us a non-verbal, non-technical way to express ourselves. Best-known example: Wii controller. Probable first use: Black & White, 2001."
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50 Landmark Game Design Innovations

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  • by joeflies (529536) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:38PM (#21262091)
    Role Playing
    ------------
    whether it's obvious or not, the whole computer gaming model for player vs enemy combat is still largely the same as the dungeons & dragons model. The controls may vary from game to game, but it's largely choose the weapon, roll the dice, and survive the encounter by having more hit points left than your enemy does. Before this was implemented in videogames, you had the one-shot kill gameplay of space invaders or the hunt the wumpus "you're dead" text adventures.

    Side Scrolling Screens

    I'm not enough of a historian to say what game came up with it first, but the exploration possibilities of side-scrolling created really big worlds to explore.
     
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JoeCommodore (567479)
      Quality Sound - One of the reason some of the crappy games get good scores is due to the judicious use of sounds, a crappy silent game just sucks, a crappy game with killer sound becomes much more enjoyable.

      Theme music - As with sounds a good theme can make or break an otherwise average game.

      Moving Character Animation - I recall reading in Donald Duck's Playground this was a big innovation.

      Join at any time - I recall in Gauntlet players could join in at any time they didn't have to wait for the strongest pl
      • by Skrapion (955066)

        Quality Sound - One of the reason some of the crappy games get good scores is due to the judicious use of sounds, a crappy silent game just sucks, a crappy game with killer sound becomes much more enjoyable.

        Theme music - As with sounds a good theme can make or break an otherwise average game.

        Seems pretty minor. I would say putting pop music on game soundtracks had a bigger effect on games, but I wouldn't even put that ahead of any of his 50 choices.

        Moving Character Animation - I recall reading in Donald Duck's Playground this was a big innovation.

        Sounds like you're talking about animated sprites. That's fair enough -- it was very important to games -- but it was more of an evolution than an innovation. It was always pretty obvious how to make animated sprites given the computing power, and it was always pretty obvious that it would be a nice thing to have. (There was a pretty blurry lin

        • by pugugly (152978)
          Best Copy protection ever - Starflight.

          Standard rotating wheel scheme, but if you cheated, it would let you play. For awhile.

          Then the Interplay Police ships would pull you over and (IIRC) give you a second chance to validate your game. If *that* failed, they would attack, in game. I have no idea if it was theoretically possible to beat them, but I never did.

          Never liked copy protection, but at least it had some humor to it.

          Pug
    • by Skrapion (955066)

      Role Playing
      ------------
      whether it's obvious or not, the whole computer gaming model for player vs enemy combat is still largely the same as the dungeons & dragons model.

      That's why he didn't include it in the list. It wasn't a video game innovation.

      Side Scrolling Screens

      Similarly, on the fourth page, titled "Presentation", he says in the first paragraph:

      "I take static and scrolling 2D screens for granted; they already existed in mechanical coin-ops."

    • Contrary to popular belief, hit points don't actually have anything to do with roleplaying. There are plenty of excellent RPGs that don't use hit points, and there are plenty of games with hit points that don't bother with roleplaying. Videogames, for example.
    • unless it's apocryphal, i read somewhere that defender was the first game to have a gameworld larger than the size of the screen.
  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:41PM (#21262109)


    Let's face it, most action games are about force. Even when confronted with overwhelmingly powerful enemies, your only option is to avoid their killing shots while grinding away at them or searching for their vulnerable spots. In stealth play the idea is to never even let the enemies know you're there, and it requires a completely different approach from the usual Rambo-style mayhem. Best-known early example: Thief: The Dark Project, 1998. First use: unknown.

    Really? Not Metal Gear? 1987 for the original, or also 1998 (according to Wikipedia, two months before Thief: The Dark Project) for Metal Gear Solid?

    • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:57PM (#21262249)

      Well, "best known" is something of a judgment call. As someone who enjoys the Thief series but has never played any of the Metal Gear games, Thief is certainly better-known to me

      In an unintentional irony, the screenshot for that one shows what happens when you fail at stealth. Swordfights aren't good things to get into in Thief. I found them practically unwinnable until I switched to a 3-button mouse and mapped the parry maneuver to the middle button.

    • by EvanED (569694)
      D'oh, I should have previewed. I put nice "<obligitary complaining about subjective opinions>" around that.
    • by lahvak (69490)
      your only option is to avoid their killing shots while grinding away at them or searching for their vulnerable spots

      Well, provided you have a strong pet(s), you can also let your pet(s) handle the enemies, or you can lure them (the enemies, not the pets) into a pit or a trap. :)
  • WASD (#20) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Radres (776901) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:44PM (#21262127)
    In the article, it says that it is unknown where this innovation came from, but I would hazard a guess that it was players of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake 1 who customized their control setup to this way. It makes sense because before these games, there wasn't the concept of a computer game with full 3D where you look up and down and can have your character move forwards, backwards, left, and right at equal speeds.
    • I aliased w to north, a to west, s already was south, and d to east when I first played MUDs like MUME in the early 90s. :) I think using WASD was just natural.
      Also, Doom and Wolfenstein 3d were released a few years (1993-ish) before Quake and Duke Nukem 3d (1996-ish). :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Pimlott (16212)
        Using the mouse with Wolf3D and DOOM was rather uncommon, though. Since neither game was 3D there wasn't much need for looking up and down. Keyboard was sufficient for the vast majority of players who kept on using the same old arrow keys they were used. Some elite Doom players began using the mouse but they were a small minority.

        It wasn't until the true 3D Quake, which required vertical aiming, that mouse use became the norm. Since the right hand, previously seated comfortably on the arrow keys, was no
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          According to Wikipedia, Quake wasn't released until June 22, 1996. Descent was released February 28, 1995. Descent not only had vertical and horizontal aiming, but because you were in a spaceship, and not running around, it also had to deal with rotation. Although, because flight was involved, it was more common to use a joystick in Descent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SpectreHiro (961765)

          If memory serves, the WASD+mouselook interface was really pioneered by SkyNET, a Bethesda Terminator game that came out a short while before Quake. It's the first game that used mouselook as the default AFAIR -- the original Quake still required the player to enable mouselook manually, I believe (+mouselook).

          Some info at der Wiki. [wikipedia.org] ...and MobyGames [mobygames.com]

          • by PingSpike (947548)
            That game used the same 3D engine as the Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall...not sure which one came out first. But that game featured mouselook as well.

            Mouselook became pretty common around 95-96. I don't think mouselook was available in wolf3d or doom though...it just turned and moved your character with no regard to the vertical axis. Although doom did feature different levels that could make use of it, it just relied on autoaiming on the vertical axis. Duke3d had it though. I'm not sure what the first title was
        • Some elite Doom players began using the mouse but they were a small minority.

          "Elite" Doom 95 players? I don't know about elite, being such late comers and all. I mean, most people were still using DOS back when Doom came out. I clearly remember "elite" Doom I/II and Descent players used keyboards. Using a mouse for gaming probably became chic a bit after Windows 95 came out at least.

          I can't imagine using a mouse in Doom I/II being all that beneficial, they were designed for keyboard use primarily, both being DOS games and all. This is true of the original Quake also. Circle s

        • I used a joystick for the longest time. It was perfectly fine for Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Duke Nuk'em.
      • by Radres (776901)
        When I think of the innovation behind WASD, I think of WASD + mouse with A and D for strafing as opposed to turning. Whether you use WASD, ESDF, the cursor keys, or some other key combo is irrelevant.
    • ESDF WASD (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:56PM (#21262233)
      I always preferred to use ESDF for movement keys instead of WASD, for two main reasons. First, since F is one of the home keys, it makes it easy to be sure your fingers are in the right position without looking down at the keyboard, since the F normally has a raised nub on it. Second, shifting the movement keys over to the right one from WASD adds 3 more keys that are easy to hit with your pinky for binding to useful game actions.

      • by LoudMusic (199347)
        Absolutely. I've never understood the WASD setup - it simply doesn't make since. I've been converting my friends to ESDF for several years and it's like a light bulb going off in their head every time. Good to know there's someone else on the crusade. Maybe someday the game designers will include it as a default option.

        Here's to progress - CHEERS!
      • While on LAN parties my friends used to complain about my "unplayable" (to them) key setup. I always use the ASD part, but map the advance to button two on the mouse, fire to button one, and secondary fire to button three. Plus I had a trackball, which is great for maneuverability and saves milliseconds of dragging the mouse around, also less RSD injuries. I guess the best layout is the one that works for one, and it's a great advantage I feel PC games have over consoles.
      • It's amazing to learn there are others out there. Everyone always told me I as insane for ESDF. Of course they called me crazy when I switched from the arrow keys to the key pad, and then later for jumping to WASD.

        I think the next leap will be to that configureable keyboard that is out, with every key layed out perfectly for my hand.

      • by IdahoEv (195056)
        And I like .OEU -- same keys as ESDF, but in Dvorak.

        I type on a Kinesis contoured keyboard [kinesis-ergo.com], in Dvorak key layout. The kinesis is wicked sick for FPS gaming; aside from the ergonomics that minimize finger traverse distances, having six keys around the left thumb makes for a lot of bindable actions.

      • by Jamu (852752)
        Completely agree. Keyboards are designed to have your fingers over ASDF. So, unless you have a bad keyboard, ESDF will always be the most efficient position (with the normal arrangement of movement keys) for your left hand.
      • by Bob-taro (996889)

        Well, since we're talking key setups, I use an odd one. First of all, I'm a lefty, so I have my right hand on the keyboard. I use u and j for forward and back, and i and k for left and right (respectively). It isn't "intuitive", and I probably can't "zigzag" as well as if left and right were 2 separate fingers, but I've gotten used to it and it "frees up" my third finger for, say, grenades in TFC or "sprint" in HL2. I think it started with trying to find a good control scheme for Descent. I settled on

      • by dj245 (732906)
        Tribes 2 defaulted to ESDF on install. Great game. Annoyed me when I switched away from it though.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I've personally always thought that the WASD setup sucked. My personal setup is using the keypad with the left hand. + and enter as forward and back (using thumb and index), 8 as jump, 2 as duck, 4 and 6 for left and right. Rest of the buttons on the keypad can be used for other needed functions such as switching weapons. I've found that I can work pretty well with this, and it's nice to be able to switch from forward to backward without moving any fingers. I also find that I am much less likely to lose
    • I was using this setup in the late 80's on the Apple ][ which grew out of the WordStar E/S/D/X diamond cursor control. Lode Runner and other games used IJKL; it was not that much of a shift to move it over to the the left side of the keyboard.
    • What about joystick + mouse?
    • by Reapy (688651)
      That seems about right for me. I remember watching some doom replays with people whipping the guy around 180 faster then you can with a keyboard, or circle strafing perfectly, as opposed to the greater then and less then keys I used to use.

      I managed to handle duke 3d with the keyboard, but got owned by mouse players later on. Then when I got into quake, forget it. Trying to aim vertically with the keyboard was hilarious, now that I think about it.

      I remember ASDW was always the player two controls on most ra
    • by kalirion (728907)
      I'm pretty sure it started with Doom. WASD is about strafing, not looking up and down (as long as you can keep the y-axis of the mouse from moving you forward and backward, which Doom allowed).
  • Why do they say BK invented "coupled avatars" when I'm sure DKC came out first?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ben0207 (845105)
      And Sonic 2 even earlier.
    • "Why do they say BK invented "coupled avatars" when I'm sure DKC came out first?"

      The difference between Diddy and Donkey in DKC wasn't very big. I don't recall any specific reason to use one over the other. It's possible that in BK, the two characters were so different that you needed to switch between them to actually win. I dunno, though, since I never played BK.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBCook (132727)

        Right. That's the point they made. In the DK series there were some minor differences in the later games (like Dixie being able to float), but the other character was essentially an "extra life", so you could take a hit and not lose instantly.

        In BK, the two characters were linked all the time. They did have different abilities and helped each other. You could jump off a platform as Banjo (who you controlled) but press a button to use Kazooie to glide. You could press a button to have Kazooie's legs pop out

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Ok, I mentioned Mario 2 in another post, but after that post I realized my understanding of this was a bit off. After your little explanation, A Boy and His Blob immediately popped into my head. Also, Megaman. While they were all technically the same Avatar, using the abilities you had won from beating boss characters to perform different actions seems to fit this catagory pretty well. Although, I don't think there was any ability to use 2 powers together.
      • by edwdig (47888)
        Diddy's jump and his roll both went further than Donkey did. In the DKC games, if you did a roll off the edge of a platform, you could do a jump while in mid-air. If you did that as Diddy, you went a lot further than as Donkey.

        Donkey carried barrels over his head, while Diddy carried them in front of him. I'm not sure, but I think Donkey moved a little better while carrying a barrel.

        The differences were enough that the harder to get secret areas were significantly easier if you picked the right character.

        Oh
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      What about Super Mario Bros. 2?
  • An Interesting article. I would, however, disagree with a couple, particularly #21. I've yet to see a good Voice Recognition game, they all seem to be iffy at best and rarely fun because you have to repeat the command 6 or 7 times before it's properly heard. When was the last time you saw a game with voice recognition (and I mean actually recognizing it as a word, not Boogie's system) on the shelves? I haven't seen any in years, the last one I heard good reviews for was Bridge Commander, and the Voice Recog
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Mario Party 6 and 7 use a microphone for some of the minigames. I think that they are pretty good at recognizing most people's voices, at least for the words they need to recognize. Although I've seen it screw up a few times, I think they did a pretty good job at it. Especially considering it's only a very small part of the game.
    • I never had a single problem with the voice recognition in SOCOM 1. It was fantastic.
    • When was the last time you saw a game with voice recognition (and I mean actually recognizing it as a word, not Boogie's system) on the shelves?

      LifeLine for the PS2 is the major one I can think of. Basically, you know all the games where you're trying to make it through some environment, and the only help you have is a voice on the radio telling you where to go? In LifeLine, you're that voice.

      Didn't work all that well, though, in my experience. Couple all of the problems with old text parser games of

    • by pokerdad (1124121)

      When was the last time you saw a game with voice recognition on the shelves?

      Brain Age. Admitedly it only needs fourteen words (four colours and single digit numbers), but it does use voice recognition and it is on the shelves today.

    • by Snad (719864)

      When was the last time you saw a game with voice recognition (and I mean actually recognizing it as a word, not Boogie's system) on the shelves?

      Odama [gamerankings.com]?

      Though I seem to recall the reviews being somewhat inconsistent with regard to the voice commands actually working.

  • Really, I think this game deserves mention in both 40 (rythym, dance, and music) and 22 (specialized I/O for music). It certainly predates the ones that are mentioned for each of those. Sure, most of us played World Class Track Meet on the power pad, but we had heard of dance aerobics.

    Frankly, it seems that this article was just not concerned with many of the innovations that came out of the 8bit NES.
  • Things like "reversible time" were built into some early games implicitly, such as Zelda (screw up a puzzle? Leave and come back and you're golden), or explicitly, such as in Lufia 2 (1998), which literally had a room-reset spell you could cast. Other early Final Fantasy games (FF5, 1992, I believe is the earliest) had time spells that let you restart battles as if you'd never fought them.
  • Fact checking (Score:3, Informative)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:33PM (#21262527)

    #1 : The earliest computer games didn't offer exploration.

    Yeah, except Ken Thompson's 1967 Space Travel game which involved exploring a vector-graphics solar system.

  • #11, #16, #44, #46 (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @10:38PM (#21262559)

    The first minigame I ever saw was in Major Havoc [wikipedia.org], which came out in 1983. As you approached the space station for the next battle, you had a little Breakout game to play in the lower right corner of the screen. When you cleared it, you got an extra guy. I don't know how popular it ever was or how well known, but there you are, and at least moderately early.

    Physics puzzles? 1992? Since the article doesn't confine itself to graphic games, that's not even close. Try KINEMA [atariarchives.org]. The book the listing on that page was taken from was published in 1978, but I saw it a year earlier on a timesharing system my high school was connected to. Yeah, it looks like a quiz, but there are quiz games too, and everyone called this a game.

    I wonder if this guy ever even played Dragon's Lair [wikipedia.org]. It didn't use a CD-ROM because it predated them, and the animated scenes wouldn't have fit on one anyway; it used a laserdisc. The picture wasn't "tiny, grainy", it was very high-quality hand-drawn animation -- by Don Bluth, for God's sake.

    The article makes it sound as if the "brag board" was something the game industry invented. Actually, it had been around for decades -- albeit informally, and probably illegally. When you scored amazingly well on a pinball machine, you recorded it by carving the score and your initials into the frame around the backglass. Preferably while the manager of the establishment hosting the game wasn't looking. The tradition carried on into coin-op video games. Building it into the machine did two things. It prevented lying about your score, and it saved wear on the game cabinets.

    • by Sark666 (756464)
      Well, one thing to mention of defender. It had two firsts. It's brag board kept the list even with the power off. And it was the first game to have a 'map' if you will seeing information of the action going outside what was on the current play area.
      • I don't know about the "radar" being a Defender first. Battlezone had one too, and they both came out the same year. The Atari 2600 game from 1979, Star Raiders, (God, that was addictive) had a similar concept, but you had to switch to a "sector scan" view to see it. You could still navigate in that view though; it was useful for locating bases and enemies and traveling in their general direction.

        *poke* *poke* Here's one I never saw in the arcades: Fire One! [klov.com]. Looks like it had exactly that kind of thing a

    • Most annoying thing I've ever found in pinball machines were a couple that actually overflowed back to zero on the display and did the same damn thing internally!

      So for a few of those it was the trick to get as close to 999,999,999 (or whichever equivalent thereof) without actually going over. For some of those machines it was fairly easy (just tilt the sucker), but others were amazingly tilt proof, and god it sucked when the ball would hit just that one bumper on the way down.
  • Uhm, yeah so Majesty. Anyone seen anything like it since?
  • They have got to be joking. Did Metal Gear [wikipedia.org] honestly escape their attention? (On second thought, that is very appropriate.)

    • by mqduck (232646)

      They have got to be joking. Did Metal Gear honestly escape their attention? (On second thought, that is very appropriate.)
      As the author implied, he knows he doesn't know all the answers. Give the guy a break.
  • The first use of this was probably Rogue, which is older than River Raid.
  • 1. Open Adventure - Legend of Zelda
    2. Getting an Airship - Final Fantasy
    3. 3rd person 3D - Mario 64
    4. Best non-joystick - DDR
    5. Captivating Story - Final Fantasy 2
    6. 100+ hours to Complete - Final Fantasy 3
    7. Online RTS - Command and Conquer
    8. Online RPG - CircleMud
    9. Online FPS - Halo 2
    10. Multiplayer Coop - Secret of Mana
    11. 2-player Game - Super Mario Kart
    12. 4-player Game - Super Bomberman 2
    13. 4-player Hardcore - Smash Bros.Melee
    14. Career Mode - Rock 'N Roll Racing
    15. Depth
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @12:13PM (#21267985) Homepage
    The first party game was probably Party Mix [slashdot.org] for the Atari 2600 + the Starpath Supercharger add-on. That was 16 years before the original Mario Party.
  • 44. Interactive movies.

    This genre came and went, and good riddance to it. Its a world-changing design innovation because it proved so clearly to be a creative dead end that everybody knows not to make interactive movies any morealthough the term is still used at times to describe the cinematic quality of games in other genres. Interactive movies taught us, by negative example, that gameplay comes first, period. The CD-ROM drive first made them possible, and in their heyday, they sold tonsuntil the novelty of watching tiny, grainy videos wore off. Best-known early example: The 7th Guest, 1993. Probable first use: Dragons Lair coin-op, 1983.

    Interactive movies may no longer be the realm of serious gamers, but they still exist, largely because of the advances that came with DVDs. (since he didn't discredit any other items because they no longer are the providence of serious games, I don't know why this one should be)

    Here's what a quick search found http://www.interactive-film.com/ [interactive-film.com]

  • 23. Gestural interfaces. Many cultures imbue gestures with supernatural or symbolic power, from Catholics crossing themselves to the mudras of Hindu and Buddhist iconography.

    "That gesture you make..."

    [man reflexively makes the gesture at his neck, shoulder and waist]

    "Yes, that's the one. I assume it's meant to ward-off evil. Thing is, it's also the sequence for checking the seals on a Starfall 7 spacesuit; and what makes that particularly interesting is that you don't know what a Starfall 7 spacesuit is, do you?"

In order to dial out, it is necessary to broaden one's dimension.

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