Video Games

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Tetris Troubles. 1988 Atari Games creates a subsidiary, Tengen, that produces games for home consoles including the NES. Atari Games takes Nintendo to court, claiming that Nintendo has an illegal monopoly on the video game industry. Specifically, they claim this is achieved via illegal practices,

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1. Video Games 1987 Nintendo's hold on the market grows, leaving little room for Sega and Atari. Nintendo releases The Legend of Zelda, Kid Icarus, and Metroid offering better graphics than the initial launch titles and longer quests. NEC releases the PC-Engine in Japan and advertises it as a 16-bit machine. In reality, the machine contains an 8-bit processor and a 16-bit graphics processor.

2. Tetris Troubles 1988 Atari Games creates a subsidiary, Tengen, that produces games for home consoles including the NES. Atari Games takes Nintendo to court, claiming that Nintendo has an illegal monopoly on the video game industry. Specifically, they claim this is achieved via illegal practices, such as fixing prices and using lockout to prohibit unlicensed development of NES software. Tengen discovers a way to bypass the NES lockout and announces that it will develop, manufacturer, and distribute NES-compatible games without Nintendo's authorization. 1989 Tengen acquires the rights to distribute the home version of Tetris from Mirrorsoft. The trouble is, Mirrorsoft did not own the rights in the first place. Nintendo acquires the legitimate home rights to Tetris and forces the Tengen version off of shelves.

3. The media problem. . . 1989 NEC also releases a $400 portable CD player that attaches to the TurbroGrafx-16 and plays games that are stored on compact discs. TG16 sales are poor for a number of reasons. Let’s look at why we want to move away from cartridges: Cartridges are circuit based (remember circuits are fast and expensive). Each cartridge contains ROM (physical memory), and ROM is expensive The larger games get the more memory we need in the cartridge We can not reuse the cartridge’s memory ? Manufacturing costs are high!

4. Moving to CDROM Cartridges are primary memory, CDs aren’t Cartridge access is fast we can get read program data from carts directly CD access is slow We can’t read program data directly from the CD (we need to put it in primary memory first! we’ll need some RAM connected to our CD rom interface so we can read data off the CD as our system needs it.

5. don’t copy that floppy…err cartridge Piracy in the console world . . . All games up until now are stored on these read only memory cartridges What if we have a RAM-based cartridge instead of a ROM based cartridge, then I copy whatever I want onto the RAM cartridge. Further, what if I can read the contents of the ROM cartridges and save them (they are just bits after all)… NES games tended to be quite small SNES/Genesis games averaged ~1MByte

6. 16-bit players emerge 1989 Sega releases the truly 16-bit system, Genesis, in the US. The $249 system is packed with a conversion of the arcade game Altered Beast. Marketing efforts stress the system as a true arcade experience better than previous home game machines. Sales are slow. 1990 Nintendo releases Super Mario 3. The NES enjoys its best year despite its more powerful competition. Meanwhile Nintendo of Japan unveils the Super Famicom, a 16-bit system with better audio and 3D graphics capabilities than either the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16.

7. Forget 16-bits, how about 24? 1990 Nintendo and Blockbuster go to court over video game rentals. Nintendo would obviously like to block game rentals, as they dissuade people from buying games. The courts decide in favor of Blockbuster. now if we could only copy those games . . . Oh snap! SNK releases the 24-bit NeoGeo in arcade and home formats. The graphics and sound are far beyond any competitor, but the $400 retail price (with no game included) and $200 per game severely limits the NeoGeo’s sales. Each cartridge actually contained 4 circuit boards bound together to create cartridges in the neighborhood of 256Megabit (or 64Megabytes).

8. Alright, alright, 16-bits it is. 1991 Nintendo releases the Super Famicom in America under the name Super NES (SNES). Sega unveils Sonic the Hedgehog for the Genesis. The 16-bit wars are on! “Platformers” a.k.a. jump and run games are the in-thing How do we make a platform game . . ?

9. What goes into platform games… Let’s make our own game! StickMan will run around and jump over pits in the ground. When bad guys chase him he can jump on their heads to stun them. What do we need? Individual bitmap graphics for each frame of animation corresponding to all the different states that stickman could be in. The more frames in the animation, the more realistic things will look. Jumping, running, walking, getting hurt, dead, etc We’ll also need to keep track of the user’s input and update his state accordingly (we can’t duck if we’re in the middle of a jump, and we can’t run in mid air, for example.) We need to know where on the screen stickman is, and where the bad guys are. We need to design the levels and store information about them (what’s floor and what’s a pit) and we’ll need graphics for the levels. When the game is running, we’ll need to draw the part of the level that StickMan is in, and keep track of when StickMan has fallen into a pit. We’ll need graphics for the bad guys too, and we need to keep track where they are, and what they’re doing! Finally, what about score, health, music, sound. . ?

10. Level design…maps of the world _ YYY Y < XXXXX000XXX XXXXX000XXX

11. Backdrop graphics

12. putting it all together

13. why we need all those bits… Let’s imagine a very simplified processing loop… while (playing==TRUE){ read_controller_input(); update_character(); for each opponent_on_screen { update_opponent(); } update_opponents_off_screen(); redraw_screen(); playing = NOT(character_dead OR game_complete); } Now, what if I have 20 enemies on the screen? 30? 40? We want to get through this loop as fast as possible, but… when there are lots of enemies on the screen the cpu will take longer in the update_opponent loop. As a result, if the processor is slow, the game will experience “slow-down” -- because it can’t redraw as often because it needs to do more work before it can draw. Moreover, what if I want my computer enemies to be smart… I mean really smart.

14. Artificial Intelligence (AI) AI has lot’s of very useful applications, but let’s focus on AI in gaming for now. In some games, we will have opponents and we’d like to consider virtual opponents (or computerized opponents) that are actually a program (collection of algorithms) running on the computer We’d like our computer opponents to be “smart” but believably smart. What does it mean for a computer to be “smart” Alan Turing devised a machine intelligence test - the Turing Test Intended to establish the intelligence of the computer more accurately, it tests the computer’s ability to simulate human conversation and understanding In general form A person and a computer program are seperated from an interrogator. The interrogator types in a question to either party. By observing responses, the interrogator’s goal was to correctly identify the computer. If the computer could fool the interrogator as often as the person did, it could be said that the computer had displayed intelligence. This test requires more work than the limited domain we’re considering – e.g., understanding the semantics and meaning of language is very hard. In gaming, we have a fixed set of rules, an environment, and some understanding about positive outcomes and negative outcomes.

15. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Gaming AI usually consists of what is called Expert Systems or Rule-Based Systems Expert Systems are a collections of if-then rules that describe situations that may occur and what action to take in response Acquisition - Must be some way of putting information or knowledge into the system Organizing information about the objects in the world. Retrieval - Must be able to find knowledge when it is wanted or needed. Brute-force search - Looks at every possible solution before choosing among them. we’ll see a game example in which the program searches through all the possible moves and then selects the best. Sometimes, we can’t search every possible outcome, because there are too many outcomes to analyze so we’ll use rules Heuristics to reduce the number of scenarios we need to consider Reasoning - Must be able to use that knowledge through “thinking” or reasoning. The ability to leverage existing rules and generate new associations We take this to mean the system can build upon the information that we currently have.

16. AI in games

17. Artificial Intelligence (AI) PONG We really only need one rule “Move my paddle to the same height as the ball” The only thing that makes PONG fun to play is human error. hit the ball with lower probability when set to easy and higher probability when set to hard. Chess To use brute force, chess game tree would have 10120 possible moves. Uses Chess specific rules to prune down the number of combinations we consider Also examine a few plays ahead instead of all the ways to the end of the game. Deep Blue (1996) by IBM - Garry Kasparov, world-champion chess player, won over Deep Blue 4 points to 2. Deep Blue (1997) by IBM - Garry Kasparov conceded victory to Deep Blue, 3.5 points to 2.5. Quake Deathmatch Premise: You run around in 3D trying to kill the opponents with guns. the computer opponent plays by the same rules (vulnerable, not omniscient, etc) targeting of the computer player isn’t subject to human error (could have 100% accuracy). computer can react to your actions immediately and sidestep rockets with ease. Again, probability will make our opponent more fair. But, what if we want the computer to actually learn how to play by watching how I play, or rather watch how I play and learn my weaknesses, that requires more work

18. If the computer is too smart, cheat! 1991 Galoob Toys releases the Game Genie, which lets players “cheat” in NES games. Nintendo attempts to prevent Game Genie sales. Why? How does the game genie work?? Remember, console systems are computers, the data for the game is stored in bits, retrieved from the cartridge memory

19. negotiation, rumor, and a jaguar 1991 Sony and Nintendo announce plans for Sony to develop a $700 CD player to work with the SNES/Famicom. The device will be called the Playstation. Capcom releases Street Fighter II. Teenagers flock to play Street Fighter II, and demand for the game leads arcades to purchase multiple machines. Fighting games take the helm as the new it-game. “Suddenly” everyone is making fighting games. 1992 Negotiations between Sony and Nintendo fall apart due to a disagreement about CD game profits. Sony decides they will go on with a 32-bit video game system of their own. 1993 Atari decides to bypass the 32-bit generation and go right ahead to 64 bits. The company launches the Jaguar, which Atari proclaims to be the first 64-bit game console due to its 64-bit system bus. The processor isn’t really 64 bit, but that’s the least of the machine’s problems. Nintendo and Sega announce their next-generation systems. Nintendo's Project Reality is a 64-bit system developed by Silicon Graphics. Sega's Saturn will be a 32- or 64-bit system.

20. more on video game violence 1993 Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herbert Kohl launch a Senate "investigation" into video game violence, intent to establish a ban on "violent" games (Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, etc). They eventually concede to an industry-wide rating system. 1994 The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is established to rate video games. Large letter icons appear on game boxes to let consumers know the recommended age of players for each game and what factors lead to the game’s rating (violence, adult themes, etc).

21. do we really need ratings? "Grab your joystick and become "Leatherface," the homicidal, chainsaw wielding maniac of your nightmares! A group of hapless tourists have trespassed on your property. One by one, they've been hunted down and eliminated. Now, only a handful remain! So, oil up your chainsaw and find as many victims as you can before your fuel runs out! The player controls Leatherface and his whirring chainsaw. Computer-controlled victims flee in terror as you pursue them. Beware of the obstacles in your way--cow skulls, fences, wheelchairs, and thickets. At the top of the screen is the number of fuel tanks left, and a gauge indicating the amount of gas left in the chainsaw. At the bottom of the screen is the score display. Using your joystick, move Leatherface in the desired direction and try to overtake your victim. When you're close enough, press the joystick button once to rev up the chainsaw and eliminate your quarry. Caution: The chainsaw is always idling, using only small amounts of gas. Revving the motor quickly drains your fuel. Therefore, be sure you are in range before you press the button. Leatherface starts the game with three tanks of gas, so conserve your fuel."

22. the ESRB The Entertainment Software Ratings Board is the video game industry's answer to dealing with these complicated issues Rather than explicitly dictating or regulating what games can and can't be made, instead they've adopt a rating system (ala the movie industry) A game publisher submits representative footage of their game to the ESRB and fills out a questionnaire independent testers at the ESRB view the footage and determine the rating, which is printed on the cover EARLY CHILDHOOD (E) 3+ EVERYONE (E) 6+ EVERYONE (E10+) 10+ TEEN (T) 13+ MATURE (M) 17+ ADULTS ONLY (AO) 18+

23. polygons galore 1994 3D polygonal games become the new it-game in the arcades. 3D rendered driving, flying, and fighting games are exceedingly popular. The computation in such games requires intensive math (to compute manipulation of objects in 3D space) and as such the CPUs in the SNES and Genesis aren’t up to snuff. Anxious to fend off the new more powerful machines (Jaguar and others): Nintendo releases the “Super-FX” chip (a fast matrix math chip) in their 3D cartridge games (such as Star Fox). This makes SuperFX games more expensive to manufacture, and somewhat wasteful (as each SuperFX game has the same chip in it, which should be in the system. Sega goes a different route and places their fast matrix math chip in a pass-through cartridge, and as a result the games can be cheaper. The device, called the 32X, allows the Genesis to run new special “32-bit” cartridge games. Sega’s arcade polygonal games, Virtua Racing and Star Wars, and a port of id Software's Doom all receive good reviews, but a stiff price tag on the 32X to enable a small number of games cause the devices success to suffer. All in all, these solutions are really just hacks – remember, a hack is slang for causing a device to do something it wasn’t intended to do originally. The next round of systems will include the 3D related math processing on board – they’ll be optimized for 3D performance out of the box. Further, full-motion video and digitized sound are coming into fashion in a big way. It’s not economical to store a lot of data on cartridges, so the push to CD based games will be a key issue.

24. The 64ish-bit generation 1995 The Sega Saturn is released early and overall sales are very low. Very few titles are released at launch and third party manufacturers haven’t had enough time to produce games so there is an awkward lag between the system release and the release of titles. Games are released on CDROM. Nintendo’s next generation console (initially Project Reality, now called Ultra 64), is not yet ready for release. They decide to tide everyone over with the release of the Virtual Boy, a 3D 32-bit "portable" game console; besides not being portable the system isn’t any good. Sony takes it’s first foray into the console world and releases their PlayStation in the United States. Sales are strong, and a collection of good release titles receives praise from the media and consumers. Games are released on CDROM. 1996 Early in the year Nintendo’s Ultra 64 is renamed to the the Nintendo 64. The 64-bit game system is demonstrated at their Japanese trade show. Super Mario 64 is demonstrated and playable. It impresses gamers, but rumors persist that very little software is in development for the machine. The system will use cartridges, which most developers consider a big mistake. Some pictures emerge showing several SGI computers under the table where the N64 is supposedly running “live” leading to rumors that Nintendo is pulling a fast-one and that the N64 is vapor-ware.

25. Big in 3D

26. Why go to CDROM based games? The move from cartridge based distribution to CDs is enticing to developers and distributors. CD games are no cheaper to develop, but much cheaper to manufacture. CD drives are pretty cheap and pretty fast, so it’s possible to include them in the next generation of console games. Consumers generally view CDROM games as the future, and that a system with games on CD is inherently better. Finally the cost-per-megabyte ratio is much better on CDs than on Carts so more information (video and audio) can be included. BUT: Copy protection was a mild problem for US companies in the cartridge world, but pirates needed hard to obtain specialized hardware to copy games. The move to CDs coupled with the increasing prevalence of CD-Recordable drives will pose a wide spread copy-protection problem and well thought strategies for preventing copying of games … Remember; video games are computers, and they run programs with cartridges, there is no complexity -- we’re directly connecting memory into the system. These new CD based systems will resemble new computers even more, and need to have “built-in” programs to read the CDs to launch the games (BIOS). The BIOS program on these systems will not be flash-able, and will ensure that the CD in the CDROM drive is an original game.

27. PlayStation is #1 1996 The N64 is finally released in United States. More than 1.7 million units are sold in first three months of the systems release. Third-party developers rush to re-embrace the cartridge medium. At this point, the PlayStation has been selling for over a year, giving the system a head start. The N64 sells well for a number of reasons, including a strong brand name. Sony sales are said to top $12 million per day through the holiday shopping season. The PlayStation firmly establishes itself as the number-one “next-generation” game console. The video game industry has a highly profitable year. Nintendo puts the Virtual Boy out of its misery. 1997 Sony releases figures in April that prove the PlayStation is the most popular gaming system in the world. The figures show that 5 million units have been sold in Japan, 4 million in the United States, and 2.2 million in Europe. These numbers nearly double four months later, when the 20 millionth unit is sold. Analysts believe the PlayStation's popularity will carry it through 1998. Figures also start to indicate a new trend. The age of the average video-gamer is increasing . . . Sony releases the $750 Yaroze in the United States. The Yaroze lets users design PlayStation-compatible games on their home computers. Bandai releases the Tamagotchi in the United States in May. F.A.O. Schwartz, the first US store to offer it, and sells out its stock of 30,000 in just three days. Bandai announces PC and Game Boy versions. Before long, other companies release their own virtual pets. The Tamaochi is based on a domain in Artificial Intelligence called Artificial Life (a-life)

28. processors gone wild 1998 Emulation (in this context): Simulating some physical device(s) via software. Applied to video games, the processors in the state of the art personal computers are markedly faster than those in the Atari VCS, Coleco, classic arcade games, NES, etc. So much so that they can now perform tasks in software as fast as the older systems did with hardware. So, clever programmers write software to emulate the physical hardware of these systems. The emulator is a program capable of running the original program code intended for a different computer. The program can interpret the instructions of another processor and acts “just as the original machines would” by translating the calls from the original console system to run on the computer (example: draw to a window instead to the TV). As such the original games can run on the emulator with no modification necessary and present an “exact” replica of the original game experience. Of course, in order for this to work, people need to have the original software games. These games tend to be referred to as ROM images. Emulation is a major topic of discussion throughout the video game industry, and the IDSA goes to great lengths to shut down Web sites that offer ROM images; even though the specific legality of emulation and ROM images is not yet firmly established (in 1998).

29. make them faster! 1999 Rumors of a Microsoft made video game system begin to emerge, though Microsoft initially denies the rumors. Sega releases Dreamcast – although technologically sound, and touting VirtuaFighter 3 with the systems launch, the DreamCast will eventually fall to the Playstations staying power and rumours of a Playstation sequel from Sony soon to come. Emulation advances to the point that PlayStation games are playable on personal computers! Sony is in part worried about Playstation systems sales, though they’re also concerned of the increased potential to remove copy protection constraints. Connectix Corporation introduces the $149 Virtual Game Station, which will play emulated PlayStation games on the Macintosh. A company called Bleem introduces a PlayStation emulator for Windows based personal computers. Bleem! is available for $19.95. Sony makes several attempts to halt shipments but fails.

30. NIB PS2 PlayStation2 Mint $1200 2000 Microsoft officially announces the XBOX. Although Microsoft is somewhat secretive about the details, it is clear that the system will be based on Microsoft software technology. Sega starts the first Internet Service for a home console for their Dreamcast. The Dreamcast is the first video game console to allow online interactive game play. Sega releases Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast. JGR is the industry’s first Cell-Shaded game. Cell-shading is a technique used to make 3D rendered images look like hand-drawn cartoon images. Sony announces, last minute, that they will not be able to ship their original figure of one-million PlayStation 2s to the United States. Claiming a shortage of raw materials. Sony announces the initial shipment will be 500,000 units and that they will ship 100,000 units per week to the US until the end of the year. This causes a huge problem for retailers who have pre-sold many units to consumers expecting to receive their unit on the release date. The PlayStation 2 becomes the hot console of the year simply because it’s hard to get. New unopened PlayStation 2s go for as high as $1,200 on eBay. (Mine hit $800). The system features games on DVD and can serve as a DVD movie player out of the box!

31. 3D for everything!

32. New challengers 2001 With the Dreamcast failing to get a reasonable market share, rumors that Sega will leave the hardware business and focus on software. The US Department of Defense licenses the Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear game engine for tactical training exercises. Microsoft officially launches the XBOX. Based on generic PC architecture, Microsoft doesn’t build the console at all – instead, they outsource construction of the console. The “console” comes with a 733Mhz Celeron CPU, NVidia GPU, 8GByte hard drive, USB ports for controllers, and built-in Ethernet port. In less than a month, Microsoft ships 1.1 million units to retailers. The most popular launch title, Halo, had been in development for years for the Apple Macintosh when Microsoft decided to buy the development company (Bungie). Nintendo's GameCube is released. The small cube-shaped console uses propriety discs based on DVD technology and is priced $100 less than the XBOX and PS2. Because the size and format DVD movies can not be played on the system and the total storage capacity of the disc is less than that of the PS2 and XBOX.

33. GTAIII 2001 Grand Theft Auto III (Rated M) comes out late in the year exclusively for the PS2 and (despite criticism and controversy) critics love it. The game offers a complete interactive environment (Liberty City), complete with cars, NPCs, and little hidden goodies for the player to explore. Although the overal game is linear, the character has multiples goals, flexibility in accomplishing them, and many smaller optional “mini-games” Despite many attempts to pin increased violence on the game, the game is clearly rated M and stores should not be selling it to kids. 2002 GTAIII sweeps nearly all the major video game awards

34. Sega out, Microsoft in. 2002 A bug in the Dreamcast bios is found, allowing copied games to be played by creating a special “boot-disc” which can also be copied! This seems to be final nail in the coffin for Sega hardware and they announce their exit of the hardware business and become third-party-developers. Microsoft does not see the sales figures they’d hope and the losses incurred by the XBOX division are blamed for some fluctuation in Microsoft stock value. Microsoft clearly intends to get their foot in the door (or rather, their software on the TV) and starts throwing even more money at the problem (reducing the price of the unit drastically) Meanwhile hackers start trying to compromise the XBOX succeed in a method to allow the XBOX to run Linux as a relatively powerful and very inexpensive computer. Nintendo also slashes GameCube prices, but it still has a hard time playing catch up against the entrenched PS2. More mature players and the lack of DVD movie support are blamed for the lack of sales.

35. Console games go on-line 2001 Sega becomes the first company to offer broadband Internet support with its high-speed Ethernet adapter for the Dreamcast. Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament are among the first games to support the device. Sega also releases Phantsy Star Online, the first online role playing game for console systems. 2002 Sony releases their Broadband Adapter allowing online play of certain “online enabled” games. The adapter allows modem or broadband users to connect their PS2 to other gamers PS2s via the Internet for multiplayer action. 2003 Microsoft launches their own online service, XBOX Live. The service has a monthly cost and as such several third-party-developers decide to withhold online functionality for the XBOX versions of their games. The service is rumored to detect if a user has modified their XBOX in any way and will report this to Microsoft.

36. No time like the present 2003 Microsoft finally seems to hit a sweet spot in both price and new game titles just as the hardware limitations of the PS2 are encountered. New XBOX games show graphical improvements over the same titles available on PS2 and the XBOX is gaining new popularity. Microsoft has slashed prices again this holiday season offering a system, two controllers, three games and two months of XBOX-Live for $180. While the GameCube also offers advantages over the PS2, Nintendo is having a harder time turning things around, though they hope with their latest price reduction ($99 w/ game!) that they’ll move units this holiday season. In Europe the EyeToy for PS2 is the industry’s first computer vision peripheral. 2004 The EyeToy device is released in the US and is available for $50 w/ game. Despite repeated failures in the handheld markets, the big players are gearing up for new expensive handheld products 2005 XBOX 360 is released in November, bucking the “new every 5” trend by one year. I has a multitasking Operating System (!?) and it, as do all next generation consoles (PS3, etc) promises more computing power than we could conceivably need for just video games :-)

37. Fin.

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