Saturday, 22 October 2011

A History of Computer Games Part 1: 1950's ~ 1970's

'It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where your going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, your probably going wrong.'

I thought id start off this latest blog entry with a quote that’s one of my personal favourites by the author, Sir Terry Pratchett. Its relevant, as im going to be looking into the history and origins of videogames and the technology that was critical in laying the foundations of the games industry we know today. Knowing the history of something is pretty much a must if you want to work in the industry of your chosen profession, and so here I begin with my look into the Videogame history 1950’s - 1970’s.

Before the idea of videogames was even comprehended there were those who were already making steps towards early computing devices; one of the most important being what is called the ‘Difference Engine’ Created by Charles Babbage in 1849. This wasn’t technically a computer, more a mechanical device powered by nothing more than a crank handle, that’s main purpose was to remove the human error from calculating mathematical tables.

It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later until other notable devices started to appear that each focused on more specific areas, but would each show early signs of computing. The HP Audio Oscillator 200A was a device that was experimental at testing audio levels, though was only really utilised by the entertainment industry (Walt Disney being a big client who used these devices). This device was notable at being the first creation of Hewlett & Packard, a well established company in today’s computing market.
Many inventions were being pushed between 1940’s and 1960’s, though these were aimed at government and military matters more than entertainment. Failed flight simulator ‘Project Whirlwind’ (1943), the now famous ‘Colossus’, a code breaker utilised to try and break the enigma code during World War II, and the UNIVAC (1951) the first computer to allow users to store and retrieve data on magnetic tape.

The 1950’s were an important decade in the beginnings of computers as a form of entertainment, as in 1951 Ralph Baer who worked as a TV engineer at the TV company Loral was challenged with creating the best television set in the world. As designing TV sets was an easy task to Baer, he decided to take it further, and implement playing games on the television set. This was the first instance of the ‘Videogame’ concept that we know, though wasn’t created at the time due to Baer’s boss refusing the idea.
In 1958, another computer game was created called ‘Tennis For Two’ by Willy Higginbotham, which could be played by two people using hand controls, a sign of things to come. Then in 1961, what could be called a ‘proper’ precursor to videogames was created at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute Tech), ’Space war’ utilised vector graphics to create an authentic space themed environment with which you had to battle it out against a rival spaceship.

Many innovations in the next few decades would lead up to what we know as the ‘golden age’ of the videogame industry, such as the streamlining of computers to form the first ‘desktops’ (HP 2115 - 1965), Computers aimed at hobbyists (TV Typewriter - 1972) and computers that enabled the use of image processing (Super paint - 1973). 1972 Was the year when ‘Pong’ was created, and became the trademark game to all new ‘Games Consoles’ that would go on to be created in the following years. As Soon as Atari entered this new market became instrumental in bringing games into our homes, on such consoles as the; Atari VCS Prototype’ (first games console) and the Atari 2600, as well as the classic game ‘Space Invaders’ (1977).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Introducing Me!

Hi everyone! For those that don’t yet know me, my name is Daniel Hill and I hail from a tiny village in Stoke-on-Trent called Scholar Green. Born on 24th January 1989, even though im no longer in my teens I don’t really act that mature; don’t get me wrong, I can be serious when I need to be, but I find it easier and a lot more fun to enjoy myself as much as possible through the medium of obscure noises and even more obscure conversation.
I enjoy drawing, playing videogames, spending time with friends and family, reading, walking, throwing mean shapes on nights out, eating pizza, and using some/all of the above to fuel my imagination to create original ideas and stories. Ive been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and observational work has definitely always been one of my strongest skills and has driven me down the educational path of art and design. Ive done a lot of original work and Fan art as well, as its kept me in drawing and I find it a really amazing way to just zone out from the chaos of the world in my own little artistic bubble.
I started to get into videogames from the Sega era onwards, Sonic the hedgehog being the game that first truly captured my interest in them. I always struggle when people ask me what my one favourite game is, there’s been too many that have inspired and captured my imagination over the years. I think the series that has pushed me in the direction of wanting to work as an artist in the games industry the most, is the Final Fantasy games; I was never really into RPG’s before them, and when I first played FF7 it completely blew my mind that games could have such an amazing focus on story and character that these games had, to the point where you felt emotionally connected to the characters you were playing as. My favourite out of all of them id have to say is FF9 though, as to me, it captures the very essence of what these games do best (and was one of the last that had all of the ‘key’ creative people working on it that made the series what it was in the first place). Other games that I love are Okami, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kingdom Hearts 2, and….others too numerous to mention.
I come from a Graphic Design background, having studied it for four years prior to starting Game Art here at Dmu, and even though it was something I found that I was really good at, I didn’t really have the passion for it as much as I did for anything game related. Pretty much every time we were given an open brief, id always choose to create a games concept, a sure sign of what direction I really wanted to head in.
I think I want to focus on improving my skills at observation, perspective and anatomy the most, as my dream goal is to become a Concept/ Character Artist, and I think these are the abilities in which I want to really hone during my time on this course.
Also, learning how to use 3DsMax wouldn’t go amiss either.