Know Your Gaming Roots

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I miss Bullfrog so much. Great article, made me all nostalgic.

Kron_the_mad:
really?! no mention of the 1st games???
like space war and tennis for two developed on the oscilloscope. The first computer games were not by major dedicated games developers so they get no mention at all.
or the fact that all rpg and strategy games owe their very existence to table top war simulations with miniatures?

The article is about defunct and forgotten studios, and what they did for the industry, not where video games come from. There are tons of articles on that topic.
And on the note of the relevance to this article of Tabletop Wargaming; Did you know they were invented HG Wells?! And he isn't in the article either???

Looking Glass Studious are my heroes forever. They made my favorite games (Thief 2 wasn't beat by any other game for me untill now) and had a hardcore tech behind their games at that moment. For example, AI that was developed in that time for Thief is still one of the most complex and basically not seen in nowaday games. System Shock was a revolution in game industry, nobody had so much features and deep gameplay for sort of FPS game.

I'm missing SirTech, they made my favorite strategy\rpg for all time - Jagged Alliance 2. There are no game with so many features out there at the moment.

Veterinari:
I miss Bullfrog so much. Great article, made me all nostalgic.

Kron_the_mad:
really?! no mention of the 1st games???
like space war and tennis for two developed on the oscilloscope. The first computer games were not by major dedicated games developers so they get no mention at all.
or the fact that all rpg and strategy games owe their very existence to table top war simulations with miniatures?

The article is about defunct and forgotten studios, and what they did for the industry, not where video games come from. There are tons of articles on that note.
And on the note of the relevance to this article of Tabletop Wargaming; Did you know they were invented HG Wells?! And he isn't in the article either???

I miss bulllfrog too, also they still owe the world dungeon keeper 3!

The original article doesn't specifically state that it's about defunct companies but more landmark games and developers from the early days of gaming. You can't really get more landmark than being the 1st. so theres a whole period from the 60s' tpo the 80s' thats being ommited.

What about the 1st decent single player title even? thats important as early prototypes were limited to a basic competitive multiplayer as the resources and complexity of writing a challenging AI were a real hurdle back then. imagine a world with no single player computer games!

Picking out examples without making the article monsterously long wouldn't be too hard as there wasn't the saturation of different I.P.s figuring out the original titles and devs might be a little trickier..

I didn't know the whole Activision story. Weird.

Oh Westwood, I still miss you. Red Alert 2 was my favourite rts ever, and I still play it now and again with my older brother. Though I do not know to many others from the article....I guess I am too young.

This is like the third article I've read on the escapist today that involved some mention of kids getting of lawns.

Kron_the_mad:

I miss bulllfrog too, also they still owe the world dungeon keeper 3!

Totally. Evil Genius was a very nice spiritual successor, but after that the whole "build and manage your evil base" genre has just been dead. *sniff*

Kron_the_mad:
The original article doesn't specifically state that it's about defunct companies but more landmark games and developers from the early days of gaming. You can't really get more landmark than being the 1st. so theres a whole period from the 60s' tpo the 80s' thats being ommited.

I kind of got the clear impression that it was about companies from;

"Sure, everyone is familiar with giants like Atari, Sega, and Nintendo, but the companies that vanished at the end of the last century brought us a lot of remarkable games produced by a number of very smart people.

So before I kick all of you youngsters off of my lawn, I thought I'd talk about some of the important players from those days. The complete list of the companies and all their stories would fill a book, but here are just a few of the landmarks I see shrinking into the distance as I glance into gaming's rear-view mirror."

What I read from that is basically that the article is about the parts of the gaming biz who left a legacy but not a legend. Franchises and genres we know and love but some people might not know where they come from. What you're talking about is something that I'd consider a much broader analysis of gaming history as a whole. And in such an article the aforementioned "giants" would have to take up most of the space. The Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device would get mentioned. And Pong. And a bunch of otehr things. And in that article the mentioned studious wouldn't get much spotlight this time around either.

I think that Shamus just wanted to give some highlights to studios that he personally felt were important but close to being forgotten. Not a very scientific approach, but there you go.

Sir John the Net Knight:
It's sad how few people can recall a lot of these old hat names. Or can even see Activision as anything more than Bobby Kotick's satanic institution that constantly screws the industry.

image
Activision did some damn good games back in '84.

If only my history teacher in high school was as awesome as Shamus...

I demand more history lectures!!

Yah I still remember EA back in the 16-bit days being an outstanding developer that always put a little extra detail into their games. I'm guessing they must have gotten rich off their sports franchises and turned evil from there.

For the missing companies, Interplay is definately #1 for me. Not just for the RPG's, they made other quality titles like Die by the Sword and Carmageddon. It always bugs me to see how big a franchise Grand Theft Auto has become while Carmageddon remains forgotton. I don't want to be some stupid thug or gangsta, just give me an overpowered car and let me at that over the top carnage on those big open ended maps!

Fensfield:
What of Maxis? All those simulators they churned out over the years.. I still love SIM Tower to bits (A-Train, too, but that was a license, and a franchise still going strong in Japan. 'Wish someone else would hurry up and license A-Train 4 and all >.>;)

Actually, SimTower wasn't a Maxis original either. It was developed by another company and later published by Maxis.

Irridium:
I still play Pitfall from time to time...

Me too. It's amazing how well it still stands up, but Activision was making a lot of great games then. (Let's draw a veil over the fiasco that was Barnstorming.) It's sad to think that both Activision and Electronic Arts were founded specifically to not be evil, and now...

where is sierra? where is... toys for bob... oh well it looks like they are technicly still around but its been along time since they made starcontrol 2

Monkey Island was never something that really impressed me. Although it had a few good jokes. I much preferred Westwood's Kyrandia games which were pretty awesome and hilarious if you could decipher the moon logic. Actually the first one is way too serious and the third one is way too hard to figure out, so just play the second game. And good around in the third, but bring a faq sheet.

Infocom.

You are about to be eaten by a grue.

I mean, comeon! How can you have a history of game companies without mentioning the inventers of the grue? :)

No Psygnosis and Cinemaware? Shamus, I am disappoint.

Man, Looking Glass and Westwood were solid gold. I loved so many of their games and still play some today.
Really interesting about Activision.
I can't believe I'm so old that Westwood is ancient history!

Kudos for mentioning Westwood. It's like people forgot about the poor bastards.

God dammit you said Microprose. Now I have to re-install RollerCoaster Tycoon. Thanks a lot Shamus. :p

Also, RIP Westwood. I miss you guys. I might have to re-install Red Alert 2 as well.

Veterinari:
I miss Bullfrog so much. Great article, made me all nostalgic.

Totally dude, oh the hours i pissed away on Syndicate and Theme Park, i thought it couldn't get any better then Dungeon Keeper came out, which is still one of the greatest games i have ever played......

Maybe i should start pestering Mr. Molyneux to make a DK3.

vxicepickxv:

Count_ZeroOR:
Well, TSR was never really a PC or Console game developer. Instead other companies licensed their work, like SSI, Interplay, and Capcom. Now, RPG publisher FASA did build their own Game development studio, FASA Interactive, which was later absorbed by Microsoft.

FASA Interactive, after being bought by Microsoft was named FASA studios, originally was a subsidiary of FASA Corporation. All of FASA Corporation's Shadowrun games that made it to the US were done by different companies. Beam Software/Data East for the SNES version and BlueSky Software/Sega for the Genesis.

FASA went out of business, and the rights for Shadowrun were bought up by Wizkids, who licensed the game for production through FanPro(Germans love it so much they have more material than everyone else), then through Catalyst Game Labs.

Now that bit I do know - my main confusion was on the state of the video game rights for the various former FASA properties - Earthdawn, Shadowrun, Battletech, etc.

What, no love for Troika?

All kidding aside, thanks for the look back.

Sgt Pepper:
I remember Microprose more for their sim games in the 80s - F15 I think it was and that stealth bomber one. I also remember they did a game where you were a US ranger.

Microprose basically introduced me to home computer gaming, since their flight sims for the Commodore 64 were the first games I ever owned. I believe it was a three-game bundle of Hellcat Ace, Mig Alley Ace and Air Rescue.

Blind Sight:
EA's got a similar history to Activision, they were the guys in the past claiming to be 'video game artists'. Bob Dylan's 'the times they are a changin' seems to be the video game industry's theme song.

The_root_of_all_evil:

image
Activision did some damn good games back in '84.

Two of my favourite Commodore 64 games of 1984 were H.E.R.O. and an early EA sci-fi combat flight sim called Skyfox. Activision also introduced me to console gaming, as Pitfall II was the first Atari 2600 game I remember. It's hard to believe those two generally fringe studios became such potent (and frequently evil) pillars of the industry.

Shamus Young:
What made them important: Before Activision was a multi-billion dollar publisher it was actually a feisty little indie company. Strange, I know. Back in the 1970s, a number of programmers became upset with Atari. They made games for the Atari 2600, but didn't get any credit or receive any additional compensation if they produced a blockbuster. Like the movie stars of just a few decades before, they became aware that they were worth many times what they were being paid. They realized this, and their employers didn't. In these situations, things rarely go well for the employer.

These programmers jumped ship...

Oh, my! What a strange twist of fate this seems like now.

Hey! What about Maxis? Or Sierra? Bullfrog? You left out a bunch of huge developers with iconic games. Really Shamus, if you are going to play Obi-Wan Kenobi at least try a little, because you just came off as an old man wanting to look smart. Doesn't become you...

Does nobody else remember Sierra? They hold some of my deepest, fondest memories... ;_;

*shakes head in disappointment, along with "tsk, tsk" Shamus, you've seem to have forgotten the OTHER thing Microprose is known for, COMBAT SIMS.

Sure the genre has been displaced by FPSes today, but 10-20 years ago, they were the "it" thing. They had a cover on practically every other issue of Computer Gaming World, with stuff like F-19 Stealth Fighter and Silent Hunter under their belts. And who can forget Falcon 4.0 with that magnificent 600 page manual bound in a binder?

Samus got the most important studios.
There are others, but RIP.

Finally a good piece again.

I really enjoyed the read. There is some great history contained in a very young industry.

I just wish he'd included Sierra, Bitmap Brothers and Bullfrog.

They had a lot to do with my growing up.

I am glad to be somewhat familiar with the overall history of the gaming industry but there's so many great companies that will be forgotten in due time. Luckily posts like this share the knowledge a bit.

It's actually funny that this post made me think of the old times when i was a kid and not even a proper gamer that how golden image i have of that time period. When there were numerous things to try and explore for game developers and infinite ways to get successfull and and fail. Nowadays it just seems more organised, and thats kinda sad.

Alas, I miss good ol' Westwood and 3DO, they knew how to make proper solid RTS games (and 3DO RPG's as well). Still plenty of great studios going strong though, Naughty dog, Bethesda, Insomniac and Rockstar for instance, so it's not all misery.

Rest in peace Looking Glass Studois :(

Remembering old development companies is well and good to a point; but I think it's important that many great developers started as hobbyists, not initially under the umbrella of a vast game-making company. Games built by a couple guys or just one person, what would today be an impossible feat, during the infancy of electronic entertainment. That's were the roots of gaming start: not with large studios and budgets and publishers, but with creative individuals who STARTED those companies.

Shit I'm only 23 and I friggin KNOW all of this. What the hell?

Holy crap am I old?! Thanks Shamus for bringing this to my attention... not that the gray hair would have indicated that either.

You want old-school though? Where's Brøderbund (Galactic Empire, Prince of Persia and Myst), Trilobyte (7th Guest - the very first PC-CD ROM game and 11th Hour), Delphine Software (Another World, Flashback), Shiny Entertainment (Earthworm Jim I & II, MDK) Bullfrog (Populous, "Theme" Games) or the varied history of Sega would also have made an interesting read as well.

Remember when Bungie made good FPSs?

It's so good to know other old fogies remember these companies. Those crazy teenagers don't know what they missed.

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