With all three major VR headsets now available to the general public; we have officially heralded the beginning of a new era; if the PSVR, Oculus and Rift have it their way – gaming has been irrevocably changed. We’ll not be able to go back to traditional, screen-based gaming; regardless of what Phil Spencer thinks…
…PSVR has gotten me thinking though. I used to dream of something like this when I was a kid playing my SEGA Mega Drive, and now here it is and it’s almost as good as I pictured it way back in 1991.
What else has changed since then though?
Almost too much! There is literally too much for me to list here and still make it interesting. What I’m going to do instead is to tell you what I consider the best technological advancements in gaming.
3D Graphics Chip
The first time I saw 3D graphics was on my uncle’s SNES, specifically ‘Star Wing’, it blew my mind! Keep in mind that up until that point I had cut my gaming teeth on the Amstrad CPC-464, the Atari 2600, the SEGA Master System and Mega Drive – all underpowered machines that delivered graphically inferior games (SMS may be the exception here) compared to their nearest rivals.
Amazing graphics were not something I was accustomed to – even with my inexperience though I knew that ‘Star Wing’ was a watershed moment for video games, it was changing the game for everyone. 3D was all I could think about…
Imagine my surprise and glee when I unwrapped my PSOne, Christmas Day, 1995.
Gaming has never went back to being predominantly 2D graphics and that’s because 3D is the gold standard. Gaming worlds became more real, more detailed and more immersive because of 3D graphics and for that reason 3D acceleration is one of; if not THE most important technological advancement in gaming and we can thank the humble Super FX GSU-1 for that!
I remember reading the back of the PSOne box; where there was reference to something called a memory card (“sold separately” was the message). I distinctly remember thinking nothing of it as well (“so what?”) because I thought I’d be able to do without one; after all, I’d been playing games for 5-6 before this and I’d never even heard of a “memory card” let alone used one.
How wrong I was!
Of course memory has always been a thing, just not as a standalone thing! I think back to playing ‘A Link To The Past’ with my cousin on his SNES, we could save our games to the cartridge itself – an early form of memory card. Sony however took it to the next level.
I could save, not only my game progress, but levels and tracks I had created, high scores, ghost data and much, much more! I could then take my saved data and continue playing it at my friend’s house, as if I was playing on my own console! Memory cards changed gaming in a huge way. As the medium progressed, so too did memory cards; they went from 1MB in capacity to 8MB – they even introduced the idea of a companion app and off-screen play with the SEGA Dreamcast.
We have, of course, progressed beyond the humble memory card into hundreds of GB hard drives, but the push for storage started with the memory card. A true pioneering technology that pushed the medium forward. Without it, we’d have no custom soundtracks, ghost data, drivatars etc; gaming wouldn’t be the same!
The SEGA Dreamcast is, in my opinion, the finest console that has ever been created!
It pioneered numerous things in the home console sphere including (but not limited to) motion control, voice recognition, off-screen play, companion apps (thanks to the VMU) and analogue triggers. However, the Dreamcasts biggest revelation was supplied via the onboard modem; online play!
SEGA had attempted to incorporate the internet into its hardware as far back as the Mega Drive with SEGA MegaNet; but it was with the Dreamcast that they perfected it! In fact, the Dreamcast was the first console ever to have internet connectivity not as a sideshow, but as a core part of the machine – one that developers took considerations for and made games exclusively to take advantage of!
You were able to directly connect to game servers from within the game menu and almost instantly (well after dialling up and connecting) play with other human beings from around the world. Despite the Dreamcast’s dated (even for the time) 33.6K modem, the experience online was absolutely heavenly – I only occasionally experienced lag in ‘Toy Racer’.
Online play was a revolution! SEGA pioneered the world’s first console MMO in ‘Phantasy Star Online’, the ushered in online racing with ‘Daytona 2001’ and created an arena shooter that not only matched ‘Quake 3’ and ‘Unreal Tournament’ but surpassed them in many ways with ‘Outtrigger’! SEGA even sold games (rarely) through Dreamkey to users; I got a copy of ‘ChuChu Rocket’ (for free!) and ‘Toy Racer’ (£5 that went to charity) through the internet, on a console, in 2000!
The gaming landscape had been changed.
Since the Dreamcast’s demise (RIP) every console since has taken this concept and run with it, evolving it into what we know today as PSN, Xbox Live and Nintendo Network. Everyday millions of people log onto these services to talk to one another, kill one another and buy their games digitally.
I could not picture a console without this functionality. Cheers SEGA!
There are new WiFi systems out there, like Luma, that support and enhance this functionality on console. They have a surround home wifi system that is great for advanced connectivity among multiple devices online, allowing you to connect with the millions of people logging on and removing obstacles that might block your signal while playing.
Yes it’s new, yes I’m still really excited by it and yes some games are mere tech demos. But by God none of this matters because as a proof of concept VR is the biggest revolution in gaming since the advent of online play!
I said at the beginning that I used to dream of Virtual Reality as a kid and that was no lie; the fact that it is here and I am able to enjoy it is akin to science fiction coming true.
Since I got my PSVR I have only played “traditional” games sparingly, the level of immersion they give me has been lessened by my experiences in VR. I truly believe that the “real” games are coming; starting with ‘Resident Evil VII’ in January and that VR will establish itself as a viable platform by 2020 (and the release of Playstation 5).
It is like nothing that has come before it; and I hope that it continues to live beyond this generation. It is mind-blowingly impressive.
What do you consider to be the biggest/most important evolutions of gaming technology?
Tell me in the comments below!