Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Some Gaming Concepts That Just Didn't Work

Innovation has always been a hard endeavor in the world of technology and gaming tech is not an exception. Through the many years that have passed since the first video game was ever made, we have seen a lot of fads that have come and gone. In this world we live in there is always a person with a lot of money and all sorts of "kind of cool" ideas, but not every one of those ideas gets realized to its full potential as some concepts either fail in the process or die before they can even exist. Following that lane of thought we are going to see some of those "high end" concepts in gaming that tried to be something awesome, but couldn't.

1) The Arcade Experience at Home
Time: Late 80's - Early 90's  
Reason for failure: Was too expensive for the common customer.

Back in the late 80's and through the 90's that thing we call arcades were the pinnacle of gaming. Anybody could get a simplified port for any of the game consoles existing at the time, but nothing was as smooth, good looking and over the top as the arcade games themselves. At this time, some people thought that the best way to go was to bring the arcade experience to our homes regardless of the cost and that was a big mistake. Yeah, the economy wasn't as bad as it is now, but nobody was going to break their wallets over expensive video game hardware that came with a limited library of games that were not that easy to find.

Neo Geo AES

Take for instance the home version of the Neo Geo console or AES (Advanced Entertainment System). Releasing in 1990, it was an attempt to bring the arcade experience to our living rooms in a time where it was indeed a big thing. The performance of this console was excellent and the hottest SNK games were available for it, but it had only one problem and that problem was that in order to have the console you had to dish out $650 and an extra $100 - $300 for each game. That in today's money is the equivalent of $1,141 for the console and $175 to $526 for each game. Before becoming a home console, the AES could only be rented and it was mostly available to hotels or high profile customers. This means that SNK had no plans to re-engineer the console in order to make it cheaper and because of that it just ended been a dream machine that was too expensive for the common gamer to have.

Another example would be the Konix Multisystem. This one instead of trying to be a home console, it opted to be the arcade itself inside your living room. It was some sort of "arcade cabinet" that resembled the ones found in the arcades for games like Afterburner. It has a neat looking chair with all sorts of stuff attached to it and it promised great looking home console games with the added value of the arcade experience that was so famous at the time. This one was never released because the manufacture costs for it were so high, that the price tag would had been something almost impossible for the consumer.

Corpse Killer

2) Photo-realistic Gaming (the poor man's version)
Time: Early 90's  
Reason for failure: The "games" were in fact crappy movies with sad excuses for gameplay.

On our modern days we can see some games that show how far we have advanced in the graphics department, but while many of these games feature excellent visuals, we still have a little more time ahead of us before reaching photo-realistic graphics. Now, back at the early 90's Sega had other idea which was taking the games into the movie rather than taking the movie into the game. At the time, most of what we had seen on gaming visuals was limited to sprites and drawn backgrounds so they must have thought that changing that to movie style visuals would make such an impact that they would quickly become kings of the hill.

It all looked good in paper until you played the games and realized that you were watching a low quality B movie with certain parts where you could shoot stuff or had to press a certain button combination (quick time events). After the Sega CD was released, the first emphasis it had was on those kinds of "interactive movies" and while a small handful of those games got to a cult classic status, most of them just flopped. Taking the easy way into photo-realism in gaming was never going to work and it still wouldn't work even if we tried it with the technology of our present time.

Viktormaxx Stuntmaster

3) The First Virtual Reality Attempts on Gaming
Time: The 90's
Reason for failure: Bad implementation or devices just been cheap gimmicks.

Since the beginning of the current console generation we have been hearing a lot about virtual reality headsets. Be it the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus, these new devices promise to give us that VR experience that others have failed in the past. In fact, half-baked attempts at creating a virtual reality were the reason why VR was basically abandoned until now. Some people may argue that the technology needed to pull this off was still not there, but if you think a little about that point in time, you can see that first person shooters already existed and were pretty popular with the hardcore crowd along with other genres that had games that could work on a virtual reality environment. They just had a bad choice for games and/or hardware and that botched their attempt on VR.

Virtual Boy Mario Tennis

The biggest example of this is the Virtual Boy. Nintendo tried to make something interesting in order to keep the fans at bay until the Nintendo 64 was ready to release, but made it all wrong and paid the price for it. At first their idea was brilliant, futuristic looking and hype inducing, but when gamers began to see what the Virtual Boy was really about the whole thing went "bomb om"! The games were in red and black instead of color, most of the game concepts were anything but virtual reality and the device itself had no ergonomics or aesthetics at all. All of this made caused the Virtual Boy to be a failure and a stain on virtual reality gaming.

Other people also tried to make similar devices like the dreaded R-Zone which was a butchered version of the Virtual Boy that consisted of a Tiger Electronics game running in red and black over a piece of plastic an inch or so away from one of your eyes. Other devices just tried to simulate VR by putting a normal game very close to your eyes like the Viktormaxx Stuntmaster or just trying some desperate old school 3D effect on an uncomfortable headset or googles like the Sega 3D Glasses.


Wrapping it up

Like it was said at the beginning of this article, Innovation is hard and it is a path that became the final resting place for many products, but these early attempts to try new things did not went in vain. Nowadays we have systems that emulate the feeling of the arcades pretty easily (even if you want to make you own cabinet, you can and it is not that expensive), gaming graphics have slowly evolved into something that almost resembles the real world (check how the Fox engine looks on the PT game demo) and virtual reality now has a fighting chance with the creation of new VR head sets that are showing lots of potential. Who knows what kinds of new crazy concepts will come at our present time. Maybe some of them will fail, but we can't rest assured that as long as we keep advancing we will always get there sooner or later.

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