I remember being fascinated with Space Panic when I first spied it in the arcades in 1980. A game genre will eventually become so ingrained over time that you lose sight of what it really meant, but the idea of platforms and ladders introduced in Universal, Ltd.’s Space Panic helped video games construct worlds that you could clamber around in, like an electronic equivalent of an Erector Set. Combine this world with an ever more difficult puzzle element where you dig holes to trap and dispatch angry aliens, sometimes requiring planning over multiple levels, and you get the perfect kind of gameplay, something that is easy to grasp but difficult to master. Added into the mix is a frenetic pace as your antagonists get more and more quick at chasing you around the screen, and a deadline to accomplish your mission as your oxygen slowly runs out.
Space Panic cleared the way for a myriad of platform games, from Donkey Kong to Dig Dug and beyond. You ever climb the side of a building and run across the rooftops in an Assassin’s Creed game? It all started here, dig it? For more information on Space Panic, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.
Venerable game developer, publisher and distributor Valve Software introduced their new Steam Controller yesterday, and the shrill whistle of those blowing their stacks was deafening. People were pretty steamed, if you will. Gamers were taken aback by the design of the controller, which eschews traditional user interfaces such as analog joysticks or a pressable D-pad with two round, flat trackpads. Players use their thumbs on the surface of the pads, which also serve as buttons since they are clickable. Valve promises the high-resolution trackpads give players a much higher degree of control over previous methods. Haptic feedback and a large touchscreen are also thrown into the design for good measure.
Gamer response was quick and furious. It reminded me of another unique control scheme that was met by derision from gamers back in the day…
Nolan Bushnell founded Atari in 1972, sold it to Warner Communications in 1976, and was eventually ushered out of the company in 1978. The writing had been on the wall for awhile, for the man who had kept Atari alive by constantly innovating, by constantly swimming forward in a sea of ravenous competitors. By then, Atari had gone from a company about innovating to a company about marketing past successes, and that attitude eventually helped sink the entire industry in 1983-84. What Nolan Said: