In today’s high pace environment of rapidly expanding technology, it’s almost funny to revisit the limitations of the past. However, there were definitely some great game developers who were ahead of their time in terms of concepts and art, but were restricted to the tools which were available in that era.
In some cases, these games were more ambitious than the hardware could support and in other cases developers put forth titles that the mass majority wasn’t yet ready to accept. In any case, retrospectively, it’s easy to see why certain games didn’t take off initially, but have caught on now or would have if they’d been released later.
The games we share in this list were avant-garde in one way or another, sometimes resulting in a cult-like following, some with widespread success, and some with just poor results overall. Whatever the outcome, the makers of these games were innovative and inspiring.
Exploration games were not common in 1986, the year Binary Systems released their PC game title Starflight. Most games of the time progressed in a linear fashion, with specific start and end points. Users were generally lead down a path of steps and levels with little ability to “discover” hidden areas of the game or simply travel around for pleasure. Starflight was the first of its kind in the exploratory game model. Being the captain of a starship is surely exciting, and one of the most alluring prospects must be the journeying of space — and that’s exactly what Starflight delivered.
2. Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark, a shooting-style game presented in the first-person or multi-player options, was extremely innovative. It was a follow-up game to GoldenEye 007 and shared many of the same features, but Perfect Dark stands apart for several reason.
First, this game really opened the doors to visual effects like weapon reloading animations and the selection of various firing types. The high level of customization for players was also quite revolutionary for the time. The biggest hit about this title, however, was the multi-player options that came standard. Several of these features are now the norm amongst this style of game, but Perfect Dark was indeed a ground-breaker for many of these now common aspects.
3. Prince of Persia
Prince of Persia initially debuted as a game for Apple computers in 1989, where it had general success. A renewed interested in the game arose when it was released as part of the Sands of Time trilogy in 2003. Although the Sands of Time edition was certainly more popular, it was the original version that was ahead of its time.
The reason Prince of Persia was so pioneering for its time was because of the use of motion capture to time the primary character’s jumps. This was the first instance of motion capture in gaming at all. The system was called rotoscoping. In this type of motion capture, the rendering artist traces live action movement to create a frame-by-frame sense of movement.
The hugely popular Halo: Combat Evolved game was more progressive than ahead of its time, per say. By this we mean that gamers were ready for and anticipating a game like this. The graphics were incredible and truly deserving of attention on all counts. What made this game a finalist on our “ahead of its time list” is just how intensely incredible those graphics were (and still are.) When the first Halo arrived on the market in 2001, consumers went wild with rave reviews, high sales, and an amazing level of enthusiasm. Even non-gamers knew the title. The designers for this game achieved stardom levels in the industry, and rightly so.
Seaman, a game released in 2000 by Dreamcast, is an unusual species of games even by today’s standards. This game features little or no objective. The point of this game is to simply interact with Seaman, a fish-like creature who responds to users via voice recognition software and a microphone. This game may be presently geared towards introverts, but there is likely coming a time when relationships with animated characters will dominate our general society…at least that’s what futurist movies often depict.
Though Seaman never really took off as a hit game, the voice recognition element did likely spark similar games that have gained more renown.
Honorable Mention: Snake
Nokia’s version of Snake was a game that came pre-loaded onto the company’s cell phones starting in 1998. The simple, but widely played, game revealed to mobile phone makers the potential for apps and gaming. There was not really anything revolutionary in the game itself, but the act of offering it on a mobile device was a huge step towards today’s mobile game success.
Which games would you classify as “ahead of their time”? Share with us in the comments!
[Photo Credit: The Conmunity]