Friday, August 5, 2011

Video game innovations

A while ago I wrote about the German games mag M!Games and their monthly column "Who invented it?" Over the past two years they've collected an impressive amount of who-did-it-first information. Even for those that cannot read the magazine itself, this is worth having around for reference, so here is a complete list of the topics covered so far and their respective pioneers. I didn't to any additional research, all credit belongs to M!Games. This also means they take the credit for mistakes, though, only corrections I knew from the top of my head are included in the notes further down below, so be sure to check them out in the expanded text. Have fun:

06/2009 Grappling Hook: Spider-Man (1982), Bionic Commando (1987) *
07/2009 Heroine: Ms. Pac-Man (1981) *
08/2009 Destructible Environments: Space Invaders (1978)
09/2009 Voice Over: Crazy Climber, Berzerk, King & Balloon (1980) *
10/2009 Parallel Worlds: Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic (1987)
11/2009 Censorship: Commando vs. Space Invaders (1985) *
12/2009 Rockstar Attitude: Journey (1983)
01/2010 Optional Extra Weapons: Sundance (1979)
02/2010 Double Jump: Dragon Buster (1984) *
03/2010 Boss: Phoenix (1980)
04/2010 Quick Time Event: Dynamite Deka (1996) *
05/2010 Literature Adaptions: El Diablero, The Hobbit (1982)
06/2010 Level Editor: Pinball Construction Set, Lode Runner (1983)
07/2010 Splitscreen: Drag Race (1977) *
08/2010 Sniper Rifle: Hostages (1988)
09/2010 Slow Motion: Requiem: Avenging Angel (1999) *
10/2010 Sidekick: Planetfall (1983)
11/2010 Auto Health Regen: Strontium Dog and the Death Gauntlet (1984), U.N. Squadron (1992) *
12/2010 Saving: Colossal Cave Adventure (1975) *
01/2011 Aim Assist: Cyber-Cop (1992)
02/2011 Holding onto ledges: Strider (1989) *
03/2011 Dolby Surround Sound: King Arthur's World (1992) *
04/2011 Special Attacks in a fighting game: Street Fighter (1987) *
05/2011 Licensed Game: Superman (1978)
06/2011 Blood: Shark Attack (1981)
07/2011 Co-op: Space Invaders (1978) *
08/2011 Optional Vehicle Use: Front Line (1982) *
09/2011 Ragdoll Physics: Motocross Madness (1998)

06/2009: they put Bionic Commando on the podium because it wasn't a central element in Spider-Man, which is somewhat inconsistent with later entries
07/2009: debatable: the advertising for Crazy Balloon (1980) suggests a female protagonist, but she isn't actually recognizable on screen.
09/2009: all released in 1980, they didn't know which came first
10/2009: means censorship in Germany vs. original versions
02/2010: Jump Bug (1981) and Antarctic Adventure (1983) are named for letting you influence the jump length in mid-air
04/2010: WRONG: Warp's D (1995) already contains one QTE scene. Dragon's Lair (1983) is disqualified because the main gameplay relies on the mechanic we now know as QTE rather than having special sequences, even Ralph Baer and Howard Morrison's Simon (1978) is mentioned
07/2010: Astro Race (1973) already has the players on seperate portions of the screen, but there's no scrolling or other indicator as to the players' physical location in the game world
09/2010: WRONG: The watch item in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (1993) already slows down time (while it merely stopped enemy movement in previous titles), Time Trax (1994) also gave the player the power to slow down time. Requiem, by the way was released March 31st, incidentally the exact same day The Matrix opens in cinemas
11/2010: they originally named U.N. Squadron (SNES version only), but corrected themselves in the following issue
12/2010: on home consoles: The Legend of Zelda (1987)
02/2011: WRONG: Fire Rock (1988) for the FDS predates it, as well as Ninja Gaiden (also 1988 in Japan), Prince of Persia (1989) is mentioned by M!Games, but dismissed because they're looking for a life-saving automatic mechanic.
03/2011: it's the first game with officially declared Dolby Surround, they suspect that the effect was there inofficially in earlier games
04/2011: kinda WRONG: Galactic Warriors (1985) features three playable characters, each with a standard punch & kick, but also an individual special attack, but it's not executed by a special command
07/2011: not in the original arcade version, first introduced with the Atari VCS port
08/2011: WRONG: Ultima (1980) let players travel around on horses, boats, even jet cars and space shuttles. Some - but not all - of them were required to solve the game


  1. Which came out first, Strontium Dog and the Death Gauntlet, or Hydlide?

    I love lists like this because my natural inclination is to try to find mistakes in everything. Haha! This would make perfect debating material for beer sessions at retro conventions.

  2. So, who did wall-jumping first?

  3. If I am not mistaken, D featured a QTE scene. It was released in 1995.

  4. On the SLOW MOTION subject: The original "Prince of Persia" features a potion, which slows time (it's used to land safely in one level). Don't know, if it did it first, but it predates "Requiem: Avengening Angel" by ten years. The latter was a cool game though.

  5. Oh, I forgot "Castlevania" (1987), which let's you stop time for a short while. But maybe that does not count as "Slow Motion".

  6. Interesting list. Trying to declare firsts is always a recipe for mistakes but it makes for good debate.

    Some notes -

    The first heroine is debatable. You could include '70s RPGs that let you choose the sex. Also, Crazy Balloon (1980) predates Ms. Pac-Man although you can't really see the main character in-game. On the arcade flyer it's a girl at least.

    There were games with bosses before Phoenix like the dragon at the end of dnd (1975).
    Zelda often gets credit for console battery backup saves although SMS Penguin Land was released the same year as cartridge Zelda and could be earlier. There were also ColecoVision prototypes with battery backup like Lord of the Dungeon.

  7. @ lordt: Wall jumping would be either the SMS version of Rastan Saga or Ninja-kun: Ashura no Shou (both 1987), I think.

    @ Thiago Simões: Yeah, I remember that. It was pretty annoying.

    @ Anonymous: IIRC, the potion in Prince of Persia only slows down the Prince's mid-air speed, or at least it's supposed to do. So it's more like a floating potion, not a slomo one. Btw., they also mentioned Super R-Type as a kind of joke entry.

  8. Obscure FDS game "Fire Rock" may have beaten Ninja Gaiden for wall hugging.

  9. That grappling hook from Phantom 2099 made my pants tight.

  10. Othe specific SLOW MOTION precedent to 1999 is in Megaman X2 in 1994, where the Cristal Snail maverick does an slow motion attack, and then the player can do it charging his obtained weapon.

  11. @derboo: Just watched a youtube video of "Prince Of Persia" and I guess you're right. I somehow always saw it as SloMo, when I was younger. And the "S.R-Type"(or any ohter infamously harware-stressing action game of the time)-joke was almost unavoidable, my first thoughts were quite similair actually :D.
    BUT, I'm not giving up yet: my next shot would be "Time Trax" (1994), a slightly above mediocre SNES-platformer, based on a cheesy TV-series, which has "Slow Motion" as a standard action, called "Time Stall". I still think, there has to be an earlier example, though. Any other suggestions?

  12. And while we're on grappling hooks: I just bought two GBA-"Kim Possible" titles, 1 Euro each in a big german electronics-store. While the first called "Monkey Fist" is a rather forgettable beat em up, the other one, "Drakken's Demise" is a surprinsingly excellent action-platformer, with smooth grappling-hook controls. Seriously recommended!

  13. Fire Rock: Boy, that game is bad. But yeah, it came first.

    Added all the new corrections to the notes in the post body (Time Trax wins over Mega Man X2 for slow motion).

  14. FWIW, some of this is probably based on what people said in the (old) Man!ac forum. One of the M! people asks the readers regularly for the column and everybody can give their input. Aside from the articles themselves, this probably also gives you an insight into certain definitions and choices.

  15. Wow, that Fire Rock is so heinous one can´t tell if the wall hugging is a feature or a glitch. Now THAT is bad control!

  16. Very true anon. I gave it a go based on the comments here and it's so very bad.

  17. I like how the little barbarian guy bounces across the ground as he runs. It seriously feels like an old Klik & Play game. Might be a good candidate for weekly kusoge.

  18. I recently saw video of some Atari submarine game called Wolfpack. Looked to predate Crazy Climber on the voice over category.

  19. Is there still an interset in updating this list? Because, and call me obsessed if you like, I finally found a game that predates "Time Trax": It is none other than "Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood" (1993)! The Stopwatch, unlike previous titles of the series, only SLOWS time. This is, in my opinion, only an evolution of the original time-stopping found in the original NES "Castlevania", and therefore the honor should rightfully go to this franchise. At last I can rest now. :D

  20. @Sketcz: It doesn't matter, since Dungeons of Daggorath was released in 1982. And Rogue might have had an automatic regen feature too; I know Moria did, but that was from the mid 1980s, after DoD.

  21. Astro Blaster (1981, arcade, Gremlin/Sega) had a limited 'warp' button that slowed down time temporarily. It also had hidden 'achievements'.
    Kung-Fu Taikun (1984, arcade, Seibu Kaihatsu) *sort of* had a wall jump - you rebounded off walls in a way that seemed deliberate.
    For grappling hook: At a big stretch, The Electric Yo-Yo (1982, arcade), Chameleon (1983, arcade).
    Also, I love Jump Bug, but I'd feel dirty giving 'double jump' to it - it's really quite different. It has enough firsts of its own regardless. Never played Antarctic Adventure, so can't comment on that, but Joust would be another contender (I think it really ought to go to Dragon Buster though - double jump means double jump).

  22. I want to know which was the first game to use a "belt-scrolling" perspective. I'm tempted to say it was Mat Mania, Technos Japan's 1985 wrestling game, which was a partial inspiration for Renegade.