TECH & SCI­ENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with CHRIS

RE­CENTLY I’ve been work­ing on a pas­sion of mine - an ad­ven­ture story that dou­bles as both a new age ver­sion of a dig­i­tal ‘pop-up’ book, and a homage to the old 2D side scrolling video games that I grew up with. I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s, the golden age of video gam­ing, and in many ways video game tech­nol­ogy grew up with me. I have fond mem­o­ries of my fam­ily’s very first home PC - a Com­modore 64 - and the tri­als and tribu­la­tions in­volved in get­ting a video game to run on it. Some­how, at the ten­der age of five or six, I man­aged to as­sem­ble the com­puter, in­sert the 51/4” floppy disk into the seper­ate drive, type the nec­es­sary com­mand prompts into the bright blue screen, and wait the oblig­a­tory 5-10 mins for the game to ac­tu­ally load while my senses were driven crazy by a per­pet­u­ally flash­ing rain­bow load­ing screen (ap­par­ently at­tempt­ing to in­duce epilep­tic seizures was part and par­cel of video game de­sign back then). Mr. Robot was my favourite game, not least be­cause it had a level cre­ation mode, a fea­ture that was leaps and bounds ahead of its era. Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles was my sec­ond favourite, al­though I found out years later, on the in­ter­net, that the game was bro­ken and that level I was stuck on was ac­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to beat. That’s right kids, back in my day, you had to have the pa­tience of a saint and ad­vanced com­put­ing and tech­ni­cal skill just to play a game that might very well be bro­ken with no way to fin­ish it - hooray. Shortly af­ter this, I re­ceived a Sega Mas­ter Sys­tem for Christ­mas, and that was when my love of side scrolling video games re­ally took off.

A brief his­tory of 2D side scrollers The first side scrolling video games

The first gen­er­a­tion of 8-bit gam­ing took place pri­mar­ily dur­ing the 1980’s. The first game to fall un­der the “scrolling” cat­e­gory was Jump Bug, which was re­leased in 1981. In this ar­cade-style game the player con­trolled a Volk­swa­gen Beetle through dif­fer­ent lev­els of in­creas­ing dif­fi­culty. An­other pop­u­lar ar­cade style game of this genre was Pac-Land, re­leased in 1984. This game took Pacman and in­cor­po­rated the main char­ac­ter into a sidescroller game. It was sim­i­lar to the idea of Pacman since the player col­lected fruit for points and could gather cer­tain to­kens to change the fa­mil­iar ghost en­e­mies to blue so they could also be eaten for points. In 1985, the home gam­ing con­sole mar­ket changed for­ever.

8-bit Home con­soles

A new sys­tem was re­leased in North Amer­ica and with it one of the most pop­u­lar games ever. Su­per Mario Bros. was re­leased with the Nin­tendo En­ter­tain­ment Sys­tem. This move pro­pelled home gam­ing back into pop­u­lar­ity, since it was an ef­fi­cient, smooth run­ning sys­tem that han­dled the de­mand­ing side-scrolling graph­ics with ease. In to­tal Su­per Mario sold around 40 mil­lion copies world­wide. The NES and the Su­per Mario fran­chise dom­i­nated the mar­ket well through the 8-bit gen­er­a­tion of 2-di­men­sional games. Al­though the Sega Mas­ter sys­tem did lag be­hind its chief com­peti­tor, the ar­rival of its own mas­cot in 1991, Sonic the Hedge­hog, saw a marked in­crease in sales and in­ter­est from gamers.

16-bit con­soles

The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of gam­ing, 16-bit, brought about an­other wave of side-scrolling games with the Sega Ge­n­e­sis re­leased in 1989. This con­sole had su­pe­rior graph­ics and was the only con­sole on the mar­ket at the time. This was the case un­til Nin­tendo re­leased their new­est game con­sole Su­per Nin­tendo En­ter­tain­ment Sys­tem (SNES) around a year later. Games such as Don­key Kong Coun­try, Earth Worm Jim, Ranger X and Castl­e­va­nia were ab­so­lute eye candy for their time, and the new lev­els of graph­i­cal fidelity helped sus­pend dis­be­lief and cre­ate emo­tional in­vest­ment in what was hap­pen­ing on the screen.

32 and 64 bit con­soles

This new dawn of con­soles saw a dra­matic shift into the world of 3D graph­ics, and for the long­est time I be­lieved that the old 2D side scrollers I’d grown to love had ac­tu­ally died out, never to re­turn. Af­ter all, sud­denly play­ers weren’t re­stricted to only move in two direc­tions, now char­ac­ters on your screen like Mario, Link and Lara Croft had a three di­men­sional world they could move around in. Who in their right mind would want to play Alex Kidd or Won­der Boy?

Steam and the In­die Scene

It turned out, plenty of peo­ple thought the way I did, and now I’m happy to see that there are an abun­dance of new ti­tles that utilise the tried and true 2D side scrolling me­chanic, largely cre­ated by in­de­pen­dent game de­vel­op­ers. One com­pany, Lizard­cube, has even cre­ated a fan­tas­tic re­make of Won­der Boy 3 - a game I adored as a kid, and I love it ev­ery bit as much to­day. There’s some­thing to be said for the golden oldies. With pub­lish­ing plat­forms like Steam, and fund gen­er­at­ing sites like Indiegogo and Kick­starter hav­ing taken the video game scene by storm, I look for­ward to see­ing what the fu­ture brings for the hum­ble 2D Side Scroller.

◆ RUN AND JUMP: The re­make of Won­der­boy 3 is a wel­come ad­di­tion to the resur­gence of the 2D plat­former genre, while the orig­i­nal was a video game icon of the 1990’s.

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