Thursday, November 15, 2007

Extra Bits

As unlikely as it sounds, I have a guest post over at Level Up, which you can read here.

There's some additional information that didn't make it into the post because I couldn't quite fit it into the narrative, and most of it comes courtesy of John Harwood, who has this all-encompassing knowledge of gaming history--a mile wide and a mile deep.

We were talking about the article, talking about Street Fighter II, and then he started talking about squishies.

I had totally forgotten about the squishies.

The ultimate control scheme in the Street Fighter series was a bit of an accident, really. The original Street Fighter cabinets had pressure sensitive pads (you can see a picture of them here) that felt squishy. You pounded on these pads for punch strength, and the pads could detect three different levels of force.

This control system, obviously, was conceptually perfect for total abuse, and the machines kept breaking down because they were getting pounded on all day long. The reliability issues resulted in the games getting retrofitted with the six-button panel.

John also had some fantastic stories about the Intellivision era, because he gamed with his family: father, mother, and sister. Gaming tournaments were big for a few years back in the 1980's, and they entered them together--and won. His family's experience is a treaure trove of stories from that era, and he's promised to write them up so that I can share them with you guys.

I also didn't mention this in the Level Up post, but several years before Street Fighter, there was a game called Karate Champ. It used dual joysticks, which made it possible to perform a wide variety of kicks and punches, and the animation was very advanced for the era. So if any game can claim to be a conceptual ancestor of Street Fighter, it's probably this game. It was also one of my favorites, although I was never very good.

Karate Champ was also the only game I can remember that included a bull. The in-round fighting was not nearly as over-the-top as Street Fighter, but in one of the bonus rounds, a bull (complete with snorting breath, if I remember correctly) came charging at you and you had to stop him with a punch. Some pictures of the game are here.

One last thing. Arcade games like Pac-Man and Street Fighter II are polar opposites in terms of complexity, but they were both incredibly popular. I think the real genius of the the first two Guitar Hero games is that they were able to be both. On Easy and Medium, it's Pac-Man. On Hard, though, when the hand slide has to be mastered and hammer-ons/pull-offs becomes increasingly important, it turns into Street Fighter II. Any game that can be both is a real masterpiece of game design.

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