Gamer Gift Guide: The Future Was Here
Our gamer gift guide has so far highlighted: William Sims Bainbridge’s The Warcraft Civilization, T.L. Taylor’s Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming, and Jesper Juul’s A Casual Revolution. Today’s post features The Future was Here: the Commodore Amiga by Jimmy Maher.
Personal computers weren’t always the multipurpose machines we know them as today; before the introduction of the Commodore Amiga 1000, personal computers existed as either gaming machines used solely for entertainment, or dull models used for business. However, the Commodore Amiga 1000, with its “unprecedented animation capabilities, four-channel stereo sound, the capacity to run multiple applications simultaneously, [and] a graphical user interface,” allowed for the unification of both entertainment and business in one. With advanced animation capabilities and a better sound system, the Amiga allowed for video games to develop both aesthetically and plot wise, with more intricate storylines being able to be supported by the unique Amiga platform..
Here is an excerpt detailing Menace, a game which Amiga made possible to create:
“The most important aspects of Menace–a nicely polished early Psygnosis effort designer and implemented by just two people, programmer Dave Jones and artist Tony Smith, who together called themselves “DMA Design”–demonstrate this technical emphasis. Menace is an example of a space “shoot ’em up” (or, in demoscene language, a “schmup’), a genre that was immensely popular on the Amiga and other game platforms of its era and that was, along with platform-style action adventures such as Barbarian, Psygnosis’s main staple. In Menace, the player controls the spaceship that she views from the side as she guides it through a series of horizontally scrolling levels, collection power-ups, dodging obstacles, and of course destroying as many of the organic and mechanical enemies that infest the levels as possible while not letting them kill her (figure 8.5). Should she make it to the end of a level, a final powerful “boss” waits, whom she must destroy before proceeding to the next level…
Upon first viewing the introduction screens, one is struck by their aesthetic similarities to the demoscene of the time; even DMA Design’s name and logo are reminiscent of a cracking or demo group. Jones…could hardly have been aware of the scene. Indeed, the European games industry at this time was almost as youth dominated as the demoscene; Jes San said in reference to the major game publisher for which he worked, Rainbird, that the average age was probably no more than 22 and that he knew of no one involved with the company in any capacity who was older than 30. like his less legitimate scene counterparts, Jones worked purely in the 68000 processor’s native assembly language and bypassed AmigaOS entirely in favor of coding directly to the hardware, all in the interest of maximizing performance.”
Perfect for a gamer friend or relative interested in both specifically what platform enabled more intricate video games to be developed and video games themselves, The Future Was Here: the Commodore Amiga promises to be an engaging, stimulating read.