The Single Button Joystick

Tag: Tim Berners-Lee

“I’ll bring my controller…”

by on Oct.06, 2011, under 16-bit, 8-bit, Amiga, Modern, PC, Retro

I read this thing a million times

In my preteen (pre internet) days, I would  imagine a future where multiplayer games would not need visiting anyone. Taking a joystick over to my friend’s house on a lazy Saturday became such a fixture in my life that it doesn’t feel so long ago. He lived on the other side of a valley, an epic journey of ten minutes. It wasn’t as though I found this short walk difficult or annoying, but the sheer convenience of being able to sit down at your computer, press a few buttons and be playing against a friend was a far in future.

Split screen continues to be a popular method of multiplaying, but back in the day it was pretty much your only option. From ages 10-15, Chooie and I would get into any multiplayer action we could get our hands on. Rarely were these games of the boxed and retail variety, but from the magazine Amiga Power. Over three years he and I collected nearly every issue and with it, their coverdisks. Two games we played really stood out; Extreme Violence and Gravity Force 2.

The first game was simple. The players each controlled a man with a hat and a gun, their goal is to be the first to kill the other player a few times. The usual power ups are available, bigger guns, faster boots, etc. While superficially plain, it had a visceral quality, the desperation of avoiding your opponents huge laser wave, and trying to pop him with your crappy bullet was always intense. Intense until my Chooie’s mother hid it from us for SEVERAL years, ugh.

Gravity Force 2 also came from Amiga Power and was an instant hit with us. Two little spaceships piloted through levels that looked like they were out of Lemmings. You’d try not to crash into the walls, avoid the turrets and shoot your opponent naturally, but where it stood out was the vast array of settings. The type of weapons used, the amount of air resistance and of course the effect of the gravity are just a few of the preferences players had control over. The levels included water which realistically slowed you down and caused your ship to float. Amiga Power also liked this game so much, that they sponsored the game’s creators to make a sequel, Gravity Power. It was a better game in almost every way except it never worked properly on my computer. Bummer!

Where is the ethernet port?

Limitations in technology (and funds) curtailed my abilities to play any games remotely or system link. Very few games offered system link at the time, and none of my friends were really able to move their computers around for mere entertainment purposes. Remote play was not only beyond my budget, but largely beyond my imagination! How far we’ve come. Just today I sat down switched on my PC and within five minutes I was driving my custom built tank around a battlefield populated by thirty people, drawn from a hundred thousand strangers from around the world. This World of Tanks, made me realise how far we’ve come.

The internet has made finding opponents and allies for multiplayer games easier, but I’ll always miss those walks across the park, clutching my floppy disks and an extra joystick, eager to blast my friend to pieces.



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Early days of…

by on Jan.18, 2011, under IBM and Compatibles, Modern, PC, Retro

1. The World Wide Web.

I avoided using the ‘internet’ because THAT had its early days in the 60s. The World Wide Web, largely invented by Tim Berners-Lee, ’90s onwards phenomenon and if you’re me, a ’98 onwards phenomenon.

The early hype in the mainstream media about the WWW was a real mixed bag. It isn’t surprising because at the early stages of any kind of large-scale, no one really knows what it’s going to do.

Will it be bigger than TV and Radio?

Or just an easier way for writing to grandma and sending photos of the twins?

Early promotion for the internet focussed on the wonders of email. Even then I was a little puzzled at this. Interviews with high school children sending emails  and showing them amazed at how you could send some text to somewhere across the world in a few seconds. I never found this very impressive; since the telephone lets you send your voice over the same distance instantly and that was in most people’s homes since the 60’s.

Being an Amiga owner and not having a PC until early 1997, the very early days of the WWW weren’t something I experienced directly. Going to a friend’s house in ’95 I recall myself and a few other boys gathered around his PC, ears almost pressed into his tinny PC speaks.

He’d downloaded the X-Files theme music. It was amazingly low quality by today’s standards, but a tremendous novelty back then. I think that was the night we saw Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

Remember when websites for even large companies back then now look like some kid had spent 5 minutes on geocities, and sometimes large companies didn’t yet have websites? Ahhh, simpler times.

As much as I grasp for the past, I should try to think about the things that weren’t so good back then. Go back to the 90s? I hated most of primary and high school and after living with and using ADSL for years, imaging going back to BELOW 33.6 kbit/s, no Wikipedia, no Google and NO YOUTUBE. You’d have to make your own hilarious cat themed videos.

I hope a few of you out there miss the days Netscape Navigator being the superior browser. I for one miss seeing that big ship’s wheel when I open my portal to the universe.

Netscape Navigator me hearties.

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