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How the moon landed in the early video games of the Games


OOn July 20, 1969, the estimated 650 million television audience, a lunar module called the Eagle, touched the moon's sea of ​​peace. The tension of the landing and the image of the astronauts in futuristic spaceships walking along the awkward surface of the moon and reflecting in too many visions would prove to be very influential for artists, writers and film makers.

They also watched the advocates of another technological field, inhabited by brilliant young geeks: computer games. It may not be a coincidence that in the early 1960s, when Nasa co-operated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology instrumental laboratory, he developed management systems for space-based Apollo spacecraft, and elsewhere in the campus, programmer Steve Russell worked with a small team to created one of the first real experiences with video game.

Inspired by the space race and using the same PD PD-1 model that created the telemetric data of spacecraft for the Nassin Mariner program, Russell wrote Spacewar !, a simple combat game in which two players controlled a limited number of starships, a gravity hole nearby stars. Although it's only available in university research laboratories, SpaceWar! had a powerful impact on the emerging games industry, inspired by the first computer game of the arcade game, founded by Atari Nolan Bushnell, and later by classical asteroids, who also tried to simulate physics of gravity, thrust and inertia.

Gravity, thrust and perseverance ... Asteroids.

Gravity, thrust and perseverance … Asteroids. Photo: Atari

In the 1970s, Bushnell and Atari were fascinated by the space program. The fourth designer who worked in the company, Dennis Koble, previously worked in the biofeedback field at the NASA Ames Research Center, while the encoder Steve Kitchen spent 18 months exploring the STS-2 aircraft to write the Atari 2600 Space Shuttle simulator game : Travel to space. Prior to the publication in 1983, the authenticity of the game was tested by dr. Ed Gibson, an astronaut and physicist who worked on the development of the Skylab Space Station.

Landing in the summer of 1969 directly stimulated the genre of games, known as simulations of the lunar lander, in which players had to fight against the limitations of their craft technology – and Newton's physics – to securely land on the surface that was craterized. The first example is probably a textual simulation written in 1969 by Jim Storer's teen encoder. He watched the Apollo missions on television and developed enthusiasm over the demanding logistics of space flights. At that time, he attended Lexington High School in Massachusetts, near Digital Equipment Corporation, and had access to the central PDP-8 computer.

"I was a scientific major and the idea that we would step onto a surface that was not Earth was exciting. But I'm most interested in computers, "says Storer. It's amazing how they managed to get to the moon with such primitive technology. He had nothing to approach the power of the iPhone. «

Restrictions on Computer Power Nasa reflected the challenges that all early programmers faced. As Storer recalls: "The computer we had at our school was a huge cabinet, but it only had 12kb of memory and 8kb of the operating system. So you had 4kb and it was shared by eight users. It was difficult because you had to follow each line of code. If there was one line in my program, I could not start the computer. So what I wrote was a game for questions and answers – in each phase of the landing you will find out what your current speed is and then you need to enter how much fuel to use. If you fueled the fuel prematurely, you stopped too high and eventually collapsed to the ground – it's a delicate balance to make a genuine landing without hitting the moon too hard. "

Flexible control of the joystick ... Jupiter Lander.

Flexible control of the joystick … Jupiter Lander. Photo: Mobygames

A number of other moon landing simulations followed, including the 1979 Lunar Lander's Atari arcade strike and the early title of the home computer Jupiter Lander. In 1982, space simulation of space transport (Rendezvous: Space Shuttle Simulation) was programmed by NASA scientist Wesley Huntress. Later addresses expanded to the inputs of lunar games in larger environments. Atari's Gravitary and the BBC Micro Thrust Edition featured players who moved around complex terrestrial environments in small spaceships, reminiscent of the classic Apollo harbor.

As home computer technology progressed, developers became more ambitious and watched beyond the surface of the surface against the width. Released in 1984, the legendary BBC Micro Adventure Elite simulated the entire galaxy and used simple vector graphics to capture the peaceful, rare beauty of space travel. David Braben's co-creator was five years old in 1969, but he recalls watching a landing on television, and later he got a View-Master toy with photos of landing on the moon in 3D.

"[The Nasa missions] then he was leading the mood, "says Braben. "I had dozens of astronomical books, I read the novels of Asimov and Larry Niven, and I religiously followed Voyager's mission. I remember seeing volcanoes on Io, that was absolutely amazing. And when I was at university, he visited Uranus and Neptune. The idea of ​​space travel was very attractive. «

The influence of Voyager is particularly clear in Elite – the feeling of jumping from planets to planets in a small vulnerable vessel that observes how the stars move by. But Braben also sees other important parallels between the space program and the early years of the game industry outside of cultural influence.

"One of the achievements attributed to the space program was the development of a silicon chip," he says. "Previously, manufacturers used individual transistors, which were extremely extensive, and protection was a challenge. So from a technical point of view, the amount of money and learning that came from the space program in terms of how to make small, lightweight electronics that did not use too much power really enabled domestic computers. Without the integrated circuits from a cost perspective, they would not be realistic. "

Silent, rare beauty of space travel ... Elite.

Silent, rare beauty of space travel … Elite. Photo: Firebird

Apollo's images, technology and aesthetics remain with game developers to date. The feeling of danger and isolation is in Dead Space, in Destiny, and in the space station thriller, while the idea of ​​interplanetary research is kept in Elite Dangerous, with its credible base of 150,000 star systems and the Inhuman Sky. , which directs the idealism of Voyager's mission into a vast, hypnotic adventure of open space.

In the modern era, the relationship between space travel and video games has become full. One of the speakers at the E3 Games in Los Angeles was this year's technology entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk, one of the leading figures in the highly commercialized scene of space flights of the 21st century. Star 12 years old, Musk wrote his first computer game, Blastard, and told the E3 audience: "Probably would not start programming if there were no video games. [They have] a much greater effect than people will realize. "

Perhaps next time, when a man enters the sea of ​​peace, the spectators will not be just a game. This will be game designers.

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