PC and Online Games
The increasing computing power and decreasing cost of processors such as the Intel 80386, Intel 80486, and the Motorola 68030, caused the rise of 3D graphics, as well as “multimedia” capabilities through sound cards and CD-ROMs. Early 3D games began with flat-shaded graphics (Elite, Starglider 2 or Alpha Waves), and then simple forms of texture mapping (such as in Wolfenstein 3D).
1989 and the early 1990s saw the release and spread of the MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) codebases DikuMUD and LPMud, leading to a tremendous increase in the proliferation and popularity of MUDs. Before the end of the decade, the evolution of the genre continued through “graphical MUDs” into the first MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), which freed users from the limited number of simultaneous players in other games and brought persistent worlds to the mass market.
Because of John Carmack’s adaptive tile refresh, Commander Keen was what popularized PC games because of its rapid, side-scrolling graphics’ running on EGA-running MS-DOSes.
In the early 1990s, shareware distribution was a popular method of publishing games for smaller developers, including then-fledgling companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms), Epic Megagames (now Epic Games), and id Software. This gave consumers the chance to try a trial portion of the game, usually restricted to a game’s complete first section or “episode”, before purchasing the full game. Racks of games on single 51?4″ and later 3.5″ floppy disks were common in computer stores, often only costing a few dollars each. Since the shareware versions were essentially free, the cost only needed to cover the disk and minimal packaging. As the increasing size of games in the mid-1990s made them impractical to fit on floppies, and retail publishers and developers began to earnestly mimic the practice, shareware games were replaced by shorter game demos (often only one or two levels), distributed free on CDs with gaming magazines and over the Internet.
Real-time strategy became a popular genre of computer games in the early 90s, with Dune II setting the standard game mechanics of many games since. Meanwhile, Alone in the Dark influenced the survival-horror genre with its action-adventure elements. It established the formula that would later flourish on CD-ROM–based consoles, with games such as Resident Evil, which coined the name “survival horror” and popularized the genre, and Silent Hill.
Graphic adventure games continued to evolve during this period, with the creation of the point-and-click genre. Some of the genre’s most prolific titles were being produced by Sierra Entertainment and LucasArts during the 90s, and Myst and its sequels inspired a new style of puzzle-based adventure games. It was in the 1990s that Maxis began publishing its successful line of “Sim” games, beginning with SimCity, and continuing with a variety of titles, such as SimEarth, SimCity 2000, and eventually The Sims, which was first released in early 2000.
In 1996, 3dfx Interactive released the Voodoo chipset, leading to the first affordable 3D accelerator cards for personal computers. These devoted 3D rendering daughterboards performed a portion of the computations and memory-handling required for more-detailed three-dimensional graphics (mainly texture filtering), allowing for more-detailed graphics than would be possible if the CPU were required to handle both game logic and all the graphical tasks. First-person shooters (FPS) were among the first to take advantage of this new technology. While other games would also make use of it, the FPS would become the chief driving force behind the development of new 3D hardware, as well as the yardstick by which its performance would be measured, usually quantified as the number of frames per second rendered for a particular scene in a particular game.
Several other less mainstream genres were created in this decade. Looking Glass Studios’ Thief: The Dark Project and its sequel were the first to coin the term “first person sneaker,” and the turn-based strategy progressed further, with the Heroes of Might and Magic series popularizing the thus far niche and complex genre.
Id Software’s 1996 game Quake pioneered play over the Internet in first-person shooters. Internet multiplayer capability became a de facto requirement in most FPS games since. Other genres also began to offer online play in the late 90s, including real-time strategy games as Age of Empires, Warcraft and StarCraft series,as well as turn-based games such as Heroes of Might and Magic. Developments in web browser plug-ins like Java and Adobe Flash allowed for simple browser-based games.