Lecture 5

The Beginning of the Rest of the Course - Videogames

Video Games

Video games are a combination of hardware and software with video and audio and touch feedback.

In the arcade each game has its own particular user interface. With video game consoles at home these individual controls have been replaced with generic controllers.

Individual programmers have given way to huge teams with specialized functions.

Video games have both benefited from advances in computer graphics and driven those advances in computer graphics.

People spend a great deal of time interacting with computers in the form of videogames - its definitely an area of programming where you can't ignore the user.

Statistics are always dangerous and sometimes flakey since you always need to read the fine print, and that fine print is seldom included in news articles, but here are some general numbers to consider:

in 2000, video game and software sales roughly 6.5 billion US dollars
in 2000, motion picture industry sales roughly 7.5 billion US dollars

29 million video game consoles sold in 2001

36 million households in the US have at least one (80% of households with children 13-17)

Note that while I do want to talk about the evolution of video game software and hardware I do not intend to get into any religious wars over whatever is supposedly 'better' than whatever else.

Older Games in the Arcade

Some more modern arcade games

Console Games at Home

atari 2600pics/pon

Magnavox Odyssey 2

Nintendo Super NES

Sony Playstation

Initally the home consoles only played one game (like pong) but then you would get variants (pong and hand-ball) and then pong and a light gun. The big deal came when you could buy a system and plug different cartridges into it to play a whole variety of games.

Note how initally the home consoles had paddles (dials) to play pong (which was basically one dimensional.)

The atari 2600 allowed you to plug in multiple controlers but it came with a 1 button joystick by default (you could also plug in a 1-button paddle for the racing game.) As the years move on we move towards replacing the joystick with a directional pad, and adding more buttons on the top and then on the 'shoulder' of the controller, then we adding back a joystick or two in addition to the directional pad. These days controlers have anywhere from 10-15 controls.

Hardware statistics

Here are some more statistics, which I want to show mostly to see the evolution of the hardware over almost 25 years

Year Name CPU speed RAM video games on novelties price
78 Atari 2600/VCS 1 Mhz 128 bytes 128 colours

320 X 200

4KB ROM cart the first BIG hit $250
25 million sold

450 games

82 ColecoVision 3.6Mhz 8,000b 32 colours

256 X 192

8KB - 32KB ROM cart expanability
(including 2600 adapter)
6 million sold

175 games
(plus 450 from atari)

90 SNES 3.8 Mhz 128,000b 32000 colours
(256 at one time)

512 X 448

0.5MB - 8MB ROM cart stereo sound $250
50 million sold
95 Playstation 34 Mhz 2,000,000b 640 X 480

24 bit colour

CDROM - $300
70 million sold
98 Dreamcast 200 Mhz CPU

100 Mhz graphics

16,000,000b 640 X 480

24 bit colour

CDROM modem

VMS with LCD

10 million sold
00 Playstation 2 300 Mhz CPU

150 Mhz graphics

32,000,000b 640 X 480
(1280 X 1024)

24 bit colour


Firewire, USB

5.1 Dolby Digital

01 Xbox 733 Mhz CPU

250 Mhz graphics

64,000,000b 1920 X 1080 DVDROM 10/100 ethernet

10 GB hard drive


some other facts: 70million NES systems sold, 25 million nintendo 64s sold

and since everything old is new again

88 gameboy 4 Mhz CPU 8,000b 4 greyscale

160 X 144

32KB - 512KB $150
60 million sold
98 gameboy colour 8 Mhz CPU 32,000b 32000 colours
(56 at one time)

160 X 144

32KB - 4MB cart $80
01 gameboy advance 16 Mhz CPU 384,000b 32000 colours

240 X 160

32MB cart $100

but these also had their technological parents in the LED based games of the late 70s and early 80s. Good examples are the hand-held football games made by mattel and coleco (like the one shown below from gamespot) which ran off of a 9 volt battery with LED graphics and rudimentary sound. But they fit in your pocket and were quite rugged.

Some nice Pictures of the insides of modern consoles:

How video game systems work: http://www.howstuffworks.com/video-game1.htm

Home Computer s used for Games

Home computers changed the rules slightly. While games in the arcades were designed to take your quarters away as fast as possible, with home computer games, the games could get longer and more involved, so aside from porting and creating new arcade games, adventure games began to appear in large numbers.

What made this happen? Dungeons and Dragons - dice and character sheets and a desire to combine these with the computer.

and home computers had a keyboard.

Adventure and Zork on the mainframes leading to text based adventures such as Zork and the 12 Scott Adams (no, not the Dilbert guy) adventures where you would type in simple phrases to move from place to place, solve puzzles, ocassionally kill things, and more likely die in unexpected ways. On mainframes, Rogue created 2D dungeons from ASCII text. Temple of Apshai created 2D dungeons with (rudimentary) graphics and each room had a number so you could read the description of the room in the instruction manual. Akalabeth and Mystery House brought rudimentary 3D graphics as well as text to exploration.Wizardry would create a good D&D sense of a party exploring underground and meetings lots of enemies. In almost all these cases you were responsible for taking your own notes and making your own maps.

Another new area was taking the large battle simulations from the dining room tabletop with cardboard markers on cardboard maps into the computer - where the computer could manage the control of the pieces and more importantly the computer could be the opponent.

1979 - Strategic Simulations - Computer Bismarck on the Apple ][

Home consoles also were (and in many cases still are) hooked up to the television set with standards developed in the 40s (50s added color) and not really designed to show bright high-contrast colours. NTSC, PAL, SECAM are all interlaced and have 525 or 625 lines of resolution so if you have a 640 x 480 display (remember those) with a decent number of colours on your computer you are already getting a much better signal.

Coming Next Time

Historical Presentations Begin

last revision 1/20/01