Early Video Games, the surrounding environment

Early Video Games

In early schemes, the representation of bodies of water relied on the creation of the surrounding environment and modifying the controls of the characters. The graphics limitations were supported by external conditions that would suggest the presence of water. For instance, early games developers invested in the simulation of buoyancy as one of the characteristics of water in our physical world.

The body of water was not simulated. Instead, water effects were driven by pictorial techniques with the intention to create the effect. Among those, we should pay attention to the different treatments of the background and foreground in combination with the impact of the limits of the display imposed by the screens at the time.

One video game that exemplifies some of the connotations we are going to study is Vice: Project Doom, developed by Aicom, Sammy Corporation for Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. In the background of the game’s first stage can be seen reflection ripples aiming to represent the reflection of the buildings by taking advantage of the scanline effects. Additionally, the parallax effect displayed using mid-frame adds a sense of depth and constructs an urban landscape.

Platform games such as Vice: Project Doom use a similar structure. In this archeology, we could see the divergence between the different approaches to the representation of a body of water by comparing the various methods of its construction.

Video game developers would use the hardware limitations of the screens at the time in their favor. The design of their schemes was developed for use on CRT monitors. In the CRT monitor, the image is divided into lines (explain what scanline is). Games like Vice: Project Doom used this constraint in favor of their design (Materiality).

Consumer video consoles were supposed to be plugged into televisions or CRT monitors; however, companies developed a small type of video console with a built-in screen. One of the most notable examples was Nintendo Game Boy (develop Game Boy)

The scanline trick was the base for representing horizontal ripples from the water where other techniques would construct atop. Batman: Return of the Joker for Nintendo Game Boy (1992) built on top of two other effects: one was a warping effect as the water passed in front of the scenery; the other performed a flickering, blanking out the water every other frame. This technique reduced the cost of scanline manipulation, and also took advantage of the slow pixel response of the Game Boy’s LCD. This accumulation of effects resulted in the impression of transparency, since the screen could not update fast enough between frames.