From Pong to Civilization: How I Worked “Another Turn” on Console


in great shape / Stay still in our hearts with this 8-bit cover art.
Today, the first memoir of legendary game developer Sid Meyer arrives at bookstores and digital platforms, complete with a reasonably well-known, Sid Meier’s Memoir !: A Life in Computer Games. This is everything you can expect from the brain responsible for the PC gaming series Culture, Pirates!, Railroad tycoon, And This is the name of a star: Comprehensive, thoughtful, detailed, and dry, with enough humor and heart to pace the technical bits.In the good news, instead of letting you know what we think of the book (TL; DR: thumbs-up), we thought we Meier would get you back again with a special Ars Technica reprint of a chapter Will let Most chapters of the book combine Mayer’s personal stories with a focus on a specific game, and this one is about 2008 Civilization revolution, Is as much an explanation of its PC-to-console transition as it is a lesson on the history of the game-industry and the design of games.

I had my first exposure to video games, like most people my age, known as the venerable black and white tennis Pong. There was a small restaurant down the street from General Instrument, where some of us would go out after work and have dinner, and for some time they set up this weird little table in the lounge, with television screens The bottom plexiglass faced the underside of the surface. The idea was that you could set your drinks and bar snacks while playing, but it seems irreplaceable to eat on the surface of the TV, so most evenings we would wander off to play a few rounds before returning to our normal, wooden table. . The most memorable thing about this was that one side of the cabinet somehow terminated the wires on the back, sending the little white line to the left of the screen when the player rotated the knob to the right. So we always agreed that whoever was more efficient would have to sit on the broken side to compensate – perhaps my earliest experience balancing the gameplay.

In arcade hardware terminology, rotating dial controls were sometimes referred to as “spinners”, and in fact the umbilical cord identified them as either potentiometers or rheostats, depending on their function. But to the general public, they were known as “paddles” because of the original table tennis associations. A year later PongReleased, the first four-way gaming joystick – a term that, well enough, had its roots in early airplane control – made its debut in arcade games Astro race. This quickly took hold, and by 1977 the Atari 2600 home console offered a standardized plug that, in addition to the five different styles produced by Atari, could support a potentially limitless number of third-party controllers.
The market responded. A 1983 issue of Creative Computing magazine included a 15,000-word hardware review comparing 15 different hardware brands and eight unique paddle sets, as well as eight converters for less luggage plugs than might be required to fit. Some products were surprisingly forward-thinking, such as Datasoft’s “Lay Stick”, in which motion was detected through a set of liquid-mercury switches whenever the freestanding cylinder tilted more than 20 degrees in either direction . It is easy to see why it did not come to an end, but toxic metals aside, deserves credit for bringing the craze of the Datasoft Motion Sensor more than a quarter of a century ago.
Soon, however, third-party producers drifted away, and an evolutionary divide emerged. On one hand, the joysticks of traditional cabinets, buttons and arcade cabinets are consolidated into a single proprietary controller for each console system. On the other hand, the personal computer industry began to drift towards more established business peripherals, namely the mouse and the alphanumeric keyboard. Major gaming companies tried to shorten the gap as long as they could, but in late 1983, the North American console market crashed, with previous annual revenues of $ 3.2 billion by 1985, only 100 million. The dollar had fallen. The drop was so devastating in the attic especially that the whole incident was known in Japan as the “attic jerk”. For various reasons, the Japanese market remained stagnant, and with every console company in the US either going bankrupt or rapidly moving to PC, Japan emerged as the home console champion for the next 20 years.

MicroProse dips its toes into the console

Of course, Japan still had regular computers. MicroProse [Meier’s original games publisher] Have since released translations of almost every game F-15 Strike Eagle On Japanese machines such as MSX, FM Towns and PC-98. Similarly, there were consoles in the US who played the English translation of the games Super Mario Bros. And Jailbreak saga. But the culture of each format was firmly rooted in its own country, and very few games passed successfully. It was like baseball vs. cricket: you would find fans of each worldwide, but rarely individual fans of both, and never a professional who played both despite their relative similarity to their athleticism.

Mechanical differences played a partial role in segmentation, at least in our perspective. With the console’s directional pad and floating cursor it was hard to replicate the subtle movement of a computer mouse or to fit as much text on the screen as when console players usually sit several feet away. Personally, I don’t feel like the problem was mutual – we had more keys than buttons – but it’s probably not surprising that half of the industry I work in has been given away. Many people have argued that some console games could never feel comfortable. On a PC, and given our processing and graphical differences at the time, they were probably right. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve already acknowledged that I own many consoles, at least as a computer.

Silent service Makes some noise

But the difference between the two formats could not be passed on to all controllers, as even games with simple interfaces often failed in their opposing markets. It was not until 1989 that Micropro first attempted to change. Silent service—Which was up to that point in 13 different computer formats — the Nintendo Entertainment System. Western console owners were considered such a long shot that we were not bothered by a Japanese version, despite being readily available from the PC-98. If any Japanese fans were sufficiently brainwashed to accept our games on the console, we hope they will also speak English.

I don’t remember if the NES version made any money, but my guess is that it didn’t, as we went back to ignoring the stage for the next several games. Till here Gunship, Which was successfully ported to five different computers in Japan alone, did not receive a console release in any language. We finally dipped our toe in the water a few more times –Pirates! Saw a very successful conversion to the NES, and F-15 Strike Eagle II Made a respectable appearance on the Sega Genesis. But in the meantime, the Super NES version of Railroad tycoon Mid-development was canceled, and Covert action Went in the opposite direction and became our first port on PC instead of Linux.