From Pong to Civilization: How I made “another flip” work on consoles

Be still our hearts with this 8-bit cover art.

Enlarge / Be nonetheless our hearts with this 8-bit cowl artwork.

As we speak, legendary recreation developer Sid Meier’s first memoir arrives at bookstores and digital platforms, full with the appropriately goofy identify, Sid Meier’s Memoir!: A Life in Laptop Video games. It is all the things you may count on from the mind chargeable for PC gaming collection like Civilization, Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, and Alpha Centauri: complete, considerate, detailed, and with simply sufficient humor and coronary heart to tempo out the dry, technical bits.

In excellent news, as a substitute of us telling you what we consider the e book (TL;DR: thumbs-up), we thought we might let Meier himself regale you with an unique Ars Technica reprint of a chapter. Many of the e book’s chapters mix Meier’s private tales with a deal with a particular recreation, and this one, about 2008’s Civilization Revolution, is as a lot an evidence of its PC-to-console transition as it’s a lesson on game-industry historical past and on recreation design.

My very own first publicity to video video games was, like most individuals my age, the venerable black-and-white tennis match referred to as Pong. There was a small restaurant down the road from Common Instrument the place a few of us would hang around and have dinner after work, and sooner or later they put in this bizarre little desk within the lounge with a tv display screen dealing with upward beneath the plexiglass floor. The thought was you might set your drinks and bar snacks on it whilst you performed, nevertheless it appeared irreverent to eat on the floor of a TV, so most evenings we might simply wander over to play just a few rounds earlier than returning to our regular, picket tables. Probably the most memorable factor about it was that one aspect of the cupboard had in some way ended up wired backwards, sending the little white line to the left aspect of the display screen when the participant turned the knob to the fitting. So we had at all times agreed that whoever was extra expert needed to sit on the damaged aspect to compensate—maybe my earliest expertise in balancing gameplay.

Rotating dial controls have been generally referred to as “spinners” in arcade {hardware} terminology, and really inveterate nerds acknowledged them as both potentiometers or rheostats, relying on their perform. However to most of the people, they have been incongruously referred to as “paddles,” as a result of their authentic desk tennis associations. A 12 months after Pong’s launch, the primary four-way gaming joystick—a phrase which, oddly sufficient, had its roots in early airplane controls—made its debut within the arcade recreation Astro Race. It caught on rapidly, and by 1977, the Atari 2600 residence console provided a standardized plug that might help a doubtlessly limitless variety of third-party controllers, along with the 5 totally different types produced by Atari themselves.

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