16 votes

What are some examples in gaming of things that were ahead of their time?

I recently read a book about Nintendo and Sega in the 90s, and it reminded me of something I'd long forgotten: the Sega Channel.

The idea that the Sega Genesis had a digital delivery system in 1994 is wild to me. For comparison, Steam didn't have its first release until 2003, nearly ten years later!

What are some other examples of games, hardware, or ideas that were ahead of their time?

18 comments

  1. [6]
    Heichou (edited ) Link
    The fuckin' Dreamcast, man. The thing had a telephone line input in the back of it and I believe came with a CD just for using an internet browser. It had games that used an online connection...

    The fuckin' Dreamcast, man. The thing had a telephone line input in the back of it and I believe came with a CD just for using an internet browser. It had games that used an online connection (Phantasy Star Online) before the Xbox (PS2 did have online games as well but iirc it was a bit more finicky to use/not many games had online integrated until well after the death of the DC). The VMUs, while complete and utter battery hogs, were amazing and it's still cool to me that they had mobile functionality with many games. I know Sonic Adventure 2 let you put Chaos from the Chao Garden into a VMU where you could play with it, walk with it, and earn prizes with it, much like a Pokewalker from Pokemon Heart Gold/Soul Silver. Seriously though, they burn through 2 CR2032s in like 3 days. It's not great lol. Seaman was a real time virtual pet (Voiced by fuckin Leonard Nimoy) with built in (albeit not too functional) voice commands with an included microphone. Sega tried a lot of stuff with that console but we just weren't there yet

    18 votes
    1. [3]
      cfabbro Link Parent
      Ready 2 Rumble Boxing is still the best boxing game ever made IMO. And Typing of the Dead (along with the Dreamcast keyboard) is also probably a huge reason why I can type as fast as I can....

      Ready 2 Rumble Boxing is still the best boxing game ever made IMO. And Typing of the Dead (along with the Dreamcast keyboard) is also probably a huge reason why I can type as fast as I can. Dreamcast also had mouse support as well! It really was so far ahead of its time for a gaming console.

      God, how I miss the Dreamcast. I really should get an emulator set up and revisit some of my other favorite titles from it.

      3 votes
      1. Heichou Link Parent
        It kinda reminds me of Microsoft trying to make the Xbox a multimedia platform today. Sega wanted that bad boy to have so many cool peripherals it was crazy. I miss expansions for consoles but I...

        It kinda reminds me of Microsoft trying to make the Xbox a multimedia platform today. Sega wanted that bad boy to have so many cool peripherals it was crazy. I miss expansions for consoles but I can see why it's a relic of the past. I actually have one myself, and I'm trying to collect all colors of VMU (So far I have the standard grey, blue, and red) and a few classics. There's a retro store near me (Zia's, if that rings a bell) that I check every now and then for DC games/accessories, but it's usually just sports shovelware. I've been looking for a copy of Jet Set for a while haha

        4 votes
      2. kfwyre Link Parent
        I would love a remaster, or at the very least a digital re-release, of the Dreamcast/old PC version of The Typing of the Dead. I keep hoping one of these days GOG will revive it. Overkill didn't...

        I would love a remaster, or at the very least a digital re-release, of the Dreamcast/old PC version of The Typing of the Dead. I keep hoping one of these days GOG will revive it. Overkill didn't quite do it for me like the original did.

        1 vote
    2. kfwyre Link Parent
      I don't know if any other consoles did this, but it had a peripheral that let you output to VGA instead of composite. This let me hook mine up to an old computer monitor, which was great, because...

      I don't know if any other consoles did this, but it had a peripheral that let you output to VGA instead of composite. This let me hook mine up to an old computer monitor, which was great, because it meant I didn't have to share it on the TV with my siblings. Our NES and Playstation were family consoles, but the Dreamcast was exclusively mine. I also snagged a keyboard and mouse for it, so it was basically a small, limited, game-focused computer.

      It's a shame the system never got a fair shake. It did so much right! Jet Set Radio created an entire art style, for crying out loud! I can only imagine what its gaming library and influence would be like if it had actually taken off.

      3 votes
    3. Akir Link Parent
      IMHO online worked better on PS2 than on the Dreamcast, but only because it was easier to run on a network. Online gaming on a Dreamcast had you using a slow and cumbersome modem, whereas if you...

      IMHO online worked better on PS2 than on the Dreamcast, but only because it was easier to run on a network. Online gaming on a Dreamcast had you using a slow and cumbersome modem, whereas if you were playing online on a PS2, it would much more likely be with a broadband network connection. And since the PS2 had USB connections, you could plug in any USB network adapter (wired - wifi wasn't supported) instead of having to buy the official one.

      Yes, the Dreamcast had it's BBA, but I didn't know anyone who had one. Or anyone who played online, for that matter. Online gaming on consoles only really started getting big with Halo 2. The only console game from that time I remember playing online was Tony Hawk's Underground, and I didn't find it terribly engaging. I remember the more communicative nature of MMORPGs on PC made them much more interesting to me.

      1 vote
  2. mrbig (edited ) Link
    Pong. It only had one game: Pong. The controller was like a volume nob. When I moved it, a rectangle also moved on the TV. What kind of black magic is that? I'M MOVING SHIT ON THE TV! It took a...
    1. Pong. It only had one game: Pong. The controller was like a volume nob. When I moved it, a rectangle also moved on the TV. What kind of black magic is that? I'M MOVING SHIT ON THE TV! It took a long time for another home videogame to come up after that.

    2. SNES/Super Mario 3. WOW, how many colors does this have? And how can EVERYTHING in the screen move at the same time, at different rates and with different animations? This music is so good it's making my brain feel things. I was never so amazed in my life, and probably never will. It was beautiful. It was big. It was perfect.

    3. 3DO, the video game that came too soon. It was so expensive I never even played or saw it. But it was all over gaming magazines, and I really wanted one. In some ways, the PSOne was the popularization of everything the 3DO promised.

    8 votes
  3. hamstergeddon Link
    Just in terms of hardware design, Nintendo's Game and Watch series. The original DS design is lifted directly from their dual-screen line of G&W handhelds and there's clearly some inspiration for...

    Just in terms of hardware design, Nintendo's Game and Watch series. The original DS design is lifted directly from their dual-screen line of G&W handhelds and there's clearly some inspiration for the original GBA in there as well.

    The designs were so good in the 80s that they reused them 20+ years later. Also just in general there are some neat little gadgets in that line, like the Donkey Kong 3 one that's typical G&W sized, but it has two controllers for multiplayer. That's brilliant.

    5 votes
  4. Pilgrim (edited ) Link
    VR was available in arcades in the 90s. I recall playing a game called "Dactyl Nightmare" in Toronto. The graphics weren't great by modern standards but were awesome for the time. The whole thing...

    VR was available in arcades in the 90s. I recall playing a game called "Dactyl Nightmare" in Toronto. The graphics weren't great by modern standards but were awesome for the time. The whole thing felt very much like today's VR experience.

    Here's a reference to it on wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtuality_%28gaming%29#1000CS_games

    Here's a video of someone playing it with a modern VR set up (still the original game though I think): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5O5_EX-GOc

    5 votes
  5. Akir Link
    Tresspasser is probably the single most forward thinking video game of all time. It preempted the open-world metagenre, was one of the first games built around a physics engine complete with...

    Tresspasser is probably the single most forward thinking video game of all time. It preempted the open-world metagenre, was one of the first games built around a physics engine complete with ragdolls, and had an IK animation system. Gabe Newell even called it an inspiration to the physics-based puzzles in Half-Life 2.

    It's also one of the biggest flops in gaming history. It was too advanced for computers of the time and tread so much new ground that the actual gameplay is terrible.

    5 votes
  6. [4]
    Silbern (edited ) Link
    Crysis. That game had such an advanced rendering engine for its time that not even a 3 way SLI of the most powerful graphics card in the world could run the game at 60 FPS when it came out. It...

    Crysis. That game had such an advanced rendering engine for its time that not even a 3 way SLI of the most powerful graphics card in the world could run the game at 60 FPS when it came out. It took years before a single card came out that could, and even more before a mid range card was capable of it. Back in the late 2000's, when I first started to get into gaming beyond my GameBoy, Crysis was a benchmark of how capable your PC was, to the point that "Can it run Crysis?" Became a catchphrase.

    Also, if you like the Sega Channel, Nintendo had something even earlier iirc called the Satellaview for the Famicom (basically the Japanese NES), which actually downloaded whole games using satellite transmissions to the console.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      vakieh Link Parent
      Incorrect. The rendering engine wasn't advanced, so much as it was woefully, HORRIFYINGLY unoptimised. We had rendering that was better than Crysis 10 years before Crysis came out. But it wasn't...

      such an advanced rendering engine for its time

      Incorrect. The rendering engine wasn't advanced, so much as it was woefully, HORRIFYINGLY unoptimised.

      We had rendering that was better than Crysis 10 years before Crysis came out. But it wasn't used in games because you couldn't hit decent framerates on consumer hardware. This is the exact same reason the graphics in a Disney CGI movie are better than in a game. Crytek basically said 'fuck it, release it like that'. You can still overload top end PCs with Crysis today as a result.

      What was incredible about Crysis wasn't the rendering engine, it was the marketing campaign. It's the greatest example of 'nah, the problem is on your end' I've ever seen. Game of Thrones is pulling a bad version of this right now. Reframing the problem as 'your computer is shit' made people ashamed to say Crysis was running slowly or stuttering.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Silbern Link Parent
        As I understand it, the reason why Crysis bottlenecks even on modern PCs is because it's a pretty single threaded bound game, since at the time of release, dual cores were by far the most common...

        As I understand it, the reason why Crysis bottlenecks even on modern PCs is because it's a pretty single threaded bound game, since at the time of release, dual cores were by far the most common kind of processors and quad cores were still pretty new. The actual IPC of modern computers isn't actually all that much greater, but it's instead our greater number of cores that makes modern computers so much more powerful. As a matter of fact, I remember Crysis scaling really well to low end hardware, so long as it was on minimum settings of course.

        Also, I'm not convinced why Disney CGI is a relevant example, because Disney is using professional level render farms that use supercomputers spending weeks rendering out the frames for just a few hours of video. The use cases are so entirely different in scope that I'd certainly expect a CGI film to look better than any real time video game, especially as a film doesn't have to worry about physics, AI, an operating system in the background, etc.

        7 votes
        1. TheJorro Link Parent
          You're 100% right. Crysis wasn't unoptimized at all, people forget that it actually supported a wide variety of PC specs on release and even had a lower requirements than many contemporary AAA...

          You're 100% right. Crysis wasn't unoptimized at all, people forget that it actually supported a wide variety of PC specs on release and even had a lower requirements than many contemporary AAA games—I remember that because I had a Radeon 9800 at the time. Very few games in Crysis' year supported that GPU and I was amazed that Crysis, the BIGGEST GRAPHICS EVER game, actually did.

          Crysis ran great at High. It's only because people insist on running it on Ultra with inadequate hardware that it has any reputation for unoptimization at all. Nobody ever seems to want to admit that they just don't understand hardware requirements, or that games are largely balanced for High graphics instead of Ultra.

          You're also totally right about why it brings PCs to their knees now. It's a single-thread game. Modern CPUs traded off individual core power for more and more cores. If the industry had kept making beefier and beefier single core CPUs, then no machine today would have trouble maxing Crysis. Just like Crysis 2 and 3 now.

          8 votes
  7. [2]
    NaraVara Link
    This isn't a technical thing but I feel like the design language in Mass Effect is kind of unheralded for the impact it had on architecture and design generally. I feel like after that game came...

    This isn't a technical thing but I feel like the design language in Mass Effect is kind of unheralded for the impact it had on architecture and design generally. I feel like after that game came out (especially after Mass Effect 2) tons of stuff started to mimic the style of white plastic and swooping curves. Mass Effect itself was pulling a lot of inspiration from older sci-fi, and there was a general cultural zeitgeist around that sort of thing throughout the 2010s as well (because of Apple), but I feel like for a solid 5-10 years after that game came out everything from new buildings to consumer products were going after the signature look of swooping curves connecting rectilinear shapes, lots of light, and hard white plastic.

    4 votes
    1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
      I have a difficult time believing that a video game, no matter how popular, would have major influence ~outside its field~ on daily appliances. Do you have any evidence to how it would come about?

      I have a difficult time believing that a video game, no matter how popular, would have major influence ~outside its field~ on daily appliances. Do you have any evidence to how it would come about?

  8. [2]
    KilledByAPixel Link
    I was just playing Overwatch thinking everything about our gaming rigs have improved drastically in the past 50 years but we are still playing games with basically the same keyboards. Nearly every...

    I was just playing Overwatch thinking everything about our gaming rigs have improved drastically in the past 50 years but we are still playing games with basically the same keyboards. Nearly every aspect of every other input device has also improved: mice, game controllers, vr, etc. Same damn keyboard.

    4 votes
    1. Tygrak Link Parent
      Which are basically the same as typewriters haha.

      Which are basically the same as typewriters haha.

      2 votes