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David Javelosa

Copyright © 2005 - 2020, David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.


week 01 - interactive media and electronic gaming

interactivity = communication + choice + action

What is interactive media?

Interactive or "Hypermedia" is a computer mediated medium that displays text, image, sound, animation and video in a variety of different combinations. It is a "random access" medium with no physical beginning, middle or end, enabling information to be linked in a network of connections that can be explored in many different ways. It is an interactive medium, where distinctions between users and creators can become blurred. It is a digital medium that can be distributed either on disc or over communication networks such as the Internet. It is also a medium that contains the potential to transform many aspects of how we live, learn and play.

-Bob Cotton & Richard Oliver, Understanding HyperMedia 2.000.
Game Platforms

The Internet

At this point, the Internet is now the largest "multimedia" platform. However, the bandwidth limitations impose such severe constraints on the presentation, that web based applications end up as rather static and disjointed. Technologies such as Flash and Shockwave are better than HTML in providing an integrated presentation, but are still limited by the bandwidth situation. Over the next five years or so, this will slowly evolve, and the web will become a more media rich platform. But right now, a 24x CD-ROM is about 643 times as fast as a 56K modem, and 48 times as fast as a typical DSL line.

CD-ROM and related formats

This is a computer based format, where the bulk of the presentation is stored on a CD-ROM disc that is controlled by software running on the PC. CD-ROM discs can hold about 650 megabytes. The application may also integrate elements drawn from the web. Currently, CD-ROMs run at 24x (36mbit/sec) or 32x(48mbit/sec), but are still relatively slow compared to hard disks. Seek time is especially problematic with CD-ROMs, and prevents the computer from accessing and displaying more than one thing at a time from the CD-ROM. As a consequence, many CD-ROM applications install large portions of their media. Most CD-ROM titles are enhanced with downloadable upgrades from the internet.

Game consoles & Set top systems

The early set-top multimedia players, (CDi, 3DO, CDTV, Pipen, etc.) were CD-ROM based, self-contained interactive systems that didn't require a computer. They hooked directly to the television, and had a controller that allowed the user to interact. They were designed to delivery motion video, rich graphics, and high quality audio in very integrated presentations. They typically cost more than $500.

The current market of game machines is moving way beyond the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation era. Like the set-top box systems, they are self-contained boxes that hook directly to the television. Unlike the set-top systems, the game machines are specifically optimized for game applications, at the expense of more generalized multimedia capabilities. They typically cost under $200, and are currently selling for near $100. The two major systems differ in how the game content was delivered. The N64 used memory cartridges, where the Playstation used CD-ROM. The N64 uses SGI chips to provide true 3D graphics, where the Playstation 1 had a more limited 3D capability.

In fall of 1999, Sega introduced its last game platform, Dreamcast, following the failure of their Saturn system. Dreamcast used CD-ROMs as its delivery medium and shipped with an internal 56k modem, supported with its own game network. Sony introduced Playstation 2 in the fall of 2000, including a DVD-Video player, higher quality graphics, 3D acceleration, USB and FireWire built-in. In the future, Sony planed to introduce a modem that will enable the Playstation 2 to download games and other content off the Internet; and a hard drive for storage.

Fall of 2001 saw the launch of Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube, continuing the competition-driven development of home entertainment systems. Xbox included a hard drive, modem and was backed by a large development community based on DirectX technology that migrated from Microsoft's Windows operating system. The GameCube sported a proprietary 3 inch high-density CD format and integrated with the hand-held Game Boy Advance.

Winter 2005-06 sees the intersection of multiple platforms in the form of Microsoft's Xbox 360, bringing together the set-top game machine and the internet once again. Sony's PSP (Playstation Portable) brings together the portability of gaming with video entertainment, as well as a wireless browser. As other portable devices, such as cameras, phones, music players, and PDAs develop, new stardards of gaming will continue the demand for development.

Portable Devices & Internet Appliances

PDA's (Personal Digital Assitants)

Over the next few years, multimedia will increasingly be viewed on devices other than traditional PCs. These new devices will be more specialized ways of accessing the Internet, such as web tablets, cell phones, PDAs, email readers, Internet radios, etc. Most of these devices will be portable, operating either within a wireless home network, or using wireless networks similar to the current cell phone network. In addition, the devices are designed to be much easier to use that PCs. The present a special design challenge because they have many different display formats, from the few lines of black & white text in a cell phone, to the full color, full screen format of a portable flat screen web tablet. Some will have no audio, others will have only audio and no video.

Portable Gaming

Hand-held gaming devices came to the mainstream with the original Nintendo Gameboy, followed by Sega's Game Gear and the Atari (Epyx) Lynx. Always trailing slightly behind their console counterparts (8-bit behind 16-bit, 16-bit behind 32-bit, etc.), the hand-held title market would always feature a "version" of the larger home game and arcade release. Peripherals have been made available to enhance portable game machines with features including: TV recievers, multi-player cables, external keyboards, larger power supplies, and eventually modems, though few support services have succeeded in the past. Recent developments by Sega and Nintendo integrate hand-held gaming devices directly into set-top consoles for multi-player gaming, score and game save downloads.

Cel Phones

Already connected to the Net by nature of being a telephone, cel phones provide the brightest future for portable multimedia devices. Services are currently available for email, instant messaging (beepers), and downloadable media (graphics, MIDI files, audio files). Playback capability is developing toward full color LCD screens, stereo audio and music synthesis. Nokia is leading the on-line gaming world with platform specific, multi-player games that will run on their latest cel phones.

How does electronic game technology work?

Main elements of a multimedia system:

  • CPU - A computer that manages the presentation. E.g. Pentium or PowerPC.
  • Software - The instructions for the CPU that tell it how to present the media elements and interact with the user.
  • Memory - Where the elements of the presentation are temporarily held while they are presented.
  • Storage Media - They place where the media elements are retrieved from for the presentation. CD-ROM, hard disk, cartridges, or a network.
  • Display System - The audio/video system used for showing the presentation. Can be a television, surround sound audio, VR headset, computer screen and speakers, or a theme park ride.
  • Input Device - The final element in an interactive system is the user's input. Input devices include a keyboard, a mouse, a drawaing pad; and in the case of gaming; joysticks, controllers, video cameras, touch pads, and microphones.

Two ways of presenting elements:

  • Pre-load. Typically, elements such as still images or short audio clips are first loaded into memory, and then displayed or played back. This approach requires that the entire element fit into the available memory. Once loaded, there is very little delay when the element is displayed.
  • Streaming. Elements such as video and long audio clips are usually streamed off the storage medium, because they cannot fit into memory. Plus, streaming enables the CPU to display streamed media without waiting for the entire element to load first.

Reading Assignment:

  • Game Development Essentials - Introduction

Copyright © 2001-2020 Philip van Allen & David Javelosa