As an increasingly old and, as some would have it, bitter man, I’ve recently begun to cast my resentful mind back on the many trials that afflicted the 90s gamer which today’s youth would doubtless fail to grasp. I’m not talking about the obvious here: graphics have gotten far better and we didn’t have touch screens on our Sega Mega Drives. Instead the list below gathers together some odd things even those who lived at the time may have relegated to the limits of their subconscious and one you may never have heard of (though I’m certain I haven’t made it up). Quirks, practices and technological limitations that your grandchildren, dear reader, will scarcely be able to believe afflicted you: the greatest generation.
I could have mentioned demo discs, “cheats”, the size of the original Game Boy (above) or the fact that we used to pay £60 for games which now live on phones. Yet the ten items below are the ones that I think best summarise my experience as a gamer in 1990s.
10. When Fog Was Unintentional
If fog closed in on you now in some slick Unreal Engine powered AAA title, you’d naturally assume it was intentional – part of the atmosphere and perhaps designed to increase the difficulty of a section. However, rewind to 1997 – to a time when Acclaim was a games industry publishing giant – and you’ll find yourself wrapped in ever-present mist. The mist of graphical sh*ttyness.
A hallmark of early N64 titles, “fog” – as best typified by uninspired, muddy-textured launch title Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (above) – was the colloquial term for a technical limitation of the day that saw some games suffer from an incredibly short draw distance. The upshot of which being that you often couldn’t see too far ahead of where you were going. It’s hard to remember with any clarity now (much like Turok’s more recent sequels), but we really did wander around game worlds endlessly getting lost, unable to see the next enemy until he was in your, by now, horribly tearful face, with Christmas well and truly ruined.
The release of a RAM expansion pack for the console in 1998 improved matters for Turok 2: Seeds of Evil – and even more so for the outstanding Star Wars: Rogue Squadron – but the fog wouldn’t be banished entirely for several console generations.
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This article was first posted on July 25, 2011